Focal Points Blog

East-Central Europe’s Goldilocks Generation

Krastev, Ivan JohnFeffer.com

Ivan Krastev is a political theorist and commentator on the post-Soviet era. (Photo: JohnFeffer.com)

 

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

If you were of a certain age and with certain skills, the changes that took place in 1989 in East-Central Europe created an enormous world of opportunity. Those young enough to change with the times could suddenly rise to the heights of politics and business. And if you spoke English – or were willing to learn it very quickly – you could become an intermediary with the West and enter an entirely different world of possibility.

Some people were too old to take advantage of the changes. They couldn’t retool, couldn’t pick up the necessary language and computer skills. As for those who were very young at the time of the changes – and everyone born afterwards — they took the new world as a given. They didn’t realize how lucky there were.
Read More

Finland Still Walks a Fine Line Between Defying and Placating Russia

Finland shares a long border with Russia. Pictured: the Imatra, Finland border crossing. (Photo: Alexey Ivanov / Flickr Commons)

Finland shares a long border with Russia. Pictured: the Imatra, Finland border crossing. (Photo: Alexey Ivanov / Flickr Commons)

To many, Finland is another of Scandinavia’s coddled welfare states. Or more accurately, one where a large government combines with the free market to make the state more egalitarian, humanitarian, and prosperous. Finland is also a state whose sovereignty is under a continual state of stress. That, of course, is due to its long border with Russia, with which its had a fraught relationship. Recall how fiercely Finland battled the Russian invasion in World War II.
Read More

Pakistan Beginning to Renounce Its Volatile Ways

Despite all its problems, Pakistan is one of the most scenic countries on earth. (Photo: Zerega / Flickr Commons)

Despite all its problems, Pakistan is one of the most scenic countries on earth. (Photo: Zerega / Flickr Commons)

Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan are, arguably, the most strife-torn states in the world, but Pakistan is considered by many to be the most volatile, a powder keg of a state poised to blow sky high. To review: it has an ever-expanding nuclear weapons program and refuses to renounce “no first use.” That is, it doesn’t view the program as strictly a deterrent as all other nuclear states, except North Korea, do but as an offensive weapon (for possible use against India with its much larger army).

Also, Pakistan has allowed Islamist militants, supposedly to be utilized in Afghanistan to act as a buffer against India, to flourish on its own soil, where it also wreaks havoc in addition to in Afghanistan and occasionally in India. Both could lead to nuclear war with India, a war which would not only devastate the region, but, with the ensuing nuclear winter, have dire implications for the whole world.
Read More

What if, Faced With Nuclear War, We Surrendered?

Surrendering to a nuclear adversary doesn’t necessarily mean laying down our arms.  (Photo: John Parie / U.S. Air Force)

Surrendering to a nuclear adversary doesn’t necessarily mean laying down our arms. (Photo: John Parie / U.S. Air Force)

Most people are aware that, in the event nuclear deterrence fails, the ensuing nuclear war, whether controlled or all-out, will result in a level of death and devastation to both sides that lends new meaning to the term Pyrrhic victory. But, what if, threatened by an imminent nuclear attack, a nation such as the United States, surrenders instead?

In his 1986 book, Nuclear War: the Moral Dimension, James Child writes:

One of the most disarmingly simple responses to the catastrophic character of nuclear war and the logical puzzle of the Dilemma of Nuclear Weapons is simply, “Why not surrender?” … Surrender could be defined as eschewing violent resistance (or, at least, nuclear resistance) and putting our fate in the hands of an armed adversary who appears willing to use nuclear weapons.

Read More

Never Mind China, Time to Pivot to India

It’s tough to imagine how increasing its population will benefit India. (Photo: LiveMint)

It’s tough to imagine how increasing its population will benefit India. (Photo: LiveMint)

In just seven years, India is expected to surpass China in population. At the National Interest, Gordon Chang writes:

No country will contribute more to global population growth between now and 2050. And the Indian state will continue to grow well into the second half of the century. India, according to the UN, will peak in 2068, when it will be home to 1.75 billion souls. That year, China is projected to have 541 million fewer people.

China will also be behind where it counts, workers. India’s workforce—people aged 15 to 59—will overtake China’s within a decade. By mid-century, there will be 1.05 billion Indians of working age, 375 million more than the Chinese in the same age group.

Read More

Poland and Solidarity: the Disappointment of a Dream Fulfilled

Many citizens of Poland  dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall, but the reality couldn’t meet their expectations. Pictured: one-time Solidarity activist Jan Litynski. (Photo: John Feffer)

Many citizens of Poland dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall, but the reality couldn’t meet their expectations. Pictured: one-time Solidarity activist Jan Litynski. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

“May your dreams come true” is purportedly an ancient Chinese curse. Although it is probably apocryphal – just as the Chinese never say “may you live in interesting times” — the phrase does contain an element of truth. It is often the longing and anticipation that we crave, not the realization of our hopes. Nothing can possibly compare to the fulfillment we imagine.

Many Poles dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall. But even after the semi-free elections of June 4, 1989, in which Solidarity-affiliated candidates won nearly all the contested seats, few anticipated that their dreams would come true so quickly.
Read More

U.S. Using Iran Inspections to Tweak Targeting in Event of “Military Option”

In an act of blatant bad faith, the United States used IAEA inspections of Iran to improve its targeting capability should it ever decide to attack Iran. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

In an act of blatant bad faith, the United States used IAEA inspections of Iran to improve its targeting capability should it ever decide to attack Iran. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

On July 17, perhaps unintentionally, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest revealed America’s dirty secret about the JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The military option would remain on the table, but the fact is, that military option would be enhanced because we’d been spending the intervening number of years gathering significantly more detail about Iran’s nuclear program. So when it comes to the targeting decisions that would be made by military officials either in Israel or the United States, those targeting decisions would be significantly informed, and our capabilities improved, based on the knowledge that has been gained in the intervening years through this inspections regime.

Read More

Saudi Arabia Adds Insult to Injury in Yemen

Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Pictured: Old Sanaa. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr Commons)

Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Pictured: Old Sanaa. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr Commons)

No American (okay, Canadian) journalist is doing more important — not to mention intrepid — reporting from the Middle East than Matthieu Adkins. For his latest piece for Rolling Stone, Yemen’s Hidden War, he ventured into Yemen and observed the effects of the U.S.-abetted Saudi offensive against the Houthis — and thus everybody else — in Yemen. The Houthis seized power from Abdu Hadi, the successor to long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced out by mass demonstrations. Apparently their main sin to the Saudis is that they’re a denomination of Shi’ite and may be supported by Iran, about whom the Saudis are touchy these days to the point of paranoia.
Read More

Afghanistan: the Forever War

The infusion of U.S. “baksheesh” has damaged the fabric of Afghan society. Pictured: Naray, Afghanistan. (Photo: Ricymar Photography / Flickr Commons)

The infusion of U.S. “baksheesh” has damaged the fabric of Afghan society. Pictured: Naray, Afghanistan. (Photo: Ricymar Photography / Flickr Commons)

The July 30 ruling by a federal judge that the U.S. may continue holding as a prisoner of war an inmate of Guantanamo who was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, was a reminder that America is still  at war in that country. The prisoner claimed that since the U.S. formally ended its combat role in Afghanistan in 2014, he had a right to be released. But according to Judge Royce C. Lambeth, the war in Afghanistan is not yet over. He wrote in his decision, “The government may not always say what it means or means what it says.” One of the defendant’s lawyers said the judge’s ruling endorsed “the idea of a limitless forever war under which the government can continue fighting.” But fighting for what? The murderous attack on the World Trade Towers in September 2001 was masterminded, financed, and carried out by a group of Saudis. Yet without attempting to understand the motivation behind the suicidal attack, or to identify the policies that provoked it, George W. Bush declared a “war on terror” and ordered the invasion of Afghanistan.
Read More

Regional Powers Seek to Use War Against Islamic State to Defeat Their Traditional Enemies

The inability of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel to take the Islamic State seriously as a threat may come back to haunt them. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

The inability of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel to take the Islamic State seriously as a threat may come back to haunt them. Pictured: De facto Islamic State capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Despite how the Islamic State continues to seek to extend its territory and commit atrocities, the three main regional powers still can’t seem to keep their eyes on the ball. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel continue to prioritize other perceived threats instead. At the Atlantic, in a satirical article titled Defeating ISIS: The Board Game, Karl Sharro writes:

Saudi Arabia … believes ISIS cannot be defeated unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. Turkey has just convinced NATO nations that the war against ISIS can only be won if Turkey’s traditional Kurdish opponents are neutralized first. Israel sees only one way to defeat ISIS: destroy Iran’s nuclear program and clip its wings regionally.

Read More

Page 2 of 20412345...102030...Last »