Focal Points Blog

Sanctions Against Russia? Good Luck

Uranium, Russian

Now that Crimea has decided to unite with Russia and Russians have welcomed Crimea’s move with happy hearts, the Western half of the world, especially USA and European Union, are talking at length about imposing sanctions on Russia in order to bring Vladimir Putin to his senses. However, the task seems easier said than done — Uncle Sam is simply not in a position to impose long-term sanctions on Russia.

Economic and political ties between the United States and Russia are surely not exemplary. Yet, one key American industry relies heavily on a particular import from Russia: fuel for nuclear power plants.
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Neoconservatives Use Moral Relativism to Blame Progressives for Genital Mutilation

Middle East women

The neo-conservative camp, always eager to wrestle with imaginary positions of their opponents, is now bravely challenging another belief that no one holds, which is that “all cultures are equal.” George Mason University Professor Walter Williams has jumped aboard the “Western values are superior to all others” bandwagon and asks, “Is forcible female genital mutilation, as practiced in nearly 30 sub-Saharan Africa and Middle Eastern countries, a morally equivalent cultural value?” The neoconservative Clarion Project’s Douglas Murray takes the campaign directly to progressives by asking, “How many young girls’ clitorises had to be mutilated while they busily curated their left-wing credentials?”

This arrogant cultural trope is nothing new. The neo-conservatives who brought us the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay have promoted the “inequality of cultures” idea throughout the War on Terror to justify militarism, invasion, torture, and systematic violation of international law. Sliding from “culture” to politics to statecraft, their ideological conceit is that “we,” the West, have an enduring tradition of protecting women, while “they,” the Middle Easterners, are so barbaric that they cut the clitorises off of women, and therefore our “culture” should govern their “culture.” But their sudden passion for Middle Eastern women’s rights—indeed, any women’s rights—must be taken with a shaker of salt. 
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529 Sentenced to Death? Credibility of Egypt’s Interim Government Suffers Another Blow

Egypt law

A court in Minya, 150 miles south of Cairo, reports the New York Times

“… sentenced 529 people to death on Monday after a single session of their mass trial, convicting them of murder for the killing of a police officer in the city of Minya during riots after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, state media reported.”

Of course, it’s questionable that the verdict upheld and the sentencing carried out. The Los Angeles Times reports that “the capital verdict would have to be ratified by the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Islamic jurist.”
Nevertheless, it reflects poorly on Egypt’s interim government. In fact, it only makes sense as a public works project intended to provide employment to carpenters contracted to construct all those gallows.

Crimea Joins Russia: What About International Law?

Presidents Obama and Putin

Presidents Obama and Putin

Back on March 4, American President Barack Obama talked about the crisis in Crimea:

“There is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law. I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”

On the basis of Obama’s words, one can assume international law to be nothing beyond a set of beliefs that are classified as acceptable or unacceptable, depending on which side of the spectrum one chooses to stand.

As a result, when Crimean voters decided to secede from Ukraine and unite with Russia, what role did international law play in the picture? Again, you cannot properly define something that is viewed as more a matter of ‘strong belief’ than that of ‘codified norms’, but the verdicts and opinions of the International Court of Justice are well worth discussing here.
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Israel’s Bogeyman Ya’alon Strikes Again

Israel Defense Minister Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon

Israel Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe (Bogey) Ya’alon recently launched another scathing attack on America, its leaders and its world leadership. Speaking at an event in Tel Aviv University, Ya’alon said, among other things that: “Israel can’t rely on weak US to deal with Iran.” He added that: “the US at a certain stage began negotiating with them (Iran, DP), and unfortunately in the Persian bazaar the Iranians were better.” Ya’alon concluded that: “We (Israelis, DP) have to look out for ourselves.”[1]

Ya’alon’s comments created a veritable storm of amazement and denunciations in Israeli political circles and in the media. In a March 19 interview on Israel’s Channel 10, Mr. Raviv Druker, a senior political correspondent for the TV channel, termed Ya’alon’s utterances “insane,” “stupid,” “utterly damaging,” and “Hair raising.”  Druker called Netanyahu’s silence in the latest incident “nothing short of amazing.”
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Russia Still Addresses Conventional-Weapons Gap with U.S. Via Nukes

Russian intercontinental ballistic missile

Russian intercontinental ballistic missile

On March 13, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ran a piece by Nikolai Sokov with the paradoxical title Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation”. He writes, “In 1999, at a time when renewed war in Chechnya seemed imminent, Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia.” It became concerned both that “the United States would interfere within its borders” and that the “conventional capabilities that the United States and its allies demonstrated seemed far beyond Russia’s own capacities.”
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Once at the Forefront of Transition to Capitalism, Hungary Slips Back

Zsuzsanna Ranki

Zsuzsanna Ranki

Cross-posted from

For most countries in East-Central Europe, capitalism didn’t arrive overnight in 1989 or 1990. Even in the more controlled environments like Romania, people could get a taste of capitalism by buying or trading on the black market. Hungary, on the other hand, was far ahead of its neighbors in this respect. It had been experimenting with a mixed economy since 1968 and the New Economic Mechanism. Following a push for recentralization in the early 1970s, another round of liberalization opened up the economy after 1979. By the early 1980s, the government was even permitting small-scale private enterprise in the retail sector and for services like taxis.

By 1988, with Ceausescu squeezing the Romanian economy to pay back its foreign debt and Albania as isolated as ever, Hungary was beginning to train its first Western-style managers. Zsuzsanna Ranki was a pivotal person behind the training of a new managerial elite. She’d started out in foreign trade marketing and eventually acquired a PhD in economics from a Hungarian university. And in 1983, she was the first Hungarian to receive an MBA — at Indiana University.
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Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret

Yaroslav Stetsko, an OUN leader during World War II, meets George H.W. Bush.

Yaroslav Stetsko, an OUN leader during World War II, meets George H.W. Bush.

As the Ukrainian crisis has unfolded over the past few weeks, it’s hard for Americans not to see Vladimir Putin as the big villain. But the history of the region is a history of competing villains vying against one another; and one school of villains—the Nazis—have a long history of engagement with the US, mostly below the radar, but occasionally exposed, as they were by Russ Bellant in his book Old Nazis, The New Right And The Republican Party (South End Press, 1991). Bellant’s exposure of Nazi leaders from German allies in the 1988 Bush presidential campaign was the driving force in the announced resignation of nine individuals, two of them from the Ukraine, which is why he was the logical choice to turn to illuminate the scattered mentions of Nazi and fascist elements amongst the Ukrainian nationalists, which somehow never seems to warrant further comment or explanation. Of course most Ukranians aren’t Nazis or fascists—all the more reason to illuminate those who would hide their true natures in the shadows…or even behind the momentary glare of the spotlight.
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The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Preserving Western Domination


Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The latest negotiations between Iran and the U.S. (the so-called 5+2) for a long-term comprehensive nuclear agreement have ground to a halt. This is due to Washington’s last-minute insistence on adding new conditions to the talks to resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. and International Atomic Energy Association (I.A.E.A.) charge is based on what the Iranians claim to be fabricated documents that neither Washington nor the I.A.E.A. are willing to share with Teheran for investigation. In his 2012 memoir, Mohamed ElBaradei disclosed such documents to be a part of a whole series provided to Washington by Israel.1  A cursory glance at the I.A.E.A., its tenets and philosophy will help clarity the essentially “colonial disputes” in the current situation.

In Part One of this series we pointed out that the history of Iranian Nuclear development has been known to the I.A.E.A. and the West from the beginning. Although it is often repeated as something approaching a mantra, the assertions that Iran has been secretive about its nuclear project or that it has moved towards military objectives are nothing more than a myth. As of yet there is no credible evidence to support such contention. In this part we intend to focus on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.) and its history.
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It’s About Time India and Pakistan Prioritized Trade


Rivals from World War, France and Germany are today top trading partners. Till last year France was Germany’s biggest export destination. Brazil, despite a history of political hostility with Argentina, is both the former’s principal export destination and import source. While these two examples reinforce the logic of neighbors being natural trade partners, two countries in Asia fail to see logic. Trade relations among two of South Asia’s infamous geopolitical adversaries, India and Pakistan remain hostage to political bickering to this day. Ironically, at the time of independence, presumably the time around which political tensions started to build up (only to be allowed to escalate over the years by governments on both sides of the disputed border), India accounted for 70% of Pakistan’s trade.
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