Monday, December 22, 2014

"The EU is always playing by the rules. Putin is always playing with the rules"

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
(Photo Source : Web portal of Ukrainian Government)

Said : Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in an interview with Spiegel conducted by Matthias Schepp and Christoph Schult published on December 20, 2014. 

The interview centered around Putin's aggression in eastern Ukraine, implementing the Minsk Protocol (the Ukraine ceasefire protocol-signed in Minsk-being monitored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE), possibility of Ukraine joining the EU, Chancellor Angela Merkel's role in the Ukraine crisis, and host of other points including the US support.

The key points made by Ukrainian PM :
  • Putin thought he could split the EU, but the opposite happened. Putin did not expect the kind of unity the US and the EU have shown. 
  • Putin's policies have turned him into a drug-addicted person. His survival depends on land grabs of foreign territories. He needs new annexations. The annexation of Crimea has gained him much applause at home. But that will not last forever. 
  • If 85 percent of Russians support the annexation of Crimea and the aggression against Ukraine, that is a very bad sign.
  • Ukrainian youth wants to belong to Europe. (Joining) the EU remains our dream. We must not give it up. Otherwise Putin would win. His goal is to undermine the EU. This is not only about a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russia is fighting against the West and its values. 
  • (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel is a flagship of the EU. Not everything depends on her, but much does. I have been shocked in a positive way by how Merkel is defending international law so openly and strongly. She wants to have peace and stability in the EU, and she knows that Russia is a problem in terms of security. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"India is a very rich fiancée"

Alexander Kadakin

Said : Russian Ambassador to India - Alexander Kadakin - at a press conference on December 8 to clarify that Russia was not jealous over President Barack Obama courting India, as reported by Douglas Busvine in Reuters' blog. Kadakin was probably referring to India's invitation to Obama for the Republic Day celebrations.

“We don’t feel jealous, though of course I say that India is a very rich fiancée. It is good for a rich fiancée to have a beautiful bridegroom. But they should not promise you a marriage and then betray you,” Reuters quoted Kadakin as saying.

The press conference was held to discuss Putin's visit to India on Dec 11 during which he is expected to unveil a bilateral vision document aimed at boosting trade and investment between the two countries, especially in the fields of nuclear energy and defense.

The blog notes that "Indo-Russian friendship recently has become strained as India relies more on U.S. and French companies to meet its defense needs." Russia has expressed its discomfort over India's over-reach to the United States by signing a defense cooperation pact with Pakistan recently.

However, Kadakin has been reported to have dispelled India's fears on military sales to Pakistan and speculations of any sort of Russia-China-Pakistan triangle formation in a new world order because of Delhi getting closer to US. He also assured that "Russia will never ever do anything to the detriment to the security of India, a close and old friend," reported Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury in Economic Times.
Talking heads: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin 
and US President Barack Obama during G20 Summit in Brisbane. PTI (Photo Source)
India's position is really tricky in the prevailing messy situation involving the three big powers namely, the US, China and Russia. It is going to be a sort of litmus test for PM Modi to demonstrate his policy skills to strike a balance which is in India's favour from a long-term view point. Any fiancée, rich or poor, has to get settled sooner or later by making a decision at some point of time. And, India cannot be an exception. We expect Modi to have India's choice quite clear.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Money, after all, only has value as long as we think it does."

Matt O'Brien

Matt O'Brien, in his report "Checkmate, Putin. Russia’s economy is stuck in a catch-22", in The Washington Post of December 16, 2014.

Matt discusses the unprecedented fall of the Russian currency - ruble - to the lowest level of 80 rubles per dollar despite increase in the interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent. According to him, Russia is facing the economic catch-22 situation for which, typically, the word "checkmate" is used. 

Russians have totally lost confidence in their currency. They are using any rubles they can't turn into dollars to go on shopping sprees buying things like like cars, real estate, Ikea furniture, and Apple products, which is only going to lead to ruble's faster demise.

"Money, after all, only has value as long as we think it does. If ordinary people decide that they'd rather turn all their rubles that are rapidly losing value into things that won't,"  Matt writes adding that Russians are exactly doing that. "It's a bank run on the currency. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has already asked Russia's top exporters to behave "responsibly" and Russian Finance Ministry has started selling foreign currency to keep ruble alive.

It is widely felt that in order to stabilise ruble, Putin might declare capital controls that make it illegal for people or companies to turn their rubles into foreign currency. Next few days are going to be crucial not only for Russia but for global markets, too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Putin has, in effect, launched a vast experiment into whether it is possible to extract a large and relatively well-integrated country from the global mainstream, and to reject the rules by which that mainstream runs"

Anne Applebaum

Said : Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, in her post titled "Putin's great gamble is about to backfire" published in The Spectator. 

Anne has compared the current scenario with the one in 1941, when Hitler invaded the USSR and the nation rallied round Stalin. "The Ukrainians were said to be Nazis; NATO was said to be encircling. The head of a state polling agency told the Wall Street Journal, ‘If the West doesn't like us, that means we’re on the right track,’ she writes. 

According to her, the newly born ultra-rich Russians, who have minted oil money during the past decade, have no clear mechanism to respond to the onrushing economic crisis that has resulted from Western sanctions. tumbling oil prices and crash in the ruble. "Alternative leaders (in Russia) have been eliminated, and alternative policies are not discussed, but that doesn't mean they’ll remain passive forever," writes Anne. "They could leave the country, withdraw their money, stage a palace coup or simply find ways to make life in Russia unpleasant for Russia’s leaders in ways we haven’t yet imagined," Anne concludes. 
Photographer: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo
Bloomberg reported today that the ruble plummeted into a free fall, losing as much as 19 percent as panic swept across Russian financial markets after a surprise interest-rate increase of 6.5 percentage-point, to 17 percent, failed to stem the run on the currency. The ruble has plunged 52 percent this year. Policy makers are likely to consider currency controls as “the last solution” to stop Russians from converting money into dollars.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has to put his shirt back on and stop acting like a thug"

Fadel Gheit

Said : Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer in an analysis of OPEC's oil battle and to opine on how long Saudi Arabia can withstand low oil prices. His comments were published in CNBC Executive News Editor Patti Domm's post titled : "Oil battle is sticky, but OPEC may be forced to act." 

According to Fadel Gheit the Saudis could take low prices for more than a year. But other countries, like Iran, Venezuela and Russia, will be increasingly impacted, reported Patti.

Patti notes that Russia is feeling the pinch of sanctions and has lost the assistance of Western drillers. Saudi Arabia sees $60 as the level where prices will stabilize, after OPEC's decision not to cut its production. According to her "the U.S. shale industry is relatively new, and some analysts say it really is not clear what the impact will be."

"It's a threshold of pain. Saudi Arabia has enough money and is applying pressure on Iran. They have to bring Iran to its knees to bring it to the negotiating table, … and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has to put his shirt back on and stop acting like a thug," Patti quoted Fadel Gheit saying in her article. 

Oppenheimer's Fadel Gheit on oil's next move

Putti also noted that the OPEC gathering was just days after negotiations between Iran, the U.S. and five other nations on Iran's nuclear program were extended after failing to reach an agreement by the Nov. 24 deadline.
The OPEC Secretariat in Vienna
It is worth mentioning here that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in it's 166th meeting, last month, decided to maintain the production level of 30.0 mb/d, as was agreed in December 2011 ruling out any production cut "in the interest of restoring market equilibrium."  OPEC noted that "stable oil prices – at a level which did not affect global economic growth but which, at the same time, allowed producers to receive a decent income and to invest to meet future demand – were vital for world economic wellbeing."  The next Ordinary Meeting of OPEC is scheduled to be held in Vienna, Austria, on 5th June 2015, immediately after the 2-day OPEC International Seminar on “Petroleum: An Engine for Development” on 3rd and 4th June.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"We have excellent contact with Indian government. You cannot undo the past, but future is bright"

Said : Switzerland's Ambassador to India Linus von Castelmur in an interview with PTI in Mumbai as reported by most Indian media today. PTI's story titled "Come with proof, not for fishing : Swiss to India" is expected to be front page news item in tomorrow's print media. PTI's synopsis of the story says : "As India continues its pursuit of black money allegedly stashed abroad, Switzerland has said it would not entertain any "fishing expedition" and authorities cannot ask for names of all Indian account holders in Swiss banks without doing their own independent investigations."

As per the News Nation, the Swiss Ambassador told PTI it was difficult to deal with the past and whatever has happened over the last 50 years or so "cannot be undone". However, he assured for Switzerland's full cooperation to the Indian government on the basis double taxation avoidance bilateral agreement with India. "In future cases of the money deposited by Indians, Germans or Americans in Swiss banks, the Swiss banking and taxation authorities would inform the national tax authorities of the client country and there will be transparency," the Ambassador was quoted to have said. He also made it clear that if somebody has obtained stolen data improperly-illegally, Switzerland cannot honour such claims. Swiss authorities can only work when there is true investigation by the Indian tax authority or the Enforcement Directorate. Not only that they must also have a clear prima facie evidence, that there has been a tax fraud involved. "Once they hand over a list thus prepared, we can cooperate and we will really try to cooperate," he reportedly said.

A quick glance at the officially available information in public domain indicates that although Switzerland has launched several initiatives to promote internationally coordinated action to combat potentate funds [monies illegitimately siphoned off public funds and transferred to international financial centres by holders of political power in dictatorial regimes], there is hardly any visible mention of the so called "Black Money" (all wealth, on which the applicable legal taxes have not been paid by the depositor) as people understand in India. They mostly talk of "heads of state and high-ranking officials (so-called "politically exposed persons" or "PEPs") who may fraudulently enrich themselves with public money and, if so, that they often move these so-called "potentate funds" abroad and invest them in international financial centres." In such cases they have a provision to freeze their assets but only in special situations, e.g. in the event of the collapse of a political regime. Generally, the Federal Council provides support to the judicial authorities of the states concerned, which can request mutual legal assistance from Switzerland, to help them initiate criminal proceedings. It is incumbent on the relevant judicial authorities of the country in question to initiate the necessary criminal proceedings and to demonstrate the illicit origin of the frozen assets.
We cannot undo the 'Black' past but can try for a 'White' (bright) future.
Under the Swiss legal framework, "potentate funds" have to be localised, frozen, confiscated and returned to the state where they originated. The process of restitution places specific demands on the states involved : they need to make sure, once the funds have been restituted to their country of origin that they are not fed back into the cycle of corruption, and sent to foreign bank accounts again. Switzerland claims that it is "working at an international level to ensure the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2003, specifically with potentates' assets."

Recently, during the annual meeting of the Global Forum on 29 October 2014 in Berlin, Switzerland became the 52nd jurisdiction to sign the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, which will allow it to go forward with plans to activate automatic exchange of financial account information in tax matters with other countries beginning in 2018. 

More information from Switzerland's Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) can be accessed from it's website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tony Abbott underestimates how stark the rivalry between America and China has become, and he overestimates Australia's ability to stand above it.

Tony Abbott to Xi Jinping : "when I listened to the President today, some of the 
shadows over our region & over our world lifted & the sun did indeed shine brightly"
Said : Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies in the School of International, Political & Strategic Studies at the Australian National University (Lowy Institute), in his post in The Sydney Morning Herald titled : "Abbott clueless on how to handle US and China." 

Hugh, supposed to be a prominent analyst of US-China and Australian affairs, has made several very wild remarks in the above post which, of course, must be based on his deep analysis and long experience in this field. His post finds prominent position on twitter today and has been widely publicized, and perhaps acknowledged, too.

Before I explain why I call Hugh's remarks 'wild', let's have a quick glance at the summary of his major remarks:
  • Tony Abbott rejected stern warnings from Barak Obama not to get too close to China. He ignored Obama's advice which implied that the US offers co-operation and liberty, while China offers conflict and oppression. Obama's purpose was to warn Tony Abbott against accepting Beijing's vision of a peaceful and harmonious Asian future under Chinese leadership in return for a free trade agreement (ChAFTA). British PM David Cameron also issued exactly the same warning when he spoke to Australian parliament just the day before Obama's address.
  • Abbott trusted President Xi's assurances in his speech that Australia could look forward to a safe and prosperous future under China's regional leadership - as long as "we respect each other's core interests and major concerns." These assurances came after Xi calmly and confidently asserted that China would be "the big guy in the room" in Asia in future.
  • Later, at the State Dinner for Xi after his speech, Abbott praised Xi for his commitment to democracy and a rule-based international order. And in what sounded like a direct repudiation of Obama's dark warnings, Abbott went so far as to say that "when I listened to the President today, some of the shadows over our region and over our world lifted and the sun did indeed shine brightly".
  • So why did Abbott do it? According to Hugh, the answer to this question cannot be the free trade agreement with China or Obama's direct attack on Abbott's climate change policy. Hugh says Abbott does not know what he is doing. Despite the speeches he has heard over the past 10 days, he underestimates how stark the rivalry between America and China has become, and he overestimates Australia's ability to stand above it.
  • According to Hugh's analysis : "Tony Abbott probably believes that what he said last week will soon be forgotten, and he can return to his alignment with  the US and Japan against China whenever he likes, with the free trade deal in his pocket. He perhaps mistakes such patent insincerity for clever diplomacy. He thinks he has struck a careful and clever balance between China and the US, allowing Australia to maintain a close alliance with one while expanding trade with the other. In fact he is swinging helplessly between the two poles of regional power, siding with the US one day and China the next, without any clear conception of where we want to end up."
  • Hugh concludes his analysis: "In the end we cannot afford to side with either of them. The only way to protect Australia's immense interests in the Asian power struggle that came to our shores last week is to think for ourselves about what outcome suits us best, and to act as best we can to promote it. Whether we try to do that or not is the real choice we face."
Hugh White
Having gone through Hugh's earlier views “Xi and hiscolleagues believe that the gravitational force of China’s economy will pullAustralia into its political and strategic orbit and keep it there,” I think he is immensely confused in determining or even in suggesting what suits Australians best in the current scenario. In making above remarks, Hugh is contradicting himself at nearly every stage. For example, when he refers Abbott's handling of Xi as underestimation of stark rivalry between America and China, and overestimation of Australia's ability to stand above it, what exactly he wants to convey. Hugh should be in a position to indicate and describe the level of Australia's ability to stand above the prevailing level of US-China rivalry. Is it really possible to remain non-aligned in such a rivalry? Does clever diplomacy mean merely trying to be seen not sided with either China or US while each thinks you are sided with the rival? Is practicing this so simple? It may appear so to analysts who do not have to involve themselves in any decision making process but those running the affairs of their countries as the final decision makers cannot afford to delay the final choice forever. One may call Tony Abbott's decision to cooperate with China a patent insincerity or clever diplomacy but that is what he thought to be the best possible choice. Somehow, I tend to be supportive to him except that he could have avoided excessive praise of the Chinese leader and used more diplomatic language in doing so and in dealing with him. In this context I find Hugh's remarks 'wild' because Abbott is being criticized for wrong reasons.
Obama would like India to play a greater role :

"We support a greater role in the Asia-Pacific for India, which is the world's largest democracy. Together, we can improve maritime security, upholding the freedom of navigation, and encouraging territorial disputes are resolved peacefully."

- President Obama at the G20 summit in Australia 

I am sure Prime Minister Narendra Modi did a better job at that and Obama should be really pleased with India. Although Modi also committed similar mistakes, he made his choice very clear right at the first opportunity he got. He knows whom to trust and work with from a long-term perspective. The Commerce and politics have their distinct dividing lines but can co-exist in today's globalized world so that one can be a political rival but a trade partner at the same time. China wants to make every nation dependent on her for commerce while keeping the controversial boundary issues for future settlement when they hope no one capable to oppose will exist. I am sure Abbot did what he did out of the trade benefits that he could have done without praising Xi. And certainly not for Xi's "commitment to democracy and a rule-based international order."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

“Xi and his colleagues believe that the gravitational force of China’s economy will pull Australia into its political and strategic orbit and keep it there.”

Hugh White

Said : Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies in the School of International, Political & Strategic Studies at the Australian National University (Lowy Institute), as quoted in Jane Perleznov's news analysis published in The New York Times of November 22, 2014.  

While Prof. Hugh White specializes in Australian strategic and defence policy; Asia Pacific security; global security, Jane Perlez is the chief diplomatic correspondent in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times. She covers China and its foreign policy, particularly relations between the United States and China, and their impact on the Asian region.

Jane Perleznov
Jane describes the recent visits of Xi Jinping to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji as "Asia’s ‘Big Guy’ Spreads Cash and Seeks Influence in Pacific Region," the title of her news analysis. According to her : "Everywhere Mr. Xi went, he left a trail of money, a bounty aimed at showcasing China as the dominant economic power in Asia." According to Jane when Mr. Xi said :“We have every reason to go beyond a commercial partnership to become strategic partners who have a shared vision and pursue common goals,” he was trying to entice Australia, one of America’s closest intelligence-sharing allies, away from its more than half-century alliance with Washington. Already, Mr. Xi and the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, have declared the completion of a China-Australia free trade pact, 10 years in the making, that will open China’s markets to Australian beef, dairy products and other products. It seems that President Obama's warning to America’s ally not to get too close to China has been ignored by Australians.

China has committed to spend $20 billion for loans and infrastructure for the 10 countries in the Association for Southeast Asian Nations besides $40 billion for a Silk Road infrastructure fund in Central and East Asia. In the tiny Pacific island of Fiji, Mr. Xi committed financial support for strengthening economic and strategic ties including defence cooperation with Pacific island nations. Mr. Xi also offered visa exemptions for Fijians travelling to China. A Chinese cultural centre will also be established in Fiji. In exchange Prime Minister Mr. Bainimarama said: "China had been "a true friend of Fiji" and had never interfered in Fiji's internal politics. Fiji wanted China to be fully engaged in the Pacific." China is already under American attack for its assertive behavior in strategic South China Sea waters.
In 2011 Hillary Clinton, then America’s secretary of state, explained President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia in an article in Foreign Policy: “We all know that fears and misconceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views.” China’s president, Xi Jinping, at a meeting with Mr Obama in California last year, responded in kind: “The vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for the two large countries of China and the United States.” (Source)
Hugh White, in a different post, has provided the answer to the question: "Why China and America are Headed Toward a Catastrophic Clash?"

"China is trying to build what President Xi Jinping calls "a new model of great power relations under which he wants China to wield much more power and influence in Asia than it has for the past few centuries. These things are inherently zero-sum, so for China to have more power and influence, America must have less. This is what Xi and his colleagues are trying to achieve."

Indeed, the G-20 summit in Australia provided world leaders an opportunity to show-case their policies and power to contribute to the world prosperity i.e. their capability to politically influence the socio-economic world order. With the near isolation of Russia's Putin and apparently weakening Obama, China has emerged as the only world power with huge amount of Vitamin-W (Wealth) needed by a good number of US allies for venturing into their own gigantic to-do-list. While the West is trying to maintain its fading power under the leadership of the United States, many alliance partners are finding it difficult to resist the mouth-watering temptation of China's economic capacity and desire to have partnerships with them that go beyond just the economic ones.     

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never been inside an apartment 1,300 feet above a bustling metropolis (New York)

Said : Matt A.V. Chaban in the Appraisal column of The New York Times of Oct. 13, 2014

The Appraisal covered New York’s tallest residential building, 432 Park Avenue, which attained its full height of 1,396 feet on Oct. 10. The 104-unit condominium tower of 96 stories, between 56th and 57th Streets, opens next year and the penthouse views, in all directions, are spectacular, as per Chaban's Appraisal. 

The total cost of building developed with Los Angeles based CIM Group - a premier full service urban real estate and infrastructure fund manager - is reported to be $1.3 billion. According to the Appraisal, more than half of the 104 condos have already been sold, including the $95 million penthouse and the cheapest units starting at $7 million. 

"If Manhattan has truly become a playground for the rich, here is its new beacon," Chaban concludes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

India is not sufficiently strong in politics, economy and security to be a major player in the American team for "rebalancing Asia-Pacific"

Said : Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department for International and Strategic Studies at China Institute of International Studiesa research institute run by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an editorial titled : "India will not be a major player in America's game of 'rebalancing the Asia-Pacific' published in People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

The editorial has underplayed the media reports saying that "India has a vital role to play in the U.S. strategy of 'rebalancing Asia-Pacific'". It rules out the possibility that the U.S. will rely on India to counter China, a view expressed by Indo-US policy watchers. The editorial goes to the extent of almost challenging the capacity of India to play such a key role in Obama's scheme of things. It says : "In fact, no matter how close the relationship between India and the U.S. grows, India will not be a major player on the American team. The 'rebalancing' strategy consists of three parts - politics, economy and security. However, Indian national power is not sufficiently strong in any one of the three aspects."

The editorial makes note of President Barack Obama playing host to a rare private dinner for Modi at the White House to "promote a personal relationship with Modi" hinting it to be a reward for India for showing enthusiasm and willingness to start a "new chapter" in a strategic partnership with the US.
(Source : Xu, Beina "South China Sea Tensions." Jan 2013. Council on Foreign Relations. Oct 2014.)
The editorial tries to convey that India does not figure in the priority list of the U.S. bilateral relationship or for rebalancing strategy. It says : "The key element of the U.S. rebalance strategy is The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The U.S. is attempting to establish free trade zones in the Asia-Pacific with the help of TPP. However, India has not been invited to participate in the negotiation process." Another aspect highlighted by the editorial is related with Indo-US cooperation in defense. According to it the American interest is limited to ammunition supply and developing the military forces.

In an attempt to remind India its commitment to Non-Aligned Movement, the editorial says : "Fundamentally, India was one of the countries behind the Non-Aligned Movement. Every Indian government has emphasized that non-alignment is a basic principle of their foreign policy. India adheres to an all-round foreign policy strategy. Not only does India give priority to the India-U.S. relationship, it also attaches great importance to Sino-India relationships."

The border issue with India has also found a place in the editorial which shows that PM Modi's US visit has been able to contain the dragon for now. "The unsolved territorial disputes will not affect the development of Sino-India relations. China and India vowed to forge a closer development partnership when Chinese President Xi Jinping finished his state visit to India a week ago." Today's reports indicate that Chinese forces have withdrawn from the encroached land.

The editorial's tone becomes little softer towards the end, when in conclusion it says : "It is unrealistic for America to rely on India to play a leading role in its "rebalance in Asia-Pacific" strategy. There is little prospect of India and the U.S. reaching consensus on Chinese issues."
(Source : White House, Photo Galleries)
As widely expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit has generated the required heat and attention in China that is necessary for India to be taken seriously. India is the only country that can effectively keep in check China's growing global ambitions and illegal activities in the South China Sea defying the vast majority of world community, of course jointly with the US. 

The US-India partnership will prove to be an unbeatable challenge for China which it knows very well. It's a fact China can ill afford to ignore especially when Narendra Modi is at the helm of affairs in India. China's wealth could be a big asset and force for the Chinese but that cannot make up for loneliness it faces on the global stage.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"I have always been an interventionist, someone who believes that it is acceptable to violate a country's sovereignty for humanitarian reasons.."

Michael Ignatieff

Said : Harvard professor and UN advisor Michael Ignatieff in an interview with Erich Follath of Spiegel published on September 9, 2014.

When asked : "Isn't former US President George W. Bush partly to blame for the current disaster thanks to his 2003 invasion, a war that you once endorsed," Prof. Ignatieff gave the following reply.

"Yes, he is. At the time I allowed myself to be fooled by the arguments being advanced by the US government, just as many others did. I regretted my endorsement and publicly admitted to my mistake. I have always been an interventionist, someone who believes that it is acceptable to violate a country's sovereignty for humanitarian reasons -- especially when a dictator is massacring his own people and when there is there a threat of genocide. I believed that was the case at the time. The only problem is that the US government manipulated public opinion."

Some key opinions expressed by Prof. Ignatieff, in the interview, are :
  • Germany's decision to supply weapons to the Kurds is an important geostrategic and political signal which shows that Germany is assuming the central role in the Western alliance. Without this, Europe would be condemned to ineffectiveness.
  • The Islamic State is an extremely dangerous force for all of the Middle East. If it consolidates, the Persian Gulf will also be destabilized, which could jeopardize the global oil supply.
  • A solution that involves the United Nations Security Council - to fight the jihadists with armed force - would, of course, be the best. Russia and China, for different reasons, also fear an advance of the Islamic State, but they would rather be spoilers in the international system and let the blame for the collapse of order fall on the US.
  • Those who are fighting the Islamic State militants are currently the lesser evil. It's a moral dilemma for the West but they must be provided all help. Also, the Americans should continue with their air strikes.
  • I've been travelling to the Kurdish region for more than 25 years. It's remarkable what they have already achieved in their largely autonomous region within Iraq. In contrast to Baghdad, the administration works there, the economy is booming and religions are practised freely. It would be a shame if the West or the Kurds themselves jeopardized this successful experiment. And the Islamic State terrorists certainly can't be allowed to destroy it.
  • Neither Assad nor the rebels, can win the conflict. The continued fighting will only cost more and more human lives. A status quo would result into a divided Syria but the Islamic State can been destroyed. For this, some rather strange, indirect alliances will have been created between both Assad and the West. I think it's the only way to end the slaughter of the civilian population.
  • I know that this is a deal with the devil. It's hard to imagine an uglier tradeoff for peace and justice than this one. But continuing to demand Assad's removal without having real leverage to force it to happen has become an empty threat - an even more hopeless strategy. The alternative is more years of civil war, death and destruction.
  • It's time for President Obama to examine whether Washington's strategic interests are really still identical with Israel's. I believe these interests have been drifting apart for a long time.
  • I welcome a new, more self-confident German foreign policy. Merkel has the most influence in Europe and she has strong ties to both Kiev and Moscow. Putin isn't naïve. He knows how far he can go. The consequences of his actions can be bluntly explained to him.
  • When a Russian leader says, even in jest, that he could take Kiev in two weeks, the danger is that we underreact, not overreact. It is important to strengthen NATO commitments, even deployments in the Baltic states, Poland and elsewhere. We also need to help the Ukrainian government, with arms and advisors to push back an invasion that is clearly Russian-backed and reverse the military momentum so that a negotiated political solution, favorable to Ukraine's survival as a united state, becomes possible.
  • The Russians and the Chinese don't want R2P ("responsibility to protect") because it limits government sovereignty and permits - even demands, in an extreme case - outside intervention. Government sovereignty is an important value. Still, it can't be a license to commit mass murder within one's own borders. That's why we need responsibility to protect. The atrocities committed by the Nazis, right up to Pol Pot's Cambodian genocide and the genocide in Rwanda, have shown the world what is possible without an international standard. And you see it again today.
  • People in democratic countries have become mistrustful of their political leaders, who - like Bush and (former British Prime Minister Tony) Blair in the 2003 Iraq war - are selling something under false premises. Leaders who, in this way, are betraying principles they claim to advocate. So the Western public believes, to quote a song by my favorite rock band, The Who: "Won't get fooled again."
  • Combat operations in Iraq and Syria are unpopular in the United States, and in Germany more than two-thirds of the population is against sending weapons to the Kurds. Politicians in democratic nations cannot govern against the will of the majority, at least not in the long term. There is only one thing they can do: Campaign for their convictions. Otherwise we won't be able to prevent genocide in the future, either.

Monday, September 8, 2014

“The United States is competitive to the extent that firms operating here do two things: win in global markets and lift the living standards of the average American. The U.S. economy is doing the first of these but failing at the second”

Michael E. Porter

Said : Harvard’s Michael E. Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, based at Harvard Business School, and co-chair of HBS’s U.S. Competitiveness Project. “This is a critical moment for our nation. Business leaders and policy makers need a strategy to get our country on a path towards broadly shared prosperity,” according to a news release by the Harvard Business School.

According to findings of the third alumni survey (2013–14) of Harvard Business School (HBS), on U.S. competitiveness, "large and mid size firms have rallied strongly from the Great Recession, and highly skilled individuals are prospering. But middle- and working-class citizens are struggling, as are small businesses." The report on the findings of the survey titled "An Economy Doing Half Its Job" argues that such a divergence is unsustainable. After exploring its root causes, the authors examine actions that might mitigate it. They opine that in order to create a U.S. economy in which firms both thrive in global competition and lift the living standards of the average American, the US business leaders must focus on hugely enhancing their contribution to support : students and schools (education), workers and small businesses to develop workplace skills (skill investment), and to increase the nation’s mobility and opportunities resulting from mobility. (transportation infrastructure). 

The reports notes that "the recent divergence of outcomes, with firms (especially larger firms) thriving and workers struggling, is unusual in the United States. Historically, American companies and citizens have tended either to thrive together, as in the boom after World War II, or to suffer together, as during the Great Depression." 

The report clearly states that : "business leaders must act to move from an opportunistic patchwork of individual projects toward strategic, collaborative efforts that make the average American productive enough to command higher wages even in competitive global labour markets. Without such actions, the U.S. economy will continue to do only half its job, with many citizens struggling. Businesses cannot thrive for long while their communities languish."

Overall, the survey findings on the U.S. business environment depict an economy that is on the mend in a cyclical sense and is faring better than some other advanced economies, but is not structurally equipped to do its full job: the prospects for broadly lifting living standards are dim, and smaller businesses, important job generators in the U.S. economy, are especially disadvantaged.
Another interesting finding has been that younger U.S. workers have better literacy skills than older workers bu the main challenge to America, however, is that America has among the most literate 55- to 65-year-olds in the world, but the same is not true of younger cohorts.
“Short-sighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy where firms operating here are winning without lifting U.S. living standards,” said Professor Porter. “But leaders with longer perspectives understand that companies can’t thrive for long while their workers and their communities struggle.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

This is the first time since the end of World War Two that one European country has tried to grab another’s territory by force. Europe must not turn away from the rule of law to the rule of the strongest. This is vital for peace and security in the world.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Petro Poroshenko at the press conference during the NATO Summit
Said : Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, at a Joint press conference with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko during the NATO Summit held in Newport, Wales, reported NATO news release.

"What is happening in Ukraine has serious implications for the security and stability of the whole Euro-Atlantic area. We stand united in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders."
"Russia is now fighting against Ukraine, in Ukraine. Russian troops and Russian tanks are attacking the Ukrainian forces. And while talking about peace, Russia has not made one single step to make peace possible. Instead of de-escalating the crisis, Russia has only deepened it." - Rasmussen
"We strongly condemn Russia’s repeated violations of international law. Russia must stop its aggressive actions against Ukraine. Withdraw its thousands of troops from Ukraine and the border regions. And stop supporting the separatists in Ukraine," he added.

Rasmussen said : "We call on Russia to reverse its illegal and illegitimate self-declared “annexation” of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognize."

Calling Ukraine an important and distinctive NATO partner, Rasmussen said : "This is the first time since the end of World War Two that one European country has tried to grab another’s territory by force. Europe must not turn away from the rule of law to the rule of the strongest. This is vital for peace and security in the world."

The two leaders also answered questions from the media regarding Ukraine's NATO membership.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

‘I can take Kiev in two weeks if I want’

Putin on 29 August, the day he spoke to Barroso. [Kremlin]
Said : Vladimir Putin, according to a number of media reports appearing with this quote claimed to be originally published by the Italian daily La Reppublica. 

According to a European news website 'EurActiv' : "La Reppublica has published what appears to be the account of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, of an exchange held at the 30-31 August EU summit. Commission President José Manuel Barroso is reported to have told EU leaders that Vladimir Putin had informed him that he could take Kyiv in two weeks if he wanted. The exchange, according to La Reppublica, took place after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko left the summit table, having made a dramatic account of the situation in his country.
José Manuel Barroso

Meanwhile, the outgoing European Commission President Barroso, breaking his silence, shared what Putin told him over their last telephone conversation, held on 29 August. According to EurActiv, Barroso said he held Putin accountable for the military action of the separatists in Ukraine. At this point, Putin erupted: “The issue is not this. If I want, I can take Kiev in two weeks,” he is reported to have said.

A Kremlin foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, commenting on Putin’s statement didn’t deny that Putin had said the Russian army could capture Kyiv within two weeks, but said the words were “taken out of context” and had a totally different meaning," reported EurActiv.
“I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words.” : Putin had warned a few days ago.
European leaders have already expressed their fears that the next target of Russia after Ukraine could be EU members Lithuania or Estonia. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

China's GDP is five times that of India's. Mutual trust between Beijing and New Delhi, facing strategic pressure from the north, is difficult to build as there is also an unresolved border conflict between the two.

Said : The Global Times in its OP-ED of today. The Global Times is owned by The People's Daily, an official newspaper of the government of China.
Modi delivering his Keynote Address
The editorial titled "Modi-Abe intimacy brings scant comfort" makes note of Modi's remarks that "Japan and India should strengthen strategic cooperation to promote peace and prosperity in Asia and meanwhile counter an expansionist mind-set," as clearly directed at China without naming it. But the editorial describes Modi's statement as 'predictable' for creating the media hype required to be in tune with India's national interests.

"Everywhere around us, we see an 18th century expansionist mind-set: encroaching on another country, intruding in others' waters, invading other countries and capturing territory," Modi said in a speech to business leaders in Tokyo.

Modi, in his Keynote Address at the Business Luncheon in Tokyo yesterday said India would follow developmental policies (and NOT expansionist policies) in partnership with Japan. The statement is being seen as an indirect snub to China and also Russia for their territorial ambitions without naming them.

"Everywhere around us, we see an 18th century expansionist mind-set : encroaching on another country, intruding in others' waters, invading other countries and capturing territory."
In order to show that Beijing has taken Modi's statement in a good spirit, the Global Times editorial argues that rationally, policy and strategy of a big country are shaped by its national interests and "India has proved it is a rational country, displaying an independent foreign policy and loathing being an appendix of any particular power." The editorial goes on to say : "Plus, India cherishes peace. The consensus between China and India has become stronger over not letting border issues shadow a bilateral relationship. The positive India-China relationship has also created conditions for rapport between India and Pakistan."

The editorial, however, has some rough and tough words also in response to Modi's speech which have to be taken into account in their real perspective.

Acknowledging that the Mutual trust between China and India was difficult to build it noted : "China's GDP is five times that of India's. Mutual trust between Beijing and New Delhi, facing strategic pressure from the north, is difficult to build as there is also an unresolved border conflict between the two."

Undermining the new Indo-Japan partnership, the OP-ED says : "The increasing intimacy between Tokyo and New Delhi will bring at most psychological comfort to the two countries. What is involved in China-India relations denotes much more than the display of the blossoming personal friendship between Modi and Abe. After all, Japan is located far from India. Abe's harangue on the Indo-Pacific concept makes Indians comfortable. It is South Asia where New Delhi has to make its presence felt. However, China is a neighbor it can't move away from. Sino-Indian ties can in no way be counterbalanced by the Japan-India friendship."

The editorial opines that the geopolitical competition is not the most important thing for China and India, at least at present because of the fact that both are new emerging countries and members of BRICS and have plenty of common interests.

The OP-ED ends with a sweet-n-sour conclusion : "China-India relations are stable. Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to India later this month and the only country Chinese leaders won't visit in the near future is Japan. If Japan attempts to form a united front centered on India, it will be a crazy fantasy generated by Tokyo's anxiety of facing a rising Beijing."

Watch Narendra Modi's Full speech (In Hindi)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Japan has no option but to fuel inflation

Said : Fumio Nakakubo, Chief investment officer for Japan at UBS AG’s wealth management division, according to a Bloomberg news report. 
"Japan's economic position is like a person with a debt burden of $1.2 million who is spending all his $53,000 salary and still borrowing $40,000 a year."
"The yen must drop to about 120 per dollar to spark the increases in consumer prices needed to reduce Japan’s debt load. Japan has no option but to fuel inflation (not hyperinflation) to reduce its borrowings. No matter how much we pump up the economy, that alone probably won’t be enough, so we have to weaken the yen. There is no other way."

The above opinion was expressed by Fumio, as per the news report.