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)