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Vladimir Putin’s 19th-Century Muse: George Jonas, National Post, Apr. 23, 2014— Russia is a natural autocracy. No reason to grab the gun under your pillow: So are most national cultures, at least historically.
Can Israel Be Neutral on Ukraine?: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 19, 2014 — Bored by life in the opposition and missing his previous career’s action, Moshe Dayan decided to go to Vietnam, take a close look at what then was the world’s only major war, and report his impressions in several newspapers.
Stopping Russia Starts in Syria: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Project Syndicate, Apr. 23, 2014 — The solution to the crisis in Ukraine lies in part in Syria.
What Samuel Huntington Knew: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 21, 2014 — 'What would happen," Samuel Huntington once wondered, "if the American model no longer embodied strength and success, no longer seemed to be the winning model?"
Anti-Semitism From Ukraine to the U.S.: Kenneth L. Marcus, Algemeiner, Apr. 23, 2014
Death, Lies and Propaganda in Eastern Ukraine: Jamie Dettmer, Daily Beast, Apr. 24, 2014
US Reacts to Russia’s Growing Clout, Warming Ties to Egypt by Unfreezing Weapon Aid: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2014
Russia Said Set to Sell its Top Fighter Jets to Egypt: Times of Israel, Apr. 22, 2014
Turkey Vulnerable to Rising Russian Power in the Black Sea: Micha’el Tanchum, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 19, 2014
National Post, Apr. 23, 2014
Russia is a natural autocracy. No reason to grab the gun under your pillow: So are most national cultures, at least historically. It’s a reason, though, for keeping a gun in the bedroom, especially in a rough neighbourhood. Western-style democracy has much to recommend it — I personally wouldn’t want to live under any other system — but it isn’t a law of nature. Societies can and do function in countries based on many different organizing principles. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 23 years ago, the Russian state has been functioning as a regency. Two successive regents, first Boris Yeltsin and now Vladimir Putin, are keeping the Kremlin cozy for the next monarch to be anointed — or perhaps elected, in a nod to modern times. Elected rulers can be as autocratic as anointed ones. Whatever dynasty the next Czar will come from, old or new, native or foreign, trust the Russian people to recognize their prince.
All regencies raise the specter of an ambitious regent usurping the throne for himself, and history is replete with brooding Hamlets alerted by their fathers’ ghosts to dastardly deeds in the castle. Boris Yeltsin was above suspicion in this respect in a way Vladimir Putin certainly isn’t, but I still suggest, as I did when the ex-KGB officer first appeared on the national horizon, that Putin doesn’t think of himself as Czar Peter the Great, but as Prince Aleksandr Gorchakov. Prince Gorchakov was a pivotal figure in 19th century Russian diplomacy in the days of Czars Alexander I, Nicholas I and Alexander II. As Russia’s foreign minister for 25 years, he’s credited with rehabilitating his country’s standing in the world in the wake of the disastrous Crimean War of 1853-1856. After Sevastopol fell to British and French expeditionary forces in 1855, Russia’s stock as a world power sank almost as low as it did following the collapse of the Berlin Wall 135 years later. It took Prince Gorchakov 15 years of cool, unhurried diplomacy to rebuild it. Working under his master, Alexander II — the “reformist” czar who emancipated Russia’s serfs — Gorchakov took his country from the Peace of Paris, which closed the Black Sea to Russia’s warships, all the way to the 1871 Convention of London, which compensated Russia for its losses in the Crimean War.
This remarkable achievement — how often do you hear of victors compensating the vanquished? — was brought about by a realistic alignment of power relationships, culminating in clever Russian treaties with Germany and Persia. For his patient pursuit of realpolitik, Gorchakov has been compared with his contemporary, Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor who put modern Germany on the map — or with our contemporary, Henry Kissinger, a champion of realpolitik. Putin’s desire for a “multi-polar” world is an aspiration shared by statesmen of old, from Prince Metternich to Prince Bismarck. The 20th century was deeply ideological. But the 21st century is shaping up to be more like the 19th century, with ideological divisions counting for less than realpolitik, spheres of influence, and balance of power. Putin’s desire for a “multi-polar” world is an aspiration shared by statesmen of old, from Prince Metternich to Prince Bismarck.
As a disciple of Russia’s great foreign-affairs virtuoso of the 19th century, Putin aims to secure for his country a seat at the table where the Great Game is being played, today as much as in Rudyard Kipling’s day. A revival of communism, or any messianic ideology, is not on the Kremlin’s current agenda, but opposition to “unipolarity” — meaning the United States as the world’s only superpower — is. Would the West really go to war to prevent Russia from joining the action being played in her doorway? That’s Putin’s question, to which he pretty much knows the answer. It’s no, of course, are you crazy? If asked, the Obama White House would also oppose the U.S. being the world’s only superpower. The West wouldn’t go to war, not for unipolarity, not for Crimea, not for Ukraine. In fact, a union between Russia and Ukraine would make perfect sense to most people in the West, if only the respective populations wanted it. More sense, anyway, than just about any two member nations of the European Union. Of course, in the case of the EU, the organizing principle is Europe’s fear of itself. Europeans don’t like meeting themselves in dark allays. Their embrace is a boxers’ clinch. Will Ukraine join a Russia it can’t lick? Stay tuned.
Jerusalem Post, Apr. 19, 2014
Bored by life in the opposition and missing his previous career’s action, Moshe Dayan decided to go to Vietnam, take a close look at what then was the world’s only major war, and report his impressions in several newspapers. The Americans – still confident of their victory – rolled out the red carpet for the celebrated general as he landed in Saigon, showing him whatever he wished, from close-range fighting to large-scale deployments, and showering him with briefings, tours and dinners with assorted generals, including the war’s commander, Gen. William Westmoreland. Jerusalem, however, was less enthusiastic. Responding to protestations in the Knesset, even from Dayan’s own Rafi faction, over a famous Israeli personality arguably taking sides in the conflict, foreign minister Abba Eban told the plenary he could not stop a private citizen from traveling wherever he wished. The Jewish state, however, had elaborate and sensitive interests in Asia, and “would welcome any effort that would lead to opening negotiations for a settlement of just peace in this conflict.”
This was 1966, when the IDF’s main weaponry was European, and American aid was modest and strictly civilian. Israel, in short, owed America a lot less than it owes it today. Then again, Israel’s current response to the steadily escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine smacks of the same reluctance to take sides displayed during the Vietnam War. The only difference is that now there are many more reasons – global, regional and Jewish – to shun the international system’s hottest flash point.
The Ukrainian situation deteriorated twice this week. First, when the interim government in Kiev ordered, for the first time since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, military action, and secondly, when the pro-Russian secessionist euphoria spread beyond Ukraine, to Moldova. With 40,000 Russian troops mobilized on its eastern border, and challenged by ethnic Russian militias roaming its eastern cities, Ukraine ordered a military operation. Retaking an airport lost previously to pro-Russian militias, it initially seemed as if the Ukrainians have a plan and know what they are doing. However, what was initially trumpeted as a Ukrainian “offensive” soon proved hollow, when a lightly armored column was stopped in its tracks by unarmed pro-Russian civilians. The seizure, at the same time, of Ukrainian armored vehicles elsewhere, and their display in the town of Slovyansk a day before three Russians were killed in a skirmish with Ukrainian forces, all raised fears that a bloody clash was but a matter of time…
The West, meanwhile, remained perplexed. As American, European and Ukrainian diplomats prepared to hold talks with Russia Thursday, US President Barack Obama again blamed the crisis on Moscow, but when asked to shift from rhetoric to action he failed to deliver more than the vague vow that each Russian attempt to “destabilize” Ukraine will bear “consequences.” In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was not much more specific when he said the American- led alliance will reinforce its presence along its eastern frontiers – apparently referring to NATO members Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, all former Warsaw Pact members bordering Ukraine. Rasmussen had hardly finished his statement when fresh developments again exposed the West as responding to events rather than shaping them. In Moldova, the former Soviet republic of 3.5 million abutting southwestern Ukraine, the regional parliament of Transnistria formally asked Russia to recognize its secession…In itself, Moldova may still seem marginal for Westerners, but the next candidate for such secessionist emasculation is Latvia, a NATO member more than twice the size of Belgium with a sizable Russian-speaking population directly opposite Stockholm, across the Baltic. In short, at stake is a major clash between Europe and Russia, a confrontation in which America has taken sides hastily and now expects its allies to follow it as it stumbles further into this European fray. The Jewish state, it appears, is politely rejecting this demand.
There was a brief moment during Israel’s infancy when it toyed with the idea of assuming a policy of neutrality between East and West. That quest quickly proved unrealistic, as the Arab states loomed prominently in what became the nonaligned bloc, while the Jewish state could fit nowhere but in the West, whether in terms of its ideals, economy or diplomacy. That is why even during the Korean War, when David Ben-Gurion turned down a request to send troops to fight alongside the US-led international force, Israel did send the South medicines and food, even though the Jewish state was at the time so strapped that it rationed bread, milk and eggs. By 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Israel had not even that minimal maneuver space. Whereas America had by then become the IDF’s main supplier, Moscow had severed ties with Jerusalem following the Six Day War and emerged as the center of anti-Israeli gravity, whether in terms of its diplomacy, propaganda, arms exports, emigration policy or oppression of the Jewish faith. It therefore went without saying, when the US decided to boycott the Moscow Olympics of 1980, that Israel would do the same as Uncle Sam.
Today’s situation is different in just about every aspect. First, Russia is not anti-Israel. Not only are relations between Jerusalem and Moscow normal, in many ways they are even warm. Traffic between the two countries is free and hectic, Russia has become Israel’s major oil supplier, it is a potentially deep destination for Israeli exports and the two countries are in the process of finalizing a free-trade agreement.
Then there is the Jewish aspect. Though a million Jews have left, both Russia and Ukraine remain home to sizable Jewish communities. According to last year’s World Jewish Population Survey there were 255,000 Jews in Russia and Ukraine, about a quarter of them in Ukraine. Counting semi-Jews, as Israel must do, the number multiplies. The Jewish state is therefore calculating its treatment of the Ukrainian conflict in a way that considers the fate of the Jews on both its sides.
Israel’s normalization of its ties with Russia is a major strategic asset, the happy aftermath of an epic struggle that was led jointly by Israeli leaders, American statesmen and the Jewish Diaspora. Barack Obama was too young to experience this hard-won struggle, but in Israel it is etched in every political mind, certainly that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who joined that struggle as an ambassador at the UN, not to mention Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was born and raised in Soviet Moldova. Then there is the Middle East. The past three years’ upheaval across the Arab world has for now resulted in increased Russian presence and diminishing American prestige. Obama’s failed gambles in Egypt, where he chased Mubarak from power and then failed to avert the Muslim Brotherhood’s removal, have resulted in previously unthinkable arms deals between Cairo and Moscow. Meanwhile, the unfulfilled threat to hit Syria if it uses chemical weapons has further enhanced Russia’s position, as Bashar Assad’s loyal and efficient sponsor. Faced with such a Russian comeback, Israel would be foolhardy to squander its hard-earned relations with post-Communist Russia…
Neutrality in this conflict seems for now Israel’s only plausible choice, and Jerusalem apparently expected Washington to understand this, as indeed does the Israeli opposition, where no one has so far attacked this policy, not even Meretz chairperson and human-rights champion Zehava Gal-On, with or without connection to her own arrival here, as a child, from Soviet Lithuania. That is also why Netanyahu, in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, reiterated Israel’s hope that the conflict in the Ukraine would be peacefully resolved – just as Abba Eban once said of Vietnam.
Project Syndicate, Apr. 23, 2014
The solution to the crisis in Ukraine lies in part in Syria. It is time for US President Barack Obama to demonstrate that he can order the offensive use of force in circumstances other than secret drone attacks or covert operations. The result will change the strategic calculus not only in Damascus, but also in Moscow, not to mention Beijing and Tokyo. Many argue that Obama's climb-down from his threatened missile strikes against Syria last August emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex Crimea. But it is more likely that Putin acted for domestic reasons — to distract Russians' attention from their country's failing economy and to salve the humiliation of watching pro-European demonstrators oust the Ukrainian government he backed.
Regardless of Putin's initial motivations, he is now operating in an environment in which he is quite certain of the parameters of play. He is weighing the value of further dismemberment of Ukraine, with some pieces either joining Russia or becoming Russian vassal states, against the pain of much stronger and more comprehensive economic sanctions. Western use of force, other than to send arms to a fairly hapless Ukrainian army, is not part of the equation. That is a problem. In the case of Syria, the US, the world's largest and most flexible military power, has chosen to negotiate with its hands tied behind its back for more than three years. This is no less of a mistake in the case of Russia, with a leader like Putin who measures himself and his fellow leaders in terms of crude machismo.
It is time to change Putin's calculations, and Syria is the place to do it. Through a combination of mortars that shatter entire city quarters, starvation, hypothermia, and now barrel bombs that spray nails and shrapnel indiscriminately, President Bashar al-Assad's forces have seized the advantage. Slowly but surely, the government is reclaiming rebel-held territory. "Realist" foreign policy analysts openly describe Assad as the lesser evil compared to the Al Qaeda-affiliated members of the opposition; others see an advantage in letting all sides fight it out, tying one another down for years. Moreover, the Syrian government does appear to be slowly giving up its chemical weapons, as it agreed last September to do. The problem is that if Assad continues to believe that he can do anything to his people except kill them with chemicals, he will exterminate his opponents, slaughtering everyone he captures and punishing entire communities, just as his father, Hafez al-Assad, massacred the residents of Hama in 1982. He has demonstrated repeatedly that he is cut from the same ruthless cloth.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Assad has fanned fears of what Sunni opposition forces might do to the Alawites, Druze, Christians and other minorities if they won. But we need not speculate about Assad's behavior. We have seen enough. A US strike against the Syrian government now would change the entire dynamic. It would either force the regime back to the negotiating table with a genuine intention of reaching a settlement, or at least make it clear that Assad will not have a free hand in re-establishing his rule. It is impossible to strike Syria legally so long as Russia sits on the United Nations Security Council, given its ability to veto any resolution authorizing the use of force. But even Russia agreed in February to Resolution 2139, designed to compel the Syrian government to increase flows of humanitarian aid to starving and wounded civilians. Among other things, Resolution 2139 requires that "all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs…."
The great irony is that Putin is now seeking to do in Ukraine exactly what Assad has done so successfully: portray a legitimate political opposition as a gang of thugs and terrorists, while relying on provocations and lies to turn non-violent protest into violent attacks that then justify an armed response. Recall that the Syrian opposition marched peacefully under fire for six months before the first units of the Free Syrian Army tentatively began to form. In Ukraine, Putin would be happy to turn a peaceful opposition's ouster of a corrupt government into a civil war. Putin may believe, as Western powers have repeatedly told their own citizens, that NATO forces will never risk the possibility of nuclear war by deploying in Ukraine. Perhaps not. But the Russian forces destabilizing eastern Ukraine wear no insignia. Mystery soldiers can fight on both sides….
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link —Ed.]
Wall Street Journal, Apr. 21, 2014
'What would happen," Samuel Huntington once wondered, "if the American model no longer embodied strength and success, no longer seemed to be the winning model?" The question, when the great Harvard political scientist asked it in 1991, seemed far-fetched. The Cold War was won, the Soviet Union was about to vanish. History was at an end. All over the world, people seemed to want the same things in the same way: democracy, capitalism, free trade, free speech, freedom of conscience, freedom for women. "The day of the dictator is over," George H.W. Bush had said in his 1989 inaugural address. "We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is right." Not quite. A quarter-century later, the dictators are back in places where we thought they had been banished. And they're back by popular demand.
Egyptian strongman Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will not have to stuff any ballots to get himself elected president next month; he's going to win in a walk. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán presides over the most illiberal government in modern Europe, but he had no trouble winning a third term in elections two weeks ago. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spent recent months brutalizing protesters in Istanbul, shutting down judicial inquiries into corruption allegations against his government, and seeking to block Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, the ultimate emblems of digital freedom. But his AKP party still won resounding victories in key municipal elections last month.
And then there is Russia. In a Journal op-ed Monday, foreign-policy analyst Ilan Berman pointed out that Russia had $51 billion in capital flight in the first quarter of 2014, largely thanks to Vladimir Putin's Crimean caper. That's a lot of money for a country with a GDP roughly equal to that of Italy. The World Bank predicts the Russian economy could shrink by 2% this year. Relations with the West haven't been worse since the days of Yuri Andropov. But never mind about that. Mr. Putin has a public approval rating of 80%, according to the independent Levada Center. That's up from 65% in early February. Maybe it's something in the water. Or the culture. Or the religion. Or the educational system. Or the level of economic development. Or the underhanded ways in which authoritarian leaders manipulate media and suppress dissent. The West rarely runs out of explanations for why institutions of freedom—presumably fit for all people for all time—seem to fit only some people, sometimes.
But maybe there's something else at work. Maybe the West mistook the collapse of communism—just one variant of dictatorship—as a vindication of liberal democracy. Maybe the West forgot that it needed to justify its legitimacy not only in the language of higher democratic morality. It needed to show that the morality yields benefits: higher growth, lower unemployment, better living. Has the West been performing well lately? If the average Turk looks to Greece as the nearest example of a Western democracy, does he see much to admire? Did Egyptians have a happy experience of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood? Should a government in Budapest take economic advice from the finance ministry of France? Did ethnic Russians prosper under a succession of Kiev kleptocrats?
"Sustained inability to provide welfare, prosperity, equity, justice, domestic order, or external security could over time undermine the legitimacy of even democratic governments," Huntington warned. "As the memories of authoritarian failures fade, irritation with democratic failures is likely to increase." The passage quoted here comes from "The Third Wave," the book Huntington wrote just before his famous essay on the clash of civilizations. The "wave" was a reference to the 30 or so authoritarian states that, between 1974 and 1990, adopted democratic institutions. The two previous waves referred to the rise of mass-suffrage democracy in the 1830s and the post-Wilsonian wave of the 1920s. In each previous case, revolution succumbed to reaction; Weimar gave way to Hitler. Huntington knew that the third wave, too, would crest, crash and recede. It's happening now. The real question is how hard it will crash, on whom, for how long…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link —Ed.]
Anti-Semitism From Ukraine to the U.S.: Kenneth L. Marcus, Algemeiner, Apr. 23, 2014 —Few recent news articles captured more attention than reports that Jews in Ukraine were being ordered to register.
Death, Lies and Propaganda in Eastern Ukraine: Jamie Dettmer, Daily Beast, Apr. 24, 2014—Troops sent by Kiev kill five people at a checkpoint in East Ukraine and the saber rattling from Moscow grows louder by the minute.
US Reacts to Russia’s Growing Clout, Warming Ties to Egypt by Unfreezing Weapon Aid: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2014—The US move to unfreeze the delivery of 10 advanced Apache helicopters to Egypt comes on the heels of Russia’s increasing global activity and warming relations with the pivotal Arab country.
Russia Said Set to Sell its Top Fighter Jets to Egypt: Times of Israel, Apr. 22, 2014—In potential shift of orientation away from US, Cairo said hosting Moscow delegation to discuss purchase of 24 MiG-35s
Turkey Vulnerable to Rising Russian Power in the Black Sea: Micha’el Tanchum, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 19, 2014—With the annexation of Crimea, Turkey faces a stronger and bolder Russian naval power in the Black Sea.
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