‘Right up to this day, Germans and Russians maintain a special relationship. There is no other country and no other people with which Germans’ relations are as emotional and as contradictory. The connection reaches deep into German family history, shaped by two world wars and the 40-year existence of East Germany. German families still share stories of cruel, but also kindhearted and soulful Russians. We disdain the Russians’ primitiveness, while treasuring their culture and the Russian soul.’
‘Still, a divide is growing between the political elite and those in Germany who are sympathetic towards Russia. A recent survey conducted by pollster Infratest dimap showed that almost half of all Germans want the country to adopt the middle ground between Russia and the West.’
I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul:
At least 50 people dead in Kiev so far. The U.S. has very little leverage here, but the matter is of vital interest to Putin, and potentially to the West:
‘Ukraine today suffers from most of the maladies of post-Soviet life. The old system broke down, and a stable and prosperous new system has been unable to emerge. Unprincipled oligarchs dominate political life and state institutions are weak. Divided between a Russian-speaking eastern half and a Ukrainian-speaking (and often westward looking) western half, Ukraine isn’t sure what it’s identity is going to be.
Meanwhile, most Russian nationalists consider Ukrainian independence an absurdity, and one of President Putin’s central goals is to reunite Ukraine with Russia. This is a battle he cannot afford to lose, and he is playing every card in his hand for all it is worth — at best to bring Ukraine back to the embrace of mother Russia or at least to prevent it from joining with the West.
The EU and the United States have failed to develop a coherent strategy for Ukraine. As the situation in Kiev escalates, the question now is how bad things would have to get to prompt a serious Ukrainian policy from the West, which thus far has been mostly content to utter beautiful phrases.’
It’s not hard to see why there’s been such a conflicted Western response, in looking at the conflicted aims of the EU member states, the Eurocracy, and a recalibrating America drifting further Leftward towards international institutions, redlines and missed deadlines under the current leadership.
Stephen Schwartz, via the Center For Islamic Pluralism, is not happy about the deal nor the Syrian part of the equation:
The White House celebrates an Iranian “interim nuclear deal” that, like the Syrian chemical weapons deal, ignored Iran and Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria. Predictably, Al-Assad was thrilled by the outcome of Iran’s Geneva performance. Al-Assad, official Syrian media crowed, “saw that Iran’s achievement will reflect on Syria due to the strategic relation between the two countries. President [Hassan] Rouhani, for his part, reaffirmed Iran’s standing by Syria.”
Perhaps it’s safe to assume that Putin’s going to do what’s best for Putin, Assad for Assad, and Rouhani and the mullahs for Rouhani and the mullahs. These are people with whom we can barely do business, if at all.
‘As it stands, Iran looks to be emerging from the sanctions saga with the upper hand. Its influence is spreading and its clients succeeding, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Foreign Minister Zarif is currently on a tour of the Gulf, looking to expand that clout by mending and strengthening financial links and touting Iranian diplomatic prestige. This is not the behavior of a country that has just ruefully acquiesced to western demands.’
One of the more positive pieces I could find comes from Foreign Affairs. What needs to be done in the meantime if the deal’s going to survive?:
‘Washington must therefore convince the Gulf States that it is committed not only to halting Iran’s nuclear program but also to containing Iran’s principal means of projecting regional influence through asymmetric operations. This would likely take the form of intelligence collaboration and prosecutions that target the Gulf operations of Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah and military units such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — both of which engage in violence, subversion, and terrorism outside Iran’
A lot of leadership, diplomacy, and engagement are required.
Addition: It’s easy to envision many ways in which this will break-down into a much more volatile and difficult situation for our interests.
Henry Kissinger discusses the prospects of peace in the Middle-East and weighs in on a range of topics:
‘While Kissinger said he doesn’t share Secretary of State John Kerry’s view that there’s an opening for progress on Middle East peace, he does agree “that an effort should be made in order to see what is possible.”
It seems that Obama may still hold out hope for a Cairo speech view of things, warmed by the winds of the Arab spring, and the activist, ‘arc of justice,’ progressive worldview. Here’s an excerpt of that speech:
‘Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.’
As Kissinger rightly points out, and Michael Totten notes here, the Syrian opposition has got some really bad actors in it:
‘When Assad falls—and fall he will, at least eventually—the Free Syrian Army will go to war with Jabhat al-Nusra. There is not enough room in that country for al-Nusra and everyone else’
When Assad falls, might we suddenly have more leverage against Iran’s repressive, paranoid, theocratic leadership racing for the nuclear weaponized finish line?
–How do we deal with the rise of Islamism?
Drone strikes, our military, security and intelligence agencies and other means are containing terrorism, or at least those who would do us harm on American soil (terrorism is still tough to define and needs to be worked out better). Some people aren’t reasonable.
Throughout the region, we’ve still got to bet on horses, and this administration’s approach has been to back off more generally, to appeal to international support and shared interest, and to fall back upon the Cairo-speech vision of the Middle-East. Meanwhile, after the Arab Spring, the region is roiling and democracy, in many cases, is not forthcoming. There are institutions run by people not friendly to democracy. Libya has had consequences in Mali. Not acting in Syria, so far, has consequences (and it’s not clear what to do).
We’ve still got to promote stability. It’s good that both Saddam and Gadhafi are gone, and we may disagree about means, but what’s the long-term strategy to develop, if possible, the best horses? Where is there what we want to see in the Arab world and how can be promote and work alongside it (the Green revolution in Iran, stability in Tunisia, a stable Turkey more able to not be washed over by the Islamic resurgence)? Short of that, where is there what we can tolerate and balance with our interests?
How much can we count on the Muslim Brotherhood? How do we deal with Salafists and Wahabbis? How do we deal with Iran, and show leadership and avoid what is an unfavorable war situation? What kind of governments are springing up now?
How do we make the right friends and respond to those who really are our enemies?
–How do we deal with the fact that Islam hasn’t undergone either a Reformation nor an Enlightenment?
The Islamic world has its own long history and traditions, and there are many people who want better lives, and more opportunity. However, I still find myself more persuaded by the Clash Of Civilizations argument than Obama’s internationalist vision. There is deep poverty, tribal and kin-based social structures, a high-youth population, Arab nationalism and Western concepts of nationhood. There is now also a resurgence of Islamic identity, and many folks who are anti-modern and anti-Western coming up.
It’s not clear the policy changes we’ve made are attached to a greater vision that can respond to events and maintain our national security and allow us maximum leverage when we need it to act alone or with others.
‘The Iranians know that their regional influence is tied to Assad, and that they must either do damage control or lend even more forward military support to the embattled Syrian regime if they don’t want to see their sphere of influence shrink considerably. Turkey, in addition to having genuine counterterrorism motives, is also beginning to enjoy flexing its muscles as the presumptive new hegemon in the region.’
Meanwhile, Hezbollah, with ties to Iran, is active in the country on the ground, and is blowing things up elsewhere around the world (terrorism is one of the Iranian regime’s primary means of ‘Statecraft’). The longer this goes on the worse it is. The U.S. has committed itself under the present administration to a liberal internationalist doctrine which binds it to the U.N. (which has arguably made things worse). It’s not clear what to do, but doing nothing may mean we have to do worse somethings down the road, as always.
See Also: Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient: “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”. It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire
Well, maybe not over, but perhaps in serious trouble:
‘As long as an authoritarian government ruled Egypt, this boiling cauldron could be kept under control, largely through the same means of repression that stifled political opposition of any stripe. However, when Mubarak fell from power in February and the authoritarian grip of the government relaxed, the anger in the street erupted. So far, it has been directed as much at Israel as at the ancien régime.’
Kissinger, at 88, has a new book out titled “On China“. Interesting quote from the interview (unsurprisingly, Kissinger just wants people to read the book):
‘The remarks hint at what may be Mr. Kissinger’s fundamental view of U.S.-China relations—that they are already so fragile that it could be derailed by some candid remarks by him in a simple newspaper interview. Alternatively, he may simply have in mind his own opportunities for “maintaining influence.”‘
‘The United States, with heroic optimism, had hoped that Pakistan could be persuaded to permanently abandon using Islamist militants as tools of foreign policy through a combination of profitable inducements and rehabilitating Pakistan, coaxing it back into the comity of nations after it had been reviled as a nuclear proliferator, a supporter of terrorism, and a state teetering on the brink of failure.
However, Pakistan sees India as an existential threat in the same way that the United States sees al-Qaeda and its murderous minions as its most menacing nemeses. Pakistan relies upon the most feared and loathed of U.S. adversaries to manage its competition with India, while the United States wants to extinguish them.’
“Britain’s own security is at risk if we again allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists.”
And Spain, and France, and Italy, and Germany. What is the Obama administration doing to gather European support for operations in Afghanistan? What are we doing militarily, diplomatically, and on other fronts?
Any links are welcome.
Addition: From The Guardian: Pakistani’s intelligence service, the ISI, may have had a role in the Mumbai terror attacks…why?:
“He claims a key motivation for the ISI in aiding the attacks was to bolster militant organisations with strong links to the Pakistani state and security establishment who were being marginalised by more extreme radical groups”