By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own. This is the second article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The world may have breathed a sigh of relief after President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union managed to avoid nuclear Armageddon during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But America’s rise in the 50 years since President Kennedy was killed has been far from trouble-free – and America’s international standing since the fall of its great Cold War rival has reflected the ups, downs and uncertainties of the past five decades.
When the Cold War ended, U.S. strategic hegemony, and more broadly the American brand, appeared poised for prolonged preeminence. With the Soviet Union in shambles, followed soon thereafter with the implosion of Japan’s economic bubble, America’s standing in the world seemed unchallenged and unchallengeable. But in the ensuing quarter century, the U.S. image has been on a roller coaster ride. And China has emerged as a new rival in the eyes of the world.
There is little consistent, publicly available opinion data on global views of the United States prior to the first decade of the 21st century. In the early 1980s, a Newsweek poll found that most people surveyed believed America’s global influence was expanding. But that was not necessarily a positive sentiment. With a possible U.S.-Russian nuclear confrontation still very much on people’s minds, majorities in many countries said America’s strong military actually increased the chances for war. And just a quarter of the French approved of U.S. policies. The situation was only slightly better in Japan and Germany.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace. The views expressed are his own. This is the first article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
We celebrate John F. Kennedy a half-century after his death for the confidence he gave us in meeting great challenges. “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man,” he told us. And we believed him. At a moment when the U.S. government seems unable even to launch a website, we recall Kennedy’s boldest commitment: to launch a man to the moon and bring him back safely to Earth within the decade. That remarkable moment in American history, one that virtually defined my own childhood years, still inspires us to shake off our dour pessimism today.
While it’s all too easy to believe in government failure today – what with the failed Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, NSA spying, the Obamacare rollout, shutdowns, sequesters, and more – the public perception was nearly the opposite a half-century ago. The federal government was friend, not foe. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government had organized the New Deal, steered democracy through the Great Depression, and then triumphed over fascism in World War II. The federal government had invented the nuclear age in the Manhattan Project, hardly the work of a technological slouch. Most importantly for most Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. government was the bulwark against the aggressive designs of Stalin and the Soviet Union.
By Anna Borshchevskaya, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Anna Borshchevskaya is a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. You can follow her @annaborsh. The views expressed are her own.
Later this month, the European Union’s Council of Ministers will decide whether to sign Ukraine’s European Union Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, ten days later. If the European Union agrees to offer the Ukraine formal association, it will eliminate most barriers to trade between Ukraine and the European Union, and boost Ukraine’s economy. More importantly, the agreement would allow Ukraine to take a big step closer to Europe and away from Russia. It would be a historic shift.
In anticipation of Vilnius, Moscow has increased pressure on Ukraine, Moldova, and other neighbors to join the Russia-led Customs Union. And, because a country can’t both sign an association agreement with Europe and join Russia’s Customs Union, Ukraine must choose.
The Council of Ministers’ decision about Ukraine will come down to whether Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych will pardon former prime minister and political rival Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed since 2011 on politically-motivated charges. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment is symptomatic of the corruption, electoral fraud, and selective justice in Ukraine in recent years. Her release is not simply a matter of justice for one individual, but rather whether Ukraine accepts the most fundamental values of the community of democracies it wishes to join.
By Jason Miks
GPS digital producer Jason Miks recently sat down with Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to talk about his decision to launch the Arctic Circle, the new great game in the Arctic, and why the region matters for U.S. national security.
What’s behind the growing international interest in the Arctic?
First of all, the Arctic is America’s backyard. Just by looking at a map you can see Alaska, the northern part of Canada, Greenland – the region is of crucial strategic, economic and political interest to the United States.
In the Cold War, you didn’t have to explain to U.S. audiences why this backyard was important, because you had the so-called Soviet threat of missiles, submarines. So you had a vast network of military installations throughout the Arctic region. But with the end of the Cold War, the eight Arctic countries, including the U.S., succeeded in creating through the Arctic Council a venue for different organizations and institutions, a very constructive network to discuss how to evolve an area that during the Cold War was one of the most militarized areas into an area of constructive cooperation.
This is important because the Arctic region as a whole is one of the world’s richest in terms of natural resources – minerals, rare metals, clean energy, gas, hydro. With the melting of the Arctic sea ice, it is opening up for at least three or four months of the year a new global sea route which, to some extent, will replace the Suez Canal as a formidable linkage between Asia on the one hand and the U.S. and Europe on the other.
If this isn’t enough for America to be interested, the wake-up call should be that this neighborhood is now becoming crowded, because countries like China, Japan, India, South Korea, Germany, France, the United Kingdom have all in one way or another entered the Arctic and declared their intention of becoming involved in this new economic, political and scientific playing field.
By Lucian Kim, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Lucian Kim is a journalist who was based in Russia for eight years. He blogs at luciankim.com. The views expressed are his own.
Americans didn’t elect their president to be nice to Russia, just as Russians don’t expect their leader to dwell on foreigners’ sensibilities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview last week. How surprising, then, that he would publish an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, appealing to the American people to withhold support for a military intervention in Syria.
Putin makes a number of reasonable, legitimate points, many of which have been voiced by skeptics in the U.S. and Europe. The problem is that the arguments in the article would be credible if they were made by some authority other than Putin – say the king of Sweden or the secretary general of the United Nations.
Putin correctly identifies the risks of a strike, for example that Syria’s civil war is hardly a clear-cut battle for democracy but a messy sectarian conflict. He is right to ask whether past interventions against Iraq and Libya have not encouraged other rogue regimes to seek weapons of mass destruction as a guarantee against attack. And it’s true that U.S. unilateralism over the last decade has bred suspicion and resentment around the world, even among America’s closest allies.
CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the situation in Syria, military action, and what Russia fears happening.
What is the president supposed to do if, for example, the House of Representatives says no to what he wants on Syria? Should the president go forward or should he just forget about it?
It's a very tough question. I think this is the risk he ran when he took on this course. I would think that he should do something anyway, because he has kept stressing that he has the authority. He has said that he thinks this is in the vital national interests of the United States.
Whether you agree with it or not, at this point, for him to have to back down in a humiliating fashion because he faced a divided vote in Congress would undermine the powers of the president of the United States, would undermine the president's ability to conduct these kind of operations with or without congressional approval.
Remember, for the last 30 years, the president of the United States has launched many military strikes against many targets around the world without congressional authorization. So, it would de facto change the rules of the game for the exercise of presidential power, which I think would be a bad thing for America's global leadership.
Back in 2001, Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill coined the term BRICs to describe the key fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. But a dozen years later, is the focus on the BRICs misplaced? Indeed, is the group “broken,” as Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma has suggested?
“Although the world can expect more breakout nations to emerge from the bottom income tier, at the top and the middle, the new global economic order will probably look more like the old one than most observers predict,” Sharma wrote earlier this year. “The rest may continue to rise, but they will rise more slowly and unevenly than many experts are anticipating. And precious few will ever reach the income levels of the developed world.”
Each day this week, beginning with Russia, a leading analyst will assess the prospects of a BRIC nation and weigh in on whether it still deserves its place in a group of economic high flyers.
Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Chrystia Freeland, former Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, about U.S.-Russia tensions.
When President Obama says, I'm trying to look forward and I sometimes feel like they slip back into the Cold War, I do think there’s something to this, in the sense that this is not the most sensible strategy for Russia.
If you look at Russia's national interests, what are their big problems? Their big problem is Islamic radicalism to their south. Their other big problems are the long border with China that they've always had. They need the West in ways that would serve Russia's national interests, but don't serve Putin's particular power interests.
Putin is not chiefly concerned about what's good for Russia. He is chiefly concerned with what is good for Putin. And that's where I think, actually, the Cold War analogy is not quite right.
We are not living in this dual power world in which Moscow is the capital of the Soviet Union and is seeking to control a big part of the world. We are living with a Russia which is a much smaller, relatively economically and militarily much weaker country. And a country in which, for all his power, Vladimir Putin doesn't have the Communist Party machine to control his country. He is much more comparable to these sort of classic authoritarian rulers whose control is brittle.
By Jeffrey Mankoff, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey Mankoff is deputy director and fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Russia and Eurasia Program. You can follow them @CSIS The views expressed are his own.
President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel his planned summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is only the latest in a long series of signals that the U.S.-Russia relationship is going downhill, and the cancellation likely heralds a period in which the bilateral relationship is a lower priority for both sides. The decision to downgrade Russia as a U.S. foreign policy priority stands in stark contrast to the optimism that greeted the announcement of the U.S.-Russia “reset” in February 2009. Yet it has not changed the fundamental logic underlying the reset, namely that because Russia matters immensely to the U.S. across a range of issues. It is therefore in Washington’s interest to invest the time and resources to ensure a generally cooperative relationship with Moscow.
Given the current state of U.S.-Russian relations, the Obama administration believed it had little choice but to cancel the summit. Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden was the final straw. As White House spokesman Jay Carney said though, “Snowden was a factor, but he was far from the only factor.” As reported in the Russian press, senior U.S. officials approached the Kremlin with a variety of suggestions for handling Snowden that would allow the summit to go forward. These included forcing Snowden to stay at the airport until after the summit, or giving him a temporary pass to enter Russia while his request for asylum was being considered. Moscow’s decision to grant the asylum application, even for just a year, was seen in the White House as a deliberate provocation.
Fareed speaks with CNN about President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel a meeting next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S.-Russia ties, and the biggest threats to U.S. national security.
Do you think listening to members of his own party, concerned about weakness abroad, is what fueled President Obama’s decision not to meet Vladimir Putin?
No, I think what fueled this fundamentally is a genuine frustration with the Russians, because it isn't just Snowden. Let's be honest, if a Russian spy fell into our hands I'm not so sure that we would very quickly extradite this guy back to Moscow. So there's a little bit of tit-for-tat that goes on in this spy versus spy game.
The big disappointment has been on Syria, where the Russians have been very difficult to deal with and in some ways not even acting in their own interests. They've got an Islamic radicalism problem that is going to get worse if Syria spins out of control. And on arms control, where they have not come forward with a big proposal. So the Snowden thing was the kind of the straw that broke the camel's back.
So it really comes down to how we’re dealing with this, because the reasons have existed for some time. But the perceived weakness, loss of mojo, do you believe these are fair criticisms of the president?
I don't think it’s a fair criticism, but I think it's fair to say that it is acting as a kind of background condition in explaining the decision to cancel the summit. Look, part of the problem is that we're looking forward and trying to find constructive relations with the Russians. But they sometimes slip into a Cold War mentality.
By Carroll Bogert, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Carroll Bogert is deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are her own.
Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer says his client wants to start learning Russian. Now that the American whistleblower has finally left Sheremetyevo airport for “temporary asylum” in Russia, he might find himself iz ognya da v polymya – out of the frying pan and into the fire. After all, Russia is hardly a bastion of free speech defense. We recommend including a few key terms in any vocabulary lesson:
Khuliganstvo: Translated as “hooliganism,” this word can mean anything from getting into fistfights to shouting political slogans and jumping around in a Moscow cathedral. Two women from the punk group Pussy Riot are currently serving out a two-year prison term for their khuliganstvo. (Pussy Riot, in case you’re wondering, is “Pussi Raiot” in Russian.)
Ekstremizm: This one is easy for an American to pronounce, but hard to define. It can mean just about anything that is controversial or generates “discontent,” especially if it criticizes the authorities. There’s a whole section of the Russian police dedicated to fighting ekstremizm. One example of their work: the prosecutor’s office recently tried to ban a book calling for an international tribunal on war crimes committed in Chechnya because of its ekstremizm.
By David Meyers, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David Meyers worked in the Bush White House from 2006 to 2009, and later for Senator Mitch McConnell. His work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post, The Washington Times and The Diplomat. The views expressed are his own.
Reports last week suggested U.S. President Barack Obama might be considering cancelling an upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s handling of the Edward Snowden saga. But while President Obama would be right in cancelling the meeting, he should do so regardless of the outcome of Snowden’s asylum application. After all, Putin has given him plenty of reasons to do so already.
For years, the Russian president turned prime minister turned president again has been waging an aggressive attack against freedom and democracy in Russia. He's imprisoned numerous law-abiding opposition figures, rigged elections, and crushed meaningful public dissent. He's also persecuted minority groups, including signing into law a troubling vague and broad law designating “homosexual propaganda” as pornography, and has presided over a system where the wealthy can increasingly literally get away with murder.
At the same time, Putin has helped Bashar al-Assad continue the slaughter in Syria (a conflict that has already claimed more than 100,000 lives), and shielded Iran as it races towards a nuclear weapon and continues to back terrorism.