By John Lough, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: John Lough is an associate fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House, a U.K.-based think tank. The views expressed are his own.
The speed of Russia's actions in Ukraine has taken many by surprise. While the methods have been seen before – notably in Moldova and Georgia, where Moscow has openly backed separatist regimes with military and economic support – Russia's apparent backing of Crimea's government against the new authorities in Kiev crosses a significant threshold.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has never challenged Ukraine's independence in such a way. But Russian intervention in Crimea over recent days, and the decision today by the Russian parliament to give President Vladimir Putin the authority to deploy additional forces to Ukraine to protect Russian citizens, marks a significant escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.
Indeed, the reality is that if these plans are enacted, they would signify a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, this would in essence be a declaration of war, and would demonstrate Russia's readiness to disregard the principles of the post-Cold War security order enshrined in the 1990 Paris Charter, as well as its commitment in the 1994 Budapest Declaration to respect Ukraine's independence.
By Gregory F. Treverton, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gregory F. Treverton directs the RAND Corporation’s Center for Global Risk and Security. He is a former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council and co-author of 'Beyond the Great Divide: Relevance and Uncertainty in National Intelligence and Science for Policy'. The views expressed are his own.
The uproar earlier this month over U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland’s profane remark about how the European Union is handling the Ukraine crisis shouldn’t distract from a simple fact – frustration with U.S. allies is often part and parcel of the job. Indeed, years ago, when I was a National Security Council staffer, we used to quip that the only thing worse than not consulting with Japan was…consulting with Japan. So it should be little surprise that frustration is bubbling to the surface now.
Nuland’s comments, for which she has apologized, were prompted by the slow European response to unfolding events in Ukraine. And while her words – secretly recorded as part of a conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt – were less than diplomatic, they reflected the deepening reality that Europe does not always do exactly what the United States wants it to.
Of course, it never has. But the end of the Cold War, the expansion of the EU and Washington’s forced reliance on coalition building have made trans-Atlantic relations more of a two-way proposition.
By Fareed Zakaria
The world is not in great disorder. It is mostly at peace with one zone of instability, the greater Middle East, an area that has been unstable for four decades at least — think of the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanese civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War, the Iraq war, the Sudanese civil war, the Afghan wars and now the Syrian civil war. The Obama administration has not magically stopped this trail of tumult.
It is ironic that [Niall] Ferguson, a distinguished economic historian, does not even mention the Obama administration’s ambitious trade projects in Asia and Europe — certainly the most important trade initiative to come out of Washington in two decades and one that could have a powerful stabilizing effect in Asia. But in this respect, he reflects the views of most commentators who believe that U.S. leadership consists of muscular rhetoric and military action; if only Obama would bomb someone somewhere, the world would settle down and stop changing.
The fact that people can make these pleas for more intervention right after a decade of aggressive (and costly) American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is surprising.
By Daniel Webster, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Daniel Webster is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The views expressed are his own.
Many Americans have a built in bias when they’re considering the potential for gun laws to reduce violence. After all, our TV screens are regularly filled with stories about gun violence – a gang member suspected in a triple shooting in South Chicago, an estranged husband murders a woman and then commits suicide, a shooting at local night club, scores dead and injured after a gunman opens fire in a crowded movie theater.
So it might seem logical that with so many dangerous people apparently determined to kill, and so many guns already in circulation and available to those individuals, that efforts to prevent killings through gun laws are futile. It’s an idea encouraged by the rhetoric of the National Rifle Association and others who argue that criminals, by definition, won’t obey gun laws.
But our perceptions of reality can be distorted by the things that we don’t see every day – what the media does not or cannot report. For example, aside from the FBI’s records of the number of individuals who don’t pass background checks when attempting to purchase a firearm, we simply cannot know how many people don’t even try to buy a gun because they are disqualified from possessing guns.
That’s where a closer look at some of the data that isn’t widely publicized is crucial – and one state in particular offers some of the clearest evidence yet that gun laws can, in fact, make a difference.
By Fareed Zakaria
“All conservatism begins with loss,” Andrew Sullivan writes. “If we never knew loss, we would never feel the need to conserve.” That’s why the first and still canonical conservative text is Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” a lamentation on the uprooting of that country’s monarchical order. And that’s why America, as an experiment in modernity, hasn’t had many genuine conservatives in its history.
The so-called conservative founding fathers, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were in fact creators of a new and radical system of government. The 19th-century Whigs — Webster, Clay and Calhoun — sometimes seen as conservatives, were aggressive proponents of capitalist development. Even many Southerners who argued for slavery were advocating an economic system that kept them rich, enthusiastically embracing the trade and modern technology that made slavery so profitable. And contemporary conservatism — which began as a reaction to the progressive era and the New Deal — has always mixed dynamic capitalism with moralism.
Given this background, “The Kennan Diaries” is an illuminating, fascinating and sometimes disturbing book. George F. Kennan was the most celebrated diplomat-intellectual of the 20th century, the brilliant author of the strategy of containment that the United States adopted and that won the Cold War. For most of his life he was seen as a strategist and — because he was dovish on most foreign policy issues — a liberal. As these diaries make clear, he spent much of his life thinking about political philosophy. And his instincts and insights were deeply conservative, but in a way that doesn’t really fit into today’s left-right categories.
By Nader Hashemi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Nader Hashemi is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. His latest book is The Syria Dilemma. The views expressed are his own.
The moral case for why Syria matters is easy to make. The killing fields of Syria are now reminiscent of those in Bosnia. Over the past three years, we have witnessed state-sanctioned war crimes and crimes against humanity replete with chemical weapons, barrel bombs, the targeting of children, mass rape, a refugee crisis and according to a new report “industrial-scale” torture and killings. Indeed, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has described Syria as “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”
But a new dimension to this conflict has emerged: Syria is now a global security problem.
The Syrian conflict is destabilizing the Middle East. Lebanon has been convulsed, Iraq has been shaken and Jordan’s fourth largest city today is a Syrian refugee camp. To a lesser extent, Turkey has also been adversely affected – some 600,000 refugees are said to be currently living on the Turkish-Syrian border, and Turkey’s role in the conflict has become a major bone of contention in domestic Turkish politics.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: Asia's war of words – Why China has been engaging some heated rhetoric with so many of its neighbors, and whether things could get more serious. Fareed speaks with China experts Elizabeth Economy and The New Yorker's Evan Osnos.
Then, a 1-on-1 interview with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to discuss new Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen and the state of the U.S. economy.
“I have college-aged children. And occasionally, we have a difference of opinion about how much money they've spent,” Summer says. “And in our family, we discuss whether they're going to pay or whether I'm going to pay. But we don't discuss whether or not Visa should get stiffed, because we know that would be terrible for our family's credit rating and that's just not what we would do.”
And later, is the U.S. safe from cyber crime? Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution explains how the online world is very much like the real one.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks speaks with Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor for 'The Economist,' and Canadian member of parliament Chrystia Freeland about rising inequality – and how the West should respond.
You were elected as a member of parliament in Canada last year. How do you think the big debate going on over inequality in the United States compares with how it is unfolding in Canada?
Freeland: Basically, these are global phenomenon that are driving the surge in inequality. It’s globalization. It’s technological change. And there’s a political aspect, a set of political changes – deregulation, weakening of unions, privatization, changes in taxes. So this is really something that is happening in all of the Western industrialized countries, and also in a lot of the emerging markets – you see income inequality surging in China, Russia, India. So it’s a big issue in Canada.
Interestingly, I think it’s becoming a truth universally acknowledged, which it wasn’t before the crisis. Things have changed. Income inequality is higher than it has been. So if you think back pre-2008, people were still debating that. Now, we all get that this is the new reality, and I think what you are starting to see is people focusing on what part of all this is bad, and what can we do about it. And I think the focus rightly is narrowing in on really the big problem of the hollowed out middle class, the stagnant middle class jobs and there not being enough middle class jobs.
I think what you’re going to see increasingly is people saying that this is the thing we need to focus on, and also how do we improve social mobility?
By Global Public Square staff
What was this week's most important economic story? No, it was not Obama's State of the Union speech. Nor the stock markets. And no, it has nothing to do with the U.S. Federal Reserve. We are talking about a decision made in Beijing this week to ban smoking in schools across China – all the way from kindergarten through middle school.
Why is this economic news? Well, consider these numbers.
China is said to have 350 million smokers – more than the entire population of the United States. We bring up the U.S. for comparison because the Surgeon General coincidentally released a report last month that really caught our eye. The fallout of tobacco use, the report says, costs Americans $289 billion a year – about four times as much as the U.S. federal budget for education combined. Twenty million Americans have died in the last 50 years as a result of smoking – more than the tally from all of our wars put together, of course. This year, nearly 500,000 Americans will die prematurely because of smoking.
These numbers are just staggering. And in China, the numbers are much, much worse.
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.
The inexorable aging of the U.S. population has been one of Washington’s rationales for raising the retirement age, reforming health care and cutting the government deficit and debt. Continuing policy debates driven by fears of the economic consequences of a graying society are almost inevitable.
But the fiscal and societal burdens of an aging America are far from unique. Indeed, when it comes to getting older, Europe and increasingly much of Asia face a far more challenging future in which there is a mismatch between demographics and slowing economic growth. Compounding the problem in some nations is public opinion, with expectations of government often out of synch with projected economic growth and the ability of states to foot the bill for their aging populations.
In 2010, 13 percent of the U.S. population was age 65 or older. By 2050, that proportion is expected to grow to 21.4 percent, according to estimates by the United Nations. But notable as those numbers are, they are even more dramatic in Europe – Spain’s retirement age population is expected to grow by about 17 points, to 34.5 percent, while Italy’s elderly population may increase by 13 points to 33 percent. Germany’s 65 and older population, meanwhile, is likely to expand by 12 points, to almost 33 percent.
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
I’m in Davos, Switzerland, the site of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. I usually use our “What in the World” section to give you my thoughts about something that struck me. But I’m going to cede this space to someone else today – Bill Gates.
His annual letter is out. It debunks three myths about fighting poverty and has gotten attention for its claim that by 2035, there will be no more poor countries in the world (using today’s definition of poor, of course).
But what caught my eye was myth number two: foreign aid is a big waste. Actually, this might not strike many as a myth. Lots of people believe that what we send abroad doesn’t really help countries alleviate poverty and develop. Well, Gates does a very nice job carefully explaining why foreign aid has in fact been a pretty spectacular success. The largest piece of evidence for this is literally the life-saving effect of aid.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
President Barack Obama gave a much-anticipated speech on Friday outlining reforms in the American government cyber surveillance activities. But before I give you my reaction to the speech, I want to give you some context.
The American government and many U.S. companies are routinely the targets of cyber attacks from all over the world. The National Nuclear Security Administration, for example, which is an arm of the Energy Department and monitors America’s nuclear power plants, has reportedly been the target of 10 million cyber attacks a day. In contrast, the entire United Kingdom suffered 44 million cyber attacks in 2011.
Some of these are efforts to spy on America, enter into telecommunication systems, steal secrets from the government and private companies. Others are efforts to disrupt normal life or kill civilians. Last year, the head of the FBI testified that cyber attacks from foreign sources, often including terrorist groups, had surpassed traditional terrorism as the single most worrisome threat to the United States.
Why am I pointing all this out? I'm trying to remind you that this debate about American policy cannot take place in a vacuum. There are other countries out there, and groups of militants and terrorists, and they are actively using whatever cyber tools they have to tap into phone systems, emails, bank records, power plant operation systems, nuclear facilities, and more.
In that context, President Obama has taken on a worthy task, to see if the American intelligence establishment has gotten out of control as it deals with the threats and challenges out there. His speech suggests that the answer is no, the National Security Agency is not a rogue outfit.
But he acknowledged that two facts need to be kept in mind. First, that the United States has unique capabilities in this area and second, that after 9/11, the American government went too far in its efforts to search for and counter terrorist threats.
So he's proposed a series of reforms that strike me as a good balance between security and liberty. He has preserved the basic structure of American intelligence gathering while putting in more checks and safeguards. One case where he may have gone too far is in limiting America's spying on foreign leaders. This was probably inevitable and a political sop to foreign heads of government like Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It's a good idea for the United States to protect civil liberties, institute checks and balances, and have periodic reviews of the whole system. But let's also keep in mind that I haven't heard much about Chinese President Xi Jinping's intelligence reform proposals, and I don't expect we will be hearing much from him, or Russian President Vladimir Putin or many other leaders.
It's called the world's second oldest profession for a reason.
You can watch this take, and also Fareed’s interview with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.