By Fareed Zakaria
As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Vladimir Putin’s Russia presents the United States and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia’s overt military assault but China’s patient and steady non-military moves that pose the larger challenge. Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4 percent of global gross domestic product. China’s is nearly 16 percent and rising, now almost four times the size of Japan’s and five times that of Germany, according to the World Bank.
Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change, which suggests that the United States and China are moving toward a new, productive relationship. Except that, even while negotiating this accord, Xi’s government has been laying down plans for a very different foreign policy — one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own. There is clearly a debate going on in Beijing, but if China continues down this path, it would constitute the most significant and dangerous shift in international politics in 25 years.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
CNN speaks with Fareed about recent developments in Iraq and Russia. This is an edited version of the transcript.
Is the American public ready for what potentially could be many, many years of war in tackling the situations in Iraq and Syria?
I think if it's a very limited kind of assistance then perhaps they would. But otherwise, I don't think so because really what you have is this whole region, Iraq and Syria, have been unsettled by a Sunni revolt. A revolt of the Sunnis who don’t want to be ruled by what they see as two apostate regimes – a Shiite regime in Baghdad and the Alawite regime in Damascus.
Now, how you're going to solve that is a very complicated problem. You can bomb and degrade ISIS, but somebody then has to hold the territory and build a political order that includes both the Sunnis and the non-Sunnis. That's a very complicated act of, on the one hand, being able to create and hold political order, but also then build a real nation where everyone feels invested.
The United States, especially with limited military intervention, isn’t going to be able to do that. It has a strategy in Iraq where it has a partner, the Iraqi government, that it is pressing to be more inclusive. There’s an Iraqi army that can hold territory. FULL POST
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Many of us remember when the Berlin Wall fell – the celebratory atmosphere, the cheers, the singing, the hammering, the fireworks – and most of all the promise of freedom. On the 25th anniversary we thought we'd look at Freedom House's rankings of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics to see how those liberated countries have actually fared.
Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all done very well, although countries like Albania and Bosnia/Herzegovina do need improvement with scores of "partly free."
Of the 15 former Soviet Republics; however, only three countries – the Baltic States – received an overall score of "free". Five received were "partly free," but seven received a score of "not free."
Twelve of the 15 countries do not have an entirely free press. In fact, only North Korea has less press freedom than Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan! Most received poor scores on civil liberties and political rights. And finally, only six of the 15 countries can be considered electoral democracies at all, according to the most recent data.
Twenty-five years from now, let's hope we see an improved picture – one worthy of the feeling we all had on that day.
By Shiza Shahid, Special to CNN
Shiza Shahid is co-founder and global ambassador for the Malala Fund. The views expressed are her own. This is the third in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are her own.
A startling 86 percent of respondents to the Survey on the Global Agenda agree that we have a leadership crisis in the world today. Why would they say this? Perhaps because the international community has largely failed to address any major global issue in recent years. It has failed to deal with global warming, then barely dealt with the failure of the global economy, which has caused such severe problems in North America and Europe. Meanwhile violence has been left to fester in the Middle East, the region our Survey showed is most affected by, and concerned about this problem. So why are we suffering such a lack of leadership?
Well, as our governments have grown, their mechanisms have been plagued by decades of factional alignment, dynasty and deep corruption. In China, for example, 90 percent of people surveyed by Pew said corruption was a problem; separate studies found that 78 percent of Brazilian respondents and 83 percent of those in India regard dishonest leadership as a serious issue.
The deeper you go into these endemic failures, the harder it is for anyone to emerge as a strong leader; one is forced to play the game the way it’s built – which is inevitably in the interest of the system, and rarely in the interest of the people. In many countries, the only people with the institutional power to break through are strong military leaders or radicals like Narendra Modi in India. Yet, given the rise of independent and social media, populations with democratic experience swiftly become disillusioned with the excesses of these military authorities. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria
“The hotels in Simferopol are packed. It is late autumn and the administrative capital of Crimea has been overrun, not by holidaymakers – the season and political climate are hardly suitable – but by Russian officials. ‘Even in summer we’re not this busy,’ says the manager of a small guesthouse. The functionaries are here to bring all the key administrative sectors – health, education, security, taxation, banking – in line with Moscow standards. A census has started. Eight months after the peninsula was annexed, Russification is in full swing,” writes Isabelle Mandraud in The Guardian.
“In 1970 fewer than a third of 16- to 18-year-olds [in China] were deemed to be short-sighted (meaning that distant objects are blurred). Now nearly four-fifths are, and even more in some urban areas,” The Economist says. “A fifth of these have ‘high’ myopia, that is, anything beyond 16 centimeters (just over six inches) is unclear. The fastest increase is among primary school children, over 40 percent of whom are short-sighted, double the rate in 2000. That compares with less than 10 percent of this age group in America or Germany.”
“The incidence of myopia is high across East Asia, afflicting 80-90 percent of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The problem is social rather than genetic.” FULL POST
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
Americans voted on Tuesday for big change. But did they understand the facts that they wanted to change? Not according to a groundbreaking new survey.
You see, Americans think the unemployment rate is much higher than it is, that there are many more immigrants and pregnant teens than there actually are, and that the population is much older than it actually is.
Now maybe this gap between perception and reality is because of American ignorance or hyper-partisanship. Except, we’re not alone.
In the first international study of its kind, the U.K. research firm Ipsos MORI highlights the political “ignorance” of participants across 14 countries. Here are some of the findings from Ipsos MORI’s quiz:
When asked what percentage of people are unemployed or looking for work, Americans guessed 32 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate is actually closer to 6 percent, of course. In fact, we could only find one country on the planet – Macedonia – which has had more than 30 percent unemployment in recent years according to IMF data. It turns out every country over-estimated its unemployment level. FULL POST
By Amina Mohammed, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Amina Mohammed is the U.N. Secretary General’s special adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning. This is the second in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are the writer's own.
Inequality is one of the key challenges of our time. Income inequality specifically is one of the most visible aspects of a broader and more complex issue, one that entails inequality of opportunity and extends to gender, ethnicity, disability, and age, among others. Ranking second in last year’s Outlook, it was identified as the most significant trend of 2015 by our Network’s experts. This affects all countries around the world. In developed and developing countries alike, the poorest half of the population often controls less than 10 percent of its wealth. This is a universal challenge that the whole world must address.
While it’s true that around the world economic growth is picking up pace, deep challenges remain, including poverty, environmental degradation, persistent unemployment, political instability, violence and conflict. These problems, which are reflected in many parts of this report, are often closely related to inequality.
The inherent dangers of neglecting inequality are obvious. People, especially young people, that are excluded from the mainstream end up feeling disenfranchised and become easy fodder of conflict. This in turn reduces the sustainability of economic growth, weakens social cohesion and security, encourages inequitable access to and use of global commons, undermines our democracies, and cripples our hopes for sustainable development and peaceful societies. FULL POST
By Nicole Dow, CNN
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction – a fact that is just as true for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as it is in physics. Now, as the Sunni militant group continues to try to expand its sphere of influence, its progress threatens to tip the delicate sectarian balance. Indeed, the ripple effects could transform the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East.
To understand why this is the case, it’s essential to understand the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia is an Arab state with a Sunni majority, while Iran is a predominantly Shiite, non-Arab state. Between the two countries is an ongoing tension that has been brewing at least since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.
"This is very much a conflict that is molded and shaped by the geopolitical competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region," says Harith Al-Qarawee, a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
"The very idea of having Sunni countries fighting ISIS, and the tendency to exclude Iran from the conferences that occurred in the past…[suggest] Iran is not considered an ally in that conflict," Al-Qarawee says.
Al-Qarawee says one reason is that the United States and its allies believe that a military offensive is best led by Sunni governments as ISIS identifies itself as Sunni. “I think the Obama administration concluded that no one can face ISIS except Sunnis themselves. If you ally with the Shia or a Shia-dominated government, you are deepening the sectarian divide and it is also the case if the arrangements rely only on Sunni allies and exclude Shias.” FULL POST
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
Obama's biggest foreign policy initiative is powerful and intelligent – the pivot to Asia.
The greatest threat to global peace and prosperity over the next decades comes not from a band of assassins in Syria but from the rise of China and the manner in which that will reshape the geopolitics of Asia and the world. If Washington can provide balance and reassurance in Asia, it will help ensure that the continent does not become the flash point for a new Cold War.
But the Asia pivot remains more rhetoric than reality. Having promised a larger U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Singapore and Australia, there is little evidence of any of this on the ground...
...I know the world looks messy and the administration is now on the defensive. But recall what the world looked like when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were conducting foreign policy.
America was losing a war in Asia in which it had deployed half a million troops. The Soviet Union was on the march. Domestic opposition and troubles were mounting. Nixon and Kissinger had to initiate a major retreat but, as Robert Zoellick has pointed out, they combined this with a series of bold, positive, assertive moves.
Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column
Fareed speaks with then-U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and a former top British foreign policy advisor, Charles Powell, about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
Why didn't the collapse of the Soviet Union result in bloodshed and war?
Scowcroft: Well, first of all, we didn't want it to, because what had happened before, every time there was any kind of an outburst in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union would crack down, kill the leaders and even be more repressive than before.
So what we wanted to do was to keep indications of violence and dissent underneath the Soviet radar, and we tried very hard to do that. And when the announcement about the Wall came, President Bush Sr. was told by his press secretary, you're going to have to talk to the press. Everybody is wondering about this. So I said, well, we don't really know what the facts are.
But anyway, the press came into the president's office and he described what was happening and how uncertain it all was. After he finished that explanation, one of the members of the press said, well, Mr. President, you don't seem very elated. I would think you'd want to go over and dance on the Wall. And he said, well, I'm just not that kind of a person. What we were worried about was that this event would force Gorbachev to violence and all of the hopeful signs would be destroyed.
Fareed speaks with Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma's Center for Middle East Studies, about his proposal for addressing the Syria crisis. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
So let's understand why you think that the solution that so many people keep urging, which is that the United States supports those rebels in the blue areas and that they will therefore win. They will establish control, create perhaps a democratic Syria. Why is that not going to work?
Well, it's not going to work because most of the blue area are dominated by the big rebel groups which are al Qaeda and the Islamic Front, which are jihadist, very anti-American groups. The pro-American militias just got wiped out in the northern blue spot, Jabal al-Zawiya. They just got pushed aside by al Qaeda. And so they're very small. They may own perhaps 1 or 2 percent of Syria today, the rebels that are being backed by the United States.
So to turn those 2 percent into winners, that would not only wipe out ISIS, but taking on al-Assad would be a gargantuan undertaking.
So they have to beat Al-Nusra and al Qaeda and Khorasan. Then they've got to beat ISIS. Then they've got to beat al-Assad.
Yes, it's not going to happen. And we've only – President Obama has given them half a billion dollars. Now, at the University of Oklahoma we have an endowment of much more than a billion dollars and we can't even pay the students to go for free.
So they're not going to build an army for that kind of money. This is just chump change that's there to satisfy, I presume, people who are criticizing the president.
By Espen Barth Eide, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Espen Barth Eide is managing director of the World Economic Forum. This is the first in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are the writer's own.
In the years following the Cold War, the prevailing view was that the world had moved towards a liberal, democratic consensus. The break-up of the Soviet bloc, the integration of Russia and China into the global economic system and a fresh wave of democratic transitions, from Latin America to Eastern Europe, led many to believe that superpower rivalries were finished. Globalization, the free market and the “interdependence” of countries would make wars less likely, while a greater role was forecast for multilateral bodies like the United Nations in responding to issues that put everyone at risk.
This did not relieve us of security concerns, but from the 1990s onward, the so-called new challenges were regarded as asymmetric. Rather than fearing strong, opposing states, we worried about state weakness, the breakup of countries, or the global reach of non-state, terrorist networks.
Today, however, renewed competition between key actors is a genuine concern. According to the Survey on the Global Agenda, both Asian and European respondents ranked the rise of geostrategic competition as the second most important global trend. While the old Cold War is not making a resurgence, recent developments have led to tectonic shifts in state interaction. Geopolitics – and realpolitik – is once again taking centre stage, with potential wide-ranging consequences for the global economy, politics, and society. FULL POST