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Patricia H. Kushlis
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By Patricia H Kushlis London May 8. I spent May Day in London including ten minutes or so observing what amounted to a minuscule Socialist Workers demonstration whose participants had assembled on a small green near Karl Marx’s house in... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2016 at WhirledView
Well, Courtney, the US government does not accept the concept of spheres of influence like it or not although Obama came close to it in his Atlantic interview re Ukraine. But even there he just said he understood the Russians had legitimate interests in the country. So, however, if you look at the map do the Poles, the Belarus and even the Turks -.which he did not say. I think it's a squishy idea which lies in the roving eye of the militarily powerful. For the Russians for centuries it has meant to extend their territory as far as possible until running into an immovable object - namely someone else's forces who object to being run over and will stand up and fight. That includes the Finns who - if you play the sphere of influence game - have interests in the Russian region of Karelia which was a major part of Finland and which the Russians took as war booty at the end of WWII. Meanwhile, Take a look at Putin's advisors including and especially Dugan if you want to see where he would like to go. The difficulty is that there are Russian neighbors especially in the northwest who don't care to be part of Russia's orbit and have made that very plain. If you're not familiar with Baltic history may I suggest you read it including the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Toggle Commented May 5, 2016 on Russia and Syria: What pull-out? at WhirledView
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It's been quite a while since we've received any comments -normally complaints - about the State Department's handling of American passport issuance but here's a new one which someone in CA or on the Hill might want to look into. Either the Post Office can handle new applications expeditiously or it has enough trouble just getting the mail delivered and a different system needs to be devised for passports especially during peak seasons which this is. Please note, renewals are normally handled by mail - otherwise I would expect a raft of complaints along these lines.
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Shortly before the Easter weekend, the State Department quietly published a partial breakdown of 2015 diversity statistics on its website. This endeavor was apparently only done at the prodding of a senior Senator. Except for data covering 2009, 2010 and 2011 Foreign Service promotions published in the State Department Magazine in June 2012, these are the only statistics broken down by ethnicity and gender that State has furnished publicly that we have seen in years. And here they are – as minimal an amount of information as could be put out there and still satisfy the Congressional request. But did they and should they be enough to mollify Congress? Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2016 at WhirledView
Courtney: The post is about Russia, not what the USG has done or not done. Whether the Russian Air Force has in fact done more to oppose ISIS than the US has is debatable because much of the Russian bombing missions have been against Assad rebels not ISIS. This post was not to defend the USG policies or to critique them. It was aimed at Russian policies that have contributed to the continuing refugee flows and further destabilization of Syria. I don't think the departure of Assad would necessarily mean much of anything because I don't think he, in reality, is in control of his own council. I think the Russians are buying him time - much like the US did in Vietnam - and like they did in Afghanistan in the 1979 invasion. In short, I think it's as nasty and even more complicated a mess as Iraq (I did not support the US invasion btw)and those after effects are, in my view, a major reason for the creation of ISIS.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2016 on Russia and Syria: What pull-out? at WhirledView
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It raises some of these issues but perhaps less bluntly. I hope that more Americans watch America's Diplomats. I like the show and the Santa Fe World Affairs Forum will show it to members in June. However, I think America's Diplomats could and should have been marketed more effectively. I do not think, for instance, that it should have been included as a tag on to this year's Great Decisions Series but made an integral part of a a more prominent series on PBS or another channel. When I asked the program manager at my local PBS station, she had trouble even finding it in the offerings. It's too good and important to be treated in that manner. Thanks for drawing attention to it.
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know it may be hard to believe after reading multiple media reports about Putin’s latest “surprise pull out from Syria” but the Kremlin did not, repeat, not, really pull its military out of Syria last week. So what were Putin's motives? Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2016 at WhirledView
I’d like to know, however, just how helpful Madeleine (1997-2001), Hillary (2009-2013) or, for that matter, Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) were when they were Secretaries of State to women in the career Foreign Service. Albright, Rice and Clinton, after all, occupied the lofty position for a combined total of 12 years since Albright assumed it as our first female Secretary in 1997. Verbally advocating women’s rights is one thing, but actually righting a long standing injustice in one’s own department is another. Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2016 at WhirledView
On January 17, I heard Shostakovich’s “Fifth Symphony” performed by the Santa Fe Symphony under the baton of guest conductor Brian McAdams. The performance was excellent; the piece - by its nature - disturbing. It is a powerful, troubled and mostly discordant piece in the key of D minor. Shostakovich wrote the symphony in 1937 just as his country was enduring Stalin’s purges and Hitler was on the march in Europe. As the symphony nears its conclusion, the timpanist emits - not the familiar drum roll - but a desperately loud and throbbing solo of one solitary note after another pounding into the listener like the sound of a death-knell or a chorus of jack-boots smashing down in unison on hard cobblestone pavement. Perhaps a harbinger for the years to come. This is the same emotional pounding I experienced reading Zinky Boys – one tragic story after another proceeding in rapid-fire succession until the book finally ends in exhausted relief. Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at WhirledView
Since National Minorities in Putin's Russia is based on Prino's doctoral dissertation perhaps she might wish to expand her research to explore the question of emigration versus assimilation (as opposed to diversity and assimilation) for members of ethnic minorities living in the former Soviet Union. Data for the Finno-Ugrics should be easy to access from Finnish, Estonian and Swedish statistical services which is lively where many of the Karelians and Ingrains now live. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2016 at WhirledView
Good point. Maybe you can't have Putin, vacation homes on the Adriatic and Turkish tomatoes. .
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Last week, Montenegro, that tiny mountainous country, population of about 662,000 on the Adriatic Coast between Bosnia and Albania, was invited to join NATO. The invitation had been nine years in the making. Whereupon the Kremlin threw a hissy-fit. Ever since this outsized reaction, I’ve been puzzling as to why the Kremlin should care whether NATO offers membership to a “mouse that roared” – especially one that should be of no consequence to almost anyone – except for possible smugglers and gun runners surreptitiously moving contraband and perhaps humans across the Adriatic to Italy or travel agencies bringing Europeans to its spectacular coast on holidays. The closest I can come to an answer – besides the well-known argument that the Russian Federation somehow thinks that not getting along with NATO is better for the country than working with NATO – is that Montenegro was one of the last parts of Yugoslavia to separate from the rump state of Serbia; that its multi-religious population includes a substantial Serbian minority (28.7%); and that Russia and Serbia still seem to retain a special relationship with Russia acting as the protector of the latter. Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2015 at WhirledView
Actually, it would be easy for the Russians to keep their two bases on the Mediterranean if that's their bottom line - as it should be. However, it would mean a focus on real ISIS targets while dropping their fealty to Assad (and other dictators) in return for retention of those bases. Moreover, Moscow could offer Assad and family a safe haven somewhere in Russia – complete with a luxurious villa on a coast – and turn its military's attention and fire power to its real enemy - and I don't mean Ukraine. Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2015 at WhirledView
Courtnay: I guess I'm skeptical of black and white explanations or justifications because I don't see the world or foreign affairs in dualistic terms. And I'm really not sure what you mean by "two" narratives in this case anyway. I think that Putin's main goal is to keep himself in power - and he'll do anything to achieve that goal including using the "foreign factor" to bolster Russian nationalism and wrapping himself in the the Russian flag when things become difficult domestically. When things got dicey for him after his attacks on Ukraine, he changed the subject and moved on to support his buddy Assad in Syria - a great way to deflect attention at home from a not so successful adventure in the Near Abroad, keep the ultra-nationalists on his side, supposedly raise his stature internationally and keep the two Russian bases in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2015 on Putin’s Birthday Presents at WhirledView
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Ossie - The Russians, by many accounts, are indeed concerned about Sunni militants from the Russian Federation returning home battle-hardened and for very good reasons. Whether Russian support for Assad will alone sharpen their already considerable opposition to the Kremlin I don't know but it certainly won't help.
Toggle Commented Nov 9, 2015 on Putin’s Birthday Presents at WhirledView
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Didn’t Vladimir Putin turn 63 on October 7? Didn’t the Russian military provide him with a spectacular birthday present – the launch of 26 cruise missiles from the country’s flotilla in the landlocked Caspian Sea that very same day? It was an impressive display of night time fire power in honor of the President in Chief (or Perpetuity). . . .The increasingly likely downing of Russia’s Metrojet filled with mostly Russian holiday makers by some kind of incendiary device planted by an ISIS-affiliated terrorist group is just the latest example of how barging into someone else's conflict can have unexpected and tragic results. Russians may love spectacles – but this is not one either they or their leader bargained for. Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2015 at WhirledView
This is a summary of a longer article by Joan Wadleton that begins below the fold titled Background on My Case that sets out new developments in my lengthy battle with the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources (HR), including a July 2015 Report from State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2015 at WhirledView
As I watched a news clip of the Pope’s address to the Joint Session of Congress last Thursday, I couldn’t help but notice that House Speaker John Boehner was wearing a very spring green colored tie. I thought, hum, that’s unusual. What might that mean? Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2015 at WhirledView
Joe - thank you - and thanks for reading. Pat
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n his NYT column “The Russia I Miss” on September 11, 2015, David Brooks decries the loss of a Russian counterculture based on the vision of the Russian soul with its roots in the visuality of Russian Orthodoxy and the simple, monotonous lifestyle and superstitious mentality of the Russian peasant. . . . Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2015 at WhirledView
It is August 15th, 2015. The third Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in as many years was approved yesterday by the Greek parliament and the Eurogroup – the unelected European finance ministers organization to which most European political leaders have abdicated their power. In antithesis to the past six months, hardly anyone I have met in the last weeks in Athens or on the island Kythera is talking about it. What is going on? Though I am no psychologist, what I believe to have observed over the past three weeks is a generalized sense of burn-out induced depression. Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2015 at WhirledView
But what about the EURO-zone, the EU, the ECB and the German government plus all the rest of those countries who support austerity policies so dogmatically regardless of the consequences? A little less austerity and a bit more Keynes would likely have pulled the EU out of recession several years ago. Germany’s export driven policies which buoyed that country’s economy have relied on sales elsewhere – especially throughout Europe – but if other countries do not have the wherewithal to buy German products how long will this approach succeed? Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2015 at WhirledView
Bill - Sorry but the correlation between national security interests in 1953 Europe and German debt relief really don't mesh from the standpoint of whether or not austerity economics works or doesn't. The fact is, the Germans were granted debt relief and the economy turned around. So sorry I don't buy that argument. I'd suggest looking again at the Irish situation (perhaps not as rosy as you suggest) and think about other factors that have been affecting the British economy including capital inflows from the Middle East and Russia and perhaps an easing of some of the most strict elements of austerity economics - something, of course, the UK could do but Greece could not. I would also ask the question regarding unemployment: maybe high youth unemployment doesn't mean much to you but I think it may well have a lot to do with the siren song of militant Islam (now ISIS) among Europeans from Muslim families. Re Latvia: I'd have to know a lot more about the economy and the society to argue one way or another.
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William - you raise important points but I did not suggest that an alignment and support from Russia would be a real option for the Greeks. As I have pointed out elsewhere but did not here for the sake of brevity, Greece needs to align itself or retain alliance with the major power or powers that control the Eastern Mediterranean. This is an axiom of Greek politics. The last time I looked that was not Russia. Re Euro-Zone vs EU membership. One can quibble about who does and does not pay taxes and where the money goes as well as who is profiting from the Greek debt bailouts. There's an excellent article on the latter in the current Foreign Affairs arguing that the ECB, IMF bailout money is profiting German and French banks not the Greeks and that the Greek economy had turned around in 2013 and the budget had gone into surplus. Unemployment, however, did not. There are excellent op eds/columns in the NYT and an interview in Die Zeit of Thomas Pikkety on this topic. Could and should the Greeks reform and "modernize" their tax and employment/labor system - yes. I couldn't agree more. But I question whether this the way to do it. All it seems to have done is weaken the political center and strengthen the extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. This is dangerous and it's not happening just in Greece. Re the weakening of Europe: I guess we disagree. Yes, I think Greece should stay in the European Union regardless but I also think there are at least two fundamental problems with the EURO and the way the EURO-Zone is being run which weaken and divide Europe and which Mr Putin will exploit/is attempting to exploit - 1) structural e.g. a vision of political unity which outpaced economic reality. As a result, the current financial system is not structurally able to cope with national economic differences and weaknesses - after all that's why the US became a federation not a confederation; and 2) the implementation of controversial harsh economic austerity terms on debtor countries which hasn't worked elsewhere and won't work here because they do not help get an economy back on its feet in terms of employment if nothing more. And armies of unemployed workers are a threat to national stability.
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Brian - as I understand it, the Greek government was not the only country to have "cheated on the numbers" early on. I tend to think that the test is as big, if not bigger, for the continued functioning of the EURO-zone as for Greece. By this I mean whether it is possible to have a single currency for a confederation of this size and complexity. After all we tried it and it failed. It took a federal system to make the US work. As far as cheating is concerned, Krugman argues persuasively that the Greek government did do about 93% of what the Troika demanded. Figures show that the budget was in surplus for the last two years and the economy was predicted to grow by about 2.5% in 2015(not going to happen now). But the biggest problems are extremely high unemployment - a by-product of austerity economic policies - and the fact that the banks had substantially raised the interest rates on outstanding loans essentially helping to kill the country's turn around. I'm not sure a number of countries qualify for EURO-zone membership and I don't think German behavior helps.
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