Showing posts from February, 2022

Ukraine: Lessons not being learned

By James M. Dorsey Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and the international condemnation it generated contains key lessons for policymakers. They are lessons that should have been learned in past global crises but weren't. However, the Ukraine crisis offers an opportunity to correct that mistake. A first lesson is that failure to firmly stand up to violations of international law as they occur convinces trespassers that they can get away with them. It emboldens violators to commit ever more flagrant infringements. Kicking the can down the road by failing to immediately and firmly respond to violations amounts to allowing an open wound to fester. The longer the wound festers, the more difficult, costly, and risky it is to cure it. The last 14 years of Mr. Putin's rule are a case in point. Mr. Putin began the recreation of his Russian world in 2008 when he recognized the two Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and North Ossetia. The recognition consti

Imaging the day after a Russian conquest of Kyiv: Not a pretty picture

  By James M. Dorsey It may be only a matter of time before Russian troops control the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and topple President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, that may not be the end of the story. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops could find themselves in Ukraine for the long haul depending on whether Ukrainians have the stomach to launch an insurgency. If so, Mr. Putin knows the drill. Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after a costly decade-long war in which they battled a US-Pakistani-Saudi-backed Islamic insurgency. Their defeat resembled the humiliation suffered by the United States at the hands of the Vietcong in the 1970s and the Afghan Taliban with last year’s US withdrawal from the Central Asian state. As Ukrainians weigh their options for a post-Zelenskyy era, Chechnya, rather than Afghanistan, will likely be on their minds. Russian troops brutally quelled an Islamic insurgency in Chechnya in two wars. They besieged and devastated the Chechen

Middle Eastern states walk a tightrope that Ukraine spins ever tighter

  By James M. Dorsey Israel and Gulf states struggle not to fall off the tightrope they walk as a Russian attack on Ukraine makes hedging bets increasingly tricky. Unlike Israel, the Gulf states may feel that they have more flexibility than the Jewish state that depends on the United States for its regional military superiority and political support in an international community critical of its 54-year-long occupation of the West Bank. That is, at best, a long-term bet that could prove costly in the short-term and fails to consider any number of potential gray and black swans. Israel initially sought to walk a fine line. It expressed support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty but did not mention Russia in its statements prior to Russian attack on the East European country. Similarly, it has stopped Baltic states from transferring Israeli-made weapons to Ukraine. Israel fears that criticism of Russia or material support of Ukraine could prompt Russia to

Ukraine: It’s the new world order, stupid

  By James M. Dorsey Ukraine is about much more than the security of one sovereign nation. The battle for Ukraine is a battle for the new world order. In that battle, Russian President Vladimir Putin is living up to the worst expectations of Western policymakers and analysts. Unlike Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mr. Putin is seeking to overthrow the current world order, at least as far Europe and the continent’s security architecture is concerned. By contrast, Mr. Xi would prefer to ensure China's place in the existing world order, enhanced with what he would call Chinese characteristics. But, in doing so, Mr. Xi dangerously blurs the lines between maintaining and fundamentally altering the current world order. If the period since World War One was in the words of President Woodrow Wilson about “making the world safe for democracy,” today it is in the mind of Mr. Putin and the words of Financial Times columnist Gideon Rahman about “making the world safe for autocrats.”

Russia breathes down Middle Eastern necks over Ukraine

  By James M. Dorsey Europe is likely to shoulder the brunt of the fallout of a rapidly escalating crisis over Ukraine. Middle Eastern states could prove to be a close second. That is no truer than for Turkey and Israel, whose management of the Ukraine crisis could determine their ability to protect perceived core national interests. Indeed, for NATO-member Turkey, the stakes could not be higher. Its 2,000 kilometre-long Black Sea coastline stretching from the Bulgarian border in the West to Georgia in the East is the longest of any of the Sea's littoral states,   including Russia and Ukraine. The Black Sea ranks on par with Turkey’s determination to prevent at any cost a permanent autonomous, let alone independent, Kurdish presence on Syrian soil. “ Ukraine is like a dam that stops further Russian influence and pressure in the region. If Ukraine falls, it will have direct implications on Turkey," warned a Turkish official. Turkey’s stakes are magnified by last ye

Food in Israel divides and unites as much as it shapes identity

By James M. Dorsey Food, far more than diplomatic relations with Arab states, could be turning Israel into a state rooted rather than implanted in the Middle East even if Palestinians are likely to continue to look at the Jewish state as an implant and usurper for generations to come.   Israel's conversion is as much a domestic revolution as Palestinians perceive it to be an extension of the expropriation of their land to the alleged appropriation of the food of a people that is in the majority living under occupation or a blockade or in exile. To be fair, the appropriation or culinary fusion may have happened irrespective of the occupation. Some 20 percent of the Israeli population is of Palestinian descent, and 44 percent of Israeli Jews identify as Mizrahim or Jews of Eastern, primarily Middle Eastern and North African origin.   Palestinians assert on good grounds that Israeli repackaging of their food is part of a broader effort to minimise if not erase Palestinian nati