Note: This is a guest post by John Mueller of Ohio State University.
The ongoing crisis/standoff in the Ukraine relates in some ways to a long-standing debate about the potential connection between economic interdependence and war. The debate is over the idea that the decline in interstate war has been caused by the fact that countries closely linked economically are unlikely to go to war with each other.
On the one hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foray in an area of deep economic interdependence doesn’t seem to have been waylaid by potential economic cost considerations. On the other hand, as the value of the ruble tumbles, economic considerations could play a role in keeping the crisis from escalating to a more direct military confrontation. Meanwhile, those contemplating sanctions on Russia, particularly in Western Europe, have been musing about the pain they might themselves might bear if they applied economic punishment to a country they depend on for so much of their energy resources. Continue reading
There has been a bit of recent news lately suggesting international football* considerations are making the divisions between states greater, supporting the idea that sports might not be the path to peace and reconciliation. While a few cases cannot disprove an idea, recent moves point in a troubling direction for the theory that we can settle differences between states on the football pitch. Relating back to early theories of functionalism, any form of cooperation, even on the sports pitch, might be beneficial to countries at odds with each other. The communication provided through spectacular sporting events might provide pathways for peace. Others might argue that fighting it out on the pitch is better than fighting with guns and bullets. While these ideas might be true in the abstract, it is tough to consider the viability of such proposals if states fail to even meet on the pitch in the first place.
*I was a bit too quick to post last week and had to add quite a few recent events. Nothing changed my original analysis (BV 3/10/2014)
With my most of research right now heavily focused on cyber conflict, it might be useful to review all the news on the cyber situation between Ukraine and Russia. There have been many posts on the Duck and elsewhere (Monkey Cage macro post) covering the conflict (here, here, here, here, here), so I will refrain from summarizing the basics. The cyber situation on the other hand has shown a remarkable amount of restraint, defying conventional wisdom but also following directly in line with my soon to be completed book on Cyber Conflict and forthcoming Journal of Peace Research article (both with Ryan Maness). The restraint point was made early by Mark Clayton at the Christian Science Monitor.
Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine naturally prompted a lot talk about the limits of international law. Eric Posner noted: “ 1. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine violates international law. 2. No one is going to do anything about it.” Julian Ku argued: “International law can be, and often is, a very important tool for facilitating international and transnational cooperation. But it is not doing much to resolve to Ukraine crisis, and international lawyers need to admit that.” For Ku, the current crisis supports the claims of Rationalist law-skeptics, international law works when legal requirements align with self-interest. Many others, including a good portion of my students see the failure of international law in Ukraine. Continue reading
*The following post is written by Ryan Maness and myself.
Events are in motion that many thought were past us, part of a bygone era where conventional war still had a prominent place in deciding the course of nations. Having done a great amount of work on Russia’s strategic behavior and use of power (we have a book on the topic under review), we were a bit caught off guard too. Not by the course of events, but that our vision was focused on cyber conflict and thus were distracted from the real world developments.
The events in Ukraine fit a recent pattern of Russia’s coercive diplomacy directed toward the states of its former Soviet empire, more commonly known by Russians as the Near Abroad. Since the Soviet fall in 1991, Russia has been going through an identity crisis. Always regarded as a major power, it found itself weak after the end of the Soviet era, unable to even quell violence in Chechnya. It lost nearly half of its territory and population as the Soviet Union broke up into 15 independent states. Since then, Russia has been attempting to regain its status as a world power, or at least a regional power. Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has used power politics strategies, mainly in post-Soviet space, to carve out its place and dominate a specific sphere of influence.
Lots of folks are speculating about what Ukraine/Crimea/Russia is like, including not Abkhazia. Right now, the analogies that come to mind for me are: coups d’etat and poker.
Over at the Monkey Cage, Henry Farrell suggests that President Obama is using the OSCE to give Putin an exit strategy. Farrell writes:
Obama’s “phone call with Putin on Saturday suggests that the United States wants to invoke the old-style OSCE. It notes that Russia’s armed intervention is inconsistent with Russia’s commitments under the Helsinki Final Act (the agreement that established the OSCE), calls for “the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)…
If Putin wants an “exit strategy,” Farrell continues, this is it: “There is no reason why the OSCE could not help broker compromises over new elections and push the Ukrainian government to guarantee the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine.”
My question to Farrell is, is this Putin’s possible exit strategy, or the United States/EU’s?
This is a guest post by former Duck of Minerva blogger Dan Nexon. It is cross-posted at his personal blog, Hylaean Flow.
One of the ongoing rationales for The Monkey Cage is that journalists do a poor job of covering US electoral politics. They focus on personality and style. They downplay the role of fundamentals, such as economic forces and the nature of the electoral system. The same is too often true in foreign-affairs reporting. Consider a recent piece by multi-award-winning reporter, Scott Wilson: “Ukraine crisis tests Obama’s foreign policy focus on diplomacy over military force.”
What is Wilson’s argument? A sample:
Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor….
“If you are effectively taking the stick option off the table, then what are you left with?” said Andrew C. Kuchins, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that Obama and his people really understand how others in the world are viewing his policies.”
The signal Obama has sent — popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies — has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago.
But Obama’s rejection of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war, in which 140,000 people have died since he first called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, is the leading example of his second term. So, too, is the Pentagon budget proposal outlined this past week that would cut the size of the army to pre-2001 levels.
Let’s consider a bit of history.
- In April of 2008, President George W. Bush pushed hard for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Georgia and Ukraine at the Bucharest NATO summit. Germany and France balked, for both self-interested and prescient reasons.
- In August of 2008, Russia baited Georgia into invading South Ossetia. At the key principals meeting in Washington, no one was willing to risk war with Russia over Georgia.
- In 2009, Yanukovich and his Party of Regions wrested power from the unruly and ineffectual Orange coalition that had ousted him in 2004. Yanukovich adopted a pro-Russian tilt. Although he was more than happy to leverage Moscow against Brussels, under no circumstances was he going to make a serious push to bring Ukraine into NATO.
- While Georgia is a small country on the Russian Federation’s periphery; Ukraine is a large country of significant affective and geo-strategic significance to Russia.
See the problem? There’s no obvious counterfactual set of Obama policies that would better position the United States to handle Russia’s gambit in Ukraine. Continue reading
*this is a guest post by Konstantinos Travlos, currently a Visiting Assistant at Georgia Southern, who writes on international conflict and history. The arguments presented below are based on past research.
Russian policy towards Ukraine is partly driven by short term political reasons such as protecting an investment in the form of Yanukovych, the Russian view of Ukraine as a “little brother”, a legitimate worry over the future of the Russian minority in Ukraine, and a very real opposition to what is seen by the Kremlin elite as the meddling of Western powers in its Near Abroad. However, I argue that the most intractable issue driving Russia is control of access to the Crimean Peninsula as a naval base, an indivisible territorial issue. This has less to do with geopolitical and strategic reasons and more to do with the identity of the Russian state as a great power which makes Crimea a transcendental and thus difficult to negotiate over. This is why the recent and quick escalation is not surprising, in counter to some arguments made.
The diplomatic dustup over Syria brought Russia in from the cold but simultaneously froze any notion that western allies were getting their strategic act together. Nonetheless, although the mistakes in the U.S. and UK’s approach to building support at home and abroad for an intervention in Syria confused leaders and citizens alike, these mistakes should not be interpreted as an abrupt turn-around in their and their allies’ strategic thinking.
In fact the Europeans, even under a prolonged condition of austerity, are making progress filling in the capability gaps made clear in the course of the Libyan operation. Recent history has demonstrated that arguing the U.S. should keep its security blanket in place despite the end of the Cold War—out of fear that Europeans would not increase their own defense capabilities in kind—was mistaken. Still, austerity has prevented sufficient progress to avoid the joint security trap.
Were the Arab Awakening to go awry and were an al-Qaeda affiliate to begin setting up training camps and operating somewhere such as Yemen, the U.S. or possibly NATO would no doubt heed the call once more to deal with the threat. But any future crisis in Europe’s direct neighborhood, somewhere like Tunisia, will require Europe to take the lead as the U.S. is likely to take a pass. It is therefore in the joint interests of the U.S. and Europe not to reduce their mutual security at this critical juncture.
However Europe has yet to develop its own integrated, deployable, expeditionary military capability; instead a number of European allies à la the U.S. have been slashing their defense budgets under austerity. But akin to the classic prisoner’s dilemma, if the U.S. and European allies do not coordinate their cuts and agree to begin “combining” what is left, both will become worse off and experience a mutual loss of security in lieu of cooperating. In fact, at this juncture western allies are actually on the verge of becoming ensnared in the joint security trap. Continue reading
That’s essentially the question Steve Saideman asked here (and which he more explicitly asked on Twitter).
His answer, which I find problematic, is
But here is the big problem in all of this: perhaps much of IR is not about bargaining and persuasion about commitment and resolve. Perhaps much of IR is a conflict of interests, and that countries engage in conflict when their various interests cannot be resolved.
He goes on to say
The amateur game theorist might want to argue that this then is not chicken or prisoner’s dilemma but deadlock. And they would probably be right–that much of what is important in IR is what shapes the preferences of the actors, which determines the game being played. I guess my main point is that much of the time, we are not playing chicken, so perhaps Schelling’s insights might not be all that useful and could even be counter-productive.
Notice how Steve implicitly assumes that either Schelling is God or bargaining is irrelevant or even impossible. As Steve might say, if he found himself on the other side of the discussion, “Holy mother of false dichotomies, Batman! Time for some perspective sauce!”
There is an ongoing debate questioning if and how reputation matters in International Relations. The question is important right now in relation to the red line the United States setup regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria. I am not sure how reputation can matter if Russia is being held up as the mediator in striking a deal with Syria, Russia, and the West.
A full-scale US military intervention in Syria is off the table, as is a no-fly zone. The US decision to provide arms to Syrian opposition forces is nonetheless intended to shift the military initiative away from Assad regime. But the opposition is splintered, which has allowed the Hezbollah-backed government forces to level the playing field. Although the outcome remains unclear, it may be time for Western governments to begin serious planning for potential post-conflict stabilization operations.
At this stage it appears the Assad regime has the momentum, aided in particular by Hezbollah but also Iran and Russia. US and European efforts to provide direct military aid to the Syrian opposition have been slow to take shape, which in combination with regime gains on the ground have fed the new conventional wisdom that Assad is on course to hold on to power.
With the increased likelihood that Assad will fall, even were he to hang on until a Gaddafi-style bitter end, pressure is mounting on the U.S., Europe, and Turkey inter alia to come up with a game plan for the post-endgame. The good news is progress is rapidly being made: stepped up aid from the U.S., aid from Europe, intelligence sharing among Turkey-Jordan-US-Europe, and direct training of Syrian opposition forces.
All of this may be enough to tip the balance against the Assad regime, leading to its end sooner rather than later. But it is not nearly enough to handle the widely expected chaos once the endgame is reached. What about playing the Russia card? The greatest fear is that extremist al-Qaeda affiliated groups will get their hands on a variety of weapons caches in the capital and elsewhere, let alone a full-blown civil war that would seriously destabilize the entire region. Special forces from the aforementioned countries will be needed, but they will likely be operating in an incredibly volatile if not thoroughly unstable environment.
Much ado. Investors keep getting burned in betting on the exit of members of the Eurozone, let alone the breakup of the currency/monetary union of the EU. And econ/business experts keep getting their predictions wrong. The simple reason: the EU, from its econ/financial area to the vast array of its other policy areas, at heart is a political project. Events continue to show that despite the painful strains of major economic duress, this commitment remains intact.
Despite the messy manner in which its member state governments deal with crises–largely explained by institutional reasons, less so by incompetence–the EU and the euro are around for good. The EU certainly has some major restructuring to do in terms of necessary banking and fiscal unions, and it rarely looks good in a crisis. But it will carry on muddling through its challenges and in a wider historical perspective continue to provide its citizens with a considerable range of benefits. Just as it has for decades, particularly since the advent of its single internal market nearly 30 years ago.
Nonetheless, the EU made major mistakes in the bailout of Cyrus and nearly botched the entire thing. Even worse, the whole affair demonstrates a distinct inability to act strategically when the stakes are high. Repercussions from this episode that haven’t been captured in the headlines will continue to reverberate for years. Surprise, it was politics that accounted for bringing back the specter of crisis, not economics.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel de facto announced on Friday that the US will scrap deployment of ground-based ballistic-missile interceptors in Poland and Romania.
At a Pentagon press conference today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the planned deployment of the high-speed SM-3 Block IIB interceptor to Poland (and the corresponding 4th phase of European Phased Adaptive Approach) has been cancelled. The transcript of Hagel’s prepared statement only states that the Block IIB programmed was being restructured, but the discussion in the following press conference makes it clear that the deployment plan has been cancelled:
In response to a question at the press conference, James Miller, the Undersecretary of Defense of Policy said (my transcription from C-SPAN video):
“The prior plan had four phases. The third phase involved the deployment of interceptors in Poland. And we will continue phases one through three. In the fourth phase in the previous plan we would have added some additional — an additional type of interceptors –the so called SM-3 IIB would have been added to the mix in Poland. We no longer intend to add them to the mix but will have the same number of deployed interceptors in Poland that will provide coverage for all of NATO Europe.”
In the prior plan, Block IIA interceptors would have been deployed in Poland as part of Phase III of the EPAA and then in Phase IV some or all of these would have been replaced by Block IIB interceptors. Whether the Block IIB development program is completely dead is unclear. This is a very significant development given that the Block IIB was the single greatest source of Russian objections to U.S. missile defense activities. Although there are certainly also good technical and economic reasons for cancelling the Block IIB, it will thus inevitably be portrayed as to be a major concession to Russia. Whether it will be actually be enough to satisfy the Russians remains to be seen, as many Russian statements have also objected to the unlimited deployment of the high-speed (although not as fast) Block IIA interceptor.
As was clearly the goal of the press conference, most media attention focused on the comparatively minor announcement that the number of deployed GBI interceptors in the U.S Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system covering the United States would be increased to 44 from the current 30. This involves deploying 14 additional GBI interceptors into 14 already existing silos (although in some cases, these silos need extensive refurbishing – see my post of March 28, 2012 for details) by the end of 2017. The planned number of interceptors was already at 44 when Obama took office, but his administration quickly cut this back to 30, citing a lack of a threat. Since then the possibility of restoring the number of interceptors to 44 has frequently been portrayed by the Administration as a possible hedge against future changes in the threat.
Here are part one and part two of this post. I spoke last Tuesday at a USC-CSIS conference on Korean unification. I learned a lot, and it was very good. If you’re interested in unification, start here with the primary report on which the conference was based. The principal investigators said a final wrap-up report will come at some point, and I’ll put up that link when it arrives.
My comments below are on the papers presented on Tuesday about neighboring states’ reactions to Korean unification. These papers aren’t publicly posted yet, so all the comments might not make sense. But in the interest of completism, I’m putting this up to round out my thinking on this excellent unification project. (For my earlier thoughts on dealing with NK, try this; for my travelogue of my trip to the DPRK, try this.)
My big beef with these sorts of conferences on NK – I go to a lot – is that inevitably outsiders, especially Chinese scholars, start laying down all sorts of guidelines, restrictions, parameters, etc. for unification, as if it’s our right to muck around in this thing. I can understand the national interest in doing so. But we shouldn’t have the temerity to try to legitimate our muddying of the waters in what is really an internal family affair. It would also help a lot if the Chinese would stop talking (not so much at this conference, but definitely at others I’ve gone to) about how Korea needs to respect its wishes, because China is big and important now, post-2008 Olympics. I heard one guy once even say that China is now the ‘veto-player’ on unification. That’s true of course in realist sense, but that sorta cockiness infuriates Koreans who’ve really soured on China in the last decade. I see the same kind of emergent Chinese bullying on unification that Southeast Asian littoral states see on the South China Sea. So I try to call that out whenever it seems necessary.
Anyway, here on my thoughts on Japan, Russia, and China’s role in this thing.
The Ride of the Resolve Warriors
tl;dr notice: 1200 words.
Zack Beauchamp points us to Douglas Feith’s latest broadside against the administration with the tweet:
LOL Feith cites @slaughteram and Sam Power’s jobs as evidence that Obama wanted to limit American use of military force
It turns out that the absurdity runs far deeper in Feith’s piece. I know that Obama’s fecklessness in the face of the Russian threat is an article of faith among neo-conservatives. As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, I think there’s a case for the administration overestimating the willingness of Moscow to accomodate US policy priorities. But Feith’s framing of the Reset owes more to the fevered imagination of right-wing bloggers than to anything resembling facts. Continue reading
Although he doesn’t get the European Phased Adapted Approach (EPAA) quite right, Mark Adomanis at Forbes makes the right point about the BMD portion of the Romney foreign-policy memo:
I don’t think I’m being uncharitable, but if you read this paragraph and didn’t have any background knowledge about US missile defense in Eastern Europe you would come away with at least two very clear conclusions
1) Obama canceled a missile defense system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic
2) Obama did not replace this planned missile defense system with anything else
Conclusion 1) is accurate, Obama really did kibosh the Czech/Polish system that had been planned by George W. Bush. Conclusion 2), however, is absolutely, categorically false. Obama , you see, replaced the system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic with a system in Romania. The United States is, right this second, continuing with a play to deploy land-based interceptors in Romania by 2015. Even the Heritage Foundation, hardly an Obama fan club, has recognized this.
You can criticize Obama for pulling the system out of Poland and the Czech Republic, you can criticize him for needling the always sensitive Poles, you can criticize him for not moving quickly enough with the system in Romania, you can criticize him for being overly accommodative of the Russians, you can, truthfully if not compellingly, criticize him for an awful lot of things regarding foreign policy in general and missile defense in particular. But what you absolutely cannot criticize Obama for is “canceling” or “abandoning” ballistic missile defense in Europe. By any minimally honest reckoning, Obama has not done that.
This provides an excuse for me to peddle my current theory of the “you betrayed Poland on BMD” argument: former Bush administration officials are just really and truly pissed off that the Obama team undid their hard work on the third-site negotiations with Warsaw.
Recall that Polish public opinion was against the BMD agreement. The negotiations were difficult and took an enormous amount of work. The Bush administration scrambled to complete the agreement before leaving office. The fact that Obama’s people botched the announcement and upset the Polish government just rubbed salt in the wound.
Of course, Romney’s advisors also don’t like the Russians, arms control, and all that. Clearly “abandoning allies” is one of the few lines of attack the Romney campaign considers potentially potent against Obama when it comes to foreign affairs. But I suspect a lot of this comes down to a much more mundane emotion: frustration as seeing difficult work tossed into the proverbial garbage can.
The seventh episode of the Duck of Minerva Podcast just went live. In it, I interview Alex Cooley about his books on hierarchy, basing, incomplete contracting, and his new book — Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia (Oxford University Press, 2012).
- Front Matter
- Who is Alex Cooley?
- Logics of Hierarchy
- Base Politics
- Contracting States
- Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia
- End Matter
Note: the publication date of the podcasts remains in flux, but I am aiming to have them appear Friday-Sunday each week.
A reminder: I am running the podcast feed on a separate blog. You can subscribe to our podcasts either via that blog’s Feedburner feed or its original atom feed (to do so within iTunes, go to “Advanced” and then choose “Subscribe to Podcast” and paste the feed URL). Individual episodes may be downloaded from the Podcasts tab.
Comments or thoughts on either this podcast or the series so far? Leave them here.