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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ten ways the Ukraine crisis may change the world

Mon, Mar 31 05:17 AM EDT By Paul Taylor BRUSSELS (Reuters) - As Moscow and the West dig in for a prolonged stand-off over Russia's annexation of Crimea, risking spillover to other former Soviet republics and beyond, here are 10 ways in which the Ukraine crisis could change attitudes and policy around the world. 1) Russia diminished: Russia's role in international affairs is diminished, at least temporarily. Moscow has been de facto excluded from the Group of Eight industrialized powers. Its bids to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Energy Agency are frozen. Western summits with Moscow are canceled until further notice. President Vladimir Putin's attempt to use the BRICS group of emerging powers to mitigate isolation by the West faltered over Chinese and Indian unease at the Crimean precedent for disputes about Tibet and Kashmir. A joint BRICS statement condemned sanctions but made no mention of Crimea or Ukraine. 2) NATO revived: Just when it looked to be losing relevance as its mission in Afghanistan limps to a close, the U.S.-led military alliance is back in business. An increase in allied air patrols and war games showing the flag in Poland and the Baltic states is on the agenda, and Warsaw wants faster deployment of U.S. missile defense systems in central Europe. Under U.S. pressure, some European countries may rethink cuts in defense spending. Neutral Sweden and Finland, perceiving Russia anew as a potential threat, may increase security efforts and cooperate more closely with NATO. 3) Energy diversification: The energy map of Europe is being redrawn with accelerated action to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas. EU states are set to build more liquefied natural gas terminals, upgrade pipeline networks and grids and expand a southern gas supplies through Georgia and Turkey to southern and central Europe. The EU gets a third of its oil and gas from Russia, and 40 percent of that gas is pumped across Ukraine. Europe may now look to tap its own shale gas reserves and expand nuclear power, despite environmental concerns. "I see the danger of more nuclear - which is C02-free, which is also part of the discussion, but it is the wrong path," said Gerhard Roiss, chief executive of Austria's OMV, a big importer of Russian gas into central Europe. 4) China factor: The diplomatic alliance between Russia and China, which often vote together in the U.N. Security Council, could change in one of two directions - either rapprochement through a stronger energy partnership, with new pipelines being built to pump Russian oil and gas spurned by Europe to Beijing; or a cooling if China distances itself more from Putin's behavior and sees less benefit in closer ties with an economically weakened and relatively isolated Moscow. For now, President Xi Jinping is refusing to take sides in public. 5) U.S. leadership: Washington's global leadership role, weakened by the rise of emerging powers and by retrenchment under President Barack Obama, has been partially restored. Despite his disengagement from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and strategic "pivot" towards Asia, events have pushed Obama back into the old-fashioned role of "Leader of the Free World" in an East-West crisis in Europe. The crisis has swept aside European anger over U.S. spying on global communications and put a new premium on cooperation. In Brussels last week Europeans appealed to Obama to sell them shale gas, and both sides agreed to speed talks on a transatlantic free trade and investment pact. Yet U.S. strategists say American economic interests and the security challenges of managing a rising China mean Asia will remain the priority and Europe will have to do more for itself. 6) German leadership: The Ukraine affair has cemented Berlin's leadership role in Europe. Germany is already the dominant economic power, calling the shots in the euro zone crisis, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has become Europe's main interlocutor with Putin. Her disenchantment with him has shaped an increasingly firm crisis response after initial hesitancy. German willingness to reduce energy dependency on Russia will be the yardstick of how far the rest of the EU goes. Merkel is also the relationship manager with the volatile Yulia Tymoshenko, whose presidential bid may heighten tension in Ukraine. 7) EU united: The European Union has been reunited, at least for now, by the return of a common external threat. This may have helped EU leaders overcome some long-running disputes. Greens European Parliament member Rebecca Harms joked that it was too early to nominate Putin for the annual Charlemagne prize for services to European unity, "but in the face of a new threat of war in Europe, EU states have indeed agreed on a joint strategy towards Russia." Some EU diplomats say Poland may speed up slow-motion moves to join the euro, seeking sanctuary in Europe's inner core as the Baltic states have done. Polish entry would hasten the spread of the single currency to almost all EU countries, including Denmark, though probably not Sweden or Britain. 8) Contest for Central Asia: both Putin and the West are wooing central Asian autocrats in energy-rich Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, drawing a discreet veil over their human rights records. If Russia weakens economically, they will want at least a foot in the Western camp. 9) U.S.-Russian cooperation: some cooperation on global security issues will continue because Moscow has an interest in keeping it on track to avoid greater isolation. But tensions are possible over Syria, Iran, Afghanistan or North Korea, and Moscow has levers it could activate such as contracts to supply S300 air defense missiles to Damascus or Tehran. 10) Putin's future: Russia's leader is near the peak of his popularity, riding a wave of nationalist pride over Crimea. However, instability may grow if he comes under pressure from magnates angry at losing value on their businesses, forfeiting foreign investment in Russia and facing travel restrictions and asset freezes in the West. Most are 150 percent loyal for now, but things may look different in six months' time. (Editing by Mark Heinrich) ================================ West stumbles as autocratic force trumps economics Tue, Apr 01 07:51 AM EDT By David Rohde (Reuters) - A quarter-century after the fall of the Soviet Union, authoritarian rulers such as Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are showing they can and will defy international norms, suppress dissent and use military force. American policymakers are struggling with how to respond. "It's a big philosophical question about how to deal with a strong state with anti-Western and autocratic proclivities (A natural propensity or inclination; predisposition.)," said Michael McFaul, the most recent American ambassador to Moscow. "I would say on that score we are kind of confused as a country." Citing the sweeping unpopularity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American officials have embraced economic sanctions as their primary means of pressuring foreign governments. In an interconnected, 21st-century global economy, President Barack Obama argues, economic sanctions are more powerful than ever.
If Russia continues on its current course, Obama warned last week, "the isolation will deepen, sanctions will increase and there will be more consequences for the Russian economy."
He may be proven right. Over the course of 2014, the threat of economic sanctions may result in Putin backing down in Crimea and Ukraine. And historic sanctions against Iran -which slashed oil sales and cut the country off from the world banking system - could produce an accord that halts Iran's nuclear program. If not, a 16th-century Machiavellian truism ((Suggestive of or characterized by expediency, deceit, and cunning.)) will re-assert its dominance: The party most willing to decisively use force will prevail over a noncommittal opponent. "What we've seen with Assad and Putin is a willingness to smile at international norms and pursue power politics regardless of the cost," said Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment and former official in the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. "And if the West is not united and America's interests are not immediately threatened, the response immediately becomes attenuated." How to respond has already become an issue in the 2016 presidential race. In the weeks since Putin sent Russian troops into Crimea, Republican senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan all criticized Obama's response. But none of them called for an American intervention in Ukraine. ECONOMIC CONNECTIONS Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution and a former National Intelligence Council official, said those who believed the collapse of the Soviet Union signified the triumph of Western democratic capitalism were deluding themselves. A large number of Russians remained deeply skeptical of Western norms. "It was only a very small elite around Yeltsin who were buying this," she said. "Too many people (Westerners) saw what they wanted to see, rather than what was happening." Then the global financial crisis strengthened a perception in parts of the world that Western democracy was failing - both politically and economically, Hill added. Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, said Obama's decision to not intervene in Syria after last September's chemical weapons attack created a perception of American weakness. Strongmen, such as Egypt's military ruler, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, had been emboldened. "They think they can get away with more than ever," Hamid said. "And this is tied to a growing sense of weakness under the Obama administration, whether it's fair or unfair." Obama administration officials deny that. They argue that another costly intervention in the Middle East would further weaken the American economy. And they contend that economic and technological strength - not brute force alone - will be the dominant source of power for decades to come. Steven Pifer, a former American ambassador to Ukraine and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued that economic inter-connectedness will have an impact on Putin. Pifer said the Russian leader knows he needs trade with the outside world. "While the West may rule out the military option," Pifer wrote in an email, "it has other tools, including political isolation and financial sanctions that could inflict serious pain on the Russian economy." Weiss, the Carnegie expert, argued that Russia and Syria represent vastly different situations. Russia is far more economically connected to the world than Syria, he said. And Putin is not accused of killing thousands of his people and displacing millions in a bid to hold onto power, like Assad. But Weiss said he was unsure that economic sanctions alone would stop the Russian leader. "He's thinking about things in a very shrewd, pure-power way. "What leverage do we have against Putin?" he asked. "That's why people are somewhat stumped about what to do." In the case of Iran, years of false claims from officials regarding its nuclear program finally prompted Europe to agree sweeping economic sanctions that rebounded on Europe more than on the United States. Barring a Russian military incursion deeper into Ukraine, "the Europeans are not willing to go farther," he said. "They're happy to compartmentalize and go back to business as usual." "THEY WANT IT MORE" Hill compared the current world today with the 19th century, when trade was vast but nations still clashed. "The world was incredibly connected," she said. "And it didn't produce any greater political outcomes. You remember a lot of gunboat diplomacy." She said that economic interdependence flows both ways. "There is mutual dependency here," she added. "There is mutual leverage. We can use it and they can use it." Experts said that for Putin, Crimea's port at Sevastopol was vital. In Egypt, Sisi believes he is fighting an existential threat with the Muslim Brotherhood. In Washington, American officials disagree over whether core American interests are at stake, and the autocrats know it. "There is a calculation there," Hamid said. "They know that they want it more than we do." (Edited by Sara Ledwith) =================================

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