A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘geopolitics

[LINK] “The plot to overthrow… Montenegro?”

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Leah McLaren in MacLean’s reports on the alleged Russian conspiracy to overthrown the government of Montenegro. This is, well.

Last weekend in Britain, the Sunday Telegraph trumped the weekend papers with a seismic front page splash. “Russia plotted to overthrow Montenegro’s government by assassinating Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic last year, according to senior Whitehall sources,” the headline blared.

According to the story, unnamed sources had revealed that last October the Montenegrin government had intercepted an election day coup plot to stage a mass murder in the country’s parliament that would take down the Montenegrin Prime Minister with it. Serbian nationals had planned to sneak into the parliament and open fire on the crowd of politicians while dressed in police uniform making it look like the local constabulary had turning on the government. Subsequently, the plan was to install a pro-Russian government.

This news in itself is not actually that surprising, since there were in fact a series of arrests in Montenegro last October but at the time the conspiracy was blamed on Serb paramilitaries and Russian nationalists who have long sought to steer Montenegro off its long-held pro-Western course. The Whitehall sources, however, alleged that the plot was in fact directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support of Vladimir Putin himself. The aim? An attempt to sabotage the country’s plan to join NATO—which is still on course to happen later this year.

The startling allegation emerged last week as Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, tore into NATO, dismissing it as a “Cold War institution” in his speech at an international security conference in Munich.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 6:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

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  • blogTO notes that yesterday was a temperature record here in Toronto, reaching 12 degrees Celsius in the middle of February.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about the pleasure of using old things.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the death of Roe v Wade plaintiff Norma McCorvey.
  • Language Hat notes that, apparently, dictionaries are hot again because their definitions are truthful.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers if the Trump Administration is but a mechanism for delivering Pence into power following an impeachment.
  • Steve Munro notes that Exhibition Loop has reopened for streetcars.
  • The NYRB Daily considers painter Elliott Green.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that North Carolina’s slippage towards one-party state status is at least accompanied by less violence than the similar slippage following Reconstruction.
  • Window on Eurasia warns that Belarus is a prime candidate for Russian invasion if Lukashenko fails to keep control and notes the potential of the GUAM alliance to counter Russia.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO looks at deserted Mirvish Village.
  • Crooked Timber reenages with the Rachel Carson and DDT myth.
  • The Crux looks at the Mandela Effect, exploring false memories.
  • Dangerous Minds makes the case for the musical genius of Bobbie Gentry.
  • From the Heart of Europe’s Nicholas Whyte recounts his visit to Albania’s bunker museum.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Brazil’s retirement of its only aircraft carrier.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the extent and speed of events in the Trump Administration.
  • Marginal Revolution engages with a book examining France’s carving out a “cultural exception” in international trade agreements.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reports on the passing of rulership of the Australian micronation of Hutt River.
  • Peter Rukavina shares good advice for visiting museums: visit only what you can take in.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russian Orthodox Church opposition to a certain kind of Russian civic nationality, and argues Russia is losing even its regional superpower status.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell reports on how local councils in the United Kingdom are speculating on commercial property.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO shares some secrets about the TTC.
  • Centauri Dreams notes how exoplanet HAT-P-2b somehow induces pulsations in its parent star.
  • Citizen Science Salon looks at a new crowdsourcing effort to find Planet Nine from old WISE images.
  • Dangerous Minds reports on a marijuana bouquet delivery service.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on the detection of the atmosphere of super-Earth Gliese 1132b./li>
  • Language Hat examines the different source languages for neologisms in Russian.
  • Language Log reports on an obscene Valentine’s Day ad from Sichuan.
  • The LRB Blog reports on the search of Syrians in Istanbul for health care.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on the fascist experimentations of economist Franco Modigliani.
  • The NYRB Daily reports on the stunning war art of Paul Nash.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that non-Russian republics tend to have better health indicators than the average, and warns of the potential instability that could be triggered by the failure of Putin’s vision for Trump.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Beyond the Beyond shares Yves Behar’s thoughts on design in an age of artificial intelligence.
  • blogTO makes the case for the east end of Toronto.
  • The Big Picture shares photos of a family of Congolese refugees resettled in New England.
  • Centauri Dreams hosts an essay looking at the prospects for off-world agriculture.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the beauty created by graffiti removal.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks for signs of possible cryovolcanism on Europa.
  • Joe. My. God. shares audio of the new Blondie track “Fun.”
  • Language Hat remembers the life and career of linguist Leon Dostert.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues protest is needed in blue states, too.
  • The LRB Blog warns people not to forget about Pence.
  • Marginal Revolution considersa trends in the British economy.
  • Neuroskeptic shares disturbing findings about the prevalence of plagiarism in science.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russia does not expect Trump to take all the sanctions down at once.

[LINK] Slate on China as a big winner from the Trump presidency

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Isaac Stone Fish’s “Confronting Chairman Trump” looks at the many ways in which the People’s Republic of China, as an apparently stable power capable of enacting non-zero-sum policies, could really benefit from the destabilization of the United States under Trump.

More than 40 years ago, Mao Zedong reportedly said, “All is chaos under heaven, and the situation is good.” It’s as good a description as any of Donald Trump’s governing strategy. In the 10 days he’s served as president, Trump has demonstrated, through his attacks on the media, his disregard for international and constitutional norms, and his pathological obsession with his own reality, that like the Communist revolutionaries of yesteryear, he is more interested in transforming America than running it. It’s a “shock to the system,” as spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway tweeted on Saturday. “And he’s just getting started.” Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Trump adviser Steve Bannon once proudly described himself as a Leninist. “Lenin,” Bannon told the former Marxist intellectual Ronald Radosh in 2013, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

All this puts the People’s Republic of China in a strange position. Though the modern Chinese state may have been founded on revolutionary chaos, after Mao’s death in 1976, China moved away from a chaotic authoritarianism and toward one predicated on order, internationalism, and fealty to the state. In the years since taking office in November 2012, China’s Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping has shown that he wants to preserve the system that brought him to power. “China took a brave step to embrace the global market,” Xi said in a well-regarded speech at Davos earlier in January—the first time a Chinese president attended the international elite gathering. “It has proved to be the right strategic choice,” he added. All the very recent debates over how China’s rise would disrupt the international system now seem positively quaint. In the age of Trump, it’s America that’s disrupting international norms while China positions itself as the defender of the status quo. This strange entwining of history—Trump adopting anarchic anti-establishment policies formerly associated with Communist leaders, while Xi burnishes his global liberal credentials—will benefit China’s international interests at the expense of the United States.

In the months since Trump’s election victory, there’s been a widespread assumption that Russia would be the big global winner in the Trump era. After all, the U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of meddling on Trump’s behalf in the election, and the candidate has spoken openly about his skepticism of NATO, his desire to partner with Russia to fight ISIS, and his fondness for Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Trump bashed China consistently on the campaign trail, saying, “What China is doing is beyond belief” and that its unfair trade policies “rape” the United States. Even before taking office, he enraged Beijing with his provocative December phone call with the president of Taiwan. Trump has also surrounded himself with outspoken China hawks. The director of his newly created National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, has long argued that China’s handling of its currency, the yuan, “is threatening to tear asunder the entire global economic fabric and free trade framework.” Trump’s nominee for the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has called for a “much more aggressive approach in dealing with China.”

But the events of Trump’s presidency so far, and many of the policies he’s laid out, serve to strengthen China and its place in the world. The new U.S. administration is—seemingly inadvertently—giving Beijing wide latitude to create policy in Asia and strengthening the global appeal of China’s political system.

The biggest win for China so far was Trump’s decision to cancel the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, gifting China a far freer hand to dictate trade policy in its backyard. The TPP—a proposed 12-nation trade pact representing roughly 40 percent of the world’s economic output—would have lowered tariffs, simplified international regulations, and cut red tape for cross-border trade and investment for American companies and companies from member states. Beijing understandably hated the TPP: Not only did the agreement pointedly exclude China and reportedly emphasized environmental regulations and intellectual property, but it competed with two Chinese-led trade strategies—One Belt, One Road, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The former is a grand global strategy meant to link China with the rest of Eurasia, while the latter is a 16-nation trading bloc that pointedly excludes the United States. China benefits from the RCEP in much the same way that the United States would have benefited from the TPP: lowering the price of goods for Chinese consumers and expanding the market reach for Chinese companies.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 1, 2017 at 11:00 pm

[LINK] “No ‘G’day, mate’: On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags”

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In the Washington Post, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker report on the train wreck of the first phone call between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. If he can’t manage a functional conversation with one of the United States’ closest allies, I think I’m justified in fearing for Canada.

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “This was the worst call by far.”

[. . .]

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia — countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 1, 2017 at 10:30 pm