Archive for the ‘International Relations’ Category

Some pretty interesting maps that give you a better idea of the world we live in.

40 more maps that explain the world

Maps seemed to be everywhere in 2013, a trend I like to think we encouraged along with August’s 40 maps that explain the world. Maps can be a remarkably powerful tool for understanding the world and how it works, but they show only what you ask them to. You might consider this, then, a collection of maps meant to inspire your inner map nerd. I’ve searched far and wide for maps that can reveal and surprise and inform in ways that the daily headlines might not, with a careful eye for sourcing and detail. I’ve included a link for more information on just about every one. Enjoy.
1. Where the world’s people live, by economic status

Data source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, World Bank. (David Whitmore, John Grimwade / National Geographic)
Data source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, World Bank. (David Whitmore, John Grimwade / National Geographic)

Those dots represent people: the brighter the dot, the more people. The color shows their country’s average income level: blue is richest and yellow is poorest. I want to start with this map because it’s a reminder that the world is first and foremost made up of people; to me, the best maps are primarily about showing us people, not politics or geography. It’s also a way of looking at the divisions in the world other than by political borders; that’s a theme we’ll come back to. (One caveat to this map: it doesn’t show economic variations within countries, just the national averages.)

2. How humans spread across the world

Click to enlarge. (New Scientist)
Click to enlarge. (New Scientist)

Human beings first left Africa about 60,000 years ago in a series of waves that peopled the globe. This map shows where those waves of migration went and when they occurred (the “40K” over Europe means humans arrived there about 40,000 years ago). You can see that humans have the most history in the Middle East, India and of course Africa itself (the map does not show the much longer history of migration within Africa). We are relative newcomers to the Americas, one of the reasons it has not until very recently been as densely populated as other parts of the world.

3. When the Mongols took over the known world

(Wikimedia commons)
(Wikimedia commons)

The Mongol conquests are difficult to fathom. Although their most important technology was the horse, they conquered much of the known world from China to Europe, a series of wars that killed tens of millions of people, then a substantial chunk of the world’s population. The Mongols also established what may well have been the largest empire in history until the British surpassed them six long centuries later. It’s difficult to understate how much we still feel their impact today; the country we know of today as Iraq has never fully recovered from the 1258 sacking of Baghdad, which until then had been a center of global wealth and knowledge.
4. When Spain and Portugal dominated the world

Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)
Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)

This map shows the Spanish and Portuguese empires at their height. They didn’t hold all of this territory concurrently, but they were most powerful from 1580 to 1640, when they were politically unified. Portugal would later pick up more territory in Africa, not shown on the map. We often forget that Spain controlled big parts of Europe, in Italy and the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages, Spain and Portugal were so powerful that they signed a set of treaties literally dividing up the globe between them. They became so rich so quickly that their trade with the Ottoman Empire, perhaps the other great imperial power of the time, filled the Ottoman economy with more gold than it could handle and plunged it economy into an inflationary crisis so severe that the empire never fully recovered.

5. Major shipping routes in the colonial era

This map shows British, Dutch and Spanish shipping routes from 1750 to 1800. It’s been created from newly digitized logbooks of European ships during this period. (Unfortunately, the French data is not shown.) These lines are the contours of empire and of European colonialism, yes, but they’re also the first intimations of the global trade and transportation system that are still with us today. This was the flattening of the world, for better and for worse.

6. Actual European discoveries

Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)
Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)

Americans have mostly come around to accept that, despite what our grade school teachers may have told us, Europeans did not “discover” America; the original arrivals had done that 15,000 years earlier. But Europeans did discover lots of land that had never been before seen by human eyes. You can, embedded in this map, see successive waves of European exploration: first the Portuguese, then the Spanish, then the British and much later the Americans. The map’s creator, the always-insightful Bill Rankin, writes, “this map particularly underscores the maritime expertise of Pacific Islanders. Unlike the islands of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, nearly all of the Pacific was settled by the 14th century.”

7. How countries compare on economic inequality

Bluer countries have better income equality. Redder countries are more unequal. Data: CGDev, DIIS (Max Fisher / Washington Post)
Bluer countries have better income equality. Redder countries are more unequal. Data: CGDev, DIIS (Max Fisher / Washington Post)

Yes, the United States has worse income inequality than Nigeria. That’s according to a metric called the Palma Ratio that measures economic inequality. Read more here about how the metric works and the fascinating results of using it to compare the world’s countries.

8. If the polar ice caps completely melted

Click to enlarge. (National Geographic © September 2013 National Geographic Society / Full source info here)
Click to enlarge. (National Geographic © September 2013 National Geographic Society / Full source info here)

It’s not clear precisely when the polar ice caps will melt completely. But if and when they do, sea levels will rise by 216 feet. This map shows what the world would look like then. Given how many people live near coastlines today, that’s not good. You can see National Geographic’s wonderful, full interactive here.

9. Where the world’s 30 million slaves live

Share of each country's population that is enslaved. Data source: Walk Free Global Slavery Index. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)
Share of each country’s population that is enslaved. Data source: Walk Free Global Slavery Index. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

This is not some soft, liberal, by-modern-standards definition of slavery. This is slavery. There are 30 million people living today as forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages or other forms of property. There are 60,000 right here in the United States – yes, really. This map shows the proportion of each country that is enslaved. It’s highest in Mauritania, a shocking four percent, due in part to social norms tolerating the practice. A little more than one percent of people in India are enslaved, which translates to 14 million Indians living as slaves today. You can see the breakdown by numbers of slaves here.

10. Our globalized economy: What it takes to make nutella

Click to enlarge. (OECD)
Click to enlarge. (OECD)

Put this map alongside No. 5 above, of European colonial-era shipping routes. This is the end product of today’s ultra-globalized economy. A simple jar of Nutella requires natural resources from four continents, vast manufacturing facilities in entirely different countries and a supply and distribution chain that spans the globe.

11. Where populations are growing and shrinking

Blue countries have growing populations; red countries are shrinking. Purple are growing slowly or not at all. Data source: United Nations Population Fund. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)
Blue countries have growing populations; red countries are shrinking. Purple are growing slowly or not at all. Data source: United Nations Population Fund. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

The world is in for some major demographic changes over the next generation or two. Populations are booming in Africa, growing faster than ever before, just as they’re slowing in Asia and outright shrinking in Japan and Eastern Europe. What’s most interesting about these population changes is what demographers say they will mean for the world’s political and economic future. For more, read: The amazing, surprising, Africa-driven demographic future of the Earth, in 9 charts.

12. Walls of the world

Source: “Atlas des migrants en Europe. Géographie critique des politiques migratoires européenne,” Armand Colin. (Nicolas Lambert / MigrEurop)

A French non-governmental organization put together this map of the world’s major physical barriers – its most consequential walls. The red lines indicate walls and barriers meant to prevent or control immigration; you see a number of those particularly where there are rich countries next to poorer countries. The green walls are mostly political barriers, such as the 1,700-mile-long “Moroccan Wall” dividing Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, the West Bank separation barrier and the Korean demilitarized zone. No single map of something this controversial and sensitive is ever going to satisfy everyone, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into why and where we choose to limit human movement.

13. The Arctic land grab

(The Economist)
(The Economist)

As the polar ice caps melt, it’s creating something that the world hasn’t seen in a long time: vast, unclaimed territory. That territory also happens to include oil and other natural resources, as well as valuable trade routes. Five countries are competing to claim the new land: Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark and the United States. How the Arctic land-grab resolves is so potentially important that even Canada is getting much more assertive.

14. Who wins Nobel prizes (and who doesn’t)

Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)
Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

It’s no secret that Europeans and Americans win most Nobel prizes. But just how much more is pretty astounding. When I looked into how the Nobel prizes have broken down over their century-plus history, I was surprised by the results, which you can see here illustrated in maps and charts. One of several facts from the data: More than one in every three Nobel laureates is from the United States. Put another way, the United States has 4 percent of the world’s population and 34 percent of its Nobel laureates.

15. The 17 countries that could have housing bubbles

The 17 countries identified as having potential housing bubbles. Click to enlarge. (Washington Post)
The 17 countries identified as having potential housing bubbles. Click to enlarge. (Washington Post)

You probably remember the U.S. housing bubble burst of 2007 (it was pretty memorable). According to a recent economic estimate, a full 17 countries could face potential housing bubbles today. Alarmingly, that includes China, the world’s second-largest economy. Read more here on the countries at risk and what could happen if they burst.

16. The happiest and least happy countries

Data source: Columbia University's World Happiness Report. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)
Data source: Columbia University’s World Happiness Report. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

A recent study conducted by the United Nations and Columbia University attempted to infer happiness measuring a series of social metrics and survey results. Some of the results are unsurprising: wealth, health, political stability and economic equality all appear to coincide with happiness. But there are some real surprises in the data. Latin America and the Caribbean are, by this measure, the happiest on average in the world. Here’s why that might be and more lessons from the data.

17. All terror attacks worldwide in 2012

Click to enlarge. (Start GTD)
Click to enlarge. (Start GTD)

This study by the University of Maryland-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism tracked every single terrorist attack in 2012 (the most recent year for which all data was available). This should drive home how remarkably safe Americans are from terrorism today. It drives home who the real victims of terrorism are. And it reveals some of the global hotspots for terrorist activity and all the instability and mayhem that can bring. Some readers might be surprised to see how much terrorism there is, for example, in Nigeria, in Kenya and most especially in eastern India, where the Maoist “Naxalite” insurgency has been wreaking havoc for almost 50 years.

18. North America’s languages, before colonialism

Click to enlarge. Data source: Ives Goddard. (Wikipedia Commons)
Click to enlarge. Data source: Ives Goddard. (Wikipedia Commons)

This a remarkable reminder of the diversity and cultural richness of North America before it was so completely transformed by the arrival of Europeans – to the terrible detriment of the societies that once proliferated here. It’s also a reminder that some of these societies had spread widely and established themselves deeply, despite the common American perception today of a mishmash of disparate and unconnected tribes.

19. Where place names come from in the Americas

Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)
Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)

This map shows the origin language for place names in the Americas. For example, the word “Texas” comes from the Caddoan language, of the Caddo people who lived in what is today East Texas. It’s a fascinating lens into the Americas’ history, of which Europeans arrived or conquered where, as well as a legacy of the people who lived here first. Bill Rankin, the map’s creator, has this chestnut: “‘Huron’ derives from a French slur for the hairy natives (it shares a root with ‘hirsute.’)”

20. American ancestry by county

Click to enlarge. (U.S. Census Bureau)
Click to enlarge. (U.S. Census Bureau)

This map, which shows the dominant ancestry in each U.S. county, is a wonderful show of American diversity and a living museum of America’s history of immigration, voluntary as well as forced. There are countless stories embedded in this map, and not just American stories. Much of this immigration was driven by far-away wars, economic catastrophes, famines or other major historical events, most especially the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In that sense, America’s diversity – like this map showing it – is a global story.

21. What territory Mexican drug cartels control
This infographic shows which Mexican drug cartels control what territory. It’s a staggering indication of how powerful these groups have become, as well as a glimpse into the vast cartel economy they collectively run – one in which territory is especially important.

22. The empires of Africa, before colonialism

Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)
Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)

This map of indigenous African empires is not exhaustive. It spans two thousands years from 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., so these empires were not concurrent; some existed centuries apart. But it shows that, like with North America and perhaps even more so, sub-Saharan Africa was rich with vast and powerful empires long before the Europeans arrived. (One of the biggest, Ethiopia, was actually unusually and perhaps uniquely successful in resisting European imperialism.) The Songhai Empire, at its peak in the 14th century, was a global center of culture and learning, based in the still-famous mosques of Timbuktu.

23. What Africa might look like if it had never been colonized

Click to enlarge. (Nikolaj Cyon)
Click to enlarge. (Nikolaj Cyon)

Historical counterfactuals aren’t much more than informed speculation, but this one is still awfully interesting. Made by the Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon, the map asks what Africa would look like today if colonialism had never happened. (Africa’s present-day borders were determined largely by colonialism, which continues to create lots of very big problems.) Cyon drew these boundaries based on a study of political and tribal units in 1844, the eve of Europe’s “scramble for Africa.” He oriented it with south at the top to subvert the traditional Europe-on-top orientation. You can see it here with north on the top, if that’s easier for you to read.

24. The amazingly diverse languages of Africa

Data source: World Language Mapping System/Ethnologue. (Steve Huffman/WorldGeoDatasets)
Data source: World Language Mapping System/Ethnologue. (Steve Huffman/WorldGeoDatasets)

This is another way of looking at and thinking about Africa’s divisions, without seeing them through the European-imposed colonial borders that we have today. Each shade is a language; each color is a group of languages. Yes, there are an awful lot of languages in Africa, reflecting the continent’s deep history and its diversity. You can see that a number of the borders, such as in Kenya or Cameroon or Nigeria, overlap big swathes of people who speak entirely different language families.

25. Europe, as mapped by tweets
This shows tweets made in Europe in location and language between Oct. 23 and Nov. 30, 2012, with each language shown in a different color. It’s no surprise that more populous and richer countries have more tweets. But what’s most interesting is places where languages don’t quite line up with national borders. Look at all those German-language tweets in the parts of the Poland that once belonged to the German Empire. Or look at how Belgium seems to disappear, the French- and Dutch-speakers merging into France and the Netherlands. More on the findings here; click here for a much larger version that shows the whole world and with the languages labeled.

26. How the Barbarian Invasions reshaped Europe

(Wikimedia commons)
(Wikimedia commons)

Europe was completely reshaped in the third, fourth and fifth centuries. The Huns of far-Eastern Europe and Central Asia invaded Central Europe, destroying the Gothic kingdoms. Germanic tribes conquered much of Spain and North Africa. And, of course, the Visigoths of southeastern Europe sacked Rome in 410 A.D. All of this destroyed the Roman Imperial system, starting the dark ages. But it also sparked mass migrations throughout Europe that reshaped the continent in ways that are still with us.

27. When the Vikings spread across Europe

Click to enlarge. (Max Naylor/Wikimedia Commons)
Click to enlarge. (Max Naylor/Wikimedia Commons)

A few hundred years later, the Vikings had their turn. We often forget just how far they spread. Red, orange and yellow shows areas under their control. Green shows areas where they frequently raided. The word “Russia” actually comes from the Rus tribe, who were descendants of Viking settlers. The “Vikings” who took over Sicily and southern Italy were actually Normans, Vikings who had conquered parts of Northern France, settled in, and then later sailed to Italy. Their descendants also included William the Conqueror.

28. World War II in Europe, day by day

This one speaks for itself and is a fascinating watch; there are countless stories embedded in these frames. If you enjoyed this, I would encourage you to watch this version that includes Asia and the Pacific as well.

29. The word for “bear” in European languages

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

The Cold War taught us to think of Europe in terms of East-versus-West, but this map shows that it’s more complicated than that. Most Europeans speak Romance languages (orange countries), Germanic (pink) or Slavic (green), though there are some interesting exceptions.

30. People who die trying to immigrate to Europe

Click to enlarge. Data source: UNITED For Intercultural Action (Olivier Clochard/Migrinter)
Click to enlarge. Data source: UNITED For Intercultural Action (Olivier Clochard/Migrinter)

This shows where and how people die trying to migrate into Europe. In October, when 300 would-be African immigrants to Europe died when their boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa, it was seen as a sign of how dangerous and deadly migration paths into Europe had become. It’s a result of wide economic disparity between Africa and Europe as well as European policies to prevent immigration. It’s an ugly issue and, as this map shows, it kills many, many people every year.

31. The Islamic states of the world, from 1450 to today

(M. Izady/Gulf 2000 Project)
(M. Izady/Gulf 2000 Project)

This doesn’t show all Muslim-majority countries – southeast Asia and parts of Africa aren’t included – but it does show the history of political borders and nation-states in most of the Islamic world from 1450 though today. You’ll notice themes of invasion and occupation, or empires rising and falling.

32. The 1916 European treaty to carve up the Middle East

Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)
Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)

In 1916, French, British and Russian diplomats signed an agreement to divide up the Ottoman Empire into areas of direct control and “spheres of influence.” It’s easy to overstate how big of a role this treaty actually played in designing modern Middle East borders; in many ways, those divisions had already organically occurred during Ottoman rule. Still, it did fall along the Middle East’s problematic present-day borders, and you hear about that a lot today, so here it is.

33. The religious lines dividing today’s Middle East

Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)
Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)

Religious distinctions are deeply important for many of the problems in today’s Middle East, particularly between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq. This map shows not just that those divisions cross of national borders, but that they’re all over the place. This is one of many reasons why these conflicts can be so persistent.

34. How the 1948 Arab-Israeli war helped lead to Israel’s borders

The leftmost map shows, in blue, Israel as established by UN resolution in 1947. Red shows the initial Arab state; green is the Arab state after the 1949 armistice. The center map shows the advance of Arab armies in the 1948 War. The right-most map shows the advance of Israeli armies in that war. (Wikimedia commons)
(Wikimedia commons)

Lots of maps show Israel’s territory from the 1967 Israeli-Arab war to the present, but I thought I’d show this map from the country’s 1947 founding onward. The leftmost map shows, in blue, Israel as established by United Nations resolution in 1947. Red shows the initial Arab state; green is the Arab state after the 1949 armistice. The center map shows the first months of the 1948 Israeli-Arab war and the advance of Arab armies to retake what they saw as rightful Arab land. The right-most map shows the advance of Israeli armies in the latter half of that war. At the end of fighting, Israel occupied much of what is considered Israeli land today.

35. Percentage of Indian homes with toilets

Data source: Indian census, 2011 (Avinash Celestine / Data Stories)
Click to enlarge. Data source: Indian census, 2011 (Avinash Celestine / Data Stories)

India’s ongoing rise as a new economic powerhouse continues to be an amazing story. But much of the world’s second-most-populous country still lives in poverty or in otherwise difficult conditions. This map, created from census data by the designer Avinash Celestine, shows what percentage of families in each district have a toilet in their homes. As you can see, it’s less than half in huge swathes of the country, a reminder of how far India still has to go.

36. The languages of China and the surrounding area

Each shade is a different language; each color is a language group. Click to enlarge. Larger version linked below. (Steve Huffman / World GeoDatasets)
Each shade is a different language; each color is a language group. Click to enlarge. Larger version linked below. (Steve Huffman / World GeoDatasets)

This map, for me, is a wonderful way to observe China’s very long history of expansion and consolidation. Remember that each shade is a different language. Even after thousands of years, Chinese itself remains remarkably diverse, particularly in the country’s dialect-rich southeast. And there are many entirely different language families: Mongolian in the north; the Turkic language Uighur in the West and; in southern Guangxi province, the Zhuang language that’s closer to Thai. This is another of Steve Huffman’s amazing creations; see a larger version here.

37. The WWII firebombing of Japan

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

This map shows each Japanese city that was bombed during World War II, an American city of equivalent size, and the percentage of the city estimated destroyed by the bombings. All Americans learn about the two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan at the end of the war, and we’re starting to become more aware of the firebombing campaigns that wiped out much of Germany, including civilians. But we are nowhere near confronting the U.S. firebombing of Japan, which killed several times as many people as the atomic bombs and devastated Japan’s wooden-constructed cities. By the time the war ended, 30 percent of the residents in Japan’s largest 60 cities were homeless.

38. Territorial claims in the South China Sea
It’s no secret that China claims islands and maritime territory in the South China Sea that other countries see as theirs. But this map shows just how assertive China’s claim is – Beijing claims everything in red, a giant scoop of an area way, way beyond Chinese soil. China’s neighbors are very, very conscious of feeling a bit bullied, and this map shows why.

39. The naval firepower in the Pacific

Click to enlarge. (Cameron Tulk)
Click to enlarge. (Cameron Tulk)

The Pacific Ocean, after being set on fire by World War II, is still heavily militarized. Japan, even though its U.S.-imposed constitution bans warfare and codifies pacifism, still has a pretty substantial navy. So does Russia, a legacy of the Cold War. And China’s is, of course, growing substantially. All of this combines with rising nationalism in East Asia, China’s not-misguided fear that the United States is attempting to contain them and growing concern about China itself.

40. Every airline flight in the world over 24 hours
This map shows every airline flight around the world during a single 24-hour day, looped endlessly. To me, it’s the perfect way to end. Even with no borders, you can still see so much of how the world is shaped. Where people are connected and now, where they are wealthier and not, how and where people have made social and economic connections and how deep they go.

Or money talks…

Khodorkovsky Pardon Underscores Russia’s Special Ties with Germany

Mikhail Khodorkovsky showed an affinity for things American during his glory days as CEO of Yukos Oil Co. in the early 2000s. He discussed selling Yukos to Exxon Mobil Corp., acted as an adviser to an energy investment arm of the superconnected Washington-based private equity firm Carlyle Group and donated $1 million to the Library of Congress at the request of then–First Lady Laura Bush. But he has German politicians to thank for his freedom after ten years in Russian prisons on dubious charges of fraud and embezzlement.
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the 86-year-old former foreign minister who oversaw German reunification in 1990, reportedly laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s presidential pardon of Khodorkovsky with two-and-a-half years of quiet negotiation. He flew personally to pick up Russia’s most famous prisoner from his camp near the Arctic Circle and whisk him away to Berlin; on German television, Genscher described the mission as “a humanitarian action.” Chancellor Angela Merkel did not hide her own participation in the release. Genscher “worked successfully on possibilities for a solution with a great level of commitment and the support of the chancellor,” she told a news conference shortly after Khodorkovsky’s arrival on German soil.
Genscher, who was Germany’s top diplomat from 1974 to 1992, crafted an elegant compromise between two stubborn antagonists, Khodorkovsky and Putin. The deposed magnate evidently agreed to leave Russia, stay away from politics and not fight to reclaim Yukos assets, most of which were scooped up by Russian state oil company Rosneft. Putin commuted Khodorkovsky’s sentence without a customary admission of guilt, a step that the former billionaire said would have put ex-Yukos colleagues at risk.
Merkel had reasons of her own to press Putin for a human rights concession. She has long been caught between a German business community pressing for warmer ties with Russia and civic groups that abhor the country’s autocratic ways. In 2012 a Bundestag dominated by her Christian Democratic Party passed a motion “expressing concern” about Russia’s law forbidding “homosexual propaganda.”
The timing was also ripe for Putin to toss a bone to Western neighbors enraged over Russia’s torpedoing of a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, which provoked huge popular protests in Kiev. Khodorkovsky’s abrupt late-night release came just four days after Putin announced that Russia would buy $15 billion in new Ukrainian bonds, staving off for a few years the threat of bankruptcy for the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. The release also came seven weeks before the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Putin personally lobbied for Russia to host this spectacle, which official media have trumpeted as an event of national prestige. Two terrorist attacks that killed 30 people in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on December 29 and 30 underscored the vulnerability of the Games, and Russia generally, to terrorism, and hence Putin’s need for international moral support.
But the Russian leader’s concession to the German establishment has much deeper economic roots. Americans like to assume that Washington speaks with the loudest voice on any foreign affair, but the U.S. is something of an afterthought for Russia, being only its eighth-largest trading partner. The EU remains Russia’s economic lifeline, and Germany its gateway to the EU.
Germany on its own holds sway as both the top market and supplier for Russia. It bought €39.8 billion ($54.5 billion) in Russian goods and services in 2012 and sent €37.9 billion in exports to the country, according to Eurostat. “Russia believes its historic reconciliation with Germany is creating a partnership that will bring immense benefits to both sides,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a speech in April.
The EU bought €213 billion of Russian exports and sent €123 billion worth of goods and services to the country. Those amounts dwarfed Russia’s two-way trade with China, which amounted to $88 billion in 2012, according to the Chinese General Customs Administration. The rebound in cross-border commerce has been a conspicuous bright spot for both the EU and Russia as they struggle to recover from the aftershocks of the 2008-’09 financial crisis. The two-way trade hit a record high in 2012 and was up 83 percent from the dark days of 2009. EU countries — including Cyprus, which largely recycles Russian oligarchs’ own capital — account for 75 percent of foreign direct investment in Russia, according to Eurostat figures.

The mutual dependence between Russia and Western Europe persists despite a decade of efforts on both sides to reduce it. Putin has sought to foster closer economic relations with China as a counterweight to the West, but efforts to strike a 30-year agreement to supply natural gas to China have stalled after nine years of negotiation, reportedly because Beijing is demanding much lower prices than Russia’s Gazprom charges European customers.
The EU has tried to cut its dependency on Russian gas with alternative pipelines stretching out to Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and even Iraq, but none have yet borne fruit. The most persistent project, Nabucco-West, which was meant to bring fuel from Azerbaijan’s giant Shah Deniz field through Turkey to Central Europe, was abandoned in July 2013 after 11 years of planning. Russia accounted for 34 percent of EU natural gas imports in 2012, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
Russia has also had limited success disentangling its all-important natural gas trade from Ukraine, which became an unreliable partner from Moscow’s point of view after the Orange Revolution of 2005. A new undersea pipeline direct to Germany, known as North Stream, started operating in 2011 (with Merkel’s predecessor as chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, as its chairman), and the Blue Stream pipeline underneath the Black Sea has enabled modest Gazprom exports to Turkey. But a more ambitious end-run around Kiev, known as South Stream, has bogged down. Some 80 percent of supplies to Europe still flow through the pipelines Soviet planners laid out beneath Ukrainian soil.
Against this backdrop of Russia’s economic imperatives, Putin’s zigzag behavior during an eventful December looks less puzzling. The Kremlin feels it cannot afford to “lose” Ukraine. It scuttled Kiev’s pact with the EU not just from knee-jerk imperialism but also as a potential threat to its gas-fueled cash flows. Yet cordial relations with Western Europe, particularly Germany, remain essential. The release of Khodorkovsky, a man for whom Putin has never hidden his personal disgust, can be seen as an easy way to buy some goodwill.
Kremlin watchers hold out little hope that the Khodorkovsky release, and a broader year-end amnesty that also included the jailed rockers from punk group Pussy Riot, herald a Russian tack toward a liberal reform course. Earlier in December Putin disbanded the most respected state-owned news operation, RIA Novosti, and transferred its staff to Russia Today, which will be headed by a conspicuous Kremlin propagandist.
“Putin’s pardon of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a confirmation of the omnipotence of one man who rules Russia and the fluctuation of his moods and whims,” Lilia Shevtsova, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on the think tank’s web site. “It is definitely not a confirmation of a political thaw.”
But the move does at least show that Putin remains in touch with reality after 13 years in autocratic power, and committed to a pragmatic course by his own lights.

Khodorkovsky Pardon Underscores Russia’s Special Ties with Germany

To be uncomfortable with Kissinger is, as [Lord] Palmerston might say, only natural. But to condemn him outright verges on sanctimony, if not delusion. Kissinger has, in fact, been quite moral—provided, of course, that you accept the Cold War assumptions of the age in which he operated.

In Defense of Henry Kissinger – Robert D. Kaplan – The Atlantic

In the summer of 2002, during the initial buildup to the invasion of Iraq, which he supported, Henry Kissinger told me he was nevertheless concerned about the lack of critical thinking and planning for the occupation of a Middle Eastern country where, as he put it, “normal politics have not been practiced for decades, and where new power struggles would therefore have to be very violent.” Thus is pessimism morally superior to misplaced optimism.

I have been a close friend of Henry Kissinger’s for some time, but my relationship with him as a historical figure began decades ago. When I was growing up, the received wisdom painted him as the ogre of Vietnam. Later, as I experienced firsthand the stubborn realities of the developing world, and came to understand the task that a liberal polity like the United States faced in protecting its interests, Kissinger took his place among the other political philosophers whose books I consulted to make sense of it all. In the 1980s, when I was traveling through Central Europe and the Balkans, I encountered A World Restored, Kissinger’s first book, published in 1957, about the diplomatic aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. In that book, he laid out the significance of Austria as a “polyglot Empire [that] could never be part of a structure legitimized by nationalism,” and he offered a telling truth about Greece, where I had been living for most of the decade: whatever attraction the war for Greek independence had held for the literati of the 1820s, it was not born of “a revolution of middle-class origin to achieve political liberty,” he cautioned, “but a national movement with a religious basis.”

When policy makers disparage Kissinger in private, they tend to do so in a manner that reveals how much they measure themselves against him. The former secretary of state turns 90 this month. To mark his legacy, we need to begin in the 19th century.

In August of 1822, Britain’s radical intelligentsia openly rejoiced upon hearing the news of Robert Stewart’s suicide. Lord Byron, the Romantic poet and heroic adventurer, described Stewart, better known as Viscount Castlereagh, as a “cold-blooded, … placid miscreant.” Castlereagh, the British foreign secretary from 1812 to 1822, had helped organize the military coalition that defeated Napoleon and afterward helped negotiate a peace settlement that kept Europe free of large-scale violence for decades. But because the settlement restored the Bourbon dynasty in France, while providing the forces of Liberalism little reward for their efforts, Castlereagh’s accomplishment lacked any idealistic element, without which the radicals could not be mollified. Of course, this very lack of idealism, by safeguarding the aristocratic order, provided various sovereigns with the only point on which they could unite against Napoleon and establish a continent-wide peace—a peace, it should be noted, that helped Britain emerge as the dominant world power before the close of the 19th century.

One person who did not rejoice at Castlereagh’s death was Henry John Temple, the future British foreign secretary, better known as Lord Palmerston. “There could not have been a greater loss to the Government,” Palmerston declared, “and few greater to the country.” Palmerston himself would soon join the battle against the U.K.’s radical intellectuals, who in the early 1820s demanded that Britain go to war to help democracy take root in Spain, even though no vital British interest had been threatened—and even though this same intellectual class had at times shown only limited enthusiasm for the war against Napoleon, during which Britain’s very survival seemed at stake.

In a career spanning more than two decades in the Foreign Office, Palmerston was fated on occasion to be just as hated as Castlereagh. Like Castlereagh, Palmerston had only one immutable principle in foreign policy: British self-interest, synonymous with the preservation of the worldwide balance of power. But Palmerston also had clear liberal instincts. Because Britain’s was a constitutional government, he knew that the country’s self-interest lay in promoting constitutional governments abroad. He showed sympathy for the 1848 revolutions on the Continent, and consequently was beloved by the liberals. Still, Palmerston understood that his liberal internationalism, if one could call it that, was only a general principle—a principle that, given the variety of situations around the world, required constant bending. Thus, Palmerston encouraged liberalism in Germany in the 1830s but thwarted it there in the 1840s. He supported constitutionalism in Portugal, but opposed it in Serbia and Mexico. He supported any tribal chieftain who extended British India’s sphere of influence northwest into Afghanistan, toward Russia, and opposed any who extended Russia’s sphere of influence southeast, toward India—even as he cooperated with Russia in Persia.

Realizing that many people—and radicals in particular—tended to confuse foreign policy with their own private theology, Palmerston may have considered the moral condemnation that greeted him in some quarters as natural. (John Bright, the Liberal statesman, would later describe Palmerston’s tenure as “one long crime.”)

Yet without his flexible approach to the world, Palmerston could never have navigated the shoals of one foreign-policy crisis after another, helping Britain—despite the catastrophe of the Indian Mutiny in 1857—manage the transition from its ad hoc imperialism of the first half of the 19th century to the formal, steam-driven empire built on science and trade of the second half.

Decades passed before Palmerston’s accomplishments as arguably Britain’s greatest diplomat became fully apparent. In his own day, Palmerston labored hard to preserve the status quo, even as he sincerely desired a better world. “He wanted to prevent any power from becoming so strong that it might threaten Britain,” one of his biographers, Jasper Ridley, wrote. “To prevent the outbreak of major wars in which Britain might be involved and weakened,” Palmerston’s foreign policy “was therefore a series of tactical improvisations, which he carried out with great skill.”

Like Palmerston, Henry Kissinger believes that in difficult, uncertain times—times like the 1960s and ’70s in America, when the nation’s vulnerabilities appeared to outweigh its opportunities—the preservation of the status quo should constitute the highest morality. Other, luckier political leaders might later discover opportunities to encourage liberalism where before there had been none. The trick is to maintain one’s power undiminished until that moment.

Ensuring a nation’s survival sometimes leaves tragically little room for private morality. Discovering the inapplicability of Judeo-Christian morality in certain circumstances involving affairs of state can be searing. The rare individuals who have recognized the necessity of violating such morality, acted accordingly, and taken responsibility for their actions are among the most necessary leaders for their countries, even as they have caused great unease among generations of well-meaning intellectuals who, free of the burden of real-world bureaucratic responsibility, make choices in the abstract and treat morality as an inflexible absolute.

Fernando Pessoa, the early-20th-century Portuguese poet and existentialist writer, observed that if the strategist “thought of the darkness he cast on a thousand homes and the pain he caused in three thousand hearts,” he would be “unable to act,” and then there would be no one to save civilization from its enemies. Because many artists and intellectuals cannot accept this horrible but necessary truth, their work, Pessoa said, “serves as an outlet for the sensitivity [that] action had to leave behind.” That is ultimately why Henry Kissinger is despised in some quarters, much as Castlereagh and Palmerston were.

To be uncomfortable with Kissinger is, as Palmerston might say, only natural. But to condemn him outright verges on sanctimony, if not delusion. Kissinger has, in fact, been quite moral—provided, of course, that you accept the Cold War assumptions of the age in which he operated.

Because of the triumphalist manner in which the Cold War suddenly and unexpectedly ended, many have since viewed the West’s victory as a foregone conclusion, and therefore have tended to see the tough measures that Kissinger and others occasionally took as unwarranted. But for those in the midst of fighting the Cold War—who worked in the national-security apparatus during the long, dreary decades when nuclear confrontation seemed abundantly possible—its end was hardly foreseeable.

People forget what Eastern Europe was like during the Cold War, especially prior to the 1980s: the combination of secret-police terror and regime-induced poverty gave the impression of a vast, dimly lit prison yard. What kept that prison yard from expanding was mainly the projection of American power, in the form of military divisions armed with nuclear weapons. That such weapons were never used did not mean they were unnecessary. Quite the opposite, in fact: the men who planned Armageddon, far from being the Dr. Strangeloves satirized by Hollywood, were precisely the people who kept the peace.Many Baby Boomers, who lived through the Cold War but who have no personal memory of World War II, artificially separate these two conflicts. But for Kissinger, a Holocaust refugee and U.S. Army intelligence officer in occupied Germany; for General Creighton Abrams, a tank commander under George Patton in World War II and the commander of American forces in Vietnam from 1968 onward; and for General Maxwell Taylor, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and was later the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, the Cold War was a continuation of the Second World War.

Beyond Eastern Europe, revolutionary nihilists were attempting to make more Cubas in Latin America, while a Communist regime in China killed at least 20 million of its own citizens through the collectivization program known as the Great Leap Forward. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese Communists—as ruthless a group of people as the 20th century produced—murdered perhaps tens of thousands of their own citizens before the first American troops arrived in Vietnam. People forget that it was, in part, an idealistic sense of mission that helped draw us into that conflict—the same well of idealism that helped us fight World War II and that motivated our interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s. Those who fervently supported intervention in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia yet fail to comprehend the similar logic that led us into Vietnam are bereft of historical memory.

In Vietnam, America’s idealism collided head-on with the military limitations imposed by a difficult geography. This destroyed the political consensus in the United States about how the Cold War should be waged. Reviewing Kissinger’s book Ending the Vietnam War (2003), the historian and journalist Evan Thomas implied that the essence of Kissinger’s tragedy was that he was perennially trying to gain membership in a club that no longer existed. That club was “the Establishment,” a term that began to go out of fashion during the nation’s Vietnam trauma. The Establishment comprised all the great and prestigious personages of business and foreign policy—all male, all Protestant, men like John J. McCloy and Charles Bohlen—whose influence and pragmatism bridged the gap between the Republican and Democratic Parties at a time when Communism was the enemy, just as Fascism had recently been. Kissinger, a Jew who had escaped the Holocaust, was perhaps the club’s most brilliant protégé. His fate was to step into the vortex of foreign policy just as the Establishment was breaking up over how to extricate the country from a war that the Establishment itself had helped lead the country into.

Kissinger became President Richard Nixon’s national-security adviser in January of 1969, and his secretary of state in 1973. As a Harvard professor and “Rockefeller Republican,” Kissinger was distrusted by the anti-intellectual Republican right wing. (Meanwhile, the Democratic Party was slipping into the de facto quasi-isolationism that would soon be associated with George McGovern’s “Come Home, America” slogan.) Nixon and Kissinger inherited from President Lyndon Johnson a situation in which almost 550,000 American troops, as well as their South Vietnamese allies (at least 1 million soldiers all told), were fighting a similar number of North Vietnamese troops and guerrillas. On the home front, demonstrators—drawn in large part from the nation’s economic and educational elite—were demanding that the United States withdraw all its troops virtually immediately.

Some prominent American protesters even visited North Vietnam to publicly express solidarity with the enemy. The Communists, in turn, seduced foreign supporters with soothing assurances of Hanoi’s willingness to compromise. When Charles de Gaulle was negotiating a withdrawal of French troops from Algeria in the late 1950s and early 1960s (as Kissinger records in Ending the Vietnam War), the Algerians knew that if they did not strike a deal with him, his replacement would certainly be more hard-line. But the North Vietnamese probably figured the opposite—that because of the rise of McGovernism in the Democratic Party, Nixon and Kissinger were all that stood in the way of American surrender. Thus, Nixon and Kissinger’s negotiating position was infinitely more difficult than de Gaulle’s had been.

Kissinger found himself caught between liberals who essentially wanted to capitulate rather than negotiate, and conservatives ambivalent about the war who believed that serious negotiations with China and the Soviet Union were tantamount to selling out. Both positions were fantasies that only those out of power could indulge.

Further complicating Kissinger’s problem was the paramount assumption of the age—that the Cold War would have no end, and therefore regimes like those in China and the Soviet Union would have to be dealt with indefinitely. Hitler, a fiery revolutionary, had expended himself after 12 bloody years. But Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev oversaw dull, plodding machines of repression that were in power for decades—a quarter century in Mao’s case, and more than half a century in Brezhnev’s. Neither regime showed any sign of collapse. Treating Communist China and the Soviet Union as legitimate states, even while Kissinger played China off against the Soviet Union and negotiated nuclear-arms agreements with the latter, did not constitute a sellout, as some conservatives alleged. It was, rather, a recognition of America’s “eternal and perpetual interests,” to quote Palmerston, refitted to an age threatened by thermonuclear war.

In the face of liberal capitulation, a conservative flight from reality, and North Vietnam’s relentlessness, Kissinger’s task was to withdraw from the region in a way that did not betray America’s South Vietnamese allies. In doing so, he sought to preserve America’s powerful reputation, which was crucial for dealing with China and the Soviet Union, as well as the nations of the Middle East and Latin America. Sir Michael Howard, the eminent British war historian, notes that the balance-of-power ethos to which Kissinger subscribes represents the middle ground between “optimistic American ecumenicism” (the basis for many global-disarmament movements) and the “war culture” of the American Wild West (in recent times associated with President George W. Bush). This ethos was never cynical or amoral, as the post–Cold War generation has tended to assert. Rather, it evinced a timeless and enlightened principle of statesmanship.

Within two years, Nixon and Kissinger reduced the number of American troops in Vietnam to 156,800; the last ground ­combat forces left three and a half years after Nixon took office. It had taken Charles de Gaulle longer than that to end France’s involvement in Algeria. (Frustration over the failure to withdraw even quicker rests on two difficult assumptions: that the impossibility of preserving South Vietnam in any form was accepted in 1969, and that the North Vietnamese had always been negotiating in good faith. Still, the continuation of the war past 1969 will forever be Nixon’s and Kissinger’s original sin.)

That successful troop withdrawal was facilitated by a bombing incursion into Cambodia—primarily into areas replete with North Vietnamese military redoubts and small civilian populations, over which the Cambodian government had little control. The bombing, called “secret” by the media, was public knowledge during 90 percent of the time it was carried out, wrote Samuel Huntington, the late Harvard professor who served on President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council. The early secrecy, he noted, was to avoid embarrassing Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Sihanouk and complicating peace talks with the North Vietnamese.

The troop withdrawals were also facilitated by aerial bombardments of North Vietnam. Victor Davis Hanson, the neoconservative historian, writes that, “far from being ineffective and indiscriminate,” as many critics of the Nixon­-Kissinger war effort later claimed, the Christmas bombings of December 1972 in particular “brought the communists back to the peace table through its destruction of just a few key installations.” Hanson may be a neoconservative, but his view is hardly a radical reinterpretation of history; in fact, he is simply reading the news accounts of the era. Soon after the Christmas bombings, Malcolm W. Browne of The New York Times found the damage to have been “grossly overstated by North Vietnamese propaganda.” Peter Ward, a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, wrote, “Evidence on the ground disproves charges of indiscriminate bombing. Several bomb loads obviously went astray into civilian residential areas, but damage there is minor, compared to the total destruction of selected targets.”

The ritualistic vehemence with which many have condemned the bombings of North Vietnam, the incursion into Cambodia, and other events betrays, in certain cases, an ignorance of the facts and of the context that informed America’s difficult decisions during Vietnam.

The troop withdrawals that Nixon and Kissinger engineered, while faster than de Gaulle’s had been from Algeria, were gradual enough to prevent complete American humiliation. This preservation of America’s global standing enabled the president and the secretary of state to manage a historic reconciliation with China, which helped provide the requisite leverage for a landmark strategic arms pact with the Soviet Union—even as, in 1970, Nixon and Kissinger’s threats to Moscow helped stop Syrian tanks from crossing farther into Jordan and toppling King Hussein. At a time when defeatism reigned, Kissinger improvised in a way that would have impressed Palmerston.

Yes, Kissinger’s record is marked by nasty tactical miscalculations—mistakes that have spawned whole libraries of books. But the notion that the Nixon administration might have withdrawn more than 500,000 American troops from Vietnam within a few months in 1969 is problematic, especially when one considers the complexities that smaller and more gradual withdrawals in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan later imposed on military planners. (And that’s leaving aside the diplomatic and strategic fallout beyond Southeast Asia that America’s sudden and complete betrayal of a longtime ally would have generated.)

Despite the North Vietnamese invasion of eastern Cambodia in 1970, the U.S. Congress substantially cut aid between 1971 and 1974 to the Lon Nol regime, which had replaced Prince Sihanouk’s, and also barred the U.S. Air Force from helping Lon Nol fight against the Khmer Rouge. Future historians will consider those actions more instrumental in the 1975 Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia than Nixon’s bombing of sparsely populated regions of Cambodia six years earlier.

When Saigon fell to the Communists, in April of 1975, it was after a heavily Democratic Congress drastically cut aid to the South Vietnamese. The regime might not have survived even if Congress had not cut aid so severely. But that cutoff, one should recall, was not merely a statement about South Vietnam’s hopelessness; it was a consequence of Watergate, in which Nixon eviscerated his own influence in the capital, and seriously undermined Gerald Ford’s incoming administration. Kissinger’s own words in Ending the Vietnam War deserve to echo through the ages:

None of us could imagine that a collapse of presidential authority would follow the expected sweeping electoral victory [of Nixon in 1972]. We were convinced that we were working on an agreement that could be sustained by our South Vietnamese allies with American help against an all-­out invasion. Protesters could speak of Vietnam in terms of the excesses of an aberrant society, but when my colleagues and I thought of Vietnam, it was in terms of dedicated men and women—soldiers and Foreign Service officers—who had struggled and suffered there and of our Vietnamese associates now condemned to face an uncertain but surely painful fate. These Americans had honestly believed that they were defending the cause of freedom against a brutal enemy in treacherous jungles and distant rice paddies. Vilified by the media, assailed in Congress, and ridiculed by the protest movement, they had sustained America’s idealistic tradition, risking their lives and expending their youth on a struggle that American leadership groups had initiated, then abandoned, and finally disdained.

Kissinger’s diplomatic achievements reached far beyond Southeast Asia. Between 1973 and 1975, Kissinger, serving Nixon and then Gerald Ford, steered the Yom Kippur War toward a stalemate that was convenient for American interests, and then brokered agreements between Israel and its Arab adversaries for a separation of forces. Those deals allowed Washington to reestablish diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria for the first time since their rupture following the Six ­Day War in 1967. The agreements also established the context for the Egyptian-­Israeli peace treaty of 1979, and helped stabilize a modus vivendi between Israel and Syria that has lasted well past the turn of the 21st century.

In the fall of 1973, with Chile dissolving into chaos and open to the Soviet bloc’s infiltration as a result of Salvador Allende’s anarchic and incompetent rule, Nixon and Kissinger encouraged a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, during which thousands of innocent people were killed. Their cold moral logic was that a right-wing regime of any kind would ultimately be better for Chile and for Latin America than a leftist regime of any kind—and would also be in the best interests of the United States. They were right—though at a perhaps intolerable cost.

While much of the rest of Latin America dithered with socialist experiments, in the first seven years of Pinochet’s regime, the number of state companies in Chile went from 500 to 25—a shift that helped lead to the creation of more than 1 million jobs and the reduction of the poverty rate from roughly one-­third of the population to as low as one-tenth. The infant mortality rate also shrank, from 78 deaths per 1,000 births to 18. The Chilean social and economic miracle has become a paradigm throughout the developing world, and in the ex­-Communist world in particular. Still, no amount of economic and social gain justifies almost two decades of systematic torture perpetrated against tens of thousands of victims in more than 1,000 detention centers.

But real history is not the trumpeting of ugly facts untempered by historical and philosophical context—the stuff of much investigative journalism. Real history is built on constant comparison with other epochs and other parts of the world. It is particularly useful, therefore, to compare the records of the Ford and Carter administrations in the Horn of Africa, and especially in Ethiopia—a country that in the 1970s was more than three times as populous as Pinochet’s Chile.

In his later years, Kissinger has not been able to travel to a number of countries where legal threats regarding his actions in the 1970s in Latin America hang over his head. Yet in those same countries, Jimmy Carter is regarded almost as a saint. Let’s consider how Carter’s morality stacks up against Kissinger’s in the case of Ethiopia, which, like Angola, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan, was among the dominoes that became increasingly unstable and then fell in the months and years following Saigon’s collapse, partly disproving another myth of the Vietnam antiwar protest movement—that the domino theory was wrong.

As I’ve written elsewhere, including in my 1988 book, Surrender or Starve, the left-leaning Ethiopian Dergue and its ascetic, pitiless new leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, had risen to power while the U.S. was preoccupied with Watergate and the fall of South Vietnam. Kissinger, now President Ford’s secretary of state, tried to retain influence in Ethiopia by continuing to provide some military assistance to Addis Ababa. Had the United States given up all its leverage in Ethiopia, the country might have moved to the next stage and become a Soviet satellite, with disastrous human-­rights consequences for its entire population.

Ford and Kissinger were replaced in January of 1977 by Jimmy Carter and his secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, who wanted a policy that was both more attuned to and less heavy-handed toward sub-Saharan Africa. In the Horn of Africa, this translated immediately into a Cold War disadvantage for America, because the Soviets—spurred on by the fall of South Vietnam—were becoming more belligerent, and more willing to expend resources, than ever.

With Ethiopia torn apart by revolutionary turmoil, the Soviets used their Somali clients as a lever against Addis Ababa. Somalia then was a country of only 3 million nomads, but Ethiopia had an urbanized population 10 times that size: excellent provender for the mechanized African satellite that became Leonid Brezhnev’s supreme objective. The Soviets, while threatening Ethiopia by supplying its rival with weapons, were also offering it military aid—the classic carrot-­and-­stick strategy. Yet partly because of the M-­60 tanks and F­-5 warplanes that Mengistu was still—largely thanks to Kissinger—receiving from the United States, the Ethiopian leader was hesitant about undertaking the disruptive task of switching munitions suppliers for an entire army.

In the spring of 1977, Carter cut off arms deliveries to Ethiopia because of its human-rights record. The Soviets dispatched East German security police to Addis Ababa to help Mengistu consolidate his regime, and invited the Ethiopian ruler to Moscow for a week-long state visit. Then Cuban advisers visited Ethiopia, even while tanks and other equipment arrived from pro-Soviet South Yemen. In the following months, with the help of the East Germans, the Dergue gunned down hundreds of Ethiopian teenagers in the streets in what came to be known as the “Red Terror.”

Still, all was not lost—at least not yet. The Ethiopian Revolution, leftist as it was, showed relatively few overt signs of anti-­Americanism. Israel’s new prime minister, Menachem Begin, in an attempt to save Ethiopian Jews, beseeched Carter not to close the door completely on Ethiopia and to give Mengistu some military assistance against the Somali advance.

But Begin’s plea went unheeded. The partial result of Carter’s in­ action was that Ethiopia went from being yet another left-leaning regime to a full-­fledged Marxist state, in which hundreds of thousands of people died in collectivization and “villagization” schemes—to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands who died in famines that were as much a consequence of made-­in-­Moscow agricultural policies as they were of drought.

Ethiopians should have been so lucky as to have had a Pinochet.

The link between Carter’s decision not to play Kissingerian power politics in the Horn of Africa and the mass deaths that followed in Ethiopia is more direct than the link between Nixon’s incursion into a rural area of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge takeover six years later.

In the late 19th century, Lord Palmerston was still a controversial figure. By the 20th, he was considered by many to have been one of Britain’s greatest foreign ministers. Kissinger’s reputation will follow a similar path. Of all the memoirs written by former American secretaries of state and national­-security advisers during the past few decades, his are certainly the most vast and the most intellectually stimulating, revealing the elaborate historical and philosophical milieu that surround difficult foreign-­policy decisions. Kissinger will have the final say precisely because he writes so much better for a general audience than do most of his critics. Mere exposé often has a shorter shelf life than the work of a statesman aware of his own tragic circumstances and able to connect them to a larger pattern of events. A colleague of mine with experience in government once noted that, as a European-­style realist, Kissinger has thought more about morality and ethics than most self­-styled moralists. Realism is about the ultimate moral ambition in foreign policy: the avoidance of war through a favorable balance of power.

Aside from the successful interventions in the Balkans, the greatest humanitarian gesture in my own lifetime was President Richard Nixon’s trip to the People’s Republic of China in 1972, engineered by Kissinger. By dropping the notion that Taiwan was the real China, by giving China protection against the Soviet Union, and by providing assurances against an economically resurgent Japan, the two men helped place China in a position to devote itself to peaceful economic development; China’s economic rise, facilitated by Deng Xiaoping, would lift much of Asia out of poverty. And as more than 1 billion people in the Far East saw a dramatic improvement in living standards, personal freedom effloresced.

Pundits chastised Kissinger for saying, in 1973, that Jewish emi­ gration from the Soviet Union was “not an American concern.” But as J. J. Goldberg of The Jewish Daily Forward was careful to note (even while being very critical of Kissinger’s cynicism on the subject), “Emigration rose dramatically under Kissinger’s detente policy”— but “plummeted” after the 1974 passage of the Jackson­-Vanik amendment, which made an open emigration policy a precondition for normal U.S.­Soviet trade relations; aggrieved that the Americans would presume to dictate their emigration policies, the Soviets began authorizing fewer exit visas. In other words, Kissinger’s realism was more effective than the humanitarianism of Jewish groups in addressing a human­-rights concern.

Kissinger is a Jewish intellectual who recognizes a singular unappealing truth: that the Republican Party, its strains of anti-Semitism in certain periods notwithstanding, was better able to protect America than the Democratic Party of his era, because the Republicans better understood and, in fact, relished the projection of American power at a juncture in the Cold War when the Democrats were undermined by defeatism and quasi-­isolationism. (That Kissinger-­style realism is now more popular in Barack Obama’s White House than among the GOP indicates how far today’s Republicans have drifted from their core values.)

But unlike his fellow Republicans of the Cold War era—dull and practical men of business, blissfully unaware of what the prestigious intellectual journals of opinion had to say about them—Kissinger has always been painfully conscious of the de­ gree to which he is loathed. He made life-­and-death decisions that affected millions, entailing many messy moral compromises. Had it not been for the tough decisions Nixon, Ford, and Kissinger made, the United States might not have withstood the damage caused by Carter’s bouts of moralistic ineptitude; nor would Ronald Reagan have had the luxury of his successfully executed Wilsonianism. Henry Kissinger’s classical realism—as expressed in both his books and his statecraft—is emotionally unsatisfying but analytically timeless. The degree to which Republicans can recover his sensibility in foreign policy will help determine their own prospects for regaining power.

Read the article online here: In Defense of Henry Kissinger – Robert D. Kaplan – The Atlantic

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FARC Is Weakened, But Far From Dead

FARC has been severely hit by the killing of its leader Alfonso Cano, but it has proven to be a resilient and adaptive insurgent movement and is unlikely to demobilize any time soon. For the Colombian conflict to be resolved, political measures will be crucial.

By Lisa Wüstholz for ISN Insights

There is no doubt that the death of Alfonso Cano, head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), on 4 November 2011 has dealt a severe blow to the guerrilla movement. Cano was the ideological leader of the Communist insurgent group and an old hand at rebelling against the Colombian government. He was the first Comandante en jefe in FARC’s 47 years of history to be killed in combat. As a committed Marxist, he had sought to intensify the revolutionary fight against the government ever since taking over FARC from one of the group’s founders, Manuel Marulanda, in 2008.
The death of Cano is the more troubling for FARC since it constitutes only the latest in a series of setbacks that the rebel group has recently been experiencing. On the level of leadership, three senior members of the Secretariat, FARC’s seven-person high command, have been killed in the past three years: Raúl Reyes, el Mono Jojoy, and Iván Ríos. Like Cano, they were all iconic figures of FARC.
Cohesion and vulnerability
At the level of followers, FARC is estimated to have shrunk from 20,000 members at its peak a decade ago to around 8,000 fighters. There are reports of large-scale desertions and battle fatigue among the revolutionary troops. Generally, there are signs of growing fragmentation among the rebels. Some fronts are said to operate more and more autonomously from the central command, being more concerned with trading drugs than with the revolutionary struggle. Recently, FARC also had to give up some historical strongholds in the center of the country and move more to the west (in the direction of Cauca, where Cano was found) as well as towards the northeast, further splitting the group. Hence, cohesive action in the name of the group’s stated goals has become ever more difficult. FARC has certainly lost its aura of invulnerability.
What is worse from FARC’s perspective is that the Colombian armed forces are still advancing. Their fight against the rebels has intensified ever since former President Álvaro Uribe came to power. US support has significantly strengthened the military capabilities of the Colombian forces: Among other things, they received Blackhawk helicopters, making it possible to carry out air strikes against rebel camps, as well as help in improving surveillance obtained through satellites and the interception of phone calls in order to locate FARC’s positions.
Additionally, the armed forces have improved their position thanks to valuable intelligence gained from FARC deserters and successful raids on FARC camps. In a raid on a camp in Ecuador, during which FARC international spokesman Raúl Reyes was killed, laptops, hard drives and memory sticks containing sensitive information about FARC operations were discovered.
With FARC on the run rather than on the march, the guerrillas have less time than ever to indoctrinate their new members. This, in turn, is bound to further the decrease in cohesion of the rebel troops.

A resilient and adaptive movement
For all these setbacks, it would be premature to expect the demise of FARC. The end of the group has been predicted several times already. For example, when he was serving as defense minister, current President Juan Manuel Santos declared FARC decidedly shaken. However, three years later, FARC is still fighting. The guerrilla movement has shown remarkable resilience in the face of campaigns to eradicate it. It has also demonstrated the ability to adapt, adjusting its way of fighting to match its own strengths and the actions of the Colombian armed forces.

There are many indications that the guerrilla group is still very active. Its propaganda machine is running, as can be seen on the continuously updated FARC website. The battle is still on, as shown in the frequency with which the rebels continue to launch deadly attacks: Shortly before and after the death of Cano, FARC carried out several strikes, killing at least three people and injuring 23 in the first half of November alone. According to a Colombian think-tank, the number of attacks is actually on the increase. In 2010, the figure was close to reaching the record 2,063 strikes of 2002.
Having adapted their strategy, FARC fighters today tend to launch more small-scale attacks using weapons that require no direct interaction with the Colombian army, such as IEDs and land mines. Furthermore, having retreated to the border regions with Ecuador and Venezuela, they now operate in territory that is not conducive to the Colombian army conducting large-scale raids. The terrain also makes it easier for the rebels to hide. There is substantial evidence that FARC has expanded into the territory of these neighboring countries, leading to inter-governmental disputes. Even though President Santos has reconciled with Venezuela, these liminal territories are still patrolled less vigilantly than those of Colombia and thus provide a hideout for the rebels.
Leadership and financial means
The death of the FARC leader will not plunge the organization into chaos. FARC is hierarchically structured, similar to regular armed forces, and the succession of Cano has likely been decided for a long time. That Cano would follow the FARC’s long-time leader Manuel Marulanda had been decided four years before the latter’s demise. Cano’s replacement, Timoleón Jiménez alias Timochenko, was apparently elected as early as one day after the killing and his succession publicly announced only a few days later; Iván Márquez was already positioned as second-in-line. Both commanders are senior members of the FARC Secretariat, having fought for almost 30 years, and they have proven their skills in the military and the political fields, respectively. Both are said to be inclined to continue the path chosen by Cano, even though Timochenko is known to be a touch more radical.
The diminishing of the group has to be put in perspective: FARC is still as big as the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) at their peak and is stronger in numbers than many jihadist groups. It continues to constitute a viable fighting force; one could even argue that FARC is becoming “leaner and meaner“.
Furthermore, FARC has enough financial means at its disposal to continue fighting for a long time. The group is estimated to gain at least $100 million a year through the drug trade, extortions, and kidnappings. The wealth of the guerrilla group also allows it to buy heavy weaponry: its arsenal is said to include – among others – mortars, landmines, surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons. There are even rumors that it was involved in trading uranium.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, FARC has already stated that it will continue fighting and not lay down arms before a peace agreement has been signed. This is also because the group’s previous attempt to engage in legal political activity backfired: The killings of 4,000 members of the Unión Patriótica (a political party founded by former FARC members and other left-wing organizations) by right-wing paramilitaries have not been forgotten.
A window of opportunity, nevertheless
For all these reasons, it seems safe to assume that the killing of Cano has been a mostly symbolic blow to FARC. Still, the current situation does constitute a window of opportunity for the Colombian government to settle the conflict, provided that it plays its hand right.
First, it should not rest on its laurels, as FARC is not even close to being militarily defeated. The fact that the death of Cano was revealed without the euphoria that accompanied past announcements suggests that the Colombian government is quite aware of this. The armed forces need to continue their current advance and not give FARC time to reorganize. Second, to diminish public support for FARC, the government must address the grievances of the rural population. Above all, land reform is urgently needed in Colombia. Third, as in the case of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, there is need for a political solution to the FARC challenge. There have been several peace talks in the past and these talks should now be resumed. Relying on military means alone might lead to more fragmentation within FARC, but will not put an end to the violence.
Juan Manuel Santos could actually be the right man to finally bring peace to Colombia. Being less of a hard-liner than former president Álvaro Uribe, he has already succeeded in reconciling with Venezuela. This was a major step towards undercutting the guerrillas’ operational base, as tensions would only help FARC – especially because the new leader, Timochenko, is said to have connections to the Venezuelan elite. With Cano killed, Santos has the domestic political capital to kick off new talks. His idea of a constitutional amendment to integrate former guerrillas into civilian life could be a good starting point for a dialogue with FARC.

read the article here:

Posted By Uri Friedman

Yes, it’s Oman to the rescue yet again. Today we’re learning that the Omani government helped negotiate the release of three French aid workers held by al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. A Yemeni tribal mediator tells the Associated Press that Oman and a Yemeni businessman paid an unspecified sum to the militants, who had been demanding $12 million in exchange for the hostages.
The state-run Oman News Agency reports that Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, directed officials to “provide all facilities” to help France in recognition of the “distinguished relations” between the two countries. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for his part, has “warmly” thanked the sultan for his “decisive help.” The aid workers crossed the Yemeni-Omani border by car, flew to Muscat on an Omani military plane, and then left for France.
If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In 2010, Omani sources paid $500,000 bail to win the release of American hiker Sarah Shourd, who had been detained by Iran along with her fiancé Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal a year earlier for straying across the Iran-Iraq border. This fall, Oman shelled out close to $1 million for the release of Bauer and Fattal. A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks indicates that Oman helped secure the release of British sailors captured by Iranian forces in 2007 as well.
How did Oman become the Denzel Washington of Middle East hostage situations? The answer lies in Oman’s pragmatic, Switzerland-esque approach to foreign policy. In 1970, Qaboos — who maintains a tight grip on power and who Robert Kaplan has described as the “most worldly and best-informed leader in the Arab world” — overthrew his father in a palace coup and set about transforming an isolated and unstable country into a nonaligned regional power. In the 1980s, for example, Oman somehow managed to maintain diplomatic relations with both sides in the Iran-Iraq war while backing U.N. Security Council calls to end the conflict.
This diplomatic balancing act has enabled Oman to enjoy good (but not excessively cozy) relations with both Iran and the U.S. and its Western allies. Qaboos, a supporter of the Shah before the Iranian revolution, has eschewed the hostile stance that Gulf neighbors like Saudi Arabia have adopted toward the Islamic regime. Instead, Oman and Iran cooperate to secure the Strait of Hormuz, which divides the two countries and transports 40 percent of the world’s oil and gas.
“Oman views Iran as the strategic threat to the region but has chosen to manage the threat by fostering strong working relations with Tehran,” a 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable explained. Iran, for its part, may not view the small sultanate as much of a threat and may value the alliance as it grows increasingly isolated. Oman has pressed Iran to negotiate with the U.S. over its nuclear program and even offered to facilitate secret talks.
America’s friendly relationship with Oman, meanwhile, dates back to at least 1841, when Oman became the first Arab nation to recognize the U.S. The sultanate has a free trade agreement with the U.S. and has permitted American forces to use its military bases in the past (in 2010, however, Omani officials strongly denied reports that they had discussed deploying U.S. missile defenses in the country). Oman’s role as a key interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. was underscored last month when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Qaboos following the revelation of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. “We would expect that Omanis would use their relationship with Iran, as they have in the past, to help the Iranians understand the implications of what they’re doing,” a U.S. State Department official noted during the visit.
The hostage deals, then, may represent just one more weapon in Oman’s arsenal for neutralizing threats to regional stability like the political paralysis in Yemen and deteriorating U.S.-Iranian relations. In a 2009 diplomatic cable, the U.S. ambassador to Oman informed an Omani foreign affairs official that securing the release of the three American hikers in Iran would “remove an unhelpful irritant” between Washington and Tehran. When Bauer and Fattal arrived safely in Muscat two years later, an Omani foreign ministry statement expressed hope that the deal would promote a “rapprochement between both the Americans and the Iranians” and “stability in the region.” Oman’s millions have yet to accomplish those elusive goals, but they have purchased several people their freedom.
Oman: The world’s hostage negotiator | FP Passport

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The MasterFeeds

America’s Pacific Century
The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over — and continues to do so. The time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power, a strategic course set by President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration and one that is already yielding benefits.

With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward — we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these “come home” debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.

Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America’s intentions — our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make — and keep — credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action. The answer is: We can, and we will.

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players.

Just as Asia is critical to America’s future, an engaged America is vital to Asia’s future. The region is eager for our leadership and our business — perhaps more so than at any time in modern history. We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. Along with our allies, we have underwritten regional security for decades — patrolling Asia’s sea lanes and preserving stability — and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth. We have helped integrate billions of people across the region into the global economy by spurring economic productivity, social empowerment, and greater people-to-people links. We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits workers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, and an advocate for universal human rights.

President Obama has led a multifaceted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire U.S. government. It has often been a quiet effort. A lot of our work has not been on the front pages, both because of its nature — long-term investment is less exciting than immediate crises — and because of competing headlines in other parts of the world.

As secretary of state, I broke with tradition and embarked on my first official overseas trip to Asia. In my seven trips since, I have had the privilege to see firsthand the rapid transformations taking place in the region, underscoring how much the future of the United States is intimately intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific. A strategic turn to the region fits logically into our overall global effort to secure and sustain America’s global leadership. The success of this turn requires maintaining and advancing a bipartisan consensus on the importance of the Asia-Pacific to our national interests; we seek to build upon a strong tradition of engagement by presidents and secretaries of state of both parties across many decades. It also requires smart execution of a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.

WHAT DOES THAT regional strategy look like? For starters, it calls for a sustained commitment to what I have called “forward-deployed” diplomacy. That means continuing to dispatch the full range of our diplomatic assets — including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets — to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

By virtue of our unique geography, the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. We are proud of our European partnerships and all that they deliver. Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic. That is the touchstone of our efforts in all these areas.

Our treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific. They have underwritten regional peace and security for more than half a century, shaping the environment for the region’s remarkable economic ascent. They leverage our regional presence and enhance our regional leadership at a time of evolving security challenges.

As successful as these alliances have been, we can’t afford simply to sustain them — we need to update them for a changing world. In this effort, the Obama administration is guided by three core principles. First, we have to maintain political consensus on the core objectives of our alliances. Second, we have to ensure that our alliances are nimble and adaptive so that they can successfully address new challenges and seize new opportunities. Third, we have to guarantee that the defense capabilities and communications infrastructure of our alliances are operationally and materially capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and nonstate actors.

The alliance with Japan, the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, demonstrates how the Obama administration is giving these principles life. We share a common vision of a stable regional order with clear rules of the road — from freedom of navigation to open markets and fair competition. We have agreed to a new arrangement, including a contribution from the Japanese government of more than $5 billion, to ensure the continued enduring presence of American forces in Japan, while expanding joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities to deter and react quickly to regional security challenges, as well as information sharing to address cyberthreats. We have concluded an Open Skies agreement that will enhance access for businesses and people-to-people ties, launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific, and been working hand in hand as the two largest donor countries in Afghanistan.

Similarly, our alliance with South Korea has become stronger and more operationally integrated, and we continue to develop our combined capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean provocations. We have agreed on a plan to ensure successful transition of operational control during wartime and anticipate successful passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. And our alliance has gone global, through our work together in the G-20 and the Nuclear Security Summit and through our common efforts in Haiti and Afghanistan.

We are also expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, and indeed a global partnership. From cybersecurity to Afghanistan to the Arab Awakening to strengthening regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, Australia’s counsel and commitment have been indispensable. And in Southeast Asia, we are renewing and strengthening our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand, increasing, for example, the number of ship visits to the Philippines and working to ensure the successful training of Filipino counterterrorism forces through our Joint Special Operations Task Force in Mindanao. In Thailand — our oldest treaty partner in Asia — we are working to establish a hub of regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the region.

AS WE UPDATE our alliances for new demands, we are also building new partnerships to help solve shared problems. Our outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries is all part of a broader effort to ensure a more comprehensive approach to American strategy and engagement in the region. We are asking these emerging partners to join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.

One of the most prominent of these emerging partners is, of course, China. Like so many other countries before it, China has prospered as part of the open and rules-based system that the United States helped to build and works to sustain. And today, China represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage. This calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests.

We all know that fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. But you cannot build a relationship on aspirations alone. It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation — and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether our relationship delivers on its potential in the years to come. We also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. And we have to avoid unrealistic expectations.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, one of my top priorities has been to identify and expand areas of common interest, to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving. This is why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and I launched the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the most intensive and expansive talks ever between our governments, bringing together dozens of agencies from both sides to discuss our most pressing bilateral issues, from security to energy to human rights.

We are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between our militaries. The United States and the international community have watched China’s efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have sought clarity as to its intentions. Both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. So we look to Beijing to overcome its reluctance at times and join us in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue. And we need to work together to strengthen the Strategic Security Dialogue, which brings together military and civilian leaders to discuss sensitive issues like maritime security and cybersecurity.

As we build trust together, we are committed to working with China to address critical regional and global security issues. This is why I have met so frequently — often in informal settings — with my Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, for candid discussions about important challenges like North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and developments in the South China Sea.

On the economic front, the United States and China need to work together to ensure strong, sustained, and balanced future global growth. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the United States and China worked effectively through the G-20 to help pull the global economy back from the brink. We have to build on that cooperation. U.S. firms want fair opportunities to export to China’s growing markets, which can be important sources of jobs here in the United States, as well as assurances that the $50 billion of American capital invested in China will create a strong foundation for new market and investment opportunities that will support global competitiveness. At the same time, Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments here, and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy. We can work together on these objectives, but China still needs to take important steps toward reform. In particular, we are working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies, remove preferences for domestic firms, and end measures that disadvantage or appropriate foreign intellectual property. And we look to China to take steps to allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly, both against the dollar and against the currencies of its other major trading partners. Such reforms, we believe, would not only benefit both our countries (indeed, they would support the goals of China’s own five-year plan, which calls for more domestic-led growth), but also contribute to global economic balance, predictability, and broader prosperity.

Of course, we have made very clear, publicly and privately, our serious concerns about human rights. And when we see reports of public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others who are detained or disappeared, the United States speaks up, both publicly and privately, with our concerns about human rights. We make the case to our Chinese colleagues that a deep respect for international law and a more open political system would provide China with a foundation for far greater stability and growth — and increase the confidence of China’s partners. Without them, China is placing unnecessary limitations on its own development.

At the end of the day, there is no handbook for the evolving U.S.-China relationship. But the stakes are much too high for us to fail. As we proceed, we will continue to embed our relationship with China in a broader regional framework of security alliances, economic networks, and social connections.

Among key emerging powers with which we will work closely are India and Indonesia, two of the most dynamic and significant democratic powers of Asia, and both countries with which the Obama administration has pursued broader, deeper, and more purposeful relationships. The stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific contains the world’s most vibrant trade and energy routes. Together, India and Indonesia already account for almost a quarter of the world’s population. They are key drivers of the global economy, important partners for the United States, and increasingly central contributors to peace and security in the region. And their importance is likely to grow in the years ahead.

President Obama told the Indian parliament last year that the relationship between India and America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, rooted in common values and interests. There are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer on both sides, but the United States is making a strategic bet on India’s future — that India’s greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security, that opening India’s markets to the world will pave the way to greater regional and global prosperity, that Indian advances in science and technology will improve lives and advance human knowledge everywhere, and that India’s vibrant, pluralistic democracy will produce measurable results and improvements for its citizens and inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance. So the Obama administration has expanded our bilateral partnership; actively supported India’s Look East efforts, including through a new trilateral dialogue with India and Japan; and outlined a new vision for a more economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia, with India as a linchpin.

We are also forging a new partnership with Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and a member of the G-20. We have resumed joint training of Indonesian special forces units and signed a number of agreements on health, educational exchanges, science and technology, and defense. And this year, at the invitation of the Indonesian government, President Obama will inaugurate American participation in the East Asia Summit. But there is still some distance to travel — we have to work together to overcome bureaucratic impediments, lingering historical suspicions, and some gaps in understanding each other’s perspectives and interests.

EVEN AS WE strengthen these bilateral relationships, we have emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation, for we believe that addressing complex transnational challenges of the sort now faced by Asia requires a set of institutions capable of mustering collective action. And a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia would reinforce the system of rules and responsibilities, from protecting intellectual property to ensuring freedom of navigation, that form the basis of an effective international order. In multilateral settings, responsible behavior is rewarded with legitimacy and respect, and we can work together to hold accountable those who undermine peace, stability, and prosperity.

So the United States has moved to fully engage the region’s multilateral institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, mindful that our work with regional institutions supplements and does not supplant our bilateral ties. There is a demand from the region that America play an active role in the agenda-setting of these institutions — and it is in our interests as well that they be effective and responsive.

That is why President Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit for the first time in November. To pave the way, the United States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. Our focus on developing a more results-oriented agenda has been instrumental in efforts to address disputes in the South China Sea. In 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, the United States helped shape a regionwide effort to protect unfettered access to and passage through the South China Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea’s waters. Given that half the world’s merchant tonnage flows through this body of water, this was a consequential undertaking. And over the past year, we have made strides in protecting our vital interests in stability and freedom of navigation and have paved the way for sustained multilateral diplomacy among the many parties with claims in the South China Sea, seeking to ensure disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with established principles of international law.

We have also worked to strengthen APEC as a serious leaders-level institution focused on advancing economic integration and trade linkages across the Pacific. After last year’s bold call by the group for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, President Obama will host the 2011 APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii this November. We are committed to cementing APEC as the Asia-Pacific’s premier regional economic institution, setting the economic agenda in a way that brings together advanced and emerging economies to promote open trade and investment, as well as to build capacity and enhance regulatory regimes. APEC and its work help expand U.S. exports and create and support high-quality jobs in the United States, while fostering growth throughout the region. APEC also provides a key vehicle to drive a broad agenda to unlock the economic growth potential that women represent. In this regard, the United States is committed to working with our partners on ambitious steps to accelerate the arrival of the Participation Age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

In addition to our commitment to these broader multilateral institutions, we have worked hard to create and launch a number of “minilateral” meetings, small groupings of interested states to tackle specific challenges, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands Forum, where we are working to support its members as they confront challenges from climate change to overfishing to freedom of navigation. We are also starting to pursue new trilateral opportunities with countries as diverse as Mongolia, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, and South Korea. And we are setting our sights as well on enhancing coordination and engagement among the three giants of the Asia-Pacific: China, India, and the United States.

In all these different ways, we are seeking to shape and participate in a responsive, flexible, and effective regional architecture — and ensure it connects to a broader global architecture that not only protects international stability and commerce but also advances our values.

OUR EMPHASIS ON the economic work of APEC is in keeping with our broader commitment to elevate economic statecraft as a pillar of American foreign policy. Increasingly, economic progress depends on strong diplomatic ties, and diplomatic progress depends on strong economic ties. And naturally, a focus on promoting American prosperity means a greater focus on trade and economic openness in the Asia-Pacific. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia. Last year, American exports to the Pacific Rim totaled $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs. So there is much that favors us as we think through this repositioning.

When I talk to my Asian counterparts, one theme consistently stands out: They still want America to be an engaged and creative partner in the region’s flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.

Last March in APEC meetings in Washington, and again in Hong Kong in July, I laid out four attributes that I believe characterize healthy economic competition: open, free, transparent, and fair. Through our engagement in the Asia-Pacific, we are helping to give shape to these principles and showing the world their value.

We are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. For instance, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years and support an estimated 70,000 American jobs. Its tariff reductions alone could increase exports of American goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea’s economy grow by 6 percent. It will level the playing field for U.S. auto companies and workers. So, whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a South Korean chemicals exporter, this deal lowers the barriers that keep you from reaching new customers.

We are also making progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community. Our goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe trade agreements need to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. They should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. Ultimately, our progress will be measured by the quality of people’s lives — whether men and women can work in dignity, earn a decent wage, raise healthy families, educate their children, and take hold of the opportunities to improve their own and the next generation’s fortunes. Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements — and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

Achieving balance in our trade relationships requires a two-way commitment. That’s the nature of balance — it can’t be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.

ASIA’S REMARKABLE ECONOMIC growth over the past decade and its potential for continued growth in the future depend on the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military, including more than 50,000 American servicemen and servicewomen serving in Japan and South Korea. The challenges of today’s rapidly changing region — from territorial and maritime disputes to new threats to freedom of navigation to the heightened impact of natural disasters — require that the United States pursue a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture.

We are modernizing our basing arrangements with traditional allies in Northeast Asia — and our commitment on this is rock solid — while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean. For example, the United States will be deploying littoral combat ships to Singapore, and we are examining other ways to increase opportunities for our two militaries to train and operate together. And the United States and Australia agreed this year to explore a greater American military presence in Australia to enhance opportunities for more joint training and exercises. We are also looking at how we can increase our operational access in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region and deepen our contacts with allies and partners.

How we translate the growing connection between the Indian and Pacific oceans into an operational concept is a question that we need to answer if we are to adapt to new challenges in the region. Against this backdrop, a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages. The United States will be better positioned to support humanitarian missions; equally important, working with more allies and partners will provide a more robust bulwark against threats or efforts to undermine regional peace and stability.

But even more than our military might or the size of our economy, our most potent asset as a nation is the power of our values — in particular, our steadfast support for democracy and human rights. This speaks to our deepest national character and is at the heart of our foreign policy, including our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific region.

As we deepen our engagement with partners with whom we disagree on these issues, we will continue to urge them to embrace reforms that would improve governance, protect human rights, and advance political freedoms. We have made it clear, for example, to Vietnam that our ambition to develop a strategic partnership requires that it take steps to further protect human rights and advance political freedoms. Or consider Burma, where we are determined to seek accountability for human rights violations. We are closely following developments in Nay Pyi Taw and the increasing interactions between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government leadership. We have underscored to the government that it must release political prisoners, advance political freedoms and human rights, and break from the policies of the past. As for North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang has shown persistent disregard for the rights of its people, and we continue to speak out forcefully against the threats it poses to the region and beyond.

We cannot and do not aspire to impose our system on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal — that people in every nation in the world, including in Asia, cherish them — and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Asia to pursue their own rights and aspirations, just as we have seen people do all over the world.

IN THE LAST decade, our foreign policy has transitioned from dealing with the post-Cold War peace dividend to demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, we will need to accelerate efforts to pivot to new global realities.

We know that these new realities require us to innovate, to compete, and to lead in new ways. Rather than pull back from the world, we need to press forward and renew our leadership. In a time of scarce resources, there’s no question that we need to invest them wisely where they will yield the biggest returns, which is why the Asia-Pacific represents such a real 21st-century opportunity for us.

Other regions remain vitally important, of course. Europe, home to most of our traditional allies, is still a partner of first resort, working alongside the United States on nearly every urgent global challenge, and we are investing in updating the structures of our alliance. The people of the Middle East and North Africa are charting a new path that is already having profound global consequences, and the United States is committed to active and sustained partnerships as the region transforms. Africa holds enormous untapped potential for economic and political development in the years ahead. And our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere are not just our biggest export partners; they are also playing a growing role in global political and economic affairs. Each of these regions demands American engagement and leadership.

And we are prepared to lead. Now, I’m well aware that there are those who question our staying power around the world. We’ve heard this talk before. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving industry of global commentators promoting the idea that America was in retreat, and it is a theme that repeats itself every few decades. But whenever the United States has experienced setbacks, we’ve overcome them through reinvention and innovation. Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history. It flows from our model of free democracy and free enterprise, a model that remains the most powerful source of prosperity and progress known to humankind. I hear everywhere I go that the world still looks to the United States for leadership. Our military is by far the strongest, and our economy is by far the largest in the world. Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world over. So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.

As we move forward to set the stage for engagement in the Asia-Pacific over the next 60 years, we are mindful of the bipartisan legacy that has shaped our engagement for the past 60. And we are focused on the steps we have to take at home — increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing, overcoming partisan division — to secure and sustain our leadership abroad.

This kind of pivot is not easy, but we have paved the way for it over the past two-and-a-half years, and we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.

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