Friday News And Notes

The New Method Of Warfare — Economic
In the past month, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a number of risks, lease of which was annexing Crimea. Not all have paid off but one bet which has is that the West – despite its threats to shut down Russia’s economy – has not been as aggressive in inflicting financial pain. One of the reasons is that any action taken against Russia will no doubt have an impact on Europe’s fragile economy.

“Putin’s plan for destabilizing Ukraine is thus two-pronged: capitalize on linguistic or national  animosities in Ukraine to foster social fragmentation, while taking advantage of Western – especially European – financial vulnerabilities. Indeed, Putin sometimes likes to frame it as a contest pitting him against the power of financial markets,” writes Harold James, a Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University.

James’ argument is clearly seen in Putin’s recent threat to shut off Russian gas for Ukraine. According to David Blair of London’s Daily Telegraph, the European Union obtains a third of its gas from Russia through pipelines running across Ukraine and Putin knows that when he calculates that he can use his control of gas supplies to escalate the pressure on Ukraine and the country’s European allies.”

Former Biographer Offers Insight Into Putin’s Mind
Neil MacDonald sat down with Vladimir Putin’s biographer and former CIA director Michael Hayden to gain insight into the motives behind the Russian leader’s madness.

Masha Gessen, who wrote the very unauthorized Putin biography, “The Man Without A Face,” says for Putin, gays have become the representation of Western decadence. This is one reason why he has a pattern of inviting American evangelical Christians to speak at the Kremlin.

” Gays, says Gessen, have in fact become Putin’s shorthand for Western decadence — an integral part of the nativist campaign he’s been leading to restore Russia’s confidence in itself. In that vision, she says, Russia will become the world’s conservator of traditional values, a light in the moral darkness.

“Putin, says Gessen, intends to remain president for life. She predicts his regime will eventually implode, but concedes it is showing no sign of doing so: ‘It’s getting a lot worse.'” writes MacDonald, who adds that “Hayden and Gessen agree most completely on one central point: Putin has not given Russians democracy, and he has not given them a wonderful economy.”

Challenges Facing Afghanistan After Elections
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies has written a report outlining the challenges facing Afghanistan in 2014-2015.
What Was The Environmental Event That Changed History?
Gillen D’Arcy Wood, Director of Sustainability Studies Initiative in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells the tale of Tambora, the Indonesian island which was the location of the greatest volcanic eruption in recent history – and one of the greatest environmental disasters in human history.
“This extraordinary geological event took place 199 years ago this week, and on the cusp of its bicentenary Tambora is finally getting its due. With the help of modern scientific instruments and old-fashioned archival detective work, the Tambora 1815 eruption can be conclusively placed among the greatest environmental disasters ever to befall mankind. The floods, droughts, starvation, and disease in the three years following the eruption stem from the volcano’s effects on weather systems, so Tambora stands today as a harrowing case study of what the human costs and global reach might be from runaway climate change
US-Asia Trade Talks Hit Stumbling Blocks
As talks near on the Trans Pacific Trade (TPP) pact, differences remain between US and Japan, which all but ensures no deal will be reached, reports The Financial Times.
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