Putin’s recent order to hold a military exercise near Western Ukraine has sparked a lot of concerns about Russia’s intensions in the area. Ukraine is very ethnically divided between Ukrainian’s and Russians, with most ethnic Russians living in the southwestern part of the country. Crimea in particular is largely of Russian ethnicity and even held a protest against the recent political developments in Kiev the same day of Putin’s exercise. Perhaps most importantly, Crimea is home to the Russian Black Sea fleet and serves as an important defense position in the black Sea for Russia. Although they made no comment of this exercise being connected with Ukraine specifically, the minister of defense expressed concerns over the possibility of a “crisis situation”. Although it’s unlikely that they would invade Ukraine, Russia is clearly demonstrating a willingness to protect their military interests if provoked. From the article, “the geopolitical message of the snap drill was unmistakable…It’s a message to Kiev not to impose its rule in Crimea by force.”
Russia is not the only country to flex their military muscles in order to send a message concerning their interests. In fact, the United States holds a military exercise in South Korea every year. Although North Korea poses a constant threat to the U.S., Russia has the increased concern of Ukraine’s conflict taking place on their borders and involving many in their ethnic group. Is this move really that unexpected or unusual considering the circumstance?
A garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 collapsed with workers inside, killing a thousand and injuring upwards of 2,000 people. The managers of the factory knew it to be structurally unsound – cracks had appeared in the building the day before. Yet the laborers were still required to come to work, allegedly under pressure to finish quickly an order from the clothing company Mango. Although that pressure may have been created by Mr. Rana, the factory manager.
Although tragic, it is difficult to identify responsibility in a situation like this. Many ‘first world’ corporations export work to facilities like this one in Bangladesh in order to keep production costs low. They take advantage of the lower regulations on building codes, treatment of workers and so on. The workers wouldn’t have been in the building if it wasn’t for foreign interests in Bangladesh. But closer to the issue is Mr. Rana’s poor choice as the manager to send them to work anyways.
It’s been almost a year since the incident and the clothing corporations refuse to admit any liability. However an anonymous charity fund has been set up which allows companies to donate towards compensating the workers families and the injured without being implicated in the incident.
I think corporate responsibility is an important issue in an era where multinational corporations often hold as much economic power as small nations. Multinational corporations have tremendous impacts on the international community. The exportation of production has contributed to the rise of slums, separation of families as well as increase in pollution in many developing nations. I think we need to match the changes in the market with effective systems to monitor and regulate these corporations, and hold them accountable to some kind of standards or liability.
According to a recent article in the New York Times our country’s highway trust fund is nearing the end of it’s existence. The United States transportation secretary Anthony Foxx stated that the corporation might be “bouncing checks” by this summer which would put an end to the building of highway infrastructure in our nation. I was made aware from the article that the majority of our country’s funding for transportation enhancements comes from a tariff on gasoline. Given that there are more fuel-efficient cars on the roads nowadays there is less consumption of gas and therefore less financial capital to complete road construction projects.
In his State of the Union address President Obama mentioned this issue and has now provided more details concerning a tentative resolution. A proposed bill will set aside 302 Billion dollars from a renovation of the corporate and business tax system which would emancipate more monetary resources. Republicans have also suggested their own version of the bill cutting the top income tax rate from thirty-five to twenty-five percent. As we’ve seen recently party gridlock has prevented forward progression of considerable legislature. What’s most important is that the necessary upgrades to highways and roads can be made to reduce the number of traffic related fatalities. Since we are definitely moving in the direction of decreased fuel consumption it’s imperative that the Government find other forms of spending for the task at hand. Whether or not the President’s bill will create a solution remains to be seen.
Obama has threatened a full troop withdrawal in Afghanistan in 2014. Many see this is a sign of the deteriorating relationship between the White House and Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan. Karzai has continually put off signing a bilateral security agreement (BSA) that would ensure US troops stationed in Afghanistan after 2014.
Although it is clear that the relationship between Washington and Kabul has been weakening overtime, this announcement from President Obama is not out of frustration, nor is it a declaration that the United States wants all of its troops out of Afghanistan. It is actually the opposite. It is a power play to pressure Karzai to stop procrastinating the BSA, which has already been approved by a Loya Jirga, or council of elders. It is an attempt by the administration to pressure Karzai to sign the security agreement before Afghanistan’s elections, after which the US will be working with a new Afghan president.
It is in the interests of the United States to keep a contingency of soldiers in Afghanistan so that the war against Al Qaeda in the area can continue. The capability to conduct drone strikes on Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan requires a base in Afghanistan. Otherwise, US troops will be too far away to gather ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and to conduct drone strikes.
As the crisis in Ukraine escalates, many are noting the new approach President Obama is taking. Instead of vowing to promote democracy like President Bush after the Orange Revolution of 2004, the President is taking a more “clinical” and “detached” route. The agenda of the United States, rather than spread democracy, is to avoid instability. Certainly, the President and the United States have not completely removed themselves from the situation. After all, the protesters have taken a pro-Western stance, toppling a government that sided with Russia and hoping to replace it with a new elected government with closer ties to Europe and the West in general. Obama’s stance is reflecting his “policy of restraint.” A deputy national security adviser said that, “these democratic movements will be more sustainable if they are seen as not an extension of America or any other country, but coming from within these societies.”
However, some argue that by backing off from a more public stance on situations like that in Ukraine displays a “disinterest in democracy promotion and an unwillingness to lead.” When is involvement from the United States beneficial and when is it detrimental? Would advice or aid from the United States in Ukraine be helpful, or would it even be welcome? President Obama made his first statement about the situation only a week ago, after the protests had been occurring for over three months when there was evidence that former Ukrainian president Yanukovych would use military force on protesters. Many are saying that this approach was “too little, too late.”
Is a step back from former President Bush’s “freedom agenda” of spreading a promoting democracy wherever and whenever possible a bad thing? After all, the United States has been involved in a war for over twelve years. It would be quite an understatement to say that the American public is weary of war. But where is the line between disinterested and over-involved? It seems like President Obama is trying to figure out a healthy balance between the two, remaining a world leader while letting the people of countries in crisis have a voice and guide their own nations.
This article reminds me a lot about Samuel Huntington’s Democratization theory. He argues that after every wave of democratization (three in history), a setback is predicted in states that made a transition to democracy, but were unable to fully consolidate the necessary institutions. While some argue that the Arab Spring could have been the start of the fourth wave, the restrictions on freedoms in Venezuela evidence the setbacks of the third wave of democratization.
Why do countries fail to consolidate democracy? Because they fail to implement the necessary institutions of democracy, such as free and fair elections and a transparent and accountable government. While the lack of these institutions cause democracy to fail, their absence, instead of been the cause, is simply a symptom of the lack of democratic culture in the country. Even when people admit they desire democracy, they usually associate it to the added benefits that are suppose to come with it, such as economic prosperity and stability and freedom. But when these added benefits don’t come and a majority of society lives under poverty, they are likely to fall for a leader that would promise these things, a populist leader like Chavez or Maduro.
Knowing this, how likely it is that the protests in Venezuela translate into regime change? While the public might say that protest might be enough for change, according to Huntington’s theory of democratization it might not be enough. Maduro still has strong support from the Military and the poor, who are the two groups who helped Chavez gained so much popularity and power. They still support Maduro because it was Chavez who reduced poverty from 50% to 25% in 15 years. It was Chavez, instead of a fully democratic regime that in one way or another deliver on the promises that democracy often fails to deliver.
Today this has changed; today the Venezuelan economy is under great trouble. Inflation is 56%, they have a troublesome local currency, and they lack U.S dollars. This, in addition to the high levels of crime, media censorship and human rights violations, is what has taken the average Venezuelan (students) to the streets. But is this enough? Two key sectors of society still back Maduro’s autocratic regime. Is there an alternative option to Maduro? Not really. So based on this I don’t think that the protests mean change for Venezuela if these two sectors don’t choose democratic freedom over limited economic security.
The leader of the biggest drug cartel in Mexico was arrested and many people are talking about what will the effects be on the drug world. As the title states many people don’t belive that this arrest will have much effect on the drug trafficking business. El Chapo had grown his business so big that it literally runs itself. This is the main issue that the police are dealing with because although it was a great arrest they will not be able to slow the drug trafficking down with this arrest without the cooperation of the Chapo. They do think that it could cause some problems with the cartel because other cartels will try to take his place and change the order of control but this does not mean that the drug trafficking will be slowed at all. It will be interesting to see the effects it could have and to see what the Chapo will decide to do as far as cooperating. If they could get him to cooperate it could be the most effect drug related arrest in all of history.
Recently, Mexican authorities have nabbed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the kingpins of Mexico’s drug trade. This is a hugely symbolic step for US-Mexican cooperation (as both countries played a large role). Now that Guzman is in a Mexican prison, the rub is how to extradite him (see Wall Street Journal of February 26). Guzman has already escaped before from Mexican prisons. There has been talk of moving him to a US supermax security prison. Guzman is wanted in seven different jurisdictions where his peddled drugs were sold.
The article is significant on several grounds. One is that if accomplished, this extradition would cement the cooperation of the US and Mexico on large issues and increase North American cohesiveness. This does, however, come in the wake of Texas’ refusal to extradite a Mexican on death row (the Geneva convention prohibits this). The article remarks that the process of extradition in Guzman’s case may be dicey.
After all that has been happening in the Ukraine the European Unions foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton started to promise very unspecific aid to Ukraine. The E.U. is walking on needles here though because the Ukraine is not a member of the E.U. also Ukraine is very dependent economically on Russia so the E.U. cannot do anything drastic that would make the situation even worse, would tick off Russia more and would cause the Economy of Ukraine to continue to fail.
One thing that was discussed in this article was the failure of the E.U. in admitting the Ukraine to the E.U. I appreciated that a number of E.U. leaders admitted mistakes in their process. They said that the E.U. focused too much on what the Ukraine needed to do in order to join the E.U. and not enough on what the E.U. could do to help the Ukraine. I wonder if a similiar problem is occuring over the debates to let Turkey join the E.U. I think this is a common case of the people who are running the E.U. are primarily from well to do Countries, they forget that one major reason to have the E.U. is to aid Europe. Last I checked Countries like Ukraine and Turkey are in Europe. Hopefully the E.U. learns the lesson and strives to help all the Countries it can in Europe not just a select few.