Friday, November 30, 2007

Saltzman and "frozen conflicts"

The session on frozen conflicts just ended. I was struck by how similar the complaints of the Georgians are with those of the Serbs--the claim put forward that while the Georgians are prepared to entertain all sorts of compromises, the only demand they receive from the Abkhaz side is to recognize independence--and that this does not result in real negotiations between both sides.

I asked whether the model for resolving the frozen conflicts of the Caucasus will be more "Kosovo"--setting a defined timetable and with a solution imposed if one cannot be negotiated--or more "Cyprus"--where a de fact separation occurs and the status quo remains frozen for decades. The response about finding a "middle" I found somewhat unsatisfying, especially the argument that I have heard already from USG sources, that Abkhaz and South Ossetians will want to voluntarily reunify with Georgia (on Georgian terms?) if Georgia becomes a prosperous state. That was the EU gamble with Cyprus, right--that who wouldn't want to rejoin a rich, prosperous Cyprus entering the EU--but the problem was the terms. I suspect that there might be some Ossetians and Abkhaz who would accept this deal--and the Sankoyev government in the part of South Ossetia that is linked to the Tbilisi government shows this--but that others would be prepared to be "poor but free."

The democracy panel is next.

Ghosts in the Room (Saltzman Forum)

It seems to me that any discussion of the Rose Revolution and Georgia at this time now has three "ghosts in the room" which are influencing assessments and discussions:

--Russia and its forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, either to serve as a reminder of the dangers of a hyper-presidential system or to provide a (negative) point of contrast in which the shortcomings of others pale in comparison;

--Ukraine and its attempts to forge coherent, effective governments in light of its decisions to decentralize power among several centers as part of the move to a parliamentary system--so is Ukraine more democratic than Georgia, but are its attempts at reform, particularly in the economy, harder to implement?

--Pakistan and the question of U.S. support for leaders/personalities versus procedures and process.

One question which has been implicitly raised and will perhaps be addressed more openly this afternoon: does a change in the power structure in Georgia lead to any real change in Georgia's orientation?

Saltzman Forum: Rose Revolution--and China?

Some first reactions to the opening sessions of this year's Saltzman Forum on evaluating the Rose Revolution four years on.

The morning session (and to some extent, Ambassador Richard Miles' presentation) focused on energy and on the role Georgia plays as a transit country for resources to flow westward, and, as one participant put it, allows not only the Caucasus but even Central Asia as a whole to "return" to the European community.

One small problem, as I saw it. No mention of China. China's demand for resources will need to be satisfied--and Central Asia and the Caspian are within reach. I think there is a real danger in assuming that the greater Caspian basin is somehow an exclusive preserve for the United States and Europe if only Russian roadblocks can somehow be neutralized--and no one as of yet seems to be considering the major strategic impacts if there is a greater "eastward pull."

This is augmented because one of the takeaways from the first panel on economics is that while there has been an enormous amount of progress in reform the business sector still often remains opaque and still perhaps a bit uncomfortable for Westerners to invest. Russian capital, on the other hand, is expanding throughout the ex-Soviet space and usually is more comfortable in these situations. One point that was raised is the extent to which Georgia's political aspirations and desires to join the West run up against continued economic links to Russia but also a business and regulatory culture that still raises red flags for some Western investors.

Finally, on a separate note, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, a business consultant who spoke in the first morning session, raised the question as to whether Georgia has a "culture of process"--which he says is more than just the rule of law but also a comfort level in society that procedures have value independent of personality and that decisions taken by following the proper procedures has as much validity as those taken by "the big man". It was an interesting insertion of the debate over the extent to which culture matters, a subject Lawrence Harrison will return to in the next issue of the magazine.

Will continue posting during the day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

China's Response

So the Global Times quoted a Chinese naval captain giving his equivalent of the line I have often said about US-Russia relations--that it is unrealistic for us to expect Moscow to support us fully on an issue that matters to us while we can pursue a course of action that Russia perceives to be hostile to its interests at no cost.

“After the U.S. seriously harms China’s interests, it still asks for an embrace from China. There is no reason in the world for us to do so.”

Flynt Leverett, in the forthcoming issue, looks at one area where increasingly the U.S. will need an "embrace" from the Chinese, the Russians and the Saudis--the position of the dollar.

Also interesting the pretty strong reaction from Beijing challenging the White House version of events around why U.S. naval vessels were denied access to Hong Kong. From the New York Times:

China denied permission for a United States aircraft carrier battle group and other American warships to visit Hong Kong last week because of the Bush administration’s proposal to sell upgrades to Patriot antimissile batteries to Taiwan, Chinese state media said today.

Beijing also said today that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had not told President Bush in a meeting Wednesday that the decisions to deny the ship visits were a “misunderstanding,” as the White House had reported after the talks.

“Reports that Foreign Minister Yang said in the United States that it was a misunderstanding do not accord with the facts,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said in Beijing today, adding that China had “grave concern” over United States weapons sales to Taiwan.

Mr. Liu said that Mr. Bush’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington in October had also damaged ties between the two countries.


(On the reference then to the Dalai Lama visit, it suggests that my thesis that the "trade" of the Dalai Lama visit to Washington in return for President Bush going to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing may not be accurate, or perhaps from Beijing's view, not sufficient).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Annapolis: First Reactions

If what we are getting is an agreement to talk further--and if we have a sense that between the Roadmap, the Riyadh initiative and other proposals on the table are all options to be considered--then I think the meeting will be considered a moderate success. If, judging from Prime Minister Olmert's remarks, there is a greater willingness to engage directly with Saudi Arabia as a major player in the peace process (and this fits in with my earlier posting about a more engaged Saudi diplomacy), this could be a significant step. But I am well aware that meetings can produce dramatic moments and then there is no follow-up.

I was concerned, however, about one statement made by Olmert, when he said, in addressing the Arab delegates: "There is quite a lot that separates us. There are memories, there is a heritage, that do not emanate from the same historical roots. We have different ways of living, different customs." Not to say there isn't a reality--but I would think that this would be the opportunity to stress the reality of Israel as a Middle Eastern state, part and parcel of the Levant, and not to emphasize differences.

Reuters has published some "rapid reaction" from Israelis and Palestinians, most of whom seem either pessimistic or downright negative about the prospects for finding an agreement.

Monday, November 26, 2007

George Will: Intentions and Results

George Will's Sunday Washington Post column (available also at Real Clear Politics) takes aim at "heroic conservatism" where "compassion" is the driving force.

Will writes: "First, politics is reduced to right-mindedness -- to having good intentions arising from noble sentiments -- and has an attenuated connection with results. Second, limited government must be considered uncompassionate, because the ways to prevent or reduce stress are unlimited. ...

"Conservatism's task is to distinguish between what government can and cannot do, and between what it can do but should not."

Sounds like another way to differentiate between morality of intentions and morality of results.

Will goes on to cite David Keene's essay in the September/October issue of the magazine and concludes:

"It is a pity that TR built the Panama Canal. If he had not, "national greatness" and "heroic" conservatives could invest their overflowing energies and vaulting ambitions into building it, and other conservatives
-- call them mere realists -- could continue seeking limited government, grounded in cognizance of government's limited competences. That is an idealism consonant with the nation's actual greatness."

Sarkozy in China

To what extent is Nicolas Sarkozy prepared to depart from the legacy in Franco-Chinese relations established by his predecessor Jacques Chirac? My first impressions, after reviewing the initial reports, is that there is far more continuity rather than change.

Yes, it does seem the rhetoric about a world defined by multipolarity (as opposed to one dominated by the United States) is largely absent. Sarkozy does want to make progress with China on reduction of its emissions and to see greater Chinese efforts on Burma--but here my sense was that he was looking to frame these questions not in terms of "do this to be a responsible member of the world community" and more in terms of quid pro quos--e.g. on climate change working to transfer more technology. And certainly the nuclear deals that were signed form part of that strategy.

We did see continued strong adherence to the one-China policy and strong statements against any referendum in Taiwan about seeking UN membership--a step that would be a prelude to a declaration of independence.

Finally, a recognition of China's "first-tier status" when Sarkozy included the yuan (renminbi) as one of the world's leading currencies along the yen, dollar and euro.

All in all, it seems like a very pragmatic and businesslike approach.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Busy Saudi Diplomacy

As we Americans get ready to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday (and after this post TWR will be on hiatus), the Saudis press ahead with their diplomatic efforts--and whether they will make breakthroughs where Washington has had less than successful outcomes remains to be seen.

First, Pervez Musharraf, who took the opportunity to undertake the "omra" pilgrimage to Mecca, met with King Abdallah to discuss the situation in Pakistan and to reiterate his commitment to having free and fair elections for the parliament in January and to complete the process of a full return to civilian rule.

The AP quotes an unnamed Saudi official who said Musharraf had sought a meeting with Abdullah for a week. "He is counting on Saudi Arabia's historic ties (with Pakistan) to help him out of this crisis."

Today, Saudi Crown Prince Sultan begins his talks with Moscow with the Russians, in part to discuss the situation in Lebanon but more importantly the feasibility of the offer of the Gulf Cooperation Council to enrich Iran's uranium as a way to break the deadlock over Iran's demands for unimpeded access to nuclear fuel and the concern over having Iran have a nuclear infrastructure on its soil that could easily used to create weapons.

I find this second development interesting--I've always maintained that Russia has an interest in having the EU process on Iran falter so that Russia could emerge as the deciding factor--and if you have a Saudi-Russian joint effort that could produce a solution ... that would put not only Washington but also London, Paris and Berlin in the position of having to accede or reject? Fortunately for the West, Iran already seems to have rejected this idea.

On Pakistan, it raises an interesting question--who in the end would have more influence on Musharraf, as an outside leader, President Bush or King Abdallah? Although it does appear that the release of prisoners that is taking place occurred more as a result of U.S. pressure ...

Just some thoughts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Washington Post, Two Years Later ...

Amit Paley reports in the Washington Post that Iraqis are increasingly motivated by cash rather than ideology when joining the insurgency. He writes, "U.S. military commanders say that insurgents across the country are increasingly motivated more by money than ideology and that a growing number of insurgent cells, struggling to pay recruits, are turning to gangster-style racketeering operations."

Two years ago, Robert E. Looney, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, wrote in The National Interest: "Yet, particularly worrisome is the convergence of large segments of the Iraqi insurgency with elements of organized crime. Unfortunately, improved anti-terrorism effectiveness has resulted in increased criminal activity by several significant groups within the insurgency.

"So while the political and military aspects of the insurgency have received most of the world's attention, the insurgency's subtle shift toward increased reliance on criminal activity has implications that are just as important for the Iraqi economy. Increased criminal activity is effectively stifling attempts to expand the formal sector."

His piece, the "Business of Insurgency" provided a great deal of detail on these processes.

Glad that either the U.S. military or the Post is getting on to the story, even if it is two years later.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The ASEAN Debate

A real test of the strength of the "neo-Westphalian" idea--that countries stay out of the "domestic affairs" of other states and limit what they bring up between each other to the enforcement of their contractual obligations--is underway with ASEAN.

ASEAN wants Myanmar to make progress on reform but doesn't support using sanctions. Nor will ASEAN expel Myanmar (Burma) from its ranks.

The willingness of the U.S. or the EU to sign trade deals with ASEAN as a bloc is called into question as long as Myanmar is a member in good standing.

The Philippines sent a strong signal when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared her country could not ratify the ASEAN Charter--which aims to turn ASEAN into a rules-based regional organization--as long as things remained unchanged in Burma.

Interestingly, the Japanese sent a different message--one which shows Tokyo's difficulties in balancing between its American and Asian imperatives--about not wanting to take a position on sanctions.

Essentially, the debate in Singapore revolves around whether oppression of your citizens at home makes you an unreliable partner abroad--and whether you can be trusted to carry out the obligations of your international contracts. Clearly, no one answer is coming out of the summit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Test of the Global Balance of Power?

If the UN Security Council fails to agree on a new set of sanctions to pressure Iran on its nuclear program, France and Germany have suggested that the EU as a whole might move to adopt stringent new sanctions that would parallel what the U.S. has adopted.

If this happens, it does strengthen--and I'll admit it--the idea that the notion that the Western democracies can work together to implement stringent and coherent action that does bypass the UN Security Council or without specific UN authorization--although I would still lean against seeing this as proof of the viability of any League of Democracies.

But the second test is whether joint U.S.-EU action carries the same weight that it would have ten years ago--and if Russia and China are blocking more stringent action in the Security Council, whether they and other "world without the West" states could still cushion Iran from the full effect of those sanctions. Yes, they would have greater bite--but would they be sufficient? Readers of TWR may recall from several months ago Ambassador Freeman's contention that the reality is that there can no longer be really effective, really crushing international sanctions unless China takes part.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Way to Expand an Alliance

Reports from Brussels are suggesting that a number of Western European countries are planning to use the latest crackdown in Georgia as the fig leaf for "delaying" a membership action plan for NATO. Reuters reports that diplomats at NATO headquarters are concluding that the events of the last two weeks "may have given hesitant Western European allies the grounds they need to block a step they fear would exacerbate rising tensions between NATO and Russia."

This is yet another example of the inability of the Euro-Atlantic community to have an honest dialogue on expansion--and what the limits will be. We saw this with Ukraine where that country was "on course" for a MAP--despite real concerns--until Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych took over and, in essence, what put Ukraine's NATO membership on hold was not a serious discussion about the needs of the alliance but "[o]nly the collapse of the pro-Western “Orange” coalition that took power in Ukraine in 2004, and the return to the premiership of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, led to this project being suspended,", as Anatol Lieven has noted.

I have always advocated an expansion of NATO that is based on a rational assessment of the security needs (back in 2002 I wrote: "If, on the other hand, NATO intends to remain primarily a military alliance whose members share common security interests, then — as Thomas S. Szayna of the RAND Corporation noted — the final decision to admit a new member must be based instead on a "strategic rationale — the impact on NATO's core mission and abilities… no matter how successful that country has been in meeting NATO's guidelines.")

If Georgia is essential to the future of the alliance, then stop playing games and work to bring the country into NATO.

But what we have instead is a series of muddled messages. We don't want to say "no" to Georgia because that would appear as if we were giving Moscow a veto over future members of the alliance; and we don't want to say "no" because that would jeopardize the use of NATO as a poor man's EU; and we don't want to say "no" because if we can expand the alliance yet again with little cost, why not? But we don't want to say "yes" because of the possible negative reaction from Russia and we don't want to say "yes" if it increases our liabilities.

So we hope that the ex-Soviet states will somehow take themselves out of the running voluntarily, so that we don't have to say no. Yanukovych's premiership bought the West two more years of being able to hedge on Ukraine--and calculations that the new Orange Coalition won't last and that Ukraine will still be "on hold" for membership indefinitely are being made. Now, if Mikheil Saakashvili can be "blamed" for the lack of an invitation to NATO, it is not a case of the alliance refusing Georgia but Georgia's own fault.

While the alliance founders in Afghanistan, the games continue.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Color Revolution Score Card

One of the points I have been arguing for the last year about why the Bush Administration was so invested in the Saakashvili Administratiion in Georgia was because Georgia was one of the only remaining "success" stories for the freedom agenda. If we run down the list, we can see why this agenda is in real trouble.

Three "precursor" revolutions were the ouster of Meciar in Slovakia, the end to the PRI's 70-year monopoly on power in Mexico with the election of Fox, and the overthrow of Milosevic in Serbia.

All three pre-date the Bush Administration. Of the three, Slovakia is now in the EU (success), Mexico muddles along (but no restoration of the old system) and a fragile Serbian democracy survived even the assassination of the prime minister.

In more recent years--the 2003 "Rose Revolution" in Georgia kicked off the round. Followed by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, "purple fingers" in Iraq, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and the Kifaya wave in Egypt. (Should the elections in the Palestinian territories be included?) A color revolution was aborted in Moldova when the ruling communists saw the light about moving away from Moscow. A "Baku Revolution" never got off the ground in Azerbaijan because there was no desire to replace Ilham Aliyev, cast in the mold of an evolutionary reformer. (Meanwhile,there was a military coup in Thailand, and election results in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua were not to our liking).

Kyrgyzstan's revolution fizzled; the Cedar Revolution was inconclusive and led to Hizballah in the government; Iraq has been unable to stabilize itself; the U.S. has generally recreated its 1980s alignment with Sunni autocrats.

Ironically, despite the see-saws in Ukrainian politics--and the instability it creates--Ukraine held several fair and free elections where there has been a legitimate shift and transfer of power; so in terms of procedure, Ukraine demonstrates that it continues to move along the democratic path. The problem is that democracy doesn't always guarantee the "right results."

So, until now, Georgia was the best example--a democratic revolution that ensured a new pro-Western government succeeded an old pro-Western government. (This is the dilemma in Pakistan, by the way--no guarantees that greater democratization will do that). But a real mixed record for the Bush team.

FYI, I know that Tom Carothers has a different perspective on the Bush team and democracy promotion, and it is worth mentioning this as part of this debate.

Just Admit It is a Gamble

I'm a bit dismayed at the recent discussion about Pakistan, democracy and security taking place in Washington. Once again, there is an overoptimistic assessment, in my opinion, about the likely willingness of a more democratic Pakistan to embrace and even expand upon the U.S. security agenda for the region.

Yes, it could happen. But it is a gamble. Democratization in Pakistan might bring such benefits, but just as likely not. So it would be nice to see commentators accept that this is a gamble and there are a number of variables at play.

(I am also tired of the World War II analogy translated into the claim that in the 21st cenutry all democracies see eye to eye on coping with terrorism and Islamic radicalism. Remember, three European democracies--Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland--were neutral in the Second World War--and Finland was an Axis ally.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Singh, Putin and the "meeting of the minds"

So much for the proponents of an unshakeable "league of democracies." Indian PM Singh appears to be having a productive visit to Moscow, based on the earliest reports

Testing the Democracy Assumption

Howard La Franchi writes about the options the U.S. may have in Pakistan beyond Pervez Musharraf, and gathers together some of the Washington expert opinion on the subject.

In the middle of the piece, there is this assumption put forward: "A Pakistan free of political turmoil, and with the public satisfied that democratrization is proceeding, is more likely to support US policies in the region."

Really? That to me seems like a very big if. The Pakistani public will support taking on greater burdens in fighting Al-Qaeda, including heavier casualties? Conceding control over Kashmir to India (in order to get Washington off the hook on that issue?)

I understand the point that is being made--that all U.S. eggs cannot be placed in the Musharraf basket--but I also don't have any illusions that the majority of Pakistanis are preapred to trade away what they see as fundamental interests in order to end U.S. support for Musharraf.

India, Germany and Democracy Promotion

I just contributed this comment to a piece written by Eckart von Klaeden, a member of the Bundestag and the and foreign-affairs spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group. He lays out the future development of relations between Germany, as a key European state, and India, as a rising power.

Toward the end he identifies democracy promotion as a common interest of both countries. I found this interesting. So my question was this:

Certainly I can understand why India and Germany would both have a "democracy preference"--that in dealing with other countries one would prefer to interact with an established democracy because they are much more likely to be stable, transparent and predictable.

But in terms of promoting democracy abroad--it seems to me that there is no sentiment in either Germany or India that the survival of democracy at home depends on its extension elsewhere--that German democracy is threatened by authoritarian leanings in Russia or that India would be better off if Pakistan was a democracy. And in some cases I could see where India might prefer to deal with a General Musharraf in moving the Indo-Pakistan relationship forward, and I have heard a number of German colleagues express the view that Germany has benefited from Putin's consolidation of power and that Berlin-Moscow ties are better today (more predictable) than during the uncertain years of the Yeltsin period.

So it would seem to me that there is a point where both New Delhi and Berlin would part company with the United States on this issue.

To comment further, that other democracies do have a "democracy preference" but are not prepared to stake their foreign policy on the proposition that the spread of democracy abroad is connected to whether their own democracy survives at home.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Confederation for Kosovo?

Antonio Cassese, the first President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), puts forward his proposal for avoiding a crisis over Kosovo.

Some of what he writes: is not too late for compromise. But this is possible only by resuscitating—and updating—an old institution of the international community: a confederation of states.

By means of a binding UN Security Council resolution, Kosovo could be granted full and exclusive authority over its citizens and territory, as well as limited capacity for action on the international scene. It could be authorized to enter into trade agreements as well as agreements concerning individuals (for example, admission and circulation of foreigners, or extradition), plus the right to seek admission to the UN (which does not require full sovereignty and independence).

Kosovo would thus gain some essential trappings of statehood. However, a decision-making body consisting of delegates from Kosovo, Serbia, and the European Union would be given full authority over major foreign policy issues (for example, alliances and relations with international economic institutions), defence, borders (in case Kosovo wished to join with Albania), and the treatment of Kosovo’s Serbian minority. As a result, Kosovo and Serbia would constitute two distinct international subjects, bound by a confederation hinging on a common decision-making body.

Of course, this confederation would be asymmetrical, because the Serbian government’s sovereignty over the rest of Serbia would remain intact and unlimited, whereas the Kosovar government’s “sovereignty” over Kosovo would be restrained.


I think that it is becoming increasingly clear that there indeed is a need for a real debate and discussion on Kosovo. Former UN ambassador Bolton says we shouldn't recognize a unilateral declaration of independence; now the first head of the ICTY is looking at another "creative way" to get around the desire for self-determination with the need to ensure territorial integrity.

And Let's Not Forget Venezuela ...

... where we can see some similar dynamics. An opposition that sees the president eliminating remaining procedural checks on his power, a leader that claims that his mandate gives him the obligation to "see through" his revolution to its completion (and accuses a powerful northern neighbor of attempting to destabilize his country) ...

My prediction is that Hugo Chavez will win his referendum on December 2 simply because he continues to hold on to his base and they can give him a majority at the polls--just as I expect that in Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili will easily win re-election to the presidency given his wide base of support.

What is interesting in the Venezuelan case is the role of the universities--who enjoy a great deal of autonomy (e.g. police forces cannot enter campuses; rectors are elected in campus elections, not appointed by the state, etc.) Bringing them fully under his supervision is a major priority for Chavez if he is to neutralize all remaining centers of opposition, so it is not surprising that they have become the focal point of the demonstrations.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Georgia-Pakistan Symmetry

Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil Saakashvili have both decided to offer olive branches to defuse the crises in their respective countries and regain the political momentum. Saaksashvili has offered to bring presidential elections up to January 2008 (rather than extend the term of the parliament)--this would also put his administration's achievements (or lack thereof, as the opposition claims) up to the voters for evaluation.

Musharraf guarantees that parliamentary elections would be held by February 15, 2008 and that he would "take off the uniform" and solely be chief executive. This would probably clear the way for General Asfaq Kayani to become the chief of the military--and would ensure a certain degree of continuity in policy.

So now the tests:

I assume that Saakashvili's decision will be welcomed by Washington that was hoping to avoid a scenario where the final "color revolution" came to a crashing halt. The opposition may decide that they've gained a way to break the near-stranglehold on power that Saakashvili and his National Movement currently have--and so the crisis may recede.

In Pakistan, would this announcement be sufficient for Bhutto and her supporters--and would it break apart a nascent opposition coalition that was building up in the last week? The pledge would also give some cover for the Bush Administration since there would be a timetable for elections.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More Bad News for the Freedom Agenda

Two side by side headlines on the current homepage of Google News:

"Pakistani Police Beat Bhutto Supporters"

"Riot Police Disperse Georgian Protestors"

The Reuters report is even more dramatic in its headline: "Close U.S. ally Georgia descends into chaos."

The report, filed an hour ago, isn't pretty. It says, among other things:

"the main opposition television station Imedi said it had been stormed by Georgian special forces and went off the air. Imedi had been broadcasting extensive coverage of the opposition demonstrations.

Witnesses at the scene said armed police had forced staff to the floor, smashed equipment, destroyed mobile phones and put guns to employees' heads.

Earlier in the day, riot police armed with batons repeatedly clubbed and kicked unarmed demonstrators in Tbilisi, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the streets, reporters at the scene said."

It went on to say:

"Georgia's human rights ombudsman, Sozar Subari, told reporters he was among those beaten by police. "Although I told them that I am a defender of human rights, they told me 'This is precisely why the beating is so harsh'," he said.

Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, condemned the government crackdown as "completely unacceptable." "There is only one way -- negotiations," he said."

The standard response is to blame Moscow for the trouble. But "Opposition leaders, who have not questioned Saakashvili's pro-Western line, called the accusations baseless and laughable. "The Georgian people are already tired of Saakashvili's declarations, which always blame Russia" former Georgian foreign minister Salome Zurabishvili said. "What has this got to do with Russia ?""

What is going to be interesting to observe in the U.S. reaction is 1) this is taking place alongside the events in Pakistan and 2) official Tbilisi is making the same justifications that were presented by Moscow when it took harsh police measures against the "Other Russia" demonstrators this spring (e.g. demonstrators provoked police, they are being funded by outside agents, etc.)

For those interested, Anna Dolidze had commented earlier this week on developments in Georgia.

Richardson: Setting Priorities

Governor Richardson expands on his concept of "new realism". In particular, he is willing to define priorities.

This is important because one of my longstanding complaints is our propensity to treat relationships with other major powers like Christmas trees, hanging all sorts of priorities and preferences without setting any sort of agenda. The governor has laid out a way for us to set priorities and then judge the effectiveness of our bilateral relationships:

"We must engage Russia and China strategically, and systematically. While it is easier to work with countries like India that share our democratic values, we also need to work with Russia and China to solve serious problems. We need to establish our priorities, and to work with these sometimes troublesome partners, recognizing that we can only influence, not control, what they do. With Russia, our first priorities should be securing loose nukes and putting pressure on Iran to halt nuclear enrichment. With China, our priorities should be North Korea, Darfur and trade."

Pretty clear. It doesn't meant that there won't be other irritants or issues, but it also puts forward an agenda and if implemented would send clear signals to Moscow and Beijing about what the U.S. under a Richardson Administration would expect.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Competing Bush Doctrines in Action

Events in Pakistan put two premier Bush Administration foreign policy goals--fighting the war on terror and spreading democracy--squarely at odds with each other. And there is no deux ex machina waiting in the wings to put things right.

The preferred solution for much of the Washingotn elite is for a liberal democratic reformer to take power who would then intensify the struggle against Al-Qaeda and Taliban elements in the tribal areas (and who would make a deal with India on Kashmir to boot so as to remove one of the nagging irritants that prevent the world's largest and the world's oldest democracies from fully consumating their relationship). This is in keeping with the belief that democracies automatically align their domestic and foreign policies with U.S. interests.

Well, that doesn't appear to be an option. The three that are on the table are all "undesirable" in one form or another:

1) Stick with the general and hope that his brand of authoritarian reformism can move Pakistan along and that he can hold the lid on the extremist elements in the country;

2) Go with the liberal democrats whose hearts are in the right place but haven't shown that they could actually effectively govern the country;

3) Cut deals with the moderate conservative/religious opposition who could probably engineer some sort of transition but who would not carry U.S. water when it comes to serious crackdowns on the Taliban.

I assume that there is a fourth option but one never embraced by Washington--which is do nothing and let the local situation sort itself out, but that is always overriden by our desire to "get involved".

Some choices have to be made.

By the way, for those interested, Ximena Ortiz talked with Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More on Musharraf: Did Succession Questions Play a Role

In looking at developing events in Pakistan, I am also wondering whether or not questions of ensuring a "proper" succession informed Musharraf's decision. Under a power-sharing arrangement, if Musharraf were to be killed or incapacitated, I assume that power would automatically devolve then to the prime minister. Certainly there would be no guarantees that the system Musharraf has created would endure.

Under the conditions of the emergency, in contrast, Musharraf seems to have full power and authority to create and maintain a clear line of succession of power to other army figures who could step in as deputies and successors, bypassing the existing constitutional framework.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Emergency Rule in Pakistan: Shades of Indira?

I realize that neither Pakistanis nor Indians may appreciate comparing General Pervez Musharraf with Indira Gandhi, but I can't help but note some of the parallels between Musharraf's decision and the one taken by Gandhi back in 1975. Both were facing Supreme Court decisions that could have affected their ability to remain in power; both were coping with an emboldened political opposition; both had their own in-house militants/terrorists (Naxalites in India; Al-Qaeda/Taliban in Pakistan); and both made the argument that law and order was needed to ensure a real transition to democracy at some undisclosed point in the future.

An interesting prediction, then: when Gandhi lifted the Emergency in 1977, she thought she was going to sweep parliamentary elections because there had been economic growth and stability; instead, the opposition managed to finally unite and swept the vote. So it may be that the impact of this emergency in Pakistan will be to finally get a fractious and divided opposition to work together. Again, however, the experience in India in the late 1970s showed that over time a religious conservative and a secular socialist coalition could not endure in government--again possible lessons for Pakistan.

All of this to suggest that what we are seeing unfolding in Pakistan is part and parcel of larger South Asian political difficulties.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Diplomacy of Expediency

The BBC called last night to get my thoughts on the ongoing crisis in Bosnia and the attempts by some of the key Contact Group countries to get Serbia to stop trying to link the final status of Kosovo with the fate of Bosnia.

Later, after thinking about it in greater detail, it does seem to me that the problems we are facing in Bosnia and Kosovo and by extension in Iraq and Sudan and elsewhere comes, in part, from what we might term the diplomacy of expediency--saying or pledging things that in the long run we have no intention of carrying out, but as a tactic to get fighting to stop or getting consensus. So in 1999 we said we were satisfied with a Kosovo that had "substantial autonomy" rather than full independence. The United States which had rejected various forms of partition and devolution for Bosnia accepted the principle in the Dayton Accords of 1995. We told the Turks in 2003 that the fall of Saddam Hussein and the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region would not pose a security threat to their interests. And the list goes on.

Expediency can be a useful tactic. But I fear that when it has been used in recent years it has been not to create breathing room but to simply push an issue "down the road"--to where, hopefully, someone else becomes responsible for it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bolton on Kosovo

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton tells Voice of America:

While Serbia is trying to establish an effective and functional democracy regarding human rights and other issues, the anti-Serbian policy has continued, especially with regard to Kosovo, where a decision in favor of its independence could only create other concerns, and such a decision could impact on the democracy in progress in Serbia, and the possibility that the Security Council would step beyond its authority, which would be very unfortunate. This is one of the numerous examples of behavior by the State Department, which is a problem the next President has to solve.

VOA: In your opinion, what is the most important reason for US support for Kosovo independence?

Bolton: It is an attitude inherited from the 1990s from the policy of the former administration, when some parts of former Yugoslavia, according to legitimate and historic reasons, wanted their independence and their own road to democracy. This trend has continued, so now you have smaller and smaller entities asking for independence, but such a policy is the opposite of democracy. I think that now this has been spotted much better in Europe than it has been here in the United States.

VOA: If the US recognizes a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence, how could that affect Washington’s relationship with Russia or relations with some countries of the European Union and on the international level in general?

Bolton: I hope that the United States will not recognize a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence, although I think that things are currently moving in that direction, and I am afraid that it could cause more damage than it can bring good in the Balkans. Such a decision, which would be taken under threat of violence, would actually represent a way to reward bad behavior. The issue of Kosovo should be solved by two parties at the negotiation table. I understand that strong positions are taken regarding the issue by both sides - Albanian and Serbian. These are and will be tough negotiations in order to reach a solution which would satisfy both parties, but this is much better than to impose a solution on one side or the other, based on a wrong understanding of the situation.

The Proxy Debate on the War

Just speculating out loud ... will the coverage of Foreign Service Officers in essence "drafted" to go to Iraq become a proxy debate on the war itself? Conventional wisdom always maintained that the U.S. could handle "wars of choice" because the excuse of the "all-volunteer military" precluded the need for a draft.

Will some of the same arguments prevail here--FSOs know what they are getting into, no one forced them to join, they can go to Iraq or they can resign, etc. Or are the FSOs the equivalent of the upper-middle class draftees?

How Everything is Interconnected ...

Secretary Rice's trip to Turkey-and the likely reception she will receive--is the clearest signal to date that our attempts to "compartmentalize" the problems of the Middle East, to deal with each crisis and issue as if it could stand alone, is breaking down.

Some of the interconnections:

--Turkey shares a "community of interest" in minimizing Kurdish separatism with Syria and Iran--at a time when the United States is hoping to further isolate Tehran and Damascus. Meanwhile, Iraq is now asking for Iranian assistance in finding a soution with Turkey.

--cross-border security arrangements for any final settement between the Israelis and the Palestinians would rest largely on the assumption that they could and would be enforced. As I noted yesterday, problems in Northern Iraq undermine further any remaining confidence that outside powers--the U.S., NATO or some other international force--would be prepared to enforce border security as part of a peace deal.

--having made what Iran's president believes about the Holocaust--rather than simply focusing on Iran's concrete actions--part of the case for increasing pressure on Tehran, the whole question of the Armenian genocide resolution--which is simply postponed, not resolved-remains on the table.

--Russian statements for Turkey to show restraint serve Moscow's interests, because if Turkey does engage in a cross-border operation without any significant penalty from the United States, the Russian claim of a usable precedent for possible actions in the Caucasus is raised.

The old spiritual based on the image of the bones of the skeleton joining together in the Book of Ezekiel--the leg bone is connected to the thigh bone, and so on, is an apt metaphor to consider.

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