RICHARD SOKOLSKY is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s policy planning staff.

In a pre-retirement interview[1] on May 1, NATO’s top military officer, General Philip Breedlove, warned that the Russian military might not be ten feet tall but was “certainly close to seven.” NATO’s war planners are right to worry about the Russian military threat to its eastern flank. Fortunately, the alliance may be in a stronger position than it thinks—and although its leaders may not realize it, what is important is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals almost certainly do.

NATO’s efforts to build a stronger deterrent and defense posture in the east are necessary and long overdue. But they may not be enough to de-escalate the alliance’s confrontation with Russia and reduce the risk of a direct conflict. Two years after NATO launched plans to beef up defenses on its eastern front, a midcourse correction is needed to reduce the risk of a collision with Russia.

NATO’s perception of the Russian threat has changed dramatically since Moscow gobbled up Crimea. Once thought to be outmanned and outgunned[2] by NATO, Russia is now seen by many observers as a superior military force, poised to overrun an alliance that is “outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned[3]” on its eastern flank. From the West’s perspective, Russia is a revisionist, neoimperialist, and expansionist power determined to overturn the post–Cold War European security order, destroy NATO’s cohesion, and restore its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet Union. As a military alliance with a collective security commitment at its core, NATO should be reinforcing its exposed eastern flank with a more persistent presence of heavier forces to reassure these countries of NATO’s resolve and capacity to make good on its Article 5 commitment. Military organizations are prone to plan conservatively, and NATO is basing its plans on a worst-case scenario.

From where Putin sits, however, “the correlation of forces,” to use an old Soviet phrase, probably looks quite different. From the Kremlin’s perspective, in its decision to spread east, NATO has muscled in on Russia’s traditional turf. Meanwhile, Moscow believes the United States seeks to subvert the Putin regime by promoting democracy in and around the country. Russia’s estimates of the military balance with NATO are permeated by a deep sense of inferiority in terms of conventional Prompt Global Strike capabilities, nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberweapons, and even the much-hyped hybrid forms of warfare. The Russian general staff, like NATO’s military planners, are basing their plans on worst-case thinking as well. Read more…

June 29, 2016; www.foreignaffairs.com


Spain held its second general election in six months on Sunday, after political leaders failed to form a governing coalition in the wake of December’s inconclusive vote. However, results from Sunday’s voting didn’t move the needle much from December, and Spain, once again, faces the prospect of continued political deadlock.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) managed a better showing this time around, winning 33 percent of the vote, up from 29 percent in December. This gives the party 137 seats in the Spanish parliament, but leaves it short of the 176 seats needed for a majority, so Rajoy must now find coalition partners. 

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) came in second with 22.7 percent of the vote and 85 seats, followed by the Unidos Podemos coalition—comprising Podemos and an alliance of far-left and communist parties known as Izquierda Unida—with 21 percent and 71 seats, and the center-right Ciudadanos with 13 percent and 32 seats. In the December vote, the PSOE won 22 percent of the vote, Podemos 21 percent and Ciudadanos 14 percent.

Rajoy is certainly in a better position to form a government than he was in December, but, as Antonio Barroso, a political analyst, told the AP, “It is unlikely that other parties will rapidly give him their support.” Already the PSOE and Ciudadanosrejected Rajoy’s proposal of a “grand coalition” of moderate parties. Read more….

Maria Savel is an associate editor at World Politics Review. Published on Thursday, June 30, 2016



A tragic split

Written on June 24, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

HOW quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible. A year ago few people imagined that the legions of Britons who love to whinge about the European Union—silly regulations, bloated budgets and pompous bureaucrats—would actually vote to leave the club of countries that buy nearly half of Britain’s exports. Yet, by the early hours of June 24th, it was clear that voters had ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, were about to step boldly into the unknown.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014. Across the Channel, Eurosceptics such as the French National Front will see Britain’s flounce-out as encouragement. The EU, an institution that has helped keep the peace in Europe for half a century, has suffered a grievous blow.

Published in the Economist on June 24th, 2016

The self-inflicted dangers of the EU referendum

Written on June 22, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in EU Expansion, Europe

What were they thinking? It is extraordinary to read a succession of official reports arguing, rightly, that a vote to leave the EU would impose long-term damage and a short-term shock. What sort of government would run such a risk, particularly when the economy has barely recovered from the financial crisis of less than a decade ago? The answer is one that has put the needs of short-term party management above its responsibility for the country’s welfare. David Cameron, prime minister, might soon be known as the man who left the UK in far-from-splendid isolation.

The Treasury has already argued that leaving the EU might lower real gross domestic product by between 3.4 and 9.5 per cent in the long term. This is broadly in line with estimates from other reputable forecasters. Patrick Minford of Cardiff University, a proponent of leaving, argues that the UK would enjoy a jump of 4 per cent in aggregate economic welfare after leaving the EU and adopting free trade (an unlikely choice). But this result is an outlier. It rests on implausible assumptions, not least on

The Treasury has now followed up with a report on the short-term consequences of a vote to leave. In summarising the results, George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has stated that the UK would suffer a “do-it-yourself” recession if it decided to leave. One might better call it a “do-it-himself” recession. For it was the government’s decision to take this risk.

The new report’s main scenario predicts that GDP would be 3.6 per cent lower after two years than if the UK voted to remain, unemployment would be 520,000 higher and the pound would be 12 per cent lower. Under a worse scenario, GDP could be 6 per cent lower, unemployment 820,000 higher and sterling 15 per cent lower. The Institute for Fiscal Studies adds that, instead of an improvement of £8bn a year in the fiscal position, as the net contribution to the EU fell, the budget deficit might be between £20bn and £40bn higher in 2019-20 than otherwise, sharply slowing the planned fiscal consolidation.

Indeed, the Treasury argues, plausibly, that the very possibility of a vote to leave is already having an impact on the economy. But an actual vote to do so in June’s referendum would crystallise this risk and create significant and immediate effects, via three channels. The first of these would be the tendency of households and businesses to adjust at once to becoming permanently poorer. This would lead to significant cuts in consumption and investment. Read more…

MARTIN WOLF, May 26, 2016




What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)? Female genital mutilation or ablation involves the partial or total removal of the external sexual organs of women. FGM is a custom that is currently practiced in many countries in Africa and Asia. This brutal practice is to control female sexual desire and what is more, to get the total submission of women to the family and the husband (Fundacion Kirira).

FGM’s Prevalence: According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 200 million girls alive today have undergone FGM and there are 3 million girls at risk of undergoing the practice every year, with the majority of girls being cut before 15 years of age (2013).

On May 31, the International Relations Club had the honor of hosting a Female Gentile Mutilation (FGM) seminar at IE. The seminar featured Estrella Gimenez the President of Fundacion Kirira, which is an NGO in Spain that helps fight against FGM. In addition to Estrella’s presentation, we also had a MIR student Lula Tensaew tell her touching story about the daily struggles she faces having undergone this practice. Estrella started by sharing the story of how the foundation came about and in a sad tone Estrella said, “One summer in August, I went on a typical safari trip to Kenya and couldn’t help but realize that something was wrong”. The shocking reality was that August was the month of female mutilations in the Tharaka village and all the young girls were being mutilated. When someone in the village asked her why she had not been mutilated, with astonishment, Estrella realized that there was a deep underlying problem. Many girls were dropping out of school to undergo mutilation as early as 12 years of age to prepare them for marriage. Estrella started her NGO in 2002 and 14 years later, thanks to the Kirira Foundation, FGM has been reduced drastically from 90% to less than 5% of FGM cases in the village of Tharaka. Estrella and her team have truly been successful in saving many girls’ lives and they are true heroes.

MIR student Lula Tensaew, shared that when she was a young girl living in Eritrea she was mutilated at 2 years of age. She wanted to shed light on this horrible practice and also believes that by raising awareness, the lives of many girls could be saved. Throughout her life, she has dealt with many health issues due to FGM and emphasized that, “there are many women like me worldwide living with this pain in silence”. We thank Lula for sharing such a personal and deep story. She is truly worthy of our respect and admiration.


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