by Jeffrey Ball

Last month, in some strikingly straight talk, a Mideast oil minister publicly outed his region for a strategy it has long used to buy political peace: subsidizing people’s use of fossil fuels.

“What is really destroying us right now is subsidies,” Oman’s oil and gas minister, Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhy, told an energy conference in Abu Dhabi. With global energy prices rising, he warned, the Mideast no longer can afford to provide fossil fuel to its people at the bargain-basement rates it traditionally has ensured. “Our cars are getting bigger. Our consumption is getting bigger. And the price is almost free,” he said. “We simply need to raise the price of petrol and electricity.”

The Omani oilman was articulating what’s fast becoming an article of faith among countries that, when it comes to energy policy, can agree on little else: Fossil-fuel subsidies are economically and environmentally untenable and should be slashed. The cast of characters now championing this argument includes the Obama Administration, the International Monetary Fund, the International Energy Agency, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the governments of such developing countries as Brazil, China and Iran. According to IMF calculationsissued earlier this year, global fossil-fuel subsidies in 2011 cost $1.9 trillion — fully 2.5% of global gross domestic product — and the biggest single source of subsidies was the United States. Eliminating these subsidies globally, the IMF said, would cut energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions a whopping 13%. Read more…


As published in the New Republic on December 18, 2013 http://www.newrepublic.com


JapanJapan has announced a plan to increase defence spending and transform its military, in a move widely seen as aimed at China. But many on the left believe Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is using the threat from China to pursue his own nationalist dreams, reports the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo.

For a country that, according to its constitution, does not maintain any army, navy or air force, Japan spends an awful lot of money on defence. This year, it was about $60bn (£37bn, 44bn euros) or roughly the same as the UK or France. Of course, Japan does have a military – a large and modern one. But it was designed in the days of the Cold War to protect Japan against an invasion from the north, from Russia.

‘Stand up to China’

But over the last 10 years, China has transformed its military at an astonishing rate. Beijing’s defence budget has more than doubled to over $150bn a year.Today, China is launching new navy ships faster than any other country in the world. It is developing stealth fighter jets and drones, and of course it now has its own aircraft carrierRead more…

Published on December 17, 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/


Kim Jong Un’s reign of fear: What’s next?

Written on December 17, 2013 by Waya Quiviger in Asia

la-oe-snyder-north-korea-jang-20131216-001When a political crisis hits Pyongyang, the leadership’s normal antidote is to hide the real drama in rumors and shadows while assuring the world that outside forces are no match for North Korea’s spirit of “single-hearted unity.” But North Korea’s real-time media coverage of the vituperative public denunciation and execution of Jang Song Taek, the uncle by marriage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has exposed deep divisions within the Kim family leadership and has shocked North Koreans and outsiders alike with its suddenness and its brutality.

By making this bold move to consolidate his power, Kim has shown great confidence. But Jang’s public humiliation and execution for, among other things, “half-heartedly clapping” for Kim at a party conclave, have likely bred fear and shock at every level of North Korean society. Under Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s late father, senior cadres (and especially family members) were sidelined but not executed. Jang’s execution broke this pattern.

The fear pervading North Korea is likely to further sap productivity, setting back the stated goal of achieving a strong and prosperous nation. The task of excavating the roots of Jang’s network of supporters will further weaken the resiliency of the regime.

The elimination of Jang also has ramifications for North Korea’s external relations. Jang was China’s best business partner among North Korea’s leadership and was one of the few elite North Koreans who seemed to grasp the importance of economic reforms. China was not directly implicated in the litany of Jang’s crimes, but the crime of selling North Korea’s natural resources too cheaply to foreign countries at the very least suggests that Kim Jong Un will demand a higher premium for its resources from China. Read more…

Published in the LA Times on December 16, 2013 http://www.latimes.com 



On Thursday 12 December, the IE School of International Relations had the honor of hosting former U.S. Navy Admiral James George Stavridis.  Admiral Stavridis served as the 15th Commander,  U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), and NATO‘s 16th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). He is currently Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Dean Stavridis gave a very insightful lecture on 21st Century Security to a captivated audience composed of IE students, Fletcher alumni living in Madrid and officers from the CESEDEN Spanish military academy.  He began by looking back at the 20th century, a century of terrible conflict and suffering caused principally by two devastating world wars. According to Stavridis, in the 20th century, humanity made a crucial mistake by building walls instead of building bridges: the Maginot Line, the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall to name a few.  All these real or virtual barriers created strife and conflict.

In the 21st century, his premise is that security will be achieved, or at least strengthened, if we build bridges instead of walls. The challenges today are multiple and varied and include violent extremism, tension with nations that are not governed by international rules or norms such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, piracy, illegal trafficking of narcotics, weapons, arms, environmental disasters, cyber attacks. Today, the nuclear threat that we knew in the 20th century has been replaced by a plethora of threats that can only be addressed if we cooperate, if we build bridges. How does one do so? According to Stavridis, there are many practical ways we can strengthen security in the 21st century. One, by learning a foreign language and understanding the culture of another country or another people. Two, by reading more, not just international relations textbooks or the news, but by reading novels about the cultures we wish to understand. Three, by using social networks such a Facebook and Twitter and transmitting the message we wish to communicate: one of peace, democracy, freedom, equality. Four, by educating those who have not had access to education, perhaps through online courses such as Coursera or EdX.  And five, by building alliances, by working as a coalition of many nations instead of choosing to fight our battles alone.

Dean Stavridis concluded his talk by using the metaphor of the rheostat to describe the future of  21st century security. Security is not an on-and-off switch between hard power and soft power, between combat and peace.  It’s a dial that you can regulate between the two extremes.




Africa’s militant threat

Written on December 12, 2013 by Waya Quiviger in Africa, News

The West may have to help France in its efforts to suppress Islamic militancy in Africa

The deaths of two French soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) have reminded the world of the deadly seriousness of France’s latest foreign foray to confront Islamists in their former colonies. Hundreds of troops are still in Mali, where they have helped force insurgents out of their northern city strongholds and into the desert. Now, a force of about 1,500 has been deployed to the CAR, where an alliance of rebels, known as Seleka, seized power in March. Communal fighting recently claimed many lives and the French have started to remove weapons from fighters in a bid to stop the violence.

While Britain and America continue their disengagement from overseas incursions in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has fallen to the French to take up the challenge posed by the spread of militant Islam in Africa. Long the region’s self-styled policeman, France has experience restoring regimes or thwarting rebellions. Over the past three decades, French forces have been deployed in Congo, Rwanda, Chad and the Ivory Coast as well as Mali and the CAR.

Foreign adventures are a useful distraction for political problems at home and President François Hollande certainly has plenty of those. But he has been anxious to distance himself from the more unilateralist stance of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. He exhibits a greater willingness to co-ordinate military action with local and African Union forces, and recently hosted a summit on peace and security on the continent.

The big question is whether the French should be left to get on with it without external military back-up. For now, they seem willing to take responsibility. But if the threat from militant Islam in North Africa continues to grow, their Western allies might have to provide more than moral and logistical support.


Published by The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk on December 11, 2013


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