Of Ukraine and Wishful Thinking
- The Economist and the Telegraph urge Western leaders to confront not just Ukraine’s government but also Vladimir Putin. After 3 months of unrest the country is now expected to have early elections (the official presidential statement in Ukrainian doesn’t say when) at best, under a weak deal just signed between the government and opposition leaders. That alone may not do much to solve deep-seated problems, a decade after the Orange revolution.
- As to Mr. Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has started in her third term to take a (slightly) firmer stance, but she’s constrained by a need for Russian gas to hedge dubious energy policies. President Obama’s talk of a “line” that shouldn’t be crossed has no credibility after his about-face on Syria. Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev is not even picking up the phone when Secretary Hagel tries to reach him. Putin will continue to push against an impotent EU (fear our travel bans!) and a lame duck US administration, as much as he can get away with. It is difficult to see where the fortitude to tell him to back off is going to come from. Yet in the words of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko:
“Those who underestimated Moscow’s readiness to use whatever means to maintain a sphere of influence must draw lessons from this development and help overcome Russia’s imperialistic claims.”
China’s Slowing Economy, Worried Neighbors
- Some financial analysts worry that China’s sharp deleveraging may lead to a hard landing, taking the worldwide economy down with it. China is becoming the world’s largest importer, and is the largest trading partner of commodity exporters such as Australia or Chile. The question is no longer whether China’s economic growth is slowing, but at what pace it is doing so.
- The Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino said a deal allowing the return of a permanent American military presence is “very, very close.” Aquino recently warned against appeasing China.
- The Indian government cashed in AgustaWestland’s bank guarantees placed at an Indian bank in the VVIP deal, but has not been able to do so yet with cash kept in an Italian bank. The Limes magazine notes [in Italian] that Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s birth in Italy amplifies the country’s visibility in India. The fact 2 Italian Navy marines are accused of having killed 2 Indian fishermen 2 years ago hasn’t helped bilateral relationships either.
- The British government has tried to help in the background, but Indian politicians are going to be focused on the forthcoming election. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), whose answers will influence whether AgustaWestland end up barred from the Indian market, has their hands full as they have just been tasked with another fraud investigation involving Air India.
- Hamas tested anti-aircraft missiles against Israel, according to Al Monitor, and they may have been able to take down some UAVs.
- Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports that Israeli arms dealers tried to send F-4 Phantom spare parts to Iran in violation of an arms embargo.
The Limits of Technology
- On O’Reilly Radar, a weblog that cannot be suspected of Luddite instincts, a healthy reminder that some routine human activities remain pretty tough problems for computer automation to handle. Issues that involve ambiguity and that cannot be resolved by brute force looks relatively easy for humans, but are hard to address with software.