Monthly Archives: February 2014

Paul Krugman joins the heated debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations with a column on Friday that argues the economic case just isn’t compelling enough for President Obama to be expending political capital on such a divisive issue in an election year.

But Krugman seems to be missing a big part of what President Obama is after with his ambitious second-term trade agenda. Helpfully two Obama confidantes – Vice-president Joe Biden and former chief of staff Rahm “Rahmbo” Emanuel – have broken cover this week to offer what many analysts have long argued is the real justification for US trade policy these days: the strategic imperative. Read more >>

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Crimea and a cash shortage take centre stage in Ukraine
Viktor Yanukovich has fled the scene of last week’s brutal crackdown on protests, but Ukraine still faces real danger from separatist tensions that could spiral into violence and the threat of financial meltdown. Ben Hall is joined over the phone by Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor, in Kiev, and Kathrin Hille, Moscow bureau chief, to discuss Russia’s sabre-rattling, pro-Russian sentiment in Crimea and whether western capitals can come up with a financial lifeline for Ukraine.

Credit Suisse executives testified before the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in what was at times a contentious hearing over allegations of tax evasion.

A scathing report from the subcommittee on Tuesday said that Credit Suisse made false claims in US visa applications, conducted business with clients in secret elevators and shredded documents to help more than 22,000 American customers avoid US taxes.

Credit Suisse chief executive Brady Dougan disputes the report’s claims, saying the bank conducted an expansive internal investigation, shut down client relationships and required US customers to prove tax compliance.

 

Gideon Rachman

Is America really prepared to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year? Even the European nations that also have troops in Afghanistan are none too sure. On the one hand, it is assumed in European capitals that the White House statement on Tuesday – saying that the US military had been instructed to prepare for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan – is partly bluff. It is well known that the Americans are getting on very badly with President Hamid Karzai, and want to put pressure on him. On the other, some of America’s Nato allies fear that the US might be using the argument with Karzai, as an excuse to scale back a post-2014 military commitment that they were already uncomfortable with. Read more >>

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♦ On the trail of Ukraine’s missing Viktor Yanukovich . Rumours swirled that Ukraine’s deposed president was hiding out in Crimea, a pro-Moscow stronghold with easy water access to Russia via the Black Sea.

♦ Gideon Rachman says Ukraine’s fate must be decided by its people.

♦ Hawks on Capitol Hill are pushing for a tougher line on Ukraine from Barack Obama, a president they regard as a passive player at a grand historical moment.

♦ Janan Ganesh says UK prime minister David Cameron has overestimated Angela Merkel’s capacity to deliver change, even if she wanted it.

♦ An alliance of leftwing and regional parties aims to present an alternative to India’s two main parties in May’s general election. Read more >>

By Gideon Rachman
Amid the tragedy, euphoria and confusion in Ukraine, the risks of renewed confrontation between Russia and the west are rising. An east-west struggle over the fate of Ukraine would be a tragedy for the country – increasing the risks of civil war and partition. But while a brutal arm-wrestling match between the Kremlin and the west – with Ukraine as the prize – is a distinct possibility, it is absolutely not in the interests of Russia or the west. On the contrary, the Russians, Europeans and Americans have a common interest in preserving Ukraine as a unified country that avoids civil war and bankruptcy.

John Paul Rathbone

“We could turn Venezuela into Ukraine!” a student protester shouted in Caracas this weekend. It is striking how similar the situations are in the two countries, despite the significant differences.

There have been many tragic deaths in both countries – although about 100 people have died in Ukraine, versus “only” around ten in Venezuela. This difference is one reason why the troubles in Venezuela has not yet captured the same attention as the protests in Ukraine.

Just because Venezuela lacks Ukraine’s immediate geo-political heft – there are no borders in question in Venezuela; Europe’s energy security is not under threat; nor is the reach of Russia’s power or Vladimir Putin’s reputation – does not mean it lacks wider significance.

Caracas provides important economic assistance to Havana, without which Cuba’s economy would sink. Communist Cuba therefore has a vested interest in what happens in Venezuela, just as Russia does in Ukraine – a situation ripe for Cold War style comparisons. Read more >>

  • Economix does its take on the Transpacific Partnership and free trade.
  • The Archdiocese of Newark doesn’t have enough money to keep a school open, but it does have funds to build a palatial vacation home.
  • Roy Isacowitz criticises Benjamin Netanyahu’s definition of boycott supporters as anti-semites.
  • Delphine Minoui sees in Egypt a current, real-life version of “Rhinoceros,” the 1959 play by Eugène Ionesco.
  • Soviet cuisine is making a comeback.
  • David Gardner on how efforts to pressure the Assad regime in Syria have backfired.
  • The suspension of Nigeria’s central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, is likely to cost the country dearly.
  • The trial of Wu Guijun, who was accused of disrupting public order during a labour protest in Guangdong, could mark the end of a period of relative tolerance enjoyed by China’s worker movement.

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