Archive for the 'Global politics' Category

After-Christmas thoughts on morals and finance

January 5, 2009

money-lender-and-wife1

(Quentin Metsys, The Moneylender and his Wife, 1514)

Morals have been a big issue in the recent financial crisis. There’s been a generalized and often not very rational outcry on the misdeeds of all these “greedy bankers”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Random thoughts while waiting for the next US president

November 3, 2008

“He can’t lose. Can he?” Asks Gideon Rachman about Barak Obama. So, let’s assume…. Read the rest of this entry »

History Repeating – Russia and the Caribbean Basin

October 18, 2008

(By EDO, via Caracas Chronicles)

I had a Russian-Ukrainian colleague in my previous job in the UK. She loved dancing salsa, and spoke Spanish quasi fluently. She had never lived in a Spanish-speaking country, but learned dancing and the language in Kyiv, with Latin American students who had come over to the Soviet Union for their higher education. I am Central America-born. The Latin connection made it easier for us to get along and our colleagues wonder at our exoticisms. During a trip to Moscow in 2006, I had a long coffee break with a Russian bank employee. He was trained as a military, but ended up a marketing and communications executive in one of Russia’s most successful commercial banks. The discussion ended, far away from business, with Cuba, where members of his military family had been – he was born too late to be able to benefit from such perks. And the Russian army today is nothing for well-born young men. The few Russians I have met struck me as being very well aware of Latin America.

All this to say what? Like Karl Marx, that history repeats itself: “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”. Read the rest of this entry »

Schumpeterian analysis of Russia’s assertiveness in international relations

September 22, 2008

Vladimir Putin and Oleg Deripaska

 Lenin, founder of the Soviet Empire, is famous for many things, but among other for his book published in 1916 Imperialism, the Highest State of Capitalism.  Joseph Schumpeter’s response in an essay on the Sociology of Imperialism published in 1919 retorted that imperialism is the result of excessive statism forged by pre-capitalist forces (the military, agrarian interests. etc), not capitalism. The state, in a sense, instrumentalises capitalists for its aims. Who was right? These theories can be tested in the case of today’s Russia. Read the rest of this entry »

Of Georgia, Russia, responsible stakeholders, and Western contradictions

August 21, 2008

In the current Georgian conflict, the West is a very sorry sight. Not because it doesn’t want to make vague “geopolitical compromises” with the new Authoritarians who cannot wait to act as “responsible stakeholders”, a term coined by Bob Zoellick when calling upon China. (This is the argument of Kishore Mahbubani in the FT recently- courtesy of Robert Amsterdam). With Russia some would say that due to acute gas dependency, the European part of the West has probably been doing these compromises for too long. The US for its part wasn’t doing enough business with Russia to really care (trade relations are very thin), contrary to how it deals with China. And Russia hasnt’ really been behaving like a “responsible stakeholder” lately. Anyway, NATO is hesitant and divided.

So “the West” is watching helplessly Read the rest of this entry »

Good sense into the climate change debate

April 28, 2008

This is a document that inspired me so much that my announced blogging pause will have to do away for now. At an international think tank forum in Atlanta, USA, this week-end, I grabbed a few publications on display for visitors, and must say I was gripped by one in particular: the Civil Society Report on Climate Change, published in November 2007 (I am posting this in my “Always late in my readings category ;-))by a coalition of 41 international free market and free society think tanks. Finally, some reason into the climate change debate! Neither denial of the fact of climate change nor Al Gore style alarmism and new-wave Bali five-star hotel bigotry.

What it says is basically the following: Kyoto-type protocols are not going to solve the problem. Imposing emission targets, as the current protocol does, will cost too much and contribute to impoverishing the world. At the same time, given the projected changes in temperatures, the targets imposed by Kyoto are largely insufficient. Read the rest of this entry »

An apocalyptic end to the Greenspan era. On bailing out, regulating, or simply stopping taking risks

April 3, 2008

 greenspan.jpg

The Credit Crunch has reached unprecedented proportions, not least with the last bail-out of Bear Stearns. More losses are announced. When’s the next bail-out?

Until recently hailed the big guru of the financial world, former Fed chief Alan Greenspan, is now seen as at least partly responsible. He is also the author of a book I haven’t yet come round to read with a telling title: “The Age of Turbulence” (here a few comments on it). In the meantime the cacophonia on “what to do now” has started…..

Even “The Unthinkable” is being thought about, so we are told.  Read the rest of this entry »

Russian and American election year – “Opportunity 08”

February 29, 2008

 This week-end’s big event: Russian presidential elections on Sunday!

Let’s see where the very likely winner Medvedev will take the country. But given that that the West has been very bad at dealing with Russia, I wonder if the next US president will be able to change tack and somehow be able to engage and tame the roaring Russian bear.

Worrying sign: Hillary Clinton – although apparently the best-informed US candidate on Russia – has demonstrated that she can’t even pronounce the name Medvedev…. I got this info from the really excellent Robert Amsterdam Russia-blog. Given that the US risks “Losing Russia”, we hope (oh no, that sounds like candidate Obama….!) that elections this year in both countries will bring change. Given Europe’ structural inability to take up the Russian challenge (a radical change in its foreign policy structures would be needed, as well as in its energy markets),  more immediate hopes can only be put on the United States. The Brookings Institution has a nice banner of the candidates (Huckabee is now lost). But I love the title: “Opportunity 08”. Let’s hope it will be seized in Russian affairs too.opp08_candidates001_rf.jpg

Post-script to this week-end

January 28, 2008

So Mikhail Kasyanov will not be able to run in the Russian presidential elections. Kenya’s violence is on the rise.

It looks like the last wave of democratisation (cum-marketisation) in contemporary history has broken…. Niall Ferguson had a good piece in the FT’s week-end edition (subscription required) on the topic:

“Why does democracy flourish in some countries, but shrivel and die in others? Read the rest of this entry »

Below the chilly heights of Davos: turbulences. Credit crunch to Russia

January 25, 2008

kudrindavos.jpgThis year’s World Economic Forum gathering at Davos is running full steam. Top CEOs and politicians from all over the world flocked in to discuss ways to improve the state of the world. On top of the magic alpine mountain, all these leaders appear like they are seeking respite from the current turbulences in the world economy, in order to philosophize on the state of the world. In between fancy wine tasting sessions, the Credit Crunch is wielding its threatening sword on the fate of the world’s businesses and economies. George Soros himself wrote this week that it is the worst market crisis in the last 60 years. So Soros: Read the rest of this entry »