Showing posts with label europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label europe. Show all posts

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Chinese Proposal Is A Start

You have to start somewhere. An obvious starting point would be to get both Russia and Ukraine to agree on a ceasefire and for Russia to pledge to no longer issue nuclear threats. With that the peace negotiations can begin.

It is not going to be possible for Ukraine to cede any territory, but it could proactively pledge to not join NATO and Russia could pledge to not cross its borders in the future, with China and the US as guarantors for the pledge.

Ukraine could pledge to rearchitect its constitution and have a federal structure and a major devolution of power.

War crimes and destroyed infrastructure and buildings are going to be thorny issues. Instead of making the Russians to pay for it all, the US, China and the EU could help take off some of the load. Bucha asks for judicial action. Some Russian army units might have to face The Hague, or something designed separately and of limited jurisdiction in time.

At that point all sanctions can be lifted.

And the refugees can come home.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

A World Marching Towards World War III

As hostilities intensify, Russian and Iranian cells are expected to take out lightly guarded soft targets in the U.S., including reservoirs, bridges, electrical grids, and fiber-optic cable systems – and insiders believe the attacks have already begun............ In the last three months, at least nine electrical substations have been attacked in North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington State, cutting power to tens of thousands of people and sparking a review of security standards for the national power grid.......... While three white supremacists recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to disrupt generating stations throughout America, key intelligence experts believe the domestic terrorists were following a path trail-blazed by Russian saboteurs.

How the Oscars and Grammys Thrive on the Lie of Meritocracy Despite all the markers of excellence, contenders like Danielle Deadwyler, Viola Davis and Beyoncé weren’t recognized for the highest honors. Niche awards don’t suffice. ........ Beyoncé, one of the most prolific and transformative artists of the 21st century, can win only in niche categories. Her music — a continually evolving and genre-defying sound — still can’t be seen as the standard-bearer for the universal. ......... Black women artists, despite their ingenuity, influence and, in Beyoncé’s case, unparalleled innovation, continue to be denied their highest honors. ........ the false myth of meritocracy upon which these institutions, their ceremonies and their gatekeepers thrive. ......... we saw a new Oscar strategy playing out before our eyes. A groundswell of fellow actors, including A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and even Cate Blanchett, who would go on to be nominated herself, publicly endorsed Riseborough’s performance on social media, at screenings and even at a prize ceremony. ......... “So it’s only the films and actors that can afford the campaigns that deserve recognition?” Ricci wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post. “Feels elitist and exclusive and frankly very backward to me.” ........ What fascinated me, however, was that what was being framed as a grass-roots campaign to circumvent studio marketing machines revealed another inside game. A racially homogeneous network of white Hollywood stars appeared to vote in a small but significant enough bloc to ensure their candidate was nominated. .......... As conceived by Dominik, Monroe merely flits from injury to injury, all in the service of making her downfall inevitable. ....... another pattern: Oscar voters continue to reward women’s emotional excess more than their restraint. In most films with best actress nominations this year, women’s anger as outbursts is a common thread .......... “Everything Everywhere All at Once” brilliantly explores it as both a response to IRS bureaucratic inefficacy and intergenerational tensions between a Chinese immigrant mother and her queer, Asian American daughter. ............ “Blonde” is again an exception, for de Armas’s Monroe expresses no external rage but sinks into depression and self-loathing, never directing her frustration at the many men who abuse her. .......... Unlike the main characters of the other films, Till-Mobley, in real life, had to repress her rational rage over the gruesome murder of her son, Emmett, to find justice and protect his legacy. Onscreen, Deadwyler captured that paradox by portraying Till-Mobley’s constantly shifting self and her struggle to privately grieve her son’s death while simultaneously being asked to speak on behalf of a burgeoning civil rights movement. ............

female protagonists are often lauded for falling apart.

............ even that assumes that all women’s emotions are treated equally, when the truth is that rage itself is racially coded ....... depict Black women’s rage as an individual emotion and a collective dissent, a combination that deviates from many on-screen representations of female anger as a downward spiral and self-destructive. ............... the “Till” director Chinonye Chukwu critiqued Hollywood on Instagram for its “unabashed misogyny towards Black women” ........ “What is this inability of Academy voters to see Black women, and their humanity, and their heroism, as relatable to themselves?” ......... there are far more Black women directors and complex Black women characters on the big screen than ever before

At the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, a Crowd in Cruise Control The “Top Gun: Maverick” star and producer is mobbed as Austin Butler, Angela Bassett, Ke Huy Quan and others angle to chat with him........ lk into the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton. ....... Cruise even posed for pictures with Steven Spielberg, a once-frequent collaborator whom the star has not been publicly photographed with in over a decade. ..... there was no mistaking Cruise as the ballroom’s top dog ........ In the schmoozy hour before lunch was served, he was so mobbed by his fellow nominees that he was hardly able to move more than a few feet. ........ I watched for a while as “Elvis” star Austin Butler drifted with slow, inexorable determination toward Cruise, who finally pulled the younger man toward him by clamping a hand on his shoulder like a stapler. ....... Yang pleaded with the nominees to keep their speeches short: “We need to be sensitive to our running time,” she said. “This is live television, after all.” .......... “I’ve been acting since I was 19 and I’m 64 — do the math,” Curtis told me. “That’s many years of watching this photograph being taken.” Her late parents, the actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, had both been Oscar nominees. “To be connected through this legacy of their work and my work and now being included here, it’s very powerful,” she said. ......... “I’ve got one more expression,” shouted best-actor nominee Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”). ...... “We talked about how we both did very badly at school,” she said, “and now here we are, at the coolest graduation picture ever.”

What Should I Do About a Neighbor Who Verbally Abused Her Child? A reader who overheard a neighbor shouting cruelties at her young son wonders whether, and how, to intervene.

‘Our Losses Were Gigantic’: Life in a Sacrificial Russian Assault Wave Poorly trained Russian soldiers captured by Ukraine describe being used as cannon fodder by commanders throwing waves of bodies into an assault........ The soldiers were sitting ducks, sent forth by Russian commanders to act essentially as human cannon fodder in an assault. ........ relying on overwhelming manpower, much of it comprising inexperienced, poorly trained conscripts, regardless of the high rate of casualties. ........ two main uses of the conscripts in these assaults: as “storm troops” who move in waves, followed by more experienced Russian fighters; and as intentional targets, to draw fire and thus identify Ukrainian positions to hit with artillery. ....... “The next group would follow after a pause of 15 or 20 minutes, then another, then another.” ........... By luck, the bullets missed him, he said. He lay in the dark until he was captured by Ukrainians who slipped into the buffer area between the two trench lines. ......... The soldiers in Sergei’s squad were recruited from penal colonies by the private military company known as Wagner, whose forces have mostly been deployed in the Bakhmut area. There, they have enabled Russian lines to move forward slowly, cutting key resupply roads for the Ukrainian Army. ........ Russia’s deployment of former convicts is a dark chapter in a vicious war. Russia Behind Bars, a prison rights group, has estimated that as many as 50,000 Russian prisoners have been recruited since last summer, with most sent to the battle for Bakhmut. ........... Russia has deployed about 320,000 soldiers in Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency. An additional 150,000 are in training camps, officials said, meaning there is the potential for half a million soldiers to join the offensive. ........

But using infantry to storm trenches, redolent of World War I, brings high casualties.

......... Russia’s regular army this month began recruiting convicts in exchange for pardons, shifting the practice on the Russian side in the war from the Wagner private army to the military. ......... rates of wounded and killed at around 70 percent in battalions featuring former convicts ......... over the past two weeks, Russia had probably suffered its highest rate of casualties since the first week of the invasion. ......... “Nobody could ever believe such a thing could exist,” Sergei said of Wagner tactics. .......... The soldiers arrived at the front straight from Russia’s penal colony system, which is rife with abuse and where obedience to harsh codes of conduct in a violent setting is enforced by prison gangs and guards alike. The same sense of beaten subjugation persists at the front ........... enabling commanders to send soldiers forward on

hopeless, human wave attacks

. ................ “We are nobody and have no rights.” ......... Sergei said he had worked as a cellphone tower technician in a far-northern Siberian city, living with his wife and three children. In the interview, he admitted to dealing marijuana and meth, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2020. ......... was not offered to rapists and drug addicts, but murderers, burglars and other prisoners were welcome. .......... On the night of Jan. 1, they were commanded to advance 500 yards along the tree line, then dig in and wait for a subsequent wave to arrive. One soldier carried a light machine gun. The others were armed with only assault rifles and hand grenades. ........... “It’s effective. Yes, they have heavy losses. But with these heavy losses, they sometimes advance.” ........... they are being used to conserve tanks and armored personnel carriers for the expected offensive. But they could also serve as a template for wider fighting. .......... are herded into the battlefield by harsh discipline: “They have orders, and they cannot disobey orders, especially in Wagner.” .......... “They brought us to a basement, divided us into five-person groups and, though we hadn’t been trained, told us to run ahead, as far as we could go” ............ From his time as a stretcher bearer, he said, he estimated that half of the men in each assault were wounded or killed, with shrapnel and bullet wounds the most common injuries. .........

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Dollar, Weaponized

America started using the dollar system as a geopolitical weapon in earnest after the attacks of September 11th 2001. President Donald Trump has taken this policy to a new level of intensity, using sanctions as his main foreign-policy tool and even targeting allies with “secondary” sanctions that punish anyone who trades with states in America’s bad books. America’s power ultimately stems from its ability to prohibit firms from using its financial system, in turn leaving them isolated and unable to interact with most counterparties. Often the effect is fatal....... Russia has substantially de-dollarised its trade flows, foreign debt and bank assets. ...... Russia, China, India and others are discussing—and signing—bilateral or wider deals to settle trade in national currencies. They are also exploring alternatives to swift, the dominant payments-messaging network, over which America holds sway. Europe, meanwhile, has built Instex, a clearing-house, that could allow its firms to trade with Iran while bypassing America’s financial cops. ...... Central bankers from Europe to China are stepping up work on public digital currencies. These could help bring down the cost of electronic cross-border payments, which is still relatively high. Some foresee the creation of cryptobaskets of reserve currencies. ....... an inflection point has been reached. Since Mr Trump began firing off financial ordnance, his targets have gone from merely musing about breaking free from the dollar to doing something about it ..... the dollar’s current pre-eminence is not an unalloyed good for America: it distorts the currency’s value (upwards) and market interest rates (downwards). ...... Some economists believe the Depression was partly caused by the absence of a hegemon to steady the world economy.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


When North Korea had already held talks with the Chinese president and had talked of peninsular denuclearization and a possible Korean unification with a major gesture of time zone synchronization, those were positive signs. Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal was not good timing, to say the least. The US sounded like it wanted a deal with North Korea that it had with Iran. If that is your tune to sing, you don't walk out of the Iran nuclear deal. That was a clear signal to North Korea even if they agreed to a deal that the US wanted, the US had no intention of honoring it. Trump also managed to talk about Libya and Gaddafi in the meantime. That was like saying to Kim, sign the deal that we will not honor, and, by the way, we want you killed out in the streets.

The first order of business was a path to denuclearization. Then massive engagement leading to a Korean unification. The North Korean regime as is would not have stayed in its current shape. West Germany did not become East Germany. And there has not been a one state two systems in Germany.

In the mean time the US has managed to lose all of its allies in Europe on the Iran nuclear deal. And that was not the first strike. The Paris Climate Accord, and trade were already major issues. Japan kept the Trans Pacific Partnership, that Trump would now like to join, he says. To that the TPP nations have said, welcome, but there is nothing to negotiate anymore. Join as is.

And India thought America, Europe, India, Japan and Australia are a thing. That was before Trump declared his intentions for a trade war with China, a recipe for a global Great Depression. India's Modi has had to spend two full days in informal talks with the Chinese president in response, and another full day with the Russian president.

Just like the climate accord and the Iran deal can go on with or without the US, the two Koreas should take steps towards unification.

Trump’s Relationship With North Korea Just Got More Dangerous: Some Republicans have praised Trump for his North Korea diplomacy, and there’s been talk about him winning a Nobel Peace Prize. That was always ludicrous, and his North Korea policy is in fact a fine example of ineptitude. .......... Trump’s jingoistic rhetoric didn’t particularly intimidate North Korea, but it terrified South Korea, which feared it would be collateral damage in a new Korean War. So President Moon shrewdly used the Olympics to undertake a careful peace mission to bring the U.S. and North Korea together, flattering each side to make this happen (Moon is a world-class Trump flatterer, and other leaders around the world have noted his success). This was commendable on Moon’s part; he’s the one who genuinely did have a shot at the peace prize. ........ Yet John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, spoke up in ways calculated to unnerve the North Koreans, by talking about the Libya model. When you cite as a model a country whose leader then ended up being executed by his own people, that’s not usually persuasive to another dictator. ....... North Korean leaders themselves responded to Bolton’s comments with harsh, over-the-top rhetoric, including the comment about Pence. This was a major miscalculation on their part, escalating the ineptitude and helping to kill the summit. ......... While the North Koreans didn’t get the summit they wanted with Trump, they have managed the process quite well. They used the rush of diplomacy to rebuild ties with Beijing and start discussions about economic integration with South Korea, and to moderate their international image. They’ve also created something of a wedge between Washington and Seoul, as was apparent in the response to Trump’s cancellation by a South Korean government spokesman: “We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means.”

Trump’s foolish conviction on North Korea: In the end what we had was the Art of the Schlemiel. It’s a Yiddish word — a New Yorkism — which President Trump may know. It means a foolish person, in this case a president who accepts the North Korean leader’s invitation to a summit meeting with no preparation but a touching belief in his own negotiating brilliance. That summit is now off. ......... The president announced he would be a no-show at next month’s planned meeting after North Korea showed “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement.” Trump was referring to recent comments by North Korean officials. The latest called Vice President Pence “ignorant and stupid.” Pence is neither, but it was not smart of him to advance Libya as the model for North Korea’s nuclear disarmament. Not only did Libya essentially capitulate to Western demands, but its leader, Moammar Gaddafi, lost both his regime and his life. ......... Trump’s narcissism and his lack of empathy are a hindrance in foreign affairs. He has to put himself in the shoes of his adversaries and that he cannot do. ......... he was wrong in the first place to plunge into a summit that had not been meticulously planned. Characteristically, his ego got the best of him and he trusted his instincts which he feels are never wrong. It is the conviction of a schlemiel.

North Korea nuclear test tunnels 'destroyed'

South Korean president says Trump cancelling Kim Jong Un summit is 'very regretful and disconcerting'

Twitter Critics Mercilessly Mock Trump For Canceling Summit With Kim
Donald Trump cancels Kim Jong-un summit, citing North Korea’s ‘tremendous anger’ and boasts of US’s ‘massive’ nukes
'Very Perplexed': International Confusion, Concern After Trump Cancels Summit: "Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed," Yonhap quotes Moon as saying.......... Moon, who spoke to Kim Jong Un in a historic meeting in April, was in Washington earlier this week to meet with Trump and discuss strategy for the summit......... And other world leaders expressed confusion or alarm about Trump's decision. ........... British Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. is "disappointed" that the talks have been called off ........ On Tuesday, Trump warned that there was a "very substantial chance [the meeting] won't work out." North Korea had been signaling that it might call off the summit itself, objecting to military exercises in South Korea and comments from American politicians.

North Korea launches tirade against ‘stupid’ US officials: North Korea has launched a tirade against the “ignorant and stupid remarks” of US officials and threatened to walk away from a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump next month..........“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behaviour of the United States,” said Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice-foreign minister, on Thursday. ........ The comments followed continued references by US officials, in particular vice-president Mike Pence, to the “Libya model” for denuclearisation, which is increasingly being used by the White House as a euphemism for the overthrow and murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. ....... Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi was toppled and murdered in 2011 by western-backed rebels — a fate that North Korean officials believe he could have avoided had he not abandoned his nuclear weapons programme years earlier. ....... the potentially historic meeting has been thrown into jeopardy in recent days amid a bitter backlash from Pyongyang over what it calls Washington’s “unilateral” demands. ....... At the crux of the issue lies a chasm in perception over what prompted the summit in the first place. .......... Mr Trump believes his “maximum pressure” strategy coerced Mr Kim to the negotiating table and the US can dictate terms as a result. ......... For its part, North Korea said it agreed to the meeting out of its own volition and should be treated as an equal nuclear power in negotiations. ........ Initially hailed as “gracious gesture” by Mr Trump, the dismantlement of the site has been criticised by experts, who say evidence about the extent of the regime’s nuclear programme will be lost in the process. 

North Korea says it has officially dismantled its nuclear test site

When Trump meets Kim, a whole lot could go wrong: Washington and Pyongyang are presenting different interpretations of what denuclearization means to the world (more on that later), and they clearly have conflicting expectations about how the mechanics would work...... Pyongyang is thought to have a number of deadly agents in its hands, including anthrax, cholera and the plague....... Kim and Trump's red lines may be unbridgeable. Although the North Korean dictator has been talking about peace treaties and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, there is a strong likelihood that he never intended to follow through. As last week's "no unilateral denuclearization" announcement indicated, it defies common sense for the Kim regime to give up its nuclear weapons after decades of research, development and testing. North Korea has endured harsh sanctions, political isolation and financial deprivation; why would it destroy its functioning nuclear deterrent at the urging of the U.S. now? ...... The summit may be called off.

North Korea: U.S.' actions will determine if there is a summit or a "nuclear-to-nuclear showdown"

China’s backroom talks with North Korea thrust into spotlight: Trump blames Beijing for summit setbacks, but experts say Pyongyang is not a vassal state........ Analysts say Kim Jong Un could be playing the big powers off each other to North Korea’s advantage ...... China has always preferred to do diplomacy in quiet back rooms, far away from the public glare. ....... But against the backdrop of a similarly epoch-making diplomatic opening between the US and North Korea, Beijing’s behind-the-scenes role has been thrust into the limelight by US President Donald Trump.......... It is a position where China is profoundly uncomfortable. “One side is whispering, and the other is saying everything through a bullhorn,” joked one foreign diplomat. ........... China insists it backs peace talks between the US and North Korea, although it wants bilateral talks replaced by multilateral talks as soon as possible, giving Beijing a seat at the table.......... North Korea’s overture to the US of a freeze on nuclear testing earlier this year was not accompanied by a corresponding freeze on military exercises in the South. ........ China has always championed the idea of a “dual freeze” — of nuclear tests by the North and military manoeuvres by the South. ....... Kim Il Sung, Mr Kim’s grandfather, grew adept at playing the Soviet Union against China in the 1950s and 1960s, and now his grandson may be using the same tactics with China and the US.

The hypothetical reunification of Korea: ...... the transfers from West Germany to East Germany in 1989, calculating a cost at around €1.7trn in today's euros, around 62 per cent of West Germany's current GDP, or roughly 8 per cent of the European Union's nominal GDP ......... The Korean populations are closer in size, with around 26m North Korean citizens compared to South Korea's 51m, a near 2-to-1 ratio versus West and East Germany's split of around 4-to-1. So all else being equal, the lack of a need for serious population flows from south to north should at least partly aid unification. ........ Much of the industrial base in Germany that supported the war efforts during the 1940s were located in the former East Germany. Mercedes, BMW, VW, ThyssenKrupp, and Bosch, which are household names today, but all of them had major factories before May 1945 in support of Germany’s military operations. The industrial ‘culture’ has never disappeared in EG, even if it had faded somewhat under communist rule. ........ the severe lack of industrial infrastructure north of the Korean border will ultimately require heavier investment than Eastern Germany. For perspective on just how far behind North Korea's infamously isolated economy is, UBS estimates GDP per capita in North Korea to be only $648. In comparison, the equivalent figure south of the peninsula comes in at $27,396. ........ Scaling its per-capita figure up to nationwide GDP, North Korea's economy totals $16.3bn, about 12 per cent of Jeff Bezos's net worth. If North Korea's economy was to match it's southern counterpart, this figure would have to grow by a factor of 43, or $684bn. ....... the US, China, Japan, and South Korea split the costs evenly: USD500 billion each over a decade. ......... This would be 2.4%, 3.5%, 9.7%, and 29.5% of today’s GDP of the US, China, Japan, and SK, and only 1.7%, 1.6%, 7.3%, and 18.3% of the GDP of the four nations over the coming decade. This price tag seems affordable for the four countries mentioned above. ........... Around $2trn over ten years then. Whether the four named countries will deem it “affordable” is another question, particularly as the Trump administration seems reticent to fiscally support Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year. ...... the extreme malnutrition in North Korea. A UNICEF estimate from January estimates around 200,000 children in North Korea suffer from the affliction. Malnutrition, of course, carries health effects beyond childhood, such as a reduction in motor skills and learning ability. ........ Malnutrition’s economic costs are substantial: productivity losses to individuals are estimated at more than 10 percent of lifetime earnings, and gross domestic product (GDP) lost to malnutrition runs as high as 2 to 3 percent ....... less risk of nuclear apocalypse is bullish for global growth.

Britain disappointed after Trump cancels North Korea summit: UK PM May
Canceling of Trump-Kim Meeting Upends Asia but Could Help China: “Trump walking away from the summit lets North Korea meet all its objectives: public recognition, lighter sanctions, damage to U.S. alliances and continued nuclear advancement” ........ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, on the other hand, may be breathing a sigh of relief. Officials in Tokyo were worried that the talks were moving too quickly, without enough Japanese involvement, and could result in a deal that would benefit the United States but leave Japan vulnerable to North Korea’s arsenal. ........ Mr. Trump also called Mr. Xi a “world-class poker player,” a backhanded compliment for a world leader whom Mr. Trump has called a friend and a partner in enforcing international sanctions on the North over its nuclear weapons program. ...... The confusion and finger-pointing show how complex the situation is, with numerous actors negotiating in multiple channels with myriad and sometimes overlapping agendas. ....... Chinese analysts say China has much to gain from a peace deal that would prevent a potentially disastrous conflict with the United States on its border, and that in the long run might result in the removal of American troops from South Korea. ....... “Blaming the Chinese for the change in tone from North Korea strikes me as trying to find a Chinese scapegoat for a summit failure"

My holiday in North Korea – what I learned in the world's most secretive state: On our 10-night tour, our three English speaking guides, the enforcer, the cheerleader and the persuader, show us a good time while keeping us on message. They take the lead in the open mic sessions on the bus that becomes our daytime home. They sing Korean folk songs with gusto but take even more pleasure in telling jokes against Americans and Japanese, the latter loathed on both sides of the DMZ for their brutal colonisation (1910-1945) and the “comfort women” they conscripted to pleasure the Imperial Army. ......... citizens have no foreign television, no internet and no right to travel outside their provinces. The fields, seen through the windows of the bus, are ploughed by oxen and harvested by hand. On occasion, uniformed soldiers are spotted digging ditches. Housing allocation ensures that children stay with their parents until they get married. Workers have 15 days holiday a year plus Sundays. What do they do? Go to the cinema or have a picnic in the park.

Inside the luxury world of Kim Jong-un: satellite images revealed that construction had been completed on a series of five private aircraft runways next to a few of the leader’s palaces. ...... "These runways are located near Kim family compounds - sometimes within the security perimeters - and next to private train stations that were used by Kim Jong Il” ...... The palace area is said to also house the leader’s private yachts, jet-skis and villas used for entertaining guests, while another extravagant palace a short drive from the new runway was said to be a summer haunt of Kenji Fujimoto, the Japanese chef who claimed to have spent summers with the leader’s father. ....... The former NBA (National Basketball Association) star described the life of Mr Kim, who he referred to as a “good friend” at the time, as a “seven-star” party of endless cocktails and jet-skis following a week spent on the leader’s private island........"It's [the island] like going to Hawaii or Ibiza, but he's the only one that lives there," Mr Rodman said. ........... "He's got 50 to 60 [people] around him all the time - just normal people, drinking cocktails and laughing the whole time..... "If you drink a bottle of tequila, it's the best tequila," he added. "Everything you want, he has the best." ......Mr Kim’s 200 foot-yacht was a "cross between a ferry and a Disney boat," according to Mr Rodman. ....... Princess Yachts, the manufacturer of the yacht, is owned by LVMH, the French luxury goods group which includes the luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton. The 98MY model of the yacht, which was an updated version of the 95MY, was estimated to cost more than £5.6 million at the time. ........ Perhaps inspired by the boarding school days of his formative teenage years spent in Switzerland, Mr Kim also ordered a “world class” luxury ski resort to be built, which opened last year. The estimated £21 million ski resort, which features 70 miles of multi-level ski runs, a hotel, a heliport and cable cars, was visited by Mr Kim in late 2013 who spent New Year’s Eve there and described “with great satisfaction" that everything was "impeccable". ........ While some of the country's nearly 24 million people might be lacking food, shelter and other basic necessities, the North Korean leader's regime was found to have had an increase in imports of musical instruments, cosmetics, handbags, leather products, watches and cars made in Japan and China ........ Other purchases that were revealed included bottles of high-end alcohol costing the state $30 million (£20 million), electronic goods costing $37 million and luxury watches costing a further $8.2 million.

Libyan remarks may have sunk Donald Trump’s North Korea summit: both sides have resorted to chest-beating about their respective nuclear arsenals. ....... increasingly clear that the US and North Korea understand different things by the term “denuclearisation”. For the Trump administration, that must simply mean that North Korea scraps its nuclear weapons and dismantles its nuclear programme. For the North Koreans, however, “denuclearisation” was always framed as being part of a general disarmament process on the Korean peninsula, which would probably also involve the departure of US troops from South Korea ..... In the soap opera of “the Donald” and “little rocket man”, almost any plot-twist remains possible.

Trump Can Win by Walking Away From Korea Talks: What’s more, the U.S. can promise Kim not to invade his country. The U.S. can entice Kim with cash and trade. The U.S. can perform all kinds of diplomatic acrobatics and pretend this tyrant is a statesman. But no one can guarantee that one day the North Korean people will not rise up against him. The Soviet Union had a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the world dozens of times over, but even that regime eventually met its end after Boris Yeltsin decided holding the empire together wasn’t worth the repression required. ..... Back when Bolton was undersecretary of state in George W. Bush’s first term, he used to keep framed copies of Iranian and North Korean propaganda sheets that denounced him. ..... Bolton knows the nuclear file and rogue states better than almost anyone else in the foreign policy establishment. If anyone will know a tough nuclear agreement, it’s the man who has spent the last three years trying to get America out of the weak one Barack Obama cut with Iran....... Ronald Reagan was also eager for a diplomatic victory, in his summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. The two leaders came close to an agreement that would end the arms race that had bankrupted the Soviets. But at the last minute, Gorbachev asked Reagan to end testing missile defense systems. The Bolton of that scenario – administration hard-liner Richard Perle – told Reagan that this demand would kill the Pentagon's program. ....... Reagan went against popular opinion and walked out of the summit. Within three years the Soviet Union collapsed......Forget “the art of the deal”; sometimes you win by walking away. Reagan never received a Nobel Peace Prize for reaching a grand bargain with Gorbachev. He had to settle for winning the Cold War.

White House: North Korea's response to Pence was 'last straw'
Trump calls off North Korea summit with Kim

'Political Dummy' and 'Libya Model': The Mike Pence - North Korea Exchange That Killed the Summit: When asked to clarify if he was threatening Kim as the 'Libya model' ended with regime change and death for Moammar Gadhafi, Pence added this is not a 'threat' so much as a 'fact' ......... She added: “To borrow their words, we can also make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.”

South Korea's President Moon Says Talks With Kim Will Resume When U.S. Air Drills End: Pyongyang pulled out of high-level talks with Seoul on May 16, blunting the optimism that followed Moon and Kim’s historic April 27 meeting, in which the latter pledged “a new era of peace” on the peninsula. Calling the joint drills a “provocative military ruckus” North Korea also said it would “reconsider” Kim’s planned June 12 summit with the U.S. if America tried to “force” its “unilateral nuclear abandonment.” ........ Pyongyang has long regarded U.S.–South Korea joint military exercises a rehearsal for invasion and particularly objects to the inclusion of bombers. The U.S. dropped more ordinance on North Korea in the 1950’s than it did in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. ...... While Pinkston has described North Korean nuclear disarmament as analogous to “the Pope abandoning Jesus” he says that Moon, an accomplished diplomat, would be hoping that social interaction and engagement will persuade Kim leader he is not under threat. ...... Trump meanwhile, “is applying the kind of tools and instruments and tactics in a local real estate market in NYC,” says Pinkston. But “with an international system there are no courts, there’s no third-party enforcer. It’s way over his head and it’s dangerous.”

North Korea Demolishes Its Nuclear Test Site In A 'Huge Explosion'

Trump cancels summit with North Korea's Kim, warns that military ready: and warned that the U.S. military was ready in the event of any reckless acts by North Korea. ....... what would have been the first-ever meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12. ..... The cancellation came just hours after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its main nuclear test site, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing....... North Korea’s announcement of its plan to destroy its only nuclear test site had been widely welcomed as a positive, if largely symbolic, step. Kim has declared his nuclear force complete, amid speculation the site was obsolete anyway...... South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who worked hard to help set up the summit and urged Trump at a White House meeting on Tuesday not to let a rare opportunity slip away, said he was “perplexed” by the cancellation. He urged Trump and Kim to talk directly......... The reference to Pence that offended the White House came in a statement released by North Korean media citing Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui. She called Pence a “political dummy” for comparing North Korea - a “nuclear weapons state” - to Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi gave up his unfinished nuclear development program, only to be killed later by NATO-backed fighters. ....... “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used” ..... Rhetoric reached new heights under Trump as he mocked Kim as “little rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary. Kim called Trump mentally deranged. ....... It comes at a time when Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has drawn criticism and his moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem has fueled violence. An investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election hangs over his presidency.

Why did anyone ever take Trump’s North Korea diplomacy seriously?: Trump lies and says nonsense all the time. ....... He never delivered his much-promised plan to release a “terrific” Obamacare alternative that would cover everyone. Instead, he backtracked on his promise to protect Medicaid from cuts. He never took on the National Rifle Association. He never delivered a solution for DREAMers, and, of course, Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall...... He’s dropped the promise to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare. He dropped the promise to break up big banks. He dropped the promise of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. He dropped the promise to develop a tax program that would leave the rich paying more. And, of course, his version of “draining the swamp“ has brought a level of corruption to official Washington that would have embarrassed the congressional barons of the Gilded Age....... it has been conducted so far like you would expect a bullshitter to conduct policy. ...... “for at least two decades, leaders in North Korea have been seeking a personal meeting with an American president,” and across all that time, American presidents have been saying no. ...... “Kim Jong Il wanted to meet with President Clinton.” ...... rather than defend the president’s dovish new direction, Republicans — including the White House itself — spun the meeting as a concession by the North Koreans. ....... When a notorious liar does something dramatic and new and immediately tries (poorly) to cover up what it is that he’s doing, a sensible reaction would have been to become alarmed and suspicious — not to suddenly become credulous and naive. ....... Much of the US national security establishment, however, decided to simply block out everything they have learned from everything Trump has ever done in his career in business and politics. ...... It’s good that Trump gave up the ghost here rather than trying to fake his way through a summit. But it’s critical that the country’s political and media establishment try to actually learn its lesson here. Trump lies about a lot of things. He talks nonsense constantly. And while those of us who don’t work in the White House can’t stop him from doing those things, we can certainly cover him as a habitual liar and bullshitter rather than waking up each morning like we’ve never seen Trump in action before.

Trump canceled the Kim Jong Un summit — but you can still buy the official summit coin

Kim Jong Un holds second meeting with Xi Jinping in China: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has paid a second visit to China in two months, meeting with President Xi Jinping ahead of highly anticipated talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump...... Kim said he was willing to denuclearize "as long as relevant parties eliminate the hostile policy and security threats" against Pyongyang...... In an unprecedented meeting at the demilitarized zone separating the two countries, Kim became the first North Korean leader to step into South Korean territory since 1953...... During the summit, Kim and Moon committed themselves to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and pledged to bring a formal end to the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ceased...... In the past, North Korean leaders have been reluctant to travel by air on international journeys, especially Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, who famously went everywhere in his personal armored train....... The Chinese President is reportedly planning a trip to the North Korean capital Pyongyang

South Korean president says Trump cancelling Kim Jong Un summit is 'very regretful and disconcerting': "It is very regretful and disconcerting that the US-NK summit will not happen as planned," Moon's office said. "Denuclearization and the lasting peace on the Korean peninsula cannot be abandoned or delayed as they are the historical assignment.........."South Korea's Blue House added: "The sincerity of the affected parties who have been working to resolve the problem has not changed. It is hard to resolve sensitive and difficult diplomatic issues with the current way of communications. [We] hope that the leaders resolve problems through direct and close dialogue." ...... The meeting, which was scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, would have been the first-ever face-to-face meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader...... North Korea had recently canceled planned talks with South Korea, saying the annual military drills between its southern neighbor and the U.S. represented a threat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

बॉलीवुड को अन्ग्रेजी पिक्चर बनाना चाहिए

Deepika Padukone to present award at MTV EMAs

प्रियंका चोपड़ा और दीपिका पादुकोण का जो क्रौसोवर हुआ है वो किस लिए? स्वाभाविक है टैलेंट है।

लेकिन एक बिजनेस एन्गल भी है। हॉलीवुड वाले इन्डियन मार्केट को टार्गेट कर रहे हैं।

बॉलीवुड में देखो। पिक्चर बनाते हैं हिन्दी में लेकिन इन्टरव्यू से लेके अवार्ड फंक्शन सब इंग्लिश मीडियम।

अमरीका मार्स गया। तो भारत भी गया। और बहुत कम खर्चे में। उसी तरह बॉलीवुड वाले को इंग्लिश में फिल्म बनाना चाहिए अमरीकी मार्केट के लिए। ग्लोबल मार्केट
के लिए।

Strictly business.

जब गोरों ने भारत पर राज किया तो 30 करोड़ भारतीयों पर तीन लाख गोरों का राज था। सैनिक, सिपाही, कर्मचारी सब भारतीय।

दुनिया के इतिहास में मानसिक गुलामी का उससे बड़ा उदाहरण नहीं मिलेगा।

अभी टेक्नोलॉजी में देखो। सैनिक, सिपाही, कर्मचारी सब भारतीय।

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Paris And Brussels

At what point is it Pearl Harbor? There is a threshold.

One Final Battle
Mecca To Jerusalem
One World, One Government

Explosions at Airport and Subway Kill 34 in Brussels

Sunday, January 03, 2016


A Pain in the Athens
Why Greece Isn't to Blame for the Crisis
despite endless lazy moralizing commentary to the contrary, Greece has very little to do with the crisis that bears its name. To see why, it is best to follow the money—and those who bank it. ....... The roots of the crisis lie far away from Greece; they lie in the architecture of European banking. When the euro came into existence in 1999, not only did the Greeks get to borrow like the Germans, everyone’s banks got to borrow and lend in what was effectively a cheap foreign currency. And with super-low rates, countries clamoring to get into the euro, and a continent-wide credit boom underway, it made sense for national banks to expand private lending as far as the euro could reach. ....... So European banks’ asset footprints (loans and other assets) expanded massively throughout the first decade of the euro, especially into the European periphery. Indeed, according the Bank of International Settlements, by 2010 when the crisis hit, French banks held the equivalent of nearly 465 billion euros in so-called impaired periphery assets, while German banks had 493 billion on their books. Only a small part of those impaired assets were Greek, and here’s the rub: Greece made up two percent of the eurozone in 2010, and Greece’s revised budget deficit that year was 15 percent of the country’s GDP—that’s 0.3 percent of the eurozone’s economy. In other words,

the Greek deficit was a rounding error, not a reason to panic

. ........ In such an over-levered world, if Greece defaulted, those banks would need to sell other similar sovereign assets to cover the losses. But all those sell contracts hitting the market at once would trigger a bank run throughout the bond markets of the eurozone that could wipe out core European banks. .....

something had to be done to stop the rot, and that something was the troika program for Greece, which succeeded in stopping the bond market bank run—keeping the Greeks in and the yields down—at the cost of making a quarter of Greeks unemployed and destroying nearly a third of the country’s GDP

. ...... how has such a small economy managed to generate such a mortal threat to the euro? ...... what the European elites buried deep within their supposed bailouts for Greece. Namely, the bailouts weren’t for Greece at all. They were bailouts-on-the-quiet for Europe’s big banks, and taxpayers in core countries are now being stuck with the bill since the Greeks have refused to pay. .......... The final figure “loaned” to Greece was around 230 billion euro. ...... They raised bonds to bail Greece’s creditors—the banks of France and Germany mainly—via loans to Greece. ..... Of the roughly 230 billion euro disbursed to Greece, it is estimated that only 27 billion went toward keeping the Greek state running. Indeed, by 2013 Greece was running a surplus and did not need such financing. Accordingly, 65 percent of the loans to Greece went straight through Greece to core banks for interest payments, maturing debt, and for domestic bank recapitalization demanded by the lenders. By another accounting, 90 percent of the “loans to Greece” bypassed Greece entirely. ...... bondholders, who got to sell their now LTRO-boosted bonds back to the governments that had just bailed them out .........

the whole shebang “was about protecting German banks, but especially the French banks, from debt write-offs.”

....... If 230 billion euro had been given to Greece, it would have amounted to just under 21,000 euros per person. Given such largess, it would have been impossible to generate a 25 percent unemployment rate among adults, over 50 percent unemployment among youth, a sharp increase in elderly poverty, and a near collapse of the banking system—even with the troika’s austerity package in place. ....... someone in core Europe is going to have to own up to all of the above and admit that their money wasn’t given to lazy Greeks but to already-bailed bankers who, despite a face-value haircut, ended up making a profit on the deal. ....... Germany being a serial defaulter that received debt relief four times in the twentieth century ....... We’ve never understood Greece because we have refused to see the crisis for what it was—a continuation of a series of bailouts for the financial sector that started in 2008 and that rumbles on today.

It’s so much easier to blame the Greeks and then be surprised when they refuse to play along with the script.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Europe's Conquest

How Europe Conquered the World
a Single-Minded Focus on War .... between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84 percent of the globe .... Why and how did Europe rise to the top, even when societies in Asia and the Middle East were far more advanced? ..... the Europeans were the first to industrialize, and they were immune to the diseases, such as smallpox, that devastated indigenous populations ..... fails to explain Europe’s colonization of India, since the Indians had similar immunity. Industrialization also falls short as an explanation: the Europeans had taken control of more than 35 percent of the planet even before they began to industrialize ....... the incentives that political leaders faced in Europe—incentives that drove them not just to make war, but also to spend huge sums on it .... In China, for example, emperors were encouraged to keep taxes low and to attend to people’s livelihoods rather than to pursue the sort of military glory that obsessed European kings. ...... The huge sums of money showered on fighting in Europe gave military leaders the flexibility to buy new weapons and battleships and try out new tactics, fortifications, and methods of supply. In the process, they learned from their mistakes and improved their technologies. ......

Without a single-minded focus on war and the extraordinary ability to tax, there may never have been any European empires.

.... In the late eighteenth century, per-capita taxes were 15 times higher in France than in China, and 40 times higher in England ..... Europe’s military lead continued into the nineteenth century. Tax revenues rose as Europe industrialized, and the innovations from the Industrial Revolution—applied science and engineering—made it possible for Europeans to improve their technology not just by waging war, but also by conducting research, which magnified what the Europeans learned on the battlefield. ..... Europe’s ability to tax was no small achievement. China could not raise equivalent tax revenues, even in the nineteenth century. And countries in sub-Saharan Africa today still lack the basic capacity to tax, which keeps them from providing security and other basic public goods to their citizens. ..... the Dutch East India Company .. the first business to issue tradable shares of stock. ..... Western Europe .. centuries of warfare by bands of warriors whose leaders resembled modern-day warlords. .... “no object, thought, or profession but war.”

Monday, August 31, 2015

Is It Working?

Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index ...
Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index during Black Monday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
the snake oil sold as remedy for a sputtering world economy after 2008 isn’t working..... After the sub-prime crisis in the US and the steep fall in markets following the Lehman Brothers bust, the world has tried to solve the problem by throwing more and more money at the problem – money printed and lent out at near zero interest rates almost all over the developed world. ...... China, with its export engine struggling, has been extremely unsuccessful in shifting its emphasis to domestic consumption-led growth. ...... in the absence of a more fundamental re-balancing of real economy incentives and the return of covert mercantilism among countries, it is the financial markets that fed themselves on zero-cost money. ..... the cheap money was used by companies and financial institutions not to lend to companies creating jobs, but to make money from money – which means financial investments like stocks and bonds. ...... More financial wealth has been created over the last seven years than probably in the previous seven – and this when the world isn’t growing too strongly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new all-time high of 18,312 this May, up from the November 2008 low of less than 7,450. ...... When there is so much money to be made from money, who in his right mind will put up factories and roads in the hope that they will yield a positive return? ....... while keeping money cheap after Lehman was the right short-term response, the obvious mistake western governments made was to let monetary policy do all the hard work, and letting fiscal policy hibernate. If you want to revive growth, you need people to invest and consume, not speculate. When the private sector was unwilling to invest and people in excessive personal debts were trying to bring leverage levels down, the logical thing for the US to do was to invest in infrastructure – which is what India is trying to do now – in order to correct what is called a balance-sheet recession. ....... By first world standards, US infrastructure sucks, and a half trillion dollars spent there would have done more to revive growth than spending the same in rescuing banks and no-hopers....... This is where doctrinaire approaches to what government should do or not do does not help. When economic confidence wanes, the only entity that can act is the government, which technically can spend even without having the money. The Right may not like it, and the Left will crow, but that isn’t the point.

When nothing works, the government has to work.

........ The US government left the Fed to do the heavy lifting instead of chipping in with public investment boosters. The Tea Partyists and the Paul Krugmans and Occupy Wall Streeters got into a Left-Right argument which didn’t help. ......... the global rebalancing that should have happened after Lehman - where the strong exporting countries exported less and consumed more, and the high importers exported more and consumed less – has not happened. Both Germany and China – the two main problem countries – are stuck in currencies that are artificially undervalued. Germany is the most competitive country in the Eurozone, and as long as the zone retains its common currency, the rest of the EU cannot correct the imbalance............ For Germany to import more, it has to get out of the Eurozone, or the weaker elements in the Eurozone have to exit and develop competitive currencies that reflect their true competitive abilities. In the case of China, its recent devaluation of the yuan shows that it is still in an export mindset. China should actually upvalue the yuan and allow more imports so that domestic consumption grows and helps the world. China and Germany have to change course to help the world........ the failure of this economic rebalancing is leading this time to entire countries coming close to collapse. The PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) and the oil sheikhdoms are under threat as Chinese demand collapses, reducing commodity prices all over. As a Deutsche Bank study noted some time back, Saudi Arabia needs oil prices at $99.2 to fiscally break even............ For Bahrain, Oman, Nigeria, Russia and Venezuela, the fiscal breakeven prices are $136, $101, $126, $100 and $162 respectively........ the Chinese are unable to grapple with the new challenges that come with becoming the world’s second largest economy and key driver of demand. Two issues are paramount: one, there is huge financial repression, where Chinese savers are paid low returns and the cheap money raised from them has been invested uneconomically in unwanted infrastructure; and two, while financial repression helped fund investment-led growth over the last three decades, today it is constricting consumption – which is what China needs to boost internal growth. .......... China has to do the opposite of what it is doing – cutting rates to boost growth. Instead it needs to raise lending rates so that overinvestment halts and consumption is given a boost. A China that consumes more (and invests less at home) will become the world’s growth engine once more. ......... India .. must do five things. One, use higher taxation of cheap oil to boost government revenues for public investment. This situation of ever-cheap oil won’t last forever. Two, recapitalise and privatise some banks so that the lending cycle can resume. Three, generate resources for growth by shifting more subsidies to cash (after LPG, kerosene, food and fertiliser are obvious candidates for huge savings by eliminating wastage and mis-targeting). Four, get states to start moving on land and labour reforms, till the centre itself is able to act when its Rajya Sabha numbers are better. And five, consistently improve ease of doing business. There should be a permanent secretariat constantly liaising with business to eliminate the pain points.
This guy R Jagannathan is brilliant. More brilliant than Paul Krugman in some ways.

I was reading this: Why both Modi and Kejriwal are misinterpreting their massive mandates.

I liked it so much, I looked up the author's name, clicked on it, and that is how I came across this: The global economy is crashing and here's how India can benefit from it.

And I liked it so much, I splurted out the b word.

He mirrors some of my thoughts in late 2008, early 2009. America needed a three trillion dollar stimulus in 2009, the major chunk of it going into taking every human being online. I blogged so.

If the world comes to an end, due to Global Warming, or a Nuclear War, or whatever, we will have the Republican idiots to blame for it, if we are still around.

Here's a sample.

Friday, July 10, 2015


English: Baltics in 1525, not long before Livo...
English: Baltics in 1525, not long before Livonian war. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Narva river, Narva castle on the left, Ivangor...
Narva river, Narva castle on the left, Ivangorod castle on the right. The border between Estonia and Russia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Baltics 1882
Baltics 1882 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Russia seems doomed to continue its decline — an outcome that should be no cause for celebration in the West," Nye wrote in a recent column. "States in decline — think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914 — tend to become less risk-averse and thus much more dangerous." .......The Western side believes it is playing a game where the rules are clear enough, the stakes relatively modest, and the competition easily winnable. ..... Western support for Ukraine's government and efforts to broker a ceasefire to the war there, Moscow believes, are really a plot to encircle Russia with hostile puppet states and to rob Russia of its rightful sphere of influence. .... analysts will tell you, today's tensions bear far more similarity to the period before World War I: an unstable power balance, belligerence over peripheral conflicts, entangling military commitments, disputes over the future of the European order, and dangerous uncertainty about what actions will and will not force the other party into conflict. ..... Today's Russia, once more the strongest nation in Europe and yet weaker than its collective enemies, calls to mind the turn-of-the-century German Empire, which Henry Kissinger described as "too big for Europe, but too small for the world." Now, as then, a rising power, propelled by nationalism, is seeking to revise the European order. Now, as then, it believes that through superior cunning, and perhaps even by proving its might, it can force a larger role for itself. Now, as then, the drift toward war is gradual and easy to miss — which is exactly what makes it so dangerous. ...... the apocalyptic logic of nuclear weapons. Mutual suspicion, fear of an existential threat, armies parked across borders from one another, and hair-trigger nuclear weapons all make any small skirmish a potential armageddon. ......... Russia, hoping to compensate for its conventional military forces' relative weakness, has dramatically relaxed its rules for using nuclear weapons. Whereas Soviet leaders saw their nuclear weapons as pure deterrents, something that existed precisely so they would never be used, Putin's view appears to be radically different. ..... Putin has adopted an idea that Cold War leaders considered unthinkable: that a "limited" nuclear war, of small warheads dropped on the battlefield, could be not only survivable but winnable. ....... many theorists would say he is wrong, that the logic of nuclear warfare means a "limited" nuclear strike is in fact likely to trigger a larger nuclear war — a doomsday scenario in which major American, Russian, and European cities would be targets for attacks many times more powerful than the bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ...... environmental and atmospheric damage would cause a "decade of winter" and mass crop die-outs that could kill up to 1 billion people in a global famine. ..... A full quarter of Estonia's population is ethnically Russian. Clustered on the border with Russia, this minority is served by the same Russian state media that helped stir up separatist violence among Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine...... Whereas a Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted Western sanctions, a Russian invasion of Estonia would legally obligate the US and most of Europe to declare war on Moscow. ........ "We'll be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again," Obama pledged in his September speech in Estonia. ....... Less than 48 hours after Obama's address, Russian agents blanketed an Estonia-Russia border crossing with tear gas, stormed across, and kidnapped an Estonian state security officer, Eston Kohver, who specialized in counterintelligence. Kohver has been held illegally in a Russian prison for nine months now. ......... It was something like an act of geopolitical trolling: aggressive enough to assert Russian dominion over Estonia, but not so aggressive as to be considered a formal act of war that would trigger a Western counterattack. And it was one of several signs that Putin's Russia is asserting a right to meddle in these former Soviet territories. ........ Russian warships were spotted in Latvian waters 40 times in 2014. Russian military flights over the Baltics are now routine, often with the planes switching off their transponders, which makes them harder to spot and increases the chances of an accident. ...... in February, the US military paraded through the Russian-majority Estonian city of Narva, a few hundred yards from Russia's borders. ...... In early April, for example, a Russian fighter jet crossed into the Baltic Sea and "buzzed" a US military plane, missing it by only 20 feet. ............ the NATO military exercises in the Baltics meant to deter Russia were also contributing to the problem. .... Putin's plan for the Baltics was more sophisticated, and more calculated, than anybody realized. ...... "To destroy NATO, to demonstrate that Article V does not work, the Baltic republics of Estonia and Latvia are the best place for this," he said. "It's happening now, every day. Intrusions into the airspace, psychological pressure, the propaganda on TV." ...... Putin, rather than rolling Russian tanks across the border, would perhaps seed unmarked Russian special forces into, say, the Russian-majority city of Narva in Estonia, where they would organize localized violence or a phony independence referendum. ....... A handful of such unacknowledged forces, whom Putin referred to as "little green men" after they appeared in Crimea, would perhaps be dressed as local volunteers or a far-right gang; they might be joined by vigilantes, as they were in eastern Ukraine. ......... Would you risk the first major European war since 1945, all to eject some unmarked Russian troops from the Estonian town of Narva? ............ a variation on this scenario that I heard from others as well: that Putin might attempt to seize some small sliver of the Baltics quickly and bloodlessly. This would make it politically easier for Western European leaders to do nothing — how to rally your nation to war if hardly anyone has even been killed? — and harder to counterattack, knowing it would require a full-scale invasion. ........ the playbook from Ukraine, where Russia deployed its newly developed concepts of postmodern "hybrid war," designed to blur the distinction between war and not-war, to make it as difficult as possible to differentiate grassroots unrest or vigilante cyberattacks from Russian military aggression. ......... NATO is just not built to deal with such a crisis. Its mutual defense pledge, after all, rests on the assumption that war is a black-and-white concept, that a country is either at war or not at war. Its charter is from a time when war was very different than it is today, with its many shades of gray. ...... Russian state media, which has shown real influence in Western Europe, would unleash a flurry of propaganda to confuse the issue, make it harder to pin blame on Moscow for the violence, and gin up skepticism of any American calls for war. ...... Under a fog of confusion and doubt, Russia could gradually escalate until a Ukraine-style conflict in the Baltics was foregone, until it had marched far across NATO's red line, exposing that red line as meaningless. ........ Lukyanov worried that the US does not understand Russia's sense of ownership over Ukraine, the lengths it would go to protect its interests there. "It’s seen by many people as something that’s actually a part of our country, or if not part of our country then a country that’s absolutely essential to Russia’s security," he said. ........ If Ukrainian forces were about to overrun the separatist rebels, Buzhinsky said, he believed that Russia would respond not just with an overt invasion, but by marching to Ukraine's capital of Kiev. .......... "A war with Russia in Ukraine — if Russia starts a war, it never stops until it takes the capital." ...... Russia had set this as a red line out of the fear that a Ukrainian reconquest of eastern Ukraine would lead to "the physical extermination of the people of Donbas," many of whom are Russian speakers with cultural links to Russia. Russian state media has drilled this fear into the peoples of Ukraine and Russia for a year now. It does not have to be true to serve as casus belli; Moscow deployed a similar justification for its annexation of Crimea. ....... Moscow is notorious for its conviction that the US is bent on Russia's destruction, or at least its subjugation. It is paranoid and painfully aware of its isolation and its comparative weakness. A hostile and pro-Western Ukraine, Putin may have concluded, would pose an existential threat by further weakening Russia beyond what it can afford. ...... "Russia without Ukraine is a country, Russia with Ukraine is an empire." ..... traced this Russian government obsession with Ukraine back to Putin's political weakness at home, as well as Russia's sense of military insecurity against a hostile and overwhelmingly powerful West. ....... driven by a fundamental sense of insecurity .... "That, like the Soviet leadership, he has to try very hard to stay in power, and so there’s a tendency as his legitimacy declines to try to blame outside forces. And the problem is that when you try to look at the world in that conspiratorial way, there’s always a justification for subjugating the next set of neighbors." ........ Russian asymmetrical acts — cyberattacks, propaganda operations meant to create panic, military flights, even little green men — are all effective precisely because they introduce uncertainty and risk. ...... American and NATO red lines for what acts of "asymmetry" would and would not trigger war are unclear and poorly defined. ..... There is a certain fear in Russia, never far from the surface, that the only thing preventing the West from realizing its dream of destroying or subjugating Russia is its nuclear arsenal. (Three months later, Putin warned that the West wanted to tame the Russian bear so as to "tear out his fangs and his claws," which he explained meant its nuclear weapons.) .......... "After the Yugoslavia wars, Iraq War, Libyan intervention, it’s not an argument anymore, it’s conventional wisdom: 'If Russia were not a nuclear superpower, the regime change of an Iraqi or Libyan style would be inevitable here. The Americans are so unhappy with the Russian regime, they would do it. Praise God, we have a nuclear arsenal, and that makes us untouchable.'" ...........

Petrov waited in agony for 23 minutes — the missile's estimated time to target — before he knew for sure that he'd been right. Only a few people were aware of it at the time, but thanks to Petrov, the world had only barely avoided World War III and, potentially, total nuclear annihilation.

........ The US and Soviet Union, shaken by this and other near-misses, spent the next few years stepping back from the brink. They decommissioned a large number of nuclear warheads and signed treaties to limit their deployment. ....... Putin has taken several steps to push Europe back toward the nuclear brink, to the logic of nuclear escalation and hair-trigger weapons that made the early 1980s, by many accounts, the most dangerous time in human history. Perhaps most drastically, he appears to have undone the 1987 INF Treaty, reintroducing the long-banned nuclear weapons. ...... In March, Russia announced it would place nuclear-capable bombers and medium-range, nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad — only an hour, by commercial airliner, from Berlin. Meanwhile, it has been testing medium-range, land-based missiles. The missiles, to the alarm of the United States, appear to violate the INF Treaty. ......... This is far from Putin's only nuclear escalation. He is developing more nuclear weapons, and calling frequent attention to them, as apparent cover for his aggression and adventurism in Europe. There are suspicions, for example, that Russia may have deployed nuclear-armed submarines off of the US Eastern Seaboard. ....... Putin appears to believe .. that he has a greater willingness than NATO to use nuclear weapons, and thus that his superior will allows him to bully the otherwise stronger Western powers with games of nuclear chicken. ........ Putin is acting out of an apparent belief that increasing the nuclear threat to Europe, and as a result to his own country, is ultimately good for Russia and worth the risks. It is a gamble with the lives of hundreds of millions of Europeans, and perhaps many beyond, at stake. ........ "Would America really risk a nuclear standoff with Russia over a gas pipeline?" Lucas asked. "If it would not, NATO is over. The nuclear bluff that sustained the Western alliance through all the decades of the Cold War would have been called at last." ........ the leader's willingness and even eagerness to take on huge geopolitical risk....... "This was the theory of the [German] Kaiser before World War I: the more threatening you are, the more people will submit to your will. That might be Putin’s logic, that he’s just going to threaten and threaten and hope that NATO bends. But the long run of international relations suggests that it goes the other way, where the more threatening you are the more you produce balancing." ......... There is a corollary in Russia's nuclear doctrine, a way in which the Russians believe they have solved the problem of Western military superiority, that is so foolhardy, so dangerous, that it is difficult to believe they really mean it. And yet, there is every indication that they do. ........ drop a single nuclear weapon — one from the family of smaller, battlefield-use nukes known as "tactical" weapons, rather than from the larger, city-destroying "strategic" nuclear weapons. ....... this is not a far-fetched option of last resort; it has become central to Russian war planning. ...... all large-scale military exercises that Russia conducted beginning in 2000 featured simulations of limited nuclear strikes. ....... It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous idea in the world of military planning today than of a "limited" nuclear war. ....... no one knows for sure whether Russia's military planners have sown the seeds for global nuclear destruction. ...... Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia's strategic culture has increasingly emphasized its nuclear arsenal, the one remaining legacy of its fearsome great-power status. It is a sort of Russian cult of the nuclear weapon, or even a certain strategic fetish. With nukes so central to Russian strategic thinking, it is little wonder Moscow sees them as the solution to its greatest strategic problem. ....... Russia sees itself as able to fight a war with the conventionally superior United States without losing, and that it can do this by using battlefield nuclear weapons. Under this doctrine, Moscow is deeming not only full-blown war against the US as imaginable, but a full-blown war with at least one nuclear detonation. ...... Adding a nuclear element to any conflict would also seem to increase the odds of NATO's Western European members splitting over how to respond, particularly if Russian propaganda can make the circumstances leading up to the detonation unclear. ..... Though some in his administration urged him to consider plans for nuclear conflict, Eisenhower, no stranger to war, rejected the idea as unthinkable. ....... A 2008 study (updated in 2014) on the environmental effects of a "small" nuclear war described what would happen if 100 Hiroshima-strength bombs were detonated in a hypothetical conflict between India and Pakistan. This is equivalent to less than 1 percent of the combined nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia. ........ The explosions, the study found, would push a layer of hot, black smoke into the atmosphere, where it would envelop the Earth in about 10 days. The study predicted that this smoke would block sunlight, heat the atmosphere, and erode the ozone for many years, producing what the researchers call without hyperbole "a decade without summer." As rains dried and crops failed worldwide, the resulting global famine would kill 1 billion people. ...... "We escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion"

Russia sounds like Pakistan on nuclear weapons: too ready to use them. After the Soviet Union collapsed, America did not do a good job of strengthening democracy inside Russia. George HW Bush: unifinished job in Russia. George W Bush: unfinished job in Iraq.

At some point though, I think Putin might overstretch and implode domestically. But that point is not near. He is perfectly sane when dealing with powers like China, cutting trade deals, etc.

This current tension is suspended animation that will likely not lead to nuclear war, but the tension will remain.

And all the time the Russian economy is getting hammered. That hastens Russia's decline in the long run. India is a bigger economy than Russia.

Another unfinished business of the end of the Cold War: a dramatic destruction of nuclear weapons on both sides.

Carbon is hard enough to deal with in the atmosphere, adding radioactive waste to it is unthinkable. There is no such thing called just a small amount. Chernobyl was small.

Even if Russia were a democracy like the US wants, it would still have its sphere of influence. Eastern Europe would legitimately be in Russia's sphere of influence. I feel like the US has disrespected that a little. Russia is a big country, live with it.

Perhaps some leader will emerge in Russia who will rise to the top precisely through that logic: a full embrace of democracy and the markets and globalization and the internet is the better way to seek global power status for Russia, and, yes, perhaps, double digit growth rates.

Ultimately America wins. But Russia wins bigger. That is what I like about democracy. I am a believer. Putin is an infidel, a democracy infidel.

Modi is on good -- excellent -- terms with both Obama and Putin. Perhaps he can engineer a deescalation.

We are in Cold War 2.0. The Cold War never ended because it was never properly buried.

The true worst case scenario is where Russia feels truly cornered, cornered enough to not only engage in saber rattling, but also want to do real damage to the US. It would help the ISIS build a dirty bomb and help take it near to the US shores. But that is an extreme scenario. I don't see that happening. Russia does not see America as an enemy, only a geopolitical competitor.

How about eventually expanding NATO to include Russia? Perhaps a democratic Russia. And vastly reduced nuclear weapons.

Russia will be a major book on Hillary's table.