Saturday, November 27, 2004

Brad Setser has a blog

I've been remiss in not linking to Brad Setser's semi-new blog. Brad and I overlapped at Treasury -- and his pay grade was much higher than mine. He subsequently spent at year at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the co-author (with Nouriel Roubini) of the just-released Bailouts or Bail-Ins: Responding to Financial Crises in Emerging Markets.

This post on China feeling its oats in the global economy is a good place to start. So is this one on the various replacements for the G-7 and their strengths and pitfalls.

posted by Dan at 06:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Open Ukraine thread

The latest developments in the country:

1) The Associated Press reports that the Ukrainian parliament has declared the last election invalid. This has no binding authority without Kuchma's signature, but it can't hurt Yushchenko's position;

2) After multiparty talks yesterday, one of the options on the table is holding a re-vote, according to David Holley of the Los Angeles Times.

3) The Kyiv Post reports that the country's oligarchs are keeping a low profile.

4) Interfax reports that the eastern regions of the country (which are Yanukovich's base) are threatening to hold referendums on autonomy should Yushchenko come to power. Meanwhile, the BBC's Lisa Kushch reports on the mood in Donetsk (my old stomping grounds). They're not happy with what's going on in Kiev.

5) The BBC's Sebastian Usher reports that the state-run media outlets, "have joined the opposition, saying they have had enough of 'telling the government's lies.'" (link via Glenn Reynolds)

6) The New York Times has the following blind quote:

A senior Western diplomat in Kiev, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities, said it appeared questionable whether Mr. Kuchma could seize control of the situation with a crackdown on the mass demonstrations, even if he wanted to.

Demonstrators blocked access to much of Kiev for a sixth day on Saturday and have essentially paralyzed the government. Some law enforcement officers have crossed the lines and sided with Mr. Yushchenko's supporters.

"The ship of state is leaking power like a sieve," the diplomat said.

Speculate on what you think will happen here. What keeps gnawing at me is that whatever the outcome, one region of the country is going to be supremely pissed off.

Whether this leads to an attempt at secession -- and how the Russians would react to this -- are the questions on my mind.

UPDATE: Much obliged to Andrew for the link (and for his startling link to before/after shots of Yushchenko and the mysterious illness that plagued him this summer). For more Ukraine posts, click here and here. And let me add one admission of fallibility -- I'm genuinely surprised that Yushchenko and his supporters have made as much headway as they have to date.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the one hand, this Interfax report suggests at least some degree of comity among the parties contending for power in Ukraine.

On the other hand, Roman Olearchyk's analysis in the Kyiv Post suggests that elites in the eastern parts of the country would take steps beyond autonomy to protect their interests:

The business tycoons in eastern Ukraine that supported Yanukovych appear to be taking extreme measures to protect their interests, which include lucrative assets in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv and Luhansk. Government officials and legislators in these oblasts have in the past two days demanded the formation of an autonomous eastern-southern Ukrainian republic and are threatening to split their oblasts away from Ukraine altogether.

Kharkiv governor Yevhen Kushnyarov on Nov. 26 declared that his oblast would rule itself and control the military on its territory before it takes orders from what it calls extreme right-wing factions allied with Yushchenko. Parliamentarians in the eastern oblasts Donetsk and Lugansk and in the southern part of the Crimean peninsula called for the creation of an eastern autonomous Ukrainian republic... They began blacking out Ukrainian television channels that are reporting objectively about the current situation in Ukraine, leaving only propaganda outlets on the air. Officials from these regions also pledged to stop sending budget revenues from their industrial regions to the capital.

Granting autonomy to these regions would provide guarantees to the business elite in these regions, such as Donetsk tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, who fear that Yushchenko’s inner circle would attempt to gain control over their multi-billion dollar business empires should they come to power.

Olearchyk goes on to dismiss these moves because they lack popular support. If these protests in Dniepropetrovk are any indication, Olearchyk may be right -- it's a bad, bad sign for Yanukovych if he doesn't have a lot of support in Kuchma's old stomping grounds (however, Steven Lee Myers reports in the New York Times that, "in eastern Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of supporters of Prime Minister Yanukovich took to the streets"). However, I fear he underestimates the trouble the elites in these regions can create -- particularly if they want to generate a pretext for Russian intervention.

Finally, pro-Yushchenko blogs worth checking out for the situation on the ground include Tulipgirl, Le Sabot Post-Moderne, and Orange Ukraine. I'm not aware of any pro-Yanukovich blogs in English, but Jonathan Steele's essay in the Guardian gives you a sense of what they would say if they existed. Oh, and check out SCSUScholars -- one of them has in-country experience.

posted by Dan at 11:34 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (7)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ukraine's fine line between legal and extralegal

Ron Popeski reports for Reuters that Ukraine's Supreme Court has rebuffed the Central Election Commission's certification of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich as the presidential winner over Viktor Yushchenko. As previously noted, this is not an outrageous surprise, as Kuchma's influence over the Supreme Court was not strong.

More intriguingly, Roman OLearchyk reports in the Kyiv Post that at least one television station has replaced it's Kuchma-crony news director and recast its broadcast in a more "objective" manner.

Stefan Wagstyl and Tom Warner report in the Financial Times on the increasingly uncomfortable position Ukraine's two top oligarchs (Viktor Pinchuk and Rinat Akhmetov) find themselves. If they stick with Yanukovich, they risk a general strike that would have some effect on their businesses. If they permit Yushchenko to come to power, they'll be on the uncomfortable end of a corruption probe.

When a government facing a popular uprising, there is a moment when all of Burke's "pleasing illusions" about power fade away, and the rulers face a choice between using raw coercion or backing down. At this juncture, there is one of three possibilities:

1) The leadership backs down;
2) The leadership cracks down;
3) The leadership tries to crack down but the coercive apparatus splits.

That moment is rapidly approaching in Kiev.

UPDATE: Check out this blogger, based in Kiev, for a straightforward explanation of the interrelationships between Kuchma, Yanukovich, and the Ukrainian Oligarchs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Anatoly Medetsky has an amusing and revealing account of Ukraine's "blue/orange" split among Kiev protesters in the Moscow Times. The description of the Yanukovich supporters -- who come from the region of Ukraine I lived in -- ring true.

Meanwhile C.J. Chivers reports in the New York Times of hints that the security forces are split on the crisis:

Mr. Yushchenko's followers also received a lift in morale when a general in the S.B.U., Ukraine's successor to the K.G.B., appeared on the stage with Mr. Yushchenko in the evening. While not in itself indicating the disposition of the S.B.U., the appearance of the uniformed officer, who identified himself as General Skipalksy of the Kiev region, was the first public display of support for the opposition from within the security services, whose role could be crucial if the peaceful political crisis turns violent.


posted by Dan at 03:34 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What I'm thankful for this year... and next year... pretty much every year



[What about me? What about the blog? You're thankful for that too, right?--ed. Absolutely. Alas, the one "action" shot of me blogging does not successfully convey that sentiment.]


posted by Dan at 11:05 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)

High stakes or déjà vu in Ukraine?

A few years ago there were sizeable protests in Kiev because of "Kuchmagate," in which tapes came to light suggesting that President Leonid Kuchma played a role in the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze in September 2000. There was tangible evidence that Kuchma personally ordered Gongadze -- who was investigating corruption in Kuchma's administration -- to disappear. Despite months of protests, however, Kuchma stayed in office (click here for an exhaustive World Bank study on this case).

Not to put a damper on what's going on right now in Ukraine, but that example should be kept in mind when speculating whether the protests at the rigged election results in Ukraine will actually cause a change in government a la the Rose Revolution in Georgia [Quickly: opposition leader/reformer/nationalist Viktor Yushchenko led by double digits in Western-run exit polls over Kuchma stalwart/Russophile Viktor Yanukovich. However, the preliminary election results had Yanukovich winning by three percentage points. Outside observers are pretty much unanimous in their belief that there was massive vote fraud].

The two most salient facts in assessing what will happen are that:

a) Leonid Kuchma wants Yanukovich to win;
b) Vladimir Putin really wants Yanukovich to win.

I would love to be wrong about this, but it doesn't look good for Yushchenko.

Stefan Wagstyl and Tom Warner have a pretty sophisticated analysis in the Financial Times pointing out the limits to Kuchma's influence within legal institutions. My concern, however, is whether the "party of power" will be willing to use extrralegal means to secure their position in the country. They have in the past (though this has not included firing on crowds) -- I see no reason it will change now. The one difference between now and what happened two years ago is that the opposition has a clearly identified leader -- who went so far as to swear himself in as president yesterday.

We'll see if that makes a difference. As a political scientist who's spent time in-country, my guess is no.

UPDATE: The International Herald-Tribune has more details -- but I still don't see any evidence that Kuchma or Putin are prepared to back down.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ukraine's Central Election Commission has declared Yanukovich the winner, and Yanukovich supporters have been bused into Kiev.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: In response to the CEC announcement, Yushchenko has called for a national strike. Meanwhile, both the US and EU have (appropriately) slammed the election process. Powell said:

If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly there will be consequences for our relationship, for Ukraine's hopes for a Euro-Atlantic integration and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud.

I'm not sure how costly a sanction that would be to a Yanukovich government -- which reveals the fundamental asymmetry when talking about Ukraine as the pivot between Russia and the West. If a Russophile is elected, they can get by with Russian assistance (which Putin would be happy to provide). If a nationalist/reformer is elected and tries to move closer to the West, it doesn't change the fact that the country is completely dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.

One interesting diplomatic dimension will be the extent to which both the US and EU bypass the Ukrainian actors entirely and lobby Putin directly. CNN International already reports that Powell "repeated [his] concern to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a separate phone call.... 'Tomorrow is the EU-Russian summit in Europe, and I'm confident this will be a subject of discussion between the EU leadership and the Russians,' the secretary said."

Meanwhile, Anne Applebaum provides useful analysis in the Washington Post.


posted by Dan at 08:17 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (4)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Some slight technical difficulties

Apologies for the disappearing sidebar -- there are some technical difficulties that the good people at Hosting Matters are checking out.

Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon.

UPDATE: Fixed!! Thanks to Stacy and Annette!

posted by Dan at 08:11 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, November 22, 2004

My eyes.... my eyes!!!

I may never forgive Greg Djerejian for pointing me to this Alex Beam article in the Sunday Boston Globe about what happens when policy wonks stop writing position papers and start write novels with... shudder... sex scenes.

Former Kennedy School dean Joseph Nye usually writes the kind of books discussed earnestly at policy forums and perused by index-skimming colleagues killing time at university bookstores. But no more! In his just-published novel, "The Power Game" ("a taut but sensitive political thriller" -- Tina Brown), Nye reaches out for a whole new audience. Here protagonist Peter Cutler, the proverbial "high State Department official," engages in some ill-advised personal diplomacy with the alluring Alexa Byrnes, herself a policy playa at the Department of Defense. Cutler is married, albeit not to Ms. Byrnes:

Alexa led me to the bed in the middle of the enormous room and pulled me down beside her. I kissed her breasts and ran my hand between her thighs. She gripped my shoulders tightly. Unlike the first time I made love to Alexa, when the ecstasy had been eroded by a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, I was sucked into this moment as quickly and completely as if I had placed my feet in quicksand. Memories from years ago blended with intense physical excitement in a driving, pounding torrent of passion.

In his new role as Robert Ludlum manque, Nye joins a long list of policy wonks looking for readers beyond the Beltway and the faculty lounge.

Insert your own joke about hard and soft power here -- and let me just add that I can't believe Ana Marie Cox hasn't taken this excerpt and done unspeakable things to it yet.

Other writers that appear in Beam's story include Gary Hart, William Cohen, Richard Perle, and Lynne Cheney. Go check it out and report back on who has the gift for smut (my vote is for Cheney).

[Oh, like you could do better?--ed. Someone would have to pay me an obscene advance for that to happen. And besides, if I did choose to write such a passage, it would be much more salacious to couch it in the language of international relations theory:

Diane had longed to bandwagon with Jack since their first year in grad school. In their own prisoner's dilemma, she now knew that she wanted more than just tit-for-tat -- she had to have Jack's grim trigger. This wasn't just a one-shot interaction for her. She wanted repeated play -- and although she would never say this out loud, she sensed that Jack had a very long shadow of the future.

It was taboo as a realist not to prefer balancing. If word got out, her reputation among the guns & bombs crowd would be ruined. But Jack's social constructivism was too seductive for her feeble rationalist defenses.

"Oh... Jack," she whispered into his ear, "I give in -- reconstitute my identity!"

He smiled and slowly began his discourse....

Afterwards, she turned to him and purred, "Now that's what I call utility maximization." He laughed.

Then her tone changed. "Seriously, I've never had such a shared meaning with anyone before. It was so.... intersubjective."

Ewww!!--ed. Exactly my point.]

UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Wonkette! [Completely Platonic results!!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 11:54 PM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (7)

That's a nice piece of foreign policy, Mr. Baker

The Financial Times reports on some successful U.S. diplomacy over Iraq's debt:

Russia, France and Germany on Sunday agreed to forgive up to 80 per cent of Iraq's debts, ending a long-running transatlantic dispute and easing the financial burden to be shouldered by a future Iraqi government.

The deal, confirmed by US officials at the Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit in Santiago and the G20 meetings in Berlin, was welcomed by the White House as evidence of a new-found European willingness to work constructively with Washington little over two weeks after George W. Bush's re-election of as president....

The end of the transatlantic stand-off over Iraq's obligations will relieve Iraq of $33bn of debt and paves the way for a broader agreement among the Paris Club of creditors which will be the benchmark for other holders of Iraq's total sovereign debt of $125bn. Roughly a third of the total debt is held by the 19 Paris Club countries.

The US had been pressing for a 90-95 per cent write-off of Iraqi debts, while French, Russian and other creditors had signalled that they would only be willing to forgive 50 per cent.

A senior White House official said the deal would not have been possible without the personal, positive contributions made by Vladimir Putin, Russian president, Gerhard Schröder, German chancellor and Jacques Chirac, French president. The comments were the warmest expression of appreciation for those leaders on an Iraq-related issue since the war began in March 2003.

Kudos to the Bush administration -- and its point man on this, James Baker -- for reaching such a favorable agreement.

posted by Dan at 01:12 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (3)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Oh my, that does feel good

While Eszter Hargittai and others might debate whether blogging should or should not "count" as scholarship, one thing most scholar-bloggers probably agree on is that at this point it doesn't count. So, for those of us aspiring for tenure, what matters are the old standbys -- university press books, book chapters, and refereed journal articles [What about essays in Foreign Affairs or The New Republic or the New York Times?--ed. A former colleague once labeled this stuff as "ash & trash," and I fear he's probably correct.]

For the past several years I've been working feverishly -- and, well, OK, sometimes not so feverishly -- to finish my second book manuscript, about economic globalization and the variance in the global coordination of regulatory standards. My original goal was August 2003. Then, when I realized I had some problems with the theory section, my new goal was August 2004. Then, when I realized Erika wasn't kidding when she said being pregnant was completely sapping her strength, I foolishly thought I could still wrap it up by September. In other words, like every academic project, there were cost and schedule overruns.

Well, it's finally done, and has just been sent to my publisher for external review. Which is great -- because now I can't even look at it for several months. There's no point. Any revisions I make now would not be apparent to the referees, so I might as well wait until I receive their thoughts before I take another crack at it. Furthermore, there is a real benefit to be gained from putting a project like this away for a spell and then coming back at it with a pair of fresh, detached eyes. It allows a writer to excise those bits and pieces of prose that might have taken days or weeks to polish, but in the end are extraneous to the core argument. To close to the writing, and one is reluctant to engage in this kind of essential triage.

From a work perspective, it will be wonderful to start and/or complete other projects. Even better will be the temporary surfacing from my little submarine to see what in the dickens everyone else in my field has been working on.

This is only a temporary reprieve -- come spring, I'll be back at work on the revisions for a few months. But if this is not the end, it's the beginning of the end -- and that's a very good feeling.

[What if your readers want to read it?--ed. Then I feel nothing but pity for them. However, here's a link to the .pdf file. Read it and weep.]

posted by Dan at 04:00 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)