Author: asdmaain

Putin’s New Balance of Global Power

While the West seeks to contain and tame Russian power in Ukraine without resorting to overt military force, Vladimir Putin continues his quest to restore and expand Russian influence not just in old Europe but globally. Hence his visit to Latin America this week and his diplomacy with old Soviet allies such as Fidel Castro in Cuba but more intriguingly with ‘new’ friends in Brazil and in Argentina. Putin has also become the first Russian leader to visit Nicaragua.

His travels are somewhat novel for a leader from the Kremlin. Latin America is remote from Russia and for many years this geostrategic distance challenged any Soviet ambitions for closer ties on the continent. So too did the dominance of the United States over the countries to its south. Take also a look at his interesting 2018 BBC documentary:

During the Cold War, Washington projected power and influence over much of the continent and the Kremlin did not have the economic or political capital to challenge this dominance. This led in the Kremlin to a so-called geographic ‘fatalism’ about Latin America as a continent literally beyond Soviet reach. This mood of exclusion was underlined by the failure of Marxism/Leninism to take a grip in any country apart from, for a period, Guatemala.

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2024 – A Smart Odyssey

A cold and gray dawn in the suburban neighborhood I live in. On my way to work, I spot the carefully placed digital billboard announcing that “85% of the people living here didn’t sleep well” and therefore concluding with “please drive overly careful today”. Count me in, not that I didn’t sleep well but some smart-ass cracked my home network and made my refrigerator pretend that there is still enough coffee to go another week. There wasn’t. Piggybacking on my wifi to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack against the local administration for whatever reason is one thing, but messing with my coffee supply means war. 

This is pretty much how a morning in a 2024 smart city could look like.

Sounds familiar? No? It will soon. Cloud, big data, smart cities, we connect everything and capacitate it to do so many things which make life more comfortable through, for example, learning and studying options over the internet. What we don’t do is to capacitate those who use and develop the clouds, big data sensors, and smart city services. During times when companies and states will fight for access to water, secure their borders against refugees and continue ignoring the world’s pollution why would a refrigerator that doesn’t automatically order coffee as it is supposed to matter?

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The Desire Behind the Use of Drones

Often, we see ourselves as noble warriors and our enemies as despicable tyrants. We see war as a surgical scalpel and not a bloodstained sword. In so doing we misdescribe ourselves as we misdescribe the instruments of death (Michael Ignatieff).

Ignatieff’s argument is compelling. By using the term misdescribe he suggests that when ‘we’ (America, Britain, NATO, ‘the West’) conduct warfare in a manner which is dominated by our technological superiority, a disconnect between ‘reality’ and ‘desire’ appears.

Of course, realities and desires are often not akin (especially at a time of war). Take for example the conflicting perceptions of drone use. It is commonplace to suggest that in reality, drone strikes are a “scourge targeting innocent civilians”. When juxtaposed with President Obama’s desire for them to be part of a “just” war, a war that’s waged proportionally it is clear to see where such differences in perception lie.

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Is Compulsory Voting Better?

We have depoliticized and privatized the act of voting. It needs to be reclaimed for public deliberation and debate. Voting is the fundamental act of recognition of members of our political community. In November, the mid-terms are awaiting and actually, the issue is not for whom we vote, but the act of voting itself as constitutive and symbolic of our citizenship.

Do we mean compulsory voting or compulsory turnout? The latter; that is, there should be an opportunity to abstain: positive abstention is a good thing.

Voting is a civic duty. These are not my words, but those of Winston Churchill in 1948, arguing in support of compulsory voting. There are, broadly, two different conceptions of citizenship: a passive conception, in which voting is interpreted largely as a right; a republican conception in which the right to vote is predicated on its also being a duty.

Voting is, of course, a right; but it is both a right and a duty, and if it is not a duty we cannot be sure that it will always remain a right. However, the term duty is ambiguous: I can believe it a moral duty to vote without arguing that there should be a legally enforced requirement to vote. So why should it be compulsory?

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Ukraine and The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

East-West tensions and flawed institutional design is hampering the OSCE’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. As the only regional security organization to which all relevant interlocutors belong, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is uniquely positioned to mediate and mitigate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. However, flaws in the organization’s institutional design and revived East-West tensions have limited the effectiveness of OSCE’s Ukrainian operations.

Designed “to ensure peace, democracy and stability” in Europe, OSCE’s 57 member states encompass a geographical area from ‘Vancouver to Vladivostok’. Tracing its origins to the detente period of the 1970s, OSCE became a fully-fledged international organization in the 1990s.

OSCE fills a niche in Europe’s security architecture. Although it incorporates traditional military security concerns, OSCE’s mandate places much greater emphasis on human security through the promotion of democracy and human rights. For example, OSCE has a specific mandate to protect national minorities, something unique amongst international organizations. Likewise, as OSCE’s response to the Ukrainian crisis demonstrates, its operations tend towards ‘softer’ measures rather than military intervention.

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