he C onsul A Publication of the International Affairs Association of the University of Pennsylvania
Letter from the Editors
The Consul Staff Editors-In-Chief Chloe Porter C ‘16 Jing Ran C ‘15
Content Editors Christine Du C ‘16 Taylor Evensen C ‘16
Head Layout Editor Karen Chen W ‘17
Senior Columnists Maxwell Hummel C ‘15 Julia Rossi C ‘15
Layout Editor Iana Feliciano C ‘15
Junior Columnists Rolando Bonachea C ‘17 Jacob Cohen C ‘18 Zachary Gross C ‘18 Dominic Kwok C ‘18 Abbie Zislis C ‘18
Assistant Layout Editors Rabeel Jawaid CE ‘18 Ricardo Martinez C ‘18
Dear Readers of The Consul, We are pleased to present to you our freshly designed new issue of the year! Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has played an active role in many different facets of international politics in the past year. Some embrace and celebrate its rise to power, while others are skeptical and criticizing its strong political actions. This time, our talented team of writers have brought to you a series of articles with a geographical focus on Russia from diverse perspectives. On Russia itself, we have two articles about a year of Putin and Russian national identity. Three more articles – including one interview with a Penn Professor – try to discuss about Russia’s international engagement with its neighboring countries, the European Union and the United States. Additionally, we introduce three pieces on general international affairs, exploring the implications of Ebola and China’s war on terrorism and war on corruption. An awareness and interest in international affairs is becoming increasingly crucial in today’s interconnected world – whether it be in business, culture, politics, or simply the responsibilities of being a good global citizen. Therefore, The Consul aims at providing not only a platform for writers to express their opinions on international affairs, but also an opportunity for our readers to develop more interest in this area. We hope you enjoy reading this issue. As always, please browse www.theconsul.org to read more of daily updated blog posts, feature articles and other digital contents! Best, Jing Ran and Chloe Porter Editors-in-Chief
Table of Contents Ignorance Amiss Why We’ve Been Ignoring Ebola Maxwell Hummel 6
Paper Tiger A Look into Corruption in China Dominic Kwok 11
China’s War on Terrorism An Analysis of Rising Tensions With China’s Uighur Minority Christine Du 26
Featured Articles: Russia The Road Ahead: EU Sanctions Against Russia Interview with Professor Philip Nichols Julia Rossi 8
War, Signaling, & Ukraine Ronaldo Bonachea 14
The Year of Putin Jacob Cohen 17
Rumbling Along Russia’s Border Zachary Gross 21
Pushkin, Stalin and Putin: Tackling Russian Identity Miranda Lupion 23 Special thanks to Miranda Lupion (C '17), Garett Nelson (C '17), and Professor Philip Nichols for their contributions to this issue of The Consul and to the International Affairs Association for their neverending support.
The Consul | Ebola
How Fear and Ignorance of Ebola Leads to Deadly Obstructionism BY: MAXWELL HUMMEL
he first Ebola victim diagnosed in the United States died of the illness within days of the news first breaking. This turn of events confirmed what many people in the country already suspected: Ebola is a real thing, an actual disease capable of killing people, and not a conspiracy concocted by Americans to steal the blood of the innocent. While it may seem odd to question the reality of the Ebola epidemic, there have been many skeptics of it in Western Africa. Last month, armed Liberian citizens stormed a quarantine center in the West Point slum of Monrovia, the capital of nation. They freed the patients there and looted the facility, stealing a number of highly contaminated objects. The ransacking was motivated by anger at the government for importing the sick from other parts of the city. Though this motive is not
quite conspiratorial in nature, it does provide some basis for/explanation of the claims of Ebolaâ€™s either nonexistence or sinister origins. Many of the countries ravaged by the disease have a recent history of prolonged civil wars and weak civil governments. Consequently, it is not surprising that citizens of these African states do not put much faith into the competency of their national governments. Although the incident in Liberia drew much media attention, partially due to the bleak irony of trying to rid the slum of Ebola while stealing infected items, it was hardly the first time a hospital came under attack. In late July, a hospital in the populous Kenema district of Sierra Leone was the subject of thousand-man protest after a self-proclaimed nurse declared on a radio program that Ebola was nothing more than an excuse by the
health workers to steal the organs and fluids of the so-called sick. While distrust in national governments can partially explain skeptics of the Ebola epidemic, it cannot account for her claims that volunteer health workers are actively murdering her countrymen and covering it up with tales of horrid disease. So what fuels this line of thinking? The answer, quite simply, is ignorance. This current outbreak of Ebola did not happen in every area currently affected all at once; it spread. As news of the resurgence began to spread, there were many unaffected communities where the disease was nothing more than hearsay. Rumors of Ebola circulated to these communities and, like all rumors, they were easy to simply toss aside as false. Writing for The Guardian, young Sierra Leone citizen Bintu Sannoh plainly states
The Consul Fall 2014
when news of the disease first reached her town, “[M]any refused to believe in the danger and even tried to make politics out of it. We had a riot in Kenema, under the banner of ‘Ebola is not real.’” If you’re already convinced that Ebola is a rumor when people start dying of it, it mustn’t be hard to start imagining other causes of death. However, not all Ebola skeptics believe that the disease is not real. A number of conspiracy theorists have begun claiming that the disease, while real, is a bioweapon being employed by the West against Africa. Dr. Cyril Broderick of Delaware State University published an article in the Monrovia newspaper The Daily Observer stating that Ebola is the latest in a series of efforts by American pharmaceutical companies and the Department of Defense to depopulate West Africa. Though his
evidence for these claims is obviously spurious, publications of this sort can only hinder efforts to control and stop the disease. Ignorance of the reality of Ebola can be confronted with education and information, but baseless conspiracy is much harder to halt with such means. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is far from new. Vaccination programs in Africa have long been the subject of conspiracies. Perhaps the most notable of these is the infamous OPV AIDS hypothesis. In the late fifties, oral polio vaccines were administered to a million people in the then-Belgian regions of Africa. The usage of oral vaccines was a huge success, largely in part to its ease of manufacture and administration. Over the years polio rates drastically fell in Africa, and the disease was nearly cured. In 1992, Rolling Stone published an article by Tom Curtis, who claimed that during the standard procedure of using primate tissue to amplify the vaccine large numbers of the vaccine stock was contaminated with HIV and that the vaccination effort is wholly responsible for the spread of AIDS to humans. The scientific community took Curtis’s claim seriously, and after extensive research, a sizeable amount of research was deemed inaccurate. But the damage had already been done. After the war on terrorism began to escalate during the early 21st century, many Muslim leaders became wary of the West and the western produced polio vaccine. Their opinion on the vaccine can be rather hyperbolically summarized by a Nigerian community leader’s comment, “We believe that modernday Hitlers have deliberately adulterated the oral polio vaccines with anti-fertility drugs and viruses
which are known to cause HIV and AIDs.” Polio has experienced a resurgence in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan, where some Muslim leaders have forbade their constituents from receiving the vaccines, lest they fall prey to the West’s machinations. Much like the disease itself, off-kilter theories about Ebola are not strictly limited to Africa. Chris Brown took to a Twitter soapbox to proclaim that the disease is in fact a form of population control. While he is simply repeating the opinions of others, Phyllis Schlafly, best known as the woman who crusaded against the campaign to ensure that women are treated as full human in America, has expressed the effort to be original in her theory of the disease. In October, Schlafly made the claim that the Ebola patient in Dallas was no mistake, and that Obama himself allowed the disease to enter U.S. soil as part of a plot to make America more like Africa. So far I have painted a rather negative picture of African attitudes toward the disease. Allow me to state plainly that the overall attitude is not as bad as I have made it seem. Information campaigns have done enormous amounts of good in combatting Ebola. People who were once doubtful are becoming aware of the reality of the disease and the steps that can be taken to protect oneself. Sheku Aruna, a Red Cross volunteer in Sierra Leone, told The Guardian that, “I have visited many village; some people listen, other people are scared and do not want to know.” For many African uncertain about the existence of Ebola, their doubts don’t arise out of malice. They’re simply afraid of a disease that has the potential to hurt everyone they know. ~
The Consul | Interview
The Road Ahead: EU Sa Since
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, the international community has worked diligently to make it clear to high-profile business people and leaders in Russia that the Kremlin’s actions will carry economic consequences. On September 12, the European Union redoubled its efforts to bring Russia in line by imposing new sanctions against the country. This latest round of punitive sanctions focuses specifically on three sectors: state finances, energy, and national defense. Coming on top of existing blacklists and asset freezes on some of Russia’s top officials and businesspeople, these sanctions are geared towards incentivizing a shift in Russia’s military plans. How exactly will these sanctions affect day-today life in Russia? And will they be enough to influence Russia’s actions in Ukraine? Professor Phil Nichols of the Legal Studies department weighed in on the issue. The Consul: Federica Mogherini was recently appointed chief of foreign policy for the EU. She has expressed doubts as to whether or not the sanctions will actually impact the Kremlin’s decisions. Do you have any thoughts on if/ how she will bring change to this situation? Prof Nichols: I don’t think she alone can bring change. The will of
the European Union with respect to Russia is tricky, because of natural gas, for the most part. But also because Russia represents a possible market, a possible trade partner, down the road. Russia, physically, is much closer to Europe than the United States—it’s part of Europe! And so the EU thinks about Russia a little differently. Mogherini herself might be able to nudge members of the EU a little bit, but she herself, in her position, wouldn’t be able to. The Consul: Putin retains overwhelming support from the people – a recent poll showed that his approval rating is currently 87%. How do you think the sanctions will affect the day-today lives of ordinary Russians? Prof Nichols: The most visible effect on daily life there is the use of credit cards. The banking sanctions really hit credit card use—and the Russian people really complained about that a lot. When the Kremlin realized that it was the credit cards that were killing everybody, they took action. But that’s the thing that most affects day-to-day life. There are also foods that you just can’t get in Russia anymore. There’s a store in Moscow, for instance—a famous French food
store. And if you go in there now, they’ve basically got [only] crackers on the shelf, because the French can’t send food into Russia. So there are foods that they simply can’t get, which of course affects day-to-day life. And then there is just this sense of being wrong that is definitely there. It’s funny: here in the United States, we don’t think about the
The Consul Fall 2014
anctions Against Russia Interview Conducted By: JULIA ROSSI
with the actions of the government. And Russia is not the Soviet Union—people are totally free to express their opinions, and they do. Most people, including my friends, who are extraordinarily international, support what Russia is doing. They don’t think of it as what Putin is doing; they think of it as what Russia is doing. The Consul: Do you think that there are other ways to put pressure on the Kremlin that are worthy of consideration, aside from these sanctions?
horrors that people are enduring in Syria and Iraq, and the fighting that’s going on in Ukraine every day. But there, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, it really is a front-andcenter kind of thing. The Consul: I think there are conflicting reports on whether or not the Russian people think of Putin’s actions as reprehensible.
What are your thoughts on this? Prof Nichols: Well, to say “The Russian people” is like saying “the U.S people.” Even when this country was at its most bloodthirsty after 9/11, there were people who spoke out against the war in Iraq. And you’ll find the same thing in Moscow. There are people who very much disagree
Prof Nichols: Well, the international system has been harsher on Russia’s transgressions than it has been on the United States’ transgressions. But it has been less harsh than it could be. And I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right. The United States, of course, has been careful to build coalitions. Russia can feel like the system is hypocritical, and validly feel that way, but it’s not overly hypocritical, and it’s still been gentler than it could have been. The question may not be “can we be harder on Russia?” The question may be: “How do we work with Russia to make it understand that being part of the bigger international system is
worthwhile? The saddest thing about all this isn’t that Russia took a piece of another country – that’s sad, but it’s not the saddest thing. The saddest thing is that this was a complicated issue, and rather than turn to the international system, Russia just acted unilaterally and claimed that land. To get Russia back into the international system would be a great thing for everybody— Russia’s neighbors, Russia itself, the entire world. I’m not saying that a country that acts badly shouldn’t be sanctioned, but we might want to start thinking about whether or not punishment is the only thing that brings a country back into the system. I’m not sure that there is enough sanctioning in the world to get Russia to say, “Well, ok, you’ve beaten us, we surrender. Now we’ll be a joyful and cooperative part of the system!” I do think these sanctions were very cleverly designed. Politics in Russia are personal, as are politics here, but to an even greater degree. These sanctions are targeted at people who both benefit from their connections to the Kremlin and who have influence over the Kremlin—and people like that are responsible. So I was actually really impressed by how well these sanctions were crafted. That being said, I still stand by my statement that I’m not sure we be taking the route of sanctions. The Consul: Along those lines— would you say that these sanctions overlook or downplay national pride as a powerful force? Prof Nichols: Yes. There’s credible
evidence that Russian troops have gone to Ukraine and are going into Ukraine. I’ve got friends who talk about their friends using their vacation time to go into Ukraine and help! You know, from their perspective—“help.” Many of them have been in the military (well, most Russian men have been in the military). But they really are using all of their vacation time for this. And it’s not as though there’s some secret office in the Kremlin that’s coordinating their decisions. It’s just people saying, “Hey, the right thing to do is go and help with this.” So, if people are willing to go and risk their lives because they think this is the right thing to do—that’s a pretty powerful sign about how the people in Russia feel, and that’s a tough thing to beat down. The Consul: Of course, in placing restrictions and embargoes on businesses in Russia, particularly with regard to oil and energy, both the EU and the U.S. are setting themselves up for some degree of economic damage. Do you think this is a subject of concern, or do you think it’s something that can be worked around? Prof Nichols: Oh, I think it can be worked around. Those kinds of things are always doubleedged. The two biggest foreign banks in Russia, for example— one Austrian and one French— have started issuing rouble-based bonds internally, because of the sanctions. Turns out, that works better for them. They would never have thought of issuing roublebased bonds otherwise—they are only doing it because of the sanctions, but it’s working really
well. Also, the EU tends to be way ahead of the United States in terms of infrastructure, but that’s not so when it comes to natural gas. So something good could possibly come from this. We might get smart people in the EU working on this who should have worked on it a long time ago. I think the real long-run problems that could arise would come more from pushing Russia back into developing a parallel system. And that would be unfortunate. The Consul: Russia has suggested that it might retaliate with sanctions of its own. Do you think these threats could make the EU give up some ground and make some concessions? Prof Nichols: That’s a really good question—because the will in the EU is already shaky at best. But the perceived threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland are serious enough that their will is holding. The sanctions already prevent a lot of stuff in the EU from going into Russia, so Russia saying “We don’t want your stuff anyway!” wouldn’t really change anything. It might just stiffen the EU’s resolve. We’ll find out. At the end of the day, the international community will have to wait and see whether or not these sanctions will prove effective in creating internal pressure on Putin and the Kremlin. The result could be integral to deciding the future of this precarious conflict. ~
The Consul Fall 2014
The Consul | China
Paper Tiger Xi Jinping makes lasting changes, but will he last? BY: DOMINIC KWOK
he word “corruption”, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, refers to “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery”. Corruption is a problem common in any society. The act of giving is a natural instinct and when someone gives you a gift it is only natural to return the favor by giving them something in return. When one looks at corruption in this light, it is not hard to see why it pervades all sectors of society: in the 1990s Transparency International, a non-governmental organization based in Berlin found that tens of thousands of people experience corrupt practices everyday. Since 2012, in an aim to clean up the Chinese government’s public image, Xi Jinping has aimed his sights at all levels of government employees, targeting low-ranking officials as well as those higher-up in both the communist party and military sector. However, Xi Jinping may have a hard time trying to eradicate corruption in China. The practice has penetrated even the highest levels of Chinese society. A recent article
in the New York Times revealed the massive fortune of Former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Once China’s leading man, he was quoted as saying his family “was extremely poor”. However, now in her 90s, the former Premier’s mother sits atop hundreds of millions of dollars: one investment of hers, in a Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago. Adding more mystery to this sudden accumulation of wealth is that Wen’s mother is a widow. How she could accumulate such a great fortune in her latter years is puzzling to say the least. It also comes as a remarkable coincidence that her ascent to riches came after her son was elected vice prime minister in 1998. Wen’s son, daughter and brothers have not been left out either. All in all their fortune totals $2.7 billion, which when compared to the $19,000 per year that the Chinese Premier earns, is an amount of money so large that it is almost certainly the manifestation of not entirely honest backdoor dealings. Unperturbed by the deep reaches of corruption, Xi has made it clear that he is not afraid to fry even the largest
fish swimming in China’s political waters. Perhaps the most high-profile act of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has been to trial and arrest Liaoning governor Bo Xilai. Since the arrest, skeptics have regarded this as one of the ways Xi has attempted to consolidate power and instill his iron rule. Bo had many followers and advocates and was thus regarded as a potential candidate for prime minister. Noticing that his position could potentially be in danger, Xi decided to get rid off him by citing his corrupt behavior and illicit dealings as excuses for why he should be stripped of his authority. With the arrest of such a powerful man in Chinese politics, Xi has made a statement that no man is immune to his new laws. By targeting such high-profile figures, Xi is only putting his own claim to authority at risk. How long will it be before someone asks Xi how he managed to rise from a lowly assistant to first man or how he can afford to send his daughter to Yale when he earns just over $19,000 per year? But it is the low-ranking officials and their corrupt practices that are
The Consul | China harder to rectify. In Chinese politics, high-ranking officials such as Bo Xilai, known as “tigers”, are easy to catch due to there being a relatively small number of men of such standing. The low-ranking officials, known as ‘flies’, are far harder to eradicate for the simple reason that they are far more plentiful. And the effects of their wrongdoing are very real. In 2008, a 7.9 Magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan. Over 69,000 people were confirmed dead and 374,000 were reported injured. The high number of deaths, which included many young children and students was blamed on the poor construction of school buildings which were not built to withstand earthquakes, even though they should have been. Since the disaster, investigations have revealed that local officials pocketed part of the money that was supposed to be used for constructing buildings that would not fall apart in the event of such a disaster (Sichuan is an earthquake-prone area and buildings there are normally built with protective measures in place). Instead of spending the budget to purchase the correct amounts of cement, the officials bought less and simply added water to make it seem
well-known critic of the Chinese Government, created an installation dedicated to the tragedy to raise awareness of corruption within the Chinese ruling system: “Snake Bag”, a 55-foot-long snake made from 360 children’s backpacks which he found at the earthquake is meant to mock the traditional serpentine symbol of Chinese tradition. Xi Jinping has taken his battle against corruption one step further still, by preventing executives from using public money to pay for their business education. Now, “leading cadre” within the Communist Party, the government and state-owned companies are all prevented from using government money to pay for business training. All such programs must be paid for with their own money. In an attempt to make his point absolutely clear, Xi has requested that all government officials currently enrolled in these business programs quit immediately. It seems as though, by cracking down on such programs, Xi is killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, Xi is saving his peoples’ hard earned money and putting it to a better use than educating officials: on average, the EMBA programs cost
“Xi Jinping’s radical new reforms have met resistance and chinks have begun to appear in his toughened exterior.” as though there was more than there was. The builders, unaware that the cement they were using was a watered-down version of the original, set about constructing the building to which they were assigned. The result was weak buildings that were reduced to dust when the earthquake hit, killing the innocent children inside and causing unimaginable grief for their parents and relatives. Chinese artist and architect Ai Weiwei, a
$100,000 not including social events and overseas trips which are all part of the program. On the other, Xi is going straight to the root of corruption and shutting it off before it has a chance to manifest itself: one of the main attractors of Chinese business schools is their ability to provide students with networking opportunities with high-ranking officials. Prospective candidates choose programs based on how many officials attend, with
Xinhua News reporting that more than 100 programs ‘boast about their ability to attract high ranking officials.’ By reducing the number of government employees at these schools, Xi will prevent new networks from forming. From now on, the hope is that business students and officials do not forge relationships that will be the basis for one company being chosen for a certain business project over another. Xi is finally leveling the playing field. Unsurprisingly, Xi Jinping’s radical new reforms have met resistance and chinks have begun to appear in his toughened exterior. Coup attempts and assassination plots have been uncovered, with a Hong Kong magazine reporting that China’s Premier had already survived six assassination attempts. Whether true or not, stories such as these highlight a growing opposition that China’ new leader will have to battle if he is to stay in power. The one sector of society that is likely to welcome Xi’s new changes is also perhaps the largest: the average Chinese worker. Just as in any country where there is a large discrepancy between the rich and poor, there is likely to be friction between the two halves of society. This no more true anywhere else than in China where Chauffer-driven Rolls-Royces weave in and out of fruit-sellers, gold Rolexes of urban professionals brush against the muddied shirts of migrant workers and young princelings splash hundreds of thousands of Yuan on drinks in the finest clubs whilst, outside, limbless beggers crawl across the polluted streets of the city. To those at the bottom rung of society, Xi seems to be their hero, bringing back the original Communist aim of keeping everyone equal. Whereas almost every recent leading man in China has wanted to keep his nearest and dearest content, Xi has clearly chosen to gain his support from the largest demographic in Chinese society, the normal working man. Only time will tell whether this will prove a successful strategy. ~
The Consul Fall 2014
t the conclusion of Emperor Haile Selassie’s speech to the League of Nations after the collapse of his country to fascist Italy in 1936, he stated, “It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.” This could perhaps be the type of world we are living in today. In Eastern Europe, a Ukraine struggling to orient itself to the West is having its sovereignty threatened by Russia and the separatists it supports. A half a world away China is becoming increasingly aggressive in the South
The Consul | Russia how war has broken out in the past. In World War I, numerous factors played into account, notably the structural shift in the balance of power as the hegemon, the United Kingdom, declined relatively to the power challenging the status quo, the German Empire. Nonetheless, key warning signs were ignored by the international actors, such as the First and Second Balkan Wars. Violence has a destabilizing effect, tending to spread if left uncontrolled, and as Carl
geographically dispersed and culturally different, but in international relations, everything is related. In these cases, the key unifying factor is the lack of an international response, and more importantly, a response by the hegemon, the United States. Indeed, if the United States fails to act decisively now to confront these challenges to international stability, the United States and its allies will directly feel the effects of American inaction.
war,signaling & ukraine
BY: ROLANDO BONACHEA
China Sea and is trying to intimidate its neighbors, including American mutual defense treaty partners Japan and the Philippines. Meanwhile, the three year long Syrian Civil War rages on and the Islamic State continues to hold and expand its territory in Iraq and Syria. Simultaneously, a humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold in Western Africa with the rapidly escalating spread of Ebola virus. Wars, particularly the great wars of human history, often occur when one nation fails to properly decipher the signals that another nation is sending. Failure to properly interpret these signals could result in a situation where one party challenges another on the belief that the opposing party will back down. If the signals have been read improperly, and the party is in fact willing to stand up and defend, war will break out due to this miscalculation. With the present situation in Ukraine, the United States may be sending out unintended signals that could lead to a wider confrontation in Eastern Europe and the world. Thus, when studying how to prevent war and conflict, often it is best to look back into history and see
von Clausewitz states in his seminal work On War, violence and war has a tendency to lead towards “extremes.” This is why the invasion of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire on July 28, 1914 was not known as the Third Balkan War; instead it became known as the Great War, and later the First World War, as the conflict spread to the other Empires. 25 years after the outbreak of the First World War, the Second World War began largely as a result of numerous miscalculations and appeasement from the German remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 to the Anschluss of Austria and the Munich Agreement in 1938. However, there were many less publicized, but no less important, events that occurred in the lead up to World War II: the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the creation of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) in 1935, and the Spanish Civil War. The failure of the British, French, and the international community to respond and control sent the signal that the West would not stand up to the fascist powers, which is what ultimately led to the outbreak of World War II. These are five separate issues,
In the case of Ukraine, a proWestern/EU movement ousted the corrupt, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in favor of a transitional, pro-Western government. In response, Russia engineered a swift takeover of Crimea, held a fraudulent vote, and declared Crimea the newest federal district of the Russian Federation. The United States issued several statements of condemnation against Russia’s actions, but despite some rhetoric, the Obama Administration decided to do nothing to deter further Russian actions aside for some sanctions against Crimean and Russian officials. When Russia decided to test the waters in Eastern Ukraine, it began by fomenting unrest and sending Russian civilians to protest and seize administrative buildings in Eastern Ukraine from Kharkiv to Luhansk to Donetsk. Despite the clear Russian hand behind these actions, the United States chose inaction. When Russia decided to actively arm and coordinate the separatist movement in April, besides for some additional sanctions, the United States and its allies continued to do nothing. When the pro-Western government of Ukraine requested
The Consul | Russia from the United States arms to combat the Russian-backed insurgency, the Obama Administration balked and sent only military rations and nonlethal aid. It was only when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a sophisticated Buk missile system, launched by either separatists or Russian agents inside Ukraine, that the West mustered more substantial sanctions targeting additional Russian individuals and companies. Nonetheless, the response was inadequate. Despite the odds stacked against the Western aligned Ukrainian government, it managed to take back territory and had nearly destroyed the separatists by the end of August. Yet, President Vladimir Putin committed several thousand Russian soldiers to turn back the government offensive, which paved the way for the Minsk Protocol and the current uneasy ceasefire that now hangs over Eastern Ukraine. In response to the presence of 3,000 to 4,000 Russian soldiers directly fighting alongside separatists,
similar, in that it has tried to force the Ukrainian government to decentralize the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts from the Ukrainian government. Minsk, and for that matter, the Russian annexation of Crimea and backing of the insurgency in the Donbass, would not be as significant if not for the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 1994. In exchange for Ukraine relinquishing its control of its nuclear weapons, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom guaranteed the sovereignty of Ukraine’s territory and promised to refrain from threatening or using force against Ukraine. While the Budapest Memorandum was never a legally binding treaty, its infringement with little consequence nonetheless sends numerous signals to the world. First of all, it sends a signal to Russia and European allies that the United States may not be as committed to the security of European allied states as its rhetoric suggests. If the Russians believe that the United States will not honor its NATO commitments,
“Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms.” according to rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, United States once again did nothing to counter this direct violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Ukraine might be just one nation, but it can be placed in a broader perspective of the underlying mechanics at work. The Minsk Protocol can be most directly equated with the Munich Agreement of September 1938. As is well known, the Munich Agreement is synonymous with the doctrine of appeasement, in which the Allied powers, the United Kingdom and France, permitted Czechoslovakia to lose the Sudetenland under assurances that it was the last of any German territorial ambitions. However, in March 1939, Germany seized the rest of Czechoslovakia and the Second World War began on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland. The Minsk Protocol is
it will provoke further Russian adventurism in the future. Potential Russian aggression against Western aligned states, such as Estonia, invited by the lack of American response in Ukraine would be problematic for two rather obvious reasons: One, if Russia aggresses against a state like Estonia, and the United States and NATO allies fail to stand up to the threat, NATO would likely face disintegration, and two, if NATO and the United States confront Russia, it would risk a wider war between NATO and Russia, which would be catastrophic if allowed to escalate. Secondly, in what is likely the greatest long-term threat to United States’ world power, inaction in Ukraine could send a signal to China that the United States is not prepared to stand up for its Eastern Asian allies being bullied by Chinese expansionism.
After all, if the United States is not willing to back its guarantee of the sovereignty of pro-Western Ukraine’s borders containing 46 million people, why would the United States back the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, and other American allied or aligned nations over a few uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea? Once again, if China believes that the United States would not back up these governments, but in fact the United States is prepared to, a wider war could develop between the two nations. The implications of not aiding the Ukrainians in their struggle against the Russians could lead to unforeseen consequences that the United States does not desire. Ukraine, in itself, is relatively strategically insignificant for the United States. However, American inaction in Ukraine and Eastern Europe are sending dangerous signals to powers seeking to challenge the American global power. As Clausewitz once said, “The fact that slaughter [battle] is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but [it does] not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms.” With this in mind, the United States must stop the drawdown of American forces from European soil, reinforce existing forces, arm the pro-Western Ukrainian government, stop cutting the American military budget, and make clear that that the United States will not tolerate the infringement of any European nation’s sovereignty by Russia. If the United States wants to preserve peace between nations, the Obama Administration must be forceful and deter now, for as paradoxical as it may seem, acting passively in the face of aggression is dangerous for the United States and international stability. The present global turmoil could be the warning signs for a greater conflict in the future, and therefore, failure to show American strength now could permit these crises to escalate to a level that would be disastrous for the international community and directly threaten the United States. ~
The Consul Fall 2014
The Consul | Russia
From Sochi to Crimea, it is impossible t the Russian O
n his 62nd birthday this October, Vladimir Putin celebrated in a quiet retreat deep in the Siberian wilderness. Back in Moscow, lines formed to buy t-shirts featuring the face of Russia’s fearless leader. An exhibit was also held to showcase his gift and many flocked to see the exhibition. But what to get the man who runs all of Russia, and sits atop the Forbes most powerful people in the world list? How about the “12 labors of Vladimir Putin” (mimicking the ‘12 labors of Heracles’ from Greek mythology)? Indeed for a man who commands as much power and respect as a divine hero would, the murals that depict Putin fighting for Russia in the modern international sphere are a fitting representation of his power. Rather than fight monsters and demons, the Russian president is depicted fighting terrorists or American imperialists. But what has led to this cult of Putin? Why does he seemingly command the will of the world’s largest country? And why does this year seem to, indeed, be the year of Putin? Most importantly, what’s next?
The ‘Cult of Putin’ Born in the early Cold War Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin began his career working counterintelligence for the KGB (the Soviet intelligence service). After several years working for the KGB, he began his political career working for the city hall of his hometown St. Petersburg. In only eight years, Putin completed his rise from humble civil servant to Prime Minister, becoming appointed acting President of Russia only a year later. Putin was quickly officially elected by the people, and served until 2008, when he was unable to run for another term as president. Serving as Prime
Minister of Russia from 2008-12, Putin returned to the position of President in 2012. Currently, he maintains an approval rating that surpasses 80%, and enjoys a general admiration from his countrymen. For a man who seems to have it all, Putin must have an incredible publicity team. When not busy running his country, the Russian president seems to have no trouble finding a wide array of activities during which he is photographed. Whether its petting endangered wildlife, riding a horse
shirtless, or testing the newest in Russian technology, Vladimir Putin truly has a cult following. Yet it is not only his countrymen who seem to fawn over his unique personality— indeed the US media also has a certain fascination for Putin. In Russia, he has become as much a celebrity as he is a public figure—both a political asset and a staple of his public persona. The fact is people seem to enjoy Vladimir Putin and this adds to the mysterious air that surrounds him.While today it may seem that Russians find their
The Consul Fall 2014
to talk about 2014 without mentioning n President. of sentiment would eventually drive Putin out of office. If nothing else, the events of 2014 show that President Putin heard these calls loud and clear. His strong leadership and audacious policies have regained the support of his constituency in a major way.
Flexing his Power
leader infallible, this was not always the case. Putin’s antics over the past 12 months have caught the eyes of the world and his people, but things weren’t always quite so peachy in Russia herself. The 2012 presidential election that saw Putin garner 67% of the vote was one of the most highly disputed and protested elections in recent memory. Allegations of election manipulation ran wild, and open criticism for the government surfaced in rare form throughout the nation. Many predicted that this new wave
Putin’s control over Russia bears an eerie resemblance to the totalitarian regimes that ruled the territory for half a century, yet it is masked in a veil of democratic process. While this may be the case, it is undeniable that the Russian president is also admired and valued by the people of Russia. He was the face of the movement that brought the Olympics to the sleepy town of Sochi, Russia; and he funneled an exorbitant amount of money into the Russian economy through the 22nd winter Olympic games (some estimates exceed $50 billion). After this showcase of Russian culture, wealth, and relevance in the 21st century world, Putin made his second major power move. Only weeks after closing ceremonies, Ukrainian president and close Russian supporter Victor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protest. In reaction to this sudden change in power in its largest neighbor to the west, Putin responded in force. Russian forces took control over the government in Crimea, and quickly ran a referendum that overwhelmingly approved its secession from Ukraine to Russia. Putin also flexed Russian military might by deploying large troop formations to the Ukrainian border, sending a clear message that any new Ukrainian government would be urged to strongly reconsider any actions that may hurt its Russian neighbors. As if to add insult to injury, Russia then began supplying pro-
Russian rebels in Ukraine with moral and alleged military support. In the case of the Sochi Olympics, the games were as much about the athletes as they were about the nation (and its leader) hosting them. With a fantastic display of wealth and power, Russia hosted a winter event in a semi-tropical resort town. Amidst a slew of controversy and skepticism, Putin’s Russia pulled through in a major way. Not only were the games a success, but Russia blew away the competition winning the most overall and gold medals in the games. Putin took a nation that was staunchly divided only a year and a few months earlier and rallied his people around a wave of Russian pride. After the Olympics, Putin cashed in on an opportunity. Riding the nationalist sentiment that had built up from Sochi, Putin acted in Ukraine. The invasion and swift annexation of Crimea followed by the subsequent support of the separatist movement within Ukraine was met with harsh international criticism. While many believed Putin was over-stepping his bounds, domestic support for his actions remained strong. Putin justified Russian moves in Ukraine by asserting: “we retain the right to use all available means to protect [ethnic Russians in Ukraine]. We believe this would be absolutely legitimate.” Russia rallied around this concept and fully supported defending their ethnic brothers and sisters to the west. With this support, Putin is able to command respect and faith from the people of Russia.
Looking Ahead Early in October, Putin addressed the economic sanctions that are allegedly bringing his nation’s economy to its knees. “Utter foolishness” he declared
as he dismissed the sanctions that brought the over $2 trillion Russian economy to a grinding halt. Then, in a move only fitting for Putin himself, he smirked and proclaimed: “All I have to do is smile to show the devil is not as frightening as he seems.” While western economists claim that the sanctions imposed by the EU and US are crippling the Russian economy, Putin brushed aside these allegations and assured his nation of over 143 million that they were fine. Where most would be crushed by the weight of political pressures in the face of failure, the cult that surrounds the Russian president allows him to thrive. Most western nations are hopeful that sanctions will eventually cause enough disruption within the Russian economy that Putin cedes Crimea and halts his support of the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. In fact, many would point to Putin’s recent order for 17,000 troops to cease “training exercises” near the Ukrainian border as a step in the right direction. Yet to take this as a victory would be to ignore the reality of Putin’s situation.
Unless the Russian economy utterly collapses, Putin has no need to worry about the safety of his position as the Russian President. Indeed, this prospect is highly unlikely, as western powers are only doing themselves an economic disservice by sanctioning an unwavering Russia. As evidenced by the ‘cult of Putin,’ Russian faith in their president is far superior to any doubt caused by western sanctions. They only drive Russia to other alternatives. In this case, Russia and China have agreed to a series of business and trade proposals that will dramatically increase trade between the two nations while decreasing dependence on western currencies. While the sanctions are currently a significant blow to the Russian economy, if Putin’s record is indicative of anything, it is that Russia will persevere into the foreseeable future. While the ultimate outcome of the Ukraine crisis remains uncertain, Putin is the constant that will continue to steady Russia for years to come. When Vladimir Putin turns 63 next fall, his birthday present may not be as magnificent as the “12 labors of Putin.”
Ukraine may very well be in a stable situation, and sanctions against Russia might be lifted. While it is difficult to guess what the future has in store for the people of Russia, it is easy to point to its greatest determinant. Vladimir Putin will remain a man respected and acknowledged, and his leadership of his homeland will be guided by a firm set of core values. While the name ‘Putin’ may not yet command the same reaction as ‘Stalin’ or ‘Romanov’ in the context of Russian rulers, he is not to be overlooked. Vladimir Putin is calculating, bold, and confident. He dominates international politics, and provides an unmatched presence both within his own nation, and on the global stage. 2014 has provided Putin with multiple opportunities to showcase Russian power. While the year is not quite over, it is difficult to point to an individual who has commanded as much attention and interest as the dynamic yet stoic Russian President. Perhaps it is time to buy a Vladimir Putin t-shirt, and perhaps it is time to, above all, acknowledge his critical role in global affairs.~
The Consul Fall 2014
The Consul | Russia
Rumblings Along Russia’s Borders From Estonia to Japan, Anxiety and Tension BY: ZACHARY GROSS
ince Vladimir Putin took power in 1999, the Russian economy has ridden high oil prices back to economic dominance and international strength. Under Putin, oil production has expanded dramatically, from 6.3 million barrels per day in 1999 to over 10.5 million barrels a day in 2013. Revenues from energy exports now account for 52% of Russia’s budget and 70% of its total exports. Closer ties to international economic institutions marked the earlier years of Putin’s tenure. One major step forward for Russia and a sign that the country was serious about closer integration with the world’s major economies was its decision to join the World Trade Organization in 2012. With its entry not only were tariffs on western goods reduced by nearly 6% on average, but the country also committed itself to reducing Soviet-era subsidies that left domestic industries uncompetitive. These circumstances have sent the Russian economy soaring, with GDP per capita increasing nearly 11-fold over Putin’s time in office. Naturally, such robust economic growth has led to domestic political strength for Putin, with his approval rating as recently as August sitting at 87%, a number almost any other world leader could only dream of. With domestic approval near all-time highs and the Russian economy running smoothly, Russia has leveraged its strong position by taking an active role in the affairs of its neighbors. Russia, the largest country in the
world by landmass, shares either land or maritime borders with 13 nations. Some of these, like Belarus, are close allies. Others, like Ukraine and Georgia, are outright enemies. Still others, such as China, waffle in the middle, with the strength of their long-term relationship with Russia unclear. One cannot begin a conversation about Russia’s relations with its neighbors without discussing the conflict in Ukraine. Russia has strongly supported the rebel-led Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in the eastern part of the country, who see the Ukrainian state as a puppet of the west and seek closer ties with Moscow. The relationship between the rebel leaders and Moscow is deep – Alexander Borodai, a former “prime minister” of the Donetsk People’s Republic, is himself a Russian citizen and is reported to have close ties to Russian intelligence services. And Igor Strelkin, the military commander of the rebels, has acknowledged that he worked for the FSB – Russia’s equivalent to the FBI – until March of last year. Putin himself is a 17-year veteran of the KGB – the USSR’s main Soviet-era foreign intelligence agency. Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine are an example of how it has covertly been influencing and stoking tensions in neighboring countries – but it has also been employing overt provocations. Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula has set a tone of anxiety amongst Russia’s neighbors,
especially those with large ethnic Russian enclaves, who could see a similar pretext to be used to invade their own countries. Anxiety over Russia’s recent aggressive foreign is particularly acute in the Baltic region. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – all former Soviet republics and current NATO members, fear potential Russian seizures of their territory a la Crimea. Narva, Estonia’s third largest city, lies directly on the border with Russia and is 94% ethnic Russian. If Russia could take an entire peninsula from a neighbor, the thinking goes, Putin could easily swipe a nearby, ethnically Russian city, despite Estonia’s NATO membership. These concerns aren’t purely theoretical. Estonia was shocked in September when, immediately following what was supposed to be a reassuring visit from President Obama, an Estonian counterintelligence officer was kidnapped from Estonian soil and taken prisoner in Russia. The Baltics have also been menaced in the air. NATO has had to scramble its fighter jets 68 times to defend Lithuania’s airspace this year, the most in the past ten years. And Latvia has registered 150 “close incidents” where it observed aggressive Russian flights around its border. Even Scandinavia has been threatened by the Russian air force. Finland has already registered five violations of its airspace this year, more than twice its decadal average, and has also had to deal with the Russian Navy harassing its research vessels at sea.
Source: The BBC
Russia has also stirred up Polish domestic politics, ratcheting up tensions in a country still trying to overcome its history of Soviet occupation. The big story in Poland over the summer wasn’t Ebola or the World Cup, but “Waitergate.” Wprost, a Polish news magazine, published a series of recordings that implicated a range of top Polish officials. The finance minister and the governor of the central bank were heard colluding over how to use monetary policy to influence the upcoming parliamentary elections , and Radoslow Sikorski, then Poland’s foreign minister, describing how the American-Polish alliance was, “bullsh*t.” The leaks were particularly damaging to Sikorski because he was tipped to be either EU Energy Commissioner or Foreign Policy Chief, positions where he would have had the power to push the EU away from Russia. Instead of Sikorski getting the EU Foreign Policy Chief post, it went to Federica Mogherini, an Italian known for her particularly conciliatory views on Russia, and Günther Oettinger, a German, became Energy Commissioner. Sikorski is now the equivalent to the Speaker of the House in Poland. Where did the recordings originate? Although no one has officially claimed responsibility, signs point to Russian involvement. Poland has been a frequent target of Russian espionage activity. Just
in October, a Polish military officer and a Polish-Russian prosecutor were both arrested on suspicions of spying for Russia . Indeed, the Polish energy industry is a natural target for Russian espionage. Poland has been limiting imports of Russian coal recently in a bid to rebuild Kompania Weglowa SA, the EU’s largest coal producer and Poland’s third-largest employer, so it would make sense Russia would try to claw-back its market share. The country recently detained Marek Falenta, a coal tycoon with strong ties Russian coal industry, and is investigating many of his senior deputies for complicity in the leaks. Former Soviet republics in Central Asia have been jolted by provocative Russian comments. At an event in September, Putin attempted to discredit the notion of a sovereign Kazakh state, saying Nursultan Nazarbayev, the autocratic president of Kazakhstan, “created a state in a territory that had not been a state before. The Kazakhs had no statehood. ”While on the surface the comments seemed complementary to Nazarbayev, they stoked fears in Kazakhstan. With a population that is nearly a quarter ethnically Russian and rich in oil fields, Kazakhstan, some believe, could be the potential target of a Russian land grab when the 74-year old leader finally steps aside. In a sign that even senior Kazakh leadership
is feeling jittery about the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Kazakhstan inked a “partnership and cooperation” pact with the EU in October, which will bolster regulatory and counterterrorism cooperation, and also includes stipulations promoting democracy and the rule of law . Such an agreement would have been unlikely even just a few years ago, when Kazakhstan was actively involved in founding the Eurasian Union, a customs union with Russia and Belarus that assures close economic ties with the two countries. Now, autocratic Kazakhstan seems eager to associate with the EU, tellingly agreeing to support domestic democratic institutions. Concerns about aggressive Russian policies extend even to the Pacific. Japan and Russia have long disagreed over who has sovereignty over the Kuril Islands, which Russia currently occupies. The final status of the islands remains in dispute because the two countries haven’t yet signed the peace treaty that ended World War 2. Complicating matters is that the island is rich in natural resources, especially fishing grounds, and could potentially have offshore gas reserves . Tensions in the Kurils were exacerbated over the summer. In July, Japan announced that it would follow the US and the EU and sanction Russia. Soon after, Russia responded by conducting military exercises in the Kurils, which were directly aimed at countering a Japanese assault. Despite recent tensions, Russian-Japanese relations have strengthened somewhat under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with bilateral trade hitting an all-time high of $34.8 billion in 2013. Still, though, the dispute over the Kuril Islands is an illuminating case study that shows land disputes between Russia and it’s neighbors in the light of the seizure of Crimea truly extends from Russia’s extreme west to its extreme east. With territorial disputes and geopolitical jitters all along Russia’s 20,241 kilometers land border, the coming months and years have the potential to dramatically reshape the political order in Europe and northern Asia. ~
The Consul Fall 2014
The Consul | Russia
Pushkin, Stalin and Putin:
Tackling Russian Identity BY: MIRANDA LUPION
he Germans and Japanese grappled with the question after World War II. South Africa faced this conundrum post-Apartheid. And the US continues to search for answers today. Whether genocide and war crimes, institutionalized racial discrimination or a mass slaughtering of indigenous people, reconciling national identity with the skeletons in the closet of its history is a daunting task for any country. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has wrestled with a similar identity crisis. In contrast to most former satellite states, Moscow lacked both the ethnic unity and national history that shape state’s identities. Putin’s ability to tackle this issue unleashes a new political weapon: nationalism. While Russia had to cope with questions of identity throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the former satellite states had an easier time. Soviet policies in the 1920s
aimed at cultivating strong national identities for the soon-to-be satellite states. Known as korenizatsiya, or indigenization, these initiatives promoted the use of ethnic languages and thus provided countries with the building blocks for national identities. Government employees
transcribed the sounds in the language . In support of etymological purity, Central Asian governments replaced Arabic and Persian loan words with ones based on Turkic roots . And these linguistic face-lifts were not just limited to the less developed Central Asian or the Caucus countries.
“reconciling national identity with the skeletons in the closet of its history is a daunting task for any country.” as well as those conducting business were required to speak the native language . Policies also focused on altering languages to better reflect their vernacular and historical roots. In Azerbaijan, the USSR lobbied for a shift from the Arabic alphabet to the Latin alphabet, which more accurately
Beginning in 1924, the precursor to the modern Republic of Moldova, the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR), focused on developing a language that would better reflect the speech patterns of peasants. These initiatives cemented an ethnic and national identity that
The Consul | Russia Russia lacked and served as the foundation for further growth. Through a pragmatic lens these policies helped curry political favor with national governments. However, they had a basis in a deeper ideology. Before the state
1990s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the former Soviet republics held widespread optimism for a future free of Communism. However, in reality the ten years following the collapse would likely be tougher than the decades
“yet, through economic instability and political change, individuals found solace in their shared national history and identity.” can wither away, Marx’s theory of history requires modern states have national cultures. Since many future soviet republics, especially in Central Asia, still functioned in what Marx would consider earlier stages of development, the Soviet government skillfully developed and accentuated ethnic identities for its satellite states . Today these countries find unity in a national identity cultivated through policies of the 1920s and in later opposition to the USSR. Made possible by Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost, the 1980s and early 1990s witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of ethno-national identity channeled into enmity against the Kremlin. In The Baltics, nationalism propelled separatist sentiments to eventual succession. United against a common enemy, the Estonian people sang their way to revolution in the 1988, using traditional, then-illegal folk and patriotic songs as their ammunition . When Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to appoint a Russian head of the Kazakh Soviet Socialistic Republic, aggressive, nationalist protests forced him to reconsider. Fueled by ethnic revivalism, a 1988 war over conflicting claims to Nagorno-Karabakh broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, further increasing tensions between both republics and Moscow . Nationalist unity and narratives in former satellite states played an equally important role in the transition to market economies in the
which proceeded it. Hyperinflation caused by price liberalization sent shockwaves throughout the former USSR. Bulgaria faced crippling food shortages. In Ukraine, from 1992 to 1993 the price of a cheeseburger rose from .99 kupons to 101.52 kupons- a hundred fold increase in the span of a year . Throughout December 1993 inflation in the former Yugoslavia doubled daily . Along with other countries, Romania, Georgia and Poland fought bouts inflation with new currency-slashing multiple 0s off former conversion rates to increase worth. Yet, through this economic instability and political change, individuals found solace in their shared national history and identity. This is not to imply that citizens were always supportive of their new governments; indeed, in some states widespread discontent with politics lead to frequent regime change and revolution. However populations
Suffering similar economic difficulties and societal instability, Russia also grappled with questions of national identity. Incorporating dark Communist history into existing narratives proved tricky. During the Khrushchev and, to a lesser-extent, the Brezhnev era there was some talk of Stalin’s terror; under Gorbachev crimes and criticisms officially became public. Khrushchev’s secret speech detailing Stalin’s deportations and terror was released in Russia, and Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago officially published in Novy Mir. Russians grappled with their past. Is it OK to be proud of Soviet history? How should it shape the nation’s identity? In the face of economic turmoil, former satellite states could at least cling to historical narrative they were proud of. Russia lacked even that. In the immediate aftermath of the fall of the USSR, Russian intellectuals and liberal politicians tended to consider the past 75 or so years a sort of mistake. The prevailing narrative hailed the creation of the Duma in 1905 as Russia’s first step on the path towards democracy. The revolutions of 1917 were a [minor] disruption in this journey. However, in 1991 Russia was once again headed in the right direction . As the 90s wore on, the hardships caused by the rapid transition to a market economy eroded this intellectual framework. Aside from breeding instability and hyperinflation, the new market
“The key to Putin’s popularity? Economic stability and a return to Russian greatness. A society to be proud of.” bound by strong national narratives found unity in their former struggles against the USSR and were better able to cope with turbulent economic transitions.
economy was impersonal. In the 1960s and 70s, access to goods on the black market was determined by blat or interpersonal connections. The constant need to barter increased
community. In contrast, the new system of transactions, in which money no longer held a simply symbolic role, seemed detached and impersonal . As ordinary Russians became increasingly disillusioned with free-markets, they started cherry picking events from their Communist past to cobble together a stronger historical narrative. Known as “The Great Patriotic War” to Russians, the Russian defeat of the Nazis in World War II became a rallying point in Soviet history. Soviet cartoons and other cultural icons also found a home in this piecemeal history . Putin’s regime has finished the job, weaving the patches into a national quilt. Combining the culture of Tchaikovsky symphonies, Russian Orthodox mythology, international relevance of the USSR, and standards of living of a developed country, he has provided a sense pride and dignity for Russians. Even in counts adjusted for fraud, Putin’s United Russia still won by a landslide in the past three elections . The key to Putin’s popularity? Economic stability and a return to Russian greatness. A society to be proud of. His state-led capitalism boosted by Russia’s performance during the 2008 global financial crisis further seals the deal. Supported by a strong economy, Putin’s ability to selectively integrate history and culture gives him increased political capital due to nationalism. Often misconstrued by Western media, two strains nationalism permeate Russian society. Ethnic nationalism, characterized by a belief that Russia is for ethnic Russians only contrasts with a breed of supra-Russian nationalism. This variety seeks to return Russia to an empire, with claims to surrounding lands. Crimea is a case in point. Putin caters to ethnic nationalism offering self determination for the large Russian population in the area and placates supranationalists by expanding Russian territory . In solving Russia’s identity crisis, Putin is the first to tap into what may become the Kremlin’s most powerful resource: Russian nationalism. The confidence of the people translates into the confidence of the nation, further emboldening Putin in the international arena. ~
The Consul | China
China's War on Terrorism What’s broiling beneath the surface of the escalating conflict between China and its Uighur minority? BY: CHRISTINE DU
n the night of July 28th a group of masked assailants, armed with knives and axes, launched an attack on the Aili Lake County Government and police station, later to be subdued by government security forces. At the same time, another group of similarly masked and armed individuals blockaded a nearby highway, ruthlessly attacking passing vehicles and their passengers. Victims were forced to stop, exit their cars only to be stabbed to death. Their cars were beat up and lit on fire. 37 innocent lives were taken that night. On October 13th, after a twomonth-long investigation, a high profile trial was held at the Intermediate People’s Court of Kashgar for 58 people who were found to have taken part in the “7.28” attacks. The verdict? 12 people were sentenced to death, 15 were sentenced to death with two-year reprieve, 9 to life in prison, and the remaining to between four and twenty years. Executions were carried out within a week. This is what China’s “war on terror” looks like on the surface—a cycle of brutal
attacks, swift arrests, unforgiving sentences. The “terrorists,” in this narrative, are Uighurs who have been ideologically contaminated by extremist Islamist groups based in the Central Asia and the Middle East. The most notable of these is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which, as claimed by the Chinese government, is responsible for most of the constant violent attacks in Xinjiang in recent years, including “7.28”. This terrorist organization was founded by Muslim Uighur separatists with the goal of achieving independence for East Turkestan, a state that would encompass parts of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China’s Xinjiang province. The Uighurs in China are an ethnically Turk minority who mostly practice Sufi Islam. Not all of them are separatist, but those who are and have acted out violently in an organized fashion are, according to Chinese state media, unanimously affiliated Muslim Extremist groups (namely the
The Consul | China East Turkestan Islamic Movement) and therefore terrorists. The Chinese state has also claimed that ETIM has ties with other prominent terrorist organizations. State media has reported that separatist militants in Xinjiang have been receiving weapons and strategic advice, and have even sent people to Afghanistan to receive training from Al-Qaeda. Therefore, to the Chinese, the orchestrators of the Xinjiang terrorist attacks have been ideologically indoctrinated by a dangerous, sinister, foreign construct that threatens China’s national unity. It comes without a doubt then that every new attack has done nothing but further compound national anger towards Uighur separatists, numbing any speck of sympathy the nation’s Han majority might have held for the plight of the Uighurs under their current status in Chinese society. The public has swung its support behind the slogan “Hit Hard” (严打), which warrants harsh punishments and strict security measures against Uighur organization. 12 death sentences is a huge number, but also a decision made after only one trial (though one appeal is allowed). The government is clearly trying to play a firm hand in attempt to send the message that crimes like these will not be tolerated by the state—the crime being involvement in extremist terrorist organizations. This is the story that most Chinese are familiar with. But it is also mostly a story tightly controlled by the Chinese state. This does not redeem ETIM from any potential responsibility it holds over recent outbursts of violence and unrest in Western China. However, it does confound the validity of the argument that China’s “war on terror” is truly and in all senses a struggle against religious extremism. In reality, China’s “war on terror” is a much more complicated story that has littler to do with religious extremism than a long history of economic inequality and social marginalization. Without addressing these underlying socioeconomic issues, the CCP’s
continued brute front in the face of violence will do little to end it. The Chinese government has long downplayed other complaints lodged by Uighur separatists, including cultural repression, discrimination and economic inequality. After the 2013 Tiananmen attack, Uighurs blamed the violence on cultural repression, corruption, and police abuses. These were overshadowed by the dominant narrative condemning “terrorists”—extremist militant groups under the influence of terrorist organizations outside of China. The CCP has controlled public information to steer attention away from what arguably are the true underlying causes of violence in Xinjiang. This is an understandable act considering the state’s inherent paranoia over its merit and legitimacy. However, even if it is too risky to publicly acknowledge them, the government should still invest its energy and resources into solving these underlying social and cultural issues. One of the main problems the Uighurs have faced since CCP rule is discrimination, brought about by a huge influx of Han Chinese into the region as part of a government plan that encouraged westward migration. Whether it was due actual superiority in human capital or racial preference (probably both), the Han Chinese would generally be awarded better jobs, higher ranks in government, and higher wages than their Uighur counterparts. This economic inequality exacerbated the social marginalization of the Uighur population. Especially in lieu of recent terrorist attacks, public attitude towards the Uighurs have turned sourer. The police, as part of a new security regime, now have a freer hand in repressing Uighurs for organized religious and cultural practices, a privilege that is heavily exploited. Treatment of Uighur detainees in jail also is reportedly
much worse than treatment of Han detainees. Furthermore, economic initiatives are highly affiliated with the government. Han Chinese have easier access to government positions, which translates into favoritism for Han businesses over Uighurs. Denied access to equal economic opportunities in turn denies Uighurs from access to better living standards, health services and education. All of which factor in to a continued divide propagated by the gap in human capital across generations. This situation is what fuels hatred for the Han Chinese and for the CCP. This is the life from which separatists wish to escape in fighting for independence.
The Consul Fall 2014
Considering how there are still a good number of pro-unity Uighurs who favor incorporation with China because of the promise of economic betterment and development, it is likely that a quelling of unrest will result if the government instigates policies that close socioeconomic gaps. This will also enable the CCP to more convincingly identify true acts of terrorism committed by religious extremists. There are many potential policy solutions that can be considered and relatively swiftly executed through the CCP’s streamlined command of power. Investing more on education in
the region is the key step to eliminating the human capital gap between Han and Uighurs. Controlling Han migration into the region, or setting up employment quotas for Uighurs will also help mitigate unequal access to jobs. Government sanctioned incentives (subsidies) for Uighur businesses could also help bridge the gap. Ultimately, China’s “war on terror” is not entirely a war against terrorist organization. It is contingent upon underlying economic and social inequalities that need to be addressed in order to stop outbursts of violence. Without solving these issues, there
will be prolonged violence and continued marginalization of the Uighur population, which would in turn feed into separatist sentiments, forming a vicious cycle. The CCP needs to appease Uighur separatists who turn violent due to the extremity of injustices brought about by aforementioned social reasons, as well as eradicate separatists who are truly indoctrinated by terrorist organizations and their ideologies. It is impossible to tell them apart unless the root problems are resolved. If so, the violence will abate, and those who are left will be the true enemies in China’s “war on terror.”~
Sources Ignorance Amiss, pg. 6
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Paper Tiger, pg. 11
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