Sunday Foreign Edition

RUSSIA — Ultranationalism on the rise

Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy says we don’t need to worry about the disappearance of democracy and rise of corruption in Russia… but the ultra-nationalism is worrisome.

George Satarov at the Japan Times gives some more detail on the growing problem of Russian ultra-nationalists.

Anne Applebaum (KPR +1.9) at the Washington Post says things will only get worse as oil prices rise.

Amy Knight at the New York Review of Books discusses Medvedev’s prospects vis-a-vis the upcoming Russian elections, namely whether he will remain the nominee of his party or if Putin will take back the reins (the idea of a second party winning is absurd).  Her verdict is that Medvedev is down but not out.  Personally, I don’t particularly care.  The hope, which was articulated to me a long time ago, was that Putin’s decision to put in Medvedev instead of seeking a constitutional amendment that would enable him to serve another term, was that Putin was trying to create a government with checks and balances, that he was trying to build up the prime minister position into a real counter-weight to the presidency and thus achieve a less autocratic government.  I think at this point those hopes are thoroughly dashed.

VENEZUELA — Chavez finally ends his democratic guise

The Washington Post Editorial Board seems to think the Administration has already made up its mind to coddle the new dictator.

The Chavez apologists at COHA display epic cowardice.

CHINA — China is quickly growing into the U.S’s main rival

Gideon Rachman at Foreign Policy lays out the case for China as the definite future rival of the United States.  It’s nothing novel, but the position deserves the clear outline that Rachman provides it.  In short: China’s got a lot of people, their GDP is going to keep growing fast, more GDP means more power in a lot of dimensions, the economic growth is probably not going to spur democratic reform, and we play a lot of zero sum games with China (though I dispute the notion that trade and economic growth is one of them).

Asia Times reports that Taiwan, as part of a sunshine policy, is spying less on China these days.

David Axe at The Diplomat says China’s recent military expansions are over-hyped in terms of how they affect the balance of power.

The L.A. Times is less certain of Axe’s assessment.  Michael Richardson at the Japan Times is also less confident.

Frank Ching at the Globe and Mail ponders whether 2011 will see a return to China’s humble foreign policy or a continuation of its new, confrontational course.

Michael Auslin at the Wall Street Journal thinks China’s choice has already been revealed, and that the U.S. should respond accordingly.

IRAN — What should be done about the Persian bomb program?

Gary Anderson at the Washington Times has a bold proposition: we should help Israel strike Iran when they decide to strike.

NORTH KOREA — What should be done with the Korean Peninsula?

Yong Kwon at the Asia Times trots out a line of reasoning that is being repeated more frequently among the chatterati: China does not have significant influence over North Korean actions, therefore attempts to get China to make North Korea behave will be fruitless and/or enrage the North Koreans.  I hate to stick my nose in Mr. Kwon’s area of expertise, but what he is saying is patently ridiculous.  If China pulls its aid from North Korea, North Korea starves and collapses within the year.  Yes, yes, North Korea is very covetous of its independence.  But is it so fiercely independent as to be irrational?  Either it recognizes the position it is in and is responsive to Chinese pressure, or it has made a break from reality– you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Sung-Yoon Lee at the Christian Science Monitor has an opinion that seems much more agreeable to me.

AFPAK — Salman Taseer is assassinated

Fareed Zakaria (KPR: +2.7) discusses the assassination of Salman Taseer.  Ali Dayan Hasan at the International Herald Tribune also discusses it.  Praveen Swami at the Telegraph provides some analysis.

Bruce Riedel at The New Republic blames the generals for the instability in Pakistan and says we should be careful in the coming days to make sure we support Pakistan’s weak democracy.  I think his diagnosis is a little too simplistic– I don’t think either the generals or the pols quite have control over the ISI, and in any case, Pakistan’s strategic errors are a bit of a chicken and the egg sort of thing: is the military to blame for the tactics that have been employed to counter-balance India, or did they only resort to such measures because of the weak economy that the politicians have thieved relentlessly from?  I think Musharraf was a better partner than we give him credit for, and I have virtually no confidence in Pakistan’s civilian leaders, either to change the country’s strategic dealings with terrorists or to safeguard the liberty of the country.

Joe Klein at TIME has a long ramble-y piece on his adventures in Afghanistan.  It’s kinda sorta worth a read.

ZIMBABWE — WikiLeaks helps a dictator persecute his rivals

Several have pointed out that WikiLeaks has materially harmed the cause of democracy in Zimbabwe.  I’m sure some Assange groupie out there has a rationalization, and I’d love to hear it.

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