L’appel du Vide

L’appel du vide. “Call of the void.” The common man or woman might experience it as the urge to veer off the road or hop off a cliff. It’s a fleeting, transitive moment of sudden insanity. The sane mind summons the call with a spark of morbid curiosity and dismisses it just as easily.

Do world leaders ever suffer from this same lapse of reason? Does the leader of a superpower ever get a sudden inspiration to launch nukes and start World War III? Yes, I suppose so, but I don’t imagine they entertain the ideas for much longer. This isn’t to say that WWIII isn’t possible, or that nation-states don’t prepare for it-I am simply saying that WWIII is not a viable policy choice, especially because states prepare for it.

Increasingly though the media would have us believe that this is not the case. Various news channels argue that Vladimir Putin is preparing for war. Quite frankly, there are some scary signs. Putin has given unfaltering support to Assad in Syria where Russia and America are increasingly at loggerheads. Russia is apparently escalating the situation by moving a fleet into the Mediterranean, although the fact that Russia has halted its campaign for the time being may come as a relief. Still, there are other acts as well, such as the stationing of short range missiles in Kaliningrad, a sizable exclave just north of Poland. Putin is increasingly rattling the nuclear sabre.

But the idea that all of this could signal future aggression on the part of Russia is simply implausible for a rather important reason: namely that WWIII would likely be a suicidal venture. Unfortunately, people just don’t seem to pick up on this fact. There is a false perception in the media, the Pentagon, and beyond that there is such a thing as limited war. The idea is that it is possible for two superpowers to restrict themselves to using only a few nukes while relying primarily on conventional power.  Different agents use this falsehood to justify various ends: the media likes to drum up fear, the Pentagon wants to justify its budgets, the President wants to seem tough, and, most importantly, Russia wants to try and cultivate the perception that nukes are on the table as an option.

This strategy isn’t new; Nixon tried to convince North Vietnam that he was ready to nuke Hanoi as part of his “madman theory.” Why else would the U.S. have declared DEFCON 2 before the Gulf War if not to put the fear of the bomb into Saddam? In these circumstances this just might work. A nuclear power can afford to blackmail a non-nuclear power because the latter party has no recourse. The nuclear party could, conceivably, launch a one-sided nuclear war and win with no losses: the question simply becomes “how desperate does the nuclear power have to be to consider this option.” The intent of such a strategy is to have a chilling effect on the other side’s policy, but history has shown that this seldom works. N. Vietnam didn’t seem to care much at any rate.

And if a non-nuclear power wouldn’t care, then why would another nuclear power care? Threatening to use nukes against another nuclear power is the equivalent of contemplating suicide, only on a vastly larger scale. No matter how desperate either side might get, it is better to remain desperate and alive than risk annihilation.

Suffice it to say, the nuclear alarmism of the media is bogus. Even if relations are completely sour, even if Syria is being bombed into oblivion, even if Russia remains in control of Crimea, I don’t think that there is any possibility of a new World War breaking out. The risks are simply too great. Russia is just bluffing in the great international poker game, using its nukes as chips. Far from being an irrational, unpredictable foe, Russia is taking carefully calculated risks.

Recent statements by Gorbachev reveal that the real danger in these conditions is not that Russia is willing to use nukes but rather than Russia is willing to use nukes as a bargaining chip. Russia has de-prioritized nuclear disarmament, in the process undoing a great deal of Gorbachev’s legacy and the lengthy status quo of mutual disarmament embodied in the so-called New START initiative. By reviving and updating strategic nuclear forces, Russia is beginning a new trend that other great powers will surely follow. It seems that nuclear weapons will stay with us for a little longer now…

But why even bother? What are Russia’s ultimate aims. Russia of course wants to impress people at home and intimidate people abroad. Russia remains skilled at taking advantage of organized chaos and playing out events for its benefit as it seeks normalized relations with the West and stability for Assad.

But I think the main reason for so much recent activity is something far more sinister, and silly: Russia wants Trump to win. A Clinton victory on November 8th (which seems increasingly likely) would mean continued sanctions, neo-liberal policy, and marginalization for Russia. Trump, on the other hand, has stated that he would try to get along well with Putin and place a priority on cooperation against terrorism (something the Kremlin has been wanting for years now as a way to brush over that whole Crimea thing). There are allegations, probably well-founded, that Russia is involved in leaks and hacks aimed at smearing Hillary in order to keep her from the White House. Obviously this does not sit well with Washington and there is growing talk of a retaliatory cyberattack against Russia being readied.

Cyberwarfare is a totally new front. Since they don’t necessarily result in collateral damage or casualties, there is far less stigma in using a cyberattack. Who knows how this might end up: undoubtedly it will just be a series of tit-for-tat assaults with a gradual escalation. I don’t think that cyberwarfare will lead to any actual, physical conflict. Actually I think it is possible that cyberattacks may even be a healthy outlet for nation-states to release aggression. They may ultimately result in a decline in tensions once states reach the point where the costs of successive attacks outweigh any possible, ephemeral gains.

That being said, the fact that Russia is so brazenly attempting to influence the American election is deeply troubling. We may launch a cyberattack against Russia, but they can do far more damage to our elections than we can do to theirs since ours are (arguably) more free, fair, and open. I suppose we could reveal something aimed at casting a shadow on Putin or his cronies, but Putin tends to be skilled at acting through proxies and enjoys a teflon popularity among his people so pinning him down wouldn’t be feasible.

Fortunately the actual damage done by Russian hacks are negligible. Leaked information on Hillary have done some damage to her. I, at the very least, decided to support alternative candidates after a Russian leak revealed that the Democratic Party had effectively arranged for Bernie’s defeat. But ultimately good old fashion mudslinging does more damage. The leaks of audiotape revealing Trump’s creepy, womanizing tendencies by Hillary did far more damage to him than Russia could hope to do in a million years. Russian leaders like Putin and Zhirinovsky, and maybe even Russian citizens may prefer Trump to Hillary, but I think their attempts to manipulate public opinion here in America will most likely fall on deaf ears. Trump’s support base is built heavily on nativism, appealing more to voters caring about domestic issues than international policy. Many of his voters are people who thought that Obama was soft on Russia.

Sadly I agree more with Trump’s policy towards Russia than Hillary’s. Even if World War III is unlikely to the point of impossibility I would hardly advise backing Russia into a corner anymore. We’re in a position of strength, and we have been for some time. By directly confronting Russia with diplomacy we may be able to thaw relations. Unfortunately my relationship with Donald J. Trump ends here, and I have nothing else in common with his platform.

By my estimates Clinton will win. I predicted this back in 2015. This just means more of the same-a status quo. Same old sanctions, same mistrust, same Russian aggression. Things will stay as they are, boring and “normal,” and minds will start to wander. Seems like we are destined to experience l’appel du vide for some time longer.

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Brexit and Turkey

Russia finds itself in a bold new opportunity-filled Europe after an eventful week for Europe. The Brexit vote on June 23rd and the fateful attack on Istanbul on June 28th both have important political ramifications for Russia, and they will certainly change the calculus in Europe and the Middle East.

Brexit: Russia 1, Europe 0

I honestly did not think that British voters would opt to leave the European Union, but it seems as if the anti-globalisation sentiment is more serious than Trump’s campaign would indicate. By a slim margin voters chose to have Britain leave the E.U. While the details of the divorce will take a brief while to sort out the message was absolutely clear. Britain is out! The economic fallout from the Brexit seems to have resolved itself but the situation is anything but stable. Britain’s departure is a sign of the times: nativism is on the rise. What other countries might leave or attempt to leave next?

This is a significant blow to the credibility of the E.U., and it can also be construed as a defeat for the United States. The U.S. openly enjoys a “Special Relationship” with its former colonial overlord. British and American foreign policy generally complement one another, enabling the U.S. to indirectly impact E.U. policy. Without the British connection, the U.S. will be able to exert less influence on Europe. Britain and America are still tied to much of Europe through NATO however, so it would be foolish to think of the U.S. as out of the picture.

Regardless of what alliances remain, a major anti-Russian voice has left the E.U. Some major nations in the E.U., such as France, have been somewhat sympathetic to Russia, and it is possible that detente may take place. The European Union is still resentful of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, and they even reaffirmed the sanctions against Russia about a week after the Brexit vote, but the future is filled with possibilities! With economic strains between Britain and the E.U. emerging, some European countries may find it easier to turn to Russia. Personally I do not believe that sanctions will survive much longer. Russia and its territorial claims to Crimea would greatly benefit from a normalization in relations.

It is too early to say whether or not the E.U. will disintegrate. I think that the E.U. can function fine without Britain. But Russia can certainly apply increased diplomatic pressure to the most vulnerable nations to encourage them to depart. Successful efforts at splintering the E.U. would possibly have ramifications for NATO’s cohesion as well, and breaking apart the Western monolith would be a huge boon to Russian power.

Turkey: The Enemy of my Enemy…

Months ago Turkey shot down a Russian plane in Syria that had violated Turkish airspace. This week Turkish PM Erdogan apologized to Russia over these events. Diplomatic relations have resumed, and there is talk of Russian-Turkish cooperation.

Unfortunately the bridge of renewed relations was built out of tragedy. A devastating attack on the Ataturk airport in Istanbul has strengthened Turkey’s resolve to combat terrorism. It doesn’t matter who might have perpetuated the attack: terrorism must go. International incidents and politics must be set aside in the name of survival. Russian foreign minister Lavrov has used this argument before in numerous instances, and now Russia is making good on its promise by setting aside any bad blood over losing a plane and engaging with Turkey. While Brexit only leaves room for Russia to act, the events in Turkey have led to a direct renewal of Russian involvement in the region.

Could the terrorist attack have been prevented? This is always a major concern after an attack. Seeing that the terrorists in question are from Russia (various news reports label them as either Chechen or Dagestani), I think the case could be made that had Russian-Turkish relations never been severed it is possible that the attack might have been stopped. There are no guarantees of course, but information sharing is often the most effective counter-terror tool. Cooperation between Turkey and Russia would have enabled greater information sharing, thereby enhancing the security of Russia, Turkey, and beyond.

A lack of information sharing is not just a Russia-Turkey problem, it is also very much a Russia-NATO problem. The operations of the NATO-Russia Council were unilaterally suspended by the latter party in protest of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The NRC aimed to enhance cohesion and information sharing for the goal of combating terrorism and crime. The NRC’s suspension shows that the West prioritizes politics over security. There is more talk of cooperation between Russia and America in the fight against terror, but talk is cheap. Hopefully though the major players will understand this and firmly commit to cooperate. In the interim, I welcome any cooperation between Russia and the individual members of NATO.


 

Recent Russian international affairs have been mercurial and capricious, with constant reversals and changes. This past week has shown that Russia’s approach to Europe and the Middle East will still be wrought with upheaval. Luckily for Russia, Putin is a pragmatist extraordinaire. When fate offers its hand, Russia takes it. It is important to remember that these events are not independent of one another. Together, they may compound to greatly enhance Russia’s fortunes. Russian-Turkish detente grants Russia some leverage against NATO, while Brexit may just leave the E.U. hamstrung. As usual, Russia is far from being cornered.

The History and Future of Russian Jews

Russia has a rocky relationship with Judaism. Things may be better than they ever have been, but a dark and unfortunate history weighs heavily on the present. Plagued by anti-Semitism and, at times, direct confrontation, Russian-Israeli relations seem tense at best. Despite this though I sometimes question how solid the American-Israeli alliance is; is it plausible to argue that Israel’s posture may change? Answering this question requires a brief look at the history of Russia, Russian Jews, and the state of Israel. I apologize for doing another fairly general post this time but I have been entertaining ideas of a Russia-Israel partnership all week and I need to get it out of my system.

Russia and Its Jews

A while ago a man called Lenin apparently said that Russia was the “prison house of nations.”

Russia has housed a large Jewish population for much of its history, but this did little to dampen discrimination. For much of Russian history the operative word in Russian-Jewish relations was “pogrom.” The term refers to a sudden violent uprising motivated by ethnic or religious hatred. Jews were often the default victims of such violence. Pogroms occurred throughout Russian history well into the modern era. The regimes in power proved to be enablers, or perhaps accomplices; Tsars simply refused to quell such riots. Radzinsky writes in the Last Tsar that pogroms were regarded as useful by Tsars since they deflected anger away from the regime.

One would think that with the arrival of Communism, anti-Semitism would have fallen by the way side. Was not anti-Semitism just another wedge used to drive apart the working masses? Sartre argued this point in his 1946 book Anti-Semite and Jew, and it is likely that doctrinaire Marxists in the decades prior would have thought along similar lines. While the Bolshevik Revolution may have claimed lofty internationalist goals aimed at doing away with the past order, it did little overall to remedy the tension between Russians and Russian-Jews. Even if the political order changes, history and national culture remain.

The survival of anti-Semitism may also be attributed to Stalin who seems to have harboured a deep mistrust of Jews. Such feelings may have manifested in his persecution of prominent Russian-Jewish revolutionary and rival, Leon Trotsky. Such prejudice reached an apex in the aftermath of the Great Patriotic War, which saw Stalin’s paranoia reach new heights. There were open campaigns against “rootless cosmopolitanism” (read: Judaism) at a time when the Cold War was beginning to coalesce. In his memoirs, Khrushchev loves to point out Stalin’s anti-Semitism, perhaps to detract from his own prejudice. He recounts a story of how Stalin’s paranoia led him to exile Molotov’s Jewish wife. Perhaps the most heinous epitome of Stalin’s racism though came at the very end of his life when he accused the Jewish doctors in the Kremlin of being traitors. These accusations, comprising the so-called “Doctor’s Plot,” were thankfully cut short by the death of Stalin in 1953 before they turned into another purge.

The Modern Era: Russia and Israel

For all his prejudices Stalin did have a few things to offer to Jews. The USSR did of course defeat Nazi Germany, and the Red Army liberated most concentration camps and saved countless Jews from potential slaughter. Stalin, who we must remember used to be the Commissar of Nationalities, also oversaw the creation of a Jewish autonomous region in the USSR (it was around Korea), and when Israel hit the international scene the Soviets were the first to grant it official recognition. It may be that Stalin was just trying to push Jews away or encourage emigration, although such decisions seem to be in line with his overall stance on handling the sordid nationalities of the USSR (ironically the USSR would fall apart along national lines, but that is another post).

Regardless of why Stalin may have granted Israel recognition, he must have been disappointed to see that Israel chose the American camp in the Cold War. This would lead to  tensions throughout the Cold War, with the Soviets frequently backing Arab/Palestinian claims (such as in the Suez Crisis) and threatening to enter into several Arab-Israeli conflicts (such as the Six Day War). Israel has long complicated the Soviets ability to play politics in the Middle East. A key example of this can be found in Soviet-Egyptian relations, which started warmly but were eventually cut off once Egypt and Israel brokered peace.

The creation of Israel also created problem within the Soviet Union that would soon become a foreign policy liability. Israel welcomes Jews from all over the world, and many Russian-Jews sought to leave persecution and hostility behind forever by emigrating. The Soviets generally opposed this trend and limited the amount of Jews who could leave, which attracted fierce international criticism. Indeed, this attempt to restrict freedom of movement was one of the main contentions that American conservatives had with detente, and strong American support for Russian-Jews would come to be embodied in the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which hampered trade agreements between the USA and USSR so long as emigration was discouraged. Eventually restrictions lifted, and Jews left in droves, but bitter memories remain.

A Russian-Israeli Axis?

With such a contested history is it even feasible to talk of a Russian-Israeli partnership? Despite hundreds of years of animosity, I believe that it is not impossible. Putin has been generally very positive towards Jews. He framed his meddling in Ukraine in terms of anti-fascism and language, hinting that Russia has an obligation to protect both Jews and Russian speakers. With a massive population from the Russian-Jewish diaspora, Israel is home to many Russian speakers. Could Putin feasibly extend a doctrine of linguistic based protection to cover Israel? Netanyahu, in a recent meeting with Putin, also expressed support for Russia’s involvement in Syria, and the two countries have been working together in this regard.

Russia and Israel may also be increasingly drawn together over feelings of marginalization by the West. Russian-Western relations are obviously strained, but Israel is also experiencing some difficulty with the West over its treatment of Palestinians, particularly in its colonization of the West Bank. Countries like France are increasingly supportive of Palestine over Israel, and at every turn Israel seems to be losing ground in the hearts and minds of its allies. With growing friction from the West, Israel and Russia may turn to each other to reinforce their mutual and individual interests.

But nothing is so simple, and there is still a great deal of contention. Russia’s providing of technology to Iran is unlikely to gain points with Israel. The Russians also continue to provide support to Palestinians, perhaps merely as token resistance to a perceived American stronghold. They gave arms and other support to the PLO and enjoyed generally cool relations. Arafat even attended Brezhnev’s funeral in 1982. Russia may continue to lend support to Palestine or, seeing opportunity, may make a shift towards Israel.

I do not believe that a shift of this magnitude would be very likely however, at least not without Russia dramatically shifting its perspectives on terrorism. Terrorism is an intensely politicized issue, with varying countries distinguishing between “terrorist” and “non-terrorist” simply on the basis of national interest. Russia, for example, does not acknowledge Hezbollah as a terror group while Israel and many in the West do. The reason is obvious: Hezbollah acts as a thorn in the side of one of the United States’ most valuable allies. The same applies to Palestine: Russia is unwilling to criticize Palestine, even if Israel and the United States are wary of increasingly frequent attacks by disgruntled Palestinians. Russia can alter its terror designations at any time, but once again history and political culture remain difficult to change.

Any chance of a Russia-Israel alliance forming is unlikely to occur unless Israel and America get a divorce. Israel’s treatment of Palestine is coming under increasing skepticism in the States, but most Washington politicians remain firmly committed to the alliance and the Israel lobby remains exceptionally powerful and influence. Since both Trump and Clinton have spoken out in support of Israel I think we can count on continued American-Israeli cooperation. Ironically Bernie, himself a Jew, has offered criticism of Israel, but I doubt even he could change our posture. If I know anything about Russian foreign policy I would daresay that it may be more strategically sound for Russia to continue to support Palestine and simply use the USA’s support of Israel as a wedge between America and her allies.

Ultimately a Russian-Israeli pact is unlikely, although there is a conceivable chain of events that may bring it about. It’s still fascinating to theorize on, and the fact that a case can be made for this point stands in sharp contrast to the bitter, bloody history of Russia and its Jews. Politics can still make strange bedfellows.

 

Mission Accomplished?

Once again Putin surprises me, this time putting my predictions of gloom and doom in Syria to rest. No, history did not repeat itself. Yes, Putin seems to have learned something from the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. A massive pullout of Russian forces (namely air power) is underway.

Is Putin just giving up on Assad? I doubt it. Putin is most likely confident in the position he has left for Assad following a potent Russian air campaign and a weary truce. The ongoing talks have been colourful, with the USA backed Kurds recently announcing the formation of an autonomous federal region in northern Syria. Ironically, the USA has not recognized this while Russia, the longtime ally of Assad, has said they are open to such a development.

So what exactly is going on? Is Assad’s regime stable? How will this impact the war on ISIL and the refugee crisis? Will the truce last?

Putin, the eternal pragmatist, most likely wouldn’t pull out unless he felt confident in Assad’s survival. Syria is Russia’s main foothold in the Middle East, providing a much needed naval base, and Putin would not gamble so lightly with such a valuable asset. Russia’s air superiority has given Assad the trump card in the war he needed. Recall that the primary target of Russia’s air strikes was not ISIL but rather Syrian rebels. Americans were disappointed and surprised to see Russia target “freedom fighters,” but but this shouldn’t have really come as a surprise. Terrorism remains a subjective term, and for Russia, which witnessed an ongoing brutal war in Chechnya, rebellion and terrorism are synonymous.

On the subject of Chechnya, I was surprised to hear that the Kremlin backed Ramzan Kadyrov has announced that he will step down. We will see if this holds true…

Anyhow yes I believe that Assad is safe. Putin has taken a special interest in protecting Assad, and Russia has achieved overwhelming successes. Putin’s spontaneity and brilliant maneuvering are to thank here. When the question of whether or not to bomb Syria was on Obama’s mind, Putin swept in and convinced Assad to surrender chemical weapons, thus nullifying any US justifications for intervention. When Assad’s regime was crumbling in civil war, Russia deployed potent air strikes. Russia’s Middle East policy has revealed that the bear has not only awoken from hibernation but is now smarter and stronger than ever. The Obama administration’s foreign policy has gone from trying to destroy Assad’s regime in 2011 to negotiating a truce with Russia and Syria in 2016: quite a turnaround! While I generally approve of Obama’s foreign policy overall, I agree with conservatives that Russia has thoroughly stumped us. Yet again, what can America do? Russia has had and will have a vested military presence in the region. Attempts to criticize the Russian intervention are met with cries of American hypocrisy for having intervened against Iraq. Just like Russia’s foreign policy coup in Ukraine, there is little that America can do here.

But is Syria really that valuable to Putin enough to justify military operations in a time of financial strain? Evidently it was! Putin obviously places a high value on the Russian naval base in Syria (Russia also had a naval base in Crimea with a lease that expired in 2017, so the oft-cited Russian desire for warm-water ports may be a truism after all!). Additionally I believe that both Crimea/Ukraine and Syria provided ample opportunity for Russia to show off its renewed drive to become one of the world’s dominant powers. Russia provides a potent counterpoint to Western/US foreign policy, and by placing safe bets Putin has been able to stymie the West. The fact that Putin’s withdraw surprised people is an indication that Russia, not the USA, holds the initiative. Of course, I think Russia’s ability to press its advantage is short-ranged: Russia can only really project force within its traditional sphere of influence, which means that Crimea and Syria are victories for Russia rather than defeats for the West. Gone are the late 80s and 90s where Russia often acquiesced to territory loss.

Regardless, Putin has performed several foreign policy coups and, at the very least, has several visible triumphs on his belt.

The stabilization of Syria under the Assad regime will likely have little impact on the war against ISIL which continues to be primarily led by US backed regional militias. Syria may have achieved greater territorial integrity but will likely not be able to lend much aid in the fight against ISIL. Russia’s withdraw of military hardware tells me they have no interest in entering combat with ISIL. Russia’s military actions may have created more sympathy for the Syrian rebels, and more suffering that could allow for radicalisation, but while a will may exist the means to mount any further serious defense against Syrian government dominance have been broken.

As for the refugee crisis, the damage is already done. As Assad regains a devastated Syria will likely continue to hemorrhage. The deal between the EU and Turkey may alleviate the crisis (for the West at least), but at a significant cost of EU unity (Turkey remains controversial among EU members for the anti-democratic nature of the Erdogan regime, and dealing with such a regime weakens the values that hold the EU together).

Will the truce hold? Since Putin smashed my expectations of the intervention I am not willing to make more predictions. Kurds, who were excluded from peace talks, are attempting to create a federal structure which, surprisingly, Russia is backing despite having intervened to preserve the Syrian governments sovereignty. Perhaps Russia is trying to force Assad to compromise? Maybe Russia is simply trying to further stabilise Syria at any costs.

Yet again, perhaps Russia has already achieved its goal. US Secretary of State Kerry is back at the negotiating table with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, and this time they are not discussing Russia. The most important thing about the truce is that the US and Russia are talking about and working together towards common international goals. After a brief stint as rogue nation #1, Putin may have managed to force the US into normalizing relations. Having thoroughly dominated Syria, Putin is now sacrificing some influence in the negotiations for the prize of forcing the USA to the negotiating table as an equal. It would be pointless to theorize that this may have been Putin’s original goal; all that matters is that Putin is once again making the best out of the situation.

 

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us

Americans weren’t the only ones thinking about how to cook Turkey this week…

Sovereignty, the idea that a state alone has absolute jurisdiction over its borders, has been the lifeblood of international politics ever since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. For better and for worse, the modern world is defined by sovereignty.

Russia loves the concept of sovereignty, and it constantly throws the word around whenever its policies come under fire.

Sovereignty is far from a perfect modus operandi. This is increasingly apparent in an era of increasing globalization where non-state actors (ISIS for instance) factor heavily into the international calculus. But we don’t have to look at the challenges to sovereignty to realize that its flawed; states regularly fight over sovereign rights. There are the obvious grey areas surrounding irredentism. This is a term used to describe a situation nation or state feel at odds with a given nation-state and with to redefine or re-carve borders. Prominent examples of this include the Franco-Prussian rivalry over Alsace-Lorraine, the desire for statehood among Palestinians, and the recent Russian annexation of Crimea.

But we don’t have to introduce arcane words to prove a point against sovereignty. Some of the largest problems with sovereignty are inherit in the concept itself. For example, let’s say that State X has complete sovereignty over the land, waters, and sky within its borders. Now lets say that State Y is conducting military operations nearby and accidentally flies a plane over State X, which responds by shooting the plane down. Strictly speaking in terms of sovereignty, State X is justified. Of course, try telling this to State Y…

Sure, Russia loves sovereignty, but how do they feel about having a plane shot down?


Romancing Doomsday?

No. I don’t believe that World War III will ever happen. Nation-states generally don’t like committing suicide, and therefore a war between nuclear powers is as unlikely as it is undesirable.

That being said, it still sent chills down my spine to hear that a Russian jet was brought down by a member of NATO this past week.

24 November 2015. An Su-24 was shot down by Turkey.

Turkey claims that the fighter entered its territory. NATO stood by Turkey.

Russia claims that the fighter remained in Syrian airspace. It claims that Turkey is betraying the anti-terror cause and Russia is planning on using sanctions to punish Turkey.

What actually happened?

I would like to posit that theory that it absolutely doesn’t matter what happened. NATO will say one thing. Russia will say another.

The downing of wayward planes happens infrequently. Usually they are isolated incidents that just evaporate; lets agree to disagree. The Soviets downed a U-2 plane conducting espionage in 1960. They downed another U-2 above Cuba during the Missile Crisis. In 1983 they brought down civilian flight KAL007, alleging (likely correctly) that the flight was being used by the US to spy.

States have a sovereign right to bring down foreign planes within their airspace, even if this can also be construed as an act of war. Most times these “accidents” don’t lead to any sort of conflict. A war between NATO and Russia would be especially messy, so its unlikely that either side will pursue the matter further. Turkey will probably not repeat the incident. Russia has moved SAMs near the border to make sure of that, even if it is also likely that Russia will be a little more careful with where its planes fly.

Generally the most tangible outcome of a plane being brought down is that one side gets political capital. In 1960 the US was caught spying over the USSR and Khrushchev was able to point and laugh. In 1983 the Soviets were shamed for recklessly killing citizens. In 2015 Russia now has more fuel to throw around in its complicated game with NATO.

We can expect an immediate frosting of Turkish Russian relations. Russia is definitely looking to make Turkey pay, and is placing new restrictions on tourism as a big part of this.  But what does this event mean in the bigger picture?


The Context: Poking and Prodding

A Russian plane getting shot down was bound to happen given Moscow’s increasing use of aircraft to harass NATO. Russian fighters have forced several states on alert. I don’t think it was Russia’s intention to test the readiness of NATO (lets face it, NATO has been on a hair trigger ever since Crimea was annexed), but Russia is certainly trying to make NATO uncomfortable and show that it still poses a formidable threat.

If any NATO member was going to shoot down a Russian plane, Turkey was probably in the best position to do so. Turkey occupies a unique niche in NATO; not only is it the most Eastern member but it is also culturally and religiously distinct. During the early Cold War Turkey was used by NATO for a forward strike capability, although JFK was willing to sacrifice this in order to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. Turkey also enjoys a rivalry with Greece, which complicates NATO, and is on the front line of the battle with ISIS. Had a Russian plane been downed over, say, Denmark or Alaska the repercussions would likely be more serious than what we are seeing now.

Turkey has a distinct identity that, like Russia, is between East and West. Russian is therefore likely to be less enraged by a Turkish action than a US or British one. Another factor that helps to soften the blow is that, as a guardian of a valuable warm water access route, Turkey has a long standing geopolitical rivalry with Russia. Familiarity breeds contempt, but it also breeds some level of tolerance. Of course the Turks downed one of our planes! Of course!” 

Aside from growing distrust between Russia and Turkey (and, less so, NATO) we can also expect that Russia will be a little more cautious in flying planes around. We will see a lot less NATO jets being scrambled to counter Russian thrusts, which may actually help relations in the long run.

Regardless of what happens Turkey will not try the same thing twice, especially with Russian SAMs close-by now. The more interesting question is what effect this might have on Greek-Turkish relations. Turkey loves doing flyovers of Greek territory, and they will likely have much more difficulty justifying these now. Incidentally this event may actually push Greece closer to Russia. The two are already on better terms since the debt crisis, and some mutual hatred of Turkey can’t hurt the relationship.


 

And Now For Something Completely Different…

In other news ISIS recognized Taiwan. This is absolutely hilarious.


Looking Forward: Reconciliation?

I predicted a few posts ago that Putin would take his time to commit to any policy option following the terrorist attack on a Russian flight in Sinai. The attacks in Paris two weeks ago however forced Putin’s hand on the issue: Russia has attributed the attacks to ISIS and has been increasing pressure, both against ISIS in the form of bombs and against NATO in the form of calls for coalition. A Franco-Russian axis seems liable to form, and an improvement in NATO-Russian relations would be desirable in the fight against ISIS. A multi-lateral effort is the most likely to end with a good outcome. I don’t see Russia and Turkey making up though, so any NATO-Russian axis is predicated on  NATO’s willingness to distance itself from Turkey.

Putin continues to call for multilateralism and greater collaboration, and, ever the pragmatist, has taken advantage of the Paris attacks and Turkey incident to retain the initiative in the Middle East. A few weeks ago, following the attack on a Sinai flight by ISIS, most people seemed to be predicting that Putin would remain far more cautious in the Middle East and would rethink his operations in Syria. No more of that talk. The surprises of Paris and Turkey, along with the acknowledging that ISIS downed the Russian flight, have enabled Putin to double-down. He now has far more leverage against NATO; he has a friend in Hollande and can demonize Turkey. He also now has a great excuse to send additional equipment to Syria ostensibly with the goal of keeping Turkey in check.

And thus we end at the beginning. Putin remains slippery and smart as he plays crisis after crisis to his advantage. So far he has been able to weather fortune, but the last few weeks have shown that things can change at a breakneck pace. Putin has proven that he can keep up so far.

Sports, War, and Doomsday: A Week in Retrospect

What was originally intended to be another post relating the intervention in Syria to the Soviet-Afghan War has been hijacked by a dynamic week in news ranging from scandal to tragedy to farce. The occurrences of the past week have significant bearings for the current and future course of Western-Russian relations and all of them merit a fair assessment.

Scandal: The Agony of Defeat

I’ll be honest, international sport is not my field of study. Hopefully I can at least string together what has happened.

Essentially Russia has been under intensive scrutiny over doping. A World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report was released which accused Russia of running a vast state-funded doping ring which included bribing and intimidating testers. If the allegations are true than this casts a massive stain on Russia’s successes in the 2012 and 2014 Olympics. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was also incriminated although they seemed eager to push much of the mess onto Russia. In an attempt to retain credibility for the time, a nearly unanimous vote by the IAAF has banned Russian track-and-field from participating in competitions. The 2016 Rio games are included in this ban, which is indefinite until Russia can clean up its act (although the details are fuzzy; what would happen if the Russian athletes simply register as independent as this Telegraph article points out). 

Obviously my mind first jumped to the FIFA scandal that exploded earlier this year. Washington uncovered and tackled rampant corruption among the leaders of the FIFA scandal. This move was odd since generally Americans have little investment in football/soccer/ball-kicking-game but I felt like it was a politically motivated move engineered to cast a shadow on the upcoming FIFA games in Russia. My feelings seemed validated by Moscow’s response: Putin defended FIFA head Blatter and didn’t seem moved by accusations of corruption. Putin himself prevails over a corrupt system, so its only logical that he would want to downplay corruption as a problem. Furthermore, it seems evident that Putin wants to reclaim Russia’s Brezhnevite glory; international sports make a fine arena to show off national strength. 

In light of the FIFA scandal I was therefore surprised by Putin’s reaction to the IAAF scandal as it unfolded. Putin seemed open to cooperation with the IAAF, calling for an investigation into the issue and calling for punishing individuals rather than Russia as a whole. While it is dubious that any investigations will be fair, Putin’s relatively compromising line comes off as an off-colour move. Why miss a chance to reinforce the Western-Russian tension that he has been carefully cultivating?

Again, I really don’t care much about sports to engage the literature as much as I should but I strongly side with this piece by the Guardian about Russian cooperation. The various big-wigs of the international sport world are all linked in more ways than one, and Russia has been especially active in courting and working with international sports agencies as part of its drive to make an international comeback. Putin likely won’t fire his sports minister who has been very successful in playing the game of international sports politics, and I can only assume that Russia, the IAAF, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will work on some sort of compromise.

If there is corruption it sounds like it goes a lot deeper than Russia. International sports groups and other nations are likely at risk. All parties have a desire to come out of this scandal with clean blood tests, and they’ll likely work for a quick solution. Far from using the allegations as a means of isolating itself from the world, Putin may use them as a means to sling mud on other countries or show that Russia is more agreeable than other nations might suggest. Similarly, Putin’s main goal is to ensure that Russia can participate and show off in the 2016 Olympics, so he likely just wants to put this behind him as quickly as possible. Based on the friends Russia has made with the international sports movement I agree with the aforementioned Guardian article when it says that Russia will likely just receive a brief slap on the wrist. The ban on participation seems tenuous at best; it is merely an attempt by the IAAF to overcompensate for inaction up to this point.

Putin likely already has this fight won, and therefore he can afford to be amenable to addressing the problem. If worst comes to worst he can simply force a few ministers to resign. That generally seems to be how these sport scandals go. Russia doesn’t seem to have responded yet to the decision of the IAAF to banish Russian athletes, although a brief and non-inflammatory story on RussiaToday confirms my suspicions that Russia will be able to navigate the crisis.

Tragedy: Article V

In my last post I predicted that Putin would play dumb about the downing of a Russian flight over Sinai and not attribute it to ISIS. Putin didn’t fold and he didn’t raise, he would merely call. So far my prediction has ranged true, and yesterday’s unfortunate events have assured that Putin has made the right choice. Presto, Putin has a winning hand in the Middle East.

I don’t think the attacks on Paris need much introduction. They are all over the news now. Over 120 dead, and climbing. Hundreds more wounded. France closed its borders in an unprecedented move (a retreat from the European norms which have been developing ever since the Coal and Steel Commission), and ISIS gloats over another victory. I won’t go into much detail about the tragedy or the horror that was unleashed on Paris, but there are a number of important conclusions for Russia.

  1. The West is now unable to capitalize on the Sinai crash. Before yesterday the West attempted to undermine Russia’s position by suggesting that the plane was brought down as a reprisal against Russian intervention. Russia can now justify its military operations in Syria while criticizing the West for a lack of cooperation. I need not mention as well that now people will talk about Paris, not the Sinai crash. The news has a short attention span.
  2. The West is now in a position to enter the Middle East. NATO already has operations in the region (and are making some important gains), but the perception is that Russia is the more dynamic power there. President Hollande has declared the attacks by ISIS to be “an act of war.” This is a bold statement that carries a commitment, and it reminds me of 9/11 when the US responded to the attacks by invoking Article V (collective defense) of the NATO treaty and launching the War on Terror. I predict that NATO, and France in particular, may now be more involved in the Middle East. Russia will still have the upper hand since they are working through Assad, but the calculus in the Middle East is much more complex and will grow more convoluted as ground forces enter.

I would like to see a NATO-Russian alliance (through the NATO-Russia Council) but I doubt this will come to pass. Yet again, Putin mentioned it in his condolences.

This tragedy is additional proof of the barbaric nature of terrorism that is posing a challenge to human civilisation. It is obvious that to counter this evil effectively the entire international community needs to truly join efforts.

I would like to confirm the readiness of the Russian side to closely cooperate with our French partners in investigating the crime committed in Paris. I expect both the originators and perpetrators to be justly punished.

Putin will continue to push for joint efforts as this is the best way to re normalize relations and holds the best chance for sanctions relief. Western-Russian relations might still be frosty, but both sides would only gain from temporarily toning down their rhetoric and cooperating. At the very least I hope that the NRC can resume its active counter-terror operations to increase intelligence sharing.

Regardless, the deadly Paris attacks do not hurt Moscow. Quite the contrary; no tragedy goes missed as a political opportunity.

Farce: Cobalt-60

Russian Ambassador: When it is detonated, it will produce enough lethal radioactive fallout so that within ten months, the surface of the Earth will be as dead as the moon!

Turgidson: Ah, come on DeSadeski, that’s ridiculous. Our studies show that even the worst fallout is down to a safe level after two weeks.

Russian Ambassador: You’ve obviously never heard of cobalt thorium G!

Turgidson: (pauses) Well, what about it?

Russian Ambassador: Cobalt thorium G has a radioactive halflife of ninety three years. If you take, say, fifty H-bombs in the hundred megaton range and jacket them with cobalt thorium G, when they are exploded they will produce a doomsday shroud. A lethal cloud of radioactivity which will encircle the earth for ninety three years!

This exchange is from Dr. Strangelove serves as an excellent introduction to the final news story to discuss. Apparently Russian military intel was ACCIDENTALLY leaked on television. Russia was quick to suggest that this was a mistake. The rest of the world just said sure and then laid awake at night quaking incessantly.

Ever since the US announced an interest in putting anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in Eastern Europe, Russia has been skeptical. The US maintains these are to prevent strikes from N. Korea or Iran. Russia however quickly realized that these ABM systems threatened their own nuclear capacity, and they have been vocal critics ever since.

ABM systems were considered very dangerous during the Cold War, enough so to be banned. ABM systems undo deterrence as they allow one side to potentially survive a first or second strike and for this reason they were taboo. While Russia has been increasingly flaunting its nuclear capacity, with little regard to the START treaty, its really just a reaction to America’s ABM systems.

The military intel being released was no accident, but rather a carefully calculated warning shot. Russia is showing the US it is more than capable of adapting to ABM systems.

So what exactly was unveiled?

Oh nothing really. Its only the superweapon featured in Dr. Strangelove. You know. Just a nuclear torpedo that may or may not be tipped with Cobalt-59.

Really. Its fine.

Cobalt bombs have long been a theoretical construct but until now no one, that we know of, has really tried building one. They are supposed to be able to produce a deadly, thick, and long-lasting fallout. In the long run, these bombs would do far more damage over a far larger area. If anything could trigger nuclear winter, it would be a cobalt bomb. This is why no one tried building one before. Cobalt bombs are less of a weapon and more of a several megaton middle finger to the human race. Nukes are already tactically unwieldy. While the neutron bomb was an attempt to render nukes more viable in combat, a cobalt bomb is a development in the opposite direction: it is not so much an instrument of war as an agent of extinction.

Suffice it to say that humanity could probably walk away from a nuclear war, so long as cobalt-59 isn’t involved.

So there you have it folks. You can’t trust international sports. ISIS is continuing to reap a bloody harvest. And Russia may or may not be working on a way to kill everything – literally everything.

Needless to say, I had trouble falling asleep last night…

Flight 9268: The Long Halloween

Russia has been busy in the Middle East these days, much to the chagrin of the U.S. A desire to back up the Assad regime has been made manifest in attacks against terrorists. Many people were surprised to learn that the Russian definition of terrorist includes U.S. backed Syrian rebels; these people fail to understand how Russia defines terrorism. Its only consistent that the nation which went through two wars to combat breakaway rebels in Chechnya would have a zero-tolerance policy on rebels. The union of Syria and Russia seemed true when Assad made a surprise visit to Putin.

I could hear my fellow Americans chomping at the bit at all of this. And who can blame them? To all appearances Russia had outmaneuvered us in the Middle East entirely. I was skeptical, as you may recall from an earlier post, but I didn’t think that the Russian stratagem would unravel so quickly.

Well, its too soon to say unravel…But you still can’t say that the events of last Saturday weren’t a game changer.

31 October 2015. Northern Sinai. A charter plane bound for Russia blows up mid-flight. 7 crew. 217 passengers, mostly Russian. No Survivors.

What are the ramifications of this crash? What does it mean for Russia in the Middle East. Usually I don’t like to analyze news in the making but why bother blogging if I won’t get my hands a little dirty. Is this just a freak accident? An act of vengeance? Or something worse? Put on your tin-foil hats kids because we’re going to flirt with conspiracy here.

The Suspects

Normally after a big tragedy people ask “how?” The context within which this tragedy occurred has people asking “who?” instead. After I heard of the plane crash my thoughts immediately turned to ISIS. I knew that ISIS had a powerful ally in Sinai Peninsula in the form of the “Sinai Province” group which pledged fealty to Islamic State. The “Sinai Province” has been a formidable ally for the newly christened al-Sisi regime in Egypt just as ISIS and Russia have butted heads. Russia and Egypt have enjoyed increasingly warm relations over the last few years, and now their fates are linked together. But personal theories don’t matter here; what do the big players think and, more importantly, what are their biases?

  • Russia: Media was quick to attribute the crash to technical problems. Russia is pretending like this is a freak accident, and for good reason. Polls from the Levada center reveal mixed feelings among Russian’s toward aiding Syria, and Putin doesn’t want to lose what little support his foreign policy has. Russia does not want to conjure up memories of past terrorist attacks or of the Soviet-Afghan/Chechen Wars.
  • Egypt: Siding with Russia. Al-Sisi wants to convey that Egypt has the upper hand in the fight against terrorism. He also wants to protect Egypt’s tourism industry which, yes, is significant. A 2014 statement by Putin following a meeting with Al-Sisi actually includes an explicit mention of Egyptian tourism: “We gave special attention to contacts between our citizens in such an important area as tourism. Egypt is one of the favourite holiday resorts among Russian tourists. Last year, despite certain limitations, almost two million tourists from Russia visited the resorts of the Red Sea coast.” Egypt has no desire to see its national security questioned. Egypt incidentally recovered the black boxes and presumably handed them over to Russia, so who knows if these will even been interpreted fairly?
  • US/UK: Claim to have intel that indicates an explosion or an ISIS plot. The US and UK have the potential to spin this tragedy for political advantage: having been hamstrung by Russian activity they now have a chance to fire back. Details are still forthcoming, but the West is showing a remarkable unity in attempting to corner Russia on this issue. If the plane crash was a terrorist action it would undercut Putin’s legitimacy while enhancing the comparatively apathetic response of the West. The US has not gotten as involved as Russia and remains ostensibly free of any ISIS attack. Obama’s policy of keeping US involvement low is, by this standard, working.
  • ISIS/Sinai Province: Naturally the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, labeling the downing as a successful bombing. (Incidentally a bomb seems to be more likely than a surface-to-air missile according to expert consensus). Doing so not only serves to demoralize Russia but also greatly enhances the prestige of ISIS among jihadist groups. In a largely one-sided war between Russia and ISIS, this would be an incredibly valuable victory for the Islamic State, which has been threatening Russia with increasing frequency. I am still doing some research to see if the Sinai Province has claimed any responsibility, or at least if there is any disparity between ISIS and the Sinai Province over this. While the latter may be technically subservient to the former, relations between terrorist groups are generally rocky, especially when they both have much to gain from taking all the credit for themselves.

Freak accidents do happen, but the case for this being an ISIS attack seems credible. At this point it is far too early to tell what the exact cause is, but the closed nature of Russian/Egyptian media will likely hide any conclusions. The situation is made all the more confusing by the fact that Russia and Egypt have the black boxes. Speculation is all that we have right now, and it seems that speculation is what we’ll have to face.

The Kremlin Corollary 

Let us assume that the planes were brought down by a terrorist attack. Hell, let us assume that they weren’t. Schrödinger’s cat anyone?

In either case, the Kremlin’s next move would seem obvious: use this attack to amp up pressure on ISIS and galvanize support. This is politics 101. Putin actually used this trick to rise to prominence in 1999, playing off of the Moscow Apartment Bombings to lead Russia into the Second Chechen War. Certain skeptics would label this a dirty trick when used in 1999, as the mysterious circumstances of the Bombings have led to accusations that they were staged by the government.

I doubt that Putin staged the Moscow Apartment Bombings, but I have no doubt that Putin is a consummate pragmatist. Even his bad moves are still excellent from a utilitarian standard. Putin is a master bureaucrat who could put Brezhnev to shame, and he knows all the right strings to pull.

So no matter what happened to Flight 9268, it seems as if Putin would have been able to fold it into an advantage. And yet…

And yet there is a catch. Russia is simply saying that this is an accident; they aren’t attempting to justify extra action against ISIS. Russia may be increasing its military operations in Syria since the accident, but they haven’t made any logical connections. The Russia Today link in that last sentence doesn’t even mention Sinai! 

The fact that the Russian government has not officially blamed ISIS or made any recent highly visible moves in Syria is interesting. Has Putin, normally a man on the move, finally been slowed down and forced to consider the situation? I think yes, but this isn’t a sign of weakness…not yet. Putin is clearly taking a cautious “wait-and-see” approach.

In the historiography of the Cuban Missile Crisis this would be referred to as the “owl” approach (see bottom for some sources). Not wanted to back down or escalate, JFK instead decided to wait and see what happens. So now lets turn to an analysis of the future along these same lines. What is going through Putin’s mind right now?

The Chips are Down: Next Move?

Owl Strategy: This is the current phase of decision making Putin is in. Putin is not withdrawing and he is not visible turning more to military solutions. I feel that he is currently deciding on his next move.

The beauty of the “owl” strategy is that is allows all options to be kept on the table. Putin still retains all of his freedom of action until enough information can be brought to the table. He doesn’t commit in a way that any side can fire back at: in a way he is simply passing off the initiative. Notice that the West and ISIS are the vocal ones in this situation, not Putin. While the US/UK and ISIS lay blame or claim respectively, Putin can sit back and figure out how to best position himself.

The curse of the owl strategy is that it forces you to make a choice at some point. Sooner or later Putin will have to take a stance and commit to a certain policy. For the purpose of this exercise we can boil it down to two possible answers: dove and hawk.

Dove Strategy: The dove strategy would manifest as a softening of the Russian line, ranging from full withdrawal to less commitment. Putin stakes a lot of his popularity on his tough guy image, and he is unlikely to step back from a situation once the die is cast. Any adoption of the dove strategy would be very limited as Syria is too valuable a prize for Russia to let fall. Various news outlets report that Russia is currently facing some stress with the Assad regime and other Middle Eastern governments after the downing of the Sinai jet. If this is the case, which I doubt, it would be even more important for Putin to remain committed to the region.

There is a “winning” strategy with the Dove tactic that I can detect though: suppose that Russia decided to soften its line by undertaking cooperative exercises with the West? Rather than retreat entirely, Russia could attempt to cut its loses by signing onto a coalition. While the US wouldn’t mind Russia being tied down in the Middle East this isn’t the Cold War anymore. The US doesn’t get stronger just because Russia gets weaker in the region. Asking the West for a coalition would weaken Russian freedom of action however while increasing US influence in the area, which may entice US acceptance. But. for this reason, Putin may not adopt this even if it is a safe option. It would be awkward and risky for Putin to work with the West, especially after so much bad blood and tension have been going on since the annexation of Crimea.

In either case, no matter how absurd they might be (all options on the table here!) I don’t see Putin adopting any dove strategies.

Hawk Strategy: This is the logical strategy and seems to be very likely. Basically just raise pressure against ISIS, maybe even increasing aid to Egypt in reining in the Sinai Province. Increased air strikes, bombings, and commitment. This would boost Putin in the short term (if it ever comes out that the plane was brought down by a bomb), but it would have massive long-term costs and would likely result in more attacks being conducted against Russia. Essentially this is the highest risk option, but it also the most consistent with Russia’s recent activities. Putin cannot risk weakening himself with a Dove option, so he may adopt a Hawk strategy hoping to offset potential long term losses with short term gains.

Personally I am wary of the Hawk strategy. Terrorism is difficult to exterminate by force, as the Soviet-Afghan War, Chechen Wars, and War on Terror all show. Putin’s Russia has been able to greatly curb terrorism in Chechnya, but at great cost and only by giving up some freedom of action in the region to Kadyrov. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Hawk Strategy was adopted (it is Russia’s default when confronted with terrorism) but I think it is far too risky.

So What is Putin’s Next Strategy?

The outcome doesn’t look good huh? There are no real winning strategies it would seem. If it was an attack Russia can’t look weak and back down. But Russia also can’t commit further without accepting further loss of life.

So what is the strategy? Has Putin finally worked his way into a dark corner?

No. The reality is that Putin has already picked out the best strategy. Putin is waiting and watching, and he will continue to do so. But wait didn’t I say that the owl option forced people to choose another option at some point? Well sure, but define “some point.” Putin already has the West right where he wants them, and he already has formidable freedom of action in the Middle East. There is no need to alter his strategy or change course. Flight 9268 may have been a critical loss, but it seems unlikely that it would be enough to further galvanize an apathetic Russian population to oppose further militarism. Quite the contrary, an excellent article by the Economist suggests that it will only “reinforce Russia’s fortress mentality” and add more credibility to Putin, and therefore even more freedom to act.

Putin has all options on the table, and as long as the plane failed due to technical problems he keeps all options on the table. He may make a decision sooner or later, but at this point later, much later, would be wiser.

So there you have it folks. The plane was not blown up, but merely had technical issues.

Why?

Because.

Epilogue

When planes explode in mid-air they usually leave a stream of debris. Egypt is likely still cleaning up the plane and body parts left strewn over a few miles. As each side angles for maximum political leverage let us not forget that there will be 225 closed casket funerals. Human beings dragged through hell only to be put on display so that the major actors can keep playing their political games. Will there be any justice for the dead? Is there ever justice in war?


For more discussion of the hawk, dove, and owl distinctions in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis I recommend:

Allison, Graham, and Zelikow, Philip. (1999). Essence of decision: explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Blight, J. G., Nye, J. S., & Welch, D. A. (1987). The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited. Foreign Affairs, 66(1), 170-188. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

Hawks, Doves and Owls: An Agenda for Avoiding Nuclear War (1986; New York, W. W. Norton) by Allison, Nye, and Carnesale seems to be the piece that first brought up the owl/hawk/dove distinction but I must investigate further…