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World Association of International Studies

Post Who Calls the Shots (Literally) in US Foreign Policy?
Created by John Eipper on 01/14/20 4:44 AM

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Who Calls the Shots (Literally) in US Foreign Policy? (Paul Pitlick, USA, 01/14/20 4:44 am)

I always enjoy A. J. Cave's WAIS posts.

In her post of January 12th, A. J. mentioned China and Russia (or as Eugenio Battaglia refers to them, Empires 2 and 3), who might have an interest in events in Iran/Persia. Mr. Trump doesn't seem to have much confidence in the traditional American structure for advice and consent, relying on a small inner mob of advisors, and completely bypassing Congress and the UN.

Any speculation about who else he might have discussed the Soleimani assassination with--Putin? Erdogan? Netanyahu? Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud?

JE comments: Good questions. The final two candidates seem the most likely, although the reports tend to agree that the decision to strike Soleimani was a split-second one.

Isn't Putin generally a fan of the IRI-US showdown--especially because his nemesis neighbor, Ukraine, has now been dragged in?

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  • Does Russia Benefit from the US-Iran Showdown? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 01/15/20 3:00 AM)
    In contrary to what John E wrote, the reports are not that the Soleimani assassination was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Apparently it was ordered seven months ago. See:


    As to whether a conflict between the US and Iran would be profitable to Russia, I did read the article in The Hill expressing this point of view:


    I agree rather with this analysis:

    Although Moscow could financially gain from a politically isolated and less economically competitive Iran, the geopolitical fallout from a regime change in Tehran will significantly outweigh the potential economic benefits.

    Particularly, a direct confrontation between Tehran and Washington that could bring back major US military build-up is a geopolitical challenge that threatens Russia's interests in the Middle East. Moscow has already blamed the US for provoking Iran and has shown its opposition to the US tightening pressure on Tehran's defense program by recognizing Iran's legitimate defense interests.


    The Russians are allergic to instability, which is why regime change by external forces makes them crazy.

    As to Ukraine's being Russia's "Nemesis"--that is not true at all. Ukraine is Russia's most important post-Soviet relationship; Russia needs Ukraine for deep-seated economic reasons, for strategic reasons, and even political reasons--a huge number of Russians are related to people across the border. What is Russia's nemesis is the US meddling in Ukraine and turning Ukraine into a hostile state. The current situation with Ukraine is very dangerous for Putin; look for him to find any decent way out of it which leaves Ukraine something other than a hostile power with Western weapons. The new Ukrainian president seems to be a reasonable person, and carries no Ukrainian nationalist baggage--he's a Russian-speaking Jew from the East. Let's hope they will come to some agreement--the whole world will benefit.

    By the way, on a rather different topic, loosely related to this one only because it deals with Russians occupying other countries, have any WAISers seen the Norwegian series Occupied on Netflix? I have been enjoying this enormously. There are lots of clues to Nordic mentality in this delightful thriller. The premises is that the new young Prime Minister of Norway has decided that climate change demands decisive action, and has decided to shut down Norway's oil industry overnight. Norway is the biggest oil producer in Europe and in some years has been the world's biggest exporter. In order to make up for the lost energy, he plans to build massive nuclear power plants based on a new technology, thorium (actually this technology is quite similar to ordinary nuclear fission power generation). But Norway's neighbors are having none of this crazy earth-saver--the EU sends some slimy Belgian bureaucrats to threaten the PM in vague Eurocrat language, and then the Evil Swedes do the deed--with the collusion of the EU, the Swedes persuade the Russians to invade and occupy Norway and send their oil technicians in to get the taps turned on again.

    Follows all kinds of drama, including resistance movements, negotiations, and various human stories. It's superbly well done with three-dimensional characters (except the Evil Swedes and the Eurocrats, who are proper villains); the Russians are portrayed with subtlety. The occupation is a "silk glove" action with no fighting, and the PM is trying to compromise to fulfill the demands of the EU and get the Russians out peacefully.

    Highly recommended.

    JE comments:  The Hill essay points out another potential benefit for Russia:  an increasingly dangerous Middle East renders Arctic Sea shipping more attractive.  Moreover, climate change must be making these frigid routes more usable--although, as veteran mariner Eugenio Battaglia pointed out last February, there are still numerous risks, both to the ships and (perhaps especially) the environment:


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