China and Intellectual Property Rights

If you’re wondering why the headline of this DefenseNews article is “Russia Admits China Illegally Copied Its Fighter,” it’s because everyone knows China reverse engineers indigenous products from imported models, but the Chinese market has so much pull that people sell them the hardware along with technology transfers anyway. Then the trick becomes how to get the Chinese to respect the contract without making them lose face. A guy I met here in Paris who works for Alstom, the French train manufacturer, was telling me how they started seeing their trains show up in South America under Chinese brand names. […]

Nukes Go Bump in the Night

Last week I noticed a minor item about a French nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarine, Le Triomphant, that had been forced back to port after colliding with a submerged object, which the Defense Ministry suggested could have been a “container.” I’m not a naval expert, but that struck me as very odd, since the sub was cruising beneath the surface, but not scraping bottom where I’d imagine a lost container would wind up. Today, the AP is reporting that the “container” the Triomphant struck contained another nuclear reactor and more nuclear weapons, because it was none other than the British nuclear […]

State sovereignty can be likened to a living organism. It casts off meanings, sometimes splits, and reunites as it evolves in response to changing global values. Over the years, those global values and the subsequent meanings of sovereignty have often reflected the interests and preferences of hegemonic states. While a superpower like the United States cannot change the meaning or interpretation of sovereignty on its own, its political, economic, and military muscle give it a greater chance of mobilizing resources and support to influence the direction of the new meaning than a smaller country. States, multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and […]

INTEL CHIEF SIGNALS CHANGE — Adm. Dennis Blair, President Obama’s new director of national intelligence, has lost no time living up to his reputation as a hard-driving boss. The intelligence community has been at work since last December compiling the 2009 Annual Threat Assessment, which the new director submitted to Congress Thursday. According to a well-informed source, when Blair arrived to take up his post some days ago, the finished draft was handed to him, but to almost everyone’s consternation he rejected it. Intel officers had to scramble to produce a new version shifting the emphasis from terrorism to the […]

The tale could begin, “During the short reign of the Ritalin King cameth the downturn. . . .” During his six-month EU presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy laced into any number of challenges with a typically hyperactive gusto and self-importance. The spirit of the Sun King may have been whispering in Sarko’s ear, as he put his own stamp on Louis XIV’s famous motto: “L’Europe, c’est moi.” When time came to pass the EU crown to Prague, the Frenchman threatened to boycott the handover, after unsuccessfully pushing for self-serving alternatives to exisiting EU mechanisms. The Coulisses de Bruxelles blog quoted an aide […]

PRISTINA, MITROVICA and GRACANICA, Kosovo — A year after Kosovo declared independence, there has been no mass exodus of the Serb minority — or worse — as some critics feared. In fact, tension in the Serb enclaves has lessened and there is hope of further normalization, even in the restive North. “It is peaceful here,” says Nebojsa Popovic, one of the few Serbs left on the Kosovo police force. Popovic commands a station in Gracanica, the centre of a Serb enclave 5km from Pristina, where Serb and Albanian traders and taxi drivers chat openly in the street. A soldier still […]

The Neo-Eurasianist movement has been a curious feature of the Russian intellectual landscape throughout the post-Soviet years. It is dominated by a single figure, the monk-bearded Aleksandr Dugin, who argues that Russia is not a European country but an Asian one, and advocates a grand alliance with the Turkic and Arab worlds, India, Japan, Iran and even Israel, to counter American influence, which it regards as an existential threat to Russia. Dugin’s theories are larded with a significant amount of the occult, are complex and often contradict each other. But their anti-American emphasis and open call for return to empire […]

Needing Russia Less

The interesting thing about walking back our objectives (and/or additional troop deployments) in Afghanistan is that it instantly reduces our need for Russia’s help. Add to that an (admittedly still theoretical) warming of relations with Iran, and you’ve got further lightening of need for Russian support (on the nuclear standoff), as well as a diversified energy source for Europe. There are still plenty of areas where our interests overlap with Russia’s, and it seems silly to needlessly antagonize Moscow, especially if it’s to cultivate alliances with unreliable and/or unstable states like Georgia and Ukraine, or to deploy unproven and not […]

Bellwether Swiss

That Swiss referendum on whether to extend the country’s free movement of labor agreements with the EU apparently passed with much greater ease than polls had suggested. Sixty percent of voters approved of the extension. So while there’s a whiff of protectionism in the air these days, it so far remains limited to products, not labor.

Biden, Munich and Russia

When I first read the transcript of Vice President Biden’s remarks in Munich over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think the language with regard to Russia sounded remarkably similar to that of the Bush administration (prior to the Georgia War, anyway). So I was a bit surprised to see the Russians respond so warmly to it. Apparently, “press the reset button” translates better into Russian than “sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances” or “we will continue to develop missile defense to counter the growingIranian capability, provided the technology is proven […]

Sarkozy in Baghdad

Just saw on the news that French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a surprise stop in Baghdad, accompanied by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defense Minister HervĂ© Morin. (No shoes for Nicolas, apparently.) Obviously there are some contracts — especially defense contracts — to be gained, so the visit isn’t selfless. But I couldn’t help but think this is part of the French effort to get President Obama to walk back the tough love on NATO troop increases for Afghanistan. According to Le Figaro, Sarkozy is the first Western head of state not part of the invading coalition to visit Iraq. […]

The Strategic Airlift Shortage

One of the reasons the U.S. is looking for overland supply routes intoAfghanistan is because air links are more expensive. But as Richard Weitz points out in his thorough analysis of the Afghan supply problem,NATO (and European) strategic airlift also happens to be in prettyshort supply these days. The SALIS and NSAC programs were stopgapmeasures designed to hold until the Airbus A400M is delivered. Theformer involves 15 NATO nations leasing strategic airlift fromUkrainian and Russian firms as needed. The latter is a multinationalconsortium to buy three C-17s as pooled assets. Those A400Mswere originally scheduled to be delivered this year, but […]

The Obama Honeymoon

A funny thing happened over the weekend, besides me getting knocked for a loop by a bad chest cold. Friday it seemed as if the Obama honeymoon was over. The Iranians were lobbing satellites into space, the North Koreans were trucking ICBMs cross-country, Russia was strong-arming Kyrgyzstan into shuttering our air base, and the Republicans were doing the bipartisanship approach to economic stimulus like Tyson did Marvis Frazier. Now it looks like the Russians love us again, the Iranians are willing to talk, Kyrgyzstan is willing to deal, and the big winner on economic stimulus is Obama. Anyone got a […]

Recent news reports indicate that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about whether it wants to double the size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The president has directed the Pentagon to think very clearly about the specific strategy and purposes involved with any troop increase. Independent defense experts continue to debate the wisdom of applying a variant of the troop surge policy that has apparently stabilized the security situation in Iraq to Afghanistan, with its very different local conditions. One weighty constraint on the proposed force increases concerns logistics. Recent developments in Pakistan and Central Asia in […]

On Feb. 2, Iran launched its first wholly indigenous satellite, the Omid, from a two- or possibly three-stage liquid-fuel Safir missile launcher. Assessments of the launch by European, Israeli, and American experts concurred that it raises the specter of Iran having a usable ballistic missile capability with which it can eventually launch the nuclear weapons that they and their governments fear Iran is building. Specifically, they believe that Iran can now target Europe with its missiles. Neither are they alone in the belief. Vitaly Lopota, president of Russia’s Energiya Corporation, congratulated Iran for having missiles capable of reaching any spot […]

Music Diplomacy

I bet if I told you that today’s selection is from the Clash, you’d assume it was going to be about sending diplomatic cables from London. That would be understandable, because I’d initially intended to go with London Calling. But then I ran across this other nugget, and I couldn’t pass it up. It’s not an easy track, speaking as it does about the gap between Joe Strummer’s idealist expectations and the harsher realities he encountered on a trip to Jamaica. It reminded me of my own first trip to the “Third World,” in my case Ecuador, when I left […]

A Three-Pillar European Defense Architecure

Matt Eckel cruelly sums up most of the arguments I make here on the blog in four words: Makes sense in theory. . . . More particularly, he was responding to this post on U.S.-Russia cooperation on European missile defense, and the idea of a three-pillar security architecture for Europe. Here’s Matt: All this to say that if there’s going to be a comprehensive collectivesecurity arrangement between the U.S., Europe and Russia, there has tobe a comprehensive convergence of security interests. That doesn’t seemto exist right now. A better idea, from my perspective, would be totrade European missile defense for […]

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