Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanRussia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they’re not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world’s fourth-largest economy (and Europe’s largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Continue reading “Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?”

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Turkey’s Geographical Ambition

By Robert D. Kaplan and Reva Bhalla

stratforAt a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable. Continue reading “Turkey’s Geographical Ambition”

Signs Of The Fed’s Era Of Secrecy Coming To An End

By Ralph Benko

fedThe Federal Reserve increasingly is attracting scrutiny across the board.  Now add to that a roller coaster of a thriller, using a miracle of a rare device, shining a light into the operations of the Fed — that contemporary riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: Matthew Quirk’s latest novel, The Directive. “If I’ve made myself too clear, you must have misunderstood me,” Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once famously said. Continue reading “Signs Of The Fed’s Era Of Secrecy Coming To An End”

Obama checkmate?

By Ralph Benko

uscapitolHouse Speaker John Boehner’s proposed lawsuit against Barack Obama is causing a great deal of chatter in Washington.  Political stunt, as Obama has called it?  Or, maybe, checkmate, Obama? There is a quiet gap in the U.S. Constitution.  There is no explicit mechanism to discipline a president who fails to carry out his Constitutional duties.  This gap sat there, barely noticed, for centuries.  Barack Obama, apparently, noticed it.  He is exploiting it.  That exploitation is a serious departure from Constitutional principle … whether or not one supports his policies, whether one is a progressive or conservative. Continue reading “Obama checkmate?”

Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?

By Ralph Benko

KrugmanProfessor Paul Krugman is leaving Princeton.  Is he leaving in disgrace?

Not long, as these things go, before his departure was announced Krugman thoroughly was indicted and publicly eviscerated for intellectual dishonesty by Harvard’s Niall Ferguson in a hard-hitting three-part series in the Huffington Post, beginning here, and with a coda in Project Syndicate, all summarized at Forbes.comContinue reading “Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?”

Can Putin Survive?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThere is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.

Continue reading “Can Putin Survive?”

Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI am writing this from Budapest, the city in which I was born. I went to the United States so young that all my memories of Hungary were acquired later in life or through my family, whose memories bridged both world wars and the Cold War, all with their attendant horrors. My own deepest memory of Hungary comes from my parents’ living room in the Bronx. My older sister was married in November 1956. There was an uprising against the Soviets at the same time, and many of our family members were still there. After the wedding, we returned home and saw the early newspapers and reports on television. My parents discovered that some of the heaviest fighting between the revolutionaries and Soviets had taken place on the street where my aunts lived. A joyous marriage, followed by another catastrophe — the contrast between America and Hungary. That night, my father asked no one in particular, “Does it ever end?” The answer is no, not here. Which is why I am back in Budapest. Continue reading “Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers”

Borderlands: The View from Azerbaijan

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI arrive in Azerbaijan as the country celebrates Victory Day, the day successor states of the former Soviet Union celebrate the defeat of Germany in World War II. No one knows how many Soviet citizens died in that war — perhaps 22 million. The number is staggering and represents both the incompetence and magnificence of Russia, which led the Soviets in war. Any understanding of Russia that speaks of one without the other is flawed. Continue reading “Borderlands: The View from Azerbaijan”

The Middle Class Squeeze: Can The Populist Elizabeth Warren Champion The Little Guy With Big Government?

uscapitolWho will prove the champion of the little guy and gal?  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — on deck for her party’s presidential nomination should Hillary Rodham Clinton bow out — has become the political leader of choice for those who advocate Big Government as that champion. This columnist is skeptical about Big Government improving the lives of the citizens.  Yet … there is a case to be made for Warren.  She is, at very least, a magnificently worthy adversary for advocates of limited government and deserves to be taken seriously. Continue reading “The Middle Class Squeeze: Can The Populist Elizabeth Warren Champion The Little Guy With Big Government?”

Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI will be leaving this week to visit a string of countries that are now on the front line between Russia and the European Peninsula: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan. A tour like that allows you to look at the details of history. But it is impossible to understand those details out of context. The more I think about recent events, the more I realize that what has happened in Ukraine can only be understood by considering European geopolitics since 1914 — a hundred years ago and the beginning of World War I. Continue reading “Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape”

Is James Rickards Right About A Coming Monetary Apocalypse?

By Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinIs a monetary apocalypse imminent? James Rickards, bestselling author of Currency Wars, has a new New York Times bestseller out, about the possible imminent collapse of the dollar: The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System  (Portfolio/Penguin). More interestingly, he writes about what could come next: a golden age. Advance praise (“A terrifically interesting and useful book….”) from Brookings senior fellow Kenneth W. Dam, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and author of The Rules of the Game: Reform and Evolution in the International Monetary System, is an attention getter. Rickard’s Currency Wars was a hot best seller on the New York Times list, and also, more significantly, in the United States Senate. Continue reading “Is James Rickards Right About A Coming Monetary Apocalypse?”

The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe United States announced new sanctions on seven Russian government officials April 28. A long-used tactic, sanctions can yield unpredictable effects or have no effect at all, depending upon how they are crafted. It is commonly assumed that sanctions are applied when a target country’s actions are deemed unacceptable. The sanctioning nation presumably chooses sanctions to avoid war when war would be too costly or could result in defeat. Sanctions’ stated purpose is to induce behavioral changes in a target state by causing economic pain. To work, sanctions must therefore cause pain. But they must not be so severe that they convince the target state that war is more desirable than capitulating to the demands of the sanctioning nation.

Continue reading “The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia”

In the “War on Youth” the youth strike back for liberty

By Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgPolitics is no country for old men. The left likes to lampoon the GOP as a party of grumpy old men. Wrong. A new generation is rising. The most striking display at the recent CPAC was a barrage balloon emblazoned with the words War On YouthIt was lofted over one of the most popular booths there, Young Americans for Liberty. A new generation is rising fast.  It is not grumpy. It is, however, militant for liberty and justice for all. Continue reading “In the “War on Youth” the youth strike back for liberty”

Not a New Cold War, but Great Game II

By Mark Galeotti

logo_isn_0Are Russia and the West about to revisit the ritualized competition of the Cold War? Not according to Mark Galeotti. A more useful analogy is the Great Game, that freewheeling 19th century struggle between Great Britain and Russia over Central Asia. Continue reading “Not a New Cold War, but Great Game II”

Why Only Mark Zuckerberg Can Transform Immigration Policy

By Ralph Benko

facebook logoProblems caused by America’s broken immigration system are causing misery to America’s immigrant community (both legal residents and undocumented), and, for good measure, to the president, the GOP and American society. There may be only one person with both the intentionality and the resources to resolve America’s immigration predicament: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. Continue reading “Why Only Mark Zuckerberg Can Transform Immigration Policy”

London Mayor Boris Johnson For President? Welcome to the UKSA!

By Ralph Benko

borisjThis columnist’s admiration for Senator Rand Paul is driven, in part, by Sen. Paul’s consistent and honorable stand against the “warfare/welfare state.” Rising-star national talk radio host, and columnist, Steve Deace astutely observes in a recent Washington Times op-ed, “he’s the only candidate running that is attempting to introduce an entirely new paradigm into the process.”  Sen. Paul presents as well attuned to the national mood. Continue reading “London Mayor Boris Johnson For President? Welcome to the UKSA!”

U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanEver since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and “the long war.” Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete. There was a profoundly radical idea embedded in this line of thought. Continue reading “U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair”

A Modest Proposal: Should Puerto Rico Consider Joining The Russian Federation?

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolShould Puerto Rico explore following Crimea into the Russian Federation? Puerto Rico’s biggest problem in dealing with Washington is of the same nature as that increasingly shared by too many Americans. Puerto Rico’s biggest problem in dealing with Washington is of the same nature as that increasingly shared by too many Americans. We citizens much too often find ourselves in the position of supplicants to Washington rather than, at minimum, as dignified peers. Might there be a way to change this? Continue reading “A Modest Proposal: Should Puerto Rico Consider Joining The Russian Federation?”

Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanDuring the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone’s head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate. Continue reading “Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine”

Big Government Really Is Over

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolCrimea. Venice. Scotland. Quebec. Catalonia. Colorado. Crimea’s vote, a popular vote of no confidence in Kiev, to leave Ukraine (and rejoin Russia) is in some ways unique. In o ther ways it appears part of an emerging, worldwide, trend.Venice voted last week, in a nonbinding referendum, to secede from Italy.  89% in favor: a popular vote of no confidence in Rome. Scotland will vote next September on whether to disunite from the United Kingdom.  Much to London’s dismay. Continue reading “Big Government Really Is Over”

U.S. Unemployment Will Remain High So Long As The Dollar Remains Wobbly

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolThe Republican National Committee recently passed a resolution, by the unanimous vote of its National Committeepeople, calling for the creation of a national Monetary Commission.  This legislation is prime sponsored in the House of Representatives by Joint Economic Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tx) and in the US Senate by Republican whip John Cornyn (R-Tx). Cato, with a representative from Heritage, recently conducted a panel on Capitol Hill on this same proposed Commission. Continue reading “U.S. Unemployment Will Remain High So Long As The Dollar Remains Wobbly”

Chuck Hagel Propels Barack Obama Into History

By Ralph Benko

chuckWith his thoughtful restructuring of America’s military, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel — a Republican — has cemented Obama’s signature  legacy: restoring America to a peacetime footing. Obama’s bringing  American troops home from two wars, and, now, reducing the military to a strong, but proportionate, peacetime footing, was not easy. Doing so required something of a political miracle. Obama, with a critical assist from Hagel, is pulling it off. Continue reading “Chuck Hagel Propels Barack Obama Into History”

What Facebook’s 56 New Genders Mean For Politics

by Ralph Benko

facebook logoFacebook very recently introduced a drop-down menu with 56 gender identity choices to embellish the classic Male and Female.  It includes arcane categories such as “neutrois” amd “two-spirit” and takes one over the 6-colored rainbow Gay Pride flag.  Facebook now takes us somewhere very far over the rainbow. This columnist fully shares Alex Schultz’s, Facebook’s director of growth, aspiration to contribute to “a more understanding and tolerant world.” Still, this caused a brief splash of national incredulity. Brilliant cultural critic Steven Colbert, for instance, reportedly skewered it.  Understandably so. Continue reading “What Facebook’s 56 New Genders Mean For Politics”

The Asian Status Quo

By Robert D. Kaplan and Matt Gertken

kaplanArguably the greatest book on political realism in the 20th century was University of Chicago Professor Hans J. Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, published in 1948. In that seminal work, Morgenthau defines the status quo as “the maintenance of the distribution of power that exists at a particular moment in history.” In other words, things shall stay as they are. But it is not quite that clear. For as Morgenthau also explains, “the concept of the ‘status quo’ derives from status quo ante bellum,” which, in turn, implies a return to the distribution of power before a war. The war’s aggressor shall give up his conquered territory, and everything will return to how it was. Continue reading “The Asian Status Quo”

Heritage Drafts Steve Moore, Supply Side Visionary, To Fight Team Obama

By Ralph Benko

uscapitolWill America start prospering again — as it has not prospered for over a decade? Likely yes. But not without a fight.  Now that Jim DeMint has raided Steve Moore from the Wall Street Journal that card might be Heritage Foundation vs. the White House. Could be big. John Holdren, now Obama’s White House science advisor, 40 years ago termed America “overdeveloped.” Continue reading “Heritage Drafts Steve Moore, Supply Side Visionary, To Fight Team Obama”

The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week, several events took place that were important to their respective regions and potentially to the world. Russian government officials suggested turning Ukraine into a federation, following weeks of renewed demonstrations in Kiev. The Venezuelan government was confronted with violent and deadly protests. Kazakhstan experienced a financial crisis that could have destabilized the economies of Central Asia. Russia and Egypt inked a significant arms deal. Right-wing groups in Europe continued their political gains. Any of these events had the potential to affect the United States. At different times, lesser events have transfixed Americans.This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them. This may be part of a cycle that shapes American interest in public affairs. The decision to raise the debt ceiling, which in the last cycle gripped public attention, seemed to elicit a shrug. Continue reading “The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs”

Has Brazil really entered recession? Then here is what to do

By Arnout Nuijt

brazilianflagPositive news about Brazil’s economy is hard to find these days. In fact the bad news is piling up. A recent report by the Financial Times of London, quoting Brazil Central bank figures, suggests the country has entered technical recession more than 7 months ago by shrinking slightly for two consecutive quarters in 2013. Another report in the same publication expressed worries about what harm a recession may do to Brazil’s housing bubble. So how serious should you take these reports and what can you do to protect your business in Brazil? Continue reading “Has Brazil really entered recession? Then here is what to do”

Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton: A Radically Transformational Presidential Election Fighting Over Peace and Prosperity?

By Ralph Benko

randpaulRand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton? In a context of emerging peace, prosperity, and human rights? This would be big.  Transformational, even.Peter Bein art, in the Atlantic Monthly (among many, many other political observers), has concluded that “Rand Paul is the 2016 Republican Frontrunner.”  And two of the Washington Post’s top political observers, Chris Cillizia and Sean Sullivan, say “Hillary Clinton is the biggest frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination ever. Yes, ever.” The next presidential election is not going to be  “Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden.” It bodes to be transformational. Continue reading “Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton: A Radically Transformational Presidential Election Fighting Over Peace and Prosperity?”

New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe struggle for some of the most strategic territory in the world took an interesting twist this week. Last week we discussed what appeared to be a significant shift in German national strategy in which Berlin seemed to declare a new doctrine of increased assertiveness in the world — a shift that followed intense German interest in Ukraine. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a now-famous cellphone conversation, declared her strong contempt for the European Union and its weakness and counseled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to proceed quickly and without the Europeans to piece together a specific opposition coalition before the Russians saw what was happening and took action. Continue reading “New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia”

Memo To Janet Yellen’s Vice Chair Nominee Stanley Fischer: That Was Then. This Is Now.

By Ralph Benko

fedDr. Janet Yellen now has taken over the chair of the Fed. And President Obama, to great acclaim, recently nominated Prof. Stanley Fischer as Vice Chairman. Prof. Fischer may be the most distinguished and beloved central banker at work within the world financial system today. It is not often that central bankers find themselves beloved. Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin famously quoted a writer saying that the Federal Reserve is “in the position of the chaperone who has ordered the punch bowl removed just when the party was really warming up.” Yet Fischer is beloved. Continue reading “Memo To Janet Yellen’s Vice Chair Nominee Stanley Fischer: That Was Then. This Is Now.”

Why so much anarchy?

By Robert D. Kaplan

kaplanTwenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms — making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, Continue reading “Why so much anarchy?”

The Secret Hillary Rodham Clinton, Part II

By Ralph Benko

hillaryAs recounted in the previous column, the record is clear that Saul Alinsky, about whom the young Hillary Rodham wrote her Wellesley honor’s thesis, was neither communist nor  conventional Big Government liberal. Hillary Rodham turned down a job  offer from Alinsky.  She turned aside from the path of  anti-establishment populist. Hillary Rodham took the road more traveled, that of conventional  liberal. By word and deed she turned away from Alinsky’s optimistic  participatory politics. She turned, instead, to central planning.  What might that choice suggest? Continue reading “The Secret Hillary Rodham Clinton, Part II”

A More Assertive German Foreign Policy

By George Friedman and Marc Lanthemann

Angela MerkelThe Ukrainian crisis is important in itself, but the behavior it has elicited from Germany is perhaps more important. Berlin directly challenged Ukraine’s elected president for refusing to tighten relations with the European Union and for mistreating Ukrainians who protested his decision. In challenging President Viktor Yanukovich, Berlin also challenged Russia, a reflection of Germany’s recent brazen foreign policy. Since the end of World War II, Germany has pursued a relatively tame foreign policy. But over the past week, Berlin appeared to have acknowledged the need for a fairly dramatic change. Continue reading “A More Assertive German Foreign Policy”

The Secret Hillary Rodham Clinton, Part I

By Ralph Benko

hillaryForty-five years ago Hillary Rodham made a fateful decision. It has defined her life. Understanding that moment of decision is essential to understanding  Hillary Clinton’s life — the successes and the failures and, perhaps,  the future. It would explain the subtly discordant persona that causes  the media — even many elite Hillary sympathizers — to present her as  some kind of fabulous monster. And it may reveal something of the soul  within. Continue reading “The Secret Hillary Rodham Clinton, Part I”

Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanA few months ago, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was expected to sign some agreements that could eventually integrate Ukraine with the European Union economically. Ultimately, Yanukovich refused to sign the agreements, a decision thousands of his countrymen immediately protested. The demonstrations later evolved, as they often do. Protesters started calling for political change, and when Yanukovich resisted their calls, they demanded new elections. Continue reading “Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests”

How The Republicans Can Win The Upcoming Battle Over Income Inequality

by Ralph Benko 

GOP_Logo1_svgFollowing President Obama’s lead, the Democrats are seeking to make  income inequality the wedge issue of the 2014 Congressional and Senate  elections. This unquestionably addresses an issue that — after forty  years of middle class family wage stagnation — resonates with voters. Yet the Republicans, thanks to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx), not the Democrats, are better positioned to take this on. The Republicans are far better positioned to get right and use the  underlying issue — which is more one of inequity than inequality — to  political advantage.  Continue reading “How The Republicans Can Win The Upcoming Battle Over Income Inequality”

Tōˌtaliˈte(ə)rēəns Among Us?

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolPossibly the most powerful, and dangerous, euphemism in politics today is “progressive.” This writer has many cherished progressive friends. He considers them beautiful… but, often, misguided. Yet perhaps they are more “guided” than he has supposed. Perhaps progressives, many of them, are precision guided. A pattern is emerging. That pattern is to assert government control over, well, everything. Government control … in the name of social and economic justice, of course. There’s another word for this: totalitarian. Continue reading “Tōˌtaliˈte(ə)rēəns Among Us?”

Elections Don’t Matter, Institutions Do

By Robert D. Kaplan

kaplanMany years ago, I visited Four Corners in the American Southwest. This is a small stone monument on a polished metal platform where four states meet. You can walk around the monument in the space of a few seconds and stand in four states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. People lined up to do this and have their pictures taken by excited relatives. To walk around the monument is indeed a thrill, because each of these four states has a richly developed tradition and identity that gives these borders real meaning. And yet no passports or customs police are required to go from one state to the other. Continue reading “Elections Don’t Matter, Institutions Do”

Can The Left’s “Mad Tea Party” Beat The Tea Party?

By Ralph Benko

aliceOne year ago, between the re-election and re-inauguration of Barack Obama, the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy met and mapped out three major strategic goals.  These are designed to seize plenary control over the US government and, thereby, America. This is not “black helicopter” paranoia.  It was reported candidly in the pretty hard left Mother Jones.  While MJ is not canonical  — that would be The Nation — it is credible on all things left. Here is what the left is up to.  Continue reading “Can The Left’s “Mad Tea Party” Beat The Tea Party?”

NAFTA and the Future of Canada, Mexico and the United States

By Marc Lanthemann

northamericaThe 20th anniversary of NAFTA’s implementation on Jan. 1 has revived some of the perennial arguments that have surrounded the bloc since its inception. The general consensus has been that the trade deal was a mixed bag, a generally positive yet disappointing economic experiment. That consensus may not be wrong. The history of the North American Free Trade Agreement as an institution has been one of piecemeal, often reluctant, integration of three countries with a long tradition of protectionism and fierce defense of economic national sovereignty. While NAFTA was a boon for certain sectors of the economy, particularly the U.S. agriculture industry, the net effect of the world’s second-largest trade bloc remains somewhat unknown. Continue reading “NAFTA and the Future of Canada, Mexico and the United States”