Even though everyone recognizes nuclear weapons to be the most dangerous and dreadful weapons ever created, even though a lot of political leaders have acknowledged and continue to remind us that nuclear weapons are not to be used again, they still exist and therefore countries keep contemplating whether to pursue a nuclear policy. Despite the growing role of international law and diplomatic negotiations, international peace has not been reached, and the possibility of an armed conflict remains. Thus, military power continues to be relied upon as it defines a country’s status on the world stage. Having nuclear weapons strengthens this status. It plays the role of deterrence and provides a significant superiority of the country over its opponents.
The current Russian nuclear policy is driven by several reasons. Firstly, nuclear weapons guarantee country’s protection from the foreign broad scale aggression and ensure its security and sovereignty. Secondly, they are the key element in strategic deterrence. Thirdly, they preserve the high status of the Russian Federation at the world arena. Moreover, nuclear strength gives the country an ability to equalize itself with the main opponent, the US.
In the light of recent events in Ukraine, nuclear rhetoric has returned to the language of the politicians. In August 2014, president of Russia, Vladimir Putin stated in the interviews, “Our partners, notwithstanding the situation in the countries or their foreign policies, should always remember that it is better not to mess with Russia. I’ll remind you that Russia is one of the largest nuclear powers. These are not just words, this is reality and, moreover, we are strengthening our powers of nuclear restraint” . He continued by saying that Russia was transforming its armed services, making them more efficient and modern. Subsequently, later in November at the Forum of the National Peoples’ Front (rus. Obsherossiyskyi Narodnyi Front) he stated that the US wanted to subdue Russia. He also mentioned Nikita Khrushchev, highlighting his quick temper, “[He] hammered the desk with his shoe at the United Nations. And the whole world, primarily the United States, and NATO thought: this Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile” . Even more media hype was caused by the documentary “Crimea. The Way Home” (rus. Krym. Put na Rodinu). In one of the interviews Putin was asked whether the nuclear weapons were alerted during the annexation of Crimea, his answer was that thought had crossed their mind . In November 2015 there was a state TV “leak” that demonstrated giant nuclear torpedo. Many commentators, both Russian and foreign, claimed that it was deliberate action and qualified it as a warning to the United States not to seek nuclear advantage . The Ukrainian crisis has indeed ignited the political and military tension.
Such “nuclear” statements have been understood rather ambiguously by the West. The officials of NATO and the US repeatedly stated that they did not consider military intervention in Ukraine. It is, however, unclear whether such reaction was caused by the Russian nuclear warnings. Obviously, intervention was not an option, considering possible nuclear escalation.
In comparison to 1970-1980, there were many declarations from both sides (the US and USSR) about the impossibility of a nuclear war. Current Russian position cannot be different, yet officially Moscow remains silent. Technically, Russian nuclear rhetoric does not contradict the aims to prevent nuclear war in terms of deterrence strategy and armed-control treaties. However, it is obvious that Russia acts rather provocative.
Interestingly, following these renewed nuclear references, this nuclear rush was supported by many domestic officials. The political parties who have a long history of opposite views have united after the incident with Crimea. Some extreme supporters suggested adding into the official military doctrine the direct use of nuclear weapons in case of local war. In their opinion, it would be “preventive measures”, “demonstration of determination”, and “preventing the escalation of the situation” . Nevertheless, their claims have remained idle.
The new edited version of the military doctrine was issued in December 2014. It does not reflect these radical views and reiterates the same moderate and clear political views as in the previous versions of 2000 and 2010, “The Russian Federation will reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in a situation when nuclear weapons and other kinds of weapons of mass-destruction are being used against it and (or) its allies and also against a large scale aggression with conventional weapons in a crisis situation where the national security of the Russian Federation is at stake” . It is obvious that it was driven by the fact that nuclear weapons are to be used under extreme circumstances. In the case of a conflict with another nuclear country, the decision to use nuclear weapon would cause a quick nuclear reaction and escalation of the conflict. In the first days such nuclear strikes would kill millions of people from the both sides, and then it would turn into the global catastrophe. Such a concept of limited nuclear war has always been rejected by Russia.
Certainly, one of the main changes in the military doctrine admits the fact that ideological and interreligious clashes are rising. In the new version it is stated rather carefully “the competition of values and development models”. In the core of any ideological or religious structure lies a system of beliefs, values. Ideological models are based on these values. So such a statement recognizes current ideological competitions in the world. Consequently, the conflict between Russia and the West has a prominent ideological element that reflects the difference of values between the countries.
Another interesting thing has been noted in the edited version of the military doctrine of the Russian Federation, “the activities of information influence towards the national population, especially towards the youth, that aim to erode historical, moral and patriotic values and traditions in the area of homeland defence” . It has been designated as a military threat. Indeed, the topic of “rewriting” the World War II, which is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, has been extensively discussed in the Russian media. Moreover, the Polish statements concerning country’s liberation by the [only] Ukrainians caused strong and rather negative public reaction in Russia. It was followed by a strong official response. Subsequently, several classified testimonies of Red Army soldiers who liberated concentration camps were realized. Likewise, the fact that Vladimir Putin was not invited to the memorial festivities that marked the 70th Anniversary of the Great Victory caused public outrage.
Although public opinion might not be the main driving factor for Russian nuclear rise, it certainly might have played a role in consolidating the state’s decision to strengthen its nuclear policy. There is not enough evidence to confirm it, yet the government had a strong national support. In 2015 during the negotiations in Minsk the popularity of the president had reached 75%, the highest level for the last 15 years . The political rhetoric of the Russian president along with the imposed sanctions and the U.S. responsive rhetoric seem to only boost government’s support. Meanwhile, anti-nuclear attitudes are of no consequence at the moment. The same is with the increased military spending; Russian public is being rather supportive.
Russia is spending a lot of money on modernization of its arsenals. Despite the fact that economy has been weakened by the fall in oil prices, the President of the Russian Federation still emphasizes nuclear weapons as a symbol of Russian influence. The reason for that remains the same: balancing the powers. Such conflicts on the borders with Russia, along with other local and regional wars breaking out, its security cannot be fully guaranteed. Under these circumstances, Russia cannot operate only by using diplomatic and economic means to resolve the conflict.
In order to elaborate more on the symbolic meaning of nuclear weapons, it should be noted that after the collapse of the USSR Russia strived to achieve the same influential level and to come back to the global arena as an equal. Default, internal disturbances, the loss of the military advantage, the lost Cold War and the weak leadership in the next years has severely damaged the country’s prestige. It was vital to become a global power again. The nuclear policy has become insurance that it can be accomplished. The Putin’s and Medvedev’s politics fixed the economy and started restoring the country’s military potential. Nuclear weapons have played in significant role in rebuilding its international status.
After the events in Ukraine, for the first time since the Cold War an armed conflict between Russia and the United States has been viewed as highly possible, therefore, posing a threat to the rest of the world. Both countries started to increase their military strength and regularly demonstrate their military power, including strategic armament (started by the US when it deployed two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers to Europe in 2014). The Parade of the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the World War II was another opportunity for the Russian military to present some of its latest equipment. As Vladimir Putin stated in 2012, “We should not tempt anyone by allowing ourselves to be weak. We will, under no circumstances, surrender our strategic deterrent capability. Indeed, we will strengthen it” .
The inability to compete with the West on equal terms in conventional terms intensified its nuclear pursuit. Russia prioritized its strategic nuclear forces by introducing new missiles and submarines. Keir Giles, an expert on the Russian armed forces at the Conflict Studies Research Centre, notes that the current military reform was started in 2008, after Russian performance in the war with Georgia” .
One of the military experts has expressed similar views about Russia’s conventional forces. The colonel Mikhail Khodarenok (currently an editor of the rather conservative military and political periodicals “Voenno-Promishlennyi Kurier” (eng. Military and Industrial Courier) and “Vosdushno-kosmicheskaya Oborona” (eng. Aerospace Defense)) is a rather famous specialist in the military sphere. In 2015 he wondered whether Russia had any forces that could match NATO forces. He concluded that there was a lack of the newest weapons in Russia. That is why it was vital to avoid military entanglement in the South-East by the Russian Federation. The country, its navy and army, was not ready for the full-scale armed confrontation by using only conventional forces .
This opinion roughly corresponds to the statements of the Russian Ministry of Defense, for this reason nuclear rhetoric of Moscow makes sense. It is a warning to the US and NATO to stay away from the conflict in Crimea and in the South-East of Ukraine. The political aim is clear. Firstly, other countries should know the importance of the events in the region for the Russian national security interests. Secondly, Moscow is determined to take action while upholding its interests, regardless of whether the West considers its actions legitimate or not.
Perhaps, a particular history of Russia may explain such a current political behaviour. The concept of protecting its national interests and sovereignty as well as maintaining its influence has been formed and consolidated over the centuries through the complex history of conquest and occupation. Lee Blessing in the book “A Walk in the Woods” wrote, “The geography of Russia is … flat, broad plains —open invitations to anyone who wants to attack. Mongols, French, Germans, Poles, Turks, Swedes – anyone” (11). The size of the country and its geography are crucial in the sense of security. Currently Russia borders with 18 countries, including partially recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Among them six countries are NATO members (The Baltic states, Poland, Norway, and USA). Georgia and Ukraine have repeatedly expressed their wish to join the alliance. In general, NATO enlargement into Eastern Europe is often referred by Russia as treachery. The West back in the 90s promised the USSR that it would not expand to the East. Yet, it breached the agreements, undermining the credibility of further promises. No wonder that current NATO enlargement threatens Russian national interests. Meanwhile, given the memory of multiple offences that is stored in the mental cultural heritage does not improve the situation. Current conflicts do not provide necessary relieve, and Russia is forced to protect its borders and its security, especially at a time of deterioration of relations with the West, particularly with the US.
In 2015 at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York Mikhail Ulyanov, the Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, highlighted that the United States have been very provocative towards Russia. Among the provocative actions he named, “the U.S. missile defense program, the U.S. refusal to negotiate on the ban on weapons in outer space, the U.S. military’s Prompt Global Strike system, Washington’s de facto refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the serious imbalance in conventional weapons in Europe” . Due to these reasons Russia may be forced to increase its nuclear arsenal. He also clarified that Russia wasn’t currently actively considering this option, but should the US action remain unchanged, it would have to be considered (Ibid.). It proves the point that the US and Russia still use the concept of mutual deterrence.
To sum up, the main reasons for Russia boosting its nuclear power are national security and maintaining its status on the world arena. On the one hand, nuclear strength is the method of securing its national interests and ensuring its sovereignty. Russia uses its nuclear strategy as means to deter other opponents, mainly NATO and the United States, following the conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine. On the other hand, nuclear empowerment ensures the Russian status at the global stage and preserves its place among the superpowers.
- International Mass Media: Putin Threatens the West with Nuclear Weapons.” The Russian Times, August 29, 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://therussiantimes.com/news/12416.html>.
- Mangasarian, L., and Ummela, O. “Russian War Games Spill Secrets, Stiffen NATO Resolve.” BloombergBusiness, 20 November 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-20/russia-s-war-games-spill-secrets-stiffen-nato-resolve>.
- Rossiya 24. “Crimea. The Way Home. Documentary by Andrey Kondrashev.”Online video. YouTube. March 15, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t42-71RpRgI>.
- “Russia Reveals Giant Nuclear Torpedo in State TV ‘Leak’.” BBC news, November 12, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34797252>.
- Sivkov, K. “A Slapdash in Response to Challenges.” Voenno-Promishlennyi Kurier, No. 4 (570), February 4, 2015. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://vpk-news.ru/articles/23673>.
- “The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation.” Decree by the President of the Russian Federation of February 5, 2010, No. 146 (edited in 2014). Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://www.mid.ru/documents/10180/822714/41d527556bec8deb3530.pdf/d899528d-4f07-4145-b565-1f9ac290906c>.
- Anushevskaya, A. “Electoral Rating of Vladimir Putin over the Last 15 Years.” Argumenty Facty, March 23, 2015. Web. 20 Jan.2016.<http://www.aif.ru/dontknows/infographics/1475392>
- Putin, V. “Being Strong. Why Russia Needs to Rebuild its Military.” Foreign Policy, February 21, 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/21/being-strong/>.
- Marcus, J. “Russia Boosts Military Might despite Sanctions.” BBC news, May 8, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32622653>.
- Khodarenok, M. “The Scenario of the World War III.” Voenno-Promishlennyi Kurier , No. 10 (576), March 18, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://vpk-news.ru/articles/24284>.
- Blessing, L. A. A Walk in the Woods. The UK: Oberon Books, 2011.
- Keck, Z. “Russia Threatens to Build More Nuclear Weapons.” The National Interest, 18 May, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russia-threatens-build-more-nuclear-weapons-12912>.
Yes, You Should Start Caring About Politics!
One of the most common things that you hear from people a lot of the time is something along the lines of “I just don’t really care about politics.” In fact, you might have even said something along those lines yourself. And it can be tempting to fall into this line of thinking. After all, politics are hardly the most exciting or exotic things in the world. However, the truth is that they impact your life in different ways every single day and if you choose to ignore politics, then that just meant that you’re going to end up falling victim to policies that harm you and the people around you. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can start being more politically minded right now.
Know the issues
Do you know where you stand on many of the most important issues of the modern day? Do you know what most of those issues are? The truth is that many people would rather ignore a lot of the problems that society and the world at large face simply because it can feel as though they’re too big to deal with. Things like the economy, climate change, and social justice aren’t just abstract concepts; they’re things that impact the lives of real people every single day. Being more informed about the issues will allow you to have a much better understanding of your own political views.
Know who to speak to
Do you know who your senator is? Your representative? Most people tend to only know major politicians who have held office at one point or another. Sure, you probably know the president or a senator like John Mccain. But what about all of the other senators like Doug Jones or Mike Crapo? These are the people you can actually contact if you want to start making some changes in the world. Getting to know who you can contact can help you feel much more involved in the modern political process.
Forget about personalities and focus on policies
Modern politics has become as much of a game of personalities as anything else. But the truth is that the personalities of individual politicians are far less important than the policies that they and their party want to enact. After all, the policies are the things that will actually make a difference in people’s lives. You should never vote just because you like or dislike the way that a particular politician talks or what their personality seems to be like. Always vote on policies, not personalities.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly let politics take over every conversation that you have or that you need to be constantly thinking about it. But trying to bury your head in the sand and ignore the things that are going on around you isn’t going to do you any good. The only way that you can start to make some genuine changes in the world is if you face up to the realities of the modern world and try to do something about it.
How Mafia-States Get Away with Criminality
In theory, all 195 states adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and therefore pledge “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. In other words, to play the game and adhere to basic governmental principles. That’s in theory: in practice, a handful of states in the world behave like mafias, and get away with it.
President George W. Bush first used the terms “failed states” or “rogue states”, during his office. Rogue states seem more adapted because, if they are failed states in the sense that they do not carry out their mission, they are not failed for everyone. Afghanistan is, still today, one of the most prominent examples of how to get personally rich by pretending to represent people. In the wake of the NATO intervention in Afghanistan, billions of dollars were poured into the country in reconstruction efforts, based on the belief that if the population was schooled and busy at work, they would be less likely to join rebel ranks. The idea was good, but most of the massive funds were sidetracked to line officials’ pockets and Afghanistan is pretty much in the same shape as it was before the program, if not worse. Business Insider covered the subject (1): “All districts receive central government budget to cover salaries of front-line forces,” reporter Jessica Purkiss wrote for the Bureau. “In many areas in Afghanistan, some of this budget disappears and the actual number of officers tasked with holding back the Taliban is much lower than the number actually allotted.”
And such rogue states also exist close to the Western sphere of Europe and the US. Almost every single State in Central and South America is at the warning level on the Fragile State Index (2) (the term was brushed up to sound less definitively damning than President Bush’s wording). Hungary was bashed this year, along with the rest of EU low-performers, for dropping sharply in the EU’s good governance ranking, as reported by Nicolaj Nielsen, for the EU observer (3): “Bulgaria scored the worst among EU states with 41, followed by Greece (44), Italy (47), Romania (48), Hungary (48), and Croatia (49). Dolan faulted the crackdown on civil society and other independent institutions in Croatia and Hungary for their worsening performance. Both governments were also embroiled in scandals last year. In one case, Hungary’s government allegedly funneled money from the Central Bank to friends and family.” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán learned from the report (4) that “Hungary loses 200 billion forints every year due to the corruption that exists in public procurement cases.”
Not to forget that States are not all mutually recognized and accepted, some of them are self-proclaimed. While some do indeed strive to carry out their stated mission and serve the people they claim to represent, some other are merely mafia groups with a political cover, which deal in various traffics and racketeering. Bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, lies Western Sahara, where a group named the Polisario Front announced to the world that it was the shield of the Sahrawi people, who originate from the arid strip of land, with the stated intent of creating a sovereign state. But that must be put into perspective with the endless list of allegations and accusations carried against it, regarding the Polisario’s management of refugee camps in Algeria for example. The self-proclaimed government of the Sahrawi – namely the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) – is known for keeping the refugees captive in the camps, or keeping family members as hostage to guarantee men’s returns, maintaining a general state of violence and lawlessness within the compound. In addition, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has serious doubts (5) as to what becomes of the humanitarian aid it sends. It suspects not only the food to be sidetracked and sold on the black market, but also to be requested in excessive numbers – the Polisario front claims it holds up to 200 000 refugees but has systematically refused census, leading humanitarian donors to believe the figures are doubtful.
Can this be avoided? Hardly, at the general level. Pablo Escobar coined the phrase which underlies the entire system : Plata o plomo (silver or lead). Officials could be paid off to keep silent and play along, or be shot. Therefore, it is in the nature of corruption systems to maintain themselves because, should a “pure” official arise, he will be removed and replaced by a more complacent one.
Mafia states use the cover of darkness or, better still, a politically activist stance. The Colombian FARCs – Polisario’s allies, incidentally… – and the Medellin Cartel, run by Pablo Escobar, had an intense PR activity with many “social and humanitarian” poses, to help improve their public image and stymie political push-backs. The Polisario Front has moved much of its assaults to the judicial level, in a new form of “civilized” piracy, including with the surprise attempt to seize a Moroccan shipload earlier this year in South Africa. “The conclusion of this case will actually tell us whether it is now conceivable, on the judiciary level, that international shipping industry – which carries 90% of global trade – become hostage to some form of unprecedented and increasingly vicious political piracy,” wrote Philippe Delebecque (6), a French judge specializing in maritime affairs.
Mafia states are here to stay, because the mafia creates the state, and not the other way around. Once the mafia has developed its tentacles and political power enough, it will make kings and topple uncooperative administrators. Other states in the world are fully aware of this fact, and that if they bust a mafia-state, another will replace it within weeks. So, in the best cases, neighboring countries let it be; in the worst cases, they get involved in the graft.
Should You Support Universal Basic Income? Who else is in favour?
In the previous article “Universal Basic Income: In Action” we explored that Universal Basic Income under different variants is already being put to trial in different provinces of a number of countries around the world. Before that, in “Universal Basic Income: The Idea” we weighed the potential of UBI in creating a monumental change in the way humanity as a society functions as of today. While there’s still quite some time required to ascertain how easily and efficiently the system can be put into effect and whether it should be put into place at all, some of the more apparent advantages, as well as flaws of the system, are repeatedly considered by experts in determining the answers to the aforementioned questions. In addition, many influential figures have also come out both in support of UBI as well as against it. Let’s take a look at the support UBI has garnered as well as the supposed benefits and criticisms of UBI.
Pros of Universal Basic Income
The first argument often cited in favour of UBI is for its potential to alleviate poverty, improve the standard of living and vastly reduce income inequality no matter which country it is implemented in. the Alaska Permanent Fund (AFP), which we’ve already discussed, was instrumental in improving the state’s income equality rank from 30 to 2. UBI trials in Namibia, Kenya, and parts of India have also yielded positive results in this regard. UBI has also resulted in the improvement of health, especially mental health, as reported by people who have been part of UBI trials in Ontario, Canada. UBI also encourages entrepreneurial behaviour since it guarantees basic subsistence thereby providing an incentive for people to take up a line of work of their liking. UBI trials in India and Namibia have also shown that it has helped promote financial decision making by women resulting in their empowerment. A guarantee of a fixed income every month also brings more power to people when it comes to deciding where they should spend money. The Roosevelt Institute research we discussed previously also suggests an overall growth in the US economy with a countrywide implementation of UBI. UBI is also expected to lead to a positive job growth and lower the dropout rates in schools since it provides more security to families.
Cons of Universal Basic Income
The critics of UBI argue that money that is essential for the poor is being redirected towards the wealthy and those citizens who have no need for it. Robert Greenstein, founder and President of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C. “if you take the dollars targeted on people in the bottom fifth or two-fifths of the population and convert them to universal payments to people all the way up the income scale, you’re redistributing income upward. That would increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them.” In addition to that, it is often argued that UBI programs are highly ineffective when compared to welfare programs that are implemented on targeted populations. Therefore, unless UBI is implemented without the scrapping off of such welfare schemes, it is likely to find opposition from a huge number of people who currently benefit from these programs. Another argument against UBI one may repeatedly encounter is that UBI reduces the incentive to work, which leads to huge costs for the economy. This may also lead to a dearth of skilled and unskilled labour in the economy. The Swiss government have opposed the implementation of UBI for the very same reason, fearing that the current labour shortages may be exacerbated. Finally, an argument that also holds the door open for many debates is that UBI is too expensive to implement and will cost a lot to the government. As opposed to studies which show a growth in the economies through the implementation of UBI, many economists have also opposed it, claiming that UBI in the more developed nations will be very expensive to guarantee an acceptable standard of living to all the citizens.
Who Supports Universal Basic Income?
Since the idea was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, UBI has found suitors throughout recent history. Founding father of the United States Thomas Paine was in favour of it, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell argued in its favour, and even Martin Luther King said: “the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” American economist Milton Friedman, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and even former US President Richard Nixon came close to bringing UBI to the United States. As of today, a number of high profile names in the Silicon Valley have expressed their support for UBI. An advocate of entrepreneurship and creativity, Mark Zuckerberg sighted UBI as an worth a look in his statement at his Harvard commencement address: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk believes implementation of UBI is inevitable. “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk said in an interview in 2016. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay also donated towards a UBI experiment in Kenya. Coursera founder Andrew Ng expressed on Twitter: “More than ever, we need a basic income to limit everyone’s downside, and better education to give everyone an upside.” The list does not stop here.
UBI has at least gained enough attention to get people, investors, world leaders, and governments to talk about it and more importantly experiment with it. The results are not yet out and will take a considerable amount of time still to be able to present a final verdict on UBI and its effectiveness. However, as robots make humans redundant in recurring waves, is there still enough time to just be experimenting?
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