Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"With respect to the Ukrainian decision, I think it’s clear – and the foreign minister and I discussed this upstairs – that Ukraine is trying to have a balanced approach to its foreign policy. It’s first – the president – the new president’s first visit was to Brussels, evidencing a real interest in moving toward Europe and even EU membership eventually. The president has told President Obama that he very much wants to improve and deepen relations with the United States. But at the same time, he has made it clear that he’s going to continue to work with Russia. I think, given Ukraine’s history and Ukraine’s geographic position, that balancing act is a hard one but it makes sense to us that’s what he’s trying to do and to keep a foot, if you will, in both sides of his country.

I think your underlying question is our view about Russia’s actions toward its neighbors. And we’ve been very clear that we believe that there is no sphere of influence, that there is no veto power that Russia or any country has over any country in Europe or in this region concerning membership in organizations like NATO or the EU. I’m heartened to see Europe moving more to take steps that will empower it in its dealings with Russia, including moving toward more energy security, another issue that the foreign minister and I discussed.

Look, this is a balancing act. And even as young as the foreign minister is with his recent birthday, he’s old enough to remember Soviet occupation. This is a very live sense of the historical reality in the hearts and minds of the people of Estonia, so we are very conscious of that and we recognize the need to build up our relationships and support actions of independence such as moving toward energy security as a way of sending a very clear message that we want to live in a peaceful, stable world with our Russian friends but we’re going to be committed to the defense of our NATO allies".

American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet After Their Meeting," 22 April 2010 in

"As far as Russia is concerned, it is not only a question of the redeployment of the Black Sea Fleet or the construction of new coastal infrastructure, but also a broad array of issues related to understanding how friendly our neighbor is....We do not want to find ourselves in a situation of such high uncertainty and I don't think our Ukrainian colleagues want that either."

Russian Ambassador Mikhail Zurabov quoted in "Russian Envoy to Ukraine Hails Naval Base Deal," 23 April 2010, in

From the way that some commentators in the West are arguing, as well as opposition politicians in Kiev, it would appear that the new Ukrainian President Yanukovich has in effect sold-out Ukrainian independence to Moskva in the recently concluded and now ratified agreement between Russia and Ukraine over the former's naval bases in Crimea and the concomitant quid pro quo for which being the steep reduction in gas imports from Russia(for the arguments in the Ukrainian Parliament, see: "Protest as Ukraine backs Russian base extension," 27 April 2010 in; for arguments by commentators in the West see: Tomas Valasek "A bad deal for Ukraine and Yanukovich," 28 April 2010, in Is this correct or accurate? Has Russia stolen a march on the West over this deal? And, finally has there been a shift in the Central / Eastern European balance of power? Concerning the first, Grazdanin Yanukovich has not 'sold-out' anything or anyone which was not already up for grabs already. From his (perhaps blinkered) perspective, the trade-off was quite acceptable, inasmuch as there was and is no absolute assurance that even sans a treaty legalizing their presence, Russia would necessarily evacuate its naval bases in Sevastopol in the Crimea post-2017. Per se, there is no one and nothing which would necessarily force Russia, to withdraw in that circumstance. Certainly, neither the European Union nor NATO (AKA the USA) would actively assist Kiev to evict Matushka Russia from Crimea in such circumstances. It was precisely to avoid involvement in such messy and possibly confrontational circumstances, which made most members of NATO reluctant to award Kiev back in 2007 and 2008, membership track status in the organization. And, nothing would have changed by 2017 to have caused anyone in NATO, to have reconsidered that decision. Indeed, as one can see from the balanced and (dare one say it?) realistic comments by the American Secretary of State, on the subject in Tallin the other day. A veritable sea change indeed from the days of the Bush regime idiocy on the subject.
Concerning the second point, the true answer is that Grazdanin Putin, et. al., was willing to put his (or should one say Matushka Russia's) money where is mouth was (to use a demotic but in this instance ultra-apt expression). According to a report in Agence France-Presse today, Russian Premier Putin, admitted to the Russian Duma that the concessions on the gas pricing made to Kiev as part of the agreement, will cost upwards of Forty-five Billion dollars over the next ten years("Russia digs deep in battle for Ukraine supremacy," 28 April 2010 in A sum of money which it is quite inconceivable that the European Union, much less NATO and or the USA, would be willing to spend. Indeed, it is inconceivable that either party would spend half that much. Added to Putin's offer made this week, to establish a joint stock combine for both countries nuclear industries, and, one can see that for Moskva, re-establishing it's predominance in Ukraine is a worthwhile endeavor indeed. In view of the unwillingness of both NATO and the EU to enter the lists in the first place, it was not really much of a competition. And, lastly does the agreements and their short and medium implications mean that there has been a change in the balance of power in Central and Eastern Europe? Only, and, I repeat only, if one judges that by closing the door to the possibility of Ukraine 'joining' the West, Moskva has in effect shored-up, its position in that area of the world. It does not however, convert Kiev into a client state, or even an active ally. And, it could very well be that in years to come, Putin, et. al., will find that they did indeed pay too much in order re-establish Russia's primacy in neighbor to the west. And, that in point of fact, from a strategic perspective, Kiev, with its declining and or stagnate, heavy industrial make-up, is more of a dead weight, rather than an real asset. However, this is only something that time & history will tell us.

Monday, April 26, 2010


"We have expressed directly to the Syrian Government, including calling in the representative of their embassy in Washington to express in the strongest possible terms, our concerns about these stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring it to Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

I think that the larger question as to what the United States will do with respect to Syria is one we’ve spent a lot of time considering and debating inside the Administration. Where we are as of today is that we believe it is important to continue the process to return an ambassador. This is not some kind of reward for the Syrians and the actions that they take, which are deeply disturbing not only to the United States and not just to Israel but to others in the region and beyond. But it’s a tool. It’s a tool that we believe can give us extra leverage, added insight, analysis, information with respect to Syria’s actions and intentions.

We would like to have a more balanced and positive relationship with Syria, as do other of its neighbors from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. We would like to see Syria play a more constructive role and engage in an effort to resolve its outstanding conflict with Israel. We would like to see Syria refrain from interfering in and potentially destabilizing the Government of Lebanon. So we have a long list of areas that we have discussed with the Syrians, and we intend to continue pushing our concerns. And we think having an ambassador there adds to the ability to convey that message strongly, and hopefully influence behavior in Syria".

Hillary Rodman Clinton, "Remarks with the Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet After their Meeting," 22 April 2010, in

"The government of Syria categorically denies the recent spurious allegations emanating from Israel regarding the supply of Scud missiles to Hezbollah. This disinformation campaign aims at misleading the world’s public opinion.

The Embassy of Syria in Washington finds that these allegations are an attempt to:

1- Raise the level of tension in the region.
2- Justify a possible Israeli offensive and conflagration of violence.
3- Shatter any prospects for a future comprehensive peace proposal.

….Official Statement put out by the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC 16 April 2010, courtesy of

"Has Syria supplied Hezbollah with Scud missiles? The short answer is that we don’t really know. The story was first announced by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who told journalists earlier this week, “Syria claims that it wants peace, while simultaneously delivering Scud missiles to Hezbollah, which is constantly threatening the security of the state of Israel.” The Wall Street Journal went further than the Israeli press by claiming that “U.S. officials” as well as Israelis have alleged that Scuds have been transferred from Syria into Lebanon. The Washington Post, however, took a more cautious stand. It quoted a U.S. official briefed on the matter to say, “I don’t think we know whether they’ve gone over or not.” The New York Times followed suit by explaining that “American and French officials have both said that they were aware of the Israeli concerns but did not know whether the missiles had actually been delivered....

The larger question, however, is not whether Syria has delivered Scuds to Hezbollah. Syria has been rebuilding Hezbollah’s missile supplies ever since they were largely exhausted during Israel’s 2006 incursion into Lebanon. It will continue to do so as long as Israel refuses to trade land for peace. Syria says it will no longer have any reason to arm Hezbollah once it gets the Golan back and can sign a peace agreement with Israel.

Syria understands that the reason Israel will not return the Golan Heights is because of the terrible imbalance in power between the two countries. So long as there is no peace, Syria will feel compelled to arm itself and its allies. Only this week at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, we were reminded that Israel has hundreds of atomic warheads that can be delivered by missile, plane, and submarine. What’s more, Washington continues to supply Israel with large amounts of military aid and cutting-edge military technology. Israel accuses Syria of trying to change the balance of power by introducing Scuds to Lebanon, but from Syria’s point of view, it is Israel that has skewed the regional balance.

Israeli officials, when faced with the Golan question in private or at conferences, explain that the reason Israel refuses to strike a deal with Syria is that the country is too weak. It has nothing to give Israel in exchange for the Golan, which has been Israel’s quietest border for 35 years. In the face of this debilitating weakness, Syria will do what all weak states do: find powerful allies and try to arm itself. It must also rely on nonstate actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In short, it will struggle to right the balance of power. Some commentators have argued that Syria ought to simply renounce its current path, make a rapproachment with the West, and by doing so get back the Golan and normalized relations. But the notion that Israel would give Syria back the Golan if it renounces Hezbollah and Iran is naive. The Palestine Liberation Organization renounced violence some time ago and has little to show for it".

Joshua Landis, "What is behind the Scud scare?" 15 April 2010, in

The recent contretemps concerning the alleged delivery of Scud missiles to Hezbollah in the Lebanon, is of a piece with the ongoing tensions between both the former and Israel as well as (and perhaps more importantly),Israel and Syria. What the entire episode or should we say series of episodes, including the threatening language and demarches being sent back and forth between Tel Aviv and Damascus this year, is that Syria is deeply unhappy about its lack of progress with the new American Administration over the non-progress over the Golan Heights. Indeed, Syria does have a right to be worried, inasmuch as it is scarcely believable that the current Israeli government will anytime soon relinquish its hold on Golan. As Joshua Landis notes, there is at present no rationale for Israel to give-up the Golan. The current military balance is heavily weighted in its favor and there is nothing, rien, zero, that Assad Fils, can do about it. Hence, the threatening 'noises off', type of machinations that we have seen this year. With Assad's verbal threats that a war is a possibility, and, that even a bilateral Israel-Hezbollah conflict would eventually involve Syria. Et cetera. Does any of this seem credible or likely? My own surmise is the following: a) Syria has most definitely increased shipments of weapons to Hezbollah as Joshua Landis states, of that there is no doubt; b) it is unlikely that Syria has delivered Scud missiles to Hezbollah, if only due to the fact that Damascus knows quite well that if discovered, Israel would in short order: i) destroy them, or at least try; ii) inflict huge damage to Hezbollah and the Lebanon in the attempt; iii) most likely inflict major damage to 'hard targets' in Syria proper. Which given its current military capacity, Damascus would be unable to respond to effectively if at all. However, Damascus is quite content to play-up the Scud Missiles shipment to Hezbollah story for all its worth for the following reason (and indeed it is quite probable that it was Syria itself who first planted on Israeli intelligence the idea that there was such a shipment): in order to scare sufficiently the American administration, so that the latter will break-out of its diplomatic holding pattern, and, bring forth some real movement in the peace process between Syria and Israel, leading to the return of the Golan to Damascus. Dangerous and indeed almost foolhardy you say? Quite. That per se, does not make it any less possibly true. Damascus for example, knows that if there is one party who is more afraid of a conflagration in the Near East at the moment it is the American Administration. Locked in a stalement with both Persia and the Netanyahu government, the high hopes of sixteen months ago have come to naught. However, even the current deadlock will seem halcyon if another war were to break-out between Israel and Hezbollah. Indeed, for the current crew in Washington, DC., such a conflict will be almost nightmarish. And, I am reasonably sure that this fear has most definitely communicated itself to Assad Fils. Therefore, why not engage in a little exercise in coup de tete with the Americans, and, invent a 'Scuds to Hezbollah' scare in order to hopefully get the Americans to produce some movement in the dormant negotiations between Syria and Israel? If this is in fact the case of what is actually occurring, one only hopes that the regime in Damascus remembers that exercises of this type, can under certain circumstances assume a negative dynamic of its own. The results in the case of that occurring would indeed be not at all to the good. Especially for Assad Fils own good.

Friday, April 16, 2010


"This past week saw another key success in Russia’s resurgence in former Soviet territory when pro-Russian forces took control of Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz revolution was quick and intense. Within 24 hours, protests that had been simmering for months spun into countrywide riots as the president fled and a replacement government took control. The manner in which every piece necessary to exchange one government for another fell into place in such a short period discredits arguments that this was a spontaneous uprising of the people in response to unsatisfactory economic conditions. Instead, this revolution appears prearranged.

Opposition forces in Kyrgyzstan have long held protests, especially since the Tulip Revolution in 2005 that brought recently ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to power. But various opposition groupings never were capable of pulling off such a full revolution — until Russia became involved.

In the weeks before the revolution, select Kyrgyz opposition members visited Moscow to meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. STRATFOR sources in Kyrgyzstan reported the pervasive, noticeable presence of Russia’s Federal Security Service on the ground during the crisis, and Moscow readied 150 elite Russian paratroopers the day after the revolution to fly into Russian bases in Kyrgyzstan. As the dust began to settle, Russia endorsed the still-coalescing government.

There are quite a few reasons why Russia would target a country nearly 600 miles from its borders (and nearly 1,900 miles from capital to capital), though Kyrgyzstan itself is not much of a prize. The country has no economy or strategic resources to speak of and is highly dependent on all its neighbors for foodstuffs and energy. But it does have a valuable geographic location".

Lauren Goodrich, "Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Resurgence," 13 April 2010, in

"Russia will give Kyrgyzstan a $20 mln grant and a $30 mln concessional loan to help stabilize the economic situation in the ex-Soviet republic after recent riots, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Wednesday.

Large-scale anti-government protests swept Kyrgyzstan from April 6-7, claiming the lives of 82 people and leading to the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The self-declared interim government urgently needs funds and fuel to normalize conditions in the impoverished Central Asian republic.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia could increase financial aid to Kyrgyzstan if necessary.

'We presume that the situation [in Kyrgyzstan] will normalize. But considering the complexity of the situation, we can increase our aid if necessary...

This, of course, is not an issue for us to judge. But considering that we have always had special relations with the Kyrgyz people, we will support our friends in Kyrgyzstan at this undoubtedly difficult time for them.'"

"Russia to provide $50 Million in Financial Assistance to Kyrgyzstan," 14 April 2010 in

"The United States welcomes the efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office and the United Nations to work with the interim Kyrgyz government to find a peaceful resolution of the political standoff that developed. The United States remains committed to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kyrgyz Republic and to helping the courageous Kyrgyz people achieve their aspirations for developing a peaceful, economically prosperous democracy. The United States will continue to assist Kyrgyzstan in developing its social, economic and security structures and is in discussion with the interim Kyrgyz government on how best to help the country return to a democratic path".

Philip J. Crowley [American Assistant Secretary of State], "Recent Developments in
the Kyrgyz Republic," 16 April 2010, in

It is relatively easy to prognosticate based upon some of the available evidence and state `a la Stratfor, that what happened in Kyrgyzstan was a 'pro-Russian' coup d'etat. And, while it is easy enough to see that Russian premier Putin, et. al., were uniformally anti-Bakiyev, and, appear to have met with some of the members of the new administration prior to this month's events, that per se, does not necessarily mean that the interim government in Bishkek is necessarily pro-Russian and anti-American. As the statement by the American Assistant Secretary of State, appears to show, the Americans while perhaps pensive and concerned about their position in Kyrgyzstan have not yet given up the ship. The Manas air base is still in use and indeed being used for supplying American forces in Afghanistan as I write these words. Obviously, for the time being and perhaps for quite awhile to come, Russia will be the primus inter pares , among outside powers. Which considering the existent that Bishkek is dependent upon Russian oil and gas supplies, as well as remittances from Kyrgy workers in Russia proper, is par for the course. At the present moment, it does not appear that Moskva wishes to oust the Americans from Manas. Whether that will change in the coming months, is impossible to say. One would imagine that would depend upon the nature of the Russo-American relations in the near future. As per the ultimate or real causation of the downfall of the Bakiyev regime, that seems to have been a result of the fact that unlike say the other Central Asian States, where a relatively stable form of authoritarian rule has emerged, Bishkek seems, for reasons perhaps to do with regionalism (the country being essentially split along 'north' versus 'south' lines), incapable of forming such a similar type of regime. Whether this fact, portends additional unrest in this part of the world is difficult to say at the present time.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


"BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyz opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva said on Thursday she had taken over the government after violent protests forced the president of the Central Asian country to flee the capital. She said she wanted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who she helped bring to power five years ago, to resign.

"We have a caretaker government now in place, and I am the head of it," Otunbayeva told Reuters by telephone.

"It will remain in place for half a year, during which we will draft the constitution and create conditions for free and fair (presidential) elections," she said.

Bakiyev left Bishkek -- where demonstrators torched the prosecutor-general's office and tried to smash trucks into government buildings -- and flew to the southern city of Osh, an opposition member of parliament earlier told Reuters. Otunbayeva said she had not been in contact with Bakiyev and had no idea of his whereabouts. Bakiyev himself came to power in the 2005 "Tulip Revolution" protests, led jointly by Otunbayeva, which ousted Kyrgyzstan's first post-Soviet president, Askar Akayev. She was a former foreign minister under Bakiyev. Spokesmen for the government and the president were not available for comment.

Sporadic gunfire continued through the night in Bishkek as crowds looted shops and ran through streets strewn with rubble and glass, whistling and waving red national flags. Many buildings remained ablaze, including the prosecutors' office. Kyrgyz news agency Kabar said looters ransacked and set ablaze a house belonging to the family of Bakiyev.

The United States has a military air base supporting troops in Afghanistan in the Kyrgyz city of Manas and is a major donor to Kyrgyzstan, along with China and Russia, which also has military base in the ex-Soviet state of 5.3 million people.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said operations at the base -- visited by U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus last month -- appeared unaffected.

"Right now the transit center at the Manas airport is functioning normally," he said. "It's an important facility connected to our Afghan operations and it's functioning normally....

Political unrest over poverty, rising prices and corruption has gripped Kyrgyzstan since early March. About a third of the population live below the poverty line and remittances from workers in Russia have fallen during the global economic crisis.
The opposition said at least 100 people had been killed on Wednesday. A Health Ministry official put the death toll in Bishkek at 47, and said 420 people had been injured.

A doctor at a Bishkek hospital said many of the victims had been shot. "There are dozens of dead bodies, all with gunshot wounds," Akylbek Yeukebayev told Reuters.

Kyrgyz troops earlier shot at thousands of anti-government protesters who tried to smash two trucks through the perimeter fence of government buildings, a Reuters reporter said. Around 1,000 people stormed the prosecutor-general's office before setting fire to the building. Opposition activists also took control of state television channel KTR.

Protesters seized government buildings in three other towns. In Talas, Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Aklybek Japarov and Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev were beaten. Kongantiyev was forced to shout: "Down with Bakiyev!," two witnesses said. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov earlier told Reuters by phone that he and the president were working in their offices.

"We daren't even look out of the window," Kamil Sydykov, the prime minister's spokesman, said by telephone from inside the presidential building. The protests spread to the capital after riots which began in Talas and Naryn on Tuesday and continued into Wednesday. The border with Kazakhstan was closed.

"Kyrgyz Opposition says running government, wants elections," 7 April 2010, in

"Neither Russia nor your humble servant nor Russian officials have anything to do with these events....No matter what is going on there - it's Kyrgyzstan's domestic affair. The only thing I ask is that the authorities and opposition demonstrate restraint and refrain from violence....When President Bakiyev came to power [after the so-called tulip revolution in 2005], he harshly criticized the toppled president, Akayev, for nepotism and giving his relatives top economic posts. I get the impression that Bakiyev has fallen into the same trap."

"Russia not involved in Kyrgyz events - Putin," 7 April 2010 in

No doubt there was an element of schadenfreude when Grazhdanin Putin, made his statement today. Obviously, with Bakiyev having betrayed Putin last year over the American air base in Manas, it is not that surprising that Putin is rather less than charitable about the downfall of the old regime in Bishkek. Still, one hardly expects the Russian premier to talk about governments (his own or anyone else's for that matter) 'refraining from violence." Et cetera. One should of course not indulge in that old reductionist exercise of attributing everything which happens in the world to those the 'qui bono', test. Formerly of course the prime recipients of this type of intellectual vulgarity were the American CIA, British Intelligence and the Jesuits...However, looking at things from the outside (and right now, that is the only means of looking at anything in Kyrgyzstan. Id est. no one knows what is really going on or what has just happened), it would appear that Matushka Russia, was not by any means unhappy that Bakiyev fell from power (hence Putin's statement). Indeed, if one were to look at events from a (again reductionist) post hoc ergo propter hoc angle, it is very much the case that Moskva did indeed have a hand in what has happened today. As noted on Monday of this week, by the online journal, Eurasianet:

"As President Kurmanbek Bakiyev confronts a political crisis in Kyrgyzstan, he is not getting any help from Moscow. If anything, the Kremlin appears intent on turning up the heat on the embattled Kyrgyz leader. Gasoline and diesel prices are now set to rise sharply in Kyrgyzstan after Moscow suddenly slapped new customs duties on refined petroleum products being exported to the Central Asian nation. Prices for refined products could rise as much as 30 percent, stoking fears that inflation might further destabilize the already troubled Kyrgyz economy. On April 1, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin terminated the preferred customs duties that Kyrgyzstan, as a member of the Eurasian Economic Community (the EurAsEC), had been receiving on Moscow’s gasoline and diesel exports. The apparent justification for the move is the fact that the EurAsEC is being eclipsed by a new Customs Union, comprising Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The Customs Union is set to become fully functional this coming July....Many political experts in Bishkek believe Moscow is punishing Bakiyev for his administration’s failure to evict American forces from the Manas air base, outside of Bishkek. In what most observers saw as a quid pro quo, Moscow promised a $2.15 billion aid package in February 2009 on the same day Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev pledged to close the base....This [the new export duties] is a special decision by Russia. It is one of the steps for punishing Kyrgyzstan for disobedience in the geopolitical arena. The first step was stopping the rest of the Russian loan, and this is the next," said Zamir Osorov, an investigative journalist with the MSN newspaper in Bishkek. "This will be very unpleasant for Kyrgyzstan.'"

"Kyrgyzstan: Is Putin Punishing Bakiyev?" 5 April 2010, in

The fact of course that Putin felt the need to deny any Russian involvement (something which he did not see the last time there was an ousting of a regime in Bishkek), might or might not mean something. Ultimately, the happenings in Bishkek are a result of the fact that the Bakiyev regime, like its predecessor, was unable to establish a stable, authoritarian regime, unlike the rest of Central Asia. With some commentators stating that the country's endemic disputes between its two predominate clans (one northern based, one southern based) prevent any leader from establishing a normative authoritarian regime. With that being said, the any Russian involvement is merely as it were a contributing, rather than a primary variable. Therefore, it behooves one to note that this small, but, in some sense strategically valuable country is once again up for grabs, in terms of geopolitical influence, and, that as the events in the past few days seem to demonstrate, Matushka Russia, no doubt has the upper hand. With any other, outside power, destined to play second fiddle as it were. Something that the Americans with their air base, would do well to remember, as it would not be surprising if said base, would be one of the first things that the new regime in Bishkek, would wish to see the back of the hand of.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


"STRATFOR argued March 13, 2008, that Mexico was nearing the status of a failed state. A failed state is one in which the central government has lost control over significant areas of the country and the state is unable to function. In revisiting this issue, it seems to us that the Mexican government has lost control of the northern tier of Mexico to drug-smuggling organizations, which have significantly greater power in that region than government forces. Moreover, the ability of the central government to assert its will against these organizations has weakened to the point that decisions made by the state against the cartels are not being implemented or are being implemented in a way that would guarantee failure.

Despite these facts, it is not clear to STRATFOR that Mexico is becoming a failed state. Instead, it appears the Mexican state has accommodated itself to the situation. Rather than failing, it has developed strategies designed both to ride out the storm and to maximize the benefits of that storm for Mexico.

First, while the Mexican government has lost control over matters having to do with drugs and with the borderlands of the United States, Mexico City’s control over other regions — and over areas other than drug enforcement — has not collapsed (though its lack of control over drugs could well extend to other areas eventually). Second, while drugs reshape Mexican institutions dramatically, they also, paradoxically, stabilize Mexico. We need to examine these crosscurrents to understand the status of Mexico....

The heartland of Mexico is to the south, far from the country’s northern tier. The north is largely a sparsely populated highland desert region seen from Mexico City as an alien borderland intertwined with the United States as much as it is part of Mexico. Accordingly, the war raging there doesn’t represent a direct threat to the survival of the Mexican regime....

On the whole, Mexico is a tremendous beneficiary of the drug trade. Even if some of the profits are invested overseas, the pool of remaining money flowing into Mexico creates tremendous liquidity in the Mexican economy at a time of global recession. It is difficult to trace where the drug money is going, which follows from its illegality. Certainly, drug dealers would want their money in a jurisdiction where it could not be easily seized even if tracked. U.S. asset seizure laws for drug trafficking make the United States an unlikely haven. Though money clearly flows out of Mexico, the ability of the smugglers to influence the behavior of the Mexican government by investing some of it makes Mexico a likely destination for a substantial portion of such funds....

Mexico’s policy is consistent: It makes every effort to appear to be stopping the drug trade so that it will not be accused of supporting it. The government does not object to disrupting one or more of the smuggling groups, so long as the aggregate inflow of cash does not materially decline. It demonstrates to the United States efforts (albeit inadequate) to tackle the trade, while pointing out very real problems with its military and security apparatus and with its officials in Mexico City. It simultaneously points to the United States as the cause of the problem, given Washington’s failure to control demand or to reduce prices by legalization. And if massive amounts of money pour into Mexico as a result of this U.S. failure, Mexico is not going to refuse it.

The problem with the Mexican military or police is not lack of training or equipment. It is not a lack of leadership. These may be problems, but they are only problems if they interfere with implementing Mexican national policy. The problem is that these forces are personally unmotivated to take the risks needed to be effective because they benefit more from being ineffective. This isn’t incompetence but a rational national policy.

Moreover, Mexico has deep historic grievances toward the United States dating back to the Mexican-American War. These have been exacerbated by U.S. immigration policy that the Mexicans see both as insulting and as a threat to their policy of exporting surplus labor north. There is thus no desire to solve the Americans’ problem. Certainly, there are individuals in the Mexican government who wish to stop the smuggling and the inflow of billions of dollars. They will try. But they will not succeed, as too much is at stake. One must ignore public statements and earnest private assurances and instead observe the facts on the ground to understand what’s really going on.

And this leaves the United States with a strategic problem. There is some talk in Mexico City and Washington of the Americans becoming involved in suppression of the smuggling within Mexico (even though the cartels, to use that strange name, make certain not to engage in significant violence north of the border and mask it when they do to reduce U.S. pressure on Mexico). This is certainly something the Mexicans would be attracted to. But it is unclear that the Americans would be any more successful than the Mexicans. What is clear is that any U.S. intervention would turn Mexican drug traffickers into patriots fighting yet another Yankee incursion. Recall that Pershing never caught Pancho Villa, but he did help turn Villa into a national hero in Mexico.

The United States has a number of choices. It could accept the status quo. It could figure out how to reduce drug demand in the United States while keeping drugs illegal. It could legalize drugs, thereby driving their price down and ending the motivation for smuggling. And it could move into Mexico in a bid to impose its will against a government, banking system and police and military force that benefit from the drug trade....

Ultimately, Mexico is a failed state only if you accept the idea that its goal is to crush the smugglers. If, on the other hand, one accepts the idea that all of Mexican society benefits from the inflow of billions of American dollars (even though it also pays a price), then the Mexican state has not failed — it is following a rational strategy to turn a national problem into a national benefit".

George Friedman, "Mexico and the Failed State Revisted," 5 April 2010, in

"Mexico is really an Indian State, where are the elements to support the President's Policy?"

British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey to American Ambassador Walter Hines Page, circa the Spring of 1913.

Just as the original 'Six' of the European Union, have learned to their collective costs the dangers of allowing some of the rather feckless PIGS countries [Portugal, Italia, Greece and Spain] to adopt the Euro, so similarly the USA, has learned, is learning and will learn more in the future the costs involved in residing next to Mexico, in or out of NAFTA. Just as it is now easy to see that the single currency is more of a dead weight, in the absence of a shared fiscal policy, joining or trying to join Mexico to the USA and Canada, is a similarly Sisyphus endeavor. At present, Mexico is not a failed state. Yet. It however may become so, if the levels of violence which currently exist in its borderland regions with the USA were to either grow or alternatively move south, to the Mexico City heartland of the country. The real issue is that au fond, Mexico is a poor (compared to its northern neighbors), backward, Third-World country. With all that implies, i.e. massive corruption, massive violence, minimal to non-existent social services, and, a weak civil society. Given its current rate of economic growth, it might take one hundred years for Mexico to 'catch-up' economically and socially, to the USA and Canada. Until then, Mexico is going to be an exporter of both its poor, backward, illiterate masses & illegal substances, to the USA (Canada appears to be exempted from these particular 'imports'), and, the recipient of remittances in the shape of dollars bills from the profits of the drug trade and monies coming from its illegal immigrants up north. One at this point may innocently ask: is there anything that can change this unfortunate state of affairs? The answer to which is: yes, but. Yes, this state of affairs can be changed, to some extent (not fully of course), by the USA, making a major investment both of time and money, in helping Mexico modernize itself. This is not an argument to merely send large amounts of foreign aid to Mexico. Il va sans doute, that any such move, would have the end result of said funds going into various Swiss and other bank accounts in Europe and elsewhere. Rather, what the Americans should propose is that it is willing to make major structural investments, in Mexico. Investments in both infrastructure and in Mexican industry (particular the oil industry). The means for which would be fifty-fifty Mexican-American combines. Thereby to some extent obviating the dangers of any monies going down the corruption rat-hole, as in the past. The above, 'modest proposal', is not by any means the best or ideal solution to the problem of Mexico. Perhaps there is no 'solution', to this problem as such. Except perhaps building a Berlin Wall and shutting down any and all trade and traffic between the two countries. Something which, while perhaps the most rationale solution to the current situation, is not by any means going to occur. What I propose is a faute de mieux. A modus vivendi. Rien plus. But, in politics as in life, one must make due with the best that is available, and, not what one would like to be able to do. In short, as Furst von Bismarck put it long ago: 'politics is the art of the possible'.

Sunday, April 04, 2010