Foreign Affairs named in 2011 Russia “The dying bear”, pointing to the country’s high mortality and the low fertility. “Russia's economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil, gas and arms”, said ex-president Obama at his final news conference in 2016. “Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat than Isis”, according to Senator and ex-presidential candidate John McCain. And according to the actor Morgan Freeman, the US is now at war with Russia. But then everything should be fine. Russia is on its way down the drain. No people left, a useless economy, finished. Or are they once again underestimating their declared enemy?
Thorbjørn Waagstein, Economist, PhD, since 1999 working as international Development Consultant in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
“The Russian economy is in tatters”, said ex-president Barak Obama in his State of the Union Address in January 2015, and one year earlier he had described Russia as a “regional power”. The republican ex-presidential candidate senator John McCain said in March 2014 that Russia is “a gas station masquerading as a country”. “Lights our out for the Putin Regime”, “Is Putin’s Russia Headed for a Systemic Collapse?”, “Is Vladimir Putin’s big collapse coming soon?”, “The Achilles Heel of Putin’s Regime” - the list of dire predictions for Russia and the “Putin regime” from the last year or so is endless. But are they correct?
The cost of solar energy has plunged in recent years, and solar panels are now dirt cheap. We have just installed a 46 kW solar roof top system here in Leon, Nicaragua, which produces energy at 7.5 cents of a US dollar – that is around a third of what the electricity company charges us. So there is no excuse for continuing contributing to global warming. The energy revolution is here, right now.
We are in 2017 an estimated 7,500 million people on the planet earth – three times the 2,500 million we were in 1950. According to projections made by UN, we will be 9,700 million in 2050 and 11,200 million at the end of the century. The growing world population and its natural desire for decent living conditions imply an enormous stress on our planet with global warming, depletion of resources, decreasing biodiversity, polluted and congested megacities and accumulation of waste. Can we handle this in the future?
Should people have the right to move freely between countries? As it is well known, in large parts of the world, capital is already moving freely. And well-off people can move freely: in many developed countries, if you promise to invest enough, you get a permanent residence permit. But why limit this to well-off people? Why not let all people move as they want? It is a good question. But apart from the well-known problems in the country receiving the migrants, it is often overlooked that massive migrations carry high costs for the migrants. And the countries they leave behind tend to get stuck in a low level of development.
The EU is obviously in trouble as confidence in the Union is dropping in many member countries. Of course there are many explanations, some of these related to the life of the politicians in Brussels, disconnected from the people of their home countries. But unfortunately, the problems go much deeper. EU has simply not been up to the job it was supposed to do and has concentrated on the wrong issues. The drive to enlarge the EU with Turkey and Ukraine may be the last straw to break the camel’s back.
“Save Aleppo” has been the appeal for the last couple of years. It is a bit misleading, as there has for years been two Aleppos: East Aleppo under rebel control and West Aleppo under Syrian Government Control. The civil war between the two parts has imposed immense suffering on both East and West Aleppo, but most on the East, as the Syrian Army has superior fire power and dominates the sky. Urban warfare, when the civil population has not been evacuated, is cruel and barbarian, as the civil casualties are horrifying. And now that the battle of Aleppo is over, the recriminations begin: we should have done something to save Aleppo, and we didn’t.
But the question is: what should we have done?
Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish ex-PM that took a reluctant Denmark into the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, has not only avoided the dock, where many think he belongs. Unlike what happened in England, he has also avoided any public enquiry into the decision to participate in the invasion and possible war crimes committed. On the contrary, he was promoted to General Secretary of NATO and is now a well-paid speaker at international events. He doesn't have to look nervously over his shoulder to see if somebody is after him. No problem, this is Denmark.
A lot of people are horrified by the idea of Donald Trump becoming presidential candidate for the US Republican Party. And rightly so. They tend to look to Hilary Clinton as the sane, moderate mainstream US presidential candidate, who they hope will win. But when we look at their foreign policy statements, it is not so clear, which candidate would be more dangerous for the rest of us as a possible future American president. Taken at face-value, it looks as if it is Hillary.
The Middle East has many bizarre regimes. A theocracy in democratic disguise governing Iran, an elected coup general as President of Egypt plus Sultans and Emirs of all shades. And then the most bizarre of all: the Absolute Monarchy of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. A medieval absolute Kingdom armed to the teeth with sophisticated weaponry and until recently awash with cash. Our most important ally in the region, who we support unconditionally, also when it chops off the head of its opponents, cuts off the hands of thieves and beheads women accused of sorcery. It is an absolute Kingdom and an absolute anachronism. How durable is it?