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North Korean Endgame: Is The Regime Rational or Not?

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2016 was the year of the most missile tests conducted ever by North Korea, a total of 24. Since the beginning of 2017, the regime in Pyongyang had ratcheted up the tests, currently at 17, with the promise to reach a new all-time high, and surpass the last year’s record. The last test, conducted symbolically on the 4th of July, marked a new milestone by introducing an intercontinental capability to the Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a range that could reach Alaska and potentially Seattle. It is now believed that North Korea will soon be able to develop and mount miniaturized nuclear warheads to its ICBMs and become an even greater threat to its neighbors, and the United States. The urgency of the current developments, fast outpacing the expected timetable for acquiring such capabilities, has raised the stakes at Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, and Beijing, prompting for fast new policies targeting the military belligerence of the rogue state. What are the main policy op…

The End of “End of History” and the Arrival of Casino Democracy

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A year ago, on the eve of the Brexit vote, many went to bed confident that the referendum was one big showoff event for those who held a deep-rooted, but utterly misplaced, contempt for the political, social, and economic consequences for the UK’s membership in the EU. They expected that at the end of the day sanity would prevail. Their complacency did them in! Then in November, many went to bed in the US, believing that what happened in the UK half a year before was a unique event, Donald Trump's candidacy for the presidency was a joke, and he had virtually no chance of prevailing. Complacent again. 
If voters - and more importantly, those among them complacent enough to believe that democracy would take care of itself without a robust get-out-the-vote effort - knew then what they know now, they certainly would have gone to the polls. But they didn’t. Instead, they bet on pollsters’ predictions. Their forecasts could not have been more wrong.
In the Brexit referendum, only 36% of …

Trump's NATO Debacle: Elephants on Glass Flooring

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Why Trump's Refusal to Commit Unconditionally to Article 5 is Such a Blow to the Alliance
In international politics, talk is cheap, deception is a virtue, naiveté and missed opportunities cost dearly. These are among the lessons I learned years ago from my professor of IR, John Mearsheimer of University of Chicago. Certainly, Hobbes or Machiavelli would agree with such statements. But, unlike in the anarchic balance of power world, the micro-cosmos of collective security systems and is built on unconditional common commitments and mutual trust. Security alliances’ deterrent power rests, among other things, on the Musketeerian doctrine of “all for one and one for all,” as well as on the mutual resolve to apply it. NATO’s Article 5 plays that precise role and it has been the cornerstone of the alliance’s deterrence power for near seven decades. That is why Donald Trump’s speech on May 25th in Brussels to the heads of the member-states of the alliance, and his failure explicitly and …

Japan’s Nuclear Moment

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If Japan wanted to develop nuclear weapons, there would be no better moment than now to start. As the North Korean regime grows desperate to get a more generous ransom against its nuclear program, its threats to Tokyo grew multifold. Last week Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, warned that North Korea is preparing to launch missiles with sarin against Tokyo. The U.S. President, Donald Trump, further added to the turmoil by declaring last week that an “armada” of American military vessels is heading to the Korean peninsula, only to be contradicted by his own military, which broke the news that days later the “armada” was sailing nearby Singapore, over 3,000 miles away from the Korean peninsula, and reportedly has been travelling in the opposite direction. So much for the credibility of the American “extended deterrence”, which should guarantee the security umbrella over Japan, a policy in force since 1975. Now, both South Korea and Japan feel cheated and let down, while the U.S. …

How Europe and America Lost Turkey

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A Japanese diplomat once replied to an American counterpart asking him about the principles of the Japanese foreign policy by pointing, “Your country may be based on principles, ours is based on archipelago”. Geographic boundaries are rarely elastic, even when socially constructed. Cultural boundaries may seem more elastic, but like the physical ones, they too are rarely prone to fundamental changes. More importantly, the latter often determine the perception of the former. In “The Revenge of Geography” Robert Kaplan argued in a powerful way that ignoring geography may be a fatal mistake that could prevent us from understanding the nature of many political conflicts. What he ostensibly omitted from his paradigm is the difference between physical and human geography. A cursory look would show that when the two overlap, greater stability ensues. But when they don’t, a search of identity could take many paths, not all of them leading to stability.

Turkey is a case in focus. In a striking …

The Upside-Down World of Populists

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It is rather puzzling why the supporters of populist political actors seem not to care at all about obvious and undisputed facts (or their lack thereof) that concern their candidates, while mainstream supporters tend to withdraw their support at the slightest hint of an allegation of misconduct?

Consider the following examples, although others abound: the U.S. president, Donald Trump, publicly accuses his predecessor in wiretapping his Trump Tower. The allegations are consequently officially disproved and rejected by the FBI director James Comey, and by both Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate. Yet, Trump supporters continue to believe it is all a cover-up by “fake” media and “corrupt” establishment. No loss of credibility or love, it seems, for Trump by his supporters. Sticking to his claim might have even helped him consolidate further his base. During the same congressional hearing, the FBI director reveals that the Trump campaign ties with Russia are subject to…

Trump's Gorbachev Moment

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“I couldn't wait to get to the most powerful position because I thought then I would be able to fix problems that only a leader can fix. But when I got there, I realized we needed a revolutionary change.” These are not the words of the just-inaugurated President Trump, even though they could easily be mistaken for his. These words belong to another president, long fallen into oblivion: the last Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its first and last president – Michail Gorbachev. Unlike Trump, Gorbachev presided over a true “empire of evil”, driven by ideological fanaticism, economic determinism, and political oppression – in a way, a complete opposite of the U.S.: USSR was a communist dictatorship, U.S. is a capitalist liberal democracy; Gorbachev was a career apparatchik and a sincere believer in the virtues of communism, Trump is a businessmen with no prior political experience, whose belief in capitalism is perhaps the only certain characteristic of…