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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…

Putin’s Visit to Japan – Not So Friendly “Friendly” Judo Sparring

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The mid-December two-day visit of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to Japan raised high expectations among many about the prospect of signing a peace treaty that is now 60 years overdue. Among other things, there was also high anticipation for the return of at least two of the four islands that Japan calls Northern Territories, and Russia calls the Kuril Islands, which Japanese consider “stolen” by Stalin at the very end of the WWII. The Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, went out of his way to make this visit “special” for his Russian guest, by arranging the first day to be spent in his hometown, Nagato, in the southern prefecture Yamaguchi of the main island Honshu – place, famous for its exquisite sake, hot springs and delicious food. The carefully planned schedule, with a pronounced demonstration of a personal hospitality touch by prime minister Abe, listed “relaxing” time in famous hot springs, and a feast with exotic traditional local food, including exquisite dishes of …

Why Japan's Shinzo Abe Should Rejoice Over Trump's Election Win

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Why Japan’s Shinzo Abe Should Rejoice Over Trump’s Election WinCOMMENTARY by 
DECEMBER 5, 2016, 6:30 PM EST
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Japan just needs to play its cards well.  Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first head of government to visit the U.S. president-elect in his New York tower. It was a chance to establish a personal rapport, and to gauge more precisely where Donald Trump stands vis-a-vis Japan, China, North Korea, and issues surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the months leading to the November election, Trump raised alarm in Japan by alluding that the country should arm itself with nuclear weapons in order to better protect itself against an unpredictable North Korea, and the regional bulling of a

Political Economy of Trump’s Predictably Unpredictable Foreign Policy

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In one of the most memorable scenes in Black Mass, Johny Depp portraying the notorious South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, demonstrates the extent of his personal and unpredictable power and control when in the middle of the dinner, he playfully and innocently asks his associate John Morris for the recipe of the steak he was just served. He then makes Morris and the rest of the company squirm in front of him in fear, until relaxing again and laughing out the tense atmosphere, but not without hinting that this might or might not be the last dramatic switch off his take on the situation. No one knows what he thinks, no one can predict what would be his next act. The fear that comes from the unpredictable behavior enhances his personal power. Not surprisingly, unpredictability is a frequent trait for characters in many fiction works, portraying how a leader establishes control in a zero-gravity environment. In an unstructured, anarchic environment, unpredictability keeps both foe…