Erdoğan's interview with Charlie Rose

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had an hour-long interview on Charlie Rose the other night. I found it pretty riveting.

Then again, my taste in entertainment isn't always so great.

A lot of the questions that Charlie asked him were pretty classic. The Kurds. The Armenians. A sleepy-looking Rose (did the slip him something beforehand?) perked up for a brief moment when he actually thought he might get Erdoğan to issue a sort of apology for the Armenian genocide on live TV. It didn't happen, but I was nevertheless surprised to see the Prime Minister indicate, after providing a series of qualifications, that he might be open to doing something like that in the future. 

Turks Across Empires

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge, it's been a pretty busy year--one reason why I wasn't able to post very regularly. Mainly, my time has been spent working on a book.

It's been crazy. As I've mentioned elsewhere, writing a book has been the most humbling and humiliating process I've ever been through. Part of the problem was, once I'd finished my dissertation, there were basically three directions that I thought I could take the book. As of February of last year, I'd cycled through two of those options, and had received nothing but rejections from the publishers I'd contacted.

I really felt like I was down to my last strike, so (to continue with the sports analogies) I swung for the seats. I ended up writing on a topic that I'd earlier dismissed, one that I thought was too hackneyed or silly to write about. Wouldn't you know it? Of course, that was the very idea that people ended up finding interesting.

It might sound strange to hear that I had three basic ideas for the book, but 85% of each of these projects was based upon the same material. The difference occurred mainly in the big-picture elements.

The Great Game: The US and Russia in Post-Soviet Space

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lots of people have been asking lately if the recent developments in Ukraine signify a return to a Cold War between the United States and Russia. I would say no. This is why:

The Cold War was fought on ideological grounds. This is not the case with the US and Russia today, who battle mainly over commercial interests and political influence. In this respect, American-Russian relations over the past two decades remind me much more of Russian-British relations during the late nineteenth century. The 'Great Game,' as people call it, led to a series of proxy battles between the two empires across the Balkans, Middle East and Eurasia.
So great they named a game after it












Ukraine Deal: Unrealistic Expectations

Sunday, April 20, 2014
On Thursday in Geneva, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU worked out an agreement to bring separatists and authorities back from the brink of war in eastern Ukraine. Here's a summary of the deal:
The US, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have reached agreement on a series of immediate steps aimed at pulling eastern Ukraine back from the brink of war.
The deal, clinched after a dramatic extended meeting in Geneva, calls for the disarming of all illegal groups. In the next few days they would have to vacate all the government buildings and public spaces they have occupied over the course of the crisis.

Turkey: On to the next crusade

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It was an arresting headline: "Turkey mulls leaving World Wide Web." No, it wasn't from the Onion. Apparently, the article was real:

During an informal meeting with journalists in the Parliament on April 19, Elvan argued that not only Turkey, but also several European Union countries mull to establish "their own national Internet protocols."

"Instead of www, a ttt system can be formed. Turkey and other countries can establish their own domains. Such a move would detach the Internet systems from each other. This is a controversial issue," Elvan said.

Elvan also called for an "international convention" to cope with the "the lack of control over social media." 
Those of you who follow the news in Turkey have no doubt heard about recent efforts in that country to block YouTube and Twitter, while rumors had been running wild earlier this year about the imminent closure of Facebook.

Bad Idea Jeans: Ukraine Edition

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I read an editorial in the Washington Post the other day that called for sending American soldiers to Ukraine. The piece, written by former (Obama-era) US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, advocates a strong stance vis-a-vis Putin by sending American troops to the region (emphasis is my own):

Despite much diplomatic effort, the situation in Ukraine worsens. A coordinated Russian campaign, including an invasion threat, special operations destabilization in eastern Ukraine patterned on the Crimea model, and warnings of gas cutoffs document ever more clearly Vladi­mir Putin’s aim to cripple the Ukrainian government and control much or even all of this strategically vital European country.
The West’s reaction has been weak. The sanctions imposed and contemplated are not dramatic, regardless of immediate Russian losses in volatile stock and currency exchange markets. Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, and affinity for Russian investments, were apparent last week when the German foreign minister feted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov for trade talks, even as NATO photos of Russian military equipment stockpiled near Ukraine emerged. While European foot-dragging is the biggest obstacle to an effective response, some of Washington’s initial comments and actions suggested unwillingness to face the reality of Putin’s actions. The Obama administration also bears the burden of its Middle Eastern policy of avoiding military conflicts. NATO member states in Eastern Europe are asking the same question many in the Middle East have: Can we rely on Washington to make hard military decisions?
The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal.

Will he or won't he? Putin and eastern Ukraine

Saturday, April 12, 2014
That's the big question this weekend, isn't it? Will Russia attack eastern Ukraine, splitting off still more territory from that country?

For the Putin of ten years ago, I'd say no way. That Putin was much too smart to do something like this. For Putin 2014, however, I can't say I'm sure. As Angela Merkel seemed to imply in her account of her telephone discussion with Putin the weekend of the Crimea takeover, the Russian president may well be living in an alternate reality. Bill Simmons, meanwhile, would probably say that Putin is just having his "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment.

"I'm Keith Hernandez, I can invade any country I want"

 

Busy times in the Bozone/Ron LeFlore

Saturday, April 5, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, I received a Ron LeFlore Montreal Expos jersey in the mail. I'd ordered it on the spur of the moment a week earlier, but had long been considering the move. 
Why Ron LeFlore? Good question. LeFlore played for the Detroit Tigers in the second half of the 1970s, when I was a kid. He made the All-Star team in 1976. In 1980, LeFlore was traded to the Montreal Expos (Ron Lafleur!) in exchange for pitcher Dan Schatzeder. Altogether, he played nine years in the major leagues.