The Great Debate

Vladimir Putin in jeopardy on all sides as Russia’s economy stumbles

By John Lloyd
December 18, 2014

Russian President Putin is seen on a screen during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow

MOSCOW – What a difference a plunging ruble makes. A few short days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin was a strategic genius, outplaying Western leaders everywhere – in the Middle East, in China, and especially in Ukraine. Today, he’s the destroyer of his country and his political life could be in jeopardy.

How to pay North Korea back for Sony hack? Hit Kim’s cronies where it counts – their wallets

By Kent Harrington
December 18, 2014

North Korean leader Kim visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark the 61st anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in the Fatherland Liberation War

Moviemakers strive to outdo themselves with fantastic plots, super-heroes and special effects. But the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment this month proves that, even in Hollywood, reality is still stranger than fiction.

from Breakingviews:

Sony email shareholders would like to see

December 17, 2014

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Relax, North Korea isn’t going to nuke the U.S. over a movie

By Paul French
December 17, 2014

A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film "The Interview" in Los Angeles

Okay, it’s official. Some people may be getting a little overwrought about North Korea’s possible reaction to the release of “The Interview,” that much-hyped movie where Kim Jong Un is (fictionally) assassinated by the CIA, via bumbling patsies played by James Franco and Seth Rogen. Since news of the comedy’s plot leaked, there have been some typically, and not all that surprising, strong words from Pyongyang.  Then Sony Pictures got hacked, possibly by North Korea or possibly by someone else entirely. Incidentally, a major corporation being hacked by an unknown assailant that’s either a dictatorial rogue state, or some teenagers who want to watch movies for free, is a much better plot idea than that of “The Interview.” Cue much outpouring of punditry and comment (this commentator and pundit included) on what’s going on.

Secret meetings with Cuba finally pay off

By William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh
December 17, 2014

A rainbow is pictured in the sky over Havana

 

Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.

Will Pakistan’s grief force it to cut ties with Islamic militants?

By Matthew Green
December 17, 2014

A mother mourns her son Mohammed Ali Khan, a student who was killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, at her house in Peshawar

Pakistan’s army knew it would pay a price when it launched an offensive in the mountains of North Waziristan. But even in their worst imaginings, few officers could have foreseen the way revenge would be served: an attack on an Army-run school that cost the lives of 132 students. Many were the teenage sons of soldiers.

Strong or weak, bully or buffoon? Will the real Russia please stand up?

By Michael Kofman
December 17, 2014

Russia's President Putin speaks during a commemoration of the Hermitage's 250th anniversary at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

The West has been unable to develop a coherent strategic policy toward Russia. There is little agreement on what Russia is and how to deal with it, too much speculation about what President Vladimir Putin will or will not do.

Iran transformed Syria’s army into a militia that will help Assad survive another year

By David Axe
December 17, 2014

A man inspects a damaged site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs thrown by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on al-Ghariya, in the east of Deraa province

In early 2015, the civil war in Syria will turn four years old. If current trends hold, the terrible conflict — which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions — will almost certainly continue to rage through the end of the year. That’s my prediction.

Top 5 political predictions for 2015

By Bill Schneider
December 16, 2014

Hillary Clinton speaks on "Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership"  at Georgetown University in Washington

1. The Obama boom will finally arrive.  Only it will be more like a boomlet.

Americans have been waiting for the boom since they elected President Barack Obama in the teeth of the 2008 financial meltdown. After all, we elected Ronald Reagan during an economic downturn in 1980, and by his second term, the economy had turned around (“Morning in America”).  We elected Bill Clinton in an economic downturn in 1992, and by his second term, the economy had come roaring back (the “dot-com boom,” now known as the “dot-com bubble”).  Now we’re deep into Obama’s second term. Where’s da boom?

In 2015, Vladimir Putin may witness his empire’s death knell

By Strobe Talbott
December 16, 2014

Russia's President Putin chairs a meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi

The year ahead could see the outbreak of the third Chechen war, which, in turn, could be the death knell of the Russian Federation in its current borders.