Vietnam Normalization Redux: Trade, Democracy, and Security

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U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (third from right) meets with Vietnamese Public Security Minister Tran Dai Quang (second from left) in Washington, D.C. on March 17. Discussions focused on cooperation in the realm of crime enforcement, but also touched on security, economic, war, and human rights matters. Photo: U.S. Department of Homeland Security.[1]

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 3, March 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.[2]

From March 15-20 of this year, the Vietnamese Public Security Minister Tran Dai Quang met with top United States congressmen and law enforcement officials, including Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey. General Tran and U.S. officials focused on increasing cooperation between the two countries’ law enforcement authorities, but also addressed bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, legacy war issues, security including the South China Sea, and human rights. Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong will continue to push bilateral ties, likely through a visit to the United States this year. In November, President Obama will most likely visit Vietnam during his planned Asia trip.[3]

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SWIFT Russia Sanctions: A Necessary Step for Ukraine and the World

Garegin Tosunyan

The head of the Association of Russian Banks Garegin Tosunyan speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Tosunyan said during his conference at RIA Novosti, that the exclusion of Russia from SWIFT will benefit no one, adding that such statements are a form of blackmailing. The Russian ruble has continued its decline to just over 60 rubles against the dollar, from 35 rubles to the dollar in July 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 3, March 2015.

By Sergey Fursa, Alexander Baldwin McCoy, and Irene Kovalchuk

Sergey Fursa works for Dragon Capital in fixed-income sales in Ukraine. Alexander Baldwin McCoy is a former United States Marine and worked in counterintelligence for the U.S. Department of State from 2010-2013. Irene Kovalchuk worked in finance and banking in Ukraine for over 10 years.

‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee’ (Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls).

Ukraine features prominently the media. The escalating political crisis and violence are spiraling out of control. News coverage paints an alarming picture of chaos and destruction, with NATO countries reluctant to get involved and put a stop to the madness. Many citizens of countries in Western Europe and America wonder why the suffering of the Ukrainian people should matter to them. What business is it of the people of Berlin or Paris or New York what happens in this distant land? In the cult French movie “The Toy” (1976), a child observes ‘the French only care about dead Frenchmen’[1]. Why should a regular citizen worry about what is going on in Eastern Europe, when it does not affect their life? The answer is simple. The crisis in Ukraine represents a greater threat than the mere stability of one state, and failing to respond will have disastrous ramifications around the globe.

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Iran Seeks to Remove Binding — Not Advisory – UN Sanctions

Switzerland US Iran

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, from left to right, pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran’s nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland, Monday, March 16, 2015. The United States and Iran are plunging back into negotiations in a bid to end a decades-long standoff that has raised the specter of an Iranian nuclear arsenal, a new atomic arms race in the Middle East and even a U.S. or Israeli military intervention. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 3, March 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

Iran is seeking to remove all binding United Nations sanctions, according to an official interviewed by the Journal of Political Risk on Monday. The official said that Iran has offered to leave the non-binding UN sanctions in place. “As the P5+1 and Iran race to meet the March deadline for a political framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program,” said the official, “one of the main obstacles is how to lift United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran.” According to the official, “Iran has insisted that those measures set out in the four resolutions adopted by the Security Council from 2006 to 2010 should be lifted, especially those provisions seen as legally binding for Member States under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.”

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The Mexican Cigarette Market: A Cautionary Case Study for Legalization of Marijuana

Cannabis leaf

Zinsmeister argues against using state policy toward cigarettes to discern marijuana policy in Mexico.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No.3, March 2015.

By Jeffrey E. Zinsmeister

Abstract

Marijuana legalization advocates in Mexico often point to the cigarette market as a regulatory model for marijuana—a way to control consumption, assure product quality, and reduce the power of narcotraffickers.  While the comparison between the two markets is apt—both are capital-intensive industries that favor economies of scale—it is not a favorable one in the Mexican context.  Due to these market dynamics and pervasive corruption, the Mexican cigarette business is divided into a legal business dominated by two multinational tobacco companies, and a large black market dominated by drug traffickers.  Accusations of corrupt practices are rife with respect to both markets, practices that undermine anti-smoking regulations, increase smoking rates (especially among minors), and enrich organized criminal syndicates.  Perhaps as a consequence, Mexico’s anti-smoking program yields far less in government revenues than it must pay out in increased public health costs.  As legalized marijuana would likely follow this same negative pattern, legalization policies will likely degrade public safety and health in Mexico.

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Overriding Legal Authority in Nation-Building Missions

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An Afghan woman passes by a sign of the New Kabul Bank in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. An Afghan tribunal convicted two top executives of the Kabul Bank, renamed the New Kabul Bank after the scandal broke, and sentenced them to five-year prison terms on Tuesday for their role in a massive corruption scandal that led to the collapse of Afghanistan’s largest bank and threatened the country’s fragile economy. The bank’s former chairman Sherkhan Farnood and former chief executive officer Khalilullah Ferozi were found guilty of theft of $278 million and $530 million, respectively. Farnood and Ferozi have also been ordered to pay back these funds. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No.3, March 2015.

By Thomas Buonomo

Throughout U.S. involvement in counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, rampant government corruption has driven continuing instability and hampered U.S. nation-building efforts.[1] Corruption was a major reason for the collapse of the Iraqi military in northern Iraq upon impact with the Islamic State.[2] It is also the reason why Afghans are turning to the Taliban for resolution of their legal disputes.[3]

These are profoundly tragic and frustrating outcomes that can only be precluded in the future in one of two ways: the U.S. must either obtain legal authority from the U.N. Security Councilor, in critical situations, through unilateral measuresto override a host nation’s legal system and hold corrupt actors accountable when local officials refuse. Alternatively, should this approach fail, the U.S. government should refrain from nation-building missions entirely and provide the U.S. military with a mission more closely aligned with its core competency: kinetic military operations.

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Ukraine’s Former President Yanukovych Deposited Billions of USD with China

Viktor Yanukovych, Xi Jinping.

According to two independent JPR sources, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, deposited billions of dollars before and during his departure from Ukraine in the spring of 2014.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has deposited billions of dollars with the Chinese, according to two independent sources available to the Journal of Political Risk.

President Yanukovych deposited approximately $1 billion USD with China on either his first or second visit to that country, according to one of the sources. Two large pallets of cash, of approximately $1 billion USD, were delivered to China through Hong Kong.

The other source, which we accessed in April 2014 on a visit to Ukraine, said that President Yanukovych transferred most of his deposits to China prior to departing the country and closing the banks with which he was associated. His bankers fled the country at that time.

When President Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia in February 2014, he transferred billions of dollars in a hurry. He and his family closed their four banks, according to our source. President Yanukovych’s men stuffed several vehicles full of cash, and drove them to Russia. What is reported here for the first time is that most of his estimated $32 billion in assets were wired to China, according to our source.

Former President Yanukovych denies having foreign bank accounts.

Update (3/7/2015): An email request for comment to the People’s Bank of China was not returned. The JPR was unable to reach Viktor Yanukovych for comment, though he is thought to reside in Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Anders Corr, Ph.D. is the founder and principal of Corr Analytics. JPR Status: Report, archived 2/28/2015. 

Russian Military Force Structure in Ukraine Area

Russian Military in Ukraine Region

This official document obtained by Corr Analytics reveals the force structure of Russian military personnel and equipment in and around Ukraine, including in Russia, Ukraine, and Transniestria.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

Corr Analytics received official documents yesterday that reveal the force structure of Russian military personnel and equipment in and around Ukraine, including in Russia, Ukraine, and Transniestria. The key document is republished here, and details 63,200 personnel, 755 tanks, 2,610 armored vehicles, 305 multiple launch rocket systems, 955 artillery systems, 355 combat aircraft and helicopters, 30 combat ships, and 2 submarines.

The released document shows the locations of forces, including in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, Crimea, Russia near the Ukrainian border, and Transdniestria.  Of particular interest are Russian-flagged forces shown to be in the Donbas region, including 13,000 personnel, 290 tanks, 765 armored vehicles, 125 multiple-launch rocket systems, and 210 artillery systems.

The army arrayed against the Ukrainian military is clearly a powerful Russian force that surrounds the country. Yet, Ukrainian officials yesterday were optimistic about a Ukrainian win against Russia. Russian foreign reserves are running low and being burned at a remarkably high rate. The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada have finally broken with France and Germany, and put military advisors in Ukraine. Ukraine expects to receive Javelin anti-tank missiles, sophisticated artillery equipment, and other military assistance in the near future.

Ukraine will accept conditions imposed by the IMF for a $17.5B loan in the coming days. This will cause social unrest in Ukraine, according to officials. Ukrainian citizens are expected to denounce such conditionality when the country is at war. Russian intelligence will likely take advantage of such unrest, according to the officials. However, Ukraine will accept the conditions in order to maintain unity with its allies and to obtain the much-needed loan.

Anders Corr, Ph.D. is the founder and principal of Corr Analytics. JPR Status: Report, archived 2/28/2015. 

An Attack on Freedom of Speech: What We Should Do As A Democracy To Protect Our Rights From Terrorists

Charlie Hebdo Cover

On January 7, two armed gunmen murdered twelve at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine. Before these attacks, the magazine had previously been targeted for its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammed. Following the publication of this Charlie Hebdo magazine cover in November 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s website was hacked and its office firebombed.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

The January 7 terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris wasn’t just an attack on human beings, but also an attack on freedom of speech and democracy. The French people wish to live in a free system where journalists and cartoonists have rights, including the freedom to lampoon Muhammad, Jesus, the French President, or anyone else they wish to put in the spotlight. These freedoms are deeply rooted in the history and philosophy of all democracies, and will be defended at great cost in blood and treasure.

The terrorist attack resulted in 12 deaths, which included well-known cartoonists at the magazine and the magazine’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier. The act of killing journalists only strengthens the people’s resolve to protect their freedoms, especially freedom of speech. Indeed, the response to the Paris attacks should not be fear to publish images of Muhammad, but rather a resolution to do so in many more outlets in order to act as a movement, a school of fish, and thereby de-isolate and protect the freedoms of others to do the same. Equivocation in the name of cultural sensitivity, an acceptable response prior to these attacks, is no longer an option. Fear and equivocation are now indistinguishable and would set a horrible precedent for giving in to terrorism, and against freedom of speech and democracy.

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Tackling Corruption in Ukraine

Anti-government protest in Kiev, Ukraine - 20 Feb 2014

Shaky truce in Kiev. Police and demonstrators prepare for another day Anti-government protest in Kiev, Ukraine – 20 Feb 2014 At least 26 people have been killed and hundreds injured as violence once again flared between police and anti-government protesters, after several weeks of calm. The anti-government protesters are calling for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over corruption and an abandoned trade agreement with the European Union (Rex Features via AP Images)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015.

By Irene Kovalchuk and Matthew Michaelides

During the last year Ukraine has accelerated its transition toward democracy, started reforming its institutions, and introduced a package of anti-corruption laws. Nevertheless, the expelled ex-president, Viktor Yanukovich, accused of stealing billions from Ukraine and overseeing mass killings of civilians, has not been brought to justice. Only a small fraction of the equivalent of billions of dollars stolen by the “Yanukovich family” has been frozen.[1] At the same time, with mounting debts, the government needs the lost money more than ever. And Ukrainians will not have full faith in their new government without seeing those guilty of crimes punished.

Domestic and international actors must work diligently both to recover the government’s stolen assets and ensure that the level of government corruption witnessed under Yanukovich’s rule are never repeated. This would require effective cooperation among the Ukrainian government, the nation’s civil society and Western nations. But the consequences of insufficient action would be too costly for a country already under severe stress.

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Countering ISIS Recruitment in Western Nations

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015. 

By Katherine Leggiero

Katherine Leggiero is currently getting her Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. She is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense’s Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Boren Fellowship.

Executive Summary

Personal grievances associated with political, economic, social and religious aspects of Western society in conjunction with naiveté of war, Islam and terrorism may expedite the radicalization process and motivate both Western women and men to participate in ISIS’s cause. ISIS incentivizes the bay’ah and hijra obligation by offering a recruit new identity and a part in the founding of the Caliphate. Participating in ISIS’s jihad and founding of the Caliphate may also provide individuals experiencing relative deprivation with employment, basic needs, or politics and religious practices that aligns with their expectations of how society should operate. Westerners with Somali and Palestinian heritage are frequently socially marginalized and believe the Caliphate can provide them with a new life and group identity governed by religious law. While recent Western converts to Islam find a sense of purpose as ISIS members in being a part of the founding of the Caliphate and will use media (e.g. suicide missions, burning passport, propaganda video, social media recruiter) to prove their allegiance.

In turn, ISIS encourages its Western members to use their smartphones to instruct, guide and recruit other Westerners on their social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Kik, Ask.fm, Skype, and blogs). ISIS facilitators recruit at community events (religious seminars and community activities) and schools (e.g. high schools and colleges), but require an ISIS sheikh recommendation and “jihad mentor” for Western recruits to be selected and to prevent US intelligence collection. ISIS keeps its messaging simple (“join the Caliphate”) within its branding and recruitment campaign on its Google Play App, The Dawn of Glad Tidings and its monthly electronic magazine, Dabiq. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent an individual from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified action. ISIS makes the sacred value (e.g. governance by Allah) incompatible with other values, which in turn prevents trade-offs and concessions from occurring within their in-group. When the value becomes non-negotiable, the individual relies on emotional processing opposed to complex reasoning processes. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent individuals from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified actions.

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