Vietnam Normalization Redux: Trade, Democracy, and Security

pVietnam 1

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


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


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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