Saturday, May 31, 2014

Analyzing Russian Media: Pravda and RIA Novosti

Despite Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees the freedom of the mass media and the prohibits censorship, the 2014 Reporters without Borders Freedom Index ranks the Russian Federation 148th out of 180 states around the globe (2014).

The media source Pravda, translated as “truth” in English, was founded in the early 20th century and represented the voice of the official Communist party of Russia during Soviet times. When Yeltsin opened the State to private sector infiltration and foreign investment after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pravda was purchased by foreign private sector owners based out of Greece. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation eventually took ownership of the paper in 1997, and it should be noted that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, while the second most represented political party in parliament, is dwarfed by Putin’s United Russia. Reviewing the Pravda on-line newspaper, the articles are very critical of the Capitalist West, which is expected due to the opposing ideologies involved when viewing world political events, but most articles did not exactly slam or criticize the Russian government very often. The Pravda newspaper seemed very pro-Crimea, which would represent nationalism-Patriotism or pro-Russian views, and seemed to support the aggressive decision by the Russian Government. The news source even ran an article that painted Gazprom, “the state-controlled natural gas company” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 358), in a rather positive light. Overall, the Pravda website contained articles that reflected the political position of its owner party, but no articles too critical of the state, nor any articles as openly slanderous or as politically biased as the main media outlets in the United States.

RIA Novosti is an example of state controlled media in the post-Soviet Russian Federation era. The organization has origins as “the Soviet Information Bureau, founded in 1941 to cover World World II” (Tétrault-Farber, 2013). It is easy enough to distinguish that RIA Novosti is state operated because the majority of content on their website is either reporting events that the state has little control over, usually non-political in nature, or reporting political events that illustrate state success, such as the positive news report that “Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed an agreement on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union” (Klimentyev, 2014). There was very little mention of the Ukraine or the Crimea situation compared to other pro-Russian reports, and the articles that did focus on the political situation occurring in the Crimea seemed to paint the Russian opposition in a similar light as the U.S. portrays resistance in Iraq or Afghanistan. As would be expected with a state operated media source, there was an article pointing out that “the popularity of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev among Russians continues to grow” (Nikolskyi, 2014). Interestingly enough, President Putin recently “issued a decree ordering the liquidation of RIA Novosti, the massive state-owned news agency, and mandated the creation of a new global news agency to be headed by an aggressively pro-Kremlin television host” (Tétrault-Farber, Gabrielle, 2013). While this presidential decree is aimed to merge existing state-run media agencies into a new state-operated consolidated media outlet, the move is viewed by the west as a tightening of Russian state control over free media within the Russian state.

Both media outlets, Pravda and RIA Novosti, operated through the Soviet era and beyond into the post-Soviet era. Obviously, RIA Novosti, being state-owned, would have no problems operating under Soviet conditions, as it clearly was the voice of the state and operating no differently than it is now (only under different political structures and circumstance). In the case of Pravda, which also operated through the Soviet era, it would really depend on the ownership of the media organization. I highly doubt that foreign private sector ownership of a media outlet would have been allowed under the Soviet state.

Federatsii, K. R. (1993). Constitution of the Russian Federation. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, (237), 10003000-01.

Klimentyev, Michael. 2014. Eurasian Economic Union to Become Economic Power West Has to Reckon With – Lawmaker. Ria Novosti, May 30, 2014. Accessed on May 29, 2014.

Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph. 2013. Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

Nikolskyi, Aleksey. 2014. Public Approval for Putin, Medvedev Continues to Grow – Survey. Ria Novosti, May 30, 2014. Accessed on May 29, 2014.

Reporters without Borders. 2014. World Press Freedom Index 2014. Reporters without Borders Website. Accessed on May 29, 2014.

Tétrault-Farber, Gabrielle. 2013. Putin Shuts State News Agency RIA Novosti. Moscow Times, December 10, 2013. Accessed on May 29, 2014.

Democracy Deficit in the Middle East: The Coercive Apparatus

The democracy deficit is a conceptual term that describes the lack of existing or thriving democratic governments in the Middle East since the aftermath of World War II when the basis for the modern Middle East nation-state model was established with “the formation of new states and the building of new nations” (Anderson, p. 3) in the region formerly centralized by the Ottoman Empire.  When looking at the democracy deficit in the Middle East, statistics show that “only two out of twenty-one countries qualify as electoral democracies, down from three observed in 1972” (Bellin, p. 139).  While the international stage has witnessed an overall increase in representative or parliamentary democracies since 1972, the Middle Eastern states have remained predominantly monarchial or authoritarian in government structure (Bellin, p. 139).  Since “no single variable will ever prove to be universally necessary” (Bellin, p. 141) for establishing successful and sustainable democracy within a state, it is important to look at specific trends on what strengthens the grasp of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East region and how the coercive apparatus, or ruling power, is able to exploit those conditions in order to maintain power.

The first overall state trend that allows authoritarianism to thrive in the Middle East is a weak civil society, without strong nongovernment organizations, and civil freedoms, that do not allow “opportunities for citizens to participate in collective deliberation” (Bellin, p. 139).  In order to create and push successful reform measures, the people must be able to organize and establish a platform in which to organize.  When the coercive apparatus oppresses, directly or indirectly, the civil society and prevents nongovernment organizations from flourishing, it is extremely difficult for the people to collectively demand change through organized channels.

The economy is the second trend as the majority of Middle Eastern states have economies greatly regulated by the state, or coercive apparatus, and this fiscal centralization “undermines the capacity to build autonomous, countervailing power to the state in society” (Bellin, p. 139).  If the state controls the technology, the military arms, the natural resources, the food sources, and the overall power base, it becomes extremely difficult for the population to demand reform as the people have nothing to bargain with except violence against a well-armed coercive security apparatus.

The third trend can be observed with the inequalities of the domestic wealth distribution within the state and low literacy rates of the working masses (Bellin, p. 139).  There will never be an emphasis on democratic reform, or any reforms, if the masses are not educated enough to prioritize and organize reform, and the ruling elite will always cling to the status quo for the obvious reasons of their acquired power and wealth (Bellin, p. 140).

The fourth observable trend is that the majority of Middle Eastern states do not “border directly on successful models of democratic rule” (Bellin, p. 140), and are therefore not influenced by any positive examples of electoral democracy.  The only problem with this theory is that the Middle East has seen a decline in democratic states, albeit those states were pre-western puppet governments established by withdrawing western states, and those temporary democracies didn’t influence neighboring states and eventually relapsed to different structures of government.  In addition, the state of Israel consistently proclaims itself a beacon of democracy in the Middle East while committing consistent human rights violations against the Palestinian people and committing ethnic cleansing through illegal settlement building despite the remonstrations of the international community.

The final trend is blamed on Islam and the presumption that Islam is anti-Democratic in nature (Bellin, p. 140).  This presumption is incorrect as Iran is an Islamic theocracy with many democratic elements to its government structure, and while the Iranian government structure is certainly not the same model of free-for-all electoral democracy as western capitalist representative democracies are, Iran still possesses democratic elements under an Islamic constitution which proves that Islam is not anti-democracy.

Some of the state trends that have been noted by Bellin create social and political environments that allow authoritarian governments in the Middle East to remain unchallenged in their grasp of power because “coercive apparatus in many states has been exceptionally able and willing to crush reform initiatives from below (Bellin, p. 144).  Considering that the military is the first line of defense for state coercive apparatus power, whether authoritarian or democratic, the fiscal health of a state is extremely relevant in holding power for the coercive apparatus, or controlling power.  If the state is unable to pay or feed, or provide subsistence to, its military members and families, the state coercive apparatus will become insecure and will eventually become unstable (Bellin, p. 144) which would result in a severe vulnerability for the state coercive apparatus.  When considering the fact that most modern Middle Eastern states “enjoy sufficient revenue to sustain exceedingly robust expenditure on their security apparatuses” (Bellin, p. 147) and are “among the biggest spenders in terms of arms purchased” (Bellin, p. 147), the strength of the average Middle Eastern state coercive apparatus becomes evident.  The wealth that allows this type of security building for Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes is generally derived from capitalist rentier states associated with “petroleum resources, gas resources, geostrategic utility, and control of critical transit facilities” (Bellin, p. 148).  In addition, authoritarian states also receive conditional International Monetary Fund loans and western foreign aid, such as the annual two billion dollars a year in United States foreign aid to Egypt during and after the Mubarak era, and the ongoing annual three billion dollars a year to Israel that is provided by the United States (Bellin, p. 148).  Many authoritarian leaders would lose the “capacity to hold on to power” (Bellin, p. 144) without the economic contributions of the capitalist west, but due to western-capitalist concerns for oil this is not the case and authoritarian states continue to maintain strong coercive apparatus security which results in continued longevity (Bellin, p. 148).

In addition to a strong coercive apparatus, the presence of a patrimonial coercive apparatus strengthens the dedication to hold power and block reform for authoritarian regimes.  Under patrimonial conditions, the possibility of democratic, social, political or economic reform could indicate ruin for the elite of the monarchy or authoritarian state (Bellin, p. 149).  There are ample historical examples such with “Bourguiba's son, Qaddafi's cousins, Asad's brother, Saddam's in-laws” (Anderson, p. 11).

Anderson, Lisa. 1991. “Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East.” Political Science Quarterly 106, no. 1 (1991): 1-15.

Bellin, Eva. 2004. The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective. Comparative Politics, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jan., 2004), pp. 139-157

Ross, Michael. 2001. Does Oil Hinder Democracy? World Politics, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Apr., 2001), pp. 325-361


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Russia: Parlimentary Checks and Balances?

The contemporary government system of Russia provides a check on presidential power just as the United States system is designed to do.  One of the problems with parliamentary or representative governments is that it is a government format designed to be manipulated by capital or political power, whether by capitalist lobbyists in the United States or soft authoritarian political unity in Russia.  In the aftermath of the communist system in Russia, a checks and balance system was implemented in article 10 of the state constitution that established “the basis of the separation of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 39, 2010).  Similar to the United States Congress, the Russian parliament is bicameral with two chambers, “the lower chamber is the State Duma and the upper is the Federation Council” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 40, 2010).  Simply because President Putin has “achieved total dominance on the basis of a two-thirds majority of seats controlled by the loyal United Russia” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 40, 2010) political party does not imply that the Russian system is void of presidential constraints.  While the two-party political system in the United States allows private sector and foreign entities to manipulate legislature through lobbying, Putin has legally consolidated main political parties into one consolidated alliance within the parameters of the legislation system.  In both American and Russian systems, the president “must nonetheless obtain the consent of parliament if he seeks to pass legislation” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 41, 2010), and in both systems the bicameral systems “can also override a presidential veto by a concurrent two-thirds vote” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 42, 2010).  While pro-Western Yeltsin utilized “presidential decrees (ukazy) to enact important policy changes” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 42, 2010) on behalf of international capitalism, Putin’s consolidation of political parties operated within the established checks and balances of the “normal legislative process” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 42, 2010) of the Russian constitution.  Within the legal framework of the system, “Putin put through legislation raising the requirements for registration of parties, so that a party must have 50,000 members and branches in at least half the regions of the country to be legally registered” (Wegren & Herspring, p. 48, 2010), but his election campaign reform legislation could have been blocked if there had been enough parliamentary opposition.

In the aftermath of Putin’s political consolidation process through United Russia, the relationship of the president and the prime minister under the Russian system should be analyzed.  While the lower house, the Duma, is chosen directly by the populace, it is the president that appoints the prime minister “with the approval of the lower house of the parliament (State Duma)” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 334).  Under the United Russia political consolidation, it has been easy enough for Putin and Medvedev to hold the top leadership position, almost swapping posts with each other while appointing the other as prime minister, since there are no constraints on the number of overall terms that an individual can serve as president.  The presidential post within the Russian system is limited to two consecutive 6-year terms, but as we have seen with Putin and Medvedev, the same political party can control the presidential and prime minster positions for unlimited timeframes.

While the political consolidation under United Russia appears to leave the presidential position basically unchecked, it is only a matter of time before different political interests develop domestically and splinter the political unity and the existing checks and balances of the Russian Constitution and the Russian political system become more apparent….or abolished.


Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph.  2013. Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition.  Boston, MA: Wadsworth

Wegren & Herspring.  2010. After Putin's Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain.  Lanham, MD: Rowman and LIttlefield Publishers, 2010.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The 'democracy deficit' in the Middle East

It is difficult for me to get on board with some of the statistical data presented by the various political theorists because statistics do not include the values of historical events from a realist perspective, nor the individual situation, domestic wealth distributions, exact natural resource relation to foreign policy, and the domestic and international interests of each state studied.

There are no general policies outside of empty rhetoric, such as better education, that can be inducted across the Middle East to reduce the “democracy deficit” because democracy, specifically representative or parliamentary democracy, is generally a tool of capitalist interests.  No 100% real democracies exist.  Monarchies, authoritarian leaders and dictators survive in the Middle East within the structure of capitalist globalization because “several are major oil-producing states, of course, but even the non-oil-producing monarchies are recipients of substantial subventions from foreign friends and patrons” (Anderson, p.1, 1991).  It would also be unfair to ignore the blatant bias against monarchies that is heavily portrayed in the American media aimed to elicit “American skepticism about monarchy” (Anderson, p.2, 1991).  A good portion of Middle East monarchies themselves were created through “British imperial policy” (Anderson, p.3, 1991) and were a result of “the formation of new states and the building of new nations” (Anderson, p.3, 1991).  I strongly agree with “the claim that oil and democracy do not mix is often used by area specialists to explain why the high-income states of the Arab Middle East have not become democratic” (Ross, p.325, 2001) because these states have negotiating leverage, possessing a natural resource that the capitalist west requires.  As long as these monarchial leaders maintain pro-western and pro-global free-market positions while eating from the hand of the International Monetary Fund, they are tolerated and even supported by the west through foreign aid.  When those leaders begin to complicate western interests, like Gadhafi or even Assad, they are branded as dictators and there are usually western calls for regime change.  Gadhafi was removed because the permanent members of the UN Security Council were generally on the same page with individual state interests, but the Assad government in Syria presented a split between the interests of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and therefore we witnessed a civil war in Syria with permanent members of the UN Security Council simultaneously funding both sides of the violent struggle: the Assad Government and the rebel opposition.

We should now contemplate the “resource curse” discussed by Ross which describes how “many of the poorest and most troubled states in the developing world have, paradoxically, high levels of natural resource wealth” (Ross, p. 328, 2001).  This is quite a natural phenomenon under globalization as once a state is opened to International Monetary Fund debt and opened to foreign investment, natural resources are transitioned into private sector profits which results in massive capital flight and the accumulation of the remaining domestic capital by domestic ruling elites (which is an unequal wealth distribution which occurs anywhere Capitalism is present because capital is required to generate capital).  The capital flight that middle east states experience is a result of being used by a capitalist ‘rentier’ state, defined as “European states that extended loans to non-European governments” (Ross, p. 329, 2001) for capitalist “pipeline crossings, transit fees, and passage” (Ross, p.329, 2001).  Even the definition listed by Ross is nearly fifteen years outdated because today it is the IMF extending conditional loans to boost free market profiteering while individual capitalist states provide foreign aid to protect private investments, such as the annual 2 billion dollars a year that the U.S. provided Egypt during the Mubarak reign and the annual 3 billion dollars a year that the U.S. provided to Israel (via domestic lobbyist organizations such as AIPAC).

There are no policies to promote democracy because the strongest capitalist democracies fund and economically exploit the authoritarians and the monarchies.  As history illustrates, “authoritarian states in the Middle East and North Africa profited from the cold war, reaping patronage from eastern and western great powers (sometimes simultaneously) in return for the promise of reliable alliance in the fight for or against Communism” (Bellin, p. 148, 2004) and the same profit game has been played during the international War on Terror.  The bottom line is that pro-democratic states with the most capital provide authoritarian states with “western support, at times in very generous proportions, because of the belief (perhaps mistaken) among western policymakers that these regimes would be most likely to deliver on western security concerns by assuring regular oil and gas supplies to the West” (Bellin, p.148-149, 2004).

Capitalist democratic states themselves cause the democracy deficit in the Middle East, and they do so for a profit.


Anderson, Lisa.  1991.  “Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East.” Political Science Quarterly 106, no. 1 (1991): 1-15.

Bellin, Eva.  2004.  The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective.  Comparative Politics, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jan., 2004), pp. 139-157

Ross, Michael.  2001.  Does Oil Hinder Democracy?  World Politics, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Apr., 2001), pp. 325-361


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Analysis of Russia under Vladimir Putin

Putin followed in the aftermath of Yeltsin, who had been the post-Soviet Western puppet leader that engaged Russia into debt with the International Monetary Fund and had allowed a privatization process to infiltrate Russia domestically which resulted in mass capital flight. Putin was able to solidify his power and the state government power through several methods and events. Putin originally solidified power as an “image as the Russian soldiers’ inspiration” (Pirani, p. 111, 2010) through the so-called war in Chechnya who “strengthened in the armed forces a sense of statehood that had been severely eroded” (Pirani, p. 111, 2010) by the infiltration of capitalist privatization that had occurred in the 1990’s under Yeltsin. While Yeltsin bowed to capitalism, Putin focused on the state. Putin reversed the anarchy of privatization and weakening of the Russian state caused by Yeltsin back toward more Soviet-era pogroms placing the state structure as top priority. The textbook actually compares Putin’s invasion of Chechnya in 1999 to the United States invasion of Iraq, stating that the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq was about strategic interests in the Middle East while the Russian invasion of Chechnya was concurrent with increasing power regulation and restrictions within the Russian state (Pirani, p. 118, 2010). Basically, the events comprising of the crackdown on Chechnya by the Russian state were either unintentionally carried over into the domestic Russian political power structure or the events were intentionally designed to bring about the domestic tightening of power within Russia. Either way, it strengthened the state while diminishing individual freedoms (which must be unbiasedly weighed by what is best for the current and long term). The process of Chechenisation, the “control by local leaders loyal to the Russian state” (Pirani, p. 114, 2010) within Chechnya, can also be mirrored in the domestic political structure of Russia under Putin as “the proportion of military personnel in the National Security Council grew to 58 percent in 2003” (Pirani, p. 119, 2010) and major percentage increases in military personnel were also noted in government and presidential envoys. The only counterargument on behalf of Putin for this increase in military presence within the government bureaucracy was that Putin had been prior military himself, and possibly wanted to surround himself with like-minds and people of loyal military character. The national polls announcing high levels of public support for Putin and his election victories have been targeted by western accusations of ballot box stuffing, especially in the territories of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia (Pirani, p. 117, 2010). There is probably some truth to these accusations, but also some western media promotion of those suggested accusations. Another political power consolidation process that took place under Putin was the creation of the Unity party and the “driving of opposition parties out of parliament” (Pirani, p. 121, 2010) through changes in election rules aimed to eliminate smaller political parties. Under Putin, the national television stations were also brought under state control and “indirect state influence is also realized through the dominant ownership share in many regional TV channels by Gazprom-Media, a subsidiary of the state-controlled natural gas company” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 358). Despite western criticisms, Putin’s Russia today is considered a soft authoritarian state and “partial or complete state ownership has remained fairly intact or even been restored after earlier privatization was carried out. (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 357). A good question would be: What would Russia look like today if Putin would not have made the changes he has made and foreign investment (private capital exploitation of natural resources and labor) would have continued on in Yeltsinian fashion?


Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph. 2013. Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth

Pirani, Simon. 2010. Change in Putin's Russia: power, money and people, London: Pluto Press.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Arab Nationalism from Ottoman Collapse to Post WWII - Islam, the State, and Bretton Woods

The main reasons why Pan-Arabism was not successful, and could not be successful, were due to the factor of Islam and the nationalism or citizenry of the state, whether artificially built by western powers or not.  The majority of the Arab World prior to World War I was under centralized Ottoman rule and ”the Ottomans professed Islam, as did the overwhelming majority of Arabic-speaking subjects” (Kramer, p. 174, 1993).  Even though there were “minority communities of Arabic-speaking Christians” (Kramer, p. 175, 1993) within the Ottoman Empire, the majority religion within the Ottoman Empire and the so-called Arab world was Islam, which basically rejects ethnic and national divisions while promoting a collective unity under God.  In the ideology of Islam, a person is not Arab or Anglo-Saxon, nor French or Syrian, they are either a Muslim, one who submits to God, or they are not.  It is the same understanding that Malcolm X, the American Black Nationalist, realized upon his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964.  Below is a link to the Letter from Mecca written by Malcolm X and it provides an interesting prospective of how ethnicity is viewed in traditional Islam:

The second reason for the failure of any pan-Arab unity was that as Western colonialism began its final transition toward international free market globalization after World War II, many Arab states already “possessed its own ruling elite, bureaucracy, flag, and anthem” (Kramer, p. 183, 1992).  The decentralization of Arab populations through the establishment of state borders, and state government structures, was enforced by the British mediated establishment of the Arab League in 1945, which required each Arab state to sign a charter agreeing to nonintervention (Kramer, p. 183, 1993).  Therefore, the Arab League basically agreed not to stand as an Arab nation, but as individual states.  By World War II, the Arab states most valuable to the capitalist west were already immersed into Economic ties with the international free market, and this trend can be seen by the individual state entry dates to the IMF: Egypt 1945, Iraq 1945, Iran 1945, Lebanon 1947, Syria 1947 (IMF, 2012).  As the identity of the individual state matured economically and politically, individual states “justified their choices by invoking Syrian, Jordanian, Saudi, or Iraqi national interests, not Arab national destiny” (Kramer, p. 189, 1993).

The ideology of early Arab Nationalism was utilized in two areas which had historical consequences between World War I and World War II.  The ideology was useful for Ibraham Pasha in Syria in efforts attempting to unite Arab Muslims and Christians, and was a very useful ideology for Muhammad Ali in Egypt when uniting the Arab population of Egypt against British occupation (Danielson, p. 21, 2007).  The social consequences were cultural consolidation, and animosity toward foreign occupation. 

The ideology of Pan-Arabism was greatly expanded by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of Egypt from 1956-1970, who utilized the ideology as an “ability to influence other countries in the Middle East” (Danielson, p. 25, 2007) in order to position Egypt as an economic hegemon within the family of Arab nation-states in the Middle East.  If we look closely at the trade agreements being established during Nasser’s Pan-Arab leadership, we clearly see the 1953 Agreement on Trade Flow and Transit Rules signed by Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria (Gendrano, p. 9, 2007).  This agreement aimed “to facilitate intra trade by organizing transit trade was signed in 1953 in the framework of Arab League” (Babil & Baghasa, p. 1, 2008).  Interestingly, it wasn’t until Nasser’s death that Egypt, under the leadership of Anwar Sadat, entered into debt under the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (which would later become the World Bank).

Babili, Nahmoud and Baghasa, Hajar.  2008.  The Impacts of GAFTA on Syrian Trade after Its full Implementation.  National Agricultural Policy Center.  Accessed May 13, 2014.

Danielson, Robert.  2007.  Nasser and Pan-Arabism: Explaining Egypt’s Rise in Power.  Accessed on May 13, 2014.

Gendrano, Janelle.  2007.  Leaugue of Arab states: Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement.  Institute for Domestic and International Affairs.  Accessed May 13, 2014.

International Monetary Fund.  2012.  List of Members.  International Monetary Fund Website.  Accessed on May 13, 2014.

Kramer, Martin.  1993.  “Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity.”  Daedalus 122, no. 3 (Summer 1993): 171-206.

Friday, May 9, 2014

End of the Soviet Union: Yeltsin's Shock Treatment, Capital Flight, and IMF Puppet Strings

The transition of Russia and her people during the collapse of the Soviet Union and through the early post-Soviet era was a socially and economically tumultuous time, especially for the Russian working class population, as “bureaucrats converted apparatus power into capital wealth”  (Pirani, p. 16, 2010).  The last few years of the Soviet Union could almost be described as a mass scheme in capital laundering of state funds to private ownership by those in high government positions, as banking reforms in 1987 through 1988 and the privatization of state companies allowed state capital to drain into the private sector (Pirani, p. 18, 2010).  Interestingly enough, instead of rejecting the privatization process and the encroachment of parasitic capitalism, the majority of Russian workers unwittingly accepted it with high hopes in which laborers formed labor unions in the hope that Russian natural resources and Russian labor could be sold on the free market for higher prices which would result in higher profits being reinvested in better working conditions for laborers (Pirani, p. 21, 2010).  After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin’s “shock therapy” mimicked “a method developed in the United States in the 1970s” (Pirani, p. 24, 2010) that was utilized to economically exploit Latin American states, which consisted of abolishing price setting, by allowing the international market to determine the value of the ruble (via the International Monetary Fund), and to rapidly privatize state property on a massive scale resulting in 90,000 companies being privatized by end of 1993 (Pirani, p. 25, 2010).

Yeltsin was a western puppet leader, propped up by the capitalist west, who opened his state to the international free market and recklessly engaged his country into conditional programme loans by the IMF while allowing U.S. policy makers to make “every significant economic decision” (Parani, p. 27, 2010) of his presidency.  As the Russian people starved on the streets in the in the face of hyperinflation, soaring unemployment and spiking poverty levels due to mass capital flight from Russia, U.S. President Clinton and the IMF would carefully show support for Yeltsin at politically critical times, specifically in the form of increased IMF loans, in order to keep their capitalistic-stringed puppet in power.  During this period, “capital flight from Russia totaled $56-70 billion in 1992-1993, and about $17 billion a year in 1994-1998” (Parani, p. 29, 2010).

In addition to the capital flowing into the private sector and out of the state, the post-Soviet satellite states were also lost to Russia as they were quickly sucked up into the World Trade Organization’s global market and economically exploited through the ravishing of natural resources by the most powerful capitalist private entities on the international stage through tariff-free trade blocs.  During the decade after the dismembering of the Soviet Union, the state that had once been one of the world’s two superpowers began to portray worse socio-economic issues than many post-colonial states had displayed as their European colonial master states withdrew and western-friendly puppet leaders were placed in those newly declared independent states. 

Russia’s transition into the global private market wasn’t much different than the transition from state controlled colonialism to international private sector free market debt during the decolonization to globalization period.

Pirani, Simon. 2010.  Change in Putin's Russia: power, money and people (London: Pluto Press, 2010), 16-31.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Death of the "Sick Man of Europe": Beneficiaries of a New Middle East

The major beneficiaries of the post-World War I territorial alignment which emerged from the Sykes-Picot Treaty (1915) and the Treaty of Sevres (1920) were the British and the Zionists.  Although, not categorized as an entity, early international free market capitalism also benefitted and grew stronger from the shifting balance of power on the international stage and the carving up of the Ottoman Empire.

Britain was an imperialist state that had transitioned from coal to oil, so the acquisition of the Ottoman territories henceforth known as Iraq, Palestine and the Transjordan were very beneficial to the British in controlling the Suez Canal and allowed access to the Persian Gulf.  Britain “needed to maintain control over the Suez Canal, and all the rest of the route to their prized colonial possession” (Fromkin, 1991) of India.  In addition, large Scale oil drilling in Iran had begun in 1908, and due to the British government holding a controlling stake in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Iran was one of Britain’s highest priorities (Wooten, 2010, p.55).

The Zionists benefitted from the British mandate over Palestine because it allowed Zionist efforts at establishing a Jewish state through the acquisition of land, and the large scale importation of capital and technology, to continue with the building of Jewish settlements despite immigration restrictions implemented by the Ottoman Empire after 1880, which had little impact on Jewish immigration into Palestine as the Jewish population grew from approximately 24,000 to 70-80,000 between the years of 1882 and 1908 (Benbassa, 1990, p. 128).  With the British taking control of Palestine, immigration restrictions were greatly relaxed for Zionist immigration, and British support for Zionism and a future Jewish state are easily identified in the Faysal-Weizmann Agreement and the various drafts of the Balfour Declaration.

Free market capitalism, which had defined as a system during the Industrial Revolution and naval trade expansion, also benefitted from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  In the aftermath of destruction in parts of Europe, the demand for raw materials and agricultural products increased which “led to an expansion of manufacturing industry in regions outside Europe” (World Trade Report, 2007, p. 40).  Those specified regions now included the newly acquired mandate territories which had once been under Ottoman rule: Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Transjordan, Egypt.

The negative consequences on these mandated territories were that the people of these newly created territorial entities were now defined by state borders that were created by foreign powers, and this combination often created ethnic and religious power struggles that turned violent within the newly created territory.  With European puppet governments installed over these newly mandated territories, the exploitation and exportation of natural resources was carried out in the same manner as it had been with colonial possessions for several centuries, only with new industrial technologies, expanded naval capabilities and a new western addiction for oil.  One example of the government puppetry from this period is Emir Faisal, who was a brief ruler in Syria in 1920 and would become leader of the the Iraqi territory from 1921 to 1933.

Benbossa, Esther.  “Zionism in the Ottoman Empire at the End of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century.”  Studies in Zionism 11, no. 2 (1990): 128.  Accessed on May 6, 2014.

Fromkin, David.  1991.  “How the Modern Middle East Map Came to be Drawn”  Smithsonian 22, no. 2, (May, 1991): 132-147.  Accessed on May 6, 2014.

Wooten, Paul.  2010.  “Trade and Empire.”  Boston College Undergraduate Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies 3, no. 2 (2010): 50-59.  Accessed on May 6, 2014.

World Trade Report.  2007.  The Economics and Political Economy of International Trade Cooperation: 35-110.  Accessed on May 6, 2014.