Monday, 19 June 2017

Brexit game

The Brexit formal discussions have finally been launched. The first meeting between the EU and the UK negotiators took place today. It was, from the European perspective, a good beginning.

The UK position evolved a great deal as a result of the popular vote in their recent general election. Today´s meeting showed a conciliatory approach. The British policy line seems to be to keep the country out of the EU political decisions and banner, and, at the same time, to maintain it strongly connected to Europe, including when it comes some critical political matters.

This policy is very British. It´s the extraordinary art of playing with ambivalence. To be out and in, depending which mirror you may use to look at the reality.


Sunday, 4 June 2017

Oil and diplomacy

Last year, in the US, the number of shale oil wells has doubled. The American production is now 9.29 million barrels a day. That is about 47% of the country's daily consumption. And it takes significant pressure out of the international oil market.

It also brings the value of the barrel down.

It has consequently a major strategic impact on oil revenues in Russia and other key producers. The economic strength of such countries is seriously affected. And that will be the case in the foreseeable future. More so, as many developed economies are steadily moving out of fossil fuels into renewable sources of energy.

One of the lessons we should extract from these developments is that, when it comes to deal with adversarial countries, economic factors are at present much more effective – and acceptable – than the military ones.

A related lesson is that your adversaries will not take this matter lightly. Therefore, you must be prepared to confront them on the political field as well. And that means, among other things, promoting the appropriate public information campaigns, keeping your own citizens aware of the challenges at stake, and responding to hostile propaganda. But it also means to open dialogue lines of communication with those antagonistic countries. That´s the role of diplomacy. It is as important as ever.



Friday, 5 May 2017

On trek up to the end of May

This blog will resume at the end of May, upon my return from a long journey. 

Thank you for your support. 

VA

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Let the intelligence people do their work

The most dangerous mistake regarding North Korea could result from erroneous intelligence. It´s a real possibility. I know from a number of examples that intelligence agencies, even the best resourced and the most experienced ones, tend to make mistakes on critical matters. That´s particularly the case when they are under serious political pressure, as it is the case.

If the relevant intelligence people come to the conclusion that the North is about to launch some kind of nuclear or other threatening device, our side might then decide that the time for pre-emptive action is upon us. In these matters, decisions are taken fast.

Once they have been taken, it might be too late to contain and mitigate their multiple consequences.


Therefore, the first point in such a delicate situation as the current one is to make sure the intelligence work is carried out as professionally as possible, outside any type of political compulsion. Secondly, it is essential to fully consider the regional leaders ´opinion. Particularly, the South Korean ones, who are at present at the end of a decisive presidential campaign for an election scheduled for May 9. This is their region and in the world of today, their views are of paramount importance. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Dangerous times in the Korean Peninsula

The North Korea´s dangerously aggressive posture remains a major issue in the international political agenda. Consequently, the UN Security Council met yesterday on the matter. This was a meeting at the ministerial level as to demonstrate the seriousness of the most recent developments related to the country.

The US approach to make use of extreme diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang deserves support. Diplomacy passes through Beijing. The key to convince Kim Jong Un to abandon the accelerated missile and nuclear programmes is held by China. Therefore, the efforts on the diplomatic front must focus on very close contacts with the Chinese leadership.

It is also true that China does not appreciate a deeper US presence in the region. In particular, it remains strongly opposed to the THAAD missile deployment that the US has launched in South Korea. But that disagreement should not be an excuse. China must use all its leverage on North Korea.

The US additional show of force can be justified by the recent threats coming from the North. It should also be recognised that it contributes to intensify the atmosphere of crisis. But it is also obvious that the main cause of tension comes from Kim´s options.

The North Korean leader must understand that the American policy has changed. It is in his own interest, besides the interests of his fellow citizens.

In the last few hours there have been some noises regarding direct action against Kim himself. I would not be surprised if it is confirmed that such action is under review. However, that or any preventive strike – and we have been further away from a strike than we are today – would cause hell in the Peninsula, and in the region.

I trust that people who decide about these matters fully understand what is at play.




Wednesday, 26 April 2017

On robots

Today I only have questions. And they are in a very different field but in the end they might be of tremendous importance for matters of peace and human rights. And these are the two most important dimensions in any human life.

But let's list the questions. They concern robots.

Can we teach robots ethics and international law? Do we need to?

Is there a real threat that robots could go beyond the actions they have been programmed for? What should be the limits when designing and programming an extremely smart robot?

Maybe it is time to start looking at these interrogations.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Time to be very clear

The campaign for the final round of the French presidential election – to be held on May 7 – has started. The actions so far show a country that is deeply divided. And also, leaders that have lost their sense of direction and above all, the courage to be clear about what is at stake. We are confronted with a terribly dangerous mix of abysmal personal resentment with a large and widespread dose of political confusion.

It is obvious this is a time that calls for profound changes in the way politics are conducted in France.
Le Pen´s camp belongs to the old order. It represents the past in so many ways. Certainly, not the future.

Furthermore, I see a lot of rage in the ranks of her supporters.

And Le Pen's political style and posture reminds me of the caudillos of another era.

We should not be blind to the way she conducts her public performances and deaf to what she says. This candidate and her words are animated by feelings of intolerance, resentment, negative passions, and violence against the opponents. 

These destructive attitudes and beliefs should be exposed relentlessly. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Focus on a conflict at a time

The recent US statements on the current status of the Iran Nuclear deal are not wise. They contradict the position of all the other signatories of the agreement, leaving the US alone on such a delicate matter. That´s what I would call to paint oneself into a corner by trying to appear smarter and bolder than the other key members of the international community.


Furthermore, the new war of words coming from Washington towards Iran opens an additional front of conflict at a time no one has a clear understanding of the Trump Administration's strategy on Syria and North Korea. Why should they want to have one more problem on the table at this stage when the two others are already complex and dangerous enough? And confusing, as well. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

A comprehensive view of criminal behaviour.

The assailant that yesterday attacked the police officers on duty at the Champs Elysées had a long past of criminal behaviour. He spent many years in jail. And all those who knew him a bit agree he was a deeply deranged fellow.

 As we take these facts into account, we must raise a number of questions about the workings of the penitentiary system, the failures – or at least, the limitations – of the re-education programmes, the inefficiency of the back-to-society policies and also the way our institutional arrangements miss the target when it comes to deal with extremely violent people. 

All these matters need to be seriously thought through, and challenged, if we are indeed committed to making our environment safer.

It´s not enough just to speak about terrorism.  

Monday, 17 April 2017

Turkey´s path

It´s worrisome to see the Turkish society being pushed towards more political radicalisation and deeper national divisions. It´s also a matter of great concern to watch its leadership moving away from accepted democratic principles. And taking the country in a direction that is contrary to greater proximity with the EU.