Financial markets have stabilized--people believe that the U.S. and West European governments will not allow big financial institutions to fail. We have effectively nationalized any banking system losses, but we’ll let bank executives enjoy the full benefits of the upside. How much shareholders participate remains to be seen; there will be no effective reining in of insider compensation (my version; Joe Nocera’s view). Small and medium-sized banks, however, will continue to fail as problems in commercial real estate continue to mount.
To confront Iran, the United States must first confront Europe--and more specifically, the continent's powerful business lobby. This confrontation will come into focus in the next months. As Iran refuses Barack Obama's open-handed offer of engagement, the administration will turn towards sanctioning the Islamic Republic. And while there are surely ways in which the United States can tighten the economic screws on the Mullahs, it is Europe that has a much livelier trading relationship with Iran.
Good news: Pakistanis' views on the Taliban have shifted dramatically in the past year, with 70 percent now opposing the militants, according to a new [Pew Global Attitudes] poll. That's great! USA! USA! Oh, wait--bad news: The United States doesn't fare well either, with 64 percent of Pakistanis seeing Washington as an enemy. Still some work to be done.... (Full results here.) P.S. In the data from other countries, note the high skepticism for Obama in Russia, Turkey and the Palestinian territories. --Michael Crowley
Last week, I noted a story in the Abu Dhabi National about how many Russians appear to be remarkably nonchalant, or even sanguine, about the potential impacts of global warming on their country. There were even quotes to this effect from high-ranking officials in Moscow, including Vladimir Putin, who, back in 2003, was daydreaming of a time when Russians could shed their fur coats. It didn't exactly bode well for global climate talks.
Ellen Barry has a terrific piece in The New York Times on the Russian reaction to Joe Biden's off-the-cuff remarks about Russian-American relations. Within hours, a top Kremlin aide had released a barbed statement comparing Mr. Biden to Dick Cheney. Commentators announced Mr. Biden’s emergence as Washington’s new “gray cardinal” — the figure who, from the shadows, makes all the decisions that matter... For anyone subordinate to the president to allow themselves that freedom is inconceivable, said Vladimir V. Pozner, the host of a talk show on state television. “If it’s not the No.
Why care about what happens in Iran? There's the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the region--and of Israel initiating a war with Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. There's also Iran's major role in Iraq and somewhat less important but still significant role in Afghanistan. Iran could be a force for stability or instability in the most volatile region in the world stretching from Israel and Lebanon on the west to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east.
Joshua A. Tucker, an associate professor of politics at NYU, is a National Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project and a co-author of the political science and policy blog The Monkey Cage. One of the most interesting/confusing features about contemporary Russian politics is the question of who is really in charge of the executive branch of the government, which for the most part is really the only branch in Russia that matters these days.
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev (Yale University Press, 637 pp., $35) If one were trying to define the lowest point in the long and venerable tradition of American anti-communism, surely it came in 2003, with the publication of Ann Coulter's Treason.