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Weekly Roundup
Gangs of El Salvador, a Red Dawn in Texas, and Obama's Neglected "Off Ramp"

Good evening, readers! We hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend. The last week was a busy one here at The American Interest. Take the time to look back on some of the stories you may have missed:

President Obama’s ambitions for a nuclear-free world may have been the biggest casualty in Crimea. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine violated the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia, the US, and the UK all agreed to respect and protect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for the country giving up its nuclear weapons. The lackluster Western response—not to mention Russia’s flouting of the agreement—give other nuclear powers no reason to give up their own stockpiles.

How an El Salvadoran election could impact gang violence in US cities: El Salvadorans are heading to the polls today to vote for a president, and polls indicate the left-wing incumbent party’s candidate is going to win. Salvador Sánchez Cerén is a former guerrilla commander, and the way he chooses to address the country’s gang violence will have knock-on effects here in America.

Ruing the Russian reset. The US needs to take the unfolding situation in Ukraine as an opportunity to recognize it has a foreign policy problem, argues Andrew Michta. After recognizing that, the US should re-prioritize its NATO and trans-Atlantic relationships, and then acknowledge that Russia is playing a hard power game, and that power realities are just as relevant today as they were during the Cold War. Finally, Michta says the US needs to rethink its recent defense budget cuts and invest more resources in its military.

Putin believes he has Europe over a barrel, and he may be right. Europe has been hesitant to impose sanctions on Russia’s kleptocratic elite in large part because the continent’s financial centers make a killing managing and protecting Russian billionaires’ billions.

Le recueillement est fini. History is repeating itself in Ukraine, as Russia takes its first shot in a westward push in Crimea. Jakub Grygiel argues that “Russia will never develop into a more democratic and peaceful state if its leaders think they can pursue neo-imperial ambitions on the cheap,” and that the West’s response must be forceful enough to change Moscow’s impression of it.

Dealing with Crimea’s ripple effect. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinksk sat down with TAI editor Adam Garfinkle to discuss the broader foreign policy implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s impertinence will affect US interests not just in Europe, but China and the Middle East as well, and that’s all covered in this conversation.

814 million people are preparing to vote in Indian elections. It will be a voting marathon, beginning on April 7 and concluding May 12. The election battle will be long, exhausting, and explosive, and TAI will keep you up-to-date on what you need to know.

Russia blows past Obama’s “off ramp.” The West’s third plan for Ukraine crashed and burned earlier this week. Plan A was to coax Yanukovych into signing a free trade and association agreement with the EU back in November, but that failed after Brussels brought a baguette to a knife fight with Moscow. Plan B involved supporting anti-Yanukovych protestors in their bid to depose and replace the more eastern-leaning head of state, and that, too, failed when Russia invaded Crimea. Plan C offered Russia a graceful out, under the logic that Putin bit off more than he could chew, but earlier this week, that too went down in flames. What’s Plan D?

Red dawn in Texas. The Lone Star state didn’t just lead the U.S. in job growth from 2000 to 2013; it did so across all pay levels. And while Texas has an above-average number of minimum-wage workers, its low cost of living means those workers have far more purchasing power than their counterparts in bluer states like, say, California.

Pemex spends money to make money. Mexico’s state-owned oil behemoth has been running a red queen’s race in recent years, adding 22,000 new jobs over the past decade while overseeing a 23 percent decline in production. Oil requires constant reinvestment to keep outputs up, and Mexican leadership has, in the past, been more interested in using the firm as a piggy bank for the national budget, rather than reinvesting revenue in new fields. But that looks to be changing, after the company announced it would be beefing up exploration and production investment to near-record highs this year.

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