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Episode 42: Chuck’s Goodbye, Scandinavia’s Bully, and Beijing’s Gas

Good evening, podcast listeners! What a treat we have for you this week, as we invite Dov S. Zakheim to talk about Chuck Hagel’s resignation, Andrew A. Michta to discuss Russian pressure on Scandinavia, and Gal Luft to analyze an enormous new gas deal between Moscow and Beijing.

First, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Defense from 2001–04 Dov S. Zakheim discusses Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s surprise resignation, describing him as a sacrificial lamb. Zakheim remarks that Hagel’s departure is intended to signal shift within the Adminstration—a reaction to changing circumstances—but notes that Hagel was never part of Obama’s inner circle. Zakheim looks at the options for who comes next, and acknowledges Michele Flournoy is a competent replacement who should be acceptable on both sides of the aisle, before concluding with a decidedly dour assessment of President Obama’s foreign policy, saying that “wherever you look, we are beleaguered.”

Then, Andrew A. Michta, the M. W. Buckman Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College and an adjunct fellow at CSIS, returns to the show to discuss recent Russian incursions in Scandinavia, sure to be near the top of the new Defense Secretary’s list of priorities. He discusses why the region is being “singled out for bullying” before reminding us that the military capabilities of Sweden and Finland are questionable. He also points out that the kind of instability so prominently on display in Ukraine could soon threaten Russia as well if the price of oil continues to drop.

Finally, we welcome to the show Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, Senior Adviser to the United States Energy Security Council, and co-chairman of the Global Forum on Energy Security in Beijing, to speak on the massive new natural gas deal (or, as he points out, what may be understood more accurately as a memorandum of understanding) between Russia and China. He wonders whether the fact that this landmark agreement was concluded just one day before Obama arrived in Beijing was deliberately offensive, and argues that this deal is more important than the one made earlier this year as it involves existing pipeline networks already connecting the West with the East. Host Richard Aldous asks him the billion dollar question—how Russia will be able to afford its share of the pipeline costs in the face of plunging crude prices and heavy Western sanctions—before Michta concludes with an examination of how a cozier relationship between Moscow and Beijing might be felt in Asia, particularly in Tokyo.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and follow our host Richard Aldous @RJAldous and Andrew A. Michta @andrewmichta on Twitter.

Published on: November 24, 2014
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