Geopolitics / Ukraine – Putin steals the CIA’s playbook on anti-Soviet covert operations

- Washington Post – The West has made NATO’s military alliance the heart of its response to Russia’s power grab in Ukraine. But we may be fighting the wrong battle: The weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin has used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine look more like paramilitary “covert action” than conventional military force. Putin, the former KGB officer, may in fact be taking a page out of the United States’ playbook during the Ronald Reagan presidency, when the Soviet empire began to unravel thanks to a relentless U.S. covert-action campaign. Rather than confront Moscow head-on, Reagan nibbled at the edges, by supporting movements that destabilized Russian power in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and, finally, Poland and eastern Europe. It was a clever American strategy back then, pushing a wounded Soviet Union and opportunistically exploiting local grievances wherever possible. And it’s an equally clever Russian approach now, offering maximum gain at minimum potential cost.

A brilliant analysis by David Ignatius.

Geopolitics / Egypt – Is Egypt’s Instability a Threat to the Suez Canal?

- Center for International Maritime Security – The Suez Canal is one of the most militarized zones in the world due to its strategic importance, reflected in the Suez Crisis in 1956 and its closure from 1967–1975 during the Arab-Israeli wars. The passage through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb is considered to be the second most important waterway for global oil trade after the Strait of Hormuz. A blockade of the Suez Canal could have disastrous effects on the world economy.

Geopolitics / Arctic – Putin aims to revive Soviet-era Arctic dominance

- Globe and Mail – While all eight countries that border the Arctic, including Canada, are making claims – and countries as far away as China are expressing an interest – Russia is the technological and military superpower of the far north. And after two decades of post-Soviet neglect, the region is once again a Kremlin priority.

Geopolitics – Post-America Conflict From Beijing to Jerusalem

- Politico – Robert D. Kaplan writes that as the events of the past week demonstrate, the Middle East has still not found a solution to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Melting away before our eyes is the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which the British and French carved out spheres of influence in the Levant, leading to the creation of Syria and Iraq. A terrorist Sunnistan has now emerged between the Lebanese city of Tripoli and the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, while a messy child’s finger-painting of different tribalized sovereignties defines Sunni and Shia areas of control between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and the Iranian plateau. This happens even as a sprawling and fractious Kurdistan sinks tenuous roots atop the corpses of Baathist regimes. But Middle Eastern chaos is but prologue to the drama sweeping much of the temperate zone of Afro-Asia all the way to China. Indeed, so much else is going on beyond the Levant that the media overlooks: not necessarily violent, but increasingly and intensely interrelated. Understanding it all requires not a knowledge of Washington policy alternatives, but of classical geography.

Geopolitics / Middle East – Disraeli And The Eastern Question

- Forbes – Robert D. Kaplan writes that the Eastern Question strikes at the heart of present-day debates over humanitarian intervention in the Balkans, Libya and Syria. Simply put, the Eastern Question was about how to respond to the slow-motion demise of the Ottoman Empire, whose territory included not only much of the Near East but much of Southeastern Europe besides.

Geopolitics / Syria – Whose sarin?

- London Review of Books – Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

Geopolitics / Middle East – Kerry's Middle East Obsession

- Geopolitics / Middle East – Kerry’s Middle East Obsession – Robert D. Kaplan writes that John Kerry has made his choice. Chaos in the Middle East is more important to him than historic power shifts in Asia and Europe. Passion, rather than geopolitical vision, drives this secretary of state. And it is a very derivative passion that drives him: one that has its origin in media obsessions.