Monday, August 2, 2021

As the World Burns Climate Change’s Dangerous Next Phase BY MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER

 

  • MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER is Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University.

In late August, more than 600 separate wildfires ravaged California, killing seven people. Meanwhile, two tropical cyclones struck the Gulf Coast only days apart: first Tropical Storm Marco and then Hurricane Laura, the latter of which killed 26 people in the United States and tied the record for the strongest storm to hit Louisiana. Extreme events such as these signal a worrying trend. In the coming decades, as temperatures continue to climb, seemingly isolated climate disasters will begin to overlap, their impacts becoming more than additive. Scientists expect to see more intense tropical cyclones and more heat waves. Each disaster could compound the damage of the next, with less and less time for people to recover in between.

Many observers assess the threat of climate change in terms of the frequency or severity of extreme events. They have viewed each crisis—be it a Texas hurricane or a California wildfire—as distinct from others. But consider how people feel on the fourth day of a heat wave as opposed to the first. Their resilience begins to drain away. Viewing weather events as independent occurrences is like trying to understand a movie by looking at a series of brief clips; they are important plot points, but not the whole story. In fact, viewing climate change as the accumulation of individual events underestimates the threat, because such events do not take place in a vacuum. As recent research shows, features of the climate interact with one another—interactions that exacerbate the impact on people and ecosystems. 

Two interactions are particularly worrisome. First, as extreme events become more intense and more frequent, they will increasingly occur close together in time and location, worsening the overall impact. Alone, a single extreme event—such as a hurricane or a wildfire—can devastate wide areas. But back-to-back climate catastrophes compound the misery of each. The second type of interaction is longer term. It happens when one of the earth’s mechanisms for regulating the climate—systems involving air, the ocean, land, or ice—runs amok, setting off a chain reaction involving other such mechanisms. 

These new risks to the planet should challenge the conventional wisdom on fighting climate change. In the United States and other wealthy countries, efforts to adapt to global warming have always played second fiddle to efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This emphasis is understandable, since if greenhouse gas emissions are not restrained, successfully adapting to climate change will be impossible for most of humanity: countries will suffer major damage, and lives will be lost. Adaptation has also seemed less attractive because it involves no global silver bullets. But policymakers no longer have the luxury of downgrading adaptation, because climate change’s devastating effects are no longer in the future; they are occurring now.

A CONFLUENCE OF CRISES

Extreme events can wreak havoc on society. In 1953, a powerful storm in the North Sea killed more than 2,000 people in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In 2003, a searing heat wave gripped western Europe, contributing to somewhere between 35,000 and 70,000 deaths. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy struck the northeastern coast of the United States, causing nearly $80 billion in damage. These episodes unleashed cataclysmic consequences, but few communities had to face them more than once over several generations. Such events occur worldwide multiple times per year but rarely in the same place. The North Sea storm, for instance, appears to have been a once-in-a-century event for its region; the 2003 heat wave, a once-in-500-year event; and Sandy’s flooding of New York City, a once-in-250-year event. 

But soon, some once-in-a-lifetime catastrophes will become annual debacles. As temperatures rise, the odds that such events will occur at any specific location in a given year are growing quickly, particularly in coastal areas. By 2050, many such areas around the world will face flood levels every year that only recently occurred once per century. 

When extreme events strike the same location more frequently, the confluence can be more devastating than the sum of its parts. Consider a string of extremely hot days in one particular place—the odds of which, computer climate models confirm, are growing rapidly. A few consecutive days of unusually hot weather is manageable, but a week or two, far less so. As a heat wave goes on, the electrical grid struggles to supply enough power for all the air conditioning being used. Blackouts are triggered. With no air conditioning, the human body’s own system for mitigating heat breaks down, too. Some die of heat stroke and respiratory disease. For those who lack air conditioning (which is a majority of the world’s population), many of whom live in aging, urban apartments that are slow to cool naturally, the risk is greatest. As hot days bunch together, such households will see long stretches without relief, since the indoor temperature lags a day or two behind the outdoor temperature. 

Another scientific finding suggests that the problem does not stop there: in many locations in the future, episodes of high humidity will be more likely to accompany hot days than they are now. Heat plus humidity equals more human misery than heat alone or humidity alone—and more than the sum of the two. Above a certain threshold, the human body can no longer dissipate its own metabolic heat through perspiration. More and more often, in an expanding area of the world, outdoor activity involving any significant effort—farm labor, construction work, or even a soccer game—will be life threatening.

The devastation caused by multiple extreme events is not hypothetical, as the 2017 hurricane season showed. In August of that year, Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, deluging parts of the areas around Houston, Texas, with more than four feet of rainfall and causing over $90 billion in damage. A couple of weeks later, Hurricane Irma flattened parts of the Leeward Islands, in the Caribbean, while striking a glancing blow to Puerto Rico. Just two weeks after that, Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on Puerto Rico, destroying its infrastructure and causing about 3,000 deaths. At some point in their paths of destruction, each storm was classified as Category 4 or 5, the highest levels of intensity.

Like heat waves, consecutive hurricanes of this magnitude can exacerbate misery. The link in this case was not necessarily geographic or temporal. Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico 26 days after and over 2,000 miles away from Hurricane Harvey’s strike on Texas. But these two events connected at a distance. The damage in Puerto Rico was made worse because the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency had exhausted its financial and personnel resources on the previous two storms, especially Harvey. Add to that the island’s financial troubles, its lack of representation in Congress, and the Trump administration’s hostility—perhaps not surprising, given the island’s overwhelmingly Hispanic population—and the result was gross mismanagement that worsened the disaster. 

Even extreme events scattered across the world can compound one another. Consider crop failures. About 15 percent of the world’s grain is consumed not in the country where it was grown but after being exported. The biggest exporters of grain—Argentina, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States—are spread out around the world. That is a good thing from the perspective of food security, because it minimizes the chances of simultaneous crop failures. But global warming is increasing those odds. Yields of corn, soybeans, and other key crops fall sharply as temperatures rise and the amount of water they receive falls. As a result, there is now a growing possibility of simultaneous crop failures in two far-apart breadbaskets—something that could disrupt the global food supply and lead to malnutrition and, in some places, widespread starvation.

THE TIPPING POINTS

Beyond the prospect of extreme events coinciding or connecting, another sort of interaction is just as worrying: those among the various systems that drive the climate. Scientists have long worried about tipping points—thresholds beyond which small changes in the global temperature can lead to rapid, disruptive effects. For example, if large portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt and disintegrate, a process already underway along their fringes, the global sea level will rise much more rapidly than it has for thousands of years. As Arctic permafrost across North America and Eurasia melts, it will release large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, further increasing the rate of global warming. If a key ocean current in the North Atlantic slows down as a result of global warming, climate at the high latitudes will be disrupted. Although scientists have looked at these possibilities with a wary eye for decades, they have been unable to nail down the exact temperature at which these rapid responses would occur—or to determine if precise tipping points even exist. 

But if such thresholds exist and were crossed at relatively low temperatures, the result would be disastrous: the widespread dislocation of ecosystems and societies with little window of opportunity to adapt. Even worse, there’s evidence to suggest that several of these phenomena would interact. If a threshold in one system were crossed, there might be a ripple effect, causing thresholds in others to be crossed, too. For example, a rapid loss of Greenland ice would pour water into the surrounding sea, slowing ocean circulation. Because this current normally channels warm water northward, its slowing would create something akin to a series of rear-end collisions in a traffic jam, causing a warming of Antarctic waters on the other side of the world. That, in turn, would have another knock-on effect, speeding the breakup of parts of the Antarctic ice sheet. The global sea level would surge even higher.

When these building blocks of the climate are examined individually, the chances of crossing multiple thresholds more or less simultaneously appears small. Some of these phenomena are unlikely to occur in this century or even the next without a major trigger. But that is precisely what the interaction of these various systems might create: one system may go haywire, triggering the disruption of others. At this juncture, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how high that probability is. But the potential for such interactions adds another reason to be extremely cautious about venturing beyond the targets set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement—keeping warming to well below two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and trying to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Exceeding those targets would mean entering a climatic terra incognita.

UNPREPARED FOR UNKNOWNS

The interaction of extreme events creates risks of an entirely new type and magnitude. Using computers to predict when and where such events may occur is of little immediate help, since modeling of those events is in its early stages. Nor can one extrapolate from past experience, since the climate is evolving well outside of what humans have lived through. It’s not that a confluence of risky climate events at a particular place and time is entirely new. But what is new is that the likelihood of some confluences is increasing rapidly and globally.

Further complicating predictions is the question of how people and governments will respond. People who are not directly involved in an extreme event tend not to remember the lessons learned from such past events long enough to prepare for the next. Some studies suggest that it takes multiple similar incidents to leave a deep enough impression to convince them to learn from their experience and adapt accordingly. Only then will they think ahead and act to protect lives and property or get out of harm’s way by relocating to safer terrain.

Even highly developed countries are underprepared for climate risks, especially in certain geographic areas, economic sectors, or demographic segments. Before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, New Orleans had an emergency escape plan, but it didn’t consider poorer people who didn’t have cars, most of whom were Black. As a result, many stayed in their houses and drowned or wound up in New Orleans’s Superdome, which had been set up as a shelter. Other countries may be able to handle one threat but completely overlook another. Japan, for example, has millennia of experience dealing with earthquakes, floods, and typhoons, and its disaster-risk-management system is the envy of the world. Yet the country failed to prepare for a new type of disaster that arose in 2011: an earthquake triggering a tsunami, which flooded a nuclear reactor.

As these examples suggest, although governments can learn through experience with individual disasters, they are almost never ready for new combinations of them. That does not offer much reason for optimism when it comes to preparations for climate change. Indeed, in a world where climate risks rarely interact, governments are already inadequately planning for potential disasters. As those risks increasingly compound one another, governments will lag even further behind the threat.

THE ADAPTATION IMPERATIVE

Nearly all accounts of the climate problem from scientists and other experts end with a plea for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But governments should emphasize adaptation equally. That means developing forward-looking policies to protect people, infrastructure, ecosystems, and society. It means restructuring or replacing perverse incentives that encourage people and industries to settle in exposed areas. It means giving more resources to international agencies to help the least developed countries. Most of all, it means thinking many years ahead to gather extensive resources and political will for often unpopular policies. Very little of this job can be done quickly. Adaptation should have begun in earnest decades ago.

Emphasizing emission reductions but not adaptation to climate change is misguided, because no matter what happens to emissions over the next 30 years, the planet will get significantly hotter. Trapped heat that has been absorbed by the oceans over decades is bound to emerge, warming the earth. Years of emissions have accumulated in the atmosphere and will have a lagged effect on the climate. Although the world may be capable of meeting the targets set in the Paris agreement, it is more likely than not that it will fail to do so. Ever since international climate change negotiations began in 1991, countries have talked the talk more than they have walked the walk. If the targets aren’t met, climate change will produce more events that a greater number of governments will either have to learn to adapt to at a very high price or altogether fail to manage.

Even achieving the Paris targets would not be a free pass to avoid adaptation. Attaining those goals would give the world some welcome breathing room. But the resulting warming would still create serious consequences, such as a hundredfold uptick in the frequency of floods along large swaths of the world’s coasts. It is true that no amount of adaptation will be enough if emissions remain unconstrained, because that would lead to warming that would go far beyond what humans have ever experienced. But it is also true that no amount of emission reduction will be enough to spare communities that do not also adapt.

Governments must also remember that the ability of people and places to adapt to climate change is highly unequal, largely because of unfair arrangements determined too often by racial, gender, ethnic, age, or other differences. Many of the interactions between extreme events will become apparent only suddenly, so accommodating them will require extra flexibility to respond rapidly—a capacity that much of the population in less developed countries and major segments of wealthy countries have long been deprived of.

The bottom line is that few if any countries are sufficiently prepared to deal with what is in store. A yawning gap has opened up between what they know about the risks of climate change and what they are doing to reduce them. In the riskier new era of climate change, the longer countries take to close that gap, the more painful and deadly the outcomes.

The Kabul Subcontract by Ali Tuygan (Rtd.Ambassador)

 

The Kabul Subcontract

August 2, 2021

Whether Turkish troops would stay at Kabul airport beyond withdrawal has become another controversial topic of our foreign and security policy. In my last post I asked the following questions:

•          Would Turkish troops fight the Taliban in case of an assault on the city?

•          Would Turkish troops remain in Kabul to ensure the orderly operation of the airport?

•          Would they remain there to secure the safe and timely evacuation of diplomatic missions remaining in Kabul in case of a battle for the capital’s control?

I asked them because nobody yet knows clearly what their mission would be. All we know is that this is a subcontract but what are the project details? What would Turkish troops be responsible for? What does “securing the airport” mean? Is this a combat or non-combat mission? What would be the rules of engagement?

In the meantime, Turkey faces another refugee challenge. On July 29, the Voice of America reported that “officials and observers believe the numbers of Afghan refugees entering Turkey are estimated at between 500 and two thousand daily…” Reportedly, most of these are young men bringing to mind the question whether the subcontract is just about airport or more.

The following three paragraphs from State Department and NATO websites are a summary of US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan.

  • From August 2003, NATO led the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). At its height, ISAF included more than 130,000 troops from 51 NATO and partner nations. ISAF forces fought alongside the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) as the international community worked to improve ANDSF capabilities.
  • ISAF officially ended on December 31, 2014, with the ANDSF taking over full responsibility for security in Afghanistan. On January 1, 2015, when the United States and NATO formally ended their combat role in Afghanistan and transitioned to a new mission. On January 1, 2015, NATO launched the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), a non-combat mission focused on providing training, advice, and assistance support to the ANDSF. In addition to the United States, 38 NATO Ally and partner nations contributed troops to RSM and helping Afghan forces become more effective, professional, and sustainable.
  • Two weeks later, on January 1, 2015, the US launched Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) to conduct two complementary missions: 1) counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan, and their affiliates in Afghanistan; and 2) training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces through the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.

Thus, although the US and NATO “formally ended” their combat role in Afghanistan with the RSM, US forces continued their combat role under OFS.

Rules of engagement are “military directives meant to describe the circumstances under which ground, naval, and air forces will enter into and continue combat with opposing forces. Formally, rules of engagement refer to the orders issued by a competent military authority that delineate when, where, how, and against whom military force may be used, and they have implications for what actions soldiers may take on their own authority and what directives may be issued by a commanding officer.”[i]

On June 22, 2012, Syrian fire downed a Turkish F-4 fighter jet. At the time the announcement by the Turkish government of a new set of “rules of engagement” sounded like a pretty harsh retaliatory measure and added to Turkish leadership’s warlike rhetoric.

On November 24, 2015, Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 bomber for having violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds. Initially the Turkish government declared that this was the dictate of our rules of engagement. But subsequently it said that had the Su-24 bomber been identified as Russian aircraft, Turkish air defense command would have acted differently.

In Afghanistan US’ and NATO’s rules of engagement were upgraded more than once. A NATO spokesman once said that ISAF forces will not be deployed with one arm tied behind their backs. “They can engage to defend their mission and to defend themselves. If that means they see a threat looming in the hills, they do not have to wait to be attacked and to take casualties. They can take action to defend themselves — including, if necessary, preemptively,” he added.[ii]

In brief, rules of engagement matter. It is inconceivable that the Kabul airport subcontractor’s  rules of engagement would not have the right to self-defense in case of attack. Thus, it would not be possible to present their mission as a purely non-combat one.

While Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) remains silent on the subject, the main opposition, Republican People’s Party, objecting to putting Turkish troops in harm’s way, has put forward three conditions for a Kabul airport subcontract. These are,

  • A joint invitation by the Afghan government and the Taliban,
  • A UN Security Council resolution approving the project, and
  • A new authorization by the Turkish Parliament.

So, can one assume that the main opposition already knows the answers to the questions I listed at the beginning? I doubt it. But, covering all angles by taking “yes, but”,  “no, but” positions is now part of our political culture.

The Kabul airport project will put Turkish troops in harm’s way. The signing of such a subcontract will be another self-inflicted blow to Turkey’s declining global standing.

If the JDP wishes to substantiate its claim to having created “a New Turkey, a new global power”, then it should assume the role of the general contractor and award the project to one of the many countries which must have been lining up to win the JDP government’s favor.

Turkey’s real problem is, as the latest forest fires strikingly show, we have a government but we are not being governed.

———————————————————————————–

[i] https://www.britannica.com/topic/rules-of-engagement-military-directives

[ii] https://www.rferl.org/a/1065518.html

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Hüseyin Macit YUSUF - TMT ruhunu ilelebet yaşatacağız…

 Hüseyin Macit YUSUF

TMT ruhunu ilelebet yaşatacağız…

hmyusuf1@gmail.com

2 Ağustos 2021 Pazartesi

Sevgili okuyucularım 1 Ağustos Toplumsal Direniş Bayramı'dır. Bizde dün, Toplumsal Direniş Bayramı olarak Kıbrıs'ın fethinin 450., Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı'nın (TMT) 63., Güvenlik Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı'nın (GKK) 45., kuruluş ve yıldönümlerini kutladık.

Bu Bayram'ın Kıbrıs Türk halkının bugünlere kolay gelmediğini göstermesi açısından anlamı büyüktür.

Daha ada fethedilmeden, yani 500-600 yıl önce, adaya gelmeye başlayan, 1571'de adanın fethiyle bu topraklara kök salan ve bu toprakları vatan yapan Kıbrıs Türkleri, adanın İngiliz idaresine geçtiği 1878'den itibaren, Anavatan Türkiye'nin desteğinde gerçekleşen 'Varoluş Mücadelesi' sonunda kendi bağımsız ve egemen devleti KKTC'yi kurmayı başarmıştır. Bu mücadelede Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı'nın belirleyici rolü inkâr edilemez. Özgürlüğümüzü, bağımsızlığımızı ve egemenliğimizi Kahraman Türk Silahlı Kuvvetlerimize, Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı'nın kahraman mensuplarına, Mücahitlerimize, Anadolu'daki vefakar kardeşlerimize ve Kıbrıs Türküne borçluyuz.

TMT'nin kuruluşunun üzerinden 63 yıl geçmesine rağmen Kıbrıs Türkünün Kıbrıs'taki varoluş mücadelesi hâlâ sürmektedir. Rum-Yunan ikilisi Kıbrıs'ı Yunan yapma hedefinden vazgeçmiş değildir. Kıbrıs'ın tamamının Elenleştirilmesi projesinde Türkiye adadan çıkarılmalı ,Kıbrıs Türkü de sözde federasyon adı altında Rumların egemen olacağı üniter bir yapıda, Rum'a yamalanarak yok edilmelidir. Rum-Yunan ikilisi bu amaçla, hedeflerine ulaşmak için, başta Avrupa Birliği ve ABD olmak üzere bölgemizdeki birçok ülke ile şer ittifakları kurmaktadırlar. Bu ittifakların hedefinde Türkiye ve KKTC vardır.

Cumhurbaşkanı Ersin Tatar'ın, Kıbrıs Türk halkının ve Anavatan Türkiye'nin desteğini alan, egemen eşitlik temelinde iki devlete dayalı çözüm modeli ve Maraş Açılımı Rum-Yunan ikilisinin 2 asırlık plan ve hayallerini yıkmıştır. Cumhurbaşkanı Tatar ve Anavatan Türkiye, bundan sonraki süreçte federasyon çözüm modelinin kesinlikle görüşülmeyeceğini, KKTC'nin uluslararası statüsünün tanınmaması halinde de resmî müzakerelerin başlamayacağını dünyaya duyurmuştur. Rum tarafı ile ortak zemin bulunması mümkün değildir. 53 yıllık müzakere süreci anlaşma/uzlaşma olmayacağını net bir şekilde göstermiştir. Önümüzdeki süreçte yapılması gereken KKTC'nin Anavatan Türkiye dışındaki ülkeler tarafından tanınmasını sağlayacak adımları cesaretle atmak olmalıdır.

Kıbrıs'ta oynanmakta olan oyun büyüktür. Emperyalist kan emici vampirler Doğu Akdeniz'deki zengin hidrokarbon kaynaklarına gözlerini dikmiştir. Bölgemizde büyük bir kriz çıkararak bu kaynakları elde etmeye çalışmakta ve bunun için de Rum-Yunan ikilisini taşeron olarak kullanmaktadırlar. Anavatan Türkiye ve Mukavemetçi Kıbrıs Türkü 7 düvele karşı kararlı bir tutumla haklarımızın sonuna kadar korunacağını bildirmiştir. Demokrasi ve insan hakları savunucusu olduğunu iddia eden Batı, uluslararası anlaşmalarla elde ettiğimiz haklarımızı yok saymakta ve 1963'ten beri bir Rum devletine dönüştürülen sözde Kıbrıs Cumhuriyeti'ndeki haklarımızın Rumlar tarafından gaspedilmesine göz yummaktadır.

Aynı Batı, Güney Kıbrıs Rum Yönetimi Başkanı Anastasiadis'e alkış tutarak, destek vererek, tek egemenlik, tek vatandaşlık, tek temsiliyet, BM ve AB karar ve normları çerçevesinde iki toplumlu, iki bölgeli bir Birleşik Kıbrıs yaratarak, Kıbrıs Türkünün osmosis yoluyla, Girit'teki Türklerin başına geldiği gibi, yok olmasının önünü açacak oyunlar peşindedir.

İşte tam da bu nedenle Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı'nı bu çarpık beyinli emperyalist güçlere, dost-düşman herkese, bir kez daha anlatmakta fayda vardır.

1 Nisan 1955'te ortaya çıkan ve adayı Yunanistan'a bağlayarak Enosis'i gerçekleştirmek isteyen EOKA tedhiş örgütünün başlangıçta İngiliz idaresine karşı eylemleri, daha sonra Türk Toplumu'nun imhası faaliyetlerine dönüşmüştür. Bunlara karşı koymak amacıyla Volkan, Karaçete, 9 Eylül Cephesi, adı altında Türk Toplumu'nun savunmasına yönelik Mukavemetçi gruplar oluşturulmuştur.

Bilahare KKTC Kurucu Cumhurbaşkanı Rauf Denktaş, Kemal Tanrısevdi ve Burhan Nalbantoğlu tarafından Temmuz 1957'de temelleri atılan TMT, 1 Ağustos 1958'de Genelkurmay 2. Başkanlığına bağlı bir direniş örgütü halinde yeniden organize olarak Türk ordusunun kahraman komutanlarının liderliğinde millî direnişimizi sürdürmüştür.

Kurulduğu zaman sadece birkaç çaktım almaz silaha sahip olan TMT mensupları gayrinizami harp kuralları içinde örgütlenerek eğitilmiş ve EOKA terörüne karşı Kıbrıs Türk Halkının varlığını ve yaşam hakkını şehitler pahasına savunmuştur.

21 Aralık 1963'te başlayarak 20 Temmuz 1974 Mutlu Barış Harekatına kadar fasılalarla süren Rum saldırılarına ,soykırım teşebbüslerine karşı Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı Kıbrıs Türkünü koruma görevini başarıyla yerine getirmiştir.

Herkesin, özellikle de Rum-Yunan ikilisinin, AB ve ABD'lilerin anlaması için bir kez daha tekrarlarsak TMT'nin kuruluş amaçları şöyledir:

* Kıbrıs Türklerinin can ve mal güvenliğini sağlamak,

* Enosis'e ve bu hedef doğrultusunda yapılan girişimlerle estirilen Rum-Yunan terörüne karşı durmak,

* Türklere yapılacak saldırıları geri püskürtmek,

* Türk Toplumunun birliğini ve bütünlüğünü sağlamak, Enosis'i savunan AKEL'in Türk toplumu içinde ideolojik etkinlik kurmasını ve iç cepheyi bölmesini önlemek,

* Rumlara ve İngilizlere karşı Kıbrıs Türklerinin haklarını savunmak,

* Anavatan Türkiye ile sıcak ilişkileri ve Türk Halkının Anavatana bağlılığını sürdürmek.

Kıbrıs Türkleri olarak bugün bağımsız-egemen bir devlete sahip isek ve saldırgan Rum güçleri bu devlete dokunamıyorsa, bunun sağlayan öncelikle TMT, Güvenlik Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı ve Kıbrıs Türk Barış Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı'dır.

Onların yaktığı Türklük meşalesi hiçbir zaman sönmeyecektir. Aramızdan ayrılan TMT mensuplarının, başta ebedi Liderimiz Devletimizin Kurucu Cumhurbaşkanı merhum Rauf Denktaş ile varoluş mücadelemizin lideri rahmetli Dr. Küçük'ün aziz hatıraları önünde eğilir, hayatta olanlara ise minnet ve şükranlarımı sunarım.

Kıbrıs Türkünün varlığına ve bin bir zorlukla kurduğumuz Devletimiz KKTC'ye karşı girişilecek her türlü eyleme karşı, TMT mensubu atalarımızın bize emanet ettikleri ruhla ve imanla mücadele edeceğimizden kimsenin şüphesi olmasın. Şunun bir kez daha bilinmesini isterim ki, TMT içimizde ölmez bir ruhtur ve bu ruhu ilelebet yaşatmaya da kararlıyız.

Yeniçağ - 02 Ağustos 2021


Iran and the Divisive Rule of the Mullah by Amir Taheri

 Iran and the Divisive Rule of the Mullah

by Amir Taheri

August 1, 2021 at 4:00 am



Ayatollah Khomeini said that the regime he planned to install in Iran would have one guideline: "Doing the opposite of what the cursed Shah did."

[Khomeini's] position started by dividing Iranians into Muslims and non-Muslims. He then divided them further into Shiites and Sunnis. He went on to divide the Shiites into twelvers and others.

But, here, too, Khomeinists might be on the wrong side of history. The ongoing protests seems to be reviving the national unity and a sense of Iranian-ness fostered over the past centuries, thus singling out the Khomeinist ideology as the common enemy of the nation.


While the Shah tried to forge a single, unifying identity, Khomeini based his strategy on dividing Iranians. That position started by dividing Iranians into Muslims and non-Muslims. He then divided them further into Shiites and Sunnis. He went on to divide the Shiites into twelvers and others. (Image source: iStock)

In an "audience" granted to a number of anti-Shah intellectuals just weeks after seizing power, Ayatollah Khomeini said that the regime he planned to install in Iran would have one guideline: "Doing the opposite of what the cursed Shah did." For the past four decades he and his successors have remained faithful to that promise and have taken double care to prove that.

The Shah wanted to keep Iran out of war and military conflict and succeeded in doing so for more than three decades, at times by taking painful decisions. Khomeini and his successor led Iran into an eight-year long war with Iraq plus a series of military involvements in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan.

The Shah cast Iran as a bulwark against terrorism and the use of violence as a political weapon to the point that he would not even allow the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to have an office in Tehran. The Khomeinist regime, on the other hand, provided a haven for all manner of terrorist organizations from Thailand and Philippines to Colombia and Peru, passing by the Middle East and Europe. It also financed the creation of an African-American group seeking a "black state" in Mississippi. The Hezbollah, an umbrella group for militants controlled by Iran, ended up having more than 17 branches in the Greater Middle East.

The Shah sought friendly or at least cordial relations with all of Iran's neighbors. As a result, by the time he left the country, Iran was the only nation in the region to have fully demarcated borders with all neighbors and thus free of irredentist disputes that bedevil so many relations in the Middle East.

Broadly speaking, the Shah pursued an ambitious industrialization policy based on the assumption that Iran, poor in water resources, should focus its agriculture on high-value crops capable of competing in international markets while importing mass consumption crops such as wheat and rice from countries that enjoyed a comparative advantage.

In contrast, Khomeini claimed that the Shah wants Muslims to depend on "the Infidel" even for daily bread and marginalize the agricultural sector where Islam had its deepest roots. As a result, Khomeini and his successors went for an ill-taught policy of building small dams to use the waters of rivers and lakes for producing low-price crops. This led to massive damage to the country's ecological balance, leading to the virtual disappearance of over 200 rivulets, lakes, moorlands and rivers, among them the country's greatest lake, Urumia and such mighty rivers like Zayandehrud and, to some extent, even Karun.

"Bringing women into public life" was one of the Shah's top priorities. Iranian women were among the first in the "Muslim world" to secure voting rights and get high public positions as members of parliament, senators, Cabinet ministers, ambassadors, mayors, and even army, police and air force officers. In 1979, when mullahs seized power, the share of women in the top 2,000 public jobs was around 17 percent. Since then, under Khomeinist rule, that has dropped to three percent in 2021.

However, the biggest and potentially more important difference between Iran's policies under the Shah and during Khomeinist rule concerns the crucial issue of national identity. In 1979, Iran was probably the only country in the region to enjoy a broad consensus on its identity as a nation-state.

That identity had taken shape over some five centuries, completing its template with the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, the formation of the first Western-style state institutions, the reforms carried out under Reza Shah Pahlavi and the economic and social progress made under his son Muhammad Reza Shah. With its motto "unity in diversity", this was partly based on half-historic and half mythological reading of Iran's long history and designed to minimize parochial differences and promote an archetypical "Iranian man or woman" in the name of patriotism with "mihan", a word hard to translate but indicating belonging to a single homeland, as key concept.

Khomeini in contrast denied the very concept, arguing that there was no Iranian nation and that the identity of his Islamic Republic indicated that Iranians were part of a universal Islamic "ummah".

That position started by dividing Iranians into Muslims and non-Muslims. He then divided them further into Shiites and Sunnis. He went on to divide the Shiites into twelvers and others. Then it was the turn of twelvers to be divided into "osuli" (fundamentalist) and "akhbaris". Then the "osulis", supposed to provide his core base, were divided into "wala'is" (those who believe in walayat al faqih or "guardianship by the jurists") and "taqlidis" or those who followed traditional ayatollahs who did not endorse the new system.

While the Shah tried to forge a single, unifying identity, Khomeini based his strategy on dividing Iranians to bolster the claim that the only thing that kept Iran together was walayat al-faqih. Khomeinist philosophers like Mesbah Yazdi, Abdul-Karim Sorush, Hassan Abbassi and Rahil Pourazghadi have tried to back that claim with pseudo-theological mumbo-jumbo.

Khomeini's strategy has left the immense majority of Iranians wondering how to define themselves in a system that denies their common, plurimilennial identity. That, in turn, has encouraged different and contradictory reactions. Many Iranians now regard Islam and in particular Shiism as their enemy. Some try to revive long dead or dormant provincial, linguistic or ethnic identities. Khomeinism has set the young against the old with those born after the revolution, accounting for more than half the population, blaming their elders for the nation's current miseries.

That strategy has also divided Iranians into those at home and those in the diaspora, accounting for some 10 percent of the population. This was dramatically illustrated last week in the Tokyo Olympics, when an Iranian woman athlete competing as a refugee defeated another Iranian woman under the Islamic Republic flag. When the two embraced warmly after the match, many Iranians felt that the Iranian-ness shaped over the centuries was still alive and well.

Khomeinism has led to antagonism between men and women as the former are shocked by the militant opposition of the latter to what they see as a patriarchal system.

Khomeinism has tried to pursue its divisive strategy by branding the current protests in more than 100 towns and cities across Iran as the work of "secessionist elements", thus justifying the killing of unarmed people in the streets.

But, here, too, Khomeinists might be on the wrong side of history. The ongoing protests seems to be reviving the national unity and a sense of Iranian-ness fostered over the past centuries, thus singling out the Khomeinist ideology as the common enemy of the nation. The fight is on.

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987.

This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.


Amir Taheri 


The Ultra-Conservative Leanings of Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan Raise Eyebrows

 The Ultra-Conservative Leanings of Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan Raise Eyebrows

By Dr. James M. Dorsey

July 29, 2021


Pakistani PM Imran Khan, image via Twitter @ImranKhanPTI

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 2,108, July 29, 2021


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Widely seen as a populist with ultra-conservative leanings, Pakistani PM Imran Khan increasingly appears to reinforce widespread traditionalist attitudes that reject religious tolerance as well as the rights of women and minorities.


Pakistani PM Imran Khan is aligning his country, in religious and social terms, closer to Turkey than to his country’s traditional allies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has bolstered religious education at home as well as in Turkish schools abroad and recently withdrew from an international women’s rights convention.

Khan’s FM, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, reportedly was scheduled to meet recently in Islamabad with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir amid concern about regional security as US forces withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban rapidly gain ground.

Saudi Arabia, once a bulwark of religious ultra-conservatism, has, like the UAE, sought to sand down the raw edges of its longstanding austere interpretation of Islam, liberalize social mores, enhance women’s mobility and professional opportunities, and position the kingdom as a proponent of a moderate form of Islam that highlights religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue while supporting autocratic rule.

Except for his empathy with authoritarianism, Khan appears to be going in the opposite direction. In doing so, he can dip into a deep reservoir of ultra-conservatism in Pakistan that was fueled in part, until the rise in 2015 of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, by decades of Saudi financial, material, and religious support.

Last month, the PM pushed the implementation of educational reform that would Islamicize syllabi across the board from primary schools to universities. Arabic would be mandatory for the first 12 years of a child’s schooling. Critics charge that religion would account for up to 30% of the new syllabus.

Fueling controversy, Khan recently blamed increased sexual violence in Pakistan on women who fail to dress properly. “If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they are robots. It’s just common sense,” Khan said.

The PM went on to say that the practice of wearing a veil existed so “that there is no temptation in society.”

Earlier, Qureshi, the foreign minister, told CNN that Israel had “deep pockets” and was home to “very influential people” who “control media.”

When accused by the interviewer of employing antisemitic tropes and asked to condemn antisemitism, Qureshi sidestepped the question by saying: “I will not justify any rocket attacks…and I cannot condone the aerial bombardment that is taking place.” Qureishi was speaking in May as Israel was responding to rockets fired by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, at Israeli civilian communities and cities.

A recent explosion in Lahore that killed three people and wounded 27 others appeared to suggest that there could be regional consequences to the ultra-conservative moves. The explosion was seen by analysts and officials as India’s warning to the government not to ease a crackdown on Islamic militants who have long done Pakistan’s bidding in disputed Kashmir.

Khan’s national security advisor, Moeed Yousuf, said an investigation had concluded that the explosion was a car bomb planted by Indian intelligence near the home of Hafiz Saeed, a leader of the outlawed Jamat ud-Dawa and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Kashmir-focused group banned as a terrorist organization.

It was not immediately clear whether Saeed was at home at the time of the explosion. Sentenced to multiple prison terms on terrorism-related charges, he might have been allowed to serve time under house arrest, according to several sources.

Without identifying India by name, Pakistan’s Punjab province police chief, Inam Ghani, said a UAE-based Pakistani national had recruited local Pakistanis to place the bomb.

Earlier this year, the UAE mediated a revival of a lapsed ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control that divides Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani-controlled areas. The line was often a flashpoint along which Pakistani-backed militants operated.

A UN-designated terrorist, Saeed has had a $10 million bounty put on his head by the US Department of Justice. Saeed is believed to have masterminded the 2008 attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai that killed 165 people.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money- laundering and terrorism finance watchdog, recently refused to remove Pakistan from its grey watchlist because the country had not been vigorous enough in the prosecution of UN-designated terrorists.

Grey listing carries no legal sanctions but restricts a country’s access to international loans. Qureshi, the Pakistani FM, estimated that the grey listing cost his country’s economy $10 billion a year.

PM Khan’s ultra-conservative leanings suggest that Saudi and US hopes that Pakistan, the world’s second-most populous Muslim-majority country, might pave the way for the kingdom’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel is a figment of the imagination.

A former senior adviser to Khan, Sayed Zulfi Bukhari, denied days before the reported talks with Jubeir, the Saudi minister, that he had secretly visited Israel for meetings with senior government officials.

Bukhari tweeted “DIDNOT go to Israel. Funny bit is Pakistani paper says I went to Israel based on ‘Israeli news source’ & Israeli paper says I went to Israel based on a ‘Pakistani source’-wonder who this imaginative Pakistani source is. Apparently, I’m the only one who was kept out of the loop.” Bukhari resigned weeks before the tweet after being accused of abuse of power in a government report.

The issue of Saudi recognition of Israel was likely a topic in talks in Washington two weeks ago between US officials and visiting Saudi Deputy DM Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia, in a move primarily targeting the UAE, which last year established diplomatic relations with Israel, signaled its refusal to follow suit by altering its application of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) customs tariffs.

The kingdom said it was exempting from GCC preferential treatment goods that include components manufactured in Israel or made by companies fully or partially owned by entities on the Arab League boycott list because of their commercial relations with Israel.


Dr. James M. Dorsey, a non-resident Senior Associate at the BESA Center, is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture.


A Big Step Forward for Global Tax Justice

 


A Big Step Forward for Global Tax Justice

Jul 26, 2021

JOSEP BORRELL

PAOLO GENTILONI


The European Union should not merely emphasize its multilateral credentials, but must demonstrate that coordinated international action can deliver for all if every country invests in it. And the recent global agreement to reform corporate taxation does just that.

BRUSSELS – Multilateralism has been on the defensive in recent years. In a global setting that is more multipolar than multilateral, competition between states seems to prevail over cooperation nowadays. However, the recent global agreement to reform international corporate taxation is welcome proof that multilateralism is not dead.

But it is not healthy, either. While globalization has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic – albeit more unevenly than before and despite people’s feelings of increased isolation – interdependence is ever more conflictual. Even soft power is being weaponized, with vaccines, data, and technology standards all becoming instruments of political competition.

The world is also becoming less free. Democracy itself is under attack, amid a pitched battle of narratives over which political and economic system can best deliver for its citizens.

The European Union continues to believe in and work for a predictable world of rules-based multilateralism, open markets, positive-sum outcomes, and social justice and solidarity. We remain convinced that today’s challenges – from fighting the pandemic to tackling climate change – can be handled only through global cooperation. The EU will thus continue to lead on reviving rules-based multilateralism, in order to show our citizens the concrete benefits of a seemingly dry, technocratic concept.

After all, the alternative to such multilateral engagement – “going it alone” – means reduced access to vaccines, insufficient climate action, festering security crises, inadequately regulated globalization, and increasing global inequality. No country, not even the biggest, can succeed on its own. For all these reasons, Italy has rightly put multilateralism atop the agenda for its current G20 presidency.

But it is not enough for the EU merely to emphasize its multilateral credentials. Europe must demonstrate that multilateral action can deliver for all if every country invests in it. And the new global tax agreement does just that.

The deal, endorsed earlier in July by G20 finance ministers and backed by 132 countries, will establish a global minimum tax rate of at least 15% for multinational corporations and ensure that these firms pay taxes in the countries where they generate their profits. This is a historic step toward fairer globalization and a landmark achievement of effective multilateralism.

In recent years, governments have taken important steps to tackle tax evasion by individuals. According to the OECD, the automatic exchange of tax information between states netted €95 billion ($112 billion) in additional tax revenue for G20 countries between 2009 and 2019, while deposits in tax havens fell by 34%.

But curbing tax avoidance by multinationals, an even bigger problem, has proved more difficult. The OECD estimates that multinationals’ tax avoidance results in global revenue losses of $100-240 billion each year, or 4-10% of total corporate-tax proceeds. Moreover, the current international corporate tax system was designed more than a century ago and is increasingly out of sync with today’s globalized and digitalized economy.

The EU has long strived to mount a global response to this challenge. But it was the constructive engagement of US President Joe Biden’s administration over the past six months that enabled the recent breakthrough. This was a striking and welcome sign of America’s return to supporting a multilateral vision of the world.

The 132 jurisdictions currently supporting the new corporate-taxation deal represent 90% of global GDP. And while the agreement will not by itself fully solve the issue of multinational firms’ tax avoidance, it is a decisive step forward. It marks the beginning of the end of the global race to the bottom in corporate tax rates, a contest that has produced some very rich winners but also billions of losers who can now start regaining faith in the power of rules.

The agreement will lead to higher and more stable government revenues at a time when all countries must bear the costs of battling the pandemic and mobilize the investments needed to tackle the climate crisis. And it will deliver greater fairness at a time of increasing inequalities between the developed and the developing world.

Above all, the recent tax accord shows how multilateral action can foster a more equitable form of globalization. We now need similarly effective international responses in other areas, from vaccine access and the climate crisis to data security and technology standards.

Future generations will not forgive us if we waste the pandemic’s main lesson: that we are in this together. We need wise strategies and bold tactics to deliver on a truly multilateral agenda for all.


PUTİN the Great, Russia's Imperial Impostor (October 2019)

 

  • SUSAN B. GLASSER is a staff writer for The New Yorker and former Moscow co-bureau chief for The Washington Post.

On January 27, 2018, Vladimir Putin became the longest-serving leader of Russia since Joseph Stalin. There were no parades or fireworks, no embarrassingly gilded statues unveiled or unseemly displays of nuclear missiles in Red Square. After all, Putin did not want to be compared with Leonid Brezhnev, the bushy-browed septuagenarian whose record in power he had just surpassed. Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, was the leader of Putin’s gritty youth, of the long stagnation that preceded the empire’s collapse. By the end, he was the butt of a million jokes, the doddering grandfather of a doddering state, the conductor of a Russian train to nowhere. “Stalin proved that just one person could manage the country,” went one of those many jokes. “Brezhnev proved that a country doesn’t need to be managed at all.”

Putin, a ruler at a time when management, or at least the appearance thereof, is required, prefers other models. The one he has liked the longest is, immodestly, Peter the Great. In the obscurity and criminality of post-Soviet St. Petersburg in the 1990s, when Putin was deputy mayor, he chose to hang on his office wall a portrait of the modernizing tsar who built that city on the bones of a thousand serfs to be his country’s “window to the West.” By that point in his career, Putin was no Romanov, only an unknown former lieutenant colonel in the KGB who had masqueraded as a translator, a diplomat, and a university administrator, before ending up as the unlikely right-hand man of St. Petersburg’s first-ever democratically elected mayor. Putin had grown up so poor in the city’s mean postwar courtyards that his autobiography speaks of fighting off “hordes of rats” in the hallway of the communal apartment where he and his parents lived in a single room with no hot water or stove.

Peter the Great had no business being his model, but there he was, and there he has remained. Earlier this summer, in a long and boastful interview with the Financial Times in which he celebrated the decline of Western-style liberalism and the West’s “no longer tenable” embrace of multiculturalism, Putin answered unhesitatingly when asked which world leader he admired most. “Peter the Great,” he replied. “But he is dead,” the Financial Times’ editor, Lionel Barber, said. “He will live as long as his cause is alive,” Putin responded.

No matter how contrived his admiration for Peter the Great, Putin has in fact styled himself a tsar as much as a Soviet general secretary over the course of his two decades in public life. The religion he grew up worshiping was not the Marxist-Leninist ideology he was force-fed in school but the heroic displays of superpower might he saw on television and the imperial grandeur of his faded but still ambitious hometown, Peter’s town. Strength was and is his dogma, whether for countries or men, and the Russian emperors’ motto “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality” is a closer philosophical fit with today’s Putinism than the Soviet paeans to international workers’ solidarity and the heroism of the laborer that Putin had to memorize as a child. Brezhnev was not the model for Putin but the cautionary tale, and if that was true when Putin was a young KGB operative in the days of détente and decline in the 1970s and early 1980s, it is even more the case now, when Putin faces the paradox of his own extended rule, defined by great length but also by perpetual insecurity.

SURVIVOR: RUSSIA

Insecurity might seem the wrong word for it: Putin is well into his 20th year as Russia’s leader and in some ways appears to be at his most powerful, the global template for a new era of modern authoritarians. In the early years of this century, when the post-Soviet wave of democratization still seemed inexorable, Putin reversed Russia’s course, restoring centralized authority in the Kremlin and reviving the country’s standing in the world. Today, in Washington and certain capitals of Europe, he is an all-purpose villain, sanctioned and castigated for having invaded two neighbors—Georgia and Ukraine—and for having provoked Western countries, including by interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump and using deadly nerve agents to poison targets on British soil. His military intervention in Syria’s civil war helped save the regime of Bashar al-Assad, making Putin the most significant Russian player in the Middle East since Brezhnev. His increasingly close alliance with China has helped usher in a new era of great-power competition with the United States. Finally, it appears, Putin has brought about the multipolar world that he has dreamed of since he took office determined to revisit the Americans’ Cold War victory. All that, and he is only 66 years old, seemingly vigorous and healthy and capable of governing for many more years to come. His state is no Brezhnevian gerontocracy, at least not yet.

But if Putin has aspired to be a ruthless modern tsar, he is not the all-seeing, all-powerful one he is often portrayed to be. He is an elected leader, even if those elections are shams, and his latest term in office will run out in 2024, when he is constitutionally required to step aside, unless he has the constitution changed again to extend his tenure (a possibility the Kremlin has already raised). Putin has struggled at home far more than his swaggering on the world stage suggests. He controls the broadcast media, the parliament, the courts, and the security services, the last of which have seen their influence metastasize to practically Soviet-era levels under his rule. Yet since winning his latest fake election, in 2018, with 77 percent of the vote, his approval ratings have declined precipitously. In a poll this past spring, just 32 percent of Russians surveyed said they trusted him, according to the state pollster, the lowest level of his long tenure, until the Kremlin demanded a methodological change, and his approval rating now stands in the mid-60s, off from a high of close to 90 percent after his 2014 annexation of Crimea. The subsequent war he unleashed through proxies in eastern Ukraine has stalemated. Protests are a regular feature of Russian cities today—a decision to raise the retirement age last year was particularly unpopular—and a genuine opposition still exists, led by such figures as the anticorruption activist Alexei Navalny, despite years of state efforts to shut it down. Putin has no obvious successor, and today’s Kremlinologists report an increase in infighting among the security services and the business class, suggesting that an enormous struggle for post-Putin Russia has already begun.

At every stage of Putin’s long, eventful, and unlikely rule, there have been similar moments of uncertainty, and often there has been an enormous gap between the analysis of those in distant capitals, who tend to see Putin as a classic dictator, and those at home, who look at the president and his government as a far more slapdash affair, where incompetence as well as luck, inertia as well as tyranny, has played a role. “Stagnation,” in fact, is no longer an automatic reference to Brezhnev in Russia anymore; increasingly, it is an epithet used to attack Putin and the state of the nation, beset as it is by corruption, sanctions, economic backwardness, and an indeterminate program for doing anything about it all. At the end of 2018, Putin’s former finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, said that Russia’s economy was mired in a “serious stagnation pit.” As the economist Anders Aslund concludes in his new book, Russia’s Crony Capitalism, the country has devolved into “an extreme form of plutocracy that requires authoritarianism to persist,” with Putin joining in the looting to become a billionaire many times over himself, even as his country has grown more isolated because of his aggressive foreign policy.

Sheer survival—of his regime and of himself—is often the aim that best explains many of Putin’s political decisions, at home and abroad. In 2012, when Putin returned to the presidency after a hiatus as prime minister so as to observe constitutional niceties, he was greeted with massive demonstrations. These shook Putin to the core, and his belief that street protests can all too easily turn into regime-threatening revolutions is the key to understanding his present and future behavior. On the international stage, no cause has animated Putin more than the prospect of another country’s leader being forced from office, no matter how evil the leader or how deserved the toppling. Early on in his presidency, he opposed the “color revolutions” sweeping some post-Soviet states: the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. He condemned the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya. He went to war after his ally Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, fled the country amid a peaceful street uprising. He is an antirevolutionary through and through, which makes sense when you remember how it all began.

FROM DRESDEN TO THE KREMLIN

The first revolution Putin experienced was a trauma that he has never forgotten, the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the resulting collapse of the communist regime in East Germany. It happened when he was a 36-year-old undercover KGB operative stationed in Dresden, and Putin and his men were left on their own to figure out what to do as angry East Germans threatened to storm their offices, burning papers “night and day,” as he would later recall, while they waited for help. Putin had already become disillusioned by the huge disparity between the higher standard of living in East Germany and the poverty he was used to back home. Now, he saw his country’s leadership, weak and uncertain, abandon him, too. “We cannot do anything without orders from Moscow,” he was told. “And Moscow is silent.”

This is perhaps the most memorable passage from Putin’s 2000 as-told-to memoir, First Person, which remains both the key source for understanding the Russian president’s history and a prescient document in which he laid out much of the political program he would soon start implementing. The revolution in East Germany, as scarring as it was for Putin, turned out to be only the prelude to what he considered and still considers the greater catastrophe, the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union itself, in 1991. This was the signal moment of Putin’s adult life, the tragedy whose consequences he is determined to undo.

Putin would go from his KGB posting in the backwater of Dresden to president of Russia in less than a decade, ascending to the Kremlin on New Year’s Eve in 1999 as Boris Yeltsin’s handpicked successor. Yeltsin, aging and alcoholic, had brought democracy to Russia after the Soviet collapse but had soured his country on the word itself, which had come to be associated with economic crisis, gangster rampages, and the crooked giveaway of state assets to communist insiders turned capitalists. By the end of his two terms in office, Yeltsin was barely able to speak in public and was surrounded by a corrupt “Family” of relatives and associates who feared they would face prosecution once they lost the protection of his high office.

Putin had arrived in Moscow at an opportune moment, rising in just a few years from an obscure job in Yeltsin’s presidential administration to head of the post-Soviet successor to the KGB, known as the Federal Security Service, or FSB. From there, he was appointed prime minister, one in a series of what had been up until then replaceable young Yeltsin acolytes. Putin, however, was different, launching a brutal war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya in response to a series of domestic terrorist attacks whose murky origins continue to inspire conspiracy theories about the FSB’s possible role. His displays of macho activism transformed Russian politics, and Yeltsin’s advisers decided that this KGB veteran—still only in his 40s—would be just the sort of loyalist who could protect them. In March 2000, Putin won the first of what would be four presidential elections. As in those that followed, there was no serious competition, and Putin never felt compelled to offer an electoral program or a policy platform.

Protesters in Moscow, July 2019
Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

But his agenda from the start was both clear and acted on with breathtaking speed. In just over a year, Putin not only continued to wage the war in Chechnya with unforgiving force but also reinstated the Soviet national anthem, ordered the government takeover of the only independent television network in Russia’s history, passed a new flat tax on income and required Russians to actually pay it, and exiled powerful oligarchs—including Boris Berezovsky, who had helped him come to power and would later suspiciously turn up dead in his British home. Over the next few years, Putin would further consolidate his authority, canceling elections for regional governors, eliminating political competition in the State Duma, and surrounding himself with loyal advisers from the security services and St. Petersburg. He also, in 2004, arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man, and seized his oil company in a politically charged prosecution that had the intended effect of scaring Russia’s wealthy robber barons into subservience.

These actions, even at the time, were not difficult to read. Putin was a KGB man in full, an authoritarian modernizer, a believer in order and stability. And yet he was called a mystery, a cipher, an ideological blank slate—“Mr. Nobody,” the Kremlinologist Lilia Shevtsova dubbed him. Perhaps only U.S. President George W. Bush found Putin to be “very straightforward and trustworthy” after getting “a sense of his soul,” as he announced after their initial 2001 summit meeting in Slovenia, but Bush was not alone in considering Putin a Western-oriented reformer who, although certainly no democrat, might prove to be a reliable partner after Yeltsin’s embarrassing stumbles. At the World Economic Forum in Davos a year earlier, an American journalist had asked the new Russian president point-blank, “Who is Mr. Putin?” But of course, it was the wrong question. Everyone already knew, or should have.

In many ways, Putin has been strikingly consistent. The president who made headlines in 2004 by calling the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” is the same president of today, the one who told the Financial Times earlier this year that “as for the tragedy related to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that is something obvious.” For Putin, the goal of the state remains what it was when he came to office two decades ago. It is not a policy program, not democracy or anything approaching it, but the absence of something—namely, the upheaval that preceded him. “Ultimately,” he said in the same interview, “the well-being of the people depends, possibly primarily, on stability.” It might as well have been his slogan for the last 20 years. Where once there was chaos and collapse, he claims to offer Russia confidence, self-sufficiency, and a “stable, normal, safe and predictable life.” Not a good life, or even a better one, not world domination or anything too grand, but a Russia that is reliable, stolid, intact. This may or may not continue to resonate with Russians as the collapse of the Soviet Union recedes further and further from living memory. It is the promise of a Brezhnev, or at least his modern heir.

MISUNDERESTIMATING PUTIN

Today, Putin is no more a man of mystery than he was when he took power two decades ago. What’s most remarkable, knowing what we know now, is that so many thought he was.

There are many reasons for the mistake. Outsiders have always judged Russia on their own terms, and Americans are particularly myopic when it comes to understanding other countries. Putin’s rise from nowhere received more attention than where he intended to take the country. Many failed to take Putin either seriously or literally until it was too late, or decided that what he was doing did not matter all that much in a country that U.S. President Barack Obama characterized as a “regional power.” Often, Western policymakers simply believed his lies. I will never forget one encounter with a senior Bush administration official in the months just before Putin decided to stay in power past his constitutionally limited two terms and engineered his temporary shift to the Russian premiership. That would not happen, I was told. Why? Because Putin had looked the official in the eye and said he wouldn’t do it.

In general, U.S. interpretations of Putin’s Russia have been determined far more by the politics of Washington than by what has actually been happening in Moscow. Cold Warriors have looked backward and seen the Soviet Union 2.0. Others, including Bush and Obama at the outset of their presidencies and now Trump, have dreamed of a Russia that could be a pragmatic partner for the West, persisting in this despite the rapidly accumulating evidence of Putin’s aggressively revisionist, inevitably zero-sum vision of a world in which Russia’s national revival will succeed only at the expense of other states.

There are many reasons why the West misunderestimated Putin, as Bush might have put it, but one stands out with the clarity of hindsight: Westerners simply had no framework for a world in which autocracy, not democracy, would be on the rise, for a post–Cold War geopolitics in which revisionist powers such as Russia and China would compete on more equal terms again with the United States. After the Soviet collapse, the United States had gotten used to the idea of itself as the world’s sole superpower, and a virtuous one at that. Understanding Putin and what he represents seems a lot easier today than it did then, now that the number of democracies in the world, by Freedom House’s count, has fallen each year for the past 13 years.

When Putin came to power, it seemed as though the world was going in the opposite direction. Putin had to be an outlier. Russia was a declining power, “Upper Volta with nukes,” as critics used to call the Soviet Union. Putin’s project of restoring order was necessary, and at least not a significant threat. How could it be otherwise? On September 9, 2001, I and a few dozen other Moscow-based correspondents traveled to neighboring Belarus to observe the rigged elections in which Alexander Lukashenko was ensuring his continuation as president. We treated the story as a Cold War relic; Lukashenko was “the last dictator in Europe,” as the headlines called him, a living Soviet anachronism. It was simply inconceivable to us that two decades later, both Lukashenko and Putin would still be ruling, and we would be wondering how many more dictators in Europe might join their club.

History has shown that just because something is inconceivable does not mean it won’t happen. But that is an important reason we got Putin wrong, and why, all too often, we still do. Putin is only nine years away from hitting Stalin’s modern record for Kremlin longevity, which appears to be more than achievable. But the West’s long history of misreading Russia suggests that this outcome is no more preordained than Putin’s improbable path to the Russian presidency was in the first place. We may have misunderestimated him before, but that doesn’t mean we might not misoverestimate him now. The warning signs are all there: the shrinking economy, the shrill nationalism as a distraction from internal decay, an inward-looking elite feuding over the division of spoils while taking its monopoly on power for granted. Will this be Putin’s undoing? Who knows? But the ghost of Brezhnev is alive and well in Putin’s Kremlin.