Day: February 10, 2009

The more things change…

Commenting on US Vice-President Biden’s Munich Declaration, George Friedman at Stratfor remarks on the striking continuity between the foreign policy of George Bush and that of Barack Obama, and suggests that the course of historical events may be a decisive factor:

Willingness to talk is important, but what is said is much more important. Obama’s first foray into foreign policy via Biden indicates that, generally speaking, he understands the constraints and pressures that drive American foreign policy, and he understands the limits of presidential power. Atmospherics aside, Biden’s positions — as opposed to his rhetoric — were strikingly similar to Cheney’s foreign policy positions.

We argued long ago that presidents don’t make history, but that history makes presidents. We see Biden’s speech as a classic example of this principle.

Stability in the North Caucasus

On WikiLeaks, an interesting study (pdf) by CRS Russian and Eurasian affairs specialist Jim Nichol entitled Stability in Russia’s Chechnya and Other Regions of the North Caucasus: Recent Developments. Among other things, the paper  [published in August 2008] notes that

The Bush Administration generally has supported the Russian government’s efforts to combat terrorism in the North Caucasus. However, the Administration and Congress also have continued to raise concerns about the wide scope of human rights abuses committed by the Russian government in the North Caucasus. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2008 (P.L.110-161) included $8 million for humanitarian, conflict mitigation, human rights, civil society, and relief and recovery assistance for Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and North Ossetia. The Act also repeats language used for several years that directs that 60% of the assistance allocated to Russia will be withheld (excluding medical, human trafficking, and Comprehensive Threat Reduction aid) until the President certifies that Russia is facilitating full access to Chechnya for international non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to displaced persons.