“Peace” in Donbas

Russia and Ukraine say they have agreed a ceasefire, to be effective by year’s end, in eastern Ukraine, currently occupied by Russia (along with Crimea) and Russia-instigated and -backed “rebels.”  It’s an unsatisfactory ceasefire.

There is no agreement on a timetable for free elections in the occupied eastern oblasts, even assuming the dubious need at all for elections there separate from the regular national elections. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wants Russian troops out of those oblasts before the elections; Russia’s President Vladimir Putin insists merely that Ukraine should give those oblasts autonomy before the elections. Zelenskiy is right: elections have no possibility of being free with Russian troops occupying the region.  It’s an unsatisfactory ceasefire.

Surveillance

It turns out the People’s Republic of China government is a collection of pikers compared to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a pair of bills Monday, one of which will require all consumer electronic devices sold in the country to be pre-installed with Russian software, while the other will register individual journalists as foreign agents.

Government spyware pre-installed on Russian citizens’ devices, so Russia’s modern-day KGB successor can track where Russian citizens are, with whom they’re communicating, what they’re doing, down to the last detail.

Expanding Surveillance State

Want a new phone in the People’s Republic of China? You have to give up an image of your face to the government.

The requirement, which came into effect Sunday, is aimed at minimizing telephone fraud and preventing the reselling and illegal transfer of mobile phone cards, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a notice in September.

Right. That’s believable.  Never mind that

…facial recognition becomes more and more prevalent in [the PRC], with authorities applying artificial intelligence to sift through reams of data collected in a bid to boost the economy and centralize oversight of the population.

A NATO Disconnect

French President Emmanuel Macron extended his “NATO is braindead” criticism.

The French leader has been critical of the United States after it abruptly pulled troops out of northeastern Syria, allowing NATO member Turkey to launch an incursion against the Kurdish YPG militia fighting against the “Islamic State” group. The US and Turkey did not coordinate their moves with NATO members.

Nor were either required to, regardless of what anyone thinks of the moves themselves or the rudeness of the lack of advisement.  Syria has nothing to do with NATO, for all that it’s on the rear porch of Europe’s nations.  Coordination with NATO was, and is, not required.

Golly Gee

Hold the presses.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will honor its commitment to spend 2% of its GDP on NATO after all.

Oh, wait.  She says Germany will keep its word

by the early 2030s.

So far off, that amounts to a promise to be kept when the German government—whichever it is in all those years—feels like it.

Merkel’s “promise” is an insult to our intelligence.  Especially since Germany’s commitment, and those of its fellow NATO nations, was made five years ago and the nations promised to meet 2% by 2024.

Nuclear Disarmament

Pope Francis wants it—completely, totally, for any purpose, even deterrence (assuming, for now, that this can be done verifiably and verifiably maintained).  The Pope thinks an arms race involving nuclear weapons adds to the danger of their existence, never minding the race, at least on the US’ part, is for self-defense and the defense of our friends and allies—the very purpose of NATO stationing nuclear weapons in Europe, for instance.

The Pope, though, avoided addressing how a non-nuclear nation with a small conventional military establishment would defend itself against an aggressively acquisitive non-nuclear nation with a large military establishment.  Like, say, the Soviet Union against the nations of Europe, individually or collectively. Or like, perhaps, the People’s Republic of China against the Republic of Korea or Japan—or us.

Outside…Commentary

It turns out that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer tried to cut a deal with Trump without authorization to do so, a deal that would have allowed a Navy board follow through on its desire to review whether CPO Edward Gallagher would be able to remain a SEAL, and then Gallagher would retire with his Trident. SecDef Mark Esper fired Spencer over his insubordination.

I am deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official[.]

In the end, the Navy will not hold its board, and Gallagher and the Navy seem to be done with the matter.

Boeing and Foolish Questions

In a Wall Street Journal article on the tortuous path to criminal prosecution that prosecutors would have in bringing Boeing to criminal trial over its 737 MAX crashes, Andrew Tangel, Jacob Gershman, and Andy Pasztor asked what seems to me to be a very narrow, short-sighted question.

Should prosecutors weigh Boeing’s importance to the economy and national security when deciding how to proceed with a criminal case over the 737 MAX crashes?

Of course prosecutors should—must—not. What’s truly important is the concept of weighing the risks to liberty and to national security of criminals being too big to be punished. We can never allow such a thing to enter even the run-up to criminal prosecutions.

Policing the World

Progressive-Democratic Party Presidential candidate and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI) had an interesting campaign advertisement op-ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.  One campaign promise she made in it jumped out at me.

A Gabbard presidency would mean the end of trying to police the world….

Who does Gabbard think would police the world if we don’t? Can she really believe that a police-less world would be benign, or that our enemies won’t divide up the policing among themselves explicitly for their benefit and just as explicitly for our detriment?  Or that their squabbling among themselves over the spoils won’t spill over into serious regional or even global conflict?

PRC Personal Savings Rate

James Areddy had an extensive article on this in a recent Wall Street Journal.  It seems that the personal savings rate of People’s Republic of China’s citizens peaked around 2010 and has been trailing off ever since.  Areddy posited a number of reasons for this, and why it’s likely to continue.  Chief among them is the usual suspect of an increasingly less poor, if not increasingly prosperous, population wishing to live better rather than save more.  Another major reason seems to be the PRC’s one-child policy, lately relaxed legally, but not socially.  With fewer kids in the family, there’s less reason for parents to save against those kids’ future.