Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

The Universality of Ukraine

The Russian war in Ukraine has dominated headlines in the United States and Europe. It has been presented as a generation-defining event and as a pivot in geopolitics that will cleave world history into a before and an after just like September 11. Much of the world, however, is not transfixed by developments in central… Continue reading The Universality of Ukraine


When the Left Is Right…Far Right

In the twentieth century, the left defined itself as anti-fascist. It was against Franco in Spain, Hitler in Germany, and Mussolini in Italy. During the Cold War, progressive opposed far-right dictators like Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. It mobilized against neo-Nazis in Germany, right-wing militias in the United States, and… Continue reading When the Left Is Right…Far Right

Russia and Eastern Europe

After Putin

A failed military intervention. The genocidal killing of citizens. Economic isolation by the international community. The arrests of anti-war protestors at home and the shuttering of independent media. Any one of these factors could mark the end of an ordinary political leader. Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin has not only weathered these challenges, his popularity… Continue reading After Putin

China, Korea

South Korea’s New Foreign Policy of Two Nos and One Yes

South Koreans are still sorting out the implications of the recent presidential elections. Victorious conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol rose to prominence on an anti-corruption agenda and has various plans to shake up the way government functions. He has also pledged to reduce government intervention in the economy, boost incentives for business, increase the role of… Continue reading South Korea’s New Foreign Policy of Two Nos and One Yes

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

The Five Plagues Testing Humanity

Once upon a time, the tutelary gods of nationalism and internationalism met for a chat. They had a superb perch above the clouds. From there, they could see everything happening on the Earth below and they set to arguing, as they so often did. Sophia, the goddess of internationalism, began by proudly pointing to the… Continue reading The Five Plagues Testing Humanity

Russia and Eastern Europe

Ending the War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has a very clear strategy for ending his war in Ukraine. He intends to wipe the country off the map. Initially, he’d hoped to do so by seizing Kyiv, replacing the government, and absorbing as much of Ukrainian territory into Russia as he thought feasible. Now, after the resistance of the Ukrainians, he… Continue reading Ending the War in Ukraine

Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

Why Ukraine Matters

War has been pretty much a constant in human affairs. If you’ve managed to avoid direct contact with war for your entire life, you are extraordinarily lucky in world-historical terms. The Cold War that kept the peace across most of the Global North was accompanied by nearly non-stop proxy wars between Moscow and Washington throughout… Continue reading Why Ukraine Matters

Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

No Pasaran: Ukraine 2022

The last surviving member of the International Brigades that fought the fascists in Spain in the 1930s died last year at the age of 101. Josep Almudéver Mateu, born in France, remembered going into battle without any ammunition for his gun. Five kilometers into his march to the front, he was finally able to cadge… Continue reading No Pasaran: Ukraine 2022

Russia and Eastern Europe

Putin’s Cold, Cold Strategy

In his speech on Monday evening recognizing the independence of the disputed eastern territories of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin called Ukrainians “our comrades.” He identified them as “not only colleagues, friends, former colleagues, but also relatives, people connected with us by blood, family ties.” Pity the poor people that Vladimir Putin considers family. It’s like discovering… Continue reading Putin’s Cold, Cold Strategy

Suicide Truckers

Once upon a time there were three people in a boat, out in the middle of the sea. It was a beautiful day, and the sea was calm. Two of the people were fishing contentedly. The third removed a drill from his bag and started to make a hole in the bottom of the boat.… Continue reading Suicide Truckers

Fiction, US Domestic Policy

The Terrifying World of 2025

I’ve just wrapped up my shift at BurgerBoy and I don’t have much time before the weekly self-criticism session at town hall. This hour with my diary is precious, especially when I have to make a big decision. Writing used to be my job, but it’s so much more difficult after eight straight hours on… Continue reading The Terrifying World of 2025

China, Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia and China’s Dirty Partnership

The leaders of Russia and China are joining forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics to show solidarity with his largest trade partner at an event that the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia are boycotting diplomatically. The statement that Putin signed with Chinese leader Xi Jinping confirms their… Continue reading Russia and China’s Dirty Partnership

Europe, Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Helsinki 2.0

The European security order has broken down. You might think that’s an overstatement. NATO is alive and well. The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe is still functioning at a high level. Of course, there’s the possibility of a major war breaking out between Russia and Ukraine. But would Russian President Vladimir Putin… Continue reading Helsinki 2.0

Russia and Eastern Europe, Security

The Ukraine Crisis Is an Opportunity to Reshape U.S.-Russia Diplomacy

Heading into its second year in office, the Biden administration has been hit hard by rising inflation, another pandemic variant and a stalled agenda in Congress. As it struggles to salvage things, the administration can little afford a major international conflict—especially after finally winding down the 20-year fiasco in Afghanistan. That’s precisely the risk in… Continue reading The Ukraine Crisis Is an Opportunity to Reshape U.S.-Russia Diplomacy

US Domestic Policy

Biden at One

In its first year in office, the Biden administration has done a reasonably good job of reversing the idiocies of its predecessor. It has failed, however, to establish a just, peaceful, and sustainable new U.S. approach to the world. Unlike the first year of Obama’s presidency, which included dramatic speeches on nuclear disarmament and U.S.… Continue reading Biden at One

Russia and Eastern Europe

The End of Dissent

I am a foreign agent. Because my program at the Institute for Policy Studies receives some funding from a German foundation, I qualify as a suspect person—according to the “foreign agent” law in Russia. As part of this law, any institution or person that the government deems a “foreign agent” has to make a declaration… Continue reading The End of Dissent

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

Protests at the Pump

The first major protest of the post-Communist era in Eastern Europe was not about corruption. It wasn’t about disappointments with democracy. It was about gas. In October 1990, furious at the new liberal government for raising gas prices by 65 percent, taxi drivers in Hungary set up barricades and established roadblocks that brought transportation to… Continue reading Protests at the Pump

Book Reviews, Korea

Flower Swallows Sing (Review)

In the late 1950s, when he was in prison and expecting to be executed, the South Korean poet Ko Un vowed that if he lived, he would write a poem about every person that he’d ever met. This monumental project, Ten Thousand Lives, grew to 30 volumes. In memorializing people who might otherwise be forgotten… Continue reading Flower Swallows Sing (Review)

Book Reviews, Human Rights, Korea

Dying for Rights (Review)

In 2014, the UN produced a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights inside North Korea.  The result of a year-long investigation by a three-person Commission of Inquiry (COI), the report drew on 240 interviews and the public testimony of 80 people. It is a damning picture of human rights abuses inside a country… Continue reading Dying for Rights (Review)

Book Reviews, Korea

Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea (Review)

Review of Robert Winstanley-Chesters, Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea: Landscape as Political Project (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015), 102 pages and Jae-Jung Suh, ed., Origins of North Korea’s Juche: Colonialism, War, and Development (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013), 184 pages   Ideas have always played an important role in North Korean politics.  … Continue reading Environment, Politics, and Ideology in North Korea (Review)

Book Reviews, Korea

Being in North Korea (Review)

Review of Andray Abrahamian, Being in North Korea (Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, 2020), 206 pages   North Korea, despite its reputation as the last communist holdout in the world, has no major problem with capitalism. It’s even willing to take lessons from the capitalist world on how to build a market… Continue reading Being in North Korea (Review)

Book Reviews, Korea

Rewriting Revolution

Immanuel Kim, Rewriting Revolution: Women, Sexuality, and Memory in North Korean Fiction (University of Hawai’i Press, 2018), 220 pages Immanuel Kim is determined to prove that “North Korean literature” is not a contradiction in terms. A professor of Asian and Asian American studies at SUNY Binghamton, Kim takes a close look at a number of… Continue reading Rewriting Revolution

It’s a Shame Chalmers Johnson Did Not Live to See the U.S. Air Base on Okinawa Closed

I contacted Chalmers Johnson last spring when we were putting together a coalition to oppose the relocation of the Futenma air base in Okinawa. Johnson, who died over the weekend, was best known for his book-length critiques of U.S. foreign policy (Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, Nemesis, and this year’s Dismantling the Empire). But he… Continue reading It’s a Shame Chalmers Johnson Did Not Live to See the U.S. Air Base on Okinawa Closed

US Domestic Policy

The Party of January 6

The defeat of Donald Trump in 2020 was supposed to put an end to America’s delusional national politics. The quashing of the January 6 insurrection — and the brief, near-unanimous revulsion among members of Trump’s party for that violence — provided some hope that the fever dream had passed. But the last year demonstrated quite… Continue reading The Party of January 6

US Domestic Policy

The End of US

When does a country stop being a country? This critical moment takes place before a civil war breaks out or an official ceremony of dissolution is held. At some point, the citizens of the country stop thinking of themselves as members of a common association. At some point, the mystic chords of memory transmogrify into… Continue reading The End of US

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

Russian Green Deal: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

In October 2021, the Russian government finally released its plan to achieve carbon neutrality—by 2060. That’s 10 years after the target date most other countries have adopted. The plan relies more on offsets—like forests that absorb carbon dioxide—rather than significant cuts in emissions. But for the world’s fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide—and the world’s… Continue reading Russian Green Deal: Light at the End of the Tunnel?


The U.S. military has come up with some pretty good acronyms in the past, such as SNAFU (situation normal all f’d up) and FUBAR (f’d up beyond all repair). I recommend that the Pentagon consider inaugurating a new acronym for 2008: OOPS. It stands for outrageously, offensively, and profoundly stupid. It hasn’t taken very long… Continue reading OOPS!