Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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Turkey - CHP leader steps up criticism of Erdoğan in ’tinpot dictator’ polemic

The leader of the main opposition party has blasted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for allegedly pursuing personal gains rather than serving the nation, once again calling him a "tinpot dictator."
“I know quite well that this tinpot dictator is heartless,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), claimed on Tuesday, arguing that Erdoğan is mainly focused on increasing his own wealth.
“If it is personal gains that motivate the leader of a country, then that leader is no good for the country,” said the CHP leader, maintaining that Erdoğan is insensitive about the many difficulties the nation faces.
Erdoğan sued Kılıçdaroğlu for libel when the CHP leader called him a tinpot dictator at the party's congress earlier this month. Before Erdoğan took the issue to court, the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office also launched an investigation into the main opposition leader.
The CHP leader maintained that Turkish society has become more and more entangled in problems as well as having become corrupt during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), putting the blame on the government.
“My heart is aching because of how my country is looking, because of the fighting, just like in the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, because our children are dying,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
There has been heavy fighting against terrorists for more than a month in some towns in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast.
Diyarbakır's central Sur district and Şırnak province's Cizre and Silopi districts have been under curfew since Dec. 2 and Dec. 14, respectively, due to fighting.
Kılıçdaroğlu also claimed that the president frequently resorts to lying. He cited the example of previously being falsely accused by Erdoğan of having bankrupted Turkey's Social Security Institution (SGK) while the CHP leader served as its director.
Noting that his work as SGK director was closely audited by inspectors after Erdoğan had first uttered the claim, Kılıçdaroğlu said he had come out clean.
The amount of money the SGK used during his term as director is nothing compared with the money transferred to the social security institution by the AK Party during its 13-year-long term in power, the CHP leader said.
“I would not usurp what is due to others, but you indulge in it! I know that quite well,” said Kılıçdaroğlu, implicitly referring to the massive corruption in which Erdoğan is claimed to have been involved.
Findings in the two sweeping graft probes that went public in December 2013 indicated that Erdoğan was involved in government corruption as the top figure. At the time, Erdoğan headed the AK Party government.
The CHP leader admitted that it is not proper to call a president a tinpot dictator but said he is doing so to protect the citizens, the morals of the nation and the rule of law against Erdoğan, whom he called corrupt and who violates the law.
Kılıçdaroğlu challengingly said in his address at the party's parliamentary group meeting, “Either Erdoğan will [start to] act within the boundaries of the powers specified in the Constitution, remains impartial, or I will continue to criticize him.”
Erdoğan, who was elected president in 2014, has been much criticized by the opposition for openly favoring the AK Party as president in violation of the constitution, which requires a president to be impartial.
Before taking office, a president takes an oath to act in line with the Constitution.
Accusing Erdoğan of violating this oath and thereby serving as a bad role model for the whole society, the CHP leader said, “Somebody must remind you what morals and honor are.”
He also argued that the failure of a president to comply with his oath would serve to increase moral corruption in the society.

Turkey’s bitter failure in Syria


Was travelling “a few hours” to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, performing Friday prayers there and emerging out as a sort of a neo-caliph of a neo-Ottoman state an often cited dream of Turkey’s ultimate policy? The end result, if that assumption is correct, is a Turkey assigned to seal some 100 kilometers of a troubled border to guard the Western World against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) terrorist gang.

To what degree is that a success of failure? It depends from which perspective the issue is approached. If looked at from the gargantuan and exuberant palace or anywhere politically close to it, of course there is no such thing (“Turkey is a bulwark of stability and progress in a troubled region.”) However, if looked at from a critical perspective or even somewhere outside of Turkey devoid of the imperial oppression on freedom of expression, Turkey has become a country in “precious isolation,” as was once said by a key aide of the Turkish president.

The interests of the United States, or any one of Turkey’s allies, in this country and in this region might not always overlap with those of Ankara. But when and if allies’ interests always contradict or when an alliance member no longer shares the norms, values and democratic understanding, which are the minimum requirements of membership, the allied relationship might become nothing more than a veil covering a serious tension among allies. Did not Turkey move to multi-party democracy back in late 1940s so that it could join NATO? If today’s Turkey has moved on to an oppressive regime and is heading towards consolidating that oppressive regime into an elected dictatorship with “Turkish style presidential rule,” it is probable that some of Turkey’s allies might have some sort of confusion as to where to place Turkey in regards of a governance model.

Transition to normalcy in Syria, Iraq and other countries around Turkey ought to be Turkey’s prime interest. After all, this country has been hosting more than two million Syrian refugees and spent billions of dollars to accommodate the refugees as well as to fight skyrocketing terrorism as a consequence of the fertile breeding ground offered by the civil war next-door. Burying one’s head into sand like an ostrich cannot stop developments around Turkey. Refusing to acknowledge the right of Syrians to decide the future of their own country and insisting on an Assad-less new Syria not only handicapped a political resolution but was instrumental in plunging the neighboring country into civil war, which has continued unabated for the past five years. Refusing to listen to worries and cautions of allies regarding the not-so-cute intentions of the political Islamists – be it Jabhat al-Nusra or al-Qaeda or ISIL – only helped to deepen the chaos and the civil war into taking a sectarian dimension as well.

Was it the dream to travel to Damascus “in a few hours,” perform Friday prayers at the Umayyad Mosque and emerge out of its front door as the neo-caliph, the driving force behind this Salafist, political Islamist, jihadist catastrophe Syria was dragged into? Such issues cannot unfortunately be debated nowadays, even though every other day Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu delivers a lecture explaining how highly he values criticism.

Getting rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad became such an obsession that the Syrian extension of the Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) gang, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), was hosted in Istanbul and Ankara many times. Strategic evaluation meetings were held with the Istanbul-educated chairperson, Salih Müslim. When the season of the “Kurdish opening” and talks with PKK political extensions and its imprisoned leader were replaced with the “fight the beast” project and a “no talks, just fight to the end” policy required portraying a nationalist sides of the ruling party and the president, Ankara remembered once again that the PYD was as unwelcome as the PKK.

However, Turkey’s allies, particularly the United States, considered the PYD as an “ally in the field” in the fight against ISIL terrorists. Russia, on the other hand, was also in “collaboration” with the PYD. Thus from both ends, Turkey was pressured to accept the participation of the PYD in the Syria peace talks that were to convene in Geneva early this week but have been postponed to Friday. Thus Turkey has now sharp differences over the PYD’s representation in peace talks with both the U.S. and a Russia it has antagonized by downing an intruding jet fighter last November.

As confusing as it might be, the successful Turkish foreign policy on Syria entered a new phase with the U.S., Turkey and the Saudis demanding two militant groups –Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) and Ahrar al-Shams (Nation of Syria)– should be part of the opposition front in peace talks with the Syrian government, with the U.S. and Russiaplaying the PYD card.

In the meantime, with the help of Russia (which effectively closed down Syrian airspace to Turkish flights after the November downing of its jetfighter by Turkey) Syrian government forces have retaken the Turcoman Mountains on the Turkish border, further consolidating the prospect of a “Latakia republic” along the Mediterranean coast…

That was perhaps Turkey’s nightmare…

We can’t destroy terrorists so long as Saudi props Wahhabism: Congressman

A recent congressional hearing indicates America cannot defeat global terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIL) as long as Saudi Arabia sponsors Wahhabism.
Speaking in an early January congressional hearing aired by C-SPAN, Democratic congressman from Georgia, Hank Johnson said, “It is true …that the ideology of ISIL lines up with Wahhabism.”
Congressman Johnson asked participant in the hearing panel Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Syria, “Is it fair to say that Saudi’s support for the teachings of Wahhabism creates fertile ground for ISIL recruitment efforts?
Ford, now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, answered, “I think Saudi promotion of Wahhabism is absolutely a problem” when it comes to ISIL recruitment.
“And so, we would be unable to defeat the global jihadist movement which is based on largely Wahhabism which is a state-sponsored religion of Saudi Arabia without somehow enlisting the support of the Saudi royal family in withdrawing its financial support for Wahhabism. Is that a fair assessment,” the US lawmaker asked.
Michael Joseph Morell, former acting director of the US spy agency, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), took the question, saying, “There needs to be a discussion with the Saudis about their support for Wahhabism and how it should be treated.”
The hearing also points to the billions of dollars worth of weapons and ammunition the United States sells Saudi Arabia.
Takfiri terrorists like Daesh and other similar militant groups kill Muslims who do not conform to their ideology, accusing them of being infidels.
Takfirism is largely influenced by Wahhabism, the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia and freely preached by Saudi clerics.
The spread of such foreign-backed extremist groups over the past several years, especially in Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Syria as well as North Africa, has led to bloody wars and heinous crimes, uprooting millions of people from their homelands and claiming hundreds of thousands of civilian lives.

Yemen's healthcare system left in tatters due to Saudi bombing campaign - supported by Britain

When the men and women who worked at Shiara hospital heard the explosion, there was little surprise. Just half an hour’s drive from the border with Saudi Arabia, in Yemen’s mountainous northern region, they were used to the sound of shelling. 
What they did not expect 10 months into the Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes was that it would be their own hospital that had been hit. The bombing on 10 January left six people dead, including three staff members. Many more were injured.
“The wounded were hit by shrapnel from the missile, and also by shards of metal from the fence [around the hospital]. The injuries were brutal,” said Teresa Sancristoval, the head of the emergency desk at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which operates in  the hospital. 
The attack was among 130 on health facilities hit in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign in March last year. It was the fourth on a facility supported by MSF – which says it gives detailed co-ordinates for its hospitals to both sides of the conflict. 
The attacks have left a healthcare system barely functioning. In the latest bombing, on Thursday, an MSF ambulance driver was killed in a strike on the northern town of Dahyan, blamed on the Saudi-led coalition. “The driver had already put his life at risk to work for MSF,” Juan Prieto, an MSF  project co-ordinator in the capital, Sanaa, said. “He had no idea that Thursday would be the last day of his life.”
MSF has called for an independent investigation into the attacks on its facilities and said the conflict in Yemen was being conducted with “total disregard for the rules of war”. The comments were the most strongly-worded yet from the charity which has asked the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), the independent body with a mandate to investigate suspected violations of international humanitarian law, to conduct an investigation. 
Amnesty International, meanwhile, has said attacks on MSF hospitals may amount to war crimes. “Under international law, hospitals and medical units must be respected and protected in all circumstances,” Rasha Mohammed, Yemen researcher at Amnesty, told The Independent. 
MSF also reserved criticism for the British government which has supported Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war, and provides arms to the country, for its “offensive and irresponsible” response to the attacks. The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had said there have been no deliberate breaches of international humanitarian law. 
UN official Jamie McGoldrick inspects damage to a hospital in Taiz, Yemen (Reuters)
“Increasingly, we are seeing attacks on medical facilities being minimised, labelled ‘mistakes’ or ‘errors’,” said Raquel Ayora, MSF Director of Operations. “This implies that mistakenly bombing a protected hospital would be tolerable. This logic is offensive and irresponsible.” 
An FCO spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports of alleged violations of international humanitarian law by the Coalition in Yemen and take these very seriously. The Government regularly raise the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law with the Saudi government.”
The war in Yemen, which began in earnest after Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign in support of ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi last March, has left 5,800 people dead, half of them civilians, and it shows no signs of easing. Yesterday, the Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and his Cabinet returned to the volatile port city of Aden in an attempt to establish a stable government presence in the south. 

Stop Reassuring Saudi Arabia, a Worse Threat to the Middle East than Iran


Secretary of State John Kerry recently traveled to Riyadh to reassure the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that the U.S. stood with them. “Nothing has changed” as a result of the nuclear pact with Iran, he insisted.

Washington’s long relationship with Riyadh was built on oil. There never was any nonsense about sharing values with the KSA, which operates as a slightly more civilized variant of the Islamic State. The royals run a totalitarian system which prohibits political dissent, free speech, religious liberty, and social autonomy.

At a time of heavy U.S. dependence on foreign oil a little compromise in America’s principles might have seemed necessary. Today it’s hard to make a case that petroleum warrants Washington’s “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia. The global energy market is expanding; the U.S. will soon become a petroleum exporter. The royal regime cannot survive without oil money and has continued to pump even as prices have collapsed.

In recent years Washington also treated Riyadh as an integral component of a containment system against Iran. Of course, much of the “Tehran problem” was made in America: overthrowing Iranian democracy ultimately led to creation of an Islamist state.

Fears multiplied as Tehran confronted its Sunni neighbors along with Israel and continued the Shah’s nuclear program. Overwrought nightmares of Islamic revolution throughout the region encouraged America’s fulsome embrace of the KSA and allied regimes.

But this argument for supporting the Saudi royals has become quite threadbare. Saudi Arabia is well able to defend itself. In 2014 it came in at world number four with $81 billion in military expenditures, a multiple of Iran’s total.

Threats of subversion reflect internal weaknesses beyond Washington’s reach: the kingdom’s general repression and particular mistreatment of its Shia minority, including the recent execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who urged nonviolent opposition to the monarchy.

Moreover, the nuclear agreement creates a real opportunity for change in Iran. The process will not be quick or easy. However, in contrast to the KSA, there are (carefully circumscribed but real nonetheless) elections, political debate, religious diversity, generational resistance, and liberal sentiments.

Whatever the alleged benefits of the Saudi alliance, America pays a high price. First is the cost of providing free bodyguards for the royals.

For this reason the U.S. initiated the first Gulf War and left a garrison on Saudi soil. At the Saudis’ behest Washington backs their misbegotten war in Yemen and remains formally committed to the overthrow of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, the strongest force opposing the far more dangerous Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia also tramples American values beyond its own borders. In next-door Bahrain Riyadh help suppress the majority Shia population. The KSA also has underwritten extremist Islamic teaching in madrassahs around the world.

Moreover, Saudi money backed al-Qaeda and people performed 9/11. Similar private support for extremist violence apparently continues.

Over the last few years Riyadh’s behavior has become more harmful to America’s interests. The monarchy has been pushing to oust Syria’s Assad without worrying about who or what would follow. Moreover, in Yemen Saudi Arabia turned a long-term insurgency into another sectarian conflict.

By executing Sheikh al-Nimr the KSA triggered sectarian protests in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. Riyadh responded by breaking diplomatic relations with Iran, undermining political negotiations to resolve Syria’s civil war.

Of course, the fact that Riyadh is a destabilizing force does not mean that the U.S. should attempt regime change in Riyadh. But Washington should stop lavishing support on the Saudi royals. Particularly important, the U.S. should disentangle itself from the KSA’s misbegotten war in Yemen.

As I point out in National Interest: “The two countries need a new, more normal relationship. They should work together when advantageous and disagree when appropriate. Sell weapons to Riyadh without committing to provide a royal bodyguard.”

Most important, Washington should continue to forge a better relationship with Tehran. Balance should return to American policy in the Middle East.

Sergei Lavrov - Russia will not yield to western pressure

Russia intends to build relationships with western countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, and it will no longer yield to external pressure, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.
"Our western colleagues sometimes say that there will be no more 'business as usual' with Russia, and I am convinced that this is true," Lavrov said during his annual press conference broadcast online.
"(Such statements by western countries) imply attempts to impose on us agreements that take into account primarily the interests of the European Union or the United States, and to persuade us that they would not damage our interests. This story is over," the minister said.
Lavrov said that Russia was implementing structural reforms and substituting imports in order not to be dependent on "zigzags" in western politics.
Meanwhile, Moscow remains open and ready to cooperation with the West, but only on the basis of equality and all other principles of international law, he said.
Mentioning NATO's eastward expansion close to the Russian border and the establishment of the U.S.'s global missile defense system in Europe and Northeast Asia, the Russia's top diplomat said such "unconstructive and dangerous" policies are "short-sighted and destabilizing."
Attempts to reverse this situation have been met with poor results, he added.
The minister also noted that a unipolar ideology can no longer dominate international politics.
"The world is leaving behind the epoch of the total domination of the West and is now in a long transition period to a more stable system, where there will be no single pole of domination," Lavrov said, adding that the emergence of a truly multi-polar world may take a "long and painful period as old customs take a long time to fade away."
With regard to Russia's relations with China, he considered it a model of international cooperation.
"It is in fact the best in the history of relations between our countries and our peoples ... There is no other country with which we have such an extensive network of cooperation mechanisms," Lavrov said, hailing the ties as "systemic" and having led to "impressive results."

Chinese communist mouthpiece takes aim at billionaire investor George Soros as PBOC confronts tough choice

China’s state-run media has escalated its rhetoric against market speculation on its currency and economy, with a top mouthpiece claiming billionaire investor George Soros had “declared war against China”.
The strong words come amid a policy dilemma for Beijing’s central bankers. One one hand, they face expectations of further interest rate hikes by the US Fed and further monetary easing in Japan. On the other hand, they face a slowdown in the domestic economy that has come at the same time as China tries to restructure its economic drivers. So the central bankers face a stark choice – keep the yuan stable or revive the economy.
Both the Hong Kong dollar and the yuan fell yesterday morning as speculators returned to the market and the two central banks stayed away. The Shanghai stock market index lost 6.4 per cent to hit a 13-month low.
Soros said last week that a hard landing in the Chinese economy was “unavoidable” and he was shorting Asian currencies.
In a move to manage the fallout, Beijing is using its state media to fend off speculators.
In an English-language commentary published shortly after Soros made his comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the mainland’s Xinhua news agency warned and even threatened those who kept bearish views on China’s growth and currency prospects.
“Reckless speculation and vicious shorting will face higher trading costs and possibly severe legal consequences,” it said.

Other state media joined the chorus in the last couple of days.
Mei Xinyu, a researcher with the Ministry of Commerce, said in a front-page opinion piece in the overseas edition of the Communist Party’s mouthpiecePeople’s Daily yesterday that Soros had “publicly declared a war against China”, but that Soros’ challenge to the yuan and Hong Kong dollar would not succeed.
It’s not clear quite how much financial firepower Soros could summon to start such a battle, but even so, his words and actions could swing public opinion and be harmful for China, said Chen Xingdong, chief China economist with BNP Paribas in Beijing.
“It’s like a hostile force announcing ‘I am invading you’. China has reason to be nervous,” Chen said.
It’s like a hostile force announcing ‘I am invading you’. China has reason to be nervous
Even for a US$10 trillion economy with US$3.3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, a man who once brought the Bank of England to its knees with a short is not to be taken lightly.
“If he can mobilise enough money, he still can do something – Soros doesn’t need to break down the Hong Kong dollar peg, he can make enough profit from stock market and foreign exchange market swings as we’ve seen last week,” said Ding Shuang, chief China economist for Standard Chartered in Hong Kong. “It won’t be as dramatic as in 1998 – Soros is trying to make money not a fight,” Ding added.
Global investors are closely watching the outcome of the US Federal Reserve meeting due to end today, the first policy meeting after it hiked interest rates last December to normalise monetary policy.
In Asia, speculation has grown the Bank of Japan will announce an expansion of quantitative easing policies to sustain growth during a two-day monetary policy meeting ending on Friday.
On the domestic side, an ongoing stock market rout and a persistent economic slowdown that come despite the central bank’s recent liquidity injection into the banking system, have increased pressure on the People’s Bank of China to cut the reserve requirement ratio or even interest rates. But in doing so, the bank risks exacerbating weakness in the yuan.

A leaked memo from a PBOC meeting last Friday showed the central bank was reluctant to tinker with the reserve ratio to avoid “sending a strong policy signal” that could trigger fear and capital flight. It emphasised the need for a stable yuan when managing domestic liquidity.

“China’s monetary policy is indeed becoming more complicated and constrained, and the future direction is harder to predict,” said Louis Kuijs, an economist with Oxford Economics.
The central bank is just burying its head in the sand
“The new emphasis on the exchange rate in terms of a basket rather than against the US dollar should help somewhat with dealing with the problem of divergent monetary policy globally. But the pressures on the exchange rate against the US dollar would rise the more China’s economy slowed and the more that US monetary policy diverged from that in Europe and Japan.”
A Chinese economist said a reserve ratio cut was not the cause of depreciation expectations.
“What we’ve seen now is very similar with the first half of 2014. The central bank intervened a lot and missed the best chances to cut interest rates to shore up growth as a rate cut then would have been considered distrusting of reform,” he said.
“The central bank is just burying its head in the sand,” Ding said. “Eventually, the central bank just can’t resist and cuts in required reserve ratios are unavoidable.”

China rejects U.S. criticism of South China Sea activities


China on Tuesday rejected U.Scriticism of China's reef construction in the South ChinaSea and urged the U.Sside to stop "groundlessaccusations.
"China will never take such unreasonable criticism," Foreign Ministry spokesperson HuaChunying said when responding to a question at a regular news briefing.
She said China had repeatedly made clear the public service nature and legitimacy of reefconstruction and test flights at a newly built airport in the South China Sea.
Hua also urged the U.Sside to play a constructive role in promoting peace and stability inthe Asia-Pacific regioninstead of sowing discord.
A U.Sofficial was quoted as telling the press that ASEAN hoped to unite to protectmaritime rights and avoid conflict in the region.
Hua said she would not comment the official's remarksas "the U.Sofficial is not thespokesperson of ASEAN."
"Maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region is in the interest of all nationsin the region," Hua said.

The world on the edge: Russian and foreign experts reassess world order


Experts from the Valdai Discussion Club outline the most important challenges facing the world today and suggest how to deal with them in a new book, The World on the Edge: The Coil Unwinds.

President Barack Obama, center, talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, center right, as they arrive for a group photo with other leaders for the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. Photo: AP
In 2014 and 2015, all the controversies of the post-Cold War world came to light. During this time, the Kremlin was increasingly outspoken and vocal about what it calls the “world order.” The Kremlin’s attempts to reassess this world order became the focus of Russian and foreign experts of the Valdai Discussion Club.  At the end of 2015 they released a book in Russian with an apocalyptic title: The World on the Edge: The Coil Unwinds.
The title of the Valdai book appears to allude to the title of another famous book,World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, by prominent American environmental analyst Lester Brown. In that book, Brown argues that, “We are facing issues of near-overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency” and “our challenge is to think globally and develop policies to counteract environmental decline and economic collapse.“
“Can we change direction before we go over the edge?” This question asked by Brown is also addressed by Valdai’s experts in their book, but through the lenses of a different field: international relations. In fact, they try to straddle between two extremes — between the positions of doomsayers and eternal optimists — and look at the problem from a half-full, half-empty perspective.
“The world is always in a state of transformation and on the edge of survival, because human existence is fragile,” writes Andrei Bystritsky a professor at Higher School of Economics in Moscow in the forward to the book. “The 21st century is no more stable than the world in the times of Attila [King of the Huns from 434-453].”

Read debates: "Russia's foreign policy failures and achievements of 2015"

Well-known Russian expert and head of the Council on Foreign and Defense PolicyFyodor Lukyanov, the editor of the book, echoes Bystritsky’s view. “The fascination of long-waited economic and political polycentrism is fading away with its real emergence,” he wrote in the forward. “After all, multipolarity itself doesn’t resolve the problem, but rather exacerbates it.”
Explaining the metaphor of the unwinding coil, Lukyanov argues that the changes in the post-Cold War world have been “dormant and they were everywhere and took place very quickly.” Far from strengthening the world, this dormant energy of the unwinding coil is increasing pressure on the global security architecture. And without wise leaders, who are ready to come up with a roadmap of a new project, the power of the compressed coil “threatens to destroy the building,” Lukyanov argues.    
The book brings together the articles of the Valdai Club written by both Russian and foreign pundits, including San Francisco State University’s Andrey Tsygankov, University of Kent’s Richard Sakwa, Dartmouth College’s William Wohlforth, Hudson Institute’sRichard Weitz and others.
One of the advantages of this book is that it gives a broad perspective on global affairs and presents the problem of the world order from different angles. The coverage of this book ranges from the role of strong government in domestic and international affairs to emerging institutions and alliances; from the political and economic challenges of the multipolar world to the role of the West in this changing world; from nonproliferation to innovation, technologies and social problems.
However, skeptics could raise their eyebrows at the content of the book and see such diversity of topics as its major flaw. Indeed, this book is very eclectic in its nature, much like a patchwork quilt.

Also read: "World Order in 2015 as seen by Putin"

On the other hand, this may be seen not only as a disadvantage, but also as an advantage, depending on the perspective one looks at the book.  After all, it brings together articles on various topics under one clear, primary idea: The world seems to be coming apart at the seams. Such an approach makes this intellectual collaboration interdisciplinary and complex, an approach that cannot help being welcomed in such a sophisticated field as global affairs.
What the book lacks
Despite the book bringing together foreign and Russian experts who present different perspectives and in-depth analyses on global affairs, it lacks an opposite take from those Western pundits who are inherently skeptical of the Kremlin’s interpretation of international events. For example, almost all the articles in the book seem to present a one-sided view of the role of the West and particularly, the U.S., in destabilizing the world.
The key idea that penetrates the book seems to be not only the triumph of multipolarity and its challenges, but also the destructive role the U.S. and the West play in pushing the world to the edge. Many of the book’s contributors try to persuade the reader that the U.S. is driven by double standards and to a certain extent is negligent of international law, that Washington tries to maintain what the authors of the book call U.S. hegemony and impose its values and principles on others.
However, the book contains no articles that would look to point out Russia’s double standards and its role in destabilizing the world and redrawing the map of Europe. There seem to be attempts to justify Russia’s policy in Ukraine, but no words about the fact thatthe incorporation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s intransigent support of the Donbas rebels and Syrian President Bashar Assad contributed to making the world even more turbulent and unstable as well.
Although the book makes a convincing argument based on facts, it would be still more persuasive if it presented a more balanced approach rather than a not-so-subtle finger pointing at the West’s flawed foreign policy mistakes

Russia to overcome corruption slowly but surely - Putin

Fighting corruption is an extremely complicated task that requires time, but society must gradually fulfill it or face even bigger problems, President Vladimir Putin told officials on Tuesday.
The question is not in achieving some brilliant victories in this sphere today or tomorrow, this is a very difficult task. But if we stop now, things will only get worse. We must move only forward,” Putin said at the session of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Council.
The president urged the officials to be more active and use various legal mechanisms to confiscate the illegally-acquired property and return it to the state.
According to statistics, of 15.5 billion rubles ($194 million) to be returned by court orders after corruption trials we have so far managed to return only 588 million rubles (over $7 million),” Putin said.
The Russian leader emphasized that this should be also done at an international level.
We must return the assets that have been illegally or unlawfully transferred under different jurisdictions,” he said. “Any attempts of bribery of Russian or foreign civil servants by commercial structures committed on the territory of foreign states must be cut short.”

At the same time, the president noted that the Russian anti-corruption laws were matching the international standards and Russian state structures already had special mechanisms allowing them to uncover corruption at all levels.
Putin said that in the first nine months of 2015, 8,000 people were convicted in anti-corruption processes and about 11,000 people received remands at work for failing to follow anti-corruption standards.
Russia reformed its anti-corruption laws in in 2011 by introducing proportional fines for bribery on the initiative of then-President Dmitry Medvedev and as part of a pro-business liberalization of laws. However, after returning to the presidency and analyzing the situation, Putin criticized the move as ineffective and ordered various federal ministries to draft suggestions and plans to tackle the situation.
In spring 2014, Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika proposed a bill making a prison term the sole punishment for anyone convicted of corruption, saying that compensatory punishment or fines were not a deterrent – one of the key points that provide the rule of law.
In April 2014, the president approved a nationwide anti-corruption program and in December of the same year Putin himself drafted a new anti-corruption bill, proposing correctional labor be used as punishment and a decrease in the amount of fines for minor offences.
In addition, in August 2015 the Russian government has approved a legal amendment that, once passed, would allow Russian law enforcers to open administrative cases against foreign bribe-givers when that bribery damages the interests of the Russian Federation as a state.

Israeli defense minister says ISIS funded with ‘Turkish money’

Israel’s defense minister has alleged that the Islamic State terror group has long been funded with “Turkish money.”
"As you know, Daesh (Islamic State, previously ISIS/ISIL) enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time. I hope that it will be ended," Moshe Yaalon told reporters in Athens on Tuesday after meeting his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos, Reuters reports.
"It's up to Turkey, the Turkish government, the Turkish leadership, to decide whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation to fight terrorism. This is not the case so far," he said.
Yaalon’s counterpart, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, made similar statements, saying that a large part of the Islamic State’s oil trade, as well as the financing of terror, is going through Turkey.
Earlier, Russia had accused Turkey of shady dealings with ISIS. In December, the Russian Defense Ministry released maps and satellite images it said proved that Turkey was the main consumer of oil smuggled out of Syria and Iraq by the terrorists. The ministry also claimed that the Turkish president and his family were involved in the criminal dealings.
Iran has also said it was in possession of photographic and video evidence of ISIS oil entering Turkey in trucks.
In December, Syria’s envoy to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari also accused Turkey of supporting terrorist groups. The diplomatappealed to the UN, urging it to end Ankara’s "violations and crimes."
Turkey has denied the accusations, while the United States last month rejected Russia’s claims that the Turkish leadership was linked to ISIS oil smuggling.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon © Adnan Abidi
Turkey has "permitted jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and Iraq and back, as part of Daesh's terrorist network, and I hope this will stop, too," Yaalon added, according to a transcript of the Israeli minister’s comments provided by the Greek Defense Ministry.
Another force fighting against IS, an Iraqi Shia militia, has also alleged that the terrorists are freely crossing back and forth across the Turkish border, with Ankara providing militants with logistical support. Citing evidence gathered from prisoners and on the battlefield, a military spokesman for the Popular Front’s Badr Organization said the data they've gathered directly implicates Turkey's involvement with Islamic State.
The comments from Turkey’s neighboring countries come as Ankara and Tel Aviv are trying to mend ties and negotiate gas imports. Senior Israeli and Turkish officials met in December to continue negotiations on the exportation of Israeli natural gas to Turkey.