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Vladimir Putin loves to talk nostalgically about the might of the former Soviet Union-and in annexing Crimea, he has taken a dramatic step toward re-creating it. But Russia’s strongman hasn’t read his history: In truth, the might of the Brezhnev-era USSR was built on high oil and gas prices.
When those prices began to fall in the 1980s—with more than a little help from Ronald Reagan’s White House—Soviet power crumbled with it. Now, a generation later, Western politicians are remembering that energy can be used as a geopolitical weapon.
Putin, it seems, is not the only leader who can play the game of History Repeating. “Putin looks strong now, but his Kremlin is built on the one thing in Russia he doesn’t control: the price of oil,” says Ben Judah, author of Fragile Empire, a study of Putin’s Russia. “Eventually, the money is going to run out, and then he will find himself in the same position Soviet leaders were in by the late 1980s, forced to confront political and economic crises while trying to hold the country together.”
Energy is a potent weapon for the West in the new Cold War against Vladimir Putin-just as it was the last time around. President Barack Obama has already made the first move, announcing last week that he would speed up plans to export liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Asian and European markets.
He’s also removed 1970s restrictions on exporting U.S. crude oil, goaded by accusations by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner that the White House’s prevarication on oil and gas export licenses was helping Putin “to finance his geopolitical goals.”
And he’s sold off 5 million barrels of the U.S.’s 727-million-barrel-strong strategic reserve, depressing prices, as a “test release.” (Putin too has played the energy card: On April 1, Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom announced a more than 40 percent price hike for natural gas to Ukraine.)
Women who have been elected or appointed head of state around the globe.
Female head of government (yellow)
Female head of state (light blue)
Female head of state/government (combined) (light green)
Female head of state and female head of government (dark green)
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, Leader of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, Is Arrested in Mexico.
Newsweek profiled Loera, Mexico’s “Most Powerful Drug Lord”, aka the Most Wanted Man in Mexico, several times over the years. His cartel has had an impact on everything from the country’s musicians to the imagination of its children.
But those who know of Chapo’s powers say that no matter where he’s kept in Mexico, he’ll receive special treatment: his cartel runs the country’s prisons as efficiently as it crosses the U.S.-American border.
Jeff Stein of Newsweek has reported that “a well-placed intelligence source” has confirmed that Saudi Arabia purchased Chinese-made DF-21 ballistic missiles in 2007 — apparently with the approval of the George W. Bush administration.
It’s the first intelligence source to confirm, albeit anonymously, something that’s long been rumored. It is a good bit of reporting — and I say this not simply because Stein quotes me. If Saudi Arabia bought the missiles in 2007, it has taken a long time for a reporter to get a source to actually confirm the suspected sale. But the timing of the leak isn’t surprising. Saudi Arabia is growing increasingly concerned about Iran, and over the past few years it has started talking a lot about its Strategic Missile Force. In the course of doing so, Riyadh has hinted that it has bought at least two new types of ballistic missiles — one of which is possibly the medium-range DF-21, which, in China, comes in both conventional and nuclear flavors.
More from Foreign Policy: Why Did Saudi Arabia Buy Chinese Missiles?
Thanks so much for the follow up on Jeff Stein’s piece!
As two military-style helicopters touch down in a remote village in the jungles of Ecuador, masked men with guns hop out and scurry into a one-room schoolhouse. Inside they capture their target: a 6-year-old girl who doesn’t speak their language and can’t even guess why they are kidnapping her.
They carry the terrified child, Conta, into the belly of one of the helicopters and it quickly rises up and away. Inside a thing she has only ever known as a screaming demon that roars across the sky, she is flown to a nearby city. There, she is taken by these armed strangers to a hospital that is a teeming petri dish of germs for which she has no immunity, since she has never been in a city before.
This is the second time in seven months this girl, who grew up in a tribe without access to metal tools, has been violently wrenched from her daily life and thrust into a new and terrifying world. [more]
I am very pleased to tell you that Josh Rogin is joining The Daily Beast as senior correspondent later this month, covering politics and national security. We are thrilled to have Josh’s talents joining those of Eli Lake, Eleanor Clift, Michael Tomasky, Michelle Cottle, Daniel Klaidman, David Freedlander, Stuart Stevens, Jon Favreau and David Frum as part of The Beast’s re-energized team under John Avlon’s direction.
Josh has been a senior staff writer with Foreign Policy magazine since 2009 where he has extensively covered the State and Defense departments, the National Security Council, Congress and the diplomatic communities. He previously wrote on foreign policy for Congressional Quarterly and has also contributed to the Washington Post. Josh is a graduate of the George Washington University, he speaks Japanese and is a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellowship and the 2011 recipient of the Interaction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He is originally from Philadelphia and lives currently in Washington, DC.
Please join me in welcoming Josh!
So this happened today. Our foreign policy team is getting pretty awesome.
That’s how one attendee at the annual lunch of the Better Government Association summed up a speech given by Lara Logan “in which the foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes star skewered American policy in Afghanistan and Libya, called for a ramped-up military campaign against terrorists, and criticized the Obama administration and others for both underestimating the Taliban’s strength in Afghanistan and for tolerating Pakistan’s obvious coddling of terrorists killing American soldiers.”