Window on the World
Dozens of presidential elections are being held in 2012 around the globe, from Albania to Venezuela. Meanwhile, the world is witnessing several additional leadership transitions, from China to Yemen. Here is a sampling of RAND observations on some of the nations in flux.
French President François Hollande’s insistence on sticking with his campaign pledge to withdraw France’s 3,400 combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year was unsurprising, but unwelcome and against the principle of ‘in together, out together’ agreed at Lisbon. Other allies, most likely the United States, will need to fill in the resulting shortfall, and France’s precipitous departure could put pressure on other European leaders to accelerate their own plans, causing further strain.
— Christopher S. Chivvis, RAND senior political scientist, on GlobalSecurity.org, May 24, 2012
Prior to what’s called the January 25 Revolution in Egypt, the dynamic that people looked at was a trade-off between stability and reform. You could say that many in the United States favored stability over reform, because they wanted Egypt to be a regional ally. They wanted access to Egypt in terms of naval transit to the Suez and overflight [rights]. But I believe now there’s been a paradigm shift, and people recognize that, in fact, stability and reform isn’t a zero-sum game in the sense that actually reform could be stabilizing, that the status quo of authoritarianism was actually destabilizing, that it was leading to pent-up frustration that would eventually vent.
— Jeffrey Martini, RAND Middle East analyst, on CBS Radio Weekend Roundup, June 15, 2012
‘No one should be surprised by the tumult we’ve seen generally in the Arab world in the wake of regime changes. We should expect to see a lot of differences in post-conflict countries.’ Libya is a particularly challenging case because of the complete dearth of institutions. ‘They’re not just reforming or rewriting a constitution. For Libyans, it’s really a question of creating a fundamental concept of the state from scratch.’
— Laurel E. Miller, RAND senior policy analyst, as quoted within a Los Angeles Times article, July 7, 2012
This modern, sophisticated state cohabits the country with rich and powerful criminal cartels that wage war on one another and challenge any authority that gets in their way, creating in effect a ‘criminal insurgency.’ The new president-elect has promised to address the violence by bringing the army back to its barracks and deploying a more effective police force. Building that force, however, will require significant resources and take time. In the interim, some fear that peace can be purchased only through local accommodations with at least some of the cartels.
— Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the RAND president, in testimony presented before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, July 11, 2012
Any government is going to have to deal with the expectations raised during the campaign that the new government can do something better to ease the pain of the Greeks. The problem is going to be to find an experienced, talented finance minister and foreign minister with whom the Europeans can have confidence. Ironically enough, the Greek problem is less a market problem for Greece itself and more of a negotiations problem. They need to negotiate with the Europeans about the conditions under which the Europeans would release the next tranche of funding under the bailout.
— Charles Ries, former U.S. ambassador to Greece, and RAND vice president, international, on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness,” June 15, 2012
The chief beneficiaries of [Vladimir] Putin’s rule—the increasingly affluent and middle-class residents of places like Moscow—show no signs of muffling their anger about his return to the Kremlin despite an ongoing crackdown on political dissent. Still, Putin knows how to cater to the two-thirds of the Russian electorate that voted for him in March and reside primarily in Russia’s smaller cities and countryside. He may find it hard to resist the temptation to play upon their worst fears and anti-Western stereotypes. Sacrificing the past several years of dramatic improvement in the U.S.-Russian relationship may seem like a small price to pay if it breathes new life and legitimacy into his rule.
— Andrew S. Weiss, director, RAND Center for Russia and Eurasia, in Foreign Policy, June 19, 2012