Month: September 2009

Obama’s missile defense rethink: The Polish reaction

Obama’s missile defense rethink: The Polish reaction

In order to understand the reaction of the Polish government, political elites, and public to President Barack Obama’s decision to discontinue the U.S. missile defense plan in Eastern Europe, one has to remember why Warsaw had engaged in talks with Washington in the first place. It wasn’t the anti-missile shield specifically, since the main U.S. goals of the project–to defend U.S. territory, U.S. forces, and the territory of U.S. allies against a long-range ballistic missile attack from the likes of Iran–weren’t equally as important to Poland.

The shared sins of Soviet and U.S. nuclear testing

The shared sins of Soviet and U.S. nuclear testing

Gerald Sperling’s new film, Silent Bombs: All for the Motherland, recounts the effects of decades of nuclear testing on Kazakh villagers near the Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. The film is at once very particular to Kazakhstan, the exotic ambience of which is evoked with a sad lyricism, and, in a disturbing way, generic to the nuclear age. It evokes something that is simultaneously strange and familiar.

Deconstructing the Iranian challenge

Deconstructing the Iranian challenge

Long-awaited talks between Iran and six major powers (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States) start on Thursday, October 1, in Geneva. Bolstered by last week’s revelation of a enrichment facility hidden under a mountain near the Iranian city of Qom, Western officials reportedly will press Iran to commit to the Additional Protocol, an agreement that allows wide-ranging access for international inspectors.

Leadership in a public health crisis

Leadership in a public health crisis

Max Weber, the noted German sociologist of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, wrote that an inherent conflict exists between political and bureaucratic leaders. Political leaders strive to get reelected and implement their ideologically based policies while bureaucratic leaders aim to perpetuate and expand their bureaucracies.

The lasting toll of Semipalatinsk’s nuclear testing

The lasting toll of Semipalatinsk’s nuclear testing

During the rainy, windy early morning of August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear explosion–code-named “First Lightning”–at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in eastern Kazakhstan. Witnesses remember feeling the ground tremble and seeing the sky turn red–and how that red sky was quickly dominated by a peculiar mushroom-shaped cloud. The Soviet military and scientific personnel conducting the test knew that the rain and wind would make the local population more susceptible to radioactive fallout.

The world must abolish nuclear weapons

The world must abolish nuclear weapons

At the June 18 ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the last nuclear test at Semipalatinsk, the site of hundreds of Soviet-era nuclear tests, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed that August 29–the day of the very first nuclear explosion at the site–should be declared by the United Nations as the “World Day of Renouncing Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Technical flaws in the Obama missile defense plan

Technical flaws in the Obama missile defense plan

Last Thursday, the Obama administration announced its long-awaited decision on a European missile defense system against potential Iranian ballistic missiles. In short, it will shelve the Bush administration’s plan for a defense against intercontinental-range missiles, and instead, it will field a system designed to intercept shorter-range missiles, on which Iran is making quicker progress.

How civil society could be the key to a new BWC

How civil society could be the key to a new BWC

People say my office is a mess. While I don’t necessarily disagree with them, I would argue that there is order in the chaos. For example, one pile of papers is labelled “Interesting (All Topics).” I usually reread them during the summer. But making my way through this pile this summer has been difficult because I have spent so much time following the Ashes cricket series and the World Athletics Championships.

The curious oil and natural gas price differential

The curious oil and natural gas price differential

Something strange is happening in the natural gas and oil markets. The average real price of natural gas during the last 20 years has been about $3.80 per gigajoule, and the average real price of oil in that same period has been about $5.90 per gigajoule. During this time, the long-term ratio between the real price of oil and the real price of natural gas has constantly varied between 1 and 2 with the long-term average hovering at 1.6. Since January, however, that ratio has jumped to more than 4 to 1, which is unprecedented and has implications for long-term energy policy.

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