Bringing together the best longer Interpreter articles you were too busy to read this week.
This week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would 'shirtfront' Vladimir Putin over the MH17 tragedy at next months G20 meeting in Brisbane. Matthew Sussex argued that the consequences to the bilateral relationship would be minimal:
In a sense it is fortunate that Abbott chose to speak bluntly about a low-priority relationship for Australia, one which was on a downward trajectory before the conflict in Ukraine and which has little prospect of turning around any time soon. It is also likely to be a storm in a teacup. The Kremlin is used to being chastised by Western governments, and views Canberra (rightly or wrongly) as little more than a pro-US mouthpiece. So in a bilateral climate in which even mutual respect is hard to achieve, it is unlikely Abbott's comments will do much long-term damage.
Rod Barton, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq and Special Advisor to the Iraq Survey Group, on the recent New York Times investigative report concerning chemical weapon in Iraq:
When UN weapons inspectors eliminated Iraq's chemical weapons program in the 1990s, some chemicals and damaged chemical weapons that were too dangerous to destroy by standard techniques were entombed in bunkers at Al Muthanna. It was decided at the time that these items would be of no practical military use, and that any attempt to recover them would be likely to result in injury or death because of their highly unstable condition. If the UN experts could not safely handle such weapons then, it seems unlikely ISIS would fair better now. In any case, none of the items are in such a state that they could be used as a weapon without considerable modification or development.
There is cause for optimism concerning the G20 and global economic growth targets, says Mike Callaghan:
The topics being discussed at the many seminars that take place in the margins of the meetings added to the sense of concern, with a common theme being whether there was secular stagnation, with countries growing well below their potential growth rates for an extended period. Adding to the gloom was the sharp fall in global shares as investor fears deepened over prospects for the global economy. Then there was the Ebola crisis.
Against this background, Treasurer Hockey was a rare beacon of optimism.
He chaired the final meeting of G20 finance ministers under the Australian presidency and commented that while there was a lot of talk about economic challenges and renewed weakness, 'we emerged with optimism'. He said the growth strategies members had submitted to date (which will be released at the Brisbane Summit) will if implemented increase global growth by an extra 1.8% over five years. Hockey said that between now and Brisbane, G20 members would continue to work hard to identify new measures which will achieve the 2% target set in February this year.
Ravi Ganesh continued our debate on sea-based weapons and strategic stability:
While the deployment of specific weapons does have a significant impact, there are other factors that contribute to nuclear stability. The most important of these is the stability and maturity of the states concerned in the management of this capability. The India-China situation is not one to cause unease in the sub-continent at the present time. It is the India-Pakistan situation that is cause for concern, primarily because of the overriding influence and control of the Pakistani military in that country's political and security affairs. The egregious stratagem adopted by Pakistan, euphemistically termed 'sub-conventional warfare', promotes terrorist attacks periodically across the border under a virtual nuclear umbrella, and keeps the both countries constantly on the brink.
Rory Medcalf argued that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Australia next month will be significant for the bilateral relationship:
It is fitting in every way that Mr Modi should speak to the Australian Parliament. He is, after all, the politician with the biggest democratic mandate in the world, given the scale of his victory in this year's Indian election. His worthwhile agenda to improve Indian governance, economic performance, science, education, development and strategic influence is in step with what Australia wants to offer India as a partner – as Indian public opinion broadly recognises, according to this poll. Hu Jintao, Shinzo Abe, and Indonesia's SBY, not to mention Barack Obama and George W Bush, have all had their moment to speak directly to Australia's elected representatives. In addition to China, Japan, Indonesia and the US, India is Australia's key Indo-Pacific partner.
What is the definition of a 'moderate' rebel, asked Rodger Shanahan?:
But Western politicians of all persuasions would have you believe that a moderate rebel is 'someone that we can do business with', which is a rather vacuous idea, since you can only ever measure how moderate a person is when they are actually in a position to wield power. On the path to success, people and groups (particularly in the Middle East) are likely to say whatever it takes to get external support.
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Even after the ISIS threat is addressed, there is still the question of what to do about Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic Front and myriad other Islamist groups inhabiting the Syrian battlefield. None of them have fixed personnel rosters, and individuals can and do travel between them depending on battlefield success, resource availability, leadership disagreement or doctrinal differences. Some will undoubtedly find their way into the 'moderate' groups currently being 'vetted' for training in 'liberal' regional countries.
Julian Snelder on the smartphone market in China:
The prospect of Apple or Samsung tripping up keeps Chinese companies in the game. The biggest have grown to dominate their home market and have ambitions overseas. Some, like Xiaomi, are genuinely innovative. The Chineserule manufacturing too. Still, despite working so hard, they scrape out only a 2-3% margin, at best. The domestic market is a bloodbath; everyone aspires to the big league and to outlast the others, ensuring a slow, painful shakeout of the 100+ Chinese players. Exports are more profitable, so lesser-known firms are shipping to India and Africa in amazing quantities, tens of millions of units per year.
Milton Osborne took an in-depth look at the Islamic community in Cambodia:
As a long-time observer of Cambodia, I have been struck during recent visits to Phnom Penh by the extent to which, in the eyes of my ethnic Cambodian interlocutors, the Islamic community is seen as firmly apart from the Buddhist majority, however much the Government seeks to present a picture of 'Khmers Islam' as an integral part of the nation. These views come from a limited and admittedly elite sample of local observers. But one theme was pervasive: the belief that the Islamic community in Cambodia is more rather than less integrated into the national community than once was the case.
Why signing the Biological Weapons convention is a critical step for Burma, explains Andrew Selth:
Whether the recent decision in Naypyidaw puts all suspicions to rest remains to be seen. Burma does not have an unblemished record of abiding by its international obligations, and doubtless there will be some who will remain sceptical of the Government's bona fides. Foreign governments and international organisations, however, will welcome this step as another sign of Burma's wish to be accepted as a respectable international citizen.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ed Yourdon.