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Čtenářský výběr: ústupkář Kissinger, ekologie a zastarávání technologií

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Přinášíme vám výběr zajímavých zpráv a publikací, které nás v posledních týdnech zaujaly – od mezinárodní politiky až po ekologii a technologie. Anglická verze článku je dostupná zde.

Starý ústupkář Kissinger

Henry Kissinger zhřešil: navzdory své reputaci tvrdého bojovníka let dob studené války si tento 99 letý geostratég vysloužil mnoho zklamaných komentářů od účastníků Světového ekonomického fóra, a to když vyzval k rychlému diplomatickému urovnání konfliktu na Ukrajině. Jak? Tím, že Ukrajina uzná situaci na bojišti a postoupí některá území: jmenovitě Krym, nad nímž už od roku 2014 nemá tak či tak žádnou kontrolu, a okupované oblasti Donbasu. I když se taková rada může vzhledem k narůstající eskalaci konfliktu jevit jako poměrně rozumný přístup – a čím dříve by byla přijata, tím lépe pro Ukrajinu i Evropu – v Davosu si těmito slovy mnoho pochopení nezískal. Jeden ukrajinský poslanec odpověděl, že Kissinger zřejmě “stále žije ve 20. století”, kdežto nizozemský premiér Mark Rutte pocítil nutkání vyjádřit svůj “oficiální nesouhlas”. Mychajlo Podoljak, poradce prezidenta Zelenského, byl poněkud méně diplomatický a na svém Twitteru napsal, že Ukrajina na panikáře z Davosu nemá čas a Kissinger by navíc klidně obětoval i Polsko a Litvu, pokud by to zastavilo válku.

Ti, kdo dnes Kissingera obviňují z “appeasementu”, zapomínají, že podobné kritice čelil již dříve, když ještě v letech 1969-1977 hrál klíčovou roli v americké zahraniční politice. Tehdy by pro jedny ze svých kritiků válečným štváčem, zatímco washingtonské jestřáby zklamala jeho politika détente (mírového soužití) se Sovětským svazem a navázání vztahů s “komunistickou Čínou”. Kissingerovým trumfem bylo, že dokázal hrát s kartami války i diplomacie: v tom samém roce 1973 podepsal Pařížské mírové dohody, které vedly ke stažení amerických vojsk z Vietnamu, aby o pár měsíců zapojil USA do vojenského převratu v Chile, který vynesl k moci později nechvalně proslulého diktátora Augusta Pinocheta. Jinými slovy, Kissinger byl v prvé řadě zastánce Realpolitik s vytříbeným citem pro to, který ze dvou nástrojů zahraniční politiky si daný okamžik právě žádá. Už to by mělo být dostatečným důvodem k tomu, abychom jeho rady dostatečně ocenili. (V nedávném rozhovoru pro Financial Times ke svému postoji připojil i další argument: nevehnat Rusko do náručí Číny.)

Šlo válce zabránit?

To je pochopitelně jedna z klíčových otázek současných debat, které obvykle dospějí k rozuzlení až po mnoha letech, kdy historici získají přístup ke státním archivům. Přesto se k tématu vyjádřil kanadský profesor politologie Ivan Katchanovski (odborník na Rusko a Ukrajinu na univerzitě v Ottawě), který se opírá o analýzu situace před začátkem ruské invaze. Tvrdí, že dohoda o neutrálním statusu Ukrajiny a plnění minských dohod by mír skutečně zachovaly. Reagoval tím na výroky kanadské velvyslankyně v Ukrajině Larisy Galadzové, která v rozhovoru Putina vylíčila jako iracionálního blázna a konflikt zhodnotila tak, že mu nikdo nemohl zabránit v tom, “že udělal co udělal”. Podle Katchanovského k takovému závěru nejsou dostatečné důkazy, zvláště s přihlédnutím k tomu, že snahy ukončit boje na Donbase diplomatickou cestu probíhaly od roku 2014.

Spíše chodcem nežli vůdcem

Sylvain Tesson, francouzský spisovatel a cestovatel (zkrátka dobrodruh), je možná až příliš skromný, pokud jde o moudrost, které si přiučil při putování po světě. Tento autor v České republice málo známý autor (v překladu vyšly dvě z jeho knížek) v nedávném rozhovoru pro Figaro Vox ukazuje, že tišší tao života má svou vlastní sílu, což je zřejmé zvlášť v porovnání s poněkud samolibým a vychloubačným vystupováním druhého z dotazovaných, levicového filosofa a novináře Régise Debraye. Tesson medituje o dvou cestách, které se nám nabízejí k tomu, abychom čelili času: buď “stavění katedrál” v titánském vzdoru vůči jeho toku, nebo rozjímání nad jeho třpytem ve snaze plně prožít okamžiky štěstí a nádhery, které nabízí. Epikurejský hédonista a další francouzský myslitel Michel Onfray by s ním nepochybně souhlasil… Poutníkova prozíravost totiž spočívá v tom, že sklízí zkušenosti, spíše než odměny a vavříny. Nebo jak to také Tesson podává v jedné znělé větě, je to o tom “být spíše chodcem nežli vůdcem, a nežli pletichářem spíše hraničářem.” I když se tyto webové stránky jmenují “Evropský stratég”, přiznávám, že bych mnohem raději kráčel v Tessonových svižných stopách, než po digitalizovaných dálnicích vedoucích do výšin v Davosu… Naši čtenáři si mohou udělat vlastní úsudek v případě, že ovládají francouzštinu a budou mít přístup k tomuto velmi zajímavému rozhovoru (který je bohužel přístupný pouze pro předplatitele novin Figaro).

Zastarávání technologií snižuje růst produktivity

To je přinejmenším závěr výzkumné práce, jejíž autorkou je Seda Basihos (“Blue Screen of Death? Obsolescence and Structural Change in the Computer Age”, momentálně v rámci recenzního řízení). Seda Basihos tvrdí, že rychlé zastarávání zejména výpočetní techniky ohrožuje hospodářský růst. Každé digitální řešení se sebou přináší nové problémy, což vede ke zvyšující se míře zastarávání počítačových systémů – s každou novou aktualizací softwaru, změnou hardwaru nebo zrušením dlouhodobé OEM podpory. Jak se tempo výměny technologií zrychluje, zaměstnanci musí opakovaně měnit své pracovní postupy. V důsledku toho se výroba stává relativně kapitálově náročnější, ale tento nárůst kapitálu v poměru k počtu pracovních míst nevede ke zvýšení produktivity. Zajímavé čtení, se kterým se ztotožní každý, kdo denně v kanceláři bojuje s desítkami a stovkami e-mailů.

K nahrazení jedné jaderné elektrárny je třeba 50 až 150 tisíc větrných

Jean-Marc Jancovici je inženýr, konzultant a odborník na klima a energetiku. Podobně jako v případě Sylvaina Tessona není příliš známý za hranicemi Francie. Zastává poměrně nekonformí přístup k ekologii a na mainstreamové návrhy boje proti klimatickým změnám se dívá skepticky. Na jedné straně je zastáncem šetrnějšího využívání přírodních zdrojů, neboť se domnívá, že přechod od fosilních paliv k jiným surovinám (například těch potřebných k výrobě elektromobilů) nemá velkou cenu bez řešení celkové spotřeby naší společnosti. Na druhou stranu považuje za jeden z nejlepších zdrojů jadernou energii, která podle jeho názoru méně nevýhod než jiné možnosti. Čtenáři se mohou s jeho názory blíže seznámit v nedávném rozhovoru, kde například uvádí, že k výrobě 1 kWh elektřiny je v jaderné energetice zapotřebí 10 až 50krát méně surovin než v případě solární nebo větrné energie. Podle jeho odhadu to znamená, že k nahrazení jedné jaderné elektrárny je třeba postavit 50 až 150 tisíc větrných elektráren.

Reader’s Digest: Kissinger the Terrible, technology obsolescence and productivity…

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The European Strategist bring you a selection of interesting news and publications that captured our attention in the last weeks – from international politics, to ecology and technology. The Czech version of this article can be found here.

Kissinger the Terrible

Henry Kissinger committed a sin: despite his credentials as a Cold War hardliner, the 99-year old American geostrategist disappointed quite a few attendees of the World Economic Forum by calling for a quick diplomatic settlement in Ukraine. How? By Ukraine acknowledging the reality on the ground and ceding territories to Russia: Crimea, over which they have no control since the 2014 coup d’état in Kiev, as well as occupied areas of Donbas. While such advice, given the escalatory trajectory of the conflict, would seem as a rather sensible one– and the sooner taken, the better perhaps for both Ukraine and Europe – at Davos it did not earn him much comprehension. One Ukrainian MP suggested Kissinger ‘still lives in the 20th century’, while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte felt the need to declare his ‘official disagreement’. Mykhailo Podolyak, Adviser to President Zelensky, was even less diplomatic, tweeting that Ukraine has no time to listen to such panickers, while simultaneously accussing Kissinger that he would also give up Poland and Lithuania if it stopped the war.

Those who accuse Kissinger of ‘appeasement’ forget that he faced such criticism before when he still played a key role in the US foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. For one side of his opponents, he was a warmonger, while for the others his détente with the Soviet Union and opening of relations with the ‘communist China’, felt well below the expectations of the Washington hawks. In fact, a key factor of Kissinger’s success was that could play with both the cards of war and diplomacy, simultaneously involving the US in the 1973 Chilean military coup that brought the dictator Pinochet to power, and signing within the same year the Paris Peace Accords that led to the withdrawal from Vietnam. In other words, Kissinger has been foremost an adherent to Realpolitik, with a keen sense for which of the two instruments of foreign policy a given moment calls for. This should be a sufficient reason to give sufficient credit to his advice. (Along with the bigger picture of not driving Russia towards China, which he had pointed out in a recent interview for Financial Times.)

Could the war have been prevented?

This is of course one of the subjects of on-going debate, which is usually resolved only many years later as historians gain access to relevant archives. However, looking at the situation prior to the start of the Russian invasion, Canadian political science professor Ivan Katchanovski (expert on Russia and Ukraine at the University of Ottawa) argues that an agreement on neutrality and fulfilment of the Minsk accords would have preserved peace. He thus reacted to comments made by Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Larisa Galadza, who had depicted Putin as irrational and claimed no one could stop him ‘doing what [he] did’. Katchanovski argues this is not supported by the evidence we have, including that since 2014, there was an effort to end fighting in the Donbas region diplomatically.

To be a walker rather than a leader

Sylvain Tesson, French writer and traveller (or ‘travelling writer’?) is far too modest about the wisdom that he acquired along his multiple adventures around the world. Little known outside of his native France, in a recent interview at Figaro Vox, his quiet tao shows its force against somewhat boastful and self-congratulory remarks of the second interlocutor, philosopher and journalist Régis Debray. Tesson meditates on two paths that are given to us to face time: either ‘building cathedrals’ in a titanesque defiance of its current, or contemplating its shine in an effort to fully live through its moments of happiness and splendour. No doubt, the epicurean hedonist Michel Onfray would agree… The pilgrim’s sagacity is to grasp and harvest what one can, in experience rather than in laurels or rewards. In one beautiful phrase, ‘to be a walker rather than a leader, a prowler of the edges rather than a schemer.’ Despite that this website bears the title ‘European Strategist’, I would much more happilly follow in Tesson’s brisk footstep, on a country path, rather than on a hyper-connected asphalt road leading up to the fortress in Davos… Our readers can judge for their own and even more so if they have access to this fascinating interview (which is unfortunately for subscribers only.)

Technology obsolescence reduces productivity growth

This is the conclusion of a research paper by Seda Basihos (“Blue Screen of Death? Obsolescence and Structural Change in the Computer Age”, pending peer review). The author argues that rapid obsolescence, particularly in computing, is not going well with economic growth. Every digital solution creates new problems, leading to increasing rates of obsolescence of computer systems – and this comes with every software update, hardware change, or withdrawal of OEM support. As the replacement rate of technology accelerates, also workers have to continually re-learn their jobs. In consequence, also production becomes relatively more capital-intensive, but this increase in capital per workes does not lead to greater productivity. An interesting reading that corresponds to the day-to-day experience of any office employee having to battle through dozens or hundreds of e-mails a day!

To replace one nuclear power plant, you need 50 – 150,000 wind turbines

Jean-Marc Jancovici is an engineering consultant, energy and climate expert, who is well-known – in France. He is also one of the non-conformist supporters of greening our societies, who regards the mainstream proposals to fight climate change with quite some scepticism. On one hand, he is an advocate of greater resource-sobriety, since he believes that shifting from using fossil fuels to depending on other raw materials (for example, to build battery electric vehicles) without addressing the overall level of consumption is not a solution. On the other, he sees nuclear power as a good source of energy, which has comparably less downsides than other options. Readers can see more of his views in a recent interview, where he stipulates that 10 to 50 times less materials are required to produce 1 kWh of electricity with the nuclear than with solar or wind powerplants. In his estimate, this entails that replacing one nuclear power plant necessitates constructing between 50 to 150 thousand wind turbines.

Orbán triumphant. How to understand Hungarian 2018 elections?

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The final results of the Hungarian general election are out. The governing Fidesz party scored an overwhelming victory. Viktor Orbán, the Hungary’s well-known right-wing populist leader, will have another four years to lead his illiberal regime. It is the first time after the fall of the communism in Hungary when a party will be governing for the third consecutive term. Let’s look at the country’s political landscape and try to find out what happened.

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Deadlock: The results of the Spanish general elections

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On the 26th of June, the Spanish government celebrated a second general election after more than six months of political deadlock. The result was yet another stalemate, but this time the conservative PP (Partido Popular, or Popular Party) grew in the number of votes and seats gained in Spain’s Congress of Deputies, while every other major political force – PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party), Ciudadanos (Citizens) and the newly-formed left-wing populist party Unidos Podemos (United We Can) – lost both votes and seats. The incumbent President Mariano Rajoy, leader of the PP, was quick to proclaim victory and thank his voters for their support, despite still being a long way from recovering his party’s absolute majority, lost in the December 2015 elections.
Now, the country is faced with three possible outcomes to these elections, all of which would be the first of their kind in the history of modern Spanish democracy: A minority government, a coalition government or, once again, new elections six months from now.

A SYSTEM WITH NO CONTINGENCY PLAN

In order to grasp how this situation has come about, it is necessary to understand that the Spanish system of government is predicated on the condition that any political party that wins in the general elections can form a government only when it has an absolute majority of seats in the Congress of Deputies of Spain – this being defined as holding 176 seats out of 350. The system is meant to ensure that, in theory, any party which does not attain absolute majority must form a coalition government with other groups through agreements and compromises. The December 2015 elections resulted in no one party – even the PP, which collected the most number of votes and held the largest number of seats in Congress – being able to achieve that absolute majority, and so all four major political groups entered into negotiations with one another, ostensibly to discuss the creation of a coalition government and come to an agreement on how to do so.
But the hope that a compromise would be reached eventually faded as the months passed and the negotiations dragged on, often filled with recriminations and mutual accusations of an unwillingness to co-operate. It soon became increasingly clear that a solution to the political quagmire the country had stumbled into would not be materializing any time soon.
And so, after six long months of largely fruitless talks, new elections were held this past June. The PP grew in votes and in seats, while the other political groups lost both, but once again no one party achieved the numbers needed to obtain that elusive absolute majority in Congress. Once again, the four main political parties have entered negotiations with one another, but now the question is: What will happen if no agreement is reached?
If no agreement is reached, then the Spanish democratic system will be faced with a situation for which it has no contingency plan, as its constitution only contemplates the possibility of a single repetition of the country’s general elections, and PP currently remains as a caretaker government until further notice.

THE SPANISH POPULIST LEFT: LOSING MOMENTUM?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the elections was the apparent loss of momentum suffered by the far-left populist movement Podemos, which disappointed and frustrated – but above all surprised – both its leadership and its supporters, who had expected the party would become the second political force in Spain and instead saw how they wound up losing votes.
The results of the December 2015 elections were a remarkable success for the group, as they went from a party with no congressional representatives to suddenly holding 69 seats. The subsequent merging between Podemos and the far-left party Izquierda Unida (United Left) – forming the group Unidos Podemos – was expected to enjoy greater success in these elections. There was talk of a Sorpasso, a situation in which the group would overtake the PSOE in seats and votes and, effectively, become the second political force in the country.

At this point it is important to note that, on the Spanish political scene, there is no major figurehead for the far-right. France has Jeanne-Marine Le Pen, Austria has Norbert Hofer, Greece has the Golden Dawn, but Spain has only loose groups – among them reduced remnants of the Fascist Falange party – with no real unity, and no leader who can boast a significant presence either in the political landscape or in the media. Instead, it is far-left movements such as Podemos which have become increasingly relevant on the Spanish political scene, something that soon gave rise to comparisons to Greece’s SYRIZA party.
Both SYRIZA and Podemos enjoyed a remarkable growth in their early days, thanks to support among those voters most affected by the economic crisis, and their anti-austerity rhetoric is often very similar. Indeed, Pablo Iglesias – the General Secretary of Podemos – has often expressed support for Alexis Tsipras, leader of SYRIZA and now the Prime Minister of Greece. There was serious talk that the next Spanish government would be a coalition, headed by Unidos Podemos – similar to the coalition government of Greece, formed by the left-wing SYRIZA and the right-wing ANEL.
But the results of the elections have apparently put a brake on those hopes of success held by the party and its supporters, instead added only two more seats to their previous result – going from 69 to 71 – despite pre-election polls predicting much better results. A number of reasons can be put forward for this apparent setback; notably there has been a growing disenchantment among many of Podemos’ supporters, who feel that the group’s growing focus on politics has distanced them from their original anti-austerity rhetoric. This, along with visible disagreements among the party leadership and a higher number of abstentions in this year’s elections than last year’s, all seem to have contributed to the wind being let out of the group’s sails.
Whatever the reason, the current reality is that Spain’s populistic far-left, before so buoyed by an unexpected popularity and success, is now in serious danger of losing its momentum as it becomes a major player on the country’s political scene.

A LONG ROAD AHEAD

For six months now the PP have remained in power as a caretaker government rather than an official one, and no-one seems to want to contemplate what could happen if this situation is not resolved. Another repetition of the general elections has been discussed, and while it is a possibility, it is also becoming apparent that both politicians and ordinary citizens are getting tired of the stalemate and just want to reach a solution, any solution. A coalition government would, for many, be ideal, but two weeks on and no immediate agreement between any of the major political players appears forthcoming.

Another, possibly more likely, outcome is that the PP will simply form a minority government. If this were to happen, not only would it be the first of its kind in the history of modern, post-Francoist Spanish democracy, it would also no doubt please the millions of citizens who voted for them. But it would also deeply anger the millions of others who did not, and leave a divided Congress full of groups largely unwilling to give the PP any of the free rein it has had thus far to enact its policies, and determined to mount a fiercer opposition than has been faced by Mariano Rajoy.
There is a lot of talk now about what to do and what the immediate political future could be, but a common Spanish saying seems to sum up the current situation best:
Del dicho al hecho hay un trecho.
There’s a long road between what is said to what is done.

Javier Alcover

Image: “Adrian faces his first bull” by Keith Williamson, flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Press Briefing: Common language for the EU, Populists in Europe & Eurasian century

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German AfD candidate: ‘The EU is upside down’ (EurActiv, 25th May ’14)

Germany’s leading eurosceptic party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), received 7 percent of the vote in their country and will be sending 7 MEPs to the European Parliament. While AfD opposes the euro currency and would like that Germany reintroduces Deutsche Mark, it has been claiming that it does not oppose the European Union as such.

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Welcome to the European Strategist!

A snapshot of a chessboard with someone's hand making a move with the black queenThe last couple of weeks were filled with in-house discussions on what kind of ideology we ought to use, what kind of mission and vision we should stand for and of course, what kind of design we should create for our very own online international affairs magazine, The European Strategist. Well, as you probably see now, we are ready, we made finishing touches and today, with this short editorial, we finally get going. I really hope that you will like our magazine and read it as much as you can because all the contributors will put their hearts into it. Of course, we might make some mistakes along the way, it can happen, surely, as we are not experts, we only aspire to be experts in our respective fields and hopefully, with your comments and suggestions we will succeed.

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