Russia and Influence

Last night, we read an article called “Putin’s Game.” Russia is very skilled at computer science and hacking. President Vladimir Putin is fearful of another collapse like the Soviet Union, and he uses aggression to mask the weakness of the state.1 Putin also feels that the US might try to use “democratic empowerment” to trap Russia under its sphere of influence.1 This explains Putin’s disgust for the US and the attempts to hack into US systems during the 2016 election.

I read an article in the New York Times called “Russia Is Returning to Growth (Just in Time for an Election).” which was published in 2017 just before Putin’s reelection. Just before the election, Russia was experiencing significant economic growth under Putin, which may have helped him win. Inflation was decreasing, the consumer demand was high, and the central bank was becoming more stable.2 Government spending helped overcome western sanctions imposed during the Ukraine crisis, supporting Putin’s fight to overcome western influence.2

How can Russia gain more credibility in the global theater and remain independent of influence?

Russia is a country that has experienced recurring periods of stability and collapse. After a collapse, a strong leader or party is needed to restabilize the state. This has happened with the creation of the Soviet Union, and later the election of Putin. Only now is Russia beginning to experience growth again. This is similar to the entrance of the PRI in Mexico during the 20th century. After the Mexican Revolution, Mexico was a fragile state. However, the PRI was a strong party that despite its authoritarian tendencies, transitioned Mexico from a period of weakness to a period of strength.


1 Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Game” The Atlantic (January/February 2018)

2 Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia Is Returning to Growth (Just in Time for an Election).” The New York Times (November 24, 2017)

Turkey and Factionalism

Last night, we read federalist paper number 10 by James Madison. This paper talked about how factions can cause damage, but they are inevitable because people will naturally form different opinions based upon their interests.1 However, to abolish factions would be the same as to expel the freedom of assembly, and also man’s liberty.1 Madison describes more powerful factions versus less powerful ones and the importance of electing representatives to promote the greater good. He offers that the best way to suppress violence in factions is to grant every citizen a perpetuating commonality – the Union.1

I read an article in the New York Times called “Can Turkey Overcome Its Bitter Factionalism?” It explains the uncertainty of how the 2018 election will play out (which is now in the past), because of how highley factioned the country is. Turkey has not formed a unifying identity that includes all of its citizens, such as the Union Madison talks about. Turkey is split between many religious and ethnic interest groups.2 Factionalism is also abundant because institutions in Turkey mostly protect the interests of the state and lack civil society.2 Therefore, citizens are forced to turn to their own backgrounds for support and inclusion.2

Hypothetically, how could Turkey utilize it’s factions to protect a greater number of societal interests?

One way for all factions to be represented in government is through the use of a PR system. This is a great way for minority representation. Although it would worsen ethnic divisions and violence, it would allow for more of these interests to be regarded. The other option is through an SMD system. This would be most beneficial if all members of the same group were congregated in a distinct area. However, governments and parties must be more institutionalized for this to be successful. Turkey is still a developing democracy, and democratization takes a very long time, especially in a divided area with numerous parties.

1 James Madison “The Same Subject Continued: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (2017).

2 Jenny White, “Can Turkey Overcome Its Bitter Factionalism?” The New York Times (June 18, 2018)

BJP – A New Power in India

Last night, we read two articles that appeared in the New Yorker. Both concerned the most recent Indian election. Indian politics are fascinating because of how it’s democracy attempts to give almost a billion people a free and fair vote.2 The most recent election was especially captivating. In 2014, the BJP won the majority of seats in India’s lower house, marking the end of the INC’s long stretch of rule.1 Because of India’s need for decisive leadership, Narendra Modi became the prime minister.2 The BJP party is very conservative. They wish to redirect India towards Hindu tradition, as well as accentuate India’s free enterprise.

I read an article from Aljazeera called “Modi Unveils Towering Statue of India’s Independence Leader.” Very recently, Modi has built a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a figure of Indian independence. This statue is currently the tallest in the world, and was priced at 430m dollars.3 What is interesting though, is that Patel was member of the Nehru Dynasty and the great grandfather of the current Congress Party president.

Is this evidence for new peace between the parties, or a greed for more BJP power?

Although Modi claims the statue as an act of peace, this could prove that Modi is trying to cover up many of his reactionary goals to gain more support from INC members. Modi has had a past of authoritarian tendencies, and was even compared to Hitler. Modi is a part of the Hindu Nationalists, whose goal is to revert back to traditional, pure Hindu culture, therefore the opposite of the INC’s ideology of inclusion and secularism. However, Modi has accomplished much to protect the civil liberties of at least Hindu Indians, such as encouraging new bank accounts for citizens, streamlining welfare payments, and lowering oil prices. Therefore, although this might be a selfish act underneath, Modi has at least acknowledged the other side.

1 Samanth Subramanian, “The Stunning Result In India’s Elections” The New Yorker (May 16th, 2014).

2 Hendrick Hertzberg, “India’s Election: How To Win Big By Winning Small” The New Yorker (May 23rd, 2014).

3 Zeenat Saberin, “Modi Unveils Towering Statue of India’s Independence Leader” Aljazeera (October 31st, 2018).

Philippines Typhoon

Last night, we read an article titled “The Underlying Tragedy”, by David Brooks. This article explained the rebuilding process from the devastating earthquake in Haiti, but with a unique perspective. He argued that the true reason why Haiti experienced so much damage is because of its poverty. The infrastructure is poor, and the public services are nothing to brag about. The logical solution would be for the United States to provide aid; however, Brooks explains that we do not yet understand how to properly intervene with poverty-stricken countries.2 While we should be focusing on macro-aid with the Haitian government, we tend to help with smaller projects that might not make as much of a difference as expected.2 He also offers that the culture in Haiti may restricts the nationwide desire for progress and economic stability.2

In the New York Times, I visited an article that describes the Mankhut Typhoon that struck the Philippines and is currently en route to southern China. In the Benguet Province, there have been 59 people known dead so far, but the number is likely higher.1 In a fishing town called Aparri, almost 50% of the houses were destroyed.1 Unemployment reaches 30% in the area, while 80% of residents are considered poor.1 It is doubtful that relief will be easily funded.

Is the main reason for excessive damage in countries affected by natural disasters because of poverty? If so, how can we provide aid in a way that reduces poverty as it source, so that in the case of a future typhoon, the Philippines might experience less repercussions?

The Philippines is a developing country, with a GDP of only 304.9 billion. So, poverty could be a potential cause of the damage in the Philippines. Although David Brooks might be able to draw this conclusion in Haiti (because it happened a while ago), we cannot yet assume that the Philippines’ poverty is the main reason for the amount of damage. We will need to gather evidence over time, and draw comparisons in order to reach a conclusion like this. Although Brook’s article is well written, it is an opinion piece, meaning that his point of view alone cannot be taken as evidence. However, if evidence does surface over time, we might need to find a way to aid the country in a way that will be beneficial in the long term.


1Hannah Beech, “At Typhoon’s Eye in Philippines, Whipping Debris and Fervent Prayers” The New York Times (September 16th, 2018)

2 David Brooks, “The Underlying Tragedy” New York Times (2010)

Oil Crisis – South Sudan

The article If Nigeria is so Rich, Why are Nigerians so Poor? Gives a clear description of Nigeria’s paradoxical economy. While the national income statistics of Nigeria are skyrocketing due to oil profits, this is scarcely affecting most of the population. In fact, the amount of people in Nigeria living on only $1 per day grew by 20 percent. This means that all the oil wealth is living in the hands of only a handful of Nigerians, many of them billionaires. The new oil success has also caused many agricultural industries to fail, and the Obasanjo Administration was forced to reduce Nigeria’s line of poverty.

An article published on Aljazeera reflects a similar economic change to oil in South Sudan. In 2014, the oil price crashed tremendously, ruining the country’s economy because “income from oil accounts for 98 percent of the country’s budget”.1 However, they plan to revive the oil industry, in hopes to bring in more wealth. South Sudan is extracting 20,000 barrels of oil per day.1 However, based on the history in If Nigeria is so Rich, Why are Nigerians so Poor?, there might be some shortcomings with the idea.

Will the majority of residents of South Sudan still be doomed to poverty even after the oil revival? How should countries help lift their wealth for whole populations instead of only for a few people?

If history repeats itself, the wealth coming from oil revenue might only go to a few lucky upper class residents. South Sudan might still experience mass poverty, even if the national income rises. Even if the revival is successful, it might ruin some of the country’s other businesses and put more people in poverty, weakening the credibility of South Sudan’s substantive democracy. South Sudan is technically considered a democracy, however, it’s characteristics reveal it to be more authoritarian. For example, there has only been one election since 2010, and the next one has been postponed twice. A harsh division between rich and poor might encourage more conflict within both countries, potentially sending them back into reform.


1Fidelis Mbah, “South Sudan: Oil revival to boost economic recovery” Aljazeera (August 28, 2018)

Environment vs. Wealth

Last night we read a section in ITMC about environment, sustainability, and how it relates to politics. Currently, the amount of resources consumed and pollution produced in turn are not sustainable.1 Pollution is contributing to climate change, the erratic fluctuations in temperature among different climate regions. Because greenhouse gases are being released into the atmosphere, countries are trying to use alternative energy such as water, solar, and wind power.1 Pollution control is an externality to governments, because the gains and costs will not result to the same generation.1 This is why a lot of governments choose to ignore climate change for the time being.

Pollution is especially a problem in India, a country that is rapidly developing and industrializing. In 2014 India’s supreme court voted to halt 214 coal mining concessions.2 This was because many people protested the mining, worried that the emissions would destroy their villages and nearby forests.2 President Modi was furious about this as it undermined his “Make In India” campaign – a pursuit to industrialize the country.2

How can developing countries decide between providing industrialization and wealth to their future generations and providing environmental safety?

Modi is the current president of India, a member of the BJP party. This is a very right-wing, Hindu nationalist party. His reign has drastically changed India’s economic and social welfare, as well as secular freedom. Modi’s election was substantial because it won over India’s more institutionalized party – the INC. For the future of environmental awareness, Modi may continue to ignore it and push for his industrialization to make India a more powerful country in the world theater.


1 J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases (2013).

2 The Editorial Board, “India’s Environment at Risk.” The New York Times (October 1st, 2014)

Authoritarianism – An Easy Stabilizer?

Last night, we read a chapter in ITMC about authoritarian regimes and democratic breakdown. There are four main types of authoritarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes manipulate their citizens by using violence, propaganda, and a common ideology.1 Theocracies wield their power from religious institutions.1 Personalist dictatorships are simpler, with a strong leader and rejection of political input from citizens.1 Finally, bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes are not executed with one ruler, but a band of leaders called a bureaucracy.1 Democratic breakdown explains what happens when a government transitions from a democratic to an authoritarian, or hybrid regime.1

I read an article in the New York Times called “Stop Totalitarianism in Venezuela.” Venezuela has experienced political instability for over 200 years, and in 1959, the country finally established a democratic regime.2 However, in 1998, Venezuelans were tired of the corruption and social inequalities that came with a new democracy.2 Hugo Chávez seized power, with democratic breakdown to follow. Currently, Venezuela is experiencing ruthless totalitarianism under President Nicolás Maduro. It has been described as one that imposes fear, illness, and malnutrition.2

Is authoritarianism the right path to choose when a country is in need of quick relief and stability?

Last semester, we learned about legitimacy, capacity, and how the two are linked. Many authoritarian regimes are classified as having high autonomy and high or low capacity. This means that the success of authoritarianism depends wholly on how responsibly the dictator rules and enacts policy. The Venezuela case reminded me of the PRI’s power in Mexico during the 20th century. After the Mexican Revolution, Mexico was a weak state and the PRI proved to be a capable party to transition Mexico into a secure, post war society. Although the PRI kept winning seemingly democratic elections, they led with tendencies similar to that of bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes. Mexico was a false democracy, but authoritarianism did stabilize Mexico during their reign.


1 J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases (2013).

2 Enrique Krauze, “Stop Totalitarianism in Venezuela” The New York Times (June 28, 2017)