Intelligence Insights

March 25, 2014
From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy After Ukraine

By George Friedman <http://www.stratfor.com/about/analysts/dr-george-friedman>

As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine <http://www.stratfor.com/regions/former-soviet-union/ukraine>  poses for Russia <http://www.stratfor.com/regions/former-soviet-union/russia> , beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy <http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/russia-examines-its-options-responding-ukraine> . Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union <http://www.stratfor.com/topics/politics/russian-resurgence> . The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world's perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken. 

March 11, 2014
Ukraine's Increasing Polarization and the Western Challenge

By Eugene Chausovsky

Just days before the Ukrainian crisis broke out <http://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/ukraine-crisis-sees-its-deadliest-day-yet> , I took an overnight train to Kiev from Sevastopol in Crimea. Three mechanics in their 30s on their way to jobs in Estonia shared my compartment. All ethnic Russians born and raised in Sevastopol, they have made the trip to the Baltic states for the past eight years for seasonal work at Baltic Sea shipyards. Our ride together, accompanied by obligatory rounds of vodka, presented the opportunity for an in-depth discussion of Ukraine's political crisis. The ensuing conversation was perhaps more enlightening than talks of similar length with Ukrainian political, economic or security officials.

March 3, 2014
New Investment Platforms Raise Questions for China's Banking System

Summary
The growth of large online investment platforms has captured the attention of Chinese authorities in recent months. Non-state enterprises such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which runs the e-commerce website Taobao, and Tencent Holdings Ltd., a social media conglomerate that runs the popular WeChat online messaging program, are an emerging force in China's financial system.

March 4, 2014
Ukraine and the 'Little Cold War'

Editor's Note: In place of George Friedman's regular Geopolitical Weekly, this column is derived from two chapters of Friedman's 2009 book, The Next 100 Years. We are running this abstract of the chapters that focused on Eastern Europe and Russia because the forecast -- written in 2008 -- is prescient in its anticipation of events unfolding today in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea.

February 26, 2014
The Asian Status Quo

By Robert D. Kaplan and Matt Gertken

Arguably the greatest book on political realism in the 20th century was University of Chicago Professor Hans J. Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, published in 1948. In that seminal work, Morgenthau defines the status quo as "the maintenance of the distribution of power that exists at a particular moment in history." In other words, things shall stay as they are. But it is not quite that clear. For as Morgenthau also explains, "the concept of the 'status quo' derives from status quo ante bellum," which, in turn, implies a return to the distribution of power before a war. The war's aggressor shall give up his conquered territory, and everything will return to how it was.

February 24, 2014
Ukraine Turns From Revolution to Recovery

By George Friedman <http://www.stratfor.com/about/analysts/dr-george-friedman>

The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn't clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/ukraine-steps-beyond-its-constitution> . It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine <http://www.stratfor.com/regions/former-soviet-union/ukraine> , the constitution didn't have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich.