Analyzing Vladimir Putin: Is Joe Biden Dealing With A “Normal” Adversary? – Modern Diplomacy

April 24, 2022
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Assessing an adversarial head of state is not usually a psychiatric task. For the most part, such high-value strategic appraisals need not be directed by any deliberate search for “abnormality.” Among other things, this means dispensing with any tangible differentiations between “normal” and “abnormal.” This dispensation is not because findings of “abnormality” would be insignificant, but because the human subject’s injurious traits could present in obscure or unforeseeable ways.
In some cases, these qualities could prove even more portentous than any alternative findings of “normalcy.”
 Even without considering Russia’s barbarous aggression against Ukraine,[1] the ordinary world of Washington-Moscow relations would remain sorely complicated. In essence, US President Joe Biden will need to understand that even a presumptively “normal” and rational Vladimir Putin could pose existential threats to the United States. In certain cases, a seemingly “normal” Putin could pose even greater peril than a glaringly “abnormal” Russian president.[2]
It will be important for US decision-makers to differentiate between a Putin who is “merely” evil from a Putin who is evidently abnormal, irrational or “mad.” Though there are no intrinsic or “essential” meanings to these three potentially overlapping descriptions, current strategic theory centers most conspicuously on judgments of “irrationality.” More precisely, an irrational national decision-maker is one who does not value national survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences.
               By definition, all such matters will be multifaceted and bewildering. And nuance will be critical. At first glance, specific designations of “normal” and “abnormal” could appear sharply delineating or mutually exclusive.  Nonetheless, US President Joe Biden could discover that true qualities of abnormality, irrationality and madness are more correctly thought of as isolable points along a common continuum than as distinct analytic alternatives.
A critical task for Mr. Biden will be to make this discovery before it is “too late.”
                There is more to analyzing Vladimir Putin than first meets the eye. Sigmund Freud wrote about the Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1914) while tracing assorted connections between “abnormal” and “normal.” Inter alia, he was surprised to learn just how faint the supposed lines of any meaningful conceptual demarcation could be. Exploring parapraxes, or slips of the tongue, a phenomenon that we now popularly call “Freudian slips,” Freud concluded that specific psychopathologic traits could sometimes be identified in seemingly “normal” persons.
               Such ironic or counter-intuitive identifications could occasionally prove to be routine.  
               After World War II and the Holocaust, American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton interviewed Nazi (SS) doctors. Perplexed, as a physician, that such monstrous Nazi crimes could ever have been justified as “hygiene,” Lifton was determined to answer some basic questions. Most elementary of these was the query:  How could the Nazi doctors have managed to conform large-scale medicalized killing of innocent and defenseless human beings with otherwise normal private lives?
 In similar fashion, US and other world leaders ought now to inquire about Vladimir Putin and his all-too-many Russian underlings, enablers and otherwise witting allies:
 How can these people witness the daily aggression and genocide[3] now being inflicted in Ukraine by thousands of Russian soldiers, and continue “per normal” with their own day-today lives?[4]
               There is more. It was not unusual for Nazi doctors to remain good fathers and husbands while systematically murdering Jewish children. These defiling physicians (doctors sworn by Hippocrates to “do no harm”) were capable of supervising genocidal mass murders six days a week (on Sundays they “normally” went to church). Now, we must ask along similar lines of questioning: 
Are Russian soldier murderers[5] also able to remain good fathers and husbands?
               Robert Lifton carried on his examinations of the Nazi “biomedical vision” as a Yale Professor and Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Research in Psychopathology and Psychotherapy. For the American-Jewish physician, this examination was not just some random undertaking of unstructured intellectual curiosity. Rather, adhering to widely-accepted and reason-based protocols, Dr. Lifton embarked upon a series of very carefully rigorous scientific studies.
               To the physician, the Oath of Hippocrates pledges that “I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art.” When asked about this unwavering duty, most interviewed SS doctors felt no contradiction. In Nazi pseudo-biology, “The Jew” was “a source of infection.” Ridding society of Jews, it followed, was a properly “anti-infective” medical goal. They saw all such murderously irrational “excisions” as a manifest “obligation” of “healing,” “compassion” and “hygiene.”
               Do Vladimir Putin and his compliant subordinates have similarly “cleansing” views of Russia’s Ukrainian genocide? Based on readily available evidence, this is not a difficult question.
               Resembling their Nazi forbears, perpetrators of the ongoing Russian genocide in Ukraine must prepare to consider Putin-ordered mass murders as a crime sometimes justifiable by metaphor. Accordingly, millions of Holocaust murders already offer irrefutable evidence of just how easy it is to subordinate science and reason to the most preposterous forms of doggerel.[6] With any such willful subordination,[7] otherwise normal military behavior may be giving way to once unimaginable levels of inter-state predation.
There is more. The duality of good and evil within each individual person is a very old idea in western thought, most notably in German literature, from Johan Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Nietzsche to Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann. Always, in studying this clarifying literature, we may learn that the critical boundaries of caring and compassion are most genuinely not between “normal” and “abnormal” persons, but exist within each individual person.  As Putin-ordered Nuremberg-category crimes continue to escalate,[8] it is high time to recognize that the porous walls of human normalcy and abnormality can sometimes allow a single individual to navigate effortlessly between polar extremes.
Most generally, the relevant oscillations take place between cruelty and altruism, between violence and calm, between right and wrong, between reason and anti-reason.
 Truth ought never be taken as political contrivance. It is, after all, an exculpatory trait, in both psychiatric assessment and international relations. Still, at any identifiable moment of human history, the veneer of human civilization has remained razor thin. Conspicuously, it has always been brittle, fragile, tenuous; ready to crack along multiple and mutually-dependent interstices.
               After attending the 1961 Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, political philosopher Hannah Arendt advanced the sobering hypothesis that evil can be ordinary or “banal;” that it can be generated by the literal and seemingly benign absence of authentic thought.[9] Unsurprisingly, this novel interpretation of evil was widely challenged and disputed following the trial, but it nonetheless remained rooted in certain classical views of individual human dualism, particularly Goethe’s Faust. Moreover, Hannah Arendt’s specific idea of evil as mundane was further reinforced by various-earlier studies of nefarious human behavior in the crowd, the herd, or the mass and especially in overlapping works of Soren Kierkegaard, Max Stirner, Arthur Schopenhauer, Gustave Le Bon, Carl G. Jung, Elias Canetti, and Sigmund Freud.
               In all of these thematically-related writings, a common focus is placed upon the potentially corrosive impact of group membership and identity on individual human behavior. Freud’s own best contribution remains his Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921). The seminal psychologist-philosopher  already knew that Reason is at perpetual war with Anti-Reason, and that political dictatorships will inevitably favor the latter.[10]
               Robert Lifton likely knew all this. Still, he sought something more, some other isolable mechanism by which the ordinary or “normal” evildoer could render himself or herself “abnormal.” Ultimately, he discovered this esoteric mechanism in an intra-psychic process soon labeled as “doubling.”
               Different from the traditional psychoanalytic concept of “splitting,” or what Freud preferred to call “dissociation,” doubling is the means whereby an “opposing self” begins to replace portions of the “original self,” in effect usurping and overwhelming that original self from within. When this happens, we may learn further, the opposing self is able to embrace evil-doing without restraint and while the original self seeks to remain “good.”
                Significantly, for optimum understanding of Putin crimes against Ukraine, doubling may permit Russian evil doers to avoid personal guilt and thus to live simultaneously within two coinciding but adversarial levels of human consciousness.
               As a “maneuver,” however unwitting, doubling allowed Nazi doctors to be murderers and decent family men at the same time. In similar fashion, doubling is likely the way that shameless Putin-functionaries are able to reconcile the ordinariness of their public lives with derivative expressions of personal cruelty. As with Nazi doctors and the Jews, it is plausible that “know nothing” Putin-followers regard the harms being inflicted upon “sub-human” Ukrainians as not merely pleasing, but as a welcome form of national “healing.”
Truth may sometimes emerge through paradox. To wit, there can be an abnormal side to normalcy. For the future, in thinking about how best to continuously protect human beings from yet another genocidal national leader, all states and peoples would be well-advised not to think of such leaders in narrowly polar terms – that is, as merely “normal/abnormal” or “good/evil.”
               In the Third Reich, doubling was not the only reason that “normal” individuals were able to become complicit in crimes against humanity.[11] Elements of “groupthink,” especially an overwhelming human need to belong, have always expressed a dominant decisional influence on behavior. Clinically, at least, whatever sorts of explanation might ultimately emerge as most persuasive, humans may have to accept that the most odious and contemptible national leaders have oftentimes been clinically “normal.”
               Such conclusions ought to be kept in mind as President Joe Biden prepares to better understand the “psychopathology of normalcy.” In support of such necessary preparations, he ought to focus more diligently on tangible fact-based explanations[12] than on simplistic or conspiratorial ones.[13] Analyzing Vladimir Putin has already become an urgent task for America’s scholars and national leaders, but it is a task wherein US assessments of adversarial normalcy need not imply any diminished or diminishing dangers. For example, even a completely “normal” Vladimir Putin could underestimate American military reactions and/or overestimate his own forces’ capacity to fend off American nuclear reprisals.
               There is more. When violence-stoking hatreds are channeled by the Russian President into the crudely belligerent nationalism[14] of  “Mother Russia,” they could  precipitate a catastrophic international war.[15]
               In the final analysis, truth will prove exculpatory. “Happy are those who still know that behind all speeches are the unspeakable lies.” This cryptic observation by Rainer Maria Rilke, the Dionysian[16] poet (a poet generally associated with dense philosophical issues of “being”) laments the manifold lies of individual leaders like Vladimir Putin. Though the virulent particulars of such lies are ever-changing around the world, their overall generality of meaning remains constant. 
Such generality also represents an inherent trait of science, medicine and law.[17]
 Why does the famous Edward Munch “scream” (see image above) resonate so tellingly across the world? It is because so many “normal” human beings are able to grasp thatin a world itself presumptively abnormal, not to be abnormal could represent a special form of madness.[18]Now, amid the ongoing horrors of Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine, it is this unique form of madness that is prospectively most worrisome. Prima facie, such worries are especially understandable in a world brimming with complex nuclear weapons.
Bottom line: Even if Vladimir Putin is judged more-or-less “normal,” there will remain a great many sui generis perils for US President Joe Biden to worry about.[19] Though both abnormality and irrationality could render Putin increasingly dangerous to world order, even national leaders who would remain normal and rational amid evident global absurdity could bring our aching planet to the outer limits of misfortune. After experiencing or witnessing the Putin-inflicted horrors of Ukraine violence, humankind’s only palpable hopes lie latent in certain still residual fusions of truth, intellect, justice[20] and prudence.[21]
To capably discover and clarify these fusions now defines civilization’s absolutely overriding obligation. Failing such discovery and clarification, all of us could be forced to hear the final piercing “scream” of an irreversible human despair. In principle, at least, it should be an easy decision.
[1] See: RESOLUTION ON THE DEFINITION OF AGGRESSION, Dec. 14, 1974, U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 U.N. GAOR, Supp. (No. 31) 142, U.N. Doc. A/9631, 1975, reprinted in 13 I.L.M. 710, 1974; and CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Art. 51. Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. No. 993, Bevans 1153, 1976, Y.B.U.N. 1043. Significantly, Russia’s current aggression – resembling Nazi Germany’s attacks on assorted nations between 1939 and 1945, made possible subsequent crimes of genocide.
[2] Do you know what it means to find yourselves face to face with a madman,” inquires Luigi Pirandello in Act II of Henry IV, “with one who shakes the foundations of all you have built up in yourselves, your logic, the logic of all your constructions? Madmen, lucky folk, construct without logic, or rather, with a logic that flies like a feather.”
[3]  Some of these egregious Russian crimes nay not be literally genocidal in strict jurisprudential terms, but nonetheless qualify as “genocide-like” crimes. For precise characterization of the concept “genocide-like crimes,” by this author, see:  Louis Rene Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in M. Cherif Bassiouni, ed., INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW: CRIMES (Dobbs Ferry, NY:  Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271 – 279.
[4] Political philosopher Hannah Arendt would have said “banal lives.”
[5] International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules.  Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, and known thereby as the law of The Hague and the law of Geneva, these rules seek to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into belligerent calculations.  On the main corpus of jus in bello, see: Convention No. IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, With Annex of Regulations, Oct. 18, 1907, 36 Stat. 2277, T.S. No. 539, 1 Bevans 631 (known commonly as the “Hague Regulations”); Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3114, T.I.A.S.  No. 3362, 75 U.N.T.S.  85; Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3316, T.I.A.S.  No. 3364, 75 U.N.T.S.  135; Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3516, T.I.A.S.  No. 3365, 75 U.N.T.S.  287.
[6].  Twentieth-century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gassett clarified the generic bases of such a leader-induced declension in his classic The Revolt of the Masses (1930):  “It’s not that the vulgar believes itself to be superexcellent and not vulgar, but rather that the vulgar proclaim and impose the rights of vulgarity or vulgarity itself as a right.
[7] During his presidential tenure, too little attention was directed toward Donald J. Trump’s open loathing of science and intellect and his corresponding unwillingness to read. Ironically, the Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145. A conclusion ought to surface: How far we Americans have fallen.
[8] Regarding Nuremberg-category crimes, see: AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS POWERS AND CHARTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL.  Done at London, August 8, 1945.  Entered into force, August 8, 1945.  For the United States, Sept. 10, 1945.  59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279.  The principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal were affirmed by the U.N. General Assembly as AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, Dec. 11, 1946.  U.N.G.A. Res. 95 (I), U.N. Doc. A/236 (1946), at 1144.  This AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL (1946) was followed by General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), adopted November 21, 1947, directing the U.N. International Law Commission to “(a) Formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal, and (b) Prepare a draft code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind….” (See U.N. Doc. A/519, p. 112).  The principles formulated are known as the PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED IN THE CHARTER AND JUDGMENT OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Report of the International Law Commission, 2nd session, 1950, U.N. G.A.O.R. 5th session, Supp. No. 12, A/1316, p. 11.
[9]See Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963).
[10] On this key theme, see especially Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). In a diagnosis that seems to fit perfectly with America’s recent struggles with Trump-inflicted horror, Jaspers summarizes a lethal problem of “normalcy.” In essence, notes Jaspers: “The enemy is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.”
[11] Crimes against humanity are formally defined as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during a war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated….”  See Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Aug. 8, 1945, Art. 6(c), 59 Stat.  1544, 1547, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, 288.
[12] But see Karl Jaspers, Reason and anti-Reason in Our Time (1952): “There is something inside all of us that earns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….”
[13] Recall, in this connection, Bertrand Russell’s timeless warning in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death.”
[14] Authoritative legal assumptions concerning solidarity between states concern a presumptively common legal struggle against aggression and genocide. Such a “peremptory” expectation, known formally in law as a jus cogens assumption, had already been mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 CE); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey., tr, Clarendon Press, 1925) (1690); and Emmerich de Vattel, 1 Le Droit des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).
[15] For early accounts by this author of nuclear war effects in particular, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy
[16] In German, “Existenzphilosophie.”
[17]In law, responsibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin for such Nuremberg-category crimes is not limited by his official position or by any other requirement of direct personal actions.  On the underlying principle of command responsibility, or respondeat superior, see: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb) 12 LAW REPORTS OF TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS 1, 71 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp. 1949); see: Parks, COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY FOR WAR CRIMES, 62 MIL.L.REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, THE LAW OF WAR, COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY AND VIETNAM, 60 GEO.L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. DEPT OF THE ARMY, ARMY SUBJECT SCHEDULE No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907) 10 (1970).  The direct individual responsibility of leaders for crime s of war, genocide and genocide-like crimes is unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the Act of State defense.  See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Strat.  1544, E.A.S.  No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, Art. 7.  Under traditional international law, violations were the responsibility of the state, as a corporate actor, and not of individual human decision-makers in government or the military. Today, even if Putin could argue persuasively that Russian military violations in Ukraine were being committed without his express authorization, he would still remain legally responsible.
[18] This form could center on oft-cited differences between n rationality and non-rationality in world politics. See, by this author, Louis Rene Beres (Israel):  https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/516-Israeli-Security-and-Enemy-Rationality-Beres-Author-approved-version.pdf
[19] See by this writer, Louis René Beres, at Air and Space Operations Review, USAF (Pentagon):  https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/ASOR/Journals/Volume-1_Issue-1/Beres_Nuclear_War_Avoidance.pdf
[20] Regarding considerations of justice in these matters, neither international law nor US law advises specific penalties or sanctions for states that choose not to prevent or punish genocide by others. All states, most notably the “major powers” belonging to the UN Security Council, are bound, inter alia, by the peremptory obligation (defined at Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties) known as pacta sunt servanda, that is, to act in continuous “good faith.” This pacta sunt servanda obligation is itself derived from an even more basic norm of world law commonly known as “mutual assistance.” This civilizing norm was famously identified within the classical interstices of international jurisprudence, most notably by eighteenth-century Swiss legal scholar, Emmerich de Vattel, in The Law of Nations (1758).
[21] The seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarks prophetically in Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought…It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further upon René Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge.
Saudi Arabia targets a more Republican Washington
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
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Rather than push for an immediate improvement of strained relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia appears to be looking forward to a time when US President Joe Biden’s wings may be clipped.
The kingdom seems to be betting on a better reception in Washington if Democrats lose control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections and/or Donald J. Trump or a Republican candidate with similar inclinations wins the White House in the 2024 presidential election.
The Saudi approach signals that the kingdom has not given up on the United States, although it has lost faith in Mr. Biden because of his attitude towards Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his efforts to revive a nuclear accord with Iran.
The approach further suggests that Saudi Arabia recognizes that neither China nor Russia are able or willing to replace the United States as the kingdom’s security guarantor despite Washington proving in recent years to be an increasingly unreliable partner.
Mr. Bin Salman suggested what his thinking may be when he approved a US$2 billion investment by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), in a controversial private equity fund against the advice of the PIF’s screening panel.
The private equity fund, Affinity Partners, was recently created by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and erstwhile advisor, who has maintained a close relationship with the crown prince.
In a slide presentation, Affinity Partners touts the vehicle’s inroads in Saudi Arabia, the Organisation of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC), and its partners, including Russia, on the back of Mr. Kushner’s years in the White House.
Last year, PIF invested US$1 billion in Liberty Strategic Capital, a private equity vehicle established by Steven Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s erstwhile treasury secretary and a former Wall Street finance executive.
In contrast to Mr. Mnuchin’s fund investment, PIF professionals raised objections to taking a stake in Affinity Partners.
The Saudi fund’s screening panel cited as reasons not to invest “the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management;” an “unsatisfactory in all aspects” due diligence report; a proposed asset management fee that seemed “excessive;” and “public relations risks.”
Analysts have suggested that Mr. Bin Salman, who chairs the PIF, rewarded Mr. Kushner for his support on multiple occasions during the Trump presidency.
However, the investment is likely to be not only an expression of appreciation for Mr. Kushner’s past assistance but also an investment in a possible return of Mr. Trump or a Republican of his ilk.
Mr. Kushner, according to text messages and court documents published by journalist Vicky Ward, used his position in the Trump administration to help Mr. Bin Salman sideline then Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a darling of the US intelligence and foreign policy community.
In contrast to Mr. Trump, who broke with tradition when he made Saudi Arabia the first foreign country he visited after becoming president, and Mr. Kushner, who stayed in close touch with Mr. Bin Salman despite multiple controversies, Mr. Biden has until recently refused to engage with the crown prince because of the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Mr. Bin Salman has more recently rebuffed efforts by Mr. Biden to discuss oil production with the crown prince in a bid to reduce prices in the wake of the Ukraine war. Asked last month whether Mr. Biden may have misunderstood him, Mr. Bin Salman told an interviewer: “Simply, I do not care.”
Mr. Bin Salman, like his United Arab Emirates counterpart, Mohammed bin Zayed, feels that the United States failed to respond robustly to attacks on critical Saudi and Emirati oil and other infrastructure by Iran and/or Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels.
The two men are also critical of Mr. Biden’s efforts to negotiate a revival of the moribund 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme without tackling the Islamic republic’s ballistic missiles programme and support for Shiite militias in various Arab countries.
Responding this week to media reports of strains in US relations with the kingdom, the Saudi embassy in Washington insisted that the relationship “is historic and remains strong. There is daily contact between officials on an institutional level, and there is close coordination on issues such as security, investments, and energy.”
To be sure, Mr. Trump was far blunter in his refusal to respond to attacks in Iranian-backed attacks in 2019 that targeted some of Saudi Arabia’s critical oil facilities. “That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn’t an attack on us,” Mr. Trump said at the time, reaffirming by implication that the US had no NATO-style commitment to the kingdom.
However, at the same time, Mr. Trump signalled that his attitude toward assisting Saudi Arabia in responding to the attack was transactional. “We would certainly help them,” Mr. Trump said. “If we decide to do something, they’ll be very much involved, and that includes payment. And they understand that fully.”
In the absence of alternatives, that may be an approach that Mr. Bin Salman feels more comfortable with, particularly given the current mood in Washington and the lack of clearly formulated updated security understandings.
Last week, 30 Democratic members of Congress suggested in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that a “recalibration” of the US-Saudi relation was needed and asked for a readout of the  administration’s “review and assessment of the US-Saudi relationship.”  
In response, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Assistant Secretary-General Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg said that “the recalibration that is needed is to revisit the basic components undergirding the long-term US partnership with Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies. The US has played a key role in Gulf security without formal agreements between the parties. A new strategic architecture is needed to update and upgrade existing ad hoc security cooperation.”
Mr. Aluwaisheg’s remarks came as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, backed by Israeli lobbying in Washington, pressured the Biden administration to sign a defense pact with Gulf states similar to an accord between the UAE and France.
“I understand the US concerns, but I think Saudi Arabia is a hugely important actor in our part of the world and the Islamic world… And it’s important, in my view – to the extent possible – to fix relations between the US and Saudi Arabia,” said Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
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The Third Position as Foreign Policy of Argentina, performed in the three governments of President Juan Domingo Perón, was the best expression of Argentine diplomacy of autonomy, regional partnership and Non-Alignment, founded on a long national tradition.
The Peronist Third Position (Non-Aligned and Cooperative) is the “external reflection” of the internal proposals for Argentine society (Organized Community).
The political and social proposal by Peronism (Justicialism) is to create and strengthen an “Organized Community“ for overcoming dehumanizing capitalism without appealing to any form of collectivist oppression. It is not an intermediate position between both systems; it is a model that seeks to be an overcoming synthesis and dialectic.
In addition to the regionalist preaching in favour of the regional integration “la Patria Grande”, the Third Position of Non-alignment Active as autonomous conception represents one of the most original aspects of the Peronist political doctrine:
to maintain a equidistant position from the two superpowers of the moment (the USA and the USSR) without denying Argentina’s roots and position as a member of the “Western concert”, but at the same time recognizing the need to incorporate the voices of the “Third World”, of the emerging peoples and nations of the post-war and decolonization world order into the institutions of global governance. There’s lies perhaps another visionary aspect of the Peronist doctrine: a path for the understanding and practice of a Multipolar Order.
For Peronist doctrine Argentina’s path is to take the cause of peace and international cooperation, and it will do so on the idea of abandoning antagonistic positions imposed from any global center of power, with a position that privileges the human being over any interest or system, in a balance of spirit and matter, which needs a community in equilibrium for self-realization.
For many, the Justicialist Third Position would be diluted with the passage of time and changes in the balance of power, but the idea had its impact at the time on political and intellectual movements worldwide, as in the case of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). But at least at the time the Justicialist doctrine sought to be the autonomist and Latin American alternative to the bipolar strategic competition of the Cold War. Even after 70 years of the birth of this South American political doctrine, such statements remain valid in view of the current facts and processes:
The conflict in Eastern Europe (Ukraine-Russia) challenges us in the face of a new dilemma, with new patterns of disturbing dichotomies, the resurgence of old military alliances (considered already outdated) as well as the reckless emergence of new military blocs, schemes that marks the return of strategic competition between great powers.  
That is why we consider more valid than ever the statements of the original Peronism for a safe distance from the “New Great Game” in current deployment, not only for Latin America, but for the whole World. A path of strategic orientation of autonomy and prudence. And we have no doubt that many other peoples and nations will unite in the search for an overcoming way.
Author’s note: An earlier version published in Spanish.
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Chile, under its youngest President Gabriel Boric, has taken a historic step: to grant a Constitutional status to Rights of Nature. But can economic growth be simultaneously sustained?
A Green Constitution
Environment has been a crucial part of President Gabriel Boric’s election campaign, who came to power in March 2022 with a massive majority of 56% vote share and a promise of leading “Chile’s first green government”.  Now in office, Boric is all set to put his ideas into action as reflected in several articles of the new Constitutional draft which recognises the Rights of Nature.
Rights of Nature states that just like all humans have certain fundamental rights (called Human Rights) for simply being humans, nature too has a right to exist, flourish, regenerate its cycles and naturally evolve without external disruptions caused by humans. It further guarantees nature the status of legal personhood where violation of its rights can be taken to the court of law and where it can be legally represented by concerned individuals or environment groups. In 2008, Ecuador became the world’s first country to grant constitutional status to the Rights of Nature.
Several articles of the new Chilean Constitution reflect the commitment to implement the Rights of Nature.
Article 4 of the Constitution states:
“Nature has the right to have its existence protected and respected, to regeneration, to the maintenance and restoration of its functions and dynamic balances, which includes natural cycles, ecosystems and biodiversity. The State through its institutions must guarantee and promote the Rights of Nature as determined by the constitution and laws.”
Similarly, Article 26 on Earth-centred policies states:
“These are principles for the protection of nature and the environment and include, at minimum, the principles of progressivity, precautionary, preventive, environmental justice, intergenerational solidarity, responsibility, and fair climate action.”
While Article 1 emphasises on the duty of the State during climate and ecological crises, Article 2 holds the State responsible for the protection of animals keeping their sentiments in mind and guaranteeing them the right to an abuse free life. Article 23 B similarly tasks the State with the responsibility to protect biodiversity and preserve, conserve and restore the habitat of wild native species so as to ensure their survival.
Article 33 emphasises on the concept of  Environmental democracy and recognises the popular right to access environmental information that is in the possession of the State. All information related to the environment including State collected data and statistics thus must be made available to the public.
Moreover, the Constitution recognises Climate Change as a grave issue and a  product of unrestrained human commercial activities.
A Long Battle
Chile would be one of  the pioneer countries to foundationally rewrite its constitution on an environmental basis. The current Constitution which came into force in 1980 (henceforth, The 1980 Constitution) was written under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet who overthrew the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvadore Allende in 1973.
Though the 1980 Constitution pays heavy  lip service to the respect of human rights, the Constitution has been infamous for promoting an unregulated free market which has brought immense suffering to the middle and poor classes of Chile.  Chile remains the most unequal country in terms of income inequalities among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with its wealth gap being 65% higher than the average income gap in the OECD, indicating that the benefits of economic liberalisation since Pinochet have remained constrained to a few elite groups. Environment has particularly borne the brunt of the unregulated free market with the development of “Sacrifice zones” across Chile i.e. highly polluted areas near chemical, mining industries and refineries which are almost exclusively located near the habitats of the poor. Northern Chile, the hub of the mining industry, has particularly suffered the most with cases of cerebrovascular diseases and lung cancers being several times higher than the national average among the residents of the “Sacrifice Zones” of Huasco and Tocopilla.
Environmental concerns and resource conflicts particularly related to water have come to characterise dissent and turbulence  in Chilean society. At the heart of this conflict has been the 1981 Water Code brought under Pinochet. The Code has been unique in the sense that it completely functions on market principles when it comes to water economics, leaving little space for the government to regulate the private players. Besides, it has no environmental safeguards such as instream flows so as to ensure the replenishment of  water bodies. Scarcity of water, much of which is channelised to lucrative albeit water intensive industries such as mining has not only created immense trouble for the middle and poor classes but has also contributed to the intergenerational conflict among the Indigenous population, as the case of Water conflicts in Chiu Chiu area shows. It is believed that if the trends prevail, the capital Santiago, the location where 50% of the GDP is produced and 40% of the population resides,  would face a 40% reduction in its water balance by 2070. Governments so far have proved to be inefficient in bringing respite in this regard. Several protests have taken place against such entrenched inequalities, with the most prominent being the Penguins’ Revolution of 2006, a movement led by 800,000 to 1 million high school students calling for educational reforms and the March of the Penguins (2011), the movement which demanded subsidised transportation for students and public grants in education and threw up important leaders like Boric. 
The demand for rewriting the Constitution from scratch was sparked off by the 2019 protests against a hike in metro fare which soon spiralled into a larger mission to change the very foundations of the country’s governance. The struggle led to the election of a 115 member Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution, dominated by leftists, independents and environmentalists with an equal representation of women.  Amidst the development, Boric came to power with the call “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism in South America, it will also be its grave”.
Challenges
While Boric’s policies seem to be an answer to Chile’s problems, there are several challenges that stand in his way.
The promise to achieve 100% decarbonisation in the next  25 years  faces a tough challenge due to widespread droughts which have led to a slip in the country’s hydropower potential, so much so that the national body which oversees electricity,  Coordinador Eléctrico Nacional, has called for the postponement of the closure of Bocamina 2 and Ventanas 2 coal fired power plants by a year. Though Chile has a widespread renewable energy sector with 21% of the energy being tapped from replenishable sources, the market is marked by massive wastage, infrastructural and operational deficiencies. In January 2022 itself, 160 GWh of energy was lost, which amounts to more than the total energy produced in all of 2019.
The Conservatives have blamed the radical environment policies of the Boric government as a threat to Chile’s economic development, which, showing positive signs of economic recovery, stands as the richest economy in the whole of South America. The environmental policies are particularly at odds with the lucrative mining industry specifically of  copper (28% of global production) and lithium (22% of  global production) which is crucial not just for the continued growth of the Chilean economy but for the world at large as it is an important ingredient for producing clean energy. While Salvadore Allende had nationalised the mines which were mostly owned by American corporations, Pinochet sold them off to private players, which still remains the case. While many among the new government have called for complete nationalisation of mines, others have called for progressive taxations on the mining corporations and putting strict environmental safeguards in place. 
Moreover, Conservative opposition against Boric has already started as reports of his approval ratings falling by 50% emerge. The Far-Right parties have already been criticising his government for their lack of experience and policies that are ‘too radical’. If Boric fails to maintain economic growth, his approval ratings might fall further and conservative elements might convert it into a way of recuperating support in their favour and try to stall all environmental policies.
A major challenge is also the implementation of such radical policies. The experiment has no precedent in Chilean history which has been economically dominated by exploitative private sector enterprise, standing upto which would be a major test, not just for environmental politics but also the future of left wing politics in the region.
The Road Ahead
The need of the hour for the Boric Government is to balance Rights of  Nature with sustained economic growth. While sudden and complete nationalisation might be detrimental to the economy; progressive taxation, implementation of environmental safeguards and restrictions on corporations can play a major part in achieving green growth. If successful, the Chilean model of environmental protection can be appropriated not just by nations individually but also by international organisations such as the United Nations.
As a developing economy, Chile’s steps in prioritising ecology  presents an interesting and hopeful example for not just other third world countries but also the developed world and marks a major step away from the anthropocentric world that we live in towards a world of inclusivity and sustainable growth. A successful contribution by Chile in this regard would be ranked among one of the major cases of the Global South leading the way ahead.
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