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Posts from the ‘Analysis’ Category

Securing China’s Nuclear Energy Development

Hui Zhang

Hui Zhang

By Hui Zhang

Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Chinese president Xi Jinping said in his address at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit that, “we should place equal emphasis on development [of nuclear energy] and security, and develop nuclear energy on the premise of security.” He further emphasized that,developing nuclear energy at the expense of security can neither be sustainable nor bring real development. Only by adopting credible steps and safeguards can we keep the risks under effective control and develop nuclear energy in a sustainable way.”

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Stand-off in Crimea: Cui Bono?

Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan

By Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan is assistant director of the U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism and a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.

It seems there has been no Russia watcher left in the world who has not opined on Vladimir Putin’s swift and not so covert moves in the Crimea, pondering: “who’s to blame and what to do?”  In times like these it is also as customary for analysts of international affairs to wonder “to whose benefit?” Yet this question remains open even though some of the Western diplomats are already calling the current standoff the biggest crisis in Europe of the 21st century.

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Can Chinese Market Reforms Help American Companies?

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

At the recent Third Plenum political gathering, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made headlines around the world by committing to a greater role for the market and for competition in China’s government-directed economy. Whether and when the Party will translate that rhetoric into reality is a critical question for the future. But a vital related question is this: Will the Party allow American companies to compete—freely and fairly—in China?

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The Fallout from Jang Song-taek’s Execution

John Park

John Park

By John Park

Associate, Project on Managing the Atom

 
1) Who was Jang Song-taek and why was he so important to the Kim family regime?

  • First and foremost, Jang was the CEO of North Korea, Inc. (He was related to the family not through blood, but by marriage to Kim Jong-il’s younger sister, Kim Kyong-hui. She’s Kim Jong-un’s closest living senior relative).
  • He was the Kim family regime’s #1 revenue generator. He set up, staffed, and oversaw the largest and most powerful North Korean state trading companies.
  • The revenue he made went directly into Kim family slush funds — the proceeds were used for: lavish celebrations marking important anniversaries of the births of Kim Il-sung (founder of the state) and of the founding of the military; luxury goods to cultivate the loyalty of the elites; and WMD programs.
  • He was reported to have the “Midas touch.” Whatever business venture he launched turned into a major commercial success. A key ingredient for such a track record was his cultivation of senior positions in the three important organizations in North Korea: the military, the Workers’ Party of Korea, and the Cabinet. Jang perfected the art of “monetizing political relationships.”

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OPEC Embargo +40: What Have We Learned?

Kathleen Araujo

Kathleen Araujo

By Kathleen Araujo

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Public Policy; Project on Managing the Atom: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo. On October 16th, 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised the price of oil by 70%. Production curtailments were set in motion, and an embargo was imposed.  Oil prices quickly quadrupled. This wasn’t the first or last time that major shifts in energy prices would dominate the world news. What is most enlightening, though, is how countries have learned to enhance their energy resilience.

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California’s Sub-National Diplomacy: the Right Approach

scott mooreBy Scott Moore

Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs  and Sustainability Science Program, Harvard Kennedy School

California recently made foreign-policy history by becoming the first sub-national government to sign an agreement with China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which oversees the country’s economic growth.  Just as significant is the objective: fighting climate change by circumventing deadlocked decision-making in Washington and Beijing.

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The Plutonium Mountain Mission: Lessons

 

Eben Harrell

Eben Harrell

By  Eben Harrell

Associate, Belfer Center Project on Managing the Atom

This summer, The Project on Managing the Atom, at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, released “Plutonium Mountain: Inside the 17-Year Mission to Secure a Dangerous Legacy of Soviet Nuclear Testing.” In the report, I and my co-author David Hoffman tell the story of how dedicated scientists and engineers in three countries overcame suspicions, secrecy, bureaucracy, and logistical obstacles to secure more than a dozen bombs worth of plutonium that had been left behind at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Although the outline of the Semipalatinsk operation had been made public before, our report filled in new details: Read more

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Forget the Coup: Egypt’s Economy Is the Real Problem

Any new permanent government will face the choice Morsi had but never made: market economic reforms on the one hand and a command-and-control statist economy on the other.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

Egypt’s political dilemmas are based, in important part, on its economic dilemmas. But since the overthrow of the Morsi government, far less attention has been paid to crucial economic issues than the political and constitutional conflicts. But economic issues–and the lack of a legitimated economic vision–have been as much a cause of the unrest, change and uncertainty in Egypt, and during both the Mubarak and Morsi tenures. And they may be more intractable.

Any new permanent government will face the choice Morsi had but never made: between market economic reforms on the one hand, led by economists and business people to promote growth, jobs, and trade, and a command-and-control statist economy on the other, which provides subsidies for essentials like energy and staples like bread, rice, and sugar–and also provides sinecures for ex-military officers. Part of the problem is that “liberalizing” reforms–there have been three waves since the end of Nassar’s regime than 40 years ago–are perceived as helping the rich and reflecting crony capitalism, rather than raising Egypt as a whole.

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Dangerous Cargo: Action needed on hazardous materials

Lewis Branscomb

Lewis Branscomb

Ryan Ellis

Ryan
Ellis

The wisdom of transporting hazardous materials by rail through our towns and cities is a topic on the mind of many Massachusetts residents. On May 23rd, the Boston Globe reported (“Residents north of Boston call for halt of ethanol rail plan”) on the ongoing debate over a proposal by Global Partners LP, a petroleum company, to begin receiving rail shipments of ethanol at their Revere storage facility. Under the proposal, ethanol would be shipped on MBTA tracks and move through parts of Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, and Somerville. Ethanol is highly flammable. If the train carrying ethanol derailed, many people could be injured or killed.

In response to the concerns of local residents, State Senators from Everett, Somerville, and East Boston, introduced an amendment that would effectively block the proposed shipments. But even if these ethanol shipments are blocked, an even more serious danger involving rail shipments of even more dangerous industrial products will remain. Railcars carrying more dangerous materials go through Massachusetts every day. Read more

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Bold Initiatives to Reduce Nuclear Tensions – 50 Years Ago and Today

Matthew Bunn

Matthew Bunn

By Matthew Bunn

Today is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s remarkable American University commencement address, in which he called for a new approach to easing tensions with the Soviet Union.  Kennedy announced a halt in U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing, which quickly led to the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT).  I have a piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor arguing that President Obama should take a similar approach to resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran – offering a substantial unilateral initiative to help break through the decades of mistrust and suspicion, with the promise of further conciliatory steps if Iran reciprocates in a substantial way.

In 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union had many conflicting interests – but they had common interests in avoiding nuclear war, limiting the costs of the arms race, and more.  Kennedy’s initiative was based on the recognition that the mistrust that distorted each side’s view of the actions and proposals of the other side was a major obstacle to pursuing the common interests. Kennedy was familiar with psychologist Charles Osgood’s book, An Alternative to War or Surrender, which had come out a year before, proposing a strategy Osgood called Graduated Reciprocation in Tension-Reduction (GRIT).    (Osgood had also pushed this idea in a number of papers, such as the one in this book.) Read more

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