You are browsing the archive for 2019 July 15.

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The Spy Who Kept the Cold War From Boiling Over

July 15, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

In 1984, U.S. spies monitoring the Soviet press found an alarming piece in a Russian magazine. It wasn’t an expose on officials in the Soviet Union or a worrying account about Cold War attitudes toward the United States. Rather, it was a recipe for coot, a small water bird that’s common in Eastern Europe.

For CIA officials, that meant trouble. They had long had an agreement with a Russian double agent they called TOP HAT—if he wanted to get in touch with them, he’d indicate it by publishing the recipe. Was TOP HAT in danger?

Dmitri Polyakov.

As it turns out, yes. Soon after, America’s most valuable spy, Dmitri Polyakov, fell off the map entirely. For nearly 25 years, the Soviet military intelligence officer had served as the United States’ most trusted resource on the Soviet military, providing reams of intelligence and becoming a legend in the process.

Polyakov’s documents and tips informed U.S. strategy in China during the Cold War and helped the U.S. military determine how to deal with Soviet-era weapons. And Polyakov was credited with keeping the Cold War from boiling over by giving the United States secrets that gave it an inside view of Soviet priorities.

But was Polyakov a double agent…or a triple one who kept the U.S. on an IV drip of false tips and misinformation? And what happened to him after his sudden disappearance?

Polyakov was born in what is now Ukraine in 1921. After serving in World War II, he was recruited by the GRU, the USSR’s military intelligence agency. He wasn’t the type of man anyone would peg as a spy—the son of a bookkeeper, he was an unassuming father who did carpentry projects in his spare time. On the surface, he was a dutiful worker and a reliable GRU asset. But as he rose through the ranks of the agency, following protocol and living a seemingly routine life, he began to work to undermine the USSR itself.

At the time, the GRU had agents all around the world, and was tasked with learning everything possible about American life, priorities, and military assets. The United States did the same thing with the USSR, but had a harder time because of the absolute secrecy that ruled Soviet intelligence.

Until Polyakov offered himself to the CIA as a double agent, that is. At the time, he was stationed at the Soviet Mission to …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Was the Electoral College Created?

July 15, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

The Founding Fathers had to compromise when it came to devising a system to elect the president.

Five times in history, presidential candidates have won the popular vote but lost the

Slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise

But determining exactly how many electors to assign to each state was another sticking point. Here the divide was between slave-owning and non-slave-owning states. It was the same issue that plagued the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives: should or shouldn’t the Founders include slaves in counting a state’s population?

In 1787, roughly 40 percent of people living in the Southern states were black slaves, who couldn’t vote. James Madison from Virginia—where slaves accounted for 60 percent of the population—knew that either a direct presidential election, or one with electors divvied up according to free white residents only, wouldn’t fly in the South.

“The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States,” said Madison, “and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.”

The result was the controversial “three-fifths compromise,” in which black slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of allocating representatives and electors and calculating federal taxes. The compromise ensured that Southern states would ratify the Constitution and gave Virginia, home to more than 200,000 slaves, a quarter (12) of the total electoral votes required to win the presidency (46).

READ MORE: 8 Founding Fathers and How They Helped Shape the Nation

Not only was the creation of the Electoral College in part a political workaround for the persistence of slavery in the United States, but almost none of the Founding Fathers’ assumptions about the electoral system proved true.

The signing of the Constitution of the United States at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

For starters, there were no political parties in 1787. The drafters of the Constitution assumed that electors would vote according to their individual discretion, not the dictates of a state or national party. Today, most electors are bound to vote for their party’s candidate.

And even more important, the Constitution says nothing about how the states should allot their electoral votes. The assumption was that each elector’s vote would be counted. But …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge Took 14 Years—And Multiple Lives

July 15, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

Horrific workplace accidents claimed a string of lives and left its designer dead and his son crippled.

Fourteen tons of fireworks illuminated the . Twelve people died as a result of the May 31, 1883, stampede on the Brooklyn Bridge.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Are Free Trade's Best Days Behind Us?

July 15, 2019 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

If you were a U.S. trade negotiator in the 1950s or 1960s, you
might be a little shocked by the aggressive trade rhetoric thrown
around today. China is an existential threat? Our European allies
are almost as bad? What exactly went wrong with U.S. leadership of
a rules-based trading system?

What exactly went wrong
with U.S. leadership of a rules-based trading system?

In truth, the state of American trade policy has been precarious
for a while now, and for understandable reasons: the industrial
development of a sizeable portion of the developing world; the
expansion of trade rules beyond traditional issues of
protectionism; and a more powerful international judicial system
with “teeth” that can have an impact on U.S. policies. We cannot
expect a return to the post-World War II era of bipartisan support
for trade agreements.

But thanks to President Donald Trump, the situation has gone
from precarious to falling off a cliff. Tariffs have proliferated,
as the Trump administration has expanded the use of some trade
statutes and dusted off other ones that had been all but forgotten.
To the surprise of very few people, U.S. trading partners have
retaliated with tariffs of their own.

The Chinese-American relationship may have soured for the
foreseeable future. People on both sides of the political spectrum
have reasons not to like China these days—human rights
violations, security threats—and that will make it difficult
to address the trade wreckage left by the Trump administration.

It’s tempting to look for relief from some of the many Democrats
running for president. But economic nationalism is alive and well
on the left. And while voters support trade openness more than they
ever have, they tend not to feel strongly about the issue.

Of course, all of the above relates only to U.S. trade policy.
The rest of the world is moving in a different direction. The
European Union and Japan have just implemented a new trade deal;
Canada, Mexico, Japan, and eight other countries are part of the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (from which Trump withdrew); China and
New Zealand are updating their trade agreement.

In the United States, some future administration will almost
certainly get the country back in the game, but it may not happen
until we fall far enough behind that the economic pain forces
people to take notice.

Simon Lester
is the associate director of Cato’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for
Trade Policy Studies. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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China Flexes Its Military Muscles in the Western Pacific

July 15, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Xi Jinping pledged to complete the modernisation of the
country’s military by 2035 and to transform it into a
world-class fighting force by 2050

It is not a far-fetched goal. Some US analysts and pundits
believe that Beijing already is becoming America’s full-fledged
military peer competitor in the Pacific. That concern seems
premature, since it is unlikely that China can hope to match the US
militarily on a global basis (or even throughout the Pacific Basin)
for several more decades, if then. But matching or even exceeding
Washington’s air and naval power
throughout the Western Pacific, especially in
China’s’s immediate neighborhood, is another matter. Beijing may be
very close to achieving that goal already.

As its military power has expanded, China’s behavior has become
noticeably more assertive, if not aggressive, in such locales as
the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the
South China Sea. In the East China Sea, Beijing is contesting Japan’s control of the Senkaku islands and pressing its
own claim to that territory. In addition to national pride, the
China’s pressure reflects a desire to control extensive fishing
resources and probable oil and mineral wealth in the waters
surrounding the uninhabited Senkakus. The Japanese government has
refused to budge on the territorial dispute, and Washington firmly
backs Tokyo’s position, but officials in both countries are
increasingly worried about the extent of
Chinese military power in that area.

Ted Galen Carpenter

It was just a matter of time until the surging economic
capabilities of the People’s Republic of China would translate into
more serious military capabilities. After more than two decades of
annual (usually double-digit) boosts in defense spending, that time
has arrived. China’s new clout is especially evident with the
deployment of a modern navy equipped with an array of
sophisticated weapons systems. Beijing’s policies in the South
China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and to some extent throughout the
Western Pacific, are exhibiting greater assertiveness to match
its’s rising military clout. That posture is leading to mounting
tensions with the United States and Washington’s East Asian allies.
It will be an important challenge for both sides to manage such
frictions so that they do not produce a war that would be
disastrous for all concerned.

Beijing’s military buildup and modernization has reached the
point that US policymakers and defense planners are paying very
close attention. The US Defense Intelligence Agency’s 2019 report
to Congress concludes that Beijing is building up its ground, air,
and naval forces to achieve a more robust capability to invade Taiwan. Some
of those moves also apply to China’s ambitions in other areas of
the Western Pacific.

China has focused especially on developing potent anti-access,
area denial (A2/AD) capabilities in recent years. Deployment of a new generation
of anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, surface to air missiles, and
aerial defense systems, is central to that strategy. Such weapons
increase the vulnerability of US forces if Washington contemplates
intervening militarily to prevent a Chinese armed initiative
against Taiwan. They also materially reduce the advantage that US
naval and air forces currently enjoy in the South China Sea. Beijing’s apparent
expectation is that it can raise the risk level to the United
States high enough that US leaders will have to reconsider the
strategy of maintaining US primacy in the Western Pacific,
especially in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Xi Jinping pledged to complete the modernisation of the
country’s military by 2035 and to transform it into a
world-class fighting force by 2050

It is not a far-fetched goal. Some US analysts and pundits
believe that Beijing already is becoming America’s full-fledged
military peer competitor in the Pacific. That concern seems
premature, since it is unlikely that China can hope to match the US
militarily on a global basis (or even throughout the Pacific Basin)
for several more decades, if then. But matching or even exceeding
Washington’s air and naval power throughout the Western Pacific, especially in
China’s’s immediate …read more

Source: OP-EDS