Saturday, December 24, 2016

That Nuclear Arms Race ... And Why Putin's Response Was Very, Very Unexpected -- December 24, 2016

I'll assume folks are up to speed on the Trump nuclear tweet, and Putin's restrained response.

The graphic in WSJ article explains a lot:

From the article:
Leaders of petrostates from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan, Russia and Venezuela have spent billions of dollars from sovereign-wealth funds as the relatively low price of oil has pressured government budgets. Spending the money deposited in these funds—rather than just the investment income they generate—is threatening the funds’ long-term viability.
Sovereign-wealth funds are state-owned investment funds usually created to save surplus revenues, often collected from natural-resource exports.
Russia, the world’s biggest oil producer, has spent about $195 billion from its Reserve Fund since it was created in 2008, leaving $31.3 billion in it as of Dec. 1, according to the government. Russia also has savings in its National Wealth Fund. It has spent about $1 billion of this fund since 2008, leaving it with $71.3 billion as of Dec. 1, according to the government. A Russian government spokesman declined to comment.
And the arms race has not even begun.
Middle Eastern nations are also under pressure to tap savings. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the nation’s central bank, said its reserves fell more than 25% to $543 billion in the two years through the end of October. Spokesmen for the Saudi and Venezuelan governments didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Many, many comments could be made.

A Note for the Granddaughters

There are two articles in the current issue of the Smithsonian that caught my interest. It appears these two articles have not yet been posted on the net (December 25, 2016).

First, the article on the Chinese architect Lian Sicheng and his brilliant poet wife, Lin Huiyin. They are being compared to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Mexico.

Born into aristocracy, progressive families in China; came of age in the 1920s. Educated in the West (University of Pennsylvania and other Ivy League schools. Returned to China in the 1930s to save in photographs almost 2,000 exquisitely carved temples, pagodas and monasteries which were subsequently destroyed in war with Japan. They worked in Shanxi province, "west of the mountains." Shanxi would be "Ohio" on a US map overlaid on China. Ohio, too, was "west of the mountains."

"The Lovers of Shanxi," Tony Perrottet.

Second, the article on another archaeological find in Greece tying together the Mycenaeans and the Minoans. It's a nice complement to Helen Of Troy: The Story Behind the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Bettany Hughes, c. 2005.

"The Golden Warrior," Jo Marchant. 

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