James Galbraith

Photo Credit: Megan Canik | Daily Texan Staff

Two LBJ School of Public Affairs professors debated about one of the 21st century’s most disputed foreign policy predicaments: relations between the United States and Russia. 

The Texas Political Union hosted a debate Tuesday where the professors focused on the allegations against the Kremlin of meddling in the 2016 presidential election as well as President Donald Trump’s current relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Government professor James Galbraith was assigned to support the stance that Trump is right in his dealings with Russia. 

Despite Russia’s formidable military power and influence in Syria and Crimea, fear of Russia due to its hacking abilities isn’t warranted, Galbraith said.

“State governments in the United States were spooked by Russian hacking of our electoral system, though no such hacking has occurred,” Galbraith said. “For more than six months now, Russia has served as a crutch for the American imagination.”

Galbraith said Trump would be correct if he believes that America can cooperate with Russia.

“Democracy works properly only when linked to reasonable standards of evidence and common sense,” Galbraith said in an email. “The United States as a democracy has many flaws, but fragile vulnerability to the siren songs of Russian internet trolls isn’t one of the more serious dangers.”

History professor Jeremi Suri said the debate was about the shift in policy toward Russia from former President Barack Obama to Trump, and he doesn’t foresee the U.S. being an ally with Russia, since it is a threat to democracy and capitalism. 

“Trump … overwhelmingly went out of his way to embrace Vladimir Putin,” Suri said. “Putin has built his regime … on making us an enemy. This regime is explicitly built on the repression of democracy.”

Suri came to a conclusion in opposition to Galbraith’s — Suri said Trump’s position on Russia is wrong because of hatred in the world.

“Our world today is filled with too much hate,” Suri said. “Russia is a propagator of that hate. Trump is actively not only staying silent, but encouraging this behavior … He is deathly wrong on Russia.”

Government freshman Erick Razo said this is an issue both politicians and students alike should be informed about.

“Everyone should be well-informed,” Razo said. “This is something that could potentially lead to warfare (and) could affect taxes by increasing military power. These are all issues that affect the everyday American, specifically students who are rising into a new voter population.” 

Argentinian Minister of Defense Agustín Rossi visits the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Madison Richards | Daily Texan Staff

Agustín Rossi, the Argentinian minister of defense, discussed foreign affairs and peace in Latin America at the LBJ School of Public Affairs
on Wednesday. 

Rossi, who spoke with a translator during the event, brought documents dated from the 1970s and 1980s to give to the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. 

Introducing Rossi, James Galbraith, government/business relations chair and government professor, said Rossi has had a major impact on various social movements in Argentina. 

“Rossi was the prime mover behind significant social reforms in Argentina,” Galbraith said. “He is a great friend to many of the causes we believe in.”

Rossi said that, for the first time in history, the Latin American countries have been brought together by an organization called UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. 

“The establishment of UNASUR, which was born out of the effort of the Brazilian president, was the first time we were able to have all 12 nations of Latin America become member states,” Rossi said. “This promoted the possibility of more cooperation.”

Rossi said that soon after the creation of UNASUR, the organization was able to keep conflicting countries from going to war.

“The first secretary general of UNASUR was ex-president Kirchner,” Rossi said. “The first challenge that this organization took on was to avoid a diplomatic conflict that existed between Colombia and Venezuela.”

Peter Cleaves, president of DRG International, an international business advisory firm, said that he understands why it was necessary to create organizations such as UNASUR.

“The Argentine military and other militaries in the Latin American region are engaging in international cooperation [and] new kinds of projects, which, in effect, deflect their previous interest in watching the civilian politicians,” Cleaves said. “So all of these clubs, projects and mutual defense pacts are to keep the military busy doing productive activities, certainly more productive than plotting against the civilian regime.”

Argentina has made headlines for its attempt at keeping a territorial hold on the Malvinas Islands in the Southern Atlantic. Rossi said he supports Argentina’s stance on their right to the islands.

“Argentina claims sovereignty over these islands and will continue to do so," Rossi said. "As a matter of fact, it is part of our national constitution, which declares that we have sovereignty over the Malvinas and the South Atlantic region,” Rossi said. “They belong to Argentina, and we will continue to claim these rights in international forum.”

Rossi said that the Argentinian government has pushed to work peacefully with other nations over the past 40 years so that Latin America can propel itself forward.

The current rate of economic inequality in the United States, as well as the rest of the world, is higher than it has been in the past several decades and is continuing to grow, according to James Galbraith, a government and public affairs professor, at a lecture Monday. 

At the seminar, called “Capital and Inequality: Up from Piketty,” Galbraith discussed his review of a book by Thomas Piketty about inequality, titled “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Galbraith said Piketty misleads readers mainly because he takes their attention away from important questions that should be asked about
the issue.

“In the wake of the crisis, [the important questions are] the dysfunction of the financial system, the actual character of technological change, the continuing deterioration of the world economic order, and a fourth one is the instability of the resource situation,” Galbraith said.

Galbraith said he defines “capital” as more than just monetary value. According to Galbraith, anything that allows an entity to make controlling decisions can be referred to as capital.

Mark Metzler, Asian studies and history professor, attended the talk and said he believes the current height of inequality across the world is a result of those with higher status rapidly accumulating more wealth and power.

“The rate of return of capital normally runs at a much higher rate than the rate of economic growth,” Metzler said. “[This] means that the people who hold claims to capital will naturally be getting a larger and larger share of the national wealth.”

Dashiell Daniels, Asian studies and history junior, said he believes that corporate institutions and financial sectors play an important role in the growing inequality across the globe, especially in the post-WWII era.

“Institutional and financial rigidity and accumulating the incomes into a very small sector of the population, where you have almost a monopolistic control of finance and production [are driving forces],” Daniels said.

Protesters gather outside Greece’s parliament building in Athens to express their disapproval of the austerity measures that cut salaries and impose higher taxes. The most recent measures are the latest in a series of increasingly unpopular moves by Greece’s government.

Photo Credit: Michael Nevadakis | Daily Texan Staff

As Greece comes closer to defaulting on their growing national debt, violent demonstrations and protests have become headline news throughout the world, said a UT student researching social media in the Mediterranean nation.

Last week Greece’s Parliament passed two austerity measures to secure emergency funding from the European Union, but radio-television-film graduate student Michael Nevradakis said it is doubtful the plan will solve the country’s national debt crisis. Greece’s debt is more than two-and-a-half times the country’s gross domestic product, according to Global Finance magazine.

Nevradakis is currently in Athens researching social media’s impact on the protests surrounding the economic crisis. He said the country is safe, but the protests near Parliament became more violent last week after violent protesters showed up, disrupting the peaceful protesters. As with Twitter’s impact during the Egyptian revolution in January, blogs have played a critical role in sharing information and making plans during Greek protests this summer.

“The Greek blogosphere has taken a very dynamic role in terms of spreading news and information to a large percentage of people in Greece and reporting on things the mainstream media are reluctant to report upon,” he said, adding that a Greek blogspot.com website became the most read page in the world in June.

Nevradakis said major news organizations are refusing to investigate the presence of more violent protesters in recent days, so the role of citizen journalism online becomes even more important. Some bloggers suggest the “hooligans” were an excuse for the police to start firing tear gas outside of Parliament to disperse the peaceful protesters. Blogs also provide networking to encourage continued participation in the face of police brutality and corruption, he said.

“The peaceful protesters are planning to continue congregating into the indefinite future,” Nevradakis said.

The unpopular austerity measures are a continuation of initiatives that began in May 2010, which lowered salaries and raised taxes for Greeks. Politicians originally said the laws would be temporary, but because the economy has continued to worsen, the new austerity measures again cut salaries and raised taxes across the board.

“Most Greeks think they should go back to their country’s original currency and leave the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, so they can create their own financial laws,” he said.

Government professor James Galbraith said the austerity measures have been vastly unpopular and unsuccessful because they directly cut into peoples’ jobs and income. National assets that employ many citizens had to be sold, including power companies, airports and harbors, Galbraith said.

“The Greek government is selling off assets which belong to the Greek republic, causing more layoffs and higher prices,” Galbraith said. “It is no longer a simple private economy.”

Galbraith compared the Greek economic crisis to the one currently under way in the U.S. and said they are both facing problems, but are very different at the same time.

“The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government to default, which is one reason why our situation in the states is much different than in Greece,” Galbraith said. “The U.S. government cannot run out of dollars and the market will not dry up, so the worst case would be a technical failure to pay on the debt ceiling.”

In a news conference last week, President Barack Obama said if the debt ceiling is not raised by the official drop-dead date of Aug. 2, 2011, the United States Treasury Department will not be able to pay its debts, which could result in
a default.

Obama said if Congress fails to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, there will be a “significant and unpredictable” impact on the U.S. economy.

In both the U.S. and Greece, cyclical economic structures mean the financial situations will eventually recover, but anything could happen between now and then, Nevradakis said.

“It is hard to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Nevradakis said. “Even though the austerity measure passed and allowed the market to breathe a sigh of relief, there’s really nothing that’s guaranteeing that it won’t get worse in Greece.”