George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin made what looks to be their last personal attempt as incumbent presidents to resolve the protracted dispute over European missile defenses at their Sochi summit this weekend. Despite several rounds of detailed discussions in Moscow and Washington during the past month, Russian officials continue to object to U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses (BMD) in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russian representatives claim that the stated American justification for the BMD deployments — that the systems are needed to defend the United States and European countries against an emerging Iranian missile threat — […]

On April 8, Egyptians will go to the polls for the first time in three years. Millions will vote to fill 52,000 seats in 4,500 municipal councils at the village, district, and provincial level. This election season, however, most Egyptians are focused less on political issues and more on matters of daily survival. In Egypt, a country where the president has ruled for more than a quarter of a century, free and fair elections are a rarity. The country held its first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005. The following year, a stronger than anticipated performance by the Muslim Brotherhood in […]

KOSOVO LEADER CLEARED OF WAR CRIMES CHARGES — A United Nations war crimes tribunal at the Hague acquitted former Kosovo guerilla commander and prime minister Ramush Haradinaj April 3 on charges of rape, murder and torture. The charges stemmed from the 1998 actions of Kosovo Liberation Army troops under his command against Kosovo Serbian civilians. Harandinaj, who resigned in 2005 as prime minister to voluntarily turn himself over to the court, was the most senior ethnic Albanian figure to stand trial for actions during the KLA’s battle against Serbian forces in 1998-1999. Haradinaj’s uncle, Lahi, was found guilty of mistreating […]

George W. Bush completed his first (and probably last) trip to Ukraine as president this week. Although the two countries signed a Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreement and other bilateral accords during the visit, Bush’s public meetings in Kiev were dominated by questions concerning both governments’ desire for Ukraine to strengthen ties with NATO, despite strong opposition from other alliance members, Russian leaders, and many Ukrainians themselves. “Your nation has made a bold decision, and the United States strongly supports your request” for a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), Bush told a news conference following talks with Ukrainian President Viktor […]

The initiative of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to repeal the country’s headscarf ban has received a great deal of attention in both the Turkish and international media over the past month. Analysis has been divided on whether this signals a creeping Islamization of the country or rather, quite to the contrary, it is a signal of growing civil liberties — a maturing liberal democracy moving towards Western ideas of decency and freedom. It is unusual that a singular political initiative can be viewed in two such diametrically opposed ways. It’s a perfect illustration of the difficulty of […]

The unnerving footage of the black-turbaned, hirsute, pudgy-faced, snarling, 30-something Moqtada al-Sadr has reappeared on television screens across the world. Wrapped in his black cloak and eyes pointed down at a script, he rattles off his statement to a bouquet of microphones, flanked by a posse of grinning henchmen, occasionally raising a finger for emphasis. His gravitas is his very presence: an outlaw who dares show his face. With his new nine-point plan, he is Iraq’s most important politician currently outside the government, exercising a seeming ability to turn a full-scale insurgency on or off at will. Gen. David Petraeus […]

From the TV footage coming out of Nepal these days, it is easy to forget that the Himalayan nation is struggling to build a viable democracy. Almost every day since mid-March, when anti-Chinese protests erupted in Tibet and other countries, images of Nepali police beating Tibetan demonstrators have been beamed around the world. Nepal’s major political parties and former Maoist rebels have promised to build an open and inclusive state after years of turmoil. The people are preparing to vote April 10 for a new assembly that would write a new constitution embodying a federal democratic republic. Yet barely two […]

HONG KONG — As Beijing cracks down on protestors in Tibet in the run up to the Olympics, adherents of Falun Gong — a banned religious movement that draws from Buddhism and Taoism — are also facing the heavy hand of the Communist regime. Falun Gong members claim Chinese authorities are stepping up their crackdown on the group, branded an “evil cult” by Beijing, by using Olympic security as an “excuse.” In early March, the U.S.-based Falun Dafa Information Center announced that 1,878 practitioners from 29 provinces had been arrested since January 2008 and that cash rewards of up to […]

BUCHAREST, Romania — While heads of state and defense ministers prepare to hash out important issues related to NATO operations, enlargement and emerging security threats from Afghanistan and the Balkans to Iraq, Bucharest is undergoing a frenzy of logistical preparation and aesthetic transformation that is both energizing and stressing Romanians. This week, an estimated 6,500 visitors — 3,000 delegates and 3,500 journalists — will descend on Bucharest to attend the April 2-4 NATO Summit, for which Romanian authorities have been vigorously planning since March 2007, and which promises to be NATO’s largest summit ever. Logistics “Romania lacks an institution designed […]

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