The France-based non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders recently released its Worldwide Press Freedom index, which ranks Russia as 147th on a list of 168 countries in terms of protecting journalists and media expression. Russia’s 147th ranking is five spots behind the Democratic Republic of Congo, the site of the bloodiest conflict in the world, and just a few spots ahead of Iraq, where 85 journalists have died violently since 2003. Russia even allegedly lags nineteen spots behind Kazakhstan, where President-for-Life Nursultan Nazarbayev erected a golden statue of himself and whose government has threatened to sue the British comedian Sacha Baron […]

Over the last month, Russia has experienced a surge of contract killings, with five high-profile murders — a potent reminder that the country is far from the stable democracy its leaders say it is. The Oct. 7 murder of the anti-Kremlin journalist and human rights advocate Anna Politkovskaya is the most prominent of these, and the latest of 11 murders of Russian journalists in the last six years. Sadly, however, Politkoskaya’s is not the most recent such killing. Aleksandr Plokhin, manager of the Moscow branch of the state-owned Vneshtorgbank, was shot dead on Oct. 10. And Anatoly Voronin, an executive […]

I volki syty i ovtsy tsely. “The wolves are full and the sheep are still alive.” That Russian version of “having one’s cake and eating it too” describes the current state of Russian foreign affairs in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In the few past weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not only intensified Russia’s policy regarding Georgia, but convinced the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, to pass a resolution that gives Russia unprecedented clout in the sovereign territory of its struggling southern neighbor. Russia introduced the resolution, which passed on Oct. 16, as part […]

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Like a scene from a Hollywood gangster film, two masked gunmen burst into the Amedic bar in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and opened fire on patrons watching a Bulgaria-Netherlands soccer game. Seconds later, their target, Nikolai Ivanov — a.k.a the Beaver — lay dead from 9 bullets; two of his associates lay bleeding on the floor next to him. The slaying on Oct. 7 in the small Balkan nation was the latest bloody salvo in an organized crime turf war that has seen over four dozen mob hits in the past five years and, in the last decade, 120 contract-style killings […]

The issue of Muslim women wearing veils in public has ignited an unprecedented national debate on the subject and on multiculturalism generally across Britain. This time the debate pertains to Islamism as a political and cultural movement rather than the usual narrower discussion of Islam as religion. When former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made plain his views on asking Muslim women to remove the veil in his constituency consultations a few weeks ago, he must have known the furor he risked. But it appears to have been an issue troubling Straw for some time. And his comments have clearly laid […]

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was in Yorktown, Va., Thursday to preside over 225th anniversary celebrations of the decisive siege that effectively ended the American Revolution, and she used the occasion to underscore the importance of French-U.S. relations. A parade of American and French troops in the city on the Chesapeake represented the military partnership that forced British General Charles Cornwallis to ask for surrender terms on Oct. 17, 1781, and to capitulate two days later. There was no senior member of the Bush administration at the Yorktown ceremonies, and a Defense Department source called the commemoration “a French affair.” […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement Oct. 1 declaring that the Georgian government’s arrest of seven Russian officers was needlessly provocative, and suggesting a U.S. hand in the incident. “There seem to be some powers which specialize in creating a new crisis every day, thinking it will distract attention from the old problems,” Putin said. “In the short term it might have some effect, but it absolutely will not help in resolving old and very serious crises around the world.” Putin compared the Georgian government’s actions to the paranoia of the U.S.S.R. under Stalin and his secret police chief […]

BUDAPEST, Hungary — In parts, the May 26 speech Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany gave to his Socialist party was something of a grand mea culpa. “I almost died when I had to pretend for one and a half years as if we were governing,” he said on tape. “I am through with this. We either do it and then you’ve got your man, or you pick someone else.” At other times, the speech seemed a sweeping political treatise delivered in the belligerent incoherence of a taxi driver stuck in traffic. “Since they know my mother’s name . . . […]

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As a joke, he once called the Saudi Arabian soccer team “terrorists,” something Arab states found not so funny. And as a jab at an older politician he was replacing, he said “every man whose wife grows old has earned a younger woman,” something women found not so funny. And last month an audio tape surfaced that was not a jab and not a joke, but an admission of lies, lies, lies about the economy, something the people of Hungary found not funny at all. Hungary’s hip Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurscany has never been in hotter water, but he has […]

ANKARA, Turkey — Not since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire — the seat of the 400-year old Turkish Muslim caliphate — have Europeans been so preoccupied with Turkey. As poor Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and Africa flood the gates of Europe in search of work, the prospect of Turkey’s accession into the EU has provoked the EU’s most heated existential crisis to date. Turkey, the gateway between Europe and the Middle East, began its Europeanizing mission well over half a century ago when it first applied to join what was then called the European Economic Community. Until […]

EU Justice and Interior Ministers have just met in Tampere, Finland, to devise a common immigration and asylum policy by 2010. As contentious as the issue proved, it is ultimately no match for the other issue on the agenda, which set alarm bells ringing in a number of European capitals: changing the EU’s system of qualified majority voting (QMV) on criminal justice and home affairs matters. The changes proposed would mean ending national vetoes on highly sensitive issues — and thus a further significant loss of sovereign control to Brussels. Though the two-day conference broke up with little achieved, EU […]