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A BIG POLITICAL YEAR IN EUROPE — Politically, 2007 promises to be an action packed year in Europe, and here’s a sampling: In May, the French presidential elections will bring to a close the Chirac era and perhaps see the installation of France’s first woman president, the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. In Britain, another political career reaches its twilight when Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair makes way for his successor-in-waiting Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, either in September or earlier. Fresh trouble looms in Kosovo after the U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari in January presents his recommendations on what […]

MOSCOW — On Dec. 14, President Vladimir Putin flew by helicopter to personally inspect Russia’s first Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) unit equipped with the new mobile Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Three mobile Topol-Ms entered into operational deployment with the SMF division based in the town of Teikovo, about 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow, on Dec. 10. Russia’s political and military leaders have long awaited the coming of the road-mobile Topol-M. The Votkinsk Machine-Building Plant manufactures both silo-based and road-mobile versions of the missile. Russia began deploying silo-based versions of the Topol-Ms in 1997 and now has about 45 of […]

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BRADFORD, England — Fogbound airports, a Christmas shopping frenzy and sordid headlines about a serial prostitute strangler conspired to blur the disclosure in Britain that a Somali man wanted over the murder of a police officer escaped the country disguised as a veiled Muslim woman. To the comfort of the London government and immigration authorities, national preoccupation with seasonal festivities has failed to trigger the level of controversy that ensued when a Muslim woman recently lost her job for refusing to remove her veil while working in a junior school. And yet the improbable masked escape of the wanted man […]

On Dec. 22, the Russian government succeeded in its long-standing campaign to wrest control of the country’s largest single foreign investment project — the $22 billion natural gas development on the Russian Pacific island of Sakhalin. The project includes the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant and related export facilities built in Russia. According to the deal, Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corp. will each surrender half of their shares in the Sakhalin Energy consortium. In their place, OAO Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas monopoly, has taken a majority (50 percent plus one share) stake in […]

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TALKING TURKEY TO THE TURKS — European Union uncertainty about whether Turkey will ultimately make the cut and join the union continues. One senior European diplomat in Washington said outright Friday that, in his opinion, it will not happen. He said the Turks are beginning to come to the same conclusion, although “they tell us to keep saying that their application for membership is under consideration.” Following last week’s EU summit, a document called “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006-2007” was circulated among member governments listing areas where Turkey and other aspiring countries, including Croatia and Albania, need to improve […]

MOSCOW — The Russian government has resumed its attacks on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), criticizing it for focusing too much on democracy and human rights to the neglect of security and economic issues. The United States, meanwhile, is resisting functional changes to the organization while calling for increased attention to the area of the former Soviet Union. The OSCE is perhaps Europe’s most comprehensive security institution in terms of both membership and areas of responsibility. It has 55 member states — including Canada, the United States, Russia and most European and Central Asian countries — […]

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Angarsk, a city of about 270,000 in southeastern Siberia, is the home of the Angarsk Electrolyzing and Chemical Combine, a plant created to enrich uranium for the Soviet nuclear program. Throughout its history, the plant has been a restricted area — closed to all foreign visitors. On Nov. 28, 2006, however, the state-funded Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian government has decided to remove the Angarsk plant from its list of restricted areas. Soon, according to the report, Angarsk will become the site of the world’s first “international uranium enrichment center” (IUEC). Enriched uranium fuel is required by […]

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TONY’S LONG GOODYE — Until recently the received wisdom in Whitehall was that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would announce his resignation in early May, with Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown stepping into his shoes in June. But political developments have forced the pace of his departure, says a knowledgeable insider in London, and he will very probably quit 10 Downing Street in early March.<<ad>>Some time around May, the Labor government faces a very difficult election in Scotland where its strength is being challenged by the Scottish Nationalist Party; and the last thing Brown — a Scotsman — wants […]

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MOSCOW — Under the leadership of the Justice and Development Party, Turkey has been drifting eastward in recent years — but not toward the Islamic world. Instead, disputes with European countries over Cyprus and other barriers to Turkey’s entry into the European Union, as well as continuing differences between Ankara and Washington over U.S. policy in Iraq, have helped launch a de facto Ankara-Moscow axis in Eurasia. The last decade has seen a weakening of the factors that have traditionally tied Turkey to the West. Turkish leaders no longer believe they need NATO’s support in an unlikely military confrontation with […]

German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, listened to the statement of his Syrian counterpart with a slight grimace on his face. “Syria has not isolated itself from the world,” Walid Muallem explained at the Damascus airport, “but rather certain states have isolated themselves from Syria.” This response to Steinmeier’s demand that Syria should play a “constructive roll” in the region makes clear that diplomatic involvement with Syria does not in itself represent a way out of the, in Steinmeier’s words, “difficult transitional phase” in the Middle East. The press conference with Muallem in the VIP section of the Damascus […]

MOSCOW — An estimated 20 percent of the Russian population now has access to the Internet. Whereas the Putin administration exerts tight control over the major domestic broadcast and print media, it does not currently restrict the content of Internet sites on a wide scale. Web sites such as Gazeta.ru and Lenta.ru provide many of the articles and commentary that would normally otherwise appear in an opposition press. Several wealthy Russians living in political exile, including Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky, own Russian-language websites that publicize their anti-Putin views to Russian audiences. In August 2006, Russian right-wing extremists used the […]

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Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski has a dirty little secret. He was a Soviet military intelligence agent beginning in 1946. History buffs recall that Jaruzelski enjoyed a stellar career in Soviet-occupied Poland. He was once the youngest Communist general in Poland; the Minister of Defense; the Commander in Chief of Poland’s Communist armed forces; the Prime Minister; and the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Jaruzelski occupied most of those posts simultaneously. One usually remembers him simply as the military strongman who, to crush “Solidarity,” imposed martial law in December 1981 and, thus, ended Poland’s bid for freedom. He was greatly vilified […]

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The United States embassy in Baghdad is a bustling complex with a staff of over a thousand Americans, more than in any other country. Its Iraqi counterpart in Washington is a quiet, shuttered red brick house adjacent to Dupont Circle with maybe a dozen staffers headed by Ambassador Mahmoud Sumaidaie. who has held the post since May. Sumaidaie may be Iraq’s leading voice in the United States, but he speaks in a whisper, and very selectively, steering clear of the high volume public debate about the future of his country. For a diplomat whose country dominates the news, he has […]

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The German government recently completed its first major defense review in twelve years. The “White Paper 2006 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr” stresses the German government’s commitment to work with the United States, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other “networked security structures” to promote international peace and stability. In particular, the document highlights Germany’s role in helping solve a “broad” (i.e., predominately non-military) range of security challenges outside the North Atlantic area.<<ad>>Despite its bold vision and comprehensive assessment, the White Paper fails to resolve three major problems that constrain Germany’s […]

The U.S. and U.K. governments have independently made public statements on the future of their respective nuclear weapons programs in the last week. Considering the timing, it is tempting to conclude that the two events are linked, but in fact these announcements reflect the two countries’ differing approaches to modernization given the unique characteristics of their nuclear arsenals. The Announcements On Monday, Dec. 4, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the British Government decision to replace its four Trident nuclear submarines and reduce its nuclear stockpile to 160 warheads. Following parliamentary debate and a vote scheduled for the end of March […]

Last month, a coalition of self-styled human rights groups, including the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, announced that it had filed a war crimes complaint in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld and thirteen other present or former U.S. officials. Other sponsoring plaintiffs include Germany’s Union of Republican Lawyers (RAV) and the French-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). (The presence of the FIDH among the plaintiffs is particularly noteworthy, since the FIDH is a regular and substantial recipient of EU financing.) Whereas the announcement will undoubtedly have sent Rumsfeld-haters, Bush-bashers and anti-Iraq War activists the world over into raptures, those […]