AMSTERDAM — Is it possible that NATO, probably the mightiest, certainly the wealthiest, military alliance the world has even seen, could leave Afghanistan defeated by the Taliban, a band of religious fanatics with an ideology harking back to the 7th century? During two days of talks just completed in the Dutch resort of Noordwijk along the North Sea coast, defense ministers from NATO countries discussed the future of the mission in Afghanistan in tones that betrayed a sense of urgency bordering on despair. In the Netherlands, whose troops are fighting in the most dangerous region of Afghanistan, the mission is […]

Evgenii Kiselyov, the host of the weekly news analysis program “Vlast” (Power) that airs on RTVI, an international Russian-language cable station, scarcely bothered to conceal his disdain for President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Tehran for the Caspian Summit. On his Oct. 19 show, Kiselev bluntly described the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “odious,” and the regime he heads as “theocratic.” Addressing his guest, the prominent Russian journalist Fyodor Lukyanov, Kiselyov demanded to know why it was necessary for Putin to visit Iran at all. Lukyanov, however, failed to take the bait, coolly noting that of the major world powers […]

On Oct. 18, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a one-day jaunt to Moscow for “a last-minute, urgent meeting” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader had just returned from Tehran, where he had defended Iran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy while reaffirming Moscow’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. Three topics apparently dominated the three-hour private meeting. First, according to Miri Eisin, the prime minister’s spokesperson, Olmert urged Putin to support stronger diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council. Olmert argued that the international community needs more effective measures to check Tehran’s nuclear aspirations, which […]

TONY SOPRANO, EAT YOUR HEART OUT — Italy’s harassed store owners paid $8.5 billion in protection money to organized crime in one year, almost all of it in the south and Sicily, where the Mafia and its Neapolitan counterpart, the Camorra, hold sway. About 160,000 businesses were targeted throughout the country, according to the Italian retailers association, Confesercenti. Loan sharks took in double that amount: $17.1 billion. From 2004-2006 Mafia loan sharks “foreclosed” on 165,000 businesses nationwide, and nearly 50,000 hotels. Confesercenti — quoted in the newspaper Corriere della Sera — listed the fixed rates for protection. Market stall holders […]

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that he will submit the EU “Reform” Treaty agreed upon in Lisbon last week to the French parliament for ratification. In so doing, is he proposing to ratify a treaty that is essentially identical to the “Constitutional” Treaty that French voters rejected in a referendum in 2005? French constitutional law scholar Anne-Marie Le Pourhiet says yes — and outlines the drastic consequences of such an action. -o- On Oct. 5, the proposed European “Amending Treaty” — commonly known as the “Reform” Treaty — was made public. Upon reading the text, one understands why its […]

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy attended a Bush family barbeque in Kennebunkport this summer he brought with him his wife Cecilia’s regrets. Her excuse was a sore throat, which some saw as a deliberate snub of her would-be hosts, the American president and his father. On Nov. 6, Bush is scheduled to host a White House dinner for Sarkozy, and again Cecilia will not be present. This time, though, there is no doubting the reason: The Sarkozys were divorced last Thursday. The breakup came after five months in which Sarkozy’s wife clearly had problems fitting into her new role as […]

Following months of bickering, Poland’s populist-conservative coalition government finally collapsed in September after two years in power. Early elections are scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 21. Some suggest that they may turn into a referendum on de-Communization. To grasp the players and issues at stake, a whistle stop tour of Poland’s political history and geography is in order. The Grand Transformation Poland’s current political order took shape at the end of the 1980s. Far from being an outcome of the democratic process, it is the ultimate progeny of behind-the-scenes maneuvering and backstage deals. It was not the general electorate but […]

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME — Almost the same day that foreign ambassadors in Washington received invitations to attend Wednesday’s presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan ruler, they got letters from the Chinese ambassador urging them to boycott the ceremony. Predictably, the decision to honor the Dalai Lama has drawn strong protests from the Chinese government, which controls his mountainous country. The presentation was initiated by the U.S. Congress, and is supported by the Bush administration. But Congress also has plans to declare the death of up to 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in […]

Last Sept. 11, German state-owned television ZDF marked the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by broadcasting a prime-time documentary titled “September 11, 2001: What Really Happened.” By enticingly implying a discrepancy between what the film itself repeatedly terms the “official version” of 9/11 and the reality of the events, the mere title of the film already provides obvious grist for the mill of what might best be called “alternative” 9/11 conspiracy-theorizing: “alternative” because in the legal sense of the term, the 9/11 attacks were in fact the product of a conspiracy. On the ZDF Web page promoting the documentary, […]

When Spain’s Prime Minister José Rodríguez Zapatero this summer revealed a plan to offer women 2,500 euros ($3,400) to have more children, he was seeking to reverse a future in which the elderly would outnumber the working young — a demographic trend that affects not only Spain, but also the entire continent. For almost a generation, wealthy and well-fed Europe has been bringing forth too few children to replenish its graying population for the coming decades. Save Ireland, and possibly amorous France, birthrates have dipped far below the replacement level of 2.1, giving the old continent an overall average of […]

Toward the end of August, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ushered in a new phase in the diplomatic negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program by calling for tougher sanctions against Iran. In the event that the U.N. Security Council should prove incapable of taking action, Sarkozy demanded that the Europeans take action themselves: unilaterally. It is only by applying massive economic pressure, Sarkozy argued, that “a catastrophic alternative” could still be avoided: “either the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.” At the same time, Sarkozy pressured the French energy companies Total and Gaz de France to forego any further investments […]

On Oct. 6, 2007, the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) convened their 15th anniversary summit at Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin described this session of the Eurasec Intergovernmental Council as one of the organization’s most successful, the most notable development at the meeting was Moscow’s decision to pursue deeper economic integration with only some of the organization’s members. Eurasec’s main function is to promote trade ties among countries that formed an integrated economic system during the Soviet period. Since the U.S.S.R.’s disintegration in 1991, these states have frequently diverged in their national macroeconomic policies and have […]

PRISTINA and MITROVICA, Kosovo — Kosovo will make a unilateral declaration of independence within days of the delivery of a report on its status to the U.N. on Dec. 10, according to the breakaway Serbian province’s prime minister, Agim Ceku. But what then? Kosovo has declared independence twice before, but only secured the recognition of neighboring Albania. “The circumstances are very different this time,” Ceku told World Politics Review in a recent interview. “Now we have got everything that has been developed in the last eight years under the U.N. administration: We have a parliament; we have a government; we […]

On Sept. 28, Belarussian Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev repeated his government’s warning that U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Poland and the Czech Republic could have “unpredictable consequences” for Eurasian security. Maltsev’s comments, delivered at a press conference after a meeting of the defense ministers of the member states of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, have revived concerns that Russia might place nuclear weapons in Belarus as a countermeasure to the U.S. BMD deployments. Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that his government had no plans to deploy […]

UNITED NATIONS, New York — A U.N.-sponsored summit last week on climate change laid the groundwork for further unified global action on limiting greenhouse gasses, but a separate meeting organized by the Bush administration rolled out a unilateral agenda that did little more than widen the gap between the United States and other countries. First came Monday’s summit, convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations, and attended by numerous world leaders and heads of government. The gathering was a prelude to the U.N. conference on climate change in Bali in December, which the world organization hopes will […]

JERUSALEM — In Britain, the University and College Union has just announced it has to cancel plans to boycott all Israeli academics and promote Palestinian views because the boycott, surprise of surprises, would break anti-discrimination laws. The British government, as well as fellow academics around the world, criticized as immoral, inappropriate and counterproductive the union’s one-sided approach to the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But who can blame Europeans for hating Israel, really? After all, when you look at the news they read and watch, it is clear that Israel is a country run by vicious and malevolent thugs. News coverage from […]

ROME — A design to create a unified party of the center-left in Italy risks undermining the very government it supports and is unlikely to appease Italians, who are increasingly disgruntled with the political status quo in their country. The new Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) will officially be born on Oct. 14, when Italians will choose the party’s leadership and constituent assembly in nationwide primary elections. But many fear that the baptism of the new center-left party will be the last rites for Prodi and his troubled government. Italy’s fractious ruling coalition, lead by Prime Minister Romano Prodi, has seemed […]

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