On Dec. 10, the mediators responsible for managing the U.N.-supervised negotiations over Kosovo’s final status reported to the U.N. Security Council that they had failed to overcome the differences separating the Serbian government and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority. “Neither party was willing to cede its position on the fundamental question of sovereignty over Kosovo,” the mediators reported. Kosovo’s political leaders then announced they would declare independence in early 2008 even without the approval of the United Nations or the Serbian government, which is prepared to offer its nominal province substantial autonomy but not independence. At the end of the Dec. […]

GOODBYE, PINKIE — At least one Washington friend of Benazir Bhutto — and she had many — says he had urged her to tone down her rhetoric against Islamic fundamentalists because she did not have adequate protection against their retaliation. The former Pakistani prime minister, known to her family as “Pinkie,” was already in enough danger from extremists without publicly provoking them, the friend told her. He told Corridors Thursday that he had been in communication with her very recently. “I advised her the time to open an offensive against the fundamentalists was after she had both the authority and […]

The first EU-African summit in seven years has come and gone in Lisbon, Portugal. The meeting — held on Dec. 8-9 — brought together the leaders of all the member states of the European Union and African Union, except for a few, such as U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who stayed away to protest Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s attendance. Western newspapers devoted minimal attention to the meeting, and, in the eyes of their reporters, the meeting was hijacked by strife over Zimbabwe and trade. Though the summit produced endless speeches, statements, and action plans, but no concrete action, it was […]

Vladimir Putin this week received an additional boost of support from an unlikely source: Time magazine’s editorial board. After the Russian president beat out former Vice President Al Gore and “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling for the title of the magazine’s “person of the year,” a firestorm erupted in Russia over the meaning and possible ramifications of the title. “He’s not a good guy, but he’s done extraordinary things,” Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel said on NBC’s “Today” show. “At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize, [Putin] has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in […]

EXPANDING FREE BORDERS — Last week the number of signatories of the EU’s Schengen Agreement jumped from 13 to 22, with the addition of nine more member states. This means that EU citizens are able to move freely, without checks, within an area expanded to 3.6 million square kilometers across Europe from France to the Baltic States (Britain is only a partial member of Schengen). In an age of world terrorism, it may seem like a risky development, but European officials maintain they have actually improved internal security within the European Union with the establishment of the Schengen Information System […]

On Dec. 13-14, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, attended a conference on the potential union of Belarus and Russia in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. While such conventions have been held periodically since Russia and Belarus formed a loose political union in early 1996, this year’s gathering has attracted special attention. On Dec. 6, Russia’s independent Ekho Moskvy radio station announced that the two presidents would meet in Minsk to sign a constitutional act formalizing the union between their countries. The Union would reportedly involve a common legislature, currency, and military. It is expected that referendums […]

Last week, Moscow violated the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty by failing to provide NATO countries with information about Russian military forces in Europe. Russian diplomats said they had only “suspended” their participation in the treaty regime and were prepared to resume exchanging data as soon as NATO governments met certain Russian demands regarding the agreement. Although the long-term implications of Russia’s CFE moratorium remain unclear, they are clearly worrisome. In the worst case, Moscow could disengage from other arms control agreements that have underpinned European security since the Cold War. The original CFE Treaty is a complex instrument […]

The latest American intelligence estimate on Iran has provoked an emotional response in Europe reminiscent of the euphoria inspired by Chamberlain’s words on Sept. 30, 1938, as he appeared before the throng in front of 10 Downing Street and announced that he had achieved “peace in our time.” Even if many commentators warn not to reduce the pressure on Tehran, the dominant sentiment is a feeling of relief: a sentiment to which the German weekly Die Zeit, for example, gave expression with the headline “Phew! There’ll Be No World War Then!” The focus of the coverage in the media is […]

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — The 13th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Bali over the last two weeks, had it all: anger, frustration, intense politicking, drama, tears, and finally a decision, although it was reached one day later than expected. The final document, nailed down on Saturday, is not the whirlwind of change that environmentalists had hoped for, but rather a gentle breeze that may pave the way to a cooler tomorrow in a warming world. The Bali Roadmap, as the final document is known, is the beginning of a long process that sets 2009 as the […]

‘ELDERS’ LAUNCH GLOBAL SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN — A group of distinguished veteran statesmen, diplomats and human rights campaigners known as the “Elders” launched a global drive to gather signatures from one billion people who are committed to living their lives according to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The “Every human has rights” campaign aims “to create an atmosphere in which no person, government, or entity can deny freedom and liberty for any human” and in which “one united human family join[s] together to protect and defend the rights of each other,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an elder, said […]

The words are remarkable, above all, for the self-assurance they express: “Mr. Ahtisaari and I completed the intellectual part of our assignment when we presented our plan in the spring. Nothing more should be changed in this proposal. It is a complicated work. We only have to accompany the plan and explain it.” The speaker is Albert Rohan: the Austrian diplomat and deputy to the U.N. special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. The plan in question is the “Ahtisaari Plan” for a “supervised independence” of Kosovo. It was the rejection of that plan by Serbia that precipitated the 130 days […]

A series of recent studies have warned that climate change could exacerbate north-south tensions, increase global migration, spur public health problems, heighten conflict over resources, challenge the institutions of global governance, and possibly shift the balance of power. Although the probability, extent, and urgency of such threats remains uncertain, U.S. policy makers should prudently hedge against them. Developing a range of tools to mitigate and address climate change is essential given the possible advent of at least some of these challenges. Many Western leaders have made clear that they already perceive serious challenges to their national security from these consequences. […]

It’s not easy being a dictator any more. Once upon a time, you could just hop on a tank, line up some well-armed supporters, and fire a few shots at the presidential palace. The previous resident would move out, alive or otherwise, and voilá: You had yourself a country. All it took after that was a pledge of hatred for Washington or Moscow and automatically the un-hated superpower would start writing checks and sending arms. The country was yours until the next guy hopped on a tank. It’s not so easy any more. These days, the pesky idea of democracy […]

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS — President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was the rogue elephant in the room at last week’s summit of African leaders and the European Union. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly denounced his poor human rights record, but otherwise European participants simply tried to ignore him. Other African leaders had insisted no Mugabe, no summit, and the Europeans wanted to deepen their penetration of the continent more than they were willing to be high minded. “At the end of the day, to see him [Mugabe] strutting around was a bit irritating,” an official in Valetta commented dryly this week, “but […]

The dispute over international monitoring of Russia’s recent parliamentary and upcoming presidential elections — underscored by President Vladimir Putin’s denunciations against foreign interference in Russia’s parliamentary elections — must be understood as a broader divergence in how Moscow and other member governments envisage the future of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest regional security institution. In particular, Russia and its allies want to rebalance OSCE both functionally and geographically. They seek to reduce the OSCE’s democracy promotion efforts while increasing its role in countering transnational security threats like terrorism and in advancing economic development […]

Late last month, U.N.-sponsored negotiations on Kosovo’s final status came to a close — predictably without an agreement. The negotiations have been conducted under the auspices of a “troika” of envoys from the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Dec. 10 is the deadline set for them to complete their work and submit a final report to the U.N. secretary-general. The longstanding demand of the Kosovo Albanian side is well known to the general public: independence. But what has the Serbian government brought to the negotiating table? And what, if any, compromise solutions were proposed by the international mediators? […]

This past Sunday, Russians went to the polls to vote in national parliamentary elections. The result was hardly in doubt — the United Russia Party of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin swept to victory. Equally predictable was the reaction of most Western media to this largely foreordained result. We are told that Putin is reviving the Soviet Union and that he has been busy building a cult of personality while crushing all political opposition. More importantly, we are told that Putin is reigniting the Cold War rivalry between Russia and the United States. This is the message that we constantly read […]

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