GOING FISHING IN MALTA AND SPAIN — This item must be prefaced with a reminder that in the 2004 U.S. presidential election 55.3 percent of Americans voted, and thatwas the highest voter turnout in a decade. In Europe, there were two general elections Sunday in which voter turnout was an issue. In Spain, the experts were predicting that the lower the turnout, the worse Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s chances of re-election would be. A low turnout was reckoned as anything below 70 percent. In the event, however, 74 percent of Spaniards did their civic duty, and Zapatero […]

The harsh words and hard feelings that chilled transatlantic relations in January, when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the mistake of stating the obvious about NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, will not be on the agenda during NATO’s Bucharest Summit the first week of April. But the source of Gates’ frustration that, in his words, most of the allies “are not trained in counterinsurgency” or doing enough in Afghanistan, should dominate the agenda — and so should the solution. In many ways, NATO’s necessary but nettlesome mission in Afghanistan is a microcosm of its post-Cold War shortcomings: Every member recognizes […]

France, Russia and the EU

I haven’t been able to find English-language coverage of this, so all I’ve got is this Le Monde article. But it’s worth mentioning because it looks to me like a potential sea change waiting to happen. Two days ago, Russia’s Foreign and Defense Ministers came to Paris for annual bi-lateral talks. The meeting resulted in a solid agreement from Russia to contribute 6-8 helicopters to the EUFOR Chad mission, as well as a potential accord with NATO to lift restrictions on logistical shipments bound for Afghanistan through Russian territory, which had been limited to non-military supplies. Here’s French Minister of […]

On March 4, Azerbaijan’s breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh became a scene of one of the most controversial attacks there since a May 1994 ceasefire, which established a no war, no peace situation in the region. The conflict started in 1988, when the predominantly Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh stated its intention to secede from Azerbaijan. The resulting war caused severe casualties and massive population displacement on both sides. Azerbaijan lost control over the majority of Nagorno-Karabakh’s territory and the adjacent seven regions. Although the Nagorno-Karabakh republic currently enjoys de-facto independence, no country has recognized it as an independent entity. Despite decade-long […]

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Although it has received much less attention than the violence in Belgrade following Kosovo’s declaration of independence last month, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia’s neighbor to the west, has also seen violence in the wake of the Kosovo declaration. In recent weeks, up to 10,000 protestors in the Bosnian city of Banja Luka, the de facto capital of the majority-Serb Bosnian province of Republika Srpska, have stormed the streets and attacked the U.S. Consulate and other foreign diplomatic missions. The Banja Luka rioters demand that Republika Srpska (RS) be allowed to secede. Observers insist that the Banja Luka protestors are […]

TENSION IN THE ANDES — It was inevitable that the Organization of American States would express its strong disapproval of Colombia’s incursion into Ecuador to take out FARC leader Raúl Reyes. The South American continent is a patchwork of contiguous countries, and the idea of troops trespassing in and out of countries at will raises serious issues of sovereignty. Brazil, for example, borders no less than 10 other countries; Bolivia has five immediate neighbors, and virtually every other country has a minimum of three. There was, however, no question of going so far as condemning the Colombians, because everyone (with […]

BRUSSELS — NATO and European Union officials in Brussels met the landslide election victory of former Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev, with ambivalence this week. Officials of both bodies expressed little optimism that a change of leadership will bring any great change in the direction of Russia’s increasingly assertive foreign policy. Medvedev won more than 70 percent of the vote, defeating three candidates who had no chance to confront Medvedev in debates and had little realistic chance of victory after Putin named his successor. According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, 64 percent of eligible voters participated in […]

On March 1, the conflict over the disputed outcome of last month’s presidential elections in Armenia turned deadly when riot police and Interior Ministry troops clashed with armed opposition demonstrators in the capital city. Dozens of people were killed or injured in downtown Yerevan, where tens of thousands of Armenians had engaged in round-the-clock street protests and established a makeshift tent camp. The incident apparently started with a police tracer bullet accidentally ricocheted and killed a demonstrator, enraging the protesters to attack the police. The government responded to the melee by declaring a state of emergency in the capital and […]

BELGRADE, Serbia — As editor-in-chief of Serbia’s oldest and most prestigious daily newspaper, Politika, I am at a loss to explain the West’s stubborn support for Kosovo independence to my readers. Only nine years ago, my country was bombed for 78 days by the most powerful military alliance the world has ever seen, and the last thing I want is to pour oil over the fire of anti-Western sentiment. But the truth is, I find myself grappling with the same bitterness and resentment as most of my countrymen. I was very much part of the democratic upheaveal that rid Serbia […]

Russia & Iran

This didn’t get much notice, but it strikes me as significant that the Iran sanctions resolution was passed as the first order of business under Russia’s presidency of the UN Security council, given recent signals of a hardening of Russia’s posture towards Iran. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how Moscow plans to address the Kosovo dossier, which was included among priority items by Russia’s UN envoy.

Data Mining: The EU Tries to Hold the Line

This article over at Rue89 (French language) shows the degree to which America’s emphasis on information mining as a counter-terrorism tool is more than just a domestic issue. In return for a more favorable visa waiver program, the Czech Republic has signed a Memorandum of Understanding that offers American authorities access to far more passenger information than the EU is comfortable with. Significantly, the Czechs went ahead and signed the agreement in the face of pressure from the EU to wait for the articulation of a common European position. Said Ivan Langer, the Czech Interior Minister, “A man whose belly […]

Russia’s Challenges Under Medvedev, or Putin

It’s still anyone’s guess whether Dmitri Medvedev comes with Putin-strings attached to his wrists and ankles. But one thing worth mentioning is that the country he’ll be governing, while certainly resurgent relative to its position ten years ago, has some clouds looming on its economic horizon. Which is just what Lee Hudson Teslik does in this CFR piece. But he kind of glosses over Russia’s failure to invest in its energy infrastructure. This Center for European Policy Studies analysis (.pdf) by Alan Riley, while a bit dated (2006), is still informative. We’re used to hearing about Europe’s dependence on Russian […]

The EADS Contract: Sweet Home Alabama

A quick word on the EADS tanker contract that’s getting so much blog attention. (Kevin here, Art here, Danger Room here and here.) Some mention was made of EADS’ promise to build the aircraft in Alabama as a way to placate Congress. It’s important, though, to point out that as early as last December, EADS was floating suggestions of outsourcing operations to Alabama as a way of counteracting the collapse of the dollar to third-world currency status correction in the dollar’s exchange value. So while the move might make for some good Stateside p.r., it makes for some even better […]

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