Music Diplomacy

Rob over at Arabic Media Shack poses the question, God Save the Queen or La Marseillase? The Marseillaise, hands down. Indeed, its soaring refrain is high on the list of reasons I’m glad my son has dual citizenship. That urge to run through walls Rob mentions upon hearing it is no coincidence, by the way. As an anthem, it’s true to its revolutionary battle-cry roots, complete with alarms about the enemy come to “cut the throats of your sons” and calls to “water our fields” with their “impure blood.” (Intellectually, of course, I prefer La Marcha Real, Spain’s national anthem, […]

MORE MONEY FOR PAKISTAN — There was good news for Pakistan and bad news for India from Washington this week. Pakistan, which has done a poor job of suppressing Taliban and al-Qaida incursions into Afghanistan at a cost of American and NATO lives, is likely to have an extra $5 billion of the U.S. taxpayers’ money lavished on it in extra aid. This one-time grant would be in addition to the $1.5 billion annual package over ten years now awaiting passage through congress. Meanwhile, the Indian media has interpreted a statement in President Obama’s first address to Congress on Tuesday […]

Kenyan Justice for Somalian Pirates

In addition to all the middling naval powers that have been able to send publicity-generating patrols to the region, Kenya seems to be the big winner from the Somalia piracy crisis. After Britain and the U.S., the EU has now finalized an extradition accord (French language, via Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, English-language report here) so that pirates captured by its naval mission can be transferred to the Kenyan authorities, rather than simply released. Kenya, in effect, will function as a proxy for the non-existant Somalian criminal justice system. David Axe covered the impact Somalian piracy has had on Kenya, as well as […]

Putin and the Generals

Typically thin sourcing for the British press, but according to the Telegraph, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is facing a mini-rebellion within the officer corps because of his plan to professionalize the military. Note to Vlad: Talk to Paul Bremer before you fire 200,000 officers during a global depression. Apparently the grunts aren’t very happy, either. Conditions are atrocious, and morale is low: . . . The feeling of discontent is even deeper in the non-commissioned ranks, who complain of appalling conditions in their barracks. Doctorswere summoned to one unheated navy base earlier this month. Of 1,000sailors housed in the […]

The Crisis Spreads to Eastern Europe

The contagion from the financial crisis has spread to Eastern Europe. Growth in the region is off, credit has dried up, and falling currencyexchange rates risk setting off a repeat performance of the Asiancontagion. The Latvian government already a victim of the fallout, and the European banking system is exposed through lavish loans made during the boom years. The IMF has stepped into the gap, but it is clearly and increasingly underfunded, leading to packages that are insufficient to stem the bleeding. A weekend summit of E.U. leaders called for recapitalizing the Fund, with the goal of doubling its current […]

As Western financial sectors reeled during 2007 and 2008, Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) offered some succor, administering exotic medicine to banks poisoned by subprime toxins. These White Knights cast a dark shadow, however, as questions — and fears — were raised about the political influence that, for instance, a Chinese government presence on the board of Barclays Bank might represent. The focus has shifted recently. Plummeting oil prices and declining demand for imports by contracting U.S, European and Japanese markets undercut the vast revenue base the SWFs were drawing upon. Now SWFs are writing off untold […]

Son of Osirak

I should have seen this coming. Two weeks ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid a visit to Baghdad with his foreign and defense ministers. He promised to return before the end of the summer with a business delegation. Of course, business delegation these days is French for Areva, especially when Sarkozy is traveling in the Arab world. With Iraq now expressing interest, it might not be long before Baghdad and Paris sign a Memo of Understanding for a civilian nuclear reactor, Fabriqué en France. The levels of irony here are pretty deep: Under former dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq sealed a […]

Russia-China Incident at Sea

The difference between foreign policy and foreign affairs is thedifference between what you hope will happen and what actually does.Last week I’d been all set to flag the $25 billion energy deal Russia and China just signed that injects much-needed Chinese cash (in the form of loans) intoRussia’s energy sector while guaranteeing much-needed Russian oilsupplies for the Chinese economy. This week the two countries arefacing the kind of diplomatic incident that often has serious consequences forbilateral relations. In case you missed it, here’s the video of Russian naval vessels sinking the New Star, a Sierra Leone-flagged, Chinese-owned cargo ship (via […]

The Financial Crisis and Regional Integration

This is a thought that I’m going to try to develop more over time. But this Ralph Peters takedown of the EU’s response to the financial crisis (via today’s WPR Media Roundup) is a good place to start. Over the past ten years, there have been twin trends towards integration, in some ways parallel but in many others overlapping: globalization and regional mulitlateral organizations. Both have created economic and political forces that transcend the traditional limits of state sovereignty. (See Samuel Makinda’s WPR feature article for a discussion of regional integration and state sovereignty.) As the global financial crisis has […]

Space Mosquitos

I’ve always said that for all our focus on UFOs and high technology, when an extraterrestrial finally does make it to Earth, chances are it will be a non-intelligent, space-resistant insect. But if it turns out to be a mosquito, I’ll be seriously pissed.

Europe and the Afghan Troop Increase

A lot of people have been questioning the timing of President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop increase for Afghanistan. Obama had already delayed his decision by a few weeks, and some, like Joe Klein, wondered why he didn’t wait for the outcome of his much-heralded strategic reassessment. James Joyner doesn’t connect the dots, but his write-up of yesterday’s NATO defense ministers’ summit suggests a speculative explanation to Obama’s Tuesday announcement: As widely foreshadowed, the United States used the occasion of ameeting of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw to call on its Europeanallies to contribute more troops and resources to […]

Encouraging the EU to Step Up

Max Bergmann, as usual, with a smart take — by which, of course, I mean an opinion I agree with — on the EU and why we need a high-profile ambassador in Brussels: Sending a person with some bureaucratic clout would also send apositive signal of support to the effort to expand EU integration intothe foreign policy realm. If we start using the EU as a means throughwhich to conduct our foreign policy, it could also encourage Europe todevelop a more coherent and cohesive foreign policy. As the financialcrisis severely reigns in our ability to act in the world, we […]

Sarkozy’s NATO Strategy

Those sneaky French. Just when you think you can trust them, they turn around and stab you in the back and do exactly what they’ve been saying they’d do. Okay, cheap shot, because Judy Dempsey’s piece on Sarkozy’s NATO-EU defense grand bargain doesn’t exhibit any of the paranoia usually on display in American analysis of France’s EU defense ambitions. Two things, though. This isn’t quite true: But most of Europe has no stomach for tough missions like Afghanistan. It has not supported France in playing a bigger role in Africa. The Europeans do not want to spend more on defense, […]

Russia’s foreign arms sales recently had another banner year, breaking all post-Soviet records, causing Moscow policymakers to celebrate. Meeting with the Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign States on Feb. 10, President Dmitry Medvedev reported that the value of Russian weapons exports in 2008 exceeded $8.35 billion, up from $7.4 billion in 2007, also a record. On Feb. 12, Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation, said that Russia planned to export $8.5 billion of arms in 2009. On Feb. 16, Nikolai Dimidyuk, special programs director for Rosoboronexport, Russia’s arms export monopoly, announced that the company […]

Prague Spring

Besides continuing a distinct pro-Czech slant in his recent EU reporting, Steven Erlanger’s NY Times article on the Czech Republic’s desire to see President Barack Obama pass through on his European visit highlights the challenge of how to think of the EU. Is it Brussels and the president of the EU Commission? Is it the country holding the EU presidency? Is it the heads of state summit? I remember some discussion of this point in the context of a presidential visit last fall, and how including the EU to the “Troika” (UK, France, Germany) would send a strong signal of […]

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