Cuba became the 54th national government to accede to the U.N.’s Nuclear Terrorism Convention on June 17, in a move meant to burnish the island nation’s counterterrorist credentials, which have been contested by the United States and other foreign governments. In depositing Havana’s instrument of accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, as the convention is formally known, the Cuban mission to the U.N. issued a statement affirming the Cuban government’s “irrevocable commitment to the fight against terrorism under in all its forms and manifestations.” The Cuban government also exploited the occasion to contest […]

Sarkozy’s Unintended Comparison

When’s a comparison not a comparison? When you don’t intend it to be one. From Haaretz, on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Sarkozy then advised Netanyahu to fire [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman andbring former foreign minister Tzipi Livni back into the coalition,according to the report. Netanyahu reportedly told Sarkozy thatLieberman came across differently in private than his publicappearances would suggest. French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen also comes across as anice person in private, Sarkozy reportedly responded, to whichNetanyahu replied that Lieberman was not Le Pen and that there was nobasis for comparison. […]

Russia, Iran and the S300s

Worth noting that the Obama administration is not the only government facing tough choices about how to respond to the recent events in Iran. Germany, too, has experienced some divergences of opinion about whether a firm response on human rights should take priority over the need for a negotiated settlement to the nuclear standoff. As for the Russians, they’re deciding whether the events should get in the way of a signed-sealed-but-not-yet-delivered contract with Tehran for S-300 missile defense systems. Richard Weitz devoted one of his WPR columns to explaining the system’s significance. In a nutshell, it would make an airstrike […]

Russia and Central Asian Supply Routes

As much as NATO coalition partners’ contribution to the Afghanistan War has been criticized over the years, it bears noting that as long as the war is a multilateral effort, Russia can’t hold negotiations over supply routes entirely hostage to its bilateral spats with the U.S. That said, the fact that the tone out of Moscow regarding supply routes in general has been pretty conciliatory of late suggests to me that Russia was authentically on board with the Kyrgyz government’s decision to renew the Manas lease. That reflects the fact that the last thorny irritant left over from the Bush […]

Iran: No Promises from Obama

In President Barack Obama’s restrained reaction to the upheaval in Iran, pragmatism won out. The administration’s calculation was that, in the long run, the United States was still going to have to do business with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But Obama also avoided adding to what is widely perceived as America’s history of encouraging revolutions and then not supporting them. To mention two: References to the 1956 uprising in Hungary resurfaced this week because many Hungarians are still bitter that the West — and particularly the United States — failed to come to their aid in fighting Soviet troops. Radio […]

With events still unfolding inside Iran, it is not yet clear how things will pan out for the Islamic Republic, which now faces its greatest challenge since the regime’s early revolutionary days. But the reverberations of Iran’s internal tumult since the June 12 presidential elections are potentially far-reaching: Iran’s Arab neighbors, Israel, the European Union and, perhaps most importantly, the United States, are all observing developments closely to see how the crucial Middle East power’s internal ructions might impact their own strategic interests. The Obama administration initially chose to tread cautiously, not wanting to hand Iran’s hardliners a rhetorical weapon […]

Like beauty, the value of the United Nations lies in the eye of the beholder. Case in point, David Rothkopf’s recent screed on against the world’s largest multilateral organization, the latest in a long line of vitriolic — and largely misinformed — attacks on the institution. Only a few years ago, John Bolton, at the time the U.S. ambassador to the body, declared that lopping 10 floors off the secretariat would make little difference in its operation. Superfluous or not, those 10 floors managed to survive Bolton’s U.N. tenure largely unscathed. Although Rothkopf’s rant, too, will likely dissolve away […]

START Talks and BMD, Redux

Sam Roggeveen at the Interpreter responded to my post yesterday on the third round of START talks, arguing that the primary motivation for the talks is to reduce the cost of maintaining the two countries’ nuclear arsenals. Although I don’t discount the financial incentive, I think — and hope — that the primary goal of both the U.S. and Russia is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, by leading the effort themselves. I agree with Roggeveen that the Kremlin’s recent statement linking any agreement to the U.S. backing off of European-based missile defense probably doesn’t represent […]

NATO Drives Sweden’s Defense Shifts

Interesting to note, as Nicolas Gros-Verheyde does, that the current evolution in Sweden’s military doctrine — including the adoption of a professional, non-conscripted force, and the distinction between neutrality and passivity — is driven by its desire to become more compatible with NATO forces in anticipation of eventually adhering to the alliance. As Gros-Verheyde has pointed out previously, Sweden is a strong proponent of EU defense. It has already identified developing the Union’s crisis-management capacity, in both political and military terms, as a central plank of its EU presidency, which begins on July 1. But when it comes to what […]

Obama-Europe Honeymoon: The Thrill is Gone?

I thought this, from David Brooks’ analysis of President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech earlier this month, was on the money: This speech builds an idealistic facade on a realist structure. Andthis gets to the core Obama foreign-policy perplexity. The presidentwants to be an inspiring leader who rallies the masses. He also wantsbe a top-down realist who cuts deals in the palaces. There is a tensionbetween these two impulses that even a sharp Chicago pol is havingtrouble managing. What made me think of it now was this passage from a Der Spiegel feature on the strain in U.S.-German relations: In pursuing […]

Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Ploy, Redux

According to Defense News, the only real change at the Manas base supplying the Afghanistan war will be in its name: instead of calling it an air base, it will now be called an transit corridor. Besides the nomenclature, though, the military activities, mainly basing tankers for refueling missions, will continue. According to RIA Novosti, Russia’s okay with the sleight of hand, with President Dmitry Medvedev calling the “transit center” a contribution to the fight against the joint terrorist threat. The fact that the lease was only extended for a year strongly suggests we haven’t heard the last of this. […]

Sarkozy’s Second Wind

One of the peculiarities of the French parliamentary system of government is the strategic cabinet shuffle. It can serve a variety of purposes, the most prominent being to register popular disapproval of a specific government action, or even its general record, without calling new elections that could jeopardize its majority. That’s how former President Jacques Chirac responded to the brutal defeat of the EU treaty referendum in 2005, at a time when many suggested that political honor dictated he resign. It can also be used to reward loyalty, as well as to settle political scores and hobble party rivals, for […]

The political turmoil in Iran has brought new meaning to the maxim, “All politics is local.” In the age of disappearing distances, the fallout from rigged vote-counting in Tehran, Shiraz or Esfahan presents local challenges and opportunities to politicians in Fort Wayne, Beirut or Tel Aviv. Just as authorities in Tehran prove incapable of stopping the flow of information out of the country, the impact of Iran’s post-election crisis has also spilled across its borders, becoming an event with domestic repercussions around the globe. In the West, the crisis in Iran has created a platform on which politicians can stand […]

Third Round of START Talks

Third-round talks between the U.S. and Russia started yesterday in Geneva with the goal of working toward a replacement treaty for the existing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), due to expire in December. The hope is to reach consensus on the agreement before President Barack Obama’s upcoming state visit to Russia in early July, so that interim results can be jointly announced then. The current round of talks could prove to be more challenging than the first two, though, due to a Kremlin statement released on Saturday linking progress in the talks to the planned U.S. missile-defense system in Eastern […]

Taking Down Sarkozy

Contrary to what French President Nicolas Sarkozy might have you believe, whether or not to allow women to wear the burqa is not a burning issue in France. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard the question raised in eight years. So why did Sarkozy bring it up? Art Goldhammer wonders out loud: Is it because Obama, while in Cairo and again in France, ruffled somerepublican sensibilities by suggesting that a free society oughtn’t totell individuals what they ought to wear? When it comes to pithy takedowns of Sarkozy, Goldhammer’s actually been on quite a roll lately. I […]

Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Ploy

So in the end, Kyrgyzstan’s threat to close the Manas air base we’ve been using to supply the Afghanistan war effort was just a bargaining ploy. A successful one, at that, since it almost quadrupled the yearly lease we’re paying, while apparently rolling back the terms to now include the transit of only non-military supplies. (Question: What are we going to shoot at the bad guys in Afghanistan once we can’t ship in any ammo anymore?) Some folks might read this as a U.S. victory over Russian meddling. But the fact that the terms of the lease have now been […]

Europe Feels Tremors from Berlusconi’s Earthquake Diplomacy

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s two-hour White House session last week raised eyebrows in the capitals of Europe. There is always a thinly veiled race among Europe’s leaders to be the first in Washington when a new president takes over. Although Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown was already the first to visit President Barack Obama’s White House, the Italian made it there ahead of the two leaders who share the heavy lifting in Europe: French President Nicolas Sarokozy, who has been fishing for months for such a meeting with Obama in the U.S. capital, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who […]

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