European Rights Court Rules Against Bosnian Constitution

Bosnia’s constitution violates the rights of minorities by preventing them from aspiring to hold the country’s highest political offices, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this week. “This decision affirms that ethnic domination should have no role in a democracy,” Sheri P. Rosenberg, co-counsel on the case and director of the Human Rights Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law told AP. A Jew and a Roma – would-be political candidates Jakob Finci and Dervo Sejdic -filed suit at the court in June, charging that the constitution was discriminatory because it precludes anyone not of Bosnian, Serb […]

For a few days last week, it seemed that relations between Britain and Israel were about to plunge into the diplomatic permafrost. But as the two countries emerge from their most bruising encounter in years, it appears that their ties might even end up strengthened. The crisis broke when it was revealed that a London court, petitioned by a pro-Palestinian group under the legal doctrine of “universal jurisdiction,” had issued a warrant for the arrest of Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni on charges of war crimes. Livni, who was foreign minister during Israel’s military operation in Gaza early this year, […]

Things I Changed My Mind About This Year

To take a page out of the playbook of Sam Roggeveen and the smart bunch at the Interpreter, this year I’ve changed my mind about Europe. Not that I’ve gone from optimism to pessimism, or vice versa. I’ve long been a Europhile, primarily because of the very real foundation of peaceful semi-post-sovereignty that the EU incarnates. But also driving my affection for the EU was the idea of what it might become. And that’s what I’ve changed my mind about. I no longer believe that the EU will become something other than what it is: a collection of states with […]

During his first visit to Moscow as NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlined his vision of “a true strategic partnership” between Russia and NATO by 2020. Unfortunately, the Dec. 16-18 trip also highlighted persistent divisions between Russia and the West regarding NATO enlargement, Afghanistan, and other areas that present serious obstacles to Rasmussen’s roadmap. The high point of Rasmussen’s visit was the speech he delivered at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). In addition to foreshadowing the agenda items that will likely dominate NATO-Russia discussions in coming months, Rasmussen’s remarks, entitled “NATO and Russia: Partners for the Future,” […]

Spanish Troops for Afghanistan

Spain has agreed to send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan, including combat troops, but otherwise mainly in a training capacity to the Afghan army. This is more welcome news, politically speaking. But I think it lends weight to the charge made by French Defense Minister HervĂ© Morin, in defending the Afghanistan war before the French Parliament, that Europe has undermined its political weight by announcing its various troop increases one by one, as opposed to adopting a common position in a coordinated manner. In essence, the immediate declaration by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, following President Barack Obama’s speech […]

Quote of the Day

From Art Goldhammer, taken out of context from a post worth reading in its entirety on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s grandstanding at the Copenhagen summit: China, meanwhile, insists on remaining inscrutable — and jealous of itssovereignty. In post-sovereign Europe this smacks of archaism, whereasin imperial America it is perceived as a threat. The EU countries, who have experience hammering out impossible compromises at “post-sovereign” summits, probably find the Chinese position a bit distasteful, too. A hard deal? Sure. A meaningless deal? Why not. But no deal? That’s simply uncivilized. I’d probably replace “imperial” with “unilateral.” And I’d note that there’s […]

Two years after an unexpected surge in Dutch support for the Afghan war, the Netherlands has taken the first steps towards officially withdrawing from the NATO coalition in Afghanistan beginning in late 2010. A non-binding parliamentary decision in October rejecting an extension of the Dutch mission represents a striking break from the overall trend within NATO of deepening the alliance’s commitment to the eight-year-old war. The U.S. military is adding 30,000 troops to its current 70,000-strong force in Afghanistan, while the U.K., Italy and Poland — as well as non-NATO-members South Korea and Georgia — have also signaled their willingness […]

Global Insights: U.S. and Iran Continue Diplomatic Dance

It’s not often that a U.S. official defends Iran at an international forum. But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman did just that at the sixth annual Manama Dialogue, a regional security conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies held in Bahrain on Dec. 11-13. Feltman deflected charges by the Yemeni and Saudi governments that Iran was providing military assistance to Houthi rebels operating along the Yemeni-Saudi border. Meanwhile, at the same conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki provided the most detailed counteroffer to date from Tehran regarding proposals that Iran exchange its […]

U.S.-Poland SOFA Agreement

In case you missed it, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher was in Poland yesterday to sign a Status of Forces Agreement. The forces in question are the U.S. troops that will be stationed there to service the Patriot missile batteries that have replaced the “hard” missile defense installations that so riled Russia. In other words, Poland got what it wanted all along, which was an American troop presence, if a less permanent one, to create on-the-ground commitments on the part of the U.S. The fact that Poland has also committed more troops to Afghanistan suggests that whatever offense was taken […]

The A400M

The EADS A400M is years late and billions over-budget. It’s got defense ministries across Europe holding their collective breath and biting their collective nails. It’s a symbol of all that could be right about EU defense, and all that is hopelessly wrong. But at least it flies. (Photo gallery of the first flight here.)

This Week’s WPR Video Highlights

Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: – President Obama met with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan this week. In this press conference, the leaders discuss a wide range of issues. In a twist, following Erdogan’s visit to the U.S., the Turkish ambassador to the United States resigned from his post. – As Obama’s new Afghan strategy begins to be implemented, experts in this VOA video say Pakistan must play a key role. – RussiaToday reports on a new Russia-India nuclear deal. The move to intensify bilateral ties comes on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan […]

Russian Soft Power

The bad news is that Russia’s latest test-launch of the Bulava sub-based nuclear-capable missile failed. It’s the seventh failure out of 12 tries for the next-gen missile that’s central to Russia’s efforts to modernize its strike capability. The good news is that the missile, which failed in the third stage while in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, set off an extraordinary spiral light show over Norway. After the UFO scare died down, I imagine people were quite grateful for the display. Score one for soft power. On a more serious note, for all the alarmism during the Georgia War […]

How It Ends in Guinea

The junta in Guinea has accused French intelligence agents of orchestrating the assassination attempt on strongman Capt. Moussa Camara that led to Camara seeking urgent surgical intervention in Morocco. France has “energetically denied” the rumors, which is not surprising, but not necessarily very convincing, either. In the meantime, the French ambassador was subjected to a “muscular” search by Guinean armed forces on his way to the airport, with his bodyguards forced aside under threat of RPGs. France has vehemently protested the incident, which is not surprising, but pretty convincing. In particular, I’d be very surprised if the French troops stationed […]

World Citizen: Mediation as the Third Path to Global Power

Throughout history, the most transparent and blunt expression of international power has involved the projection of military force. Over the years, other forms of power have gained importance, with the concept of “soft power” — or the ability to peacefully persuade and attract other nations to acquiesce to a country’s will — recently gaining prominence as an alternative to traditional “hard power.” But for countries without the luxury of the large military budgets that fuel hard power or the massive cultural and economic assets that underpin soft power, a third way has emerged as a path to global influence. Call […]

NATO’s New Clothes

I mentioned a WSJ article last week that reported that Georgia would be deploying a brigade to Afghanistan. That raised my eyebrows, since a Georgian brigade can be as much as 3,300 troops. But Joshua Keating found this WaPo article putting the number of Georgia troops at a more realistic 900. The WSJ article has since been revised to reflect that number as well, with no mention of a brigade anymore. (Keating raises another interesting point, namely, why would Georgia think that contributing troops to Afghanistan will help its NATO chances, which I’ll try to discuss a bit later.) As […]

The current annual summit between the governments of India and Russia, scheduled to last from Dec. 6-8, testifies to the continuing shared interests between both countries. Russian and Indian policymakers still pursue many common objectives while having few divergent ones. Yet, ongoing improvements in India’s relations with Western countries, especially the United States, present challenges to Russian policymakers as they strive to maintain Russia’s position as India’s most important strategic partner. A few days before arriving in Moscow, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a lengthy interview with Russian media outlets in which he lavished praise on Russia. Calling their […]

“We must make sure that the deployment of our troops is not merely the appetizer and that the main course becomes . . . an outbreak of nation-building and infrastructure construction and resources which are . . . not within our capacity to provide for everyone around the world.” After eight years of operations in Afghanistan, and the recent announcement that additional troop deployments will continue to execute a strategy that stretches the military beyond its traditional combat role for at least another 18 months, the above quotation could easily convey the commitment-fatigue prevalent in Washington these days. But the […]

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