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Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: – This Al Jazeera video breaks the story that Taliban leaders held a secret meeting in the Maldives to discuss Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reintegration plan. – Two members of the Russian media discuss perceptions of President Barack Obama in Russia as well as U.S.-Russia relations in this WorldFocus video. -Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Internet freedom speech at the Newseum raised eyebrows in China.Our video sectionis updated daily. I’ll highlight videos we post there from time to timeon this blog. Got a tip for where we can […]

President Barack Obama is under increasing public pressure to alter his strategy on Iran. Instead of diplomatic engagement with the current regime to end the nuclear stand-off, many feel he should encourage its collapse — or at least its fundamental modification — at the hands of the Green Movement. According to this line of reasoning, it makes no sense for Washington to negotiate with a government that might be on the verge of being overthrown altogether. The risk of the alternative approach, of course, is that Iran might cross the nuclear finish line before the regime has been forced to […]

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at L’Ecole Militairein Paris about the future of European security and the United States’role in achieving a secure Europe. Clinton says that the U.S. willcontinue to station troops and build missile defense architecture inEurope. The secretary also had strong words for Russia, admonishing anyspheres of influence Moscow may be trying perpetrate. Click here for a full transcript of her remarks.

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WorldFocus’ Daljit Dhaliwal talks with Vladimir Lensky of Russia’sChannel One and former Soviet foreign ministry official SergeyShestakov. Both Lensky and Shestakov say that though Russia and theU.S. have yet to reach a final decision on a post-START treaty,relations are much more amicable now than they have been in recenthistory. Regarding Russia’s neighbors, Shestakov says “influence is thename of the game.” And as far as Russia backing international sanctionsagainst Iran, Shestakov says observers should take a wait and seeapproach as Moscow is being very “opportunistic” with respect tomounting tensions.

Just four months after the world’s navies all but declared victory in their war on Somali pirates, hijackings have spiked. In the span of just one week in early January, sea bandits seized four large commercial vessels off the Somali coast. Captured vessels can be ransomed for several million dollars apiece. Piracy’s dramatic resurgence has accelerated a profound change of heart among the shipping companies whose vessels ply East African waters. No longer content to entrust their safety to naval forces, shippers are mulling the wide adoption of seaborne private soldiers — in a word, mercenaries, either sailing aboard targeted […]

For weeks, U.S. and Russian government representatives have stated that they expect a new nuclear arms control treaty to be signed imminently. Nevertheless, the negotiations continue to drag on. Most recently, U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, visited Moscow on Jan. 22-23 to discuss defense issues with their Russian counterparts. Their interlocutors included the head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and other senior military officials, and members of the Russian team negotiating a replacement to the 1991 Russia-U.S. Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START) that […]

The newly elected government of socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou faces massive pressure from EU member states to tackle its budget deficit and growing public debt. Brussels fears that the Greek economy’s continued slide could create a contagion effect across the eurozone and pose a threat to the stability of the common currency. “The Greek example is putting us under great, great pressures,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said recently, setting aside her usual diplomatic tone. “The euro is in a very difficult phase for the coming years,” she added. The euro rests on the Stability and Growth Pact adopted in […]

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Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: – Minister Mizuho Fukushima, leader of Japan’s small Social Democratic Party, has rejected plansto build a new U.S. Marine base on the island of Okinawa. This video explains what ramifications this could have for Hatoyama’s coalition government. – Youth in Southern Sudan are taking up arms to protect their villages from cross-border attacks. This video shows how the young soldiers are fighting the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army. – A New America Foundation conversation with author Steven Hill discusses how Europe’s innovation has led to a more supportive, ecologically […]

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Troy Schneider of the New America Foundation talks with Steven Hillabout his new book, “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the BestHope in an Insecure Age.” Hill says that Europe should be used as amodel for creating modern societies that take care of their peoplewhile being ecologically sustainable. According to Hill, by utilizingcommon available technology such as better insulation and various lowbudget energy generating mechanisms, Europe is positioning itself aheadof the United States in sustainable innovation.

As the dust settles from the first round of Ukraine’s 2010 presidential elections, two things are clear: First, the hero of the Orange Revolution of 2004, Viktor Yushchenko, was decisively defeated; and second, both of the run-off contenders, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych, are likely to follow through on pledges to improve relations with Russia if elected. The last time Ukrainians went to the polls to select a president, the battle between Yushchenko and Yanukovych was portrayed as an apocalyptic clash, presenting a momentous choice for Ukrainians between a bright future with the West and a return to its post-Soviet […]

With 2009 and its economic woes behind them, the world’s major economies share a common goal for 2010: recovery. However, they also share a common problem that could stand in the way: China’s undervalued currency. A G-7 meeting in Canada next month looks increasingly likely to be a forum for discussing remedies for global currency imbalances, with a focus on the yuan. But can outsiders really do anything to influence China’s exchange rate? Or would a better strategy simply be to wait for Beijing to make the decision to revalue the yuan on its own? Before answering these questions, it […]

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As expected, the sense of urgency in Europe over full-body scanners is not quite the same as in the U.S. As expected, too, the question facing the EU is whether to reach a unified position, as desired by the Spanish EU presidency, or move ahead in an ad hoc fashion, as is already happening. And as expected, three, the U.S., according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, isn’t necessarily holding out for a unified EU position. And as expected, four, the Lisbon Treaty still leaves quite a few things unchanged in terms of how the EU operates.

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With 2009 and its year-end Top 10 lists comfortably packed away, the Carnegie Council held an event last week to usher in the New Year with a list of what to worry about in 2010. Panelists included Eurasia Group president — and WPR contributor — Ian Bremmer; the executive director of the U.N. Global Compact, Georg Kell; the editor in chief of strategy+business, Art Kleiner; and the executive director of the World Policy Institute, Michele Wucker. Bremmer kicked things off with highlights from his recently published Eurasia Group report. Here’s a sample from his overall list, with each risk weighted […]

Turkey continues to work along different tracks in its strategy to become the “gas hub” of Europe, as demonstrated by the official visit to Ankara of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in late December. Mammadyarov’s visit should set to rest speculation about Turkey’s waning political support for the Nabucco pipeline, as well as Ankara’s supposed reorientation toward Russia. Mammadyarov was received in Ankara by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul before meeting behind closed doors with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Although the details of the talks have not been disclosed, the enthusiastic declarations of […]

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Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko will face each other in arun-off election for the Ukrainian presidency. Yanukovich, who came outon top in the first round of voting, is considered a “friend of Russia”throughout Ukraine, and is enjoying support from Russia-bordering coal country in theeast. Tymoshenko, the darling of the Orange Revolution, is his directfoil and will hope to garner the support of her former competitors in arace to win the presidency. The overall victory for Ukraine has beenthe relatively smooth democratic elections. Though some experts sayneither candidate excites Ukrainians, citizens are at least encouraged bythe democratic process.

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I mentioned last week that any attempts to close airport security loopholes in light of the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing also had to address overseas airport security if they are to be effective. Looks like that’s happening. At the same time, the tolerance gap between the U.S. and Europe in terms of intrusiveness vs. privacy does not look like it’s going to disappear anytime soon. And as Richard Weitz pointed out in a recent WPR column, because of qualified majority voting under the Lisbon Treaty, measures designed to constrain security intrusiveness based of those privacy concerns will be harder […]

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In an illustration of the power of inertia in international relations, reports indicate that India will go ahead and ink a $1.2 billion deal for 29 Russian-made MiG-29s. The two relevant storylines here are the decline of Russia’s defense industry and India’s budding strategic (and security) relationship with the U.S. Neither was enough to derail a deal that will also create its own inertial pull well into the future. This is worth keeping in mind when contemplating scenarios involving major shifts in strategic orientations, of the kind I tend to be fascinated by — a U.S.-Iran rapprochement, an autonomous European […]

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