In examining possible approaches to Iran policy in my last several columns, I concluded that “focusing on deterrence in the short run while increasing efforts to promote regime modification — by internal means — over the long haul” might end up being the most effective one. Some of the feedback I received suggested that I was being too pessimistic about current efforts to bring about a new round of punitive sanctions on Iran, and that there were signs that even Russia and China were moving closer to the U.S. position. Those hopes received a serious setback on Thursday, when Russia […]

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I’ve flagged the EU-U.S. agreement on bank data sharing a few times now as an issue capable of driving EU institutional evolution under the Lisbon Treaty, perhaps more so than the newly created posts that were expected to do the heavy lifting. So it’s noteworthy that EU interior ministers are now calling for negotiating a new agreement, after the EU Parliament shot down the previous one, agreed to before Lisbon gave oversight of such agreements to parliament. The key here is that the U.S. wants the data that the agreement provides very badly, and the EU Commission wants to provide […]

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Well, as you can see, I’ve changed the title a bit, because I can’t seem to limit myself to links. So think of it as “links plus.” – U.S.-Syria rapprochement off to a bumpy start. This sort of strategic reassurance to established friends is inevitable in a shifting playing field, so expectations management in the short term is in order here, especially with regard to Syria’s relations with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. The potential payoff is in the mid-term timeframe, if domestic politics allows the Obama administration to hold course. – The head of Russia’s ground forces said that they […]

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I’m playing around with this as a way to link to items I’ve read and have little to add to, but that don’t overlap with the Off the Radar turf. – Investment banks (read: Goldman Sachs) have been making money coming and going on Greece’s debt. Jean Quatremer has been covering this for a few weeks, but delicately because few people are willing to go on record. The target, according to Quatremer, is not Greece, but the euro. Lots of Soros wannabe’s out there. – If uranium is the new oil, Kazakhstan is the new Persian Gulf, complete with all […]

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I think the logic underlying Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ argument that Europe needs to take military force seriously again is solid, even if the idealist in me (yes, he lives) wishes the world would move closer to the European consensus against war than vice versa. The problem is that Gates, like most American defense thinkers, presents NATO as the only acceptable expression of a remilitarized Europe. And for a variety of reasons, that’s just unrealistic. To begin with, this is akin to repeatedly insisting to a lazy teenager that he has to help out around the house. No matter how […]

Drilling got underway this week off the still-disputed Falkland Islands, as an oil platform belonging to Desire Petroleum, a British company founded in 1996 for the specific purpose of oil and gas exploration in the North Falkland Basin, began operations on Feb. 22. The drilling, which is expected to last 30 days, marks the culmination of weeks of intense sparring between the Argentine and British governments over oil rights and shipping lanes in the South Atlantic. As the exploration progresses, the diplomatic battle between Argentina and the U.K. rages on. Tensions have been mounting since Feb. 16, when Argentine President […]

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In a comment to my post on culinary nativism, Art Goldhammer calls attention to the recent flap in France over plans by a fast-food burger chain to offer Halal burgers as a menu option. The move was condemned in some quarters as another “concession” to France’s Muslims — who in the context of this discourse function generally as “Other” and particularly as “immigrants,” regardless of whether a given individual is either. Goldhammer points out the irony of a McDonald’s knock-off joint becoming the rallying cry for French food nativists. Indeed. Since posting that one, I’d also thought of the Israel-Lebanon […]

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“Those of us responsible for crafting a new Strategic Concept do face a great challenge and a great opportunity. The phrase “post-Cold War” says more about what our current era is not than about what it is or should be. All of us here today will help define what this new era will become.” -Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, NATO Strategic Concept Seminar

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There are a few more repercussions bubbling up from the nomination of EU Commission President Manuel Barroso’s former chief of staff as EU ambasssador to the U.S. First of all, although the nomination clearly represents an opportunistic power grab by Barroso, it bears noting that it came after he failed to place Joao Vale de Almeida as the top appointee at the EAS. So Barroso aimed (and missed) at a higher target before settling on plucking the low-hanging fruit represented by the D.C. appointment. But it also bears noting that to do even that, Barroso basically disregarded the actual terms […]

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Matthew Yglesias responded with typical cleverness to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s claim that liberals look down on anyone who doesn’t like “brie and Chablis.” As Yglesias makes clear, the choice of brie and Chablis to conjure sophistication and condescension is a curious one, given their widespread acceptance into American eating habits. But Yglesias overlooks both the general nativist subtext to the attack, as well as its more particular nativist subtext. Whether or not they are now produced and/or widely consumed in the U.S., brie and Chablis clearly function here as imported tastes. They also function as tastes imported from France, […]

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Just when it looked like Russia and the United States were about to finalize the terms of a bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement to replace the START I Treaty that expired last December, their longstanding bilateral missile defense dispute has exploded again. The latest crisis arose after the president of Romania, apparently for domestic political reasons, gratuitously revealed that his government would allow the United States to station ground-based interceptor missiles on Romanian territory. A week later, Bulgarian officials confirmed that they, too, were contemplating hosting U.S. missile interceptors, although no formal talks had begun. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov […]

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Greece’s financial crisis has brought to the surface the residual North versus South prejudice that lurks in the European Union. In private — or mostly so — Brussels officials from northern member countries tend to talk of Spain’s economic “plight,” but Greece’s “mess.” There is some sympathy for Madrid and its problems, but little more than irritation and impatience for Athens. As Greece’s fiscal crisis drags on, there is more wistful talk of an “extreme solution” that would require Greece to request a temporary suspension from the European monetary union. An exit clause in the Lisbon Treaty for member states […]

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I’ve mentioned a number of times the ways in which France’s nuclear energy giant, Areva, has benefited from the U.S. opening foreign markets to nuclear energy. The U.S.-India 123 agreement is the most flagrant example, since it really involved bringing India in from the NSG cold. So it’s worth noting that among the beneficiaries of President Barack Obama’s new nuclear energy initiative is none other than . . . Areva. They’ve been partnering up with U.S. utility and nuclear power companies for the past few years in anticipation of the U.S. shift to nuclear. And part of their strategy of […]

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Here’s the funniest bit from this EU Observer piece on the appointment of Joao Vale de Almeida as the EU’s new ambassador to the U.S.: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, to whom Mr. de Almeida will report directly, praised his “significant experience,” “intellect” and “ability to work with all key actors in this important relationship.” (Emphasis added.) The punchline here lies in the fact that prior to being parachuted into the EU’s external relations unit, de Almeida was EU Commission President Manuel Barroso’s chief of staff, and served as his personal envoy to the G-8 and G-20 summits. So […]

Like a storyline out of a classical tragedy, the euro is being punished for the sins of Greece. The Hellenic Republic’s massive debt has shaken market confidence in the common currency and led to a volatile month in its exchange rate. Feeling increasing pressure to intervene, European policymakers have been forced to weigh what is best for the euro against what public opinion will tolerate. For now, none of the choices are appealing. Nonetheless, a decision must be made, and as this game of “financial chicken” unfolds, the only thing certain about the outcome is that no one is likely […]

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Today is the second anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, but as people celebrate in the streets, officials in Belgrade are trying to figure out how to stop the declaration from international recognition. The International Court of Justice has yet to rule on the legality of Kosovo’s secession, but a few nations have already recognized the province as autonomous. Al Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher spoke to Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s foreign minister, who has been leading the diplomatic charge against Kosovo’s independence.

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In what seems like a blast from the past, Argentina is raising the tone in its never-abandoned claim to the Falkland Islands. In all fairness, that sort of thing does tend to happen when ocean-bed oil reserves are discovered in disputed territorial waters. And for now, the first recourse mentioned is taking the matter to the U.N. So even if Argentina has warned it will take “all necessary steps” to defend its claim, a Falklands War 2.0 hardly seems imaginable today. But then again, it hardly seemed imaginable the first time around, either. No matter how the actual dispute does […]

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