LONDON — Only moments after takeoff on a flight from Amsterdam to London, everyone on board, it seemed, had disappeared into a newspaper. With front pages from across Europe held aloft, a glance down the aisle showed one story dominated the news that day in dailies across the region, with another piece of news coming in a close second. Almost every front page showed a picture of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Not far below the news from Denver, most papers featured unsettling news about Russia and the possibility of a new Cold War. Once again, America and Europe stand […]

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In South Korea immediately after the end of the Beijing Olympics, Chinese President Hu Jintao and his South Korean counterpart, President Lee Myung-bak, reaffirmed their mutual support for achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the Six-Party talks. The joint statement issued at the end of the two-day summit underscored their shared commitment to promoting Korea’s denuclearization and improving relations between the two Korean states. “The South Korean side expressed its position to push for co-existence and co-prosperity (with North Korea) through inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation,” the declaration read. “The Chinese side reaffirmed its support that South and North […]

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Thailand’s political scene descended into chaos on Tuesday morning when supposed pro-democracy protesters stormed a television station, took over government buildings and blocked roads in an attempt to force the downfall of a democratically elected government. Samak Sundaravej, a generally unpopular prime minister, has stood firm but resisted using heavy-handed measures that could easily see the return of a military-led government. Oddly enough, a violent response may be exactly what the protesters, led by members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) want. PAD leaders have called the protests “the final showdown” and machetes, sling shots, […]

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“What is a Jew in Germany Permitted to Say against Israel?” Thus ran the headline to a commentary that ran in the Arts and Letters section of Germany’s influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) last week. And — though perfectly reflecting the tenor of the article by Patrick Bahners, the editor of the section — a very odd headline it is. For while the subject of the piece is a court case in which freedom of speech is indeed clearly at stake, as so happens the case involves not an attempt to silence a Jewish critic of Israel, but rather the […]

While control over routes for the export of oil and gas to Western markets was clearly not the primary cause of the recent hostilities between Moscow and Tbilisi, the vital role of the Caucasus as an energy transit route nevertheless cannot be ignored in the context of Russia’s increasingly tense relationship with the United States and its European allies. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to the formation of several breakaway republics in the Caspian region, an energy-rich area which had been off limits to Western investment. That these newly formed states with substantial reserves of […]

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — It was a long time coming, but the dissident and sometimes mischievous politician Anwar Ibrahim has bloodied the nose of Malaysia’s ruling coalition by winning Tuesday’s by-election, marking his return to parliament and positioning himself for a tilt at the nation’s top job. “The message is clear,” he told thousands of cheering supporters. “We in Permatang Pauh and in Malaysia, we demand change for freedom and justice.” “We want an independent judiciary, we want the economy to benefit the vast majority and not corrupt the few,” he said to the chants of “reformasi” and “merdeka” which […]

SWAT DISTRICT, Pakistan — The Swat valley, a picturesque region in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, was once a tourist destination. Two years ago, however, it became a Taliban haven when Maulana Fazlullah, a hardline cleric turned militant Taliban commander, launched a vicious campaign against the education of girls. Unlike much of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the east, along the 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan, the Swat valley has historically been known for the relatively liberal values and traditions of its people, as well as its mesmerizing natural scenery. When Buddhism was the primary influence in […]

GEORGIAN BLAME GAME . . . — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili may excoriate Russia for invading his country in interviews with Western media — such as his Financial Times interview Monday — but for local consumption he does not spare the West from responsibility for Georgia’s current crisis. In a major speech in Tbilisi last week, he said the Russian military build-up in South Ossetia was well underway before Georgian forces attacked the breakaway province, but Western leaders wouldn’t believe him, and Western intelligence failed to detect it. “When we were asking our Western partners [read: the United States] did […]

Once again, the news from Burma rings with echoes of despair. The latest mission from the international community has ended in embarrassment — not for the despotic generals who rule Burma (renamed Myanmar by its illegitimate regime), but for the United Nations and its ineffectual efforts. It seems no one who matters wants to waste any more time meeting with the U.N. envoy. And now, unconfirmed reports say the iconic leader of the pro-democracy opposition, the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, may have started a hunger strike. Once again, Burma stands like a conscience-searing mirage on the Asian horizon, […]

As the presidential elections near, Sens. McCain and Obama will be forced to debate and articulate foreign policy positions before a nation transfixed by its fortunes in the Middle East. But what the candidates say, or fail to say, about the world beyond the Middle East, and particularly about the Asia-Pacific region, will have tremendous consequences for American strategy. In particular, both candidates must understand the importance of India to U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific. First, the candidates must understand how U.S. military campaigns and posturing in the Middle East can have serious national security consequences beyond that region. America’s […]

On Aug. 21, the Russian Defense Ministry announced its decision to halt military cooperation with NATO members. The Russian announcement comes only a week after Moscow tried to convene a special meeting of the NATO-Russia Council to discuss the situation in Georgia, but was rebuffed by the alliance. Instead, NATO foreign ministers met independently of Moscow on Aug. 19, when they threatened to curtail military cooperation with Russia. When asked about the Russian decision, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe observed that, “For all practical purposes, military-to-military cooperation had really already been ended with the Russians. I can’t imagine […]

Moments of candor from sub-Saharan African politicians are rare, but they do occur. Near the end of 2005, Eriya Kategaya, then a former cabinet minister in Uganda, criticized the role of Western donors in supporting the personal rule of leaders like Yoweri Museveni. “Hinging the destiny of a country to an individual is absolutely not correct,” he said. Granted, Kategaya, once again a cabinet minister, delivered his lament while temporarily ejected from Uganda’s ruling party for opposing Museveni’s push to erase presidential term limits. But that should not blunt his analysis. The West and its development industry have serially backed […]

SAN JOSÉ DEL GUAVIARE, Colombia — At a military base in this eastern town on the edge of the jungle, Juan Manual Santos, Colombia’s defense minister, recently delivered a triumphant appraisal of the country’s fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Just a few years ago, it would have it would have been hard to imagine staging such an event here, for fear of a guerrilla ambush. “We have chosen San José del Guaviare because it symbolized the old Colombia, a country ridden with narcotraffickers, paramilitaries and guerrillas,” said Santos as he addressed the country’s generals and elite troops […]

When all was said and done, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got scant comfort from NATO on her mission to press punitive action against Russia following its armed incursion into Georgia — and its slowness in leaving it. True, the North Atlantic alliance foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Tuesday did manage to adopt a united position — but at the price of tepid language and of retaliatory steps that fell short of what the Bush administration had urged. President Dmitry Medvedev signed an agreement that requires Russian troops to return to positions held before the fighting broke out on Aug. […]

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Last week, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INDEC), the Argentine government’s statistics agency, released the official inflation figure for the month of July: 0.4 percent. Such a report would have caused jubilation among the Argentine public, had they believed it. “It’s a lie,” responded Yamila, a local drama teacher, without hesitation when asked about the figure. The coordinators of the INDEC report appear to be the only ones who have failed to notice the recent price increases in Buenos Aires. Charles, a French researcher who has resided here for the last three months, scoffed […]

Earlier today, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski signed an agreement negotiated last week that will position 10 American-controlled interceptor missiles at a U.S.-manned missile defense base in Poland. Both governments reached the deal despite strenuous Russian opposition to the move. During the past year, Russian political, military, and other leaders have stridently denounced American efforts to establish a comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD) network that extends beyond the United States. In particular, Moscow has objected to U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic to supplement the […]

When war broke out in the Caucuses between Russia and Georgia, the government of Israel immediately knew it had a difficult situation in its hands. The early phases of the conflict forced Israel to walk a difficult diplomatic path. Before long, Israelis realized that the new global reality reflected by the conflict meant an even more challenging environment in which to handle threats to their security. The rumblings of a new Cold War could well mean that cooperation between the West and Russia on matters crucial to Israel, particularly Iran, is coming to an end. Even worse, a possible new […]

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