Representative Howard Berman of California has proposed legislation to clear the name of the South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) in the United States government record books. Nelson Mandela, and other former members, need approval to enter the United States as the ANC was once labelled a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and South Africa during apartheid. The ANC has evolved quite a bit over the years, but did carry out numerous attacks on institutions of South Africa's apartheid regime from the 1960s through the 1980s. The New York Times explains the U.S. stance:
Until recently, State Department officials preferred to grant ANC members waivers for travel to the United States on a case-by-case basis. They feared a more permanent exemption would open the floodgates to similar requests by other former terrorist groups. But that objection apparently now has been wisely dropped."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found it an "embarrassing matter" to waive travel restrictions on her South African counterparts, let alone the "great leader" himself. The bill would update entries on the ruling party's members in U.S. government databases. Just in case you missed the neon sign, Hamas and al Qaeda need not apply.
It's been one of the recurring themes of the Bush administration: a rejection of the traditional concept of diplomacy as a game of give-and-take in which trading away concessions allows you to get what you want on your top priorities.
Nowhere is this more evident than in U.S. policy toward Russia. Allow me to explain what I mean. The United States and Russia differ starkly on a few discrete issues: NATO enlargement in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia, the ABM Treaty and the proposed U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) Treaty, Kosovo, the Nabucco trans-Caspian pipeline, and democracy and human rights. Meanwhile, the United States has sought cooperation from Russia on Iraq, Iran's nuclear program, the six-party talks with North Korea, and a host of other issues large and small.
Normally, you might think that the United States would prioritize these issues and make tradeoffs to achieve its most important objectives. But, as President Bush made clear in Ukraine last week, when he said, "There's no tradeoffs, period," U.S. officials don't believe they have to make any concessions. Each issue should be viewed separately and on its merits, they argue, rather than linked. Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to NATO because it's the right thing to do. Russia should not feel threatened by U.S.-backed "color revolutions" in former Soviet republics or by American defense installations in Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria. Russia should accept Kosovo's independence. Russia should cooperate in preventing Iran from going nuclear because a nuclear Iran is not in Russia's interests. And so on.
The only problem is, the Russians have a vastly different view of their own interests. They see U.S. moves, such as trying to convince Turkmenistan to sell its gas to Europe or pushing to bring Georgia into NATO, as extremely hostile acts reminiscent of the cold war. It makes them less willing to cooperate on other issues; it heightens their paranoia and feeling of besiegement, and it strengthens the elements within the Russian strategic class who see geopolitics as a zero-sum game with the United States as their chief adversary. (By the way, these are the same guys who aren't so into the whole democracy thing.) For many years, a failure to take Russian interests into account wasn't an obvious problem because the Russians were weak and took their lumps. But as we're seeing nowadays, they are willing to make provocative moves such as pulling out of the CFE treaty or threatening to split Ukraine when they don't get their way.
Now, maybe Russia is still a paper tiger and its bluster shouldn't dissuade the United States from strongly backing pro-Western governments in Ukraine and Georgia or trying to cut Gazprom off at the knees in Central Asia. Maybe some degree of democratic backsliding was inevitable after the chaos of the 1990s. I tend to think, though, that the United States underestimates how these issues interrelate at its peril. In the real world, there are tradeoffs, and we can't wish them away.
Blake Hounshell is Web Editor of ForeignPolicy.com. He has been blogging this week from the Salzburg Global Seminar session on Russia: The 2020 Perspective.
It’s official: Macedonians are real, at least according to the U.S. State Department.
At a NATO Summit Foreign Press Center briefing yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried was asked by a journalist if his use of the phrase “ethnic Macedonian” during the briefing meant that the U.S. Government has recognized “the so-called ‘Macedonian ethnicity and language."' (briefing video here, skip to 37:15)
As if Macedonia didn't have enough identity issues already, "so-called” comes in reference to the Bulgarian assertian that Macedonian, the language, is nothing more than a Bulgarian dialect written in a Serbian script.
But Fried would hear none of it:
I don't think it is so-called. Macedonian language exists. Macedonian people exist. We teach Macedonian at the Foreign Service Institute… There is also the historic Macedonian province, which is different from the country. And it's important. It's quite clear that the government in Skopje, what we Americans call the Government of Macedonia, has no claims. We recognize the difference between the historic territory of Macedonia, which is, of course, much larger than the current country.
By refusing to back down on his use of “
As expected, NATO has decided not to extend an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia -- excuse me, I mean "the Former Yugoslav Constitutional Republic of Upper Northwestern Macedonia, Skopje." That's right, Greece stuck to its nationalistic guns on the name issue today, carrying out its threat to block NATO membership if Macedonia didn't agree (and it didn't) to call itself the "Republic of Upper Macedonia," the "Republic of Macedonia, Skopje," or some comparably wordy derivative.
Macedonians didn't take the rejection well. After Greece blocked accession talks, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski and his delegation walked out of the meeting. Antonio Milososki, Foreign Minister, told reporters:
We are [in Bucharest] today to announce that we are leaving the summit. We feel it necessary to be with our people today.”
Not a bad idea. Their people needed all the comforting they could get. Back at home, Macedonian stocks suffered a record blow, with the Macedonian Bourse Index losing 10.4 percent of its total value after it became clear that the country would not get an invite.
Acceptance into NATO carries great weight for these small, former communist countries. Neighboring President Bamir Topi of Albania, whose country did receive a coveted NATO invitation, proclaimed, "This is the most important decision in the history of Albanian people… With this decision we are definitely separated from Yalta," referring to the 1945 conference of the "Big Three" at which Stalin claimed Albania for the communist bloc.
But NATO membership is more than symbolic for Macedonia, which narrowly missed a Kosovo-style ethnic war in 2001 thanks to an EU/NATO-brokered peace agreement. The country may now decide to pull out of U.N.-led name negotiations entirely, in which case Greece will repeat its power play on the EU front. If Macedonia is knocked off its current EU accession path because of a Macedonian identity issue, the state's large, pro-EU Albanian minority will not be happy. And all we need in the Balkans is one more unhappy ethnic minority.
President Bush's bid to win NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia turned out to be a non-starter. Member states opposed admitting the countries to a "Membership Action Plan," choosing instead to merely issue a non-binding pledge to admit them some day and review their application again in December. (Albania and Croatia did get the green light, continuing the alliance's expansion into the Balkans.) Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rozogin, was quick to declare that the review would alter nothing:
I doubt very much that in less than a year Georgia can solve its territorial problems and Ukraine can change the current proportion of NATO sympathizers," he said.
While it's easy to attack the Russians' motives, he's actually quite right. Half of Ukrainians oppose joining NATO and Georgia is still grappling with decades-old territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both countries believe that NATO membership can help them resolve their internal divisions. European governments were skeptical of this approach from the beginning. Estonian President Toomas Ilves had this advice, based on his own country's experience with NATO membership:
Don't be a Marxist" he said, "and by that I mean Groucho Marx-ist". He reminded the audience of the scene where Groucho Marx walks into a bank with a gun to his head claiming that he'll take his life unless they give him all their money.
But if Georgia and Ukraine's leaders' understandable desire to join NATO makes them Marx brothers, Bush comes out looking like a stooge. It's fairly clear that the primary U.S. goals in Bucharest were gaining support for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe and cajoling the Europeans into a greater commitment in Afghanistan. Why Bush would want to distract from these goals with an initiative that was bound to fail from the start is beyond me.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the first formal working session on the second day of the NATO summit at the Parliament Palace in Bucharest on April 3, 2008. NATO leaders begin negotiations in earnest over Afghanistan after the opening day of their three-day summit saw a successful French offer of more troops, but a public disagreement over the alliance's enlargement.
As Pakistan's new government settles in, press reports are saying that Husain Haqqani, an FP contributor and a former Carnegie Endowment analyst, will be made Pakistan's next ambassador to Washington. He would replace Mahmud Ali Durrani, a retired general who would become national security advisor. For now, Haqqani has been made "ambassador at large" and the change in Washington isn't expected until June, when Durrani's term expires.
If the reports are true, it's an interesting development. Haqqani has written extensively for FP, most recently in a debate with Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also the author of "Think Again: Islamist Terrorism" (along with Christine Fair), "Islam's Weakened Moderates," "The American Mongols," and "Islam's Medieval Outposts." A theme of his writing is a staunch defense of democracy and a plea to do more to help Islamic moderates weaken extremists. He has a lot of friends in Washington and in the media.
When we last interviewed Ambassador Durrani in November, I thought I detected some hedging on his part. He didn't seem entirely confident that Pervez Musharraf would remain the president, nor was he willing to take the usual shots against Benazir Bhutto. Perhaps he was just being characteristically polite. In any case, Durrani appears to be landing on his feet in the new order, so he must have played it smart.
Ireland's decision to send Dustin the Turkey -- a crass puppet who rides around in a shopping cart -- as its representative to the Eurovision Song Contest was met with mixed reviews by audience members last month. But the Irish aren't the only ones calling this turkey "fowl." Once again, because of the Macedonia name issue, the Greeks are up in arms.
At one point in the turkey's song "Irelande Douze Pointe" ("Ireland Twelve Points," in reference to the maximum points each country can give a contestant), Dustin sings, "Eastern Europe we love you, do you like Irish stew, or goulash as it is to you?" then proceeds to list countries in Eastern Europe one by one, including Macedonia (check here for clearer audio -- the lyrics are pretty great).
Ever since Macedonia's independence in 1991, Athens has argued that the name "Macedonia" is a part of Hellenic cultural heritage and that the former Yugoslav republic expresses territorial claims on northern Greece by using it. Now, thanks to Greek paranoia, rumor has it that Dustin the Turkey will have to join the U.N. in calling the country FRY Macedonia ("The Former Yugoslav Republic of...") in his lyrics.
But the name issue gets far more serious on the security front. Macedonia hopes to be invited to join NATO at the Bucharest Summit this coming Wednesday, but an invitation requires the unanimous support of existing NATO members, including Greece. Despite months of U.N.-supervised negotiations, neither Athens nor Skopje seem capable of coming to an agreement any time soon, spelling trouble for Macedonia's NATO aspirations.
Greece may have Macedonia in a NATO bind, but come May we'll see who gets the last Eurovision laugh. With acts like this as the winning standard, it's really anyone's game.
I think the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon is overselling this story of increasing criticism of Sen. Barack Obama's alleged "radical departure from standard U.S. doctrine" regarding negotiating with rogue leaders, but Karim Sadjadpour makes a good point here:
If Obama comes into office in January 2009, I wouldn't advise him" to hold talks with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad quickly, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran specialist at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who said he is generally supportive of Sen. Obama's agenda. "Only two things can rehabilitate Ahmadinejad politically: bombing Iran or major efforts to engage" him ahead of the vote.
My hope is that Obama doesn't literally mean he will sit across the table from Ahmadinejad, but rather that he won't be afraid to negotiate with Iran and will drop preconditions that only ensure that talks will go nowhere. But it's worth pointing out that the United States has tried in the past to ignore Iran's power dynamics and negotiate with its preferred interlocutors. That approach simply doesn't work, because the hardliners will work to torpedo any deal that doesn't include them. Plus, they've got Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on their side, and he's the big boss. There will be no deal without his approval.
State Department officials John Negroponte and Richard Boucher are in Islamabad for what sounds like an extremely uncomfortable meeting with Pakistan's new government. Pakistan People's Party advisor and FP contributor Husain Haqqani made it clear that things ain't what they used to be for the Americans in Pakistan:
If I can use an American expression, there is a new sheriff in town," Mr. Haqqani said. "Americans have realized that they have perhaps talked with one man for too long."
Whether Dmitry Medvedev's presidency will resemble Vladimir Putin's is an open question, but according to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the two men resemble each other physically as well.
At a meeting at Putin's official residence on the outskirts of Moscow on Tuesday, 79-year-old Mubarak told Putin that the physical similarities with Medvedev were almost uncanny.
"Your appearances are very much alike," Mubarak said before heading in for talks with Putin.
"When going to meet Medvedev, I saw you on the television and felt at a loss as to who is who."
We should, perhaps, cut one of the world's oldest leaders some slack, but Putin and Medvedev obviously look nothing alike. Besides, there's a handy trick for telling your Russian leaders apart: Ever since Lenin, the country's rulers have alternated between bald men and those with hair.
(Hat tip: Johnson's Russia List)
China has announced that around 100 countries have voiced moral support for its recent actions against Tibetan protestors (Tibet's exile government claims 130 protestors have died). Xinhua, China's state news agency, ran a list of some of the said 100 countries (more here) -- and oh, what a list it is.
In a list like this, the inclusion of Serbia actually seems to improve legitimacy levels.
Though the list may seem unsavory, Xinhua explains in a story today that German, British, and American media are actually full of lies. Through a series of "truth" and "lies" stills taken of Western media coverage of the recent riots, Xinhua makes a good case for why support from an up-and-coming superpower like Lesotho is far more valuable than say, a vote of confident from Nancy Pelosi.
(Thanks to Passport reader AS for the tip.)
There's been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the United States' pitiful efforts at public diplomacy. Maybe the State Department just isn't being creative enough:
Japan has created an unusual government post to promote animation, and named a perfect figure Wednesday to the position: a popular cartoon robot cat named Doraemon.
Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura appointed the cat an "anime ambassador," handing a human-sized Doraemon doll an official certificate at an inauguration ceremony, along with dozens of "dorayaki" red bean pancakes — his favorite dessert — piled on a huge plate.
Komura told the doll, with an unidentified person inside, that he hoped he would widely promote Japanese animated cartoons, or "anime."
"Doraemon, I hope you will travel around the world as an anime ambassador to deepen people's understanding of Japan so they will become friends with Japan," Komura told the blue-and-white cat.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick, formerly the number two in the State Department, told Europeans at the Brussels Forum that the next U.S. president is going to piss them off:
Zoellick began his session by challenging European expectations for a new U.S. president. "My major concern is that the tenor of the debate in Europe is raising expectations – regardless of who the next president is – that overlooks a range of interests that I think both parties in the United States would pursue and also some ideologies… they would pursue, and that those heightened expectations will inevitably have to be adjusted," Zoellick said.
At today's White House press conference touting his endorsement of John McCain, U.S. President George W. Bush gave this tantalizing, if garbled, hint at his remaining foreign-policy priorities:
I'm focusing on, you know, protecting America, and succeeding in Iraq, and dealing with the North Korea, and dealing with the Iranian, and dealing with the issues around the world where we're making a difference in terms of keeping peace.
So, how might the United States go about "dealing with the Iranian"? John W. Limbert, an international relations professor, retired U.S. diplomat, and a former hostage in Tehran, has penned a handy guide to negotiating with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Check it out.
And if you want to dig a little deeper, read Limbert's 15-page report on the same topic for the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Hugo Chávez's former defense minister, Raúl Baduel, had harsh words this week for his old boss, who sent Venezuelan troops to the Colombian border over the weekend in response to Colombia's military incursion in Ecuador:
This is a desperate attempt by President Chávez to use the military for political and personal ends, making them participants in an action whose consequences could be disastrous."
In other words, Baduel is accusing Chávez of fomenting an international crisis in order to distract from his domestic political problems. It's a significant move, coming from someone whose personal and professional relationship with the Venezuelan president spans 35 years, culminating with Baduel's resignation from the defense ministry in 2007. Baduel is a legendary revolutionary figure in Venezuela, best known for defending Hugo Chávez during the April 2002 coup attempt, and for his fierce loyalty to the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement that Chávez founded in the 1980s. But as Chávez tried to push through constitutional reforms late last year, Baduel began distancing himself from the president, citing his moral and ethical obligation to point out the harm Chávez would do to Venezuela if he succeeded in centralizing executive power and socializing the economy.
It's good that somebody is calling Chávez to account, because most in the region seem distracted by the accusations being hurled back and forth between Colombia and Ecuador. Colombia claims to have found evidence linking Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose leader Raul Reyes was killed in this weekend's raid. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe says that Venezuela has been funding FARC and has pledged to take Chávez to international court for funding genocide. And although Peru's president, Alan García, suggested that Chavez should butt out of the diplomatic row between Ecuador and Colombia, he is also urging Uribe to apologize and avoid setting a bad precedent for sovereignty. As Passport reader joeljournal noted on Monday, though, some would say that propping up a terrorist group in your neighbor's country isn't such a great precedent to set either.
Before declaring independence, Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced that 100 countries would quickly recognize its sovereign status. It seems he may have been a bit too optimistic.
Currently, 25 countries have or are in the process of recognizing the
The list of recognizing countries includes big names like the United States,
Even if Kosovo does hit the 100 country mark, that's still barely half the countries in the world. Though, I suppose fewer recognizing countries does mean fewer thank you notes.
Over at Democracy Arsenal, a blog about foreign policy from a Democratic perspective, Michael Cohen says he thinks all the excitement over the New York Philharmonic's trip to Pyongyang is a bit ridiculous:
Look, I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon... but I really don't see how this event does anything to impact the terrible existence of the North Korean people. It seems instead to me as if the Philharmonic (well meaning as they certainly are) was played for a patsy.
That's certainly the tenor of comments you'll get from folks like Brian Meyers, the dean of international studies at Dongseo University in Pusan, who believes the trip was a propaganda boon to Kim Jong Il's regime.
I wonder, though, who was really making the claim that the trip would help the North Korean people? The question at hand is whether the Philharmonic's performance could somehow help move the nuclear negotiations along. For some answers on that front, check out FP's interview with Nam Sung-wook, a top "North Koreanologist" at Korea University in Seoul.
Although a full member of the International Table Tennis Federation, Kosovo is unlikely to be Olympic ready by August. In order to participate in Beijing, Kosovo would need full U.N. recognition as an independent state –- something
For the first time ever, the United States will use a ship-based missile to take out a satellite. In the next day or two, the world will witness a modified weapons capability that will have significant policy implications. But it's the "how" story behind the scenes that has Russia sweating.
The spy satellite malfunctioned hours after reaching orbit in December 2006. When re-entry became imminent beginning in January of this year, the U.S. Navy got busy computer coding. The Navy can now outfit a standard missile (SM-3) that was designed for intercepting other missiles with a new brain that gives it the ability to target spacecraft. In this instance, the missiles will come from an Aegis cruiser, but ground-based missiles like the ones the United States wants to put in Poland can be larger and have farther range.
Theresa Hitchens, director of the space security program at the Center for Defense Information, noted the comments of General James E. Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said in a press conference that it took the Navy three weeks to reconfigure the new targeting software. The implication? Hitchens told me:
If [the United States] wanted to develop that type of software (that could be downloaded into the missiles that would be placed in Poland), we could in a very short period of time. So I understand why the Russians might be pretty nervous about this."
A little software change, in other words, could end up posing a big threat to strategic spacecraft in the future. General Cartwright insisted this new capability will be executed on a "one-time reversible basis." But there's no way the U.S. military would throw away the keys to a new generation of missiles. The Russians would probably prefer that this Pandora's box not be opened, but once it is, all space-faring countries are going to have a new threat to worry about.
She [Condoleezza Rice] can lick her elbow* if she thinks that Khartoum will kneel down to her conditions and accept pressure from her or the international community.
That's a quote from Nafi Ali Nafi, the advisor to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in charge of the Darfur file. "It is not clear why the Sudanese official chose Rice as a target for fierce criticism using this slang language," the Sudan Tribune dryly notes. According to the paper, to tell someone to lick their own elbow in Sudanese is to describe "something that is very unlikely to happen."
I've blogged before about the U.S. State Department's bizarre daily appointments e-mail for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The e-mail often arrives after the events noted therein have already taken place, rendering it all but useless. Today was no different in that regard, except that whoever mailed it out seemed especially eager to inform me of Ms. Rice's morning meeting with defense ministers from Adriatic Charter states.
Today must be an especially an important day for Ms. Rice, so I'll reprint the e-mail below. Here's what flooded my inbox at 2:11 p.m. today:
SECRETARY OF STATE RICE: ON FOREIGN TRAVEL WITH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: MORNING PRESS GAGGLE: 10:15 a.m. with Tom Casey DAILY PRESS BRIEFING:
9:45 a.m. Meeting with the Adriatic Charter (Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia) Defense Ministers.
(CAMERA SPRAY IN TREATY ROOM / EDITORIAL PRESENCE WELCOME / NO Q&A)
Pick up time for all press: 9:15 a.m. from the
Pick up time for all press: 10:10 a.m. from room 2310 / no late escort
**(at approximately 12:00 p.m. with Sean McCormack)**
SECRETARY OF STATE RICE:
ON FOREIGN TRAVEL WITH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE:
MORNING PRESS GAGGLE:
10:15 a.m. with Tom Casey
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING:
Raul Castro has run Cuba ever since his brother Fidel fell ill in the summer of 2006, so Fidel's announcement today that he is stepping down after nearly 50 years in power is largely symbolic. That said, Fidel continued to pull political strings from his sickbed, and his statement today suggests that he still intends to voice his opinions on matters of state.
FP has long been host to debates on Castro's legacy and what a post-Fidel Cuba might look like. With Raul at the helm, today will look much like yesterday. But Raul is also 76 years old. The machine is surely in motion to find ideological heirs to the Castro brothers.
Was Fidel Good for Cuba? Ignacio Ramonet of Le Monde Diplomatique squares off against columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner over Castro's true legacy.
Seven Questions for Brian Latell The former CIA analyst and author on what life in Cuba is like under the younger Castro brother.
Seven Questions for Carlos Saladrigas The businessman and outspoken Castro critic discusses Fidel's decline and his homeland's future.
What America Must Do: End the Embargo Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer's advice to the next American president.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about a U.S. spy satellite that had gone haywire and might need to be shot down. I noted how diplomatically sensitive it would be for the United States to do so after telling China that anti-satellite tests are a big no-no. Some commentators downplayed the possibility that the United States would really shoot the satellite down, but now comes word that it's gonna happen: The U.S. military will use its missile-defense system to blow the errant satellite to smithereens.
Mind you, a missile-defense system is not supposed to be a dual-use satellite killer. U.S. officials have pledged compliance with space and weapons treaties by giving other countries advance notice before shooting off space missiles. They also insist the move is necessary to prevent contamination from toxic substances and is not a showcase of U.S. weapons capability. Still, in the wake of the Chinese satellite missile hoopla, it smacks of "Anything you can do, I can do better."
What's more, shooting the satellite down could create orbital debris, which was a major point of criticism after the Chinese experiment. U.S. officials insist the Chinese test was different in nature as it was higher in altitude and the resulting debris poses a much longer-term threat. They estimate the mess from the U.S. operation will fall to the Earth within a few weeks, whereas debris from the Chinese test will be a danger for decades.
Meanwhile, Russia and
USAToday's "OnDeadline" blog finds some choice morsels from newly released transcripts of Henry Kissinger's 1973 meeting with Mao:
You know, China is a very poor country," Mao is quoted as saying during the exchange. "We don't have much. What we have in excess is women. So if you want them we can give a few of those to you, some tens of thousands."
The Chinese leader drew laughter when he returned to the proposition a few minutes later. "Do you want our Chinese women? We can give you 10 million." he said, adding: "We have too many women ... They give birth to children and our children are too many."
It's not clear whether Mao is at all serious -- he was a pretty crazy dude, after all -- but Kissinger's response is precious:
It is such a novel proposition, we will have to study it.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov seems mighty pleased with himself for negotiating a mutibillion-dollar nuclear energy deal with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:
Got your own suggested caption for this photo? Send us your one-liners and we'll print the best one below.
The liberal blogosphere is all in a tizzy over John Bolton's endorsement of John McCain, leading some to speculate that the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would be tapped to serve as secretary of state in a McCain administration.
I doubt it. Is McCain a neocon? Maybe. Maybe not. Supporting the surge does not a neocon make, friends. It's true that since the late 1990s, McCain has increasingly surrounded himself with foreign policy minds sympathetic to the neocon cause, including Bill Kristol, Mark Salter, Daniel McKivergan, Marshall Wittmann, and Randy Scheunemann. His closeness to Kristol, in particular, has been well documented. But McCain casts a wide net. He also seeks advice from Henry Kissingers and Brent Scowcrofts, and occasionally -- gasp -- Democrats, too. And any way you slice it, McCain and Bolton don't exactly see eye to eye.
Here was McCain's answer to a question posed in 2006 by the New Republic's John Judis on a preemptive strike against Iran:
We haven't taken the military option off the table, but we should make it clear that is the very last option, only if we become convinced that they are about to acquire those weapons to use against Israel.... I think that if they are capable with their repeatedly stated intention, that doesn't mean I would go to war even then. That means we have to exhaust every possible option. Going to the United Nations, working with our European allies. If we were going to impose sanctions, I would wait and see whether those sanctions were effective or not. I did not mean it as a declaration of war the day they acquired weapons."
That doesn't exactly sound like John Bolton to me.
Sen. Dick Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, isn't the kind of guy who goes around spouting invectives. So when he says something like this, it's worth paying attention:
I'm not certain we have a plan for Afghanistan."
The comment came at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday where Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher insisted the war in Afghanistan is being won. Boucher visited Afghanistan last week and told senators, "Nobody can tell me it's not going in a positive direction." That was enough to prompt Sen. Chuck Hagel to ask the obvious: "If we are making so much progress, why are we putting in 3,200 more Marines?"
Hagel's question can be answered in one word: Europe. Sec Def Bob Gates is betting that if NATO's European members see more U.S. Marines on the ground, they will be emboldened to send more of their own boys. Gates has reportedly sent stern letters to Franz Josef Jung, the German defense minister, and his other European counterparts asking for more troops. A peeved Jung turned down the U.S. request today, saying Germany's 3,100 troops, stationed mainly in Kabul, are "doing important, useful work."
Now the question is whether the other European NATO members will also fail to heed the warnings detailed in three independent reports this week, including one led by Gen. James Jones, the former chief U.S. commander in Afghanistan, that the war in Afghanistan is being lost. "Make no mistake," the Jones report says (pdf), "NATO is not winning in Afghanistan."
Will Europe sit idly by as Afghanistan is lost? It can't have helped to have Boucher painting a rosy picture on the Hill yesterday. Public opinion in Europe remains staunchly anti-war. A majority of Germans, for instance, say they oppose the continued deployment of German troops in Afghanistan. Now many will ask why their soldiers must remain if things are going so well. To Lugar's point, it doesn't appear the Bush administration has thought this out very well.
But the real blame here is at the feet of the Europeans. There is a broad split between America and Europe on what to do in Afghanistan. Two European diplomats had to be expelled from the country at the behest of U.S. officials after they allegedly held secret talks with the Taliban behind the alliance's back. Reasonable nations can disagree on how and when to negotiate with elements such as the Taliban. But if NATO members cannot support the military effort in Afghanistan, you have to wonder what it is that these countries stand for. A failure in Afghanistan will be judged by history as pure cowardice, and NATO will have been rendered the 21st century's most useless organization.
"Olympic Fever" has struck China. Much of the talk in the West has been about human rights and political freedoms, but the Chinese themselves are more excited to host the Olympics this summer than you can possibly imagine. I was in China in 2005 when things were just beginning to heat up, and now I'm catching a little bit of the fever myself. It's going to be one massive party, with half a million foreign visitors and 2 million domestic Chinese flocking to Beijing.
When you have a party, you need to provide food—and the Olympic village is going to have tons of it to feed the hungry throngs. With just 30 percent of its culinary offerings of the Chinese or Asian persuasion, there will be a lot of variety. There's even talk of a Beijing Kosher restaurant opening a stand to appeal to Jewish and Muslim visitors.
But China has made big headlines this year for its quality control problems—including a recent string of illnesses under investigation in Japan due to imported Chinese dumplings. Some fear the Games' participants could inadvertently ingest additives that produce positive drug test results. As such, a few teams have proven skittish about fueling their athletes with food made in China. One American swimmer even said, "McDonald's is everywhere... So I'll have some of that if I need it." The U.S. Olympic Committee has asked its squad's executive chef to provide three meals per day for the team, a step up from the "lunch and boxed meals" in Athens in 2004. (The committee insists this change is not due to concerns over the food in Beijing.)
Personally, I found the food there fantastic, and I know the Chinese government is moving heaven and Earth to avoid any embarrassing food-related incidents. But I also understand that competitors who have trained their entire lives for these Games don't want to take any risks. I just hope that, once they are done competing, they'll get a chance to sample some of Beijing's culinary delights.
This week, U.S. Central Command chief Adm. William J. Fallon is quietly reaching out to everyone's favorite Central Asian dictatorships: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan, you may recall, is the country with which the Pentagon broke off a basing agreement back in 2005, not long after government forces massacred nearly 200 civilians in the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan and U.S.-Uzbek relations went sour. Tentative contacts between the two countries have been underway since late September, though, as the U.S. military has grown increasingly concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and its supply lines in Pakistan. The United States is also seeking to undercut Russia's ability to play hardball with Central Asian energy resources, and rescue pipeline projects that have been threatened by savvy Russian and Iranian moves. So what it Uzbek President-for-life Islam Karimov boils dissidents alive and has unarmed civilians gunned down in the streets? He's in a strategic location.
Fallon has previously denied suggestions that the United States would reopen its air base in Uzbekistan. And so far, it appears that nothing substantive has come of Fallon's Thursday meeting with Karimov. Of course, that's normal with these types of touchy, under-the-radar missions.
In particular, Washington is keen to secure Ashgabat's participation in the long-planned Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP), a route that would circumvent Russia... Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has expressed interest in the project, but has yet to make any firm commitment.
Turkmenistan is also in a bit of a spat with neighboring Iran over gas prices, so perhaps Fallon is sensing an opportunity to bring Berdymukhamedov into the anti-Tehran camp. But as I'm sure the admiral well knows, Central Asian leaders are wily negotiators with a history of using Western powers to gain leverage with Moscow. They might just be hinting at warmer ties with Washington in order to get what they want from the Russians. So, on which level is this great game is being played?
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.