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from Breakingviews:

Obama’s new sanctions aim to expose crony Putinism

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By Kevin Allison
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

 

Barack Obama is hitting Vladimir Putin where it hurts – his inner circle. New U.S. sanctions against a Russian bank and a host of tycoons are ostensibly just an escalated response to the annexation of Crimea. But they also allege a link between the Kremlin boss and Gunvor, a secretive Swiss oil trader. Washington seems determined to reveal how Putin and his comrades have amassed immense personal wealth at public expense.

Rumors of the Russian president’s hidden fortune have swirled for years, including in classified U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks. But the Obama administration’s public statement that Putin “has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds,” means it’s now official U.S. policy that Putin has secretly gained enormous riches.

Gunvor, whose marketing documents state that it earned $433 million on $93 billion of turnover in 2012, said the Kremlin leader “has not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise” in the company and “any understanding otherwise is fundamentally misinformed and outrageous.” The firm added on Thursday that its founder, Gennady Timchenko, one of a handful of people that Treasury called a member of Putin’s “inner circle,” had sold his shares in the firm to a fellow co-founder on Wednesday in anticipation of U.S. sanctions.

from Breakingviews:

Smartest U.S. export to China could be Max Baucus

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By John Foley
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Uncle Sam's new man in China arrives just as his employer seems to have lost interest in its biggest trading partner. Max Baucus, who starts as ambassador to Beijing this month, has little experience of China and even less of diplomacy. Yet used wisely by his bosses, Baucus may be well placed to prize open new trade agreements that would leave both sides better off.

from Alison Frankel:

State and Justice agree: No retroactive immunity for Indian diplomat

Remember the diplomatic crisis with India that followed the arrest last December of a deputy consul general named Devyani Khobragade? Khobragade, who worked at the Indian consulate in Manhattan, was picked up by the Diplomatic Security Services for allegedly committing visa fraud to get her nanny into the United States. Indian officials were outraged when Khobragade said she'd been strip-searched, even though the U.S. Marshals later said that she was not subjected to an internal cavity search. The crisis took a peculiar turn when Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara - whom the Indian government criticized for abusing his prosecutorial discretion - put out a statement defending Khobragade's arrest and processing. Among Bharara's points in the Dec. 18 announcement: State Department agents had arrested the deputy consul, not prosecutors from his office.

The State Department, meanwhile, was re-evaluating Khobragade's diplomatic status after the Indian government, following her arrest, appointed her to India's permanent mission at the United Nations. Khobragade's lawyer, Daniel Arshack of Arshack, Hajek & Lehrman, told Reuters at the time that Khobragade's new post entitled her to retroactive diplomatic immunity for her supposed crimes. With the State Department issuing vaguely worded statements of regret about Khobragade's treatment, I wondered if State might make the whole mess quietly disappear by granting the Indian diplomat immunity. That action would leave U.S. Attorney Bharara and the Justice Department stranded, but would quell foreign allies in India.

from Ian Bremmer:

In search of self-aware diplomacy

In 2005, Karen Hughes became George W. Bush’s undersecretary of public diplomacy. Her charge, both poorly defined and ill-timed, was to improve America’s international image in the years after the country had launched two wars. Other countries will side with us and do what we want if only we better explain our point of view, the thinking went, and make them see us as we see ourselves. By the time Hughes left office in 2007, international opinion of the U.S. was no higher than it was when she arrived, according to polls.

And yet, this kind of if-we-say-it-clearly-enough-they-will-listen diplomacy is not exclusive to the Bush administration. It has carried over into the Obama White House. So when an Obama administration official says that Washington welcomes a “strong, responsible, and prosperous China” that plays a “constructive” role in regional and global institutions, Chinese officials are left to wonder who gets to decide what the words “responsible” and “constructive” mean for China’s foreign policy. Responsible and constructive for whom?

from Breakingviews:

Iran deal offers the world a ray of hope

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By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Iran’s nuclear deal offers the world a ray of hope. It won’t be easy to turn the agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear activities from a six-month accord into a lasting solution that assures the world the country’s nuclear programme is peaceful. But the resulting diplomatic goodwill should make it harder to go backwards.

from Expert Zone:

India-Pakistan border flare-up a zero-sum game

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

At places along the Line of Control (LoC), barely a wire separates the Indian soldier and his Pakistani counterpart. The genesis of the recent flare-up was the killing of five Indian soldiers on the Indian side of the LoC. The media blitz in Delhi found more fodder with a spike in infiltration attempts and exchange of fire beyond the LoC at posts across the international border.

from Breakingviews:

Britain can gain from China’s empire builders

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By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Britain once had nothing to offer China but silver and opium. Now it has holidays, banks and building sites. George Osborne, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, and London’s mayor Boris Johnson are using visits to Beijing to say just how welcoming the UK is likely to be. It’s a triumph of openness, and provided the UK chooses its partners carefully and the Chinese are tactful, both sides will benefit.

from Breakingviews:

Fracking may change U.S. foreign policy for good

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By Rob Cox and Christopher Swann
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

 

Fracking may be changing U.S. foreign policy. The abundant supply of hydrocarbons made accessible by hydraulic fracturing has nudged the United States the closest it’s been to energy independence in a generation and also creates a buffer for the global oil price. While all of this is relatively recent, the shift may give Uncle Sam new latitude in handling knotty affairs in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

from Breakingviews:

New-age trade clubs: A guide for the perplexed

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By Andy Mukherjee

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Global trade is going private. After a frustrating 12-year-long wait for the World Trade Organization to hammer out an accord acceptable to its 159 members, businesses and governments are now hedging their bets. Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which received a boost this week with Japan joining the negotiations.

from Breakingviews:

Obama and Xi should consider Confucian diplomacy

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By John Foley

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

If the emperor fulfils his role by sitting and facing south, Confucius said, all else will fall into place. Presidents Obama and Xi should heed the ancient sage when they meet at a resort in the California desert on June 7. The United States and China have emotive issues to work out. In public, however, harmonious inaction is the best policy.

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