Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

A fresh start with Russia: what’s the trade-off?

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Russia has reversed its decision to station missiles in the Western outpost of Kaliningrad, next door to the European Union, according to Interfax.

The move would be the clearest signal so far of the start of a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, which could be one of the major changes in U.S. President Barack Obama’s first year in office. We don’t know what commitment, if any, Obama may have given to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the missile shield (the two spoke by telephone earlier this week).

Obama’s scepticism about the effectiveness and utility of missile defence was clearly stated during the campaign. But since the Russians unilaterally made the Kaliningrad threat on the day of his election, the suspension of the deployment plan is a clear goodwill gesture. It follows NATO’s announcement, slipped out without fanfare earlier this week, that political relations with Moscow, frozen after the Georgia war, would resume within a few weeks.

Expect Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to foam about appeasement.

The Obama administration has already made clear it will pursue bilateral and multilateral nuclear arms control treaties which Bush eschewed. At the very least, they will try to negotiate a new strategic arms reduction treaty to replace START 1, which expires at the end of this year. This is important because it treats Russia as a nuclear power on an equal footing with the United States, which the status-conscious Kremlin craves and the Bush administration always dismissed.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan and the breakdown of the balance of power

Keeping track of the many countries with a stake in Afghanistan -- and the shifting alliances between them -- is beginning to feel awfully like one of those school history lessons when you were supposed to understand the complex and tenuous balance of power whose breakdown led to World War One.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became the latest to call for a regional solution to Afghanistan when he said this week that the United States and its NATO allies must directly engage with Iran if they are to win the war there. “If we are going to succeed in this game, we need to be playing on the right field,” he said. “And that means a more regional approach. To my mind we need a discussion that brings in all the relevant regional players: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and, yes, Iran.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The scramble for Central Asia

Central Asia is much in demand these days, whether as a transit route for U.S. and NATO supplies to Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan or for its rich resources, including oil and gas.

So it's worth noting that India has been hosting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as its guest of honour at its Republic Day celebrations while signing a bunch of trade deals in the process. According to reports in the Indian media, including in the Business Standardthe Week and the Times of India,  India is seeking supplies of uranium for its nuclear plants and access to Kazakhstan's oil and gas and in return would be expected to support Kakazhstan's bid for membership of the World Trade Organisation. (India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) said on Saturday it had signed a deal to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan.)

Can Cyprus “comrades” clinch a deal?

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The leaders of Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities sipped coffee and called each other “comrade” as they launched a new round of talks on reuniting the island, whose 34-year division has exasperated the most committed of mediators.     
 Cypriot President Christofias shakes hands with Turkish Cypriot President Ali Talat during a news conference after their meeting in Nicosia                            
This time, foreign diplomats and analysts say, a solution is in sight, thanks largely to the two moderate, leftist men heading the negotiations – Greek Cypriot Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot Mehmet Ali Talat.

Although it has been years since any violence has erupted on the island, the simmering feud has far-reaching effects onTurkey’s EU aspirations, its relations with fellow NATO member Greece and politics in the eastern Mediterranean.

Georgia’s day of prayer: who can save country now?

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Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks during his televised address in Tbilisi, August, 26, 2008. Saakashvili rejected as “completely illegal” a Russian decision on Tuesday to recognise Georgia’s two rebel regions as independent states.At the security checkpoint on the way in to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s chancellery building, two small posters are displayed.    

“Stop Russia,” says the first. The second is a quotation from British World War Two leader Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”

Fears of conflict as tensions rise around the Black Sea

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The US Coast Guard Cutter Dallas is seen docked at the Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi August 27, 2008. The US Coast Guard Cutter Dallas unloaded aid hygiene kits and baby food for the tens of thousands displaced by the confrontation that erupted on Aug. 7-8 over Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region.Tension is mounting around the Black Sea following Russia’s recognition of two Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent states.  

Russia said its navy was monitoring ”the build-up of NATO forces in the Black Sea area” as the U.S. Navy shipped humanitarian supplies to Georgia on Wednesday.

What’s next in the Russia-West crisis over Georgia?

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South Ossetian servicemen fire their weapons and wave South Ossetian (C) and Russian flags as they celebrate Russia's recognition of their state as an independent state in Tskhinvali August 26, 2008. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced on Tuesday that Moscow had decided to recognise two rebel regions of Georgia as independent states, setting it on a collision course with the West. REUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinThe people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions. 

Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie. 

What Russia wants: lessons from the 19th century

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Russian tanks in N. Ossetia after crossing from S. Ossetia/Sergei KarpukhinRussia’s bear-paw swipe at Georgia has got many people drawing comparisons with the Cold War, but personally I like to look for parallels in the 19th century.

At the time the faultlines between Russian and British imperial interests ran from the Balkans through the Crimea and the Caucasus to Central Asia and Afghanistan. That is remarkably similar to some of the faultlines creating upheavals today.  

Is the American dream over for Georgia and Ukraine?

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Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili (L) welcomes his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko as he arrives for the GUAM summit in the Black Sea city of Batumi July 1, 2008When thousands in the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the Georgian capital Tbilisi overthrew Soviet-style rulers, many felt warm in the embrace of the West.

Western support for the opposition — open and behind the scenes –  helped many people overcome fear of Soviet-style reprisals to stand for days outside Georgia’s parliament in 2003 or to pitch orange tents on Kiev’s main thoroughfare in late 2004, providing a lasting image of “people power” overthrowing a stale leadership.

Berlin angst about Georgia’s U.S.-backed leader

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merkel.jpgThere was an awkward moment on Sunday, when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stood next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Tbilisi and thanked her for having “initiated” plans to bring his country into NATO.

Anyone who followed NATO’s last summit in Bucharest back in April knows that it was Merkel who broke with Washington and spearheaded opposition to such a move.

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