Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Tales from the Trail:
Dozens of world leaders stood and bowed their heads in a moment of silence honoring Polish President Lech Kaczynski and nearly 100 others who died on Saturday in a plane crash in western Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama remembered the deaths as losses not just for their own country, "a close friend and ally," but for the world, before making remarks formally opening a gathering of world leaders to discuss nuclear security issues.
"Before I begin, I want to take this moment once again to acknowledge the terrible tragedy that struck the Polish people this weekend. All of us were shocked and deeply saddened by the devastating loss of President Kaczynski, the first lady and so many distinguished civilian and military leaders from your country. This was a loss not just for Poland but for the world," Obama said.
"As an international community, I know we will all rally around the Polish people who have shown extraordinary strength and resilience throughout their history. So our hearts go out to your people. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We join them in this time of mourning. And so if everybody is agreeable, I would like to ask for a moment of silence to show that solidarity and to honor those who are lost."
Kaczynski had been traveling to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of more than 20,000 Polish officers by Soviet secret police in the Katyn forest in western Russia when his plane went down on Saturday in thick fog. A total of 96 people died in the crash, including Polish military commanders, top opposition figures and the central bank governor, plunging the country into mourning and bringing forward a presidential vote originally scheduled for October.
But at home in Germany, Merkel has been surprisingly timid on many key issues – especially when they involve her conservative Christian Democrats. Her tendency to avoid clear positions has driven her coalition partners mad. Merkel might be a lion when she’s on foreign stages but she tends to be a lamb at home. One of her favourite sayings is: “If you try to beat your head into a wall, the wall will usually win.”
After just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.
Unlike millions of Poles who have flocked to Western Europe in the past few years in search of jobs, Jan Malachowski came to Norway in 1986 seeking political asylum and safety from Poland’s communist regime.
But like many of his compatriots, Malachowski will not celebrate the 20th anniversary of Poland’s June 4, 1989 election, which ushered in democracy in the Soviet Union’s backyard and helped pave the way for the collapse of the Berlin Wall five months later.
Poles and Czechs, their economies still relatively robust despite global recession, are up in arms about what they see as international investors’ tendency to tar them with the same brush as their more troubled neighbours such as Hungary, Ukraine and Latvia.
But if history is any guide, investors are unlikely to be impressed, at least in the shorter term.
“It is not a friendly thing to do, and we have asked them to do it no more than once a month. But as the Atlantic alliance we have nukes too,” Sikorski told an audience at Columbia University this week.
It is hard not to view Poland’s decision to accept the U.S. missile shield in the context of tensions over Georgia – a point Russia, which loathes the project, was quick to make.
And although Warsaw and Washington dismiss the idea and diplomats say a compromise on the long-negotiated deal was hammered out before Russia’s intervention in the Caucasus, there is no smoke without fire.
The answer lies largely in the enduring power of historic symbols in Poland nearly 20 years after the independent Solidarity trade union led by shipyard electrician Lech Walesa helped topple the communist regime and usher in democracy.
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”