Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from MacroScope:

Winners in a trade war

Trade protectionism -- or at least the threat of it -- has raised it head as the global economy has declined, bringing with it all the historical fears about the Great Depression. Consider the flurry of concern about a "Buy American" clause in one of the U.S. stimulus bills.

It is traditionally assumed that widespread protectionism would most hurt the biggest economies, the United States and Japan. But Barclays Capital analyst David Woo says this is not so and that Russia, Canada, Australia and Sweden are the most vulnerable.

Woo studied various factors that would play on the effect of protectionism on a country, from openness and flexibility to its dependence on trade and it savings.

Japan turned out to be the least vulnerable. "Its relative closeness, relative flexibility of its labour market, and its terms of trade more than outweigh the negative contribution to its growth from a narrowing of its trade surplus in a global protectionist environment," Woo writes.

What will Biden say? I know, Sarkozy says

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To many of the hundreds of defence experts, heads of state, ministers and journalists at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s speech was the keenly awaited highlight of the three-day gathering in Bavaria. Biden, on his first trip to Europe in his new role, was expected to lay out the foreign policy priorities of President Barack Obama’s administration to European allies, including Washington’s future policy on Afghanistan and Iran.

But well before Biden took the stage in the plush Munich hotel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the audience that he, at least, was already in the know about Biden’s speech. As Biden watched on from the front row, Sarkozy deviated from his speech on France’s policies towards NATO and the defence priorities of the European Union, and said with a smirk: ”I already know what the vice-president will say … because he sent me his manuscript in advance. “That’s part of good management,” Sarkozy said to loud laughter from the audience. Biden smiled, listening to Sarkozy’s comments over headphones through a translator.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Of Afghanistan and backpacks

According to George Friedman from the Stratfor intelligence group the United States should forget the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan and concentrate instead on covert operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

As has become increasingly clear, the administration of President Barack Obama faces a hard time raising its troop presence in Afghanistan without either relying on precarious supply lines through Pakistan or making political compromises with Russia to win its support for using alternative routes through Central Asia.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghan supply routes face setbacks in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan

U.S. efforts to improve supplies for its troops in Afghanistan just had a double setback after militants in northwest Pakistan severed the main supply route for western forces and Kyrgyzstan's president said the United States must close its military base there.

Militants blew up a bridge on the Khyber Pass, cutting the supply route to western forces in Afghanistan and underscoring the need for the United States to seek alternative supply lines. The U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through Pakistan but has been looking at using other transit routes through Central Asia. Although Washington has been sketchy on the details of its plans, its Manas military airbase near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has so far provided important logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan.  During a visit to Moscow, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base, opened after the 9/11 attacks.  Bakiyev made the announcement after securing a $2 billion loan and a further $150 million in aid from Russia.

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).

from FaithWorld:

Russian Othodox Church picks Kirill, better Vatican ties expected

The Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Kirill, 62, as its new leader on Tuesday, succeeding Alexiy II who died last month. The new leader of the 165 million-strong Church, the largest in the Orthodox world,  is seen as a moderniser who may thaw long icy ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

There was speculation before the vote that nationalists, anti-westerners and anti-Catholic forces among the clergy and monks might rally to block Kirill's election. He seemed to take the possibility seriously enough to strike a conservative tone in recent days. In his address before the vote, Kirill spoke of "the assault of aggressive Western secularism against Christianity" and of "attempts by some Protestant groups to revise the teachings of Christianity and evangelical morality". He also hit out at Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries, saying they sought converts in post-Soviet Russia -- a key point of discord with the Vatican.

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 FaithWorld:

Soviet touches mark Russian Orthodox patriarch vote session

(Photo: Russian Orthodox prelates vote for candidates for patriarch, 26 Jan 2009/pool)

There was a slightly Soviet air to the proceedings as bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church voted on Sunday for three candidates to be considered as their new patriarch. Meeting in the gold-domed Christ the Saviour cathedral overlooking the Moskva River, just a few hundred metres from the Kremlin, about 200 metropolitans and bishops had delegates badges dangling from their necks along with their usual pectoral crosses. A Soviet-style "presidium" of 16 top prelates presided over the session in the Hall of Church Councils. The proceedings started with voting for an election committee, a drafting committee and a credentials committee. Journalists covering the session couldn't help but think of the old communist party conferences.

Seated in the middle of this "presidium," Metropolitan Kirill -- the acting patriarch and frontrunner for the top post -- added to the atmosphere by chairing the meeting with a distinctively firm hand. But there were differences, of course. Voting for the three candidates was secret. And when it came time to announce the results of the vote, there was no official stamp to validate the protocol.

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.)

Three little words that kept Europe in the cold

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The difference between Europe having Russian gas as normal and not having it came down, in the end, to three words. They were hand-written next to what looks like the signature of Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Hryhory Nemyrya and they were: “With declaration attached”.

That was enough to undercut a deal hammered out by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, to deploy monitors along the gas pipeline route — Russia’s condition for turning the taps back on.

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