Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Georgia: How close did Europe come to a wider war?

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ferdinand.jpgA poster at the entrance to the World War One exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum depicts the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, minutes before they were shot dead as they toured the streets of Sarajevo in an open topped car. The two bullets triggered World War One. Alliances quickly came into play and an argument between Austria and Serbia drew in Russia, Germany, France, Belgium and Britain.

Europe was at war.

On August 8 this year Russia sent its forces into Georgia to repel Tbilisi’s attempt to wrest control of the pro-Russian, breakaway region South Ossetia. Georgia, like Ukraine, has been pressing to join NATO but has only been promised membership of the alliance at an unspecified future date. What would have happened if Georgia had already secured NATO membership, as it wished, at the alliance’s meeting in Bucharest back in April?

Would the conflict have dragged in fellow NATO members including the United States, Britain and Germany? By invoking NATO’s Article V mutual defence clause, the Georgians could have required other nations to come to their assistance.

Could this have led to another European war at a time when the West’s guard was down and the Cold War years seemed consigned to history?

Saakashvili’s media onslaught: Is he losing the war?

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saakashvili.jpgEver since Russia launched a massive counter-offensive in response to Georgia’s attempt to retake the pro-Russian, breakaway region of South Ossetia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been omnipresent in Western media. He has appeared on CBS, CNN, BBC and pretty much every other English-language TV channel to accuse Russia of penetrating Georgia far beyond Ossetia, planning an assault on the capital and plotting his overthrow. 

On Aug 11 he wrote an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal warning Georgia’s fall would mean the fall of the West.

Can the Caucasus flames be controlled?

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ossetia.jpgThe Caucasus tinderbox is alight again. How far will the flames spread this time and what can the outside world – the United States, the European Union, NATO – do to extinguish them?

The strategic significance of this mountainous region stretches back through history.

Cold War reheated as U.S. and Russia duke it out over Georgia

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

The temperature at the United Nations Security Council hasn’t been this high in years — and it’s not because the U.N. management raised the thermostat slightly to cut electricity costs. It’s due to the heated exchange of insults and accusations between Russia and the United States, which has reached a fever pitch reminiscent of the Cold War years.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad accused Russia on Sunday of using the Georgian incursion into Georgia’s breakaway enclave of South Ossetia as an excuse for a massive military assault against its tiny pro-Western neighbor whose ultimate goal is “regime change” in Tbilisi. He also assailed Moscow for waging a “campaign of terror” against the civilian population of Georgia, a former Soviet republic.

Was South Ossetia’s fate sealed in Kosovo?

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south-ossetia.jpgIs Kosovo to blame for the fighting in South Ossetia?

When the Serbian province seceded from Belgrade in February, South Ossetia was quick to reassert its own claim to international recognition.

As a spokeswoman for separatist leader Eduard Kokoity told Reuters at the time: “The Kosovo precedent has driven us to more actively seek our rights.”

Death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn – dissident and writer

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Writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn talks to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin after receiving a State Prize for his achievements in the humanitarian field at his home in Troitse-Lykovo outside Moscow June 12, 2007.Tributes have been pouring in for Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author, former Soviet dissident and Nobel Literature prize laureate who died on Sunday aged 89.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, described the author of “The Gulag Archipelago” and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” as a man of unique destiny and said: ”He was one of the first people who spoke up about the inhumanity of Stalin’s regime with a full voice, and about the people who lived through this but were not broken.”

Does the West still matter for Africa?

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First on Zimbabwe, now on Darfur, Western countries have lost out at the U.N. Security Council to African states backed by China and Russia.

A Western attempt to get sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government flopped on July 11. Three weeks later, when it came to renewing the mandate of peacekeepers in Darfur, Western countries bowed to demands to include wording that made clear the council would be ready to freeze any International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide. The United States abstained, but that made no difference to the vote.

Russia’s Cold War anger over U.S. shield: misjudged?

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Signing of missile defence treaty

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.”

Iraq: was it all about the oil?

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iraq-oil-minister-2.jpgFive years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq is throwing open its oil sector to foreign oil firms  in a way Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others in the region are reluctant to. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani says no company will have any special privilege.

Some  analysts take a different view. They reckon U.S. and British oil majors are in a strong position to help develop the world’s third-largest oil reserves. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP head the queue. They have already built up a relationship with Iraq’s oil officials by negotiating short-term technical deals.

Face to face with Medvedev

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Medvedev gestures during interview What makes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tick? How independent is he of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin?
Medvedev gave Reuters a chance to find out more about his plans, and get some clues about the questions being asked by Russia watchers, analysts and diplomats, by granting us an interview in the Kremlin.
During a 90-minute question-and-answer session he played down differences with Putin, his long-time ally who is now prime minister, and portrayed himself as a continuity figure but the contrast in style and tone between the two men was striking.
Medvedev made none of the harsh attacks on the West that became Putin’s trademark and used considered, lawyerly phrases that sounded quite unlike Putin’s more direct and earthy language.
Medvedev said Russia’s foreign policy would not be swayed by criticism from abroad, but added that complaints about its policy were normal. He avoided echoing Putin by making charges of Western hypocrisy and double standards.
But he did sound more like Putin when discussing Russia’s media, saying television channels, newspapers and websites were “absolutely free” and dismissing any possibility of special controls on the media in Russia.
Some analysts think Medvedev is a deliberately more liberal choice than Putin who can usher in an era of greater freedom, private property and foreign investment. Others view him with suspicion as little more than a Putin puppet.

 What do you think?

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