The Great Debate UK

from Commentaries:

Shelved missile shield tests NATO unity

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foghAfter 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.

President Barack Obama's decision to drop plans to install it on Polish and Czech territory leaves those former Soviet satellites feeling betrayed -- because they expended political capital to win parliamentary support -- and more exposed to a resurgent Russia, especially after its use of force against Georgia last year.

Obama's move is clearly part of a warming of U.S. relations with Moscow from which Washington hopes to gain help in return on supply routes to Afghanistan, pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear programme, and an agreement on radical cuts in nuclear arsenals. But this "reset" of U.S.-Russian relations has only exacerbated the rift within NATO over Russia.

from DealZone:

‘New GM’ Gets a Visit from a Shareholder

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obamalordstown1 GM's Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant has become a symbol of both GM's hard times and its best hopes for a turnaround after a $50 billion federal investment. A recent bump in sales because of the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program has allowed GM to call back more than 1,000 workers from layoff.   So it was a natural backdrop for a return visit by President Obama, who held a roundtable with workers and then gave a stump speech from the factory floor for his economic policies and health care reform.   But this is not your father's GM anymore and nothing about it as clear-cut as it seems -- even if you are the leader of the free world and head of the government that holds a controlling stake in the automaker.     At one point, Obama -- veering from his prepared remarks -- suggested that health-care reform would allow the UAW-represented workers in the audience to negotiate better wages.

“Think about it. If you are a member of the union right now, you’re spending all your time negotiating about health care. You need to be spending some time negotiating about wages, but you can’t do it," he said.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s Afghan war – a race against time

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Bernd Debusmann(Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

By making the war in Afghanistan his own, declaring it a war of necessity and sending more troops, President Barack Obama has entered a race against time. The outcome is far from certain.

To win it, the new strategy being put into place has to show convincing results before public disenchantment with the war saps Obama's credibility and throws question marks over his judgment. Already, according to public opinion polls in August, a majority of Americans say the war is not worth fighting. Almost two thirds think the United States will eventually withdraw without winning.

U.S. sends wrong messages to Latin America

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mschultze_apr09_web- Markus Schultze-Kraft is Latin America and Caribbean Program Director at the International Crisis Group. The opinions expressed are his own. -

One cannot help being taken aback by the series of wrong messages the U.S. government has been sending to Latin America this summer. Starting with Honduras and followed by Bolivia, and now Colombia, everything seems to indicate that after a promising start President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are having difficulties defining an effective Latin America policy that does not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration.

from The Great Debate:

Michael Bloomberg and America’s guns

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Bernd Debusmann--- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions are his own ---

New York's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping in where President Barack Obama fears to tread -- confronting America's powerful gun lobby. In the country that holds a commanding global lead in civilian gun ownership, it promises to be a hard fight.

No matter how it goes, America's position at the top of the list of gun-owning nations looks secure. Up to 280 million guns are estimated to be in private hands and the arsenal is growing year by year. On a guns-per-capita basis, the United States (90 guns per 100 residents) is way ahead of second-ranked Yemen (61 per 100), according to the authoritative Small Arms Survey issued by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

from The Great Debate:

Where the healthcare debate seems bizarre

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healthcare-globalpost

global_post_logoMichael Goldfarb serves as a GlobalPost correspondent in the United Kingdom, where this article first appeared.

In America, the health care debate is about to come to a boil. President Barack Obama has put pressure on both houses of Congress to pass versions of his flagship domestic legislative program prior to their August recess.

Squandered oil wealth, an African tragedy

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arvind ganesan-Arvind Ganesan is the Director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of about half a million people on the west coast of Africa, but is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

from The Great Debate:

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez

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Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez, the larger-than-life Venezuelan leader who flourished in the role of Latin America's defender against an evil empire led by a devil who smelt of sulphur and was named George W. Bush.

Those were the easy days for Chavez. Now he has become a dragon-slayer without a dragon, an actor on a stage without the most important prop. It was one thing to rally the Latin masses against the widely-detested Bush, it is another to deal with Barack Obama, "the first (U.S.) president who looks like us," in the words of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

from The Great Debate:

Africa at the threshold

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john-simon-- John Simon was recently U.S. Ambassador to the African Union and former Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC. The views expressed are his own. --

President Obama's trip to Ghana highlights one of Africa's leading success stories - a country that has held five consecutive democratic elections, recently transferring power peacefully to the opposition after it won a razor thin victory.

from The Great Debate:

The Obama-Medvedev security summit

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medvedevobama

gard-reif-- Robert Gard (right), a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former president of both National Defense University and the Monterey Institute of International Studies, is chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where Kingston Reif (left) is deputy director of nuclear non-proliferation. The views expressed are their own. --

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev are meeting this week in Moscow for their first full summit. High on their agenda is the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will expire on December 5. The expiration of START will mean the loss of the ability to legally limit and verify the two countries’ still enormous numbers of deployed nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

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