Opinion

The Great Debate

from Commentaries:

Shelved missile shield tests NATO unity

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.

The three Baltic states and Poland were particularly critical of NATO's low-key response to Moscow's military action in Georgia. Some said the refusal of west European allies led by Germany and France to agree at a NATO summit last year to putting Georgia and Ukraine on a path to NATO membership emboldened the Kremlin to act. President Dimitry Medvedev's harsh attack on Ukraine's leader in an open letter last month fanned their fears of Russian bullying of its neighbours.

from Commentaries:

GM blog lifts hood on power struggle over Opel

cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpgIt's not often you get to lift the hood and watch a power struggle going on in the engine room of General Motors. But the vice-president of GM Europe, John Smith, has just provided tantilising details of the arguments over the rival bids for Opel/Vauxhall, the main European arm of the fallen U.S. auto giant. Smith is the chief negotiator on the sale of Opel.

In a blog apparently intended to reassure Opel staff, but accessible to the public, he insisted GM had not specified a preferred bidder. But he made clear his own preference for the bid from Belgian financial investor RHJ International, which is loosely related to U.S. private equity fund Ripplewood, over the offer by Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna and its Kremlin-backed Russian partner Sberbank.

Smith's post is entitled "Clearing the Air" and was ostensibly written to clarify GM's intentions and dispel erroneous reports ascribed to interested parties. But his account shows just how poisonous the atmosphere appears to be between GM and Magna, and GM and the German government, which backs Magna's bid. It also suggests that the air is not too clear within GM's top management either.

Europe frets over crisis exit strategy

Paul Taylor
– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Higher taxes? Lower public spending? Devaluation? Inflation? Investment in green growth?

European governments are pointing in very different directions as they debate an exit strategy from the global financial crisis. Despite European Union efforts to coordinate economic policy, there are clear signs that the main European economies will charge off in disarray towards separate exits.

Iran election opens door to U.S. talks

Paul Taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

A wind of change is blowing through Iran, where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces an increasingly tough battle for re-election on Friday.

Whether or not Ahmadinejad fends off reformist Mirhossein Moussavi and two other candidates after a turbulent campaign, Iran is likely to be more open to talks with the United States on a possible “grand bargain” to end 30 years of hostility. Tehran will not give up its nuclear program, whoever wins. But it may be persuaded to stop short of testing or making a bomb.

India poll should boost world trade

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

India’s voters have just given stalled world trade talks their biggest potential boost since the financial crisis spurred fears of rising protectionism.

By handing the governing Congress party a decisive victory, unshackled from the Communist party, Indians have created a chance to break a deadlock in negotiations on global commerce that foundered last year on a U.S.-Indian spat over farm trade.

Fiat’s over-ambitious expansion strategy

paul-taylor
– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Could Italy’s cash-strapped Fiat, Europe’s sixth auto maker, build a workable alliance with Chrysler and Opel to become be a profitable global player? Or would it be a marriage of losers, doomed to fail?

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has made clear that his interest in Opel, the European arm of ailing General Motors, is more than just a well-timed tactic to get better terms in the alliance he is negotiating with troubled U.S. number three Chrysler. Chrysler faces likely bankruptcy if a deal is not clinched by April 30.

Don’t bank on EU’s tough state aid talk

paul-taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

PARIS, April 20 (Reuters) – The European Union’s antitrust czar is struggling to stop governments bending EU rules on state aid to business when they rescue banks with taxpayers’ money.

But Neelie Kroes’ threat to force some banks to the wall unless they offer viable restructuring plans within six months of receiving state cash was economically unwise and politically inept. It could fuel political pressure to suspend the rules and weaken the European Commission’s crucial watchdog powers.

Obama’s plea to EU on Turkey carries risks

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Basking in adulation across Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama chose to expend some of his political capital to urge the European Union to open its doors to Turkey.

This public reaffirmation of long-standing U.S. policy fits in with Obama’s attempt to restore the United States’ standing in the Muslim world, using Turkey as a platform for his first state visit to a Muslim country. It also helps rebuild strategic ties with Ankara that sank to a low ebb under George W. Bush, when Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to use its territory and airspace to invade Iraq.

G20 ends Anglo-Saxon era

Paul Taylor Great Debate

– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Thursday’s G20 summit may not mark the end or even the beginning of the end of the global recession. It did mark the end of the ascendancy of the unfettered, Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism.

What comes next is far from sure, but it will be different from the headlong dash for individual enrichment, short-term profit and financial acrobatics that began with the dominance of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The widespread acceptance of increased regulation would have been anathema for U.S. President Barack Obama‘s predecessors.

G20 shows power shift to multipolar world

Paul Taylor Great Debate — Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

A year ago, mere mention of the notion of a multipolar world was a sure way to lose friends and dinner invitations in Washington.

The London G20 summit shows just how far power has ebbed from the United States, and from the West in general. Until late 2008, the Group of Eight mostly Western industrialized nations — the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia and Japan — was the key forum for economic governance.

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