Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Don’t rush Georgia and Ukraine into NATO

December 2, 2008

Several scholars have recently come forward to say it may be too early to bring Ukraine and georgia into NATO — and thus anger Russia….

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By Michael O’Hanlon
The washington Times
According to press reports, the Bush administration is pursuing a final bold foreign policy move in its last weeks. Bypassing normal procedures, it wants European allies and Canada to agree to offer Georgia and Ukraine rapid membership into NATO.

This is a singularly bad idea, much more likely to worsen U.S.-Russia relations and increase the risk of war than to do any real good for the new democracies of Central Europe.

The idea might seem a natural response to Russia’s brutal invasion of Georgia in August, by any measure a disproportionate and unwarranted action in response to tensions over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But as most now realize, Russia’s aggression, while unjustified, was not unprovoked. Among other things, Georgia had fired artillery rounds carelessly into disputed regions at the outset of the crisis. President Mikhail Saakashvili’s desire to reintegrate South Ossetia and Abkhazia back into Georgia proper, while understandable at one level, has been pursued with wanton disregard for the role of the international community and for the need to pursue this goal carefully and peacefully. Future policymaking must seek to deter not only Russia, but other regional actors, from the kind of irresponsible behavior that pushed the Caucasus toward all-out war just three months ago.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/200
8/dec/02/dont-rush-georgia-and-ukraine-into-nato/

 

By Charles King
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 30, 2008; Page B02

The tiny village of Ushguli lies in an emerald-green valley in the far north of the republic of Georgia. Hemmed in by the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus mountains, it’s a jumble of slate buildings flanking a glacier-fed stream. When I last visited, local elders showed me around the medieval stone towers that dot the countryside. A millennium ago, defense was a self-help game, and families erected private fortresses to guard against vengeful neighbors and foreign raiders.

Political leaders in the United States and Europe are careering down a path that could make faraway Ushguli the eastern border of NATO. Foreign ministers from the transatlantic alliance’s 26 member states will meet this week in Brussels to decide whether Georgia and Ukraine should take an important step toward membership. But Western leaders would be wise to act slowly, or the world’s most successful military alliance could become as irrelevant as the ancient watchtowers of the upland Caucasus.

Last April, NATO put off both countries’ applications but promised to revisit the issue in December. The August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia has sharpened the debate. To some Western observers, Russia’s intervention in Georgia demonstrated the need to expand the alliance and block Moscow’s imperial ambitions. Without the security guarantees provided by NATO membership, the logic goes, both Georgia and Ukraine will find themselves increasingly threatened by the bear lumbering forth from the Kremlin.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/2
8/AR2008112802251.html

Russia Wants NATO, Europe To Ease Moscow’s Suspicions

November 30, 2008

Russia has reason to feel betrayed by the process of NATO expansion, begun in 1997. Seven years earlier, the Russians believe, American and German officials working on German reunification pledged not to take advantage of Moscow‘s weakness by extending NATO into Russia’s traditional backyard. By reneging on that promise, Western leaders have made Russians doubt their trustworthiness.

By Michael Mandelbaum | NEWSWEEK

To the Kremlin, the expansion process has also seemed to be based on dishonest premises. U.S. officials advertised it as a way of promoting democracy, of forcing ex-Soviet states to reform. But the democratic commitment of NATO’s first ex-communist entrants—Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic—was never in doubt. And if the Americans truly believed that NATO membership was the best way to guarantee free elections and constitutional rights, why didn’t they immediately offer it to the largest ex-communist country of them all, Russia itself? Instead, Moscow was told it would never be able to join.

NATO expansion taught Russia another lesson. The process went ahead because Moscow was too weak to stop it. This told the Russians that to have a say in European affairs, they needed to be able to assert themselves militarily. Last summer’s war in Georgia was one result.

Given this history, what should the West do now about Russia? We have no good options. In the wake of the war, some in the United States renewed the call to welcome Georgia into NATO. But NATO is a mutual-defense pact. Making Georgia a member would mean that we’d have to come to the country’s aid should fighting with Russia break out once more. This would require putting Western troops, tanks, aircraft and perhaps even nuclear weapons on Russia’s border—to which the Russians would respond with comparable forces. The U.S. military is already seriously overstretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet doing nothing would look like a retreat in the face of Russian aggression.

In the short term, the incoming U.S. president needs to think like a doctor: “First, do no harm.” This means deferring any offer of NATO membership to Georgia (and Ukraine, for that matter). Some may object that this will reward Russia for its belligerence. Perhaps, but the consequences of deferral are preferable to the costs of expansion—including a serious deterioration in relations with Moscow.

At the same time, the West should renew its security cooperation with Russia. NATO must eventually either include Russia or give….

Read the rest:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/171258

Legal Hurdles in West Slow Pursuit of Pirates

November 29, 2008

Somali pirates firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades hijacked yet another ship in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, this time seizing a chemical tanker. A German military helicopter from a nearby warship arrived in time to pull three security guards out of the water, but not soon enough to prevent the hijacking of the ship and the rest of the crew.

By Nicholas Kulish
The New York Times

The latest attack, in which even trained security personnel aboard could not deter the pirates, demonstrated the urgent need for coordinated action by governments from Cairo to Berlin. But the bureaucratic and legal hurdles facing international institutions and national governments have so far defeated most efforts to deal with the nimble crews of pirates in speedboats, whose tactics have grown bolder as their profits have paid for better weapons and equipment.

The French warship Nivose escorts commercial ships in the Gulf ... 
The French warship Nivose escorts commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates dodged an increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden to seize another ship as the deadline ticked down for a Saudi tanker held to ransom.(AFP/Eric Cabanis)

While the pirates have been buying GPS devices, satellite phones and more-powerful outboard motors, officials in Europe have been discussing jurisdictional issues surrounding the arrest of pirates on the high seas and even the possibility that the pirates might demand asylum if brought onto European Union shores.

Germany, perhaps more than any other country, epitomizes both the importance of safe passage for ships and the difficulty of reacting swiftly. It is the world’s leading exporter of goods, and according to the German Shipowners’ Association it has the world’s largest container-ship fleet, with some 36 percent of total container capacity.

That would seem to argue for swift action to stop the pirates, and Germany did indeed draw international attention earlier this week when it announced that up to 1,400 military personnel members might take part in the mission to combat piracy. But the figure significantly overstated the likely deployment as part of a European Union mission in the region, and Parliament has yet to approve it. It also remains to be seen whether the rules of engagement give German sailors a free enough hand to fight the pirates.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/world/europe/29pirates.html

FDR and Obama: Similar in Anticipated Trouble, Hope?

November 21, 2008

Americans knew they were in for hard times when they elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  They were seeking hope.  But they had no idea of what really God had placed ahead.

Most of this is from Wikipedia:

FDR was the the thirty-second President of the United States. Elected to four terms in office, he served from 1933 to 1945 and is the only U.S. president to have served more than two terms. Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt were related but only distantly. They were fifth cousins. He was a central figure of the 20th century during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Roosevelt created the New Deal to provide relief for the unemployed, recovery of the economy, and reform of the economic and banking systems.

Although recovery of the economy was incomplete until almost 1940, the programs he initiated such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continue to have instrumental roles in the nation’s commerce. One of his most important legacies is the Social Security system.

As Britain warred with Nazi Germany, Roosevelt provided Lend-Lease aid to Winston Churchill and the British war effort before America’s entry into World War II in December, 1941. On the home front he introduced price controls and rationing, and relocation camps for 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Roosevelt led the United States as it became the ‘Arsenal of Democracy‘. Roosevelt, working closely with his aide Harry Hopkins, made the United States the principal arms supplier and financier of the Allies. America had a vast expansion of industry, the achievement of full employment, and new opportunities opened for African-Americans and women. The new Conservative coalition argued unemployment disappeared and closed most relief programs like the Works Progress Administratio (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps. As the Allies neared victory, Roosevelt played a critical role in shaping the post-war world, particularly through the Yalta Conference and the creation of the United Nations.

FDR consoled America through the Pearl Harbor attack and empowered engineers and scientists to create the atomic bomb.

Through all of FDR’s many trials he was crippled and in a wheel chair or in heavy steel braces.

Barack Obama’s tasks might be tall but as we compare him to FDR we should be cautious.

Related
“American Press has Turned Into a Joke” Comparing Obama To FDR, Lincoln

Russia minister says Moscow against new Iran sanctions

November 14, 2008

Russia is against fresh sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme as demanded by some Western powers, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov said on Friday.

“Russia is against the sanctions pushed forward by some of the six” powers involved in negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear programme, the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

“The Western countries are for the sanctions. China like Russia did not back it,” he added, a day after a meeting in Paris over the issue.

The political directors from China, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States along with France and a representative for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana Thursday reaffirmed their twin-track approach of dialogue and sanctions.

A French foreign ministry statement stressed that the UN Security Council “reaffirmed the importance of the dual-track approach,” namely talking with Tehran while also considering imposing more sanctions on the regime if it fails to halt sensitive nuclear work.

Tehran maintains that it is enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes to generate power, while Western powers, especially Washington, suspect Iran of trying to develop an atomic bomb.

Europe’s Biggest Economy Now In Recession

November 13, 2008

The recession is official after government figures showed that Europe’s largest economy contracted by 0.5% in the third quarter.

This is the second consecutive quarter that the economy has shrunk after a 0.4% contraction in the second quarter for Germany.

BBC

German car production line
Some German carmakers have had to cut back production

The fall in economic output, driven by falls in exports, was greater than many analysts had expected.

Rich countries’ think tank the OECD has also forecast a fall in Euro-area economic activity of 0.5% next year.

“A negative effect on gross domestic product came from foreign trade, with a strong increase in imports and weakening exports,” the Federal Statistics Office said.

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7726162.stm

U.S. trails other nations in chronic illness care

November 13, 2008

Chronically ill Americans are more likely to forgo medical care because of high costs or experience medical errors than patients in other affluent countries, according to a study released on Thursday.

By Will Dunham, Reuters
.
The study comparing the experiences of patients in eight nations reflected poorly on the U.S. health care system as President-elect Barack Obama and his allies work on plans to rein in health costs and extend insurance to more people.

The researchers questioned 7,500 adults in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States. Each had at least one of seven chronic conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and depression.

Dutch patients had the fewest complaints, while the Americans had plenty, according to the study by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based health policy research group.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081113/us_nm/us_healthcare_
comparison;_ylt=Ah_gVcf5fUA4FH5wqRF3Ew2s0NUE

Race, Obama, World: After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror

November 12, 2008

In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe’s own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon.

By Steven Erlanger
The New York Times

It is risky to make racial comparisons between America and Europe, given all the historical and cultural differences. But race had long been one reason that Europeans, harking back to the days when famous American blacks like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin found solace in France, looked down on the United States, even as Europe developed postcolonial racial problems of its own.

“They always said, ‘You think race relations are bad here in France, check out the U.S.,’ ” said Mohamed Hamidi, former editor of the Bondy Blog, founded after the 2005 riots in the heavily immigrant suburbs of Paris.

“But that argument can no longer stand,” he said.

For many immigrants to Europe, Mr. Obama’s victory is “a small revolution” toward better overall treatment of minorities, said Nadia Azieze, 31, an Algerian-born nurse who grew up here. “It will never be the same,” she said, over a meal of rice and lamb in the racially mixed Paris neighborhood of Barbès-Rochechouart.

Her sister, Cherine, 29, is a computer engineer. Mr. Obama “really represents the dream of America — if you work, you can make it,” she said. “It’s a hope for the entire world.”

But the sisters are less optimistic about the realities of France, where minorities have a limited political role, with only one black deputy elected to the National Assembly from mainland France.

Has the Obama election caused any real self-reflection among the majority here? “It’s politically correct to say, ‘O.K., great! He’s black,’ and clap,” Nadia said. “But deep down, there’s no change. People say one thing and believe another.”

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/world/europe
/12europe.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Obama: What To Do About Iran Nukes?

November 12, 2008

After years of suspense and suspicion, Iran still denies it is trying to make a nuclear bomb. Analysts foresee the Iranians’ success in a few years at most, but they disagree widely over a likely timetable.

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer

President-elect Obama says Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons are unacceptable. At a postelection news conference, Obama said, “We have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening.”

An Iranian flag flutters next to a ground-to-ground Sajil missile ...
An Iranian flag flutters next to a ground-to-ground Sajil missile before being launched at an undisclosed location. Iran has test fired a new generation of ground-to-ground missile, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the defence minister as saying.(AFP/null)

Senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are meeting Thursday in Paris to discuss efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program with sanctions, but Russian and Chinese reluctance has stymied efforts for a unified stance.

In dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Obama faces questions that include whether to keep a U.S. military threat on the table, whether to temper or increase economic sanctions on Tehran and whether to offer economic and diplomatic concessions to Iran, directly or indirectly, in exchange for a verifiable suspension of suspicious nuclear activity.

Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said in a report this month that Iran now has a technology base to make nuclear weapons, limited only by its current level of uranium enrichment.

“The worst case for a nuclear device is 2009, but it could well be 2011-2015 before Iran gets there,” Cordesman said in an interview Tuesday. He added: “The critical issue is when Iran could have an effective nuclear-armed missile force. That could easily take two to three years longer.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081112/ap_o
n_go_pr_wh/us_iran_analysis;_ylt=AljO6
YJ_zjddhqSZ_m5hx4ms0NUE

Major powers to meet Thursday over Iran

November 11, 2008

The six powers trying to scale back the nuclear ambitions of Iran, which is accused of trying to build an atomic bomb, will meet in Paris on Thursday, French officials said.

Political directors from the foreign ministries of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States will gather to discuss progress in their dealings with Tehran, said a foreign ministry spokesman.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz uranium ... 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The six powers trying to scale back the nuclear ambitions of Iran, which is accused of trying to build an atomic bomb, will meet in Paris on Thursday, French officials have said.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)

He was confirming the meeting announced earlier Tuesday by a European diplomatic source in Berlin.

The six countries have put forward a package of technological, economic and political incentives if Iran suspends uranium enrichment, which they fear Tehran is pursuing to build a nuclear weapon.

Tehran strongly denies the accusation, saying its nuclear programme is aimed purely at producing civilian energy.

Tensions arose late last month within the group of six countries when the United States slapped sanctions on Russia‘s main arms firm over the alleged sale of sensitive military technology to Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the US move as “inadmissible” and warned the sanctions would affect talks between world powers on the Iranian nuclear programme.

–AFP