July 28th, 2014
04:44 PM ET

What I'm reading: Sanctions and Russia’s Achilles heel

By Fareed Zakaria

“But even by hinting as to what sectoral sanctions might look like, Obama has upset Russia’s economic calculations. Obama is often criticized for not backing up the ‘red lines’ that he draws. But in Ukraine, Obama essentially has drawn a ‘gray line’ – demanding Russia take certain actions to end the crisis,” writes William E. Pomeranz for Reuters. “No one knows when this gray line is crossed, however. So these new sanctions only heighten the uncertainty – and risk – of doing business in Russia.”

“The market responded immediately, with dramatic declines in the Russian ruble and the Moscow stock market. In addition, the sanctions only exacerbated an already difficult situation for Russian companies. Syndicated loans for Russian commodities producers are down more than 80 percent over the past six months. The appetite for Russian bonds has also decreased considerably in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis. So the current round of sanctions made a bad situation worse.”

“Arab leaders, usually prodigal in their outpourings of ritual solidarity with the Palestinians, have been curiously silent,” writes David Gardner in the Financial Times. “Partly that is because Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies are so hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian chapter. It is also because the ferocious Syrian war, and lightning surge of Sunni jihadis from Syria into Iraq, eclipses what for many looks like a new episode in a wearisomely familiar feud. Paradoxically, Israel wants to weaken but not overthrow Hamas – the cynical military expression is ‘mowing the lawn.’ For beyond Hamas lies the unbridled savagery of movements such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which already has followers in Gaza and the Palestinian refugee camps up and down the eastern Mediterranean that serve as universities of jihad.” FULL POST

July 28th, 2014
12:24 PM ET

EU the world's great no-show

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

On Ukraine, Europe has always been a step behind, internally conflicted, and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display ever since the shoot-down of Flight 17…

…It's really difficult to have your voice heard and feared when you both speak softly and carry a twig. The problem is now being described by some as European cowardice and appeasement. But it is better explained by an absence of coherence among 28 very different countries, a lack of strategic direction, and a parochial inward orientation that hopes the world's problems will go away.

The result nevertheless is a great vacuum in international life with terrible consequences.

If we look back years from now and wonder why the liberal, open rule-based international order weakened and eroded over the years, we might well note that a crucial problem was that the world's most powerful political and economic unit – the European Union – with a population and economy larger than America's, was the great no-show on the international stage.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show
Why Putin was in Latin America
July 28th, 2014
12:04 PM ET

Why Putin was in Latin America

By Diana Villiers Negroponte, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Diana Villiers Negroponte is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The views expressed are her own.

As speculation has continued over what role Russian support might have played in the alleged shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight by pro-Russian rebels, one question has inevitably arisen: Is Russia becoming isolated?

But while international attention is focused on Washington and European capitals as they mull whether to impose tougher sanctions, it is worth remembering that Russian interests and influence extend far beyond Europe’s borders. Indeed, despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s suggestion earlier this year that Russia is merely a “regional power,” a recent visit to Latin America underscored that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests don’t end in Europe’s backyard.

On July 11, Putin began a weeklong trip to Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua and Cuba, which included attending the sixth BRICS’ summit and the launch of the organization’s New Development Bank. But what did the trip, which included meetings with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina and a photo-op with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, say about Russia’s foreign policy?

FULL POST

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Topics: Uncategorized
July 27th, 2014
12:53 AM ET

Clinton: Settlement policy my biggest complaint with Israeli government

Fareed speaks with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about unrest in the Middle East. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Martin Indyk has just resigned as the kind of sherpa of the peace process. And he says that the immediate trigger, in his view – there were many – was the fact that the Palestinians looked at the Israeli continued settlement activity...

Right.

…and said these guys are not serious, we're never going to be able to get a state...

Right.

…look at what they're doing.

This is my biggest complaint with the Israeli government. I’m a strong supporter of Israel, a strong supporter of their right to defend themselves. But the continuing settlements, which have been denounced by successive American administrations on both sides of the aisle, are clearly a terrible signal to send if, at the same time, you claim you're looking for a two-state solution.

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Topics: GPS Show • Middle East
July 26th, 2014
12:56 AM ET

On GPS Sunday: Hillary Clinton discusses Russia, the Middle East, Iran and more

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On GPS this Sunday: Fareed speaks with former first lady and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her recently published memoir Hard Choices, how the U.S. and Europe should respond to the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, the ongoing unrest in the Middle East and how the world views America.

“I don't agree with that assessment about alleging war crimes. I think that the Israelis are in a very difficult position,” Clinton says. “Hamas, we know, embeds missiles, embeds command and control units in civilian areas. Now, some of that is just the geography. It's a very small area, very densely populated, but some of that is a deliberate choice by Hamas.”

“And I believe that between the warnings that Israelis give, sometimes as far ahead as four hours so that people could be moved, and also the Israelis' very deliberate efforts to avoid civilian casualties, I don’t think that is an accurate or fair characterization of what the Israelis are trying to do.

“Now, having said that, too many people have died and too many of them are clearly innocent civilians, even children. The Israelis know that.”

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July 25th, 2014
01:55 PM ET

Clinton: Putin 'disabused' us over reset hopes

Fareed Zakaria speaks with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about U.S. relations with Russia. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

You say in your book that you felt – and you've said in interviews subsequently – that the reset with Russia worked because you got a new strategic arms treaty out of it, you got the Russians to agree to sanctions on Iran. Why do you think that it stopped working? What changed?

Well, I thought a lot about that, because I was among the most skeptical of Putin during the time that I was there, in part because I thought he had never given up on his vision of bringing Mother Russia back to the forefront. Not by looking at what Russia could do to be a modern nation, but by looking to the past, and especially trying to control their borders from Central Asia to the Baltics.

So when he announced in the fall of 2011 that he would be changing positions with Medvedev, I knew that he would be more difficult to deal with. He had been always the power behind Medvedev, but he had given Medvedev a lot of independence to do exactly what you said and make the reset a success.

I saw that firsthand with respect to the primary elections in Russia, because they were filled with irregularities and Russian people poured out in the streets to protest. And I, as Secretary of State, said the Russians deserve better. They deserved elections that reflected their will.

Putin attacked me personally because he is very worried about any kind of internal dissent. He wanted to clamp down on any opposition within Russia and he wanted to provide more influence and even intimidation on his borders.

And I certainly made my views known in meetings, as well as in memos to the president. I think that what may have happened is that both the United States and Europe were really hoping for the best from Putin as a returned president. And I think we've been quickly, unfortunately, disabused of those hopes.

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia
July 24th, 2014
09:28 PM ET

The EU is the world’s great no-show

By Fareed Zakaria

If Europe was trying to move Ukraine into its camp, it should have been more generous to Kiev and negotiated seriously with Moscow to assuage its concerns. Instead, Europe seemed to act almost unaware of the strategic consequences of its actions. Then when Russia began a campaign to destabilize Ukraine — which persists to this day — Europe remained a step behind, internally conflicted and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The European Union still has a chance to send a much clearer signal to Ukraine, Russia and the world. It could demand that Russia pressure the separatists to cooperate fully with the investigation of Flight 17 and allow the Ukrainian government — which Moscow recognizes — to take control of its own territory in eastern Ukraine. It could put forward a list of specific sanctions that would be implemented were those conditions not met within, say, two weeks.

Read the Washington Post column

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Why Europe is wary over Russia sanctions
July 24th, 2014
12:18 PM ET

Why Europe is wary over Russia sanctions

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the U.S. and European responses to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. This is an edited version of the transcript.

President Obama is facing pressure, from Democrats and Republicans, to really up the ante. But the United States can only do so much because it's not one of the main trading partners with Russia. Germany, as you know, is the biggest European trading partner with Russia – 36 percent of its natural gas and almost 40 percent of its oil comes from Russia. If you're German and you put tough sanctions on Russia and they retaliate, your people are going to be really upset this winter.

It’s not only Germany – that’s just one perfect example. So Germany, as you say, would literally not be able to heat its homes. Remember, Chancellor Angela Merkel just said no nuclear – after Fukushima, she said the country was going off nuclear. So that means an even greater dependence on natural gas.

The Netherlands is another major Russian trade partner – Rotterdam is a place that imports more Russian oil than any place else in the world. They import it, they refine it, and then they sell it. Shell, the big Dutch company – a kind of iconic company – has huge investments in Russia.

So the Europeans have over the last decade, as Russia has grown as an oil country, gotten themselves so intermeshed that it's very tough for them to do it. FULL POST

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Topics: Europe • Russia
Why Qatar could be key to a Gaza ceasefire
July 24th, 2014
11:40 AM ET

Why Qatar could be key to a Gaza ceasefire

By Sultan Barakat, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sultan Barakat is director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Egypt has long been viewed as a key player in the Middle East peace process – a major Arab country willing to engage with Israel while endeavoring, however begrudgingly, to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. But as the Israeli military campaign on the Gaza strip continues, it is becoming increasingly clear that Egypt’s new government might not be in a position to broker a ceasefire this time around. Indeed, Western powers might find themselves having to look for help from a different partner: Qatar.

Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has proven more adept at securing the backing of politicians and diplomats in Tel Aviv, Washington and New York for a peace initiative than it has at reaching out to Palestinians. This is especially the case as far as the leaders of Hamas in Gaza are concerned, many of whom only learned of the ceasefire proposal through media reports.

And while Hamas rejected the agreement “in its current form,” Cairo has shown seemingly little interest in genuinely appreciating Hamas’ take on the causes of the conflict or modifying the terms of the proposed ceasefire to address the longer term issues. In fact, Egypt under el-Sisi has attacked the Islamist group as part of its relentless crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, with former Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy removed from power and put on trial, hundreds of his supporters killed, and thousands more imprisoned. Over the past year, Hamas has been vilified in both official statements and public opinion, with its members banned from Egyptian soil, the Rafah border crossing between the two countries effectively shut, and hundreds of smuggling tunnels destroyed – blocking the supply of food, fuel, construction material and medicine along with weapons.  FULL POST

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Topics: Egypt • Israel • Middle East • Palestinian Authority
July 23rd, 2014
06:05 PM ET

What I'm reading: Crossing borders

By Fareed Zakaria

“It is one thing for Republicans to decide that they will not be the party of immigration reform, but it is another to decide that they will be the anti-immigration party,” writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker. “If they do, they will define themselves in opposition to America’s future and, incidentally, to its past – one built by newcomers like the gold prospector from Canada who, in 1876, sailed on a ship around South America and staked a claim that became the town of Oracle. In the short term, there may be benefits, in the form of an energized base, but enjoying them requires a distinct lack of shame.”

“But to understand the root of Hamas's current frustration, one must look not northeast from Gaza, but west. The epicenter of Hamas's growing desperation lies in the policies of the new Egyptian government,” writes Hussein Ibish in Foreign Policy.

“Following the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian military swept into Sinai and the border area with Gaza. They reportedly killed up to two dozen Hamas operatives in Sinai whom they believed were operating in cahoots with insurgent groups, and virtually shut down Hamas's smuggling tunnel network. In the ensuing weeks, as the new government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cracked down on its opponents, it treated Hamas as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist campaign in Egypt being conducted by the extremist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and, according to the government, the Muslim Brotherhood itself. The Egyptian government sees itself as being at war with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Brotherhood group in Palestine. The relationship between Egypt and Hamas is therefore distinctly unfriendly, if not outright hostile.” FULL POST

July 23rd, 2014
02:25 PM ET

Video game, movie ruffling dictatorial feathers

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

To add to the world's tumult, the North Korean government threatened military action last month over an upcoming Seth Rogen and James Franco movie. It's about television personalities recruited to assassinate Kim Jong Un during an interview. Recently, Pyongyang wrote a letter of complaint to the White House requesting that the movie, which they deemed to be "an act of war," be shut down.

While this seems in keeping with Kim Jong Un's usual antics, he isn’t the only dictator to throw this kind of tantrum.

Remember Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian strongman? He's suing the makers of the videogame "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" from his Panamanian prison cell.

Noriega alleges in his lawsuit that the game portrays him as "a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state." Perhaps the videogame designers should have had his character stick to drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering – crimes he was convicted of in the United States and France.

Oh, and he was also convicted of murder in Panama.

One would think Kim Jong Un has more important things to worry about than Hollywood comedies. We guess Noriega in his prison cell has more time on his hands.

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Topics: Last Look
Time to stand with girls demanding change
July 23rd, 2014
11:05 AM ET

Time to stand with girls demanding change

By Melissa Hillebrenner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Melissa Hillebrenner is the director of the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign. The views expressed are her own.

Thursday marks 100 days since more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted from their families and community in northeast Nigeria, a reminder of the horrors and hardships many girls face when trying to get an education. It’s difficult for many of us to imagine what it would be like to be taken from a place that is supposed to be safe. Sadly, this situation is not unique to Nigeria.

In too many communities around the world, girls are criticized for going to school or denied their right to education completely. Worldwide, more than 60 million girls of primary and secondary school age are not in school.

I just returned from a trip to Guatemala, where I met Teresa Vivia, an engaging 16 year-old who lives in the town of Santa Maria Chiquimula. Vivia’s parents both passed away, and she lives with her sister-in-law. She wants to go to school, but had to stop going so she could take care of her nephews and the house.

Lack of access to education is just one barrier facing girls like Teresa Vivia. According to data that UNICEF released earlier this week, "more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before 15." Many have to drop out of school to manage household chores, are vulnerable to abuse and are often deprived of the information, tools and services to plan their families. This has tragic consequences: Girls who have children as children face higher risks of complications from pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, these complications are a leading cause of death for adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries.

FULL POST

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Topics: Nigeria • Women
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