July 16th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Apollo too risqué for Russia?

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

The image in the video shows the world famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. A statue of Apollo, the Greek god of music, riding his chariot has sat atop the Bolshoi's portico for more than 150 years. In the 1990s, the statue joined the ranks of princes and emperors when it was added to the nation's currency. It now decorates the front of the 100 Ruble note.

This month, Russian lawmaker Roman Khudyakov requested that the Central Bank remove this iconic image.  It seems he is offended by the Greek god's clothing – or lack thereof. You see, following a recent theater restoration, a more modest version of the Bolshoi statue was unveiled with a strategically placed fig leaf. Khudyakov noted that the bills don’t match the restored statue and finds them unsuitable for children.

This request, unusual as it may be, echoes a growing conservatism in the Russian government. The parliament unanimously passed anti-gay legislation last year banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to youth. Who knows what the law means? But what we do know is that the fine for a person breaking it is steep – up to 100,000 rubles. That's about $3000 dollars.

President Putin has strongly supported this anti-gay legislation. Something tells us, however, that Mr. Putin won’t be as offended by the lack of clothes. Remember the famous image of the bare-chested macho man of the Urals?

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Topics: Last Look • Russia
Iraqis don't want their country broken up
July 16th, 2014
10:57 AM ET

Iraqis don't want their country broken up

By Amal Mudallali, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Amal Mudallali is a senior scholar at the Wilson Center. The views expressed are her own.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Iraq is heading for partition. The argument is that Iraq is on the cusp of being broken into three states: a Sunni, a Shiite, and a Kurdish state to replace the current state of Iraq. But while many of the proponents of this view contend that the Iraqis themselves want this because they simply cannot live together, I believe nothing could be further from the truth.

Sunni Iraqis do not want to be separate, they want to be equal. And for the Shiite Iraqis, the definition of equal is for Iraq to remain whole, but under a Shiite-dominated government. These views may appear somewhat inconsistent, but a regional and international coalition that sees the dangers of dismembering Iraq two sides should be able to help them walk back from their positions.

I know this is possible because Lebanon, another Arab country that suffered a bloody 15 year civil war, managed to step back from the abyss through a political settlement. Thirty years after the end of that civil war, and despite the suicide bombings that have blighted the country in recent months, Lebanon is still united.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Middle East • Syria
July 15th, 2014
11:33 AM ET

The danger of America's 'economic drone'

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

We’re sure you heard about the Paris-based bank, BNP Paribas, which fell afoul of Washington's regulators and agreed to plead guilty to a felony and pay a staggering $8.9 billion fine – larger than its annual profits.

So it must have violated a slew of laws, right? Actually, no. It hadn't violated French law, or EU law, or any of its obligations under the WTO or the United Nations. It hadn't even violated a French-American treaty.

What in the world?

BNP Paribas violated a set of unilateral American sanctions, passed by Congress, that were never affirmed or followed by the European Union or France.And neither the buyers nor the sellers in any of the transactions BNP was involved in were Americans.

So what was Washington's hold on BNP? It all centers on the central role that the dollar plays in today's globalized economy. You see, even if two foreign companies want to do a deal, assuming it’s a large transaction, the deal is likely to be denominated in dollars – the currency that everyone has access to, is available in ample supply, is a symbol of stability and, as a result, remains the world's reserve currency.

FULL POST

July 15th, 2014
09:48 AM ET

What I'm reading: Don't squander U.S.-Germany ties

By Fareed Zakaria

“While calls for full disclosure of surveillance activities are unrealistic, it is now paramount to engage in a continuous intelligence dialogue between the U.S. and Germany to emphasize just how much spying activities can jeopardize the transatlantic relationship,” writes Norbert Rottgen in the Financial Times. “The U.S. policy of non-communication in intelligence matters endangers the transatlantic alliance. Expectations for intelligence co-operation to be shaped transparently among equals cannot easily be met given the global climate of insecurity. However, a strong and trusting relationship at government level is possible if both sides now invest the necessary efforts. In doing so, it is more crucial than ever to include the German public, who are increasingly struggling to see the true value of the German-American relationship.”

“In his long political career, Netanyahu has shown little appetite for ground campaigns and for the right reasons. Gaza is a messy place to wage war, with two million people crammed cheek-by-jowl into a tiny space,” writes Dan Ephron for Reuters.

“But for all his reluctance, the Israeli leader could well find himself ordering an incursion anyway – mainly because there seems to be no effective mediator available to broker a ceasefire.”

How should Israel respond to Hamas?
July 15th, 2014
09:11 AM ET

How should Israel respond to Hamas?

Fareed hears from Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass about the latest flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal has an editorial that says the only solution here is to completely destroy Hamas, and The Journal advocates a land campaign, Israel to go back into Gaza with troops, which would inevitably mean there would be some kind of temporary occupation of Gaza.

Stephens: Well, not a full occupation of the Gaza Strip. But what I do think is right is that Israel has to occupy the territory that separates Gaza from Egypt, because what we've found now is that Hamas is firing much more sophisticated rockets into Israel, with ranges that are extending beyond Tel Aviv, up to Jerusalem, and Haifa. And that's unacceptable for any state to deal with that, whether these missiles are accurate and hitting their targets or not. And the problem you have had is that this is now the third time Israel has gone to war since it withdrew all of its settlements and all of it settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

You have this pattern of recurring violence. I don't think, in the long run, that's a smart and acceptable strategy, to allow Hamas to remain in Gaza with a power base. Obviously, you can't eradicate it entirely, but you can eradicate it as an effective fighting force and as a political entity. And, by the way, one of the beneficiaries of that kind of action would be Fatah, would be Mahmoud Abbas, because what I think Hamas is trying to do, I think the strategy here is to gain the upper hand in intra-Palestinian politics by attempting to start a third intifada.

Is it a smart strategy to start a land campaign? It would cause a lot of international consternation, to say the least. FULL POST

July 14th, 2014
05:57 PM ET

What I'm reading: Why Caliphate will devour its children

By Fareed Zakaria

“[T]the aftershocks from the jihadist rupture are still reverberating. Since Mr. Baghdadi's sermon last week declaring himself caliph, al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen have denounced him. So too has the mainstream Sunni religious establishment, including Cairo's al-Azhar seminary, which has always opposed al Qaeda's actions, and Yussuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric widely seen as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood,” writes Margaret Coker in the Wall Street Journal.

“But it is still unclear what effect, if any, such censure will have on the audience that Mr. Baghdadi has shown himself adroit at cultivating: the younger Islamist radicals, including dozens of European Muslims, who have been flocking to him.”

“The Caliphate idea also carries within it its own destruction,” writes Philip Jenkins on the Daily Beast. “Now the Caliphate is, so to speak, out of the bag, competition for the office will be intense, and violent. We can expect multiple rival Caliphs who will denounce and excommunicate each other, while factions will fight each other for the prized office. Expect many assassinations and internal coups.”

“Historically-minded Islamists might recall that back in the seventh century, three of the first four Caliphs perished by assassination. The murder of the fourth, Ali, launched the Sunni-Shia schism within Islam that is still a gaping wound 13 centuries later. It is not a happy precedent.” FULL POST

Will Brazil’s loss hit Dilma's re-election chances?
July 14th, 2014
04:43 PM ET

Will Brazil’s loss hit Dilma's re-election chances?

By Carl Meacham, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Carl Meacham is director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (@CSIS). The views expressed are his own.

Brazil’s humiliating exit from contention in the World Cup at the hands of Germany, and its failure even to take the consolation prize of third place on Saturday, has understandably left Brazilians feeling crushed. Some have gone as far as to describe the host’s defeat as a national tragedy.

This is hardly surprising considering the importance of soccer to the nation’s identity. Young boys in Brazil idolize the all-time greats, from Pele to Neymar, whose humble beginnings have inspired a narrative of soccer as an equalizer, a path out of poverty, and an escape from the favelas and the drugs and violence that plague them. The question now is whether the aftershocks of Brazil’s soccer exit will continue to be felt this October, when the country takes to the polls to elect its president.

Back in 2007, Brazilians welcomed the news that the country would host the 2014 FIFA World Cup – it was a moment of profound national pride, and Brazilians were thrilled at the prospect of winning the tournament on their home turf.But that enthusiasm faded as the tournament drew nearer – especially as the price tag soared.

FULL POST

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Topics: Brazil
America's staggering student debt numbers
July 14th, 2014
04:01 PM ET

America's staggering student debt numbers

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

When it comes to student debt in the United States, the numbers are truly staggering – in 2012, 71 percent of new bachelor’s degree graduates had debt, averaging over $29,000. Over the last ten years, student debt has quadrupled – topping $1 trillion.

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Topics: Education • GPS Show
July 14th, 2014
02:43 PM ET

Is Russia's Crimea move akin to annexation of Kuwait?

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

Fareed speaks with former Swedish Prime Minster Carl Bildt, now the country’s foreign minister, about the recent tensions between Europe and Russia over Ukraine.

You gave a very tough speech at the Atlantic Council in which you said that Russia's annexation of Crimea has only one parallel in modern history, in the last 30, 40 years, and that was Iraq – Saddam Hussein's annexation of Kuwait. That was, of course, met with a massive international coalition that repulsed that intervention. What is one to conclude from the fact that there’s no such forceful counter-measure in this case?

Well, I mean in the case of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, of course, there was a resolution by the U.N. Security Council. Now, Russia is a member of the Security Council, so that's never going to happen. I mean they're going to block everything that is related to this.

But I think it’s important that we are extremely firm on how grave the violation of international law is that Russia has undertaken in the case of Crimea, and that we make very clear to Russia that the invasion, the occupation and the annexation of Crimea will have consequences. We will never accept it. And it will be a burden on our bilateral relationship for as long as it lasts.

We’re not going to undo the occupation immediately, but we must be very clear that it isn’t acceptable – it wasn’t acceptable in the Kuwait case, it's not acceptable in the Crimea case. It is not acceptable in any future other cases, either.

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia • Ukraine
July 14th, 2014
10:41 AM ET

Is U.S. throwing fuel on Middle East fire?

By Fareed Zakaria

The Obama administration's decision to seek $500 million to train and fund moderate elements of the Syrian opposition has been greeted with bipartisan support in Washington. The general consensus is that if the administration had done three years ago what it is doing now, the situation in Syria would not have turned into a bloody sectarian civil war.

But almost all elements of this conventional wisdom are wrong. The administration is caving in to the classic Washington desire to "do something" in the face of a terrible tragedy without any clear sense as to whether it has the ability to improve things or to make matters worse…

…The complexity of Washington's task can be seen in the American attitude towards ISIS. When the group battles the al-Maliki government in Iraq, it is a deadly foe of the United States and must be ruthlessly attacked. But when it crosses the now non-existent border between Iraq and Syria and battles the al-Assad regime, it’s aligned with America's stated goal of regime change in Damascus.

With this whole history of sectarian conflict in mind, it’s difficult to believe that three years ago a modest American intervention of arms and training, which is all that was being advocated, would have changed the trajectory of events in Syria.

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

 

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Syria
July 12th, 2014
11:36 PM ET

Where America Works: How Denver is tackling the student debt problem

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

When it comes to student debt in the United States, the numbers are truly staggering – in 2012, 71 percent of new bachelor’s degree graduates had debt, averaging over $29,000. Over the last ten years, student debt has quadrupled – topping $1 trillion.

Congress crafted legislation last month that would have allowed for refinancing of student loans at a lower rate, but it went nowhere – and President Obama’s recent executive action doesn’t full solve the problem.

Watch the video clip to find out how one city has been trying to solve the problem, and tune into the third installment of our Where America Works segment this Sunday on GPS.

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Topics: GPS Show
July 12th, 2014
03:56 PM ET

Bildt: EU, NATO expansion not reason for Ukraine tensions

Fareed speaks with former Swedish Prime Minster Carl Bildt, now the country’s foreign minister, about the recent tensions between Europe and Russia over Ukraine. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

You don’t buy the argument, I notice from your speech, that the Europeans in some way are responsible – or NATO is responsible – because over the last 20 years the European Union and NATO have expanded to Russia's borders. This is, of course the Russian claim, made by Putin in various speeches.

I don't buy anything of that. I mean the reality of it is that Ukraine, for all of its problems – and they are fairly massive – has been throughout its period of independence, has been a democratic country. And it has itself expressed the wish to have free trade and closer cooperation with the rest of the European countries, notably in the European Union. And we have answered that particular call. It would have been very difficult to refuse the Ukrainians. We have, perhaps, done less than they wanted – they want a much clearer European perspective from us.

They have free trade with Russia. We have no objections to that. And we’re now giving them free trade with the European Union. So we have answered the wishes of the Ukrainian people and the Moldovans and the Georgians and others. And that’s the thing you do in order to try to help a democracy that is trying to build a better future. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia • Ukraine
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