Did NSA snooping hurt U.S. image? Not so much
July 30th, 2014
02:00 PM ET

Did NSA snooping hurt U.S. image? Not so much

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

It is conventional wisdom among many pundits and opinion leaders that recent revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency have deeply scarred America’s reputation abroad. The problem with such a narrative is that recent public opinion data paint a far more nuanced picture. True, foreigners don’t like that Washington spies on them and their leaders, and such NSA activities have eroded America’s soft power standing as a preeminent defender of personal freedoms. But there’s no evidence that the NSA’s recent behavior has sparked a general rise in anti-Americanism around the world.

Make no mistake about it. Publics around the world aren’t happy about NSA spying. In 37 of 43 nations outside the United States that were surveyed recently by the Pew Research Center, majorities say American surveillance of ordinary citizens in the respondent’s country is unacceptable. This includes 97 percent in Greece, 94 percent in Brazil and 91 percent in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. But it also includes opposition by important U.S. allies: 87 percent of Germans, 85 percent of Japanese and 70 percent of the British.

There’s similar public opposition to U.S. spying on the respondent’s national leaders. Majorities in 34 countries find such action by Washington to be offensive. This sentiment is particularly strong in Germany, where the American government allegedly listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone conversations. But there are similarly overwhelming objections in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Venezuela, Greece and Brazil. FULL POST

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Topics: United States
July 30th, 2014
11:58 AM ET

What I'm reading: A Chinese Gold Standard?

By Fareed Zakaria

“China’s nearly $4 trillion in reserves — accumulated through its mercantilist trade policies — give it plenty of ammunition to claim leadership in the creation of a new monetary order,” writes Kwasi Kwarteng in the New York Times. “The Chinese, however, are most unlikely to bid for monetary hegemony in the near future. For the past 25 years they have pursued a policy of aggressive export growth to drive their economy. China successively devalued its currency, from 1.50 renminbi to the dollar in 1980, to 8.72 in 1994. (Today the renminbi trades at 6.20 to the dollar, which the United States still considers artificially low.)”

“Could China someday peg its currency to gold, as Britain did in 1821? China has the reserves to do this, and it could have the political will, if the dollar proved to be unreliable as a store of value in the future.”

“Recommending Finlandization for Ukraine is bad advice on several levels,” writes James Kirchick for American Interest. “First, it misunderstands and misinterprets Finland’s experience, either downplaying or outright ignoring the costs that this policy imposed upon the country’s democracy. Proponents of Finlandization discount the danger that it posed to the European continent as a potential model for other countries susceptible to Russian pressure and influence. Furthermore, compelling neutrality upon an unwilling Ukraine is a stark moral capitulation to foreign aggression. Foreclosing the possibility of EU and NATO membership to Ukraine would shred the basic precepts of Europe’s post-Cold War security architecture, enshrined in agreements stipulating that countries be allowed to choose their own political and security alliances free from foreign intimidation and threats.” FULL POST

July 29th, 2014
05:11 PM ET

Understanding the violence in Gaza

CNN’s New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the roots of the unrest in the Middle East. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Who are the key players, and what are their current positions?

Benjamin Netanyahu is, of course, the prime minister of Israel, a longtime hawk and longtime hardliner on Israeli security issues. John Kerry is the secretary of state who never stops trying which, you know, has caused some controversy. And Khaled Meshaal is a somewhat unknown figure compared to these two. The head of Hamas, he doesn’t live in Gaza because I think he would not stay alive in Gaza, and so he has moved around various places – Qatar and places like that.

Let’s make sure everybody understands what the playing field is, what Israel wants. No more rockets.

You can understand why. The important thing to point out is even though, of course, very few Israelis die because of these rockets because the iron dome air defense system is really quite extraordinary, it still paralyzes the society. Some of these rockets could get through. Everyone is in bomb shelters, and it produces a state of heightened urgency. Imagine any society having to live with that. So that's why the rockets are important, even though they don't…of course, the range and accuracy could keep getting better.

It has kept getting better. You don't want to confuse the success of the defensiveness of Israel with its dome and other defense systems with absence of a threat. So that’s why demilitarizing Gaza is very important.

Right. This is the big demand in a sense – a demilitarized Gaza so that you don't face a constant threat. This is, of course, the hardest one to do, because in today's world it's so easy to get small arms, light ammunition, all kinds of things, and Hamas has been doing it for decades now.

And the tunnels play into that…

Right. And you see that these tunnels are fairly elaborate and well done. As people have pointed out, they are concrete. How do you prevent the building of concrete tunnels? What kind of embargo do you have to put in place? Gaza lives under a very, very tight Israeli embargo. That means you allow people not to get concrete. Concrete is fungible. You can use it for anything, and the problem is, therefore, how do you stop getting concrete in when they may want it to build schools? FULL POST

July 29th, 2014
12:12 PM ET

Extraterrestrial beauty

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

Since life on Earth is so tumultuous these days, we think we could all use a little extraterrestrial beauty. Earlier this month, a Japanese artist teamed up with the company J.P. Aerospace and launched a pine bonsai tree and a bouquet of more than 30 types of flowers into the stratosphere. Literally.

The images are stunning. The plants were placed in devices attached to helium balloons that rose roughly 90,000 feet before returning to earth after the balloons burst.

The devices, which had parachutes, were discovered five miles from the launch site. The bonsai and the flowers, however, were never found.

Another mystery of the universe.

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Topics: Last Look
TSA's cellphone rule part of deadly race
July 29th, 2014
11:36 AM ET

TSA's cellphone rule part of deadly race

By Brian Michael Jenkins, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Brian Michael Jenkins is senior adviser to the RAND president and the author of Al Qaeda in Its Third Decade: Irreversible Decline or Imminent Victory? and the commentary 'Generations of Terrorism.' The views expressed are his own.

As officials in the West sift through the evidence to try to establish how exactly Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was downed in eastern Ukraine, it is easy to forget that only a couple of weeks ago, many analysts were focused on a quite different threat to civilian aircraft.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration grabbed headlines when it announced that uncharged cellphones would not be allowed aboard commercial aircraft as part of increased U.S. scrutiny of cellphones and other electronic devices on certain U.S.-bound flights. The move came in response to intelligence that terrorist groups in Yemen and Syria might be plotting new attempts to sabotage airliners.

The reason for the concern about devices that don't function seems obvious: TSA inspectors hope to make sure cellphones are cellphones and laptops are indeed laptops – and that neither are cleverly disguised bombs. After all, terrorists have a long history of seeking to conceal explosives aboard aircraft, and using electronic devices as camouflage is nothing new. So why the concern now?

FULL POST

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Topics: Terrorism
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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Topics: GPS Show
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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