Foreign Affairs Roundup

This Week's Top Story in Foreign Affairs:

U.S. President Obama hosted a 47-nation summit aimed at reducing the risks of nuclear terrorism, whether the terrorism be state sponsored (by Iran or North Korea for example) or perpetrated by non-state actors. The main goal was to lay the grounds to secure plutonium and highly enriched uranium and create a moral consortium against rogue nuclear proliferation. And some key commitments for reducing nuclear stockpiles (from Canada, Chile, Mexico and Ukraine) and shoring up nuclear security policy (from Pakistan and Argentina) did emerge. Critics argue that this meeting was just a PR stunt with little gained. The meeting was part and parcel of the Obama Administration's shift to a focus on global nuclear disarmament (following the amended Strategic Posture, Review the new START agreement, and pursuing stronger sanctions against outlier Iran over its nuclear program) and it bolsters the strategic positioning of the U.S. to make great strides in nuclear risk mitigation. That firm commitments were not reached and some key issues have not yet been addressed -- such as getting China, India and Pakistan to commit to stop producing nuclear fuel or getting these nations, along with Israel, to sign the NPT or how to address managing spent nuclear fuel stockpiles or addressing contentious issues in NATO's Strategic Concept that are irksome to Russia -- does not mean that these initiatives lack substance. It was the largest meeting of states that the U.S. has hosted in 65 years and did much to reestablish the moral legitimacy of American leadership of these key issues as well as confidence that international cooperation on these issues still means something. Moreover, the implicit cooperation offered by Russia and China on this issue bodes well for American efforts against Iran.

Analysis in Brief:

BRIC's Growing Step
Leaders of the 4 major rising powers (Brazil, Russia, India and China) met in Brasilia this week and discussed mainly financial reforms. Of major concern was the weakness of the dollar, limitations of the World Bank, and the lack of access for poorer nations to loans and liquidity. The group suggested that voting reforms be put into place in the World Bank so that poorer nations receive a larger voice. On the sidelines, China and Brazil inked major trade and energy agreements, and India and China agreed to deepen their diplomacy. The summit was cut short because Chinese President Hu Jintao flew back home due to an earthquake. Although the summit had been predicted to be a wash, it accomplished a number of agreements and further reminder the world of the bloc's growing influence and that collectively and bilaterally they can wage quite a bit of power.

Thailand's broken political system
Thailand continued to languish in tense stalemate between government forces and anti-government protesters this week. Following the most deadly clashes in the nation in 20 years, the domestic political crisis in Bangkok is not nearly close to being resolved. Protesters are demanding that the government, led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, resign and hold new elections. The government, refusing to cede power, is holding steady. Whatever the fate of the Thai political system, Thailand is a very important regional player, and its stability is essential to many foreign interests, especially its ally, the United States. With Islamic rebellions in the south and clashes with Myanmar in the northwest, Southeast Asia can scarcely afford an unstable Thailand for long.

Kyrgyzstan: Stability trumps all
Intensity and worry in Kyrgyzstan ebbed at the end of this week as the deposed President Bakiyev fled the nation. Meanwhile both Russia and the United States, both with key strategic interests in the former Soviet nation, have welcomed the new interim government, a sign that they welcome stability over any other concerns in Central Asia. Indeed, Kyrgyz, and all Central Asian reliability is key to the region for its natural resources, and geographical proximity to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sudanese Elections
The largest country in Africa held general elections this week, and counting has just begun. Many analysts say that this vote is less important than the referendum on independence that the South hopes to hold later this year. From the arid plains of Darfur to the highlands of the east, to the tropical south, Sudanese citizens voted. Many analysts predict that this election, the first multi-party vote in the nation in 24 years, will be meaningless. Most agree that the incumbent President Bashir will rig the vote so that he is reelected. The results and reactions to the elections will make a big impact on Sudan's future and the region. If the vote ushers in stability and unity (which is a far-off possibility), then it could place Khartoum back on the path to development. If it leads to instability and discord (more likely), then Sudan could continue to be a rogue state with a growing internal Islamic threat.

Scuds for Hezbollah
Rumors spread that Syria may have transferred Scud Missiles to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, sparking fears for Israeli security and, if true, a tacit acknowledgment that Syria puts little confidence in nascent peace initiatives with Israel. Syria has denied the allegations.

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