For good reasons, the Congress is turning its attention to granting Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR). This is an evident commercial interest of the United States. Gary Hufbauer and I have assessed that it could lead to a doubling of U.S. exports of merchandise and services to Russia from $11 billion last year to $22 billion in 2017. If, on the contrary, the United States would not offer Russia PNTR, we would suffer from discrimination on the Russian market, since neither side would apply the beneficial World Trade Organization trading conditions after Russia becomes a member of the WTO in August.
Senator McCain (R-Ariz.) has called on the Obama Administration to green light humanitarian military intervention, by NATO, in Syria. Senator McCain is correct. Syria is President Obama's Kosovo and the administration’s failure on Syria allows the horror of ethnic-cleansing and the scope of genocidal evil to grow every day in Syria.
In 1991, I was in Bosnia as an aide for a French Member of Parliament. We wandered around pastoral European villages destroyed. No sign of human life; only us and our footsteps crunching on broken glass, walking by pockmarked homes marred by bullets and bombs. We spent lots of time with refugees who pleaded for weapons. There was an arms embargo. They could not understand why they were being denied the means to protect themselves. Neither could I. Who wouldn't want arms to protect themselves when the government was slaughtering its own citizens?
The New START Treaty is one year old, and the results are in. This Treaty, the result of years of negotiations between the United States and Russia, works. New START enhances U.S. national security, bringing U.S. nuclear policies in line with the security challenges of the 21st century.
Yet there are rumblings that some Senators are unhappy with nuclear weapons funding provisions and will seek to halt New START implementation as a result. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a New START hearing this week. The hearing will show that the Treaty, regardless of funding issues, deserves support.
There are five key benefits to the New START Treaty. First, New START enhances US nuclear force planning. Without the treaty, the U.S. would be flying blind, with no way of understanding Russia’s nuclear plans. The U.S. military would have to plan for a “worst case scenario” and spend more money on nuclear capabilities than necessary. With the Treaty, the U.S. military can avoid wasting money on unneeded nuclear weapons at a time when military resources are stretched thin.
Second, New START verification measures enhance transparency regarding our U.S. and Russian deployed strategic systems. Data exchanges provide each side with information on numbers, locations, and other details of nuclear forces. On-site inspections and dates exchanges allow the U.S. to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear arsenal. The Treaty also guarantees that U.S. national technical means of surveillance, such as satellites, are not subject to Russian interference, and the United States will have a variety of tools at its disposal for monitoring Russian compliance.
Since the treaty entered into force over one year ago, the U.S. and Russia have each conducted 23 on-site inspections and exchanged thousands of data notifications. These verification measures provide critical insight into Russian nuclear forces. Our relationship with Russia has its ups and downs. The treaty’s transparency means both nations can understand each other’s strategic forces activities, no matter the state of U.S.-Russia relations.
Third, U.S. nuclear modernization is preserved under New START. Much has been made of nuclear modernization funding, or lack thereof, but the New START Treaty itself does not stipulate the “right level” of modernization funding. Indeed, one of the benefits of the treaty is that it provides for strategic stability between the U.S. and Russia, without impacting U.S. or Russian force modernization programs or limiting funding for nuclear infrastructure upgrades.
More than 13,000 lives lost so far in the Syrian conflict, including women and children. The situation deteriorates each day and yesterday a bipartisan group of Senators called on Russia to stop enabling the bloody conflict.
Last week, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced S. Res. 494, a bipartisan Senate Resolution making the clearest case yet that Russia has “enabled the Assad regime to perpetrate mass atrocities against its own people.” The resolution also calls on the Russian Government to immediately end its ongoing arms sales to Syria and to play a more productive role in bringing about a peaceful political transition there. It concludes that Russia’s actions to block U.N. Security Council measures on Syria and to continue to provide the Syrian regime with weapons have allowed Assad to remain in power and directly undermine U.S. national security interests while threatening to destabilize the entire Middle East region. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should support this resolution and positively act upon it in the next business meeting.
Over the last two weeks while visiting Washington, D.C., I’ve met over a dozen members of congress, senior officials at the State Department, think tank scholars and other distinguished government and foreign policy types to deliver a simple message – the political situation in Georgia is not as stable or clear-cut as it seems and requires the close attention of leaders in the United States.
Cracks in the markets for Greek, Spanish and Italian sovereign debt have now pushed Europe – and perhaps the world -- to the edge of an economic precipice. Yet, according to the most senior officials from Argentina, the country that hasdefaulted on its sovereign debts more often than any other country, none ofthis is actually a problem. This week, Argentina’s Economy Minister, Hernan Lorenzino, comes to Washington, D.C to promote his new book defending his country’s most recent sovereign debt default, from 2001, and its ongoing refusal to pay back American and other investors still holding Argentine bonds. His “book tour” is designed, first, to quell mounting U.S. pressure over his government’s refusal to respect its international obligations, starting with its creditors. And perhaps his handlers also hope to divert attention from Argentina’s misguided economic and trade policies, most of them grounded in the country’s inept handling of its sovereign debt default.
Forty-five years ago this week, catastrophe befell the Palestinian people for the second time in as many decades, when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip during the 1967 War. Nearly half a century later, the catastrophe continues, as millions of Palestinians still live under Israeli military rule, denied the most basic civil and political rights, while their land is relentlessly colonized with illegal, Jewish-only settlements that are destroying their hopes for the future.
Amman -- The people of Jordan have borne the Syrian refugee crisis with real grace - and even, perhaps, a bit of pride. “The Syrians are our brothers,” they say when asked about the thousands of Syrians who have fled here. (No one knows how many there really are.) “They speak the same way as us, they have the same last names. We cannot turn them away.”
In communities across the country, Jordanians have taken Syrian families into their homes and supported them. The government has also done its part by keeping the border open to Syrians, providing nearly-free health care to registered refugees, and placing thousands of Syrian children in the nation’s public schools. But they have done so because they see it as their duty, not because it’s been easy.
“At the time the Iraqi refugees arrived, we were doing okay here in Jordan,” one observer in Amman told me this week. “But the Syrians are coming at a terrible time.”
Indeed, while Jordan has dodged the worst convulsions of the Arab Spring, trouble abounds in this normally quiet country.
LEBANON - In central Lebanon’s Beqa’a Valley, there is a series of border villages that are hosting ever-larger numbers of refugees from the conflict inside of Syria. Exact figures are hard to come by - many of the refugees are too afraid to come forward and let their presence be known - but most estimates put the final number at well over 10,000 for this region of Lebanon alone. A network of exhausted service providers and local government committees is scrambling to find the Syrians and make sure that their basic needs are met. But every day there are new arrivals who simply want to blend in and wait out the chaos from the comparative safety on this side of the border.
This is a very exciting time in agriculture. Over the past several years, the agriculture sector has been a bright spot in our nation’s economy. Science and technology are driving new solutions that are capable of making farmers more productive, agriculture more sustainable and food more nutritious. And, new partnerships are being created across the sector to address one of our globe’s most pressing challenges – feeding a growing population.
Amidst a full G8 Summit agenda covering a range of urgent global issues, President Obama called upon G8 leaders to take on this very task – to put global hunger at the forefront of the global development agenda.To this end, the administration announced a new initiative – the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition – building off the 2009 G8 L’Aquila Food Security Initiative.