Saturday, April 05, 2008

Other Nations Watch US

By Carol Gee

Mideast journalist watched the NATO summit -- As has been noted in the past Aljazeera is a good source to watch and can often provide useful insight into world opinion. This is its view of Bush's current trip. "Bush loses out in Bucharest," was written by Marwan Bishara, who is Al Jazeera's senior political analyst. To quote:

As the Nato conference in Bucharest comes to a close, it is clear George Bush did not get much of what he bargained for. . . Bush's adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have hurt Washington's standing within the alliance, even if it remains its only prospective leader.

. . . Needless to say, none of this will do the Republicans much good in an election year. With escalation in Iraq, further deterioration in Afghanistan will make it far more difficult for the Bush presidency to claim any success of any sort.

. . . All the while its partners are becoming more numerous than its members with a far more complex set of challenges than dealing with the Cold War threat from the Warsaw pact. It has become clear that the more Nato expands the less effective it has become. If Washington is to expect more European help, it will have to accept more European autonomy in defense and decision making. And even then, the Europeans remain generally reluctant to increase their military budget to four per cent of their GDP as Washington would want them to do in order to share the burden of its adventures.

Watching Putin -- "Putin criticizes NATO but has praise for Bush." Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George Bush each won and gave up a little bit at the NATO Summit this week. Putin is pleased that the Ukraine and Georgia were not admitted into the NATO alliance and Bush is pleased at the generally positive tone of remarks by Putin regarding the U.S. proposed missile shield. To quote the IHT, "Bush, speaking directly to Putin in his remarks, described the two of them as 'two old war horses,' the American official said." Russia's RIA Novosti reports on Bush's meetings in Russia next, for perhaps the last meeting between these two leaders. Bush will leave office next year and Putin will hand over power to his successor Dmitry Medvedev in May. To quote:

Bush and Putin are expected to meet for an informal dinner later today, and will begin negotiations on Sunday. The U.S. leader will also meet on Sunday with Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev, who is set to take over in the Kremlin on May 7 when Putin steps down.

The presidents' talks, a continuation of their meeting at the NATO summit which Putin attended as a guest, are again likely to focus on missile defense and NATO expansion. The agenda will also include a broader strategic security deal between the two countries.

References: Deutsche Welle/Germany on NATO: Opinion, easing tensions, Afghanistan, Ins & Outs ; and on the U.S. election: "Dear American Voter" videos @ Link TV.

The Financial Times watches -- For all kinds of news, not just financial, if you can only read one newspaper on line, choose the Financial Times of London. Regarding U.S. job losses, its headline reads, "US loses jobs at fastest rate in 5 years." To quote from the story:

US employers cut more jobs in March than at any other time in the past five years, reinforcing the view that the US is in recession and raising fears about consumer spending.

. . . The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised upwards its estimate of job losses in January and February. The figures show the US has lost between 76,000 and 80,000 jobs every month since the start of this year and 232,000 jobs during the quarter.

International watch -- In the same way that we are interested in what other nations think, other nations are interested in what we think. From the International Herald Tribune we get this headline: "81% in U.S. poll say nation is on the wrong track." To quote:

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country's direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.

The BBC is watching -- the Blackwater story: Despite an FBI investigation begun in November into an "unprovoked" shooting of 17 Iraqis, Blackwater's contract to provide security to the State Department has been renewed. The Clintons' money story, provides a quote:

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and her husband, ex-President Bill Clinton, have revealed they earned more than $100m (£50m) in eight years.

Since 2000, the former first couple took in nearly $110m, with more than $20m made in 2007, and gave more than $10m to charity in the same period.

Viewing the globe as shrinking, it takes less and less time to learn what is going on in the rest of the world. With the advent of the Internet we can instantly "pick up a newspaper" from across the sea without ever getting in a boat.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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