5 Things You Need to Know About the G8 and NATO Summits

This weekend, back-to-back international conferences will take place in the United States, hosted by President Obama. The G8 summit which hosts “the world’s 8 largest economies” (which is not actually accurate since countries like China are excluded) will take place at Camp David in Maryland. The great eight countries include France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the U.S., Canada and Russia.

The NATO summit will take place in Chicago. Most of the countries from the G8 Summit will attend that starting on Saturday and the discussions will cover slightly different issues. NATO exists as an intercontinental defense alliance, which means its topics will reflect less economic issues and more concerns about protection or stability.

A lot goes into these kinds of meetings. The leaders present will deal not just with pressing world issues, but also forge personal and international ties. Just like personality differences in any organization, the dynamics of these meetings will carry overtones of each country’s independent identity. It’s almost impossible to summarize all the issues and topics that could arise; however, these are the top 5 things to be looking for this weekend:

1. Afghanistan

The withdrawal from Afghanistan will be the top issue at NATO. While President Obama has made efforts to remove American troops from the region, some other countries such as the new leadership in France will want to speed up the process. NATO has already agreed to offer support to Afghan forces through 2014, but discussions will cover what to do after that. Future costs to support the local security forces are estimated at $4.1 billion. (The U. S. is expected to cover at least half of that cost.)

2. Euro Zone Crisis

President Obama in particular has urged Europe to stimulate growth and prevent another serious recession. This outlook might be slightly self-serving as a collapse in Europe would surely affect North America (and anything related to the economy will affect the U. S. elections in November). Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has also some out with strong reproach for Greece. While no one foresees the creation of any policies during the G8 summit, there will certainly be plenty of conversation regarding this issue and possibly ways to forestall a complete collapse.

3. Leadership Changes (Russia, France)

Russia has re-elected Vladamir Putin as President of Russia. Well, debatably. President Putin declined to attend the G8 Summit. Most likely because his hands are full of the protests in his own country from the opposition who claims he came into power through election fraud and coercion. Even without Putin present, his reemergence as a world leader (and his known agenda) will certainly come up during discussions such as NATO’s missile defense.

The other newly elected leader, certain to turn heads, is France’s President Francois Hollande. President Hollande has already come out strongly against his predecessor, former President Nicolas Sarkozy who aligned himself with the U. S. The new French President has already made bold statements such as plans to pull all French combat troops from Afghanistan before the end of the year. He has also taken a stance against Europe’s recent focus on austerity (deficit-cutting through less spending). President Hollande promises to strike a controversial tone at both summits.

4. Stability in the Middle East

The ever-continuing saga of the Middle East will surely be picked apart. Iran’s threat of nuclear defense will continue economic sanctions on Tehran (which mostly consist of trade bans). NATO will do all it can to freeze this program, but so far its tactics have not appeared effective. The bloody reforms in Syria and Libya will also get attention, as well as other countries from the Arab Spring which have yet to truly stabilize. While elections and reformations go on in these countries, the outside world leaders will quietly discuss their fate here in the U. S.

5. Protests

While all these intellectual policy discussions happen behind closed doors, Americans will stand outside and protest these meetings. The protesters will come out from across the country for a variety of reasons: anti-war, anti-Obama, anti-intervention, anti-Europe; occupiers and tea-partiers alike could show up for media attention. Already Chicago has seen a number of demonstrations and arrests. This kind of reaction to major international summits is not new: violence often breaks out wherever these events are held. This time, though, they are taking place in our own backyard and close to a heated election. Sparks could fly in Chicago.

Can There Be Such A Thing As Too Much Transparency?

Last week, Governor Rick Scott opened up a new area of his website called Project SunBurst. The project will upload “executive emails”  within 7 days of creation. The officials subject to this rule includes the Governor and the Lt. Governor also with all their appropriate staff personnel.

Project Sunburst logo from FLGov.com

The goal is to push all of these emails online within 24 and make them readable for the public from the website. These are all emails that should already be subject to public record. Before Project Sunburst, you could request any email communication but would have to wait until it was given to you.

The Miami Herald covered the opening of the website extensively. Writer Mary Ellen Klas suggested Gov. Scott is “hoping to reverse the perception that he wanted to skirt the state’s open records law”. In 2010, there was a scandal about Gov. Scott’s staff destroying emails. Scott’s defense was a server problem but he then did not open an email account for almost a year into his term.

Of course, while the Governor’s office and others tag this as a success for transparency, some are less sure. In an interview with Scott Finn from WUSF, Peter Schorsch of St. Petersblog implied that this transparency is fake. Schorsch said this meant all real business was being conducted offline in person or via phone) and the release of these emails probably won’t make any difference. It is obvious based on emails from public records that the Governor’s staff try to avoid a paper trail. Emails include things such as “the info we discussed was hand-delivered to your office” instead of attachments or just suggest a phone call.

My question here is has transparency gone too far? We’ve have all these steps in place to try and keep our politicians honest but instead they just find new and better ways of hiding information. Also, this kind of level of scrutiny has put a fear in them. Any electronic record could get them in trouble. Have we, in fact, made ourselves less transparent by demanding so much?

Open to your thoughts.

The UN Balance of Power Could Change in 2012

A unique thing is happening in 2012: 4 out of the 5 permanent members (nick-named the P5) of the United Nations Security Council have major elections this year. These five countries, (China, Russia, United State of America, United Kingdom and France) all have the power to veto any Council resolution no matter how much support it may have. Only one country needs to provide a veto to stop any “substantive” draft.

The 4 countries with elections are Russia, France, the UK and of course, us.


At this point in time, Russia has already undergone its election, putting Vladamir Putin in charge. While this is not a major shift in Russia’s current international outlook, Putin will certain be bolder in his initiatives and will give Russia a fiercer voice. Russia continues to crawl forward in its actions to separate Eastern Europe into its own protective sphere (note the separatist regions as well as the missile defense problems, not to mention the quest for a EurAsia Union), that will only be sped up now that Putin has resumed control.


France is about to have their elections and currently the race is too close to call. Nicolas Sarkozy the current Presidential incumbent hails from the Union for a Popular Movement party which is the center-right political group in France. This Party, and Sarkozy in particular, has advocated greater alignment with the United States. His opponent, Francois Hollande, from the Socialist Party will probably be less supportive ofAmerica. He has very little foreign policy experience to begin with and has already announced his intentions to speed up French troop withdraw from Afghanistan. The French Socialist Party aligns itself heavily with the Europeans Socialists who push for more Pro-European Union policies.

Great Britain

The U. K. could be up for a serious shuffle, as well. With the recession hitting Britain as badly as the U. S., most voters want someone to blame. That person may as well be David Cameron. If local elections show any kind of trend, Cameron and his Conservative Party will not fair well in the futue.  The Labor Party seems to be gaining traction. While the U. K. has a long standing alliance with America, The Labor Party’s focus has been more on human rights and an alignment with the European Socialists. This means a more isolated EU and more “aid” styled missions instead of defense. This also could affect the “EU plot” just revealed today about the EU’s super-president and the desire to “scrap” Britain. While Cameron’s administration has been less Euro-friendly, the article implies that the current government is not taking steps to prevent a dictator style EU. However, a Labor Party majority would be much happier to become deeper involved with the European Union.

The United States of America

The United States also has a big election coming up, one that looks just as close as the French. We have suffered through our own economic recession, and had more than our fair share of interceding in foreign affairs. The current President Obama, with minimal foreign policy experience has received mixed reviews at best from our population but overall his stance could not be considered “strong”. Romeny, the Republican opposition, would most likely command a more typically conservative foreign policy which would put us back on strong defense. While the change in the outlook on international relations might not be drastic, it would still be a change.


China will remain stable throughout this year. However, as the other Party chess pieces move around, China will continue to make alliances. China’s current foreign policy can best be described as whatever is economically good for them. Bailing out America’s debt? Check. Supplying N. Korea under the table? Invisible Check. It doesn’t matter either way. And now with the developing story about “blind-activist” Chen Gaungcheng we can certainly see the tedious relationship we have with them.

Any shift in power (and we’ve already seen one in Russia) can lead to instability within the P5. This is an important year internationally, one that needs to be watched more closely as we chose our moves on the world stage. Human rights and the future of the EU will be fresh on the minds of the winners at the end of 2012.

Originally Posted at ToraRadical.com

Russia’s Concentration Camp and Why Occupy Should Care

Despite the protests over Putin’s recent elections (their alleged coercion and fraud) dying down, the problems for United Russia seem far from over. Putin’s regime had seemed to regain control of the media, shutting down the last of the protests from disenfranchised voters. However, the rush of anti-United Russia sentiment reared its head again in the local elections.

Oleg Shein, a candidate for Mayor of Astrakhan (which is a large city in the southwest of Russia) lost his race as part of the opposition. He gained only 30% of the vote, while the “approved” candidate received almost 60%. Shein claimed fraud in his election and since that date he went on a hunger strike for 40 days, drawing media attention and restarting many Russian protests.

During a press conference (of which many members of opposition movement A Just Russia walked out of) Putin seemed to belittle Shein. He called a hunger strike a non-legitimate form of protest. He suggested Shein take his case to the courts where the matter could be decided, legally, so no one could disagree.

Shein answered Putin by calling Astrakhan a “concentration camp”.  He also said a hunger strike is a legitimate form of protest in a concentration camp. Astrakhan has a de-facto curfew, is often occupied by military and journalists are often blocked from even entering so little information manages to get into the press. Shein’s supposition that an entire region of Russia has little to no freedom is a significant statement. Considerations should be made by Russia but also the United States.

It is not unheard of for Russia to overturn this kind of issue. In the past, contesting elections have sometimes been resolved. The situation is bad either way for Putin. He either ignores the claims, continuing to incite Shein and his followers, or he compromises his position by giving his opposition a victory and revealing corruption within his administration. This will continue to lend itself to the instability of Putin’s grasp on Russia.

The consistent problems in Russia should not be overlooked by the United States, that should be well noted. While the most supported opposition movement to Putin is Communism, right now there is a “vote-against” mentality as opposed to favoring a particular party. The Anyone-But-Putin coalition could lead to greater instability in the region.

The other lesson for Americans out of Russia comes straight from the mouth of Shein. No matter how terrible political events proceed in our country, no one can claim that their state is a concentration camp. If occupiers in Atlanta made this claim, they would be laughed at or considered mentally unstable. The average American cannot fathom the horrors of a true loss of freedom. But Shein’s claim has at least a basis in facts. Something that would be unheard of here. And yet this country is considered our first world ally.

Something to consider. Especially today as Occupiers celebrate May Day.