The United States and Russia announced Tuesday they had agreed to negotiate a "strategic framework" document that would formally put in writing the basic elements of their relationship, but the two sides failed to end the deep division over American plans to base missile defenses in Europe. Conciliation was the tone set overall by the American secretaries of state and defense and by their Russian counterparts at the end of two days of negotiations. Yet tangible results remained elusive as both sides agreed mostly that it was important to keep talking through the end of this administration and into the next, as President Vladimir Putin of Russia leaves office, followed by President George W. Bush.
"We have agreed that there should be a joint strategic framework document for the presidents to be able to record all of the elements of the U.S.-Russian relationship as we go forward into the future," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She said negotiations had brought consensus on which parts of the relationship would be in the document; the dozen or so policy issues include trade, counter-terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Her counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said the talks also covered "some contentious issues where we have not reached agreement as of now," in particular missile defense and the exact legal form of a future bilateral limit on nuclear weapons. Lavrov acknowledged that Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates had made a significant effort during the talks to "try to allay our concerns" over American plans to place a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland. The Americans have said the system is designed to thwart missile attacks launched from Iran. Russia has argued that the system could threaten its own missiles as well. Gates said the system would not be any threat to the Russian arsenal. "We had the opportunity today to elaborate on a number of confidence-building measures and measures for transparency, to provide assurance to the Russians that our missile sites and radars do not constitute a threat to Russia," Gates said. Among the offers, he explained, was one to allow Russian inspectors into American missile defense sites, though that also would require approval from the Czech and Polish governments. "I think both President Putin and our Russian colleagues today found these ideas useful and important," Gates said. "They will be studying them further."
A senior American official, speaking on traditional diplomatic ground rules of anonymity to describe the closed-door negotiations, said the Russian government had come to the realization that the United States had no intention of dropping its plans for missile defense bases in Eastern Europe. "The Russians are beginning to see that this is going to happen," the official said. The question facing the Russian government now, the official said, was how to respond in a way that does not immediately and publicly validate the American position while striving to defend principles of Moscow's foreign and military policy.
Acknowledging that some of the Bush administration's proposals on missile defense had not been clearly stated or perhaps had been misunderstood by the Russians, senior American officials agreed to work through Tuesday night putting the entire set of ideas into writing for study by Moscow. That effort is in part a repeat of what was done when Rice and Gates visited Moscow last October to discuss missile defense.
The most negative assessment of the impasse on missile defense issues came from Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who said, "In principle our positions have not changed."
The two sides also failed to reach a deal - but agreed to continue talks - on what sort of pact might set limits on their nuclear arsenals after current treaties expire.
By working to wrap the more contentious bilateral issues into an official strategic framework document that includes areas of cooperation, the United States hopes to highlight and preserve areas of progress after months of caustic words from the Kremlin over missile defense.
The goal, according to the senior administration official, is that "this document would be an element of stability as both countries look ahead to new leadership through a transition year in Russia and in anticipation of presidential transition in the United States."
PRAGUE: The Czech Republic will sign a treaty Tuesday to build a U.S. missile defense radar system on Czech soil despite opposition at home and in Russia.
Washington wants to build the radar southwest of Prague and put 10 interceptor rockets in Poland as a part of a defense shield that it says will protect the United States and European allies from "rogue states" such as Iran.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will sign the plan in Prague, but it faces some hurdles. Talks with Poland have stalled over Warsaw's demands for U.S. aid to help modernize its army, and the Czech treaty will face opposition in Parliament.
But the Czech government said the shield would offer protection along with the country's NATO and European Union membership.
"Missile technology is spreading around the world," Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview. "The threat is not totally acute, but one has to prepare in time."
Analysts say that bases in the former Soviet bloc would raise U.S. security interest in the region at a time when Russia grows more assertive about its role on the global scene. Russia regards the missile shield as a threat to itself.
"While Washington's concerns about Iran are real, it's also true that in setting up these missile defense components, the United States will have a direct stake in the security of central and eastern Europe," said Alexander Kliment, an analyst at Eurasia Group, a U.S. political risk consultancy.
Disputes over the radar have alienated many Czechs, wary of any foreign military presence after the Soviet invasion in 1968 and the following two decades of occupation.
An opinion poll last month showed 68 percent of Czechs were against the shield, while 24 percent supported it. Anti-radar activists say the radar will make the Czech Republic a target and undermine its security.
The leftist opposition in Parliament has channeled the public discontent, and ratification is uncertain.
The three-party cabinet has just 100 seats in the 200-seat lower house and several backbenchers have said they would vote against. The government must win over several independents.
The Green Party, a junior government partner, says ratification should be delayed until a new U.S. administration takes over.
Unlike the Czechs, Poland has demanded billions of dollars for the modernization of its army, mainly air defenses. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday that U.S. proposals were insufficient but that Poland was ready to negotiate further.
General Henry Obering, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, has said that U.S. intelligence suggests that by 2015, Iran could follow North Korea's example and develop a long-range missile capable of striking the United Sates. The United States brought an anti-missile umbrella, based in Alaska and California, on line in 2004 to protect against the perceived North Korean threat. The Czech and Polish sites would augment that system.
The proposed $3.5 billion system would use technology in which an array of sensors and radar would detect an enemy missile in flight and guide a ground-based interceptor to destroy it.
If approved, construction on both sites could begin in 2009, and could begin functioning in 2011 to 2013.
06/07/2008, International Herald Tribune
PARIS: Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine
Behind the fighting in Lebanon, as in Palestine and Iraq, there is a fundamental conflict of views. America sees each as a clash between freedom and terrorism, while the Arabs think in terms of freedom versus military occupation and unjust wars. Unless the two opposing approaches are reconciled politically and diplomatically, the Middle East will sink into perpetual war and chaos.
The Bush administration charges Islamist fundamentalists and their sponsors in Tehran and Damascus with spreading an authoritarian ideology of hate against the will of the Arab majority. Washington believes that there is an American-style freedom-lover inside every Muslim, and that its mission is to drag it out by hook or crook. After all, the cause of liberty in America, according to the new Bush doctrine, is dependent on the cause of freedom abroad.
The Arabs, for their part, blame U.S. and Israeli wars and occupations for turning citizens into freedom fighters and providing terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda with fresh recruits and ideological alibis. They hold America and Israel responsible for death, destruction and surging extremism, in pursuit of narrow geopolitical interests rather than of universal values.
These opposing sets of beliefs come with corresponding myths and images. The United States and its allies invoke 9/11, the Madrid bombings, the London Underground attacks and hundreds of terrorist acts in between, while the Arabs underline the invasions and occupations of 1967, 1982 and 2003; the Abu Ghraib, Kheyam and Guantánamo detention centers, as well as hundreds of massacres, from Der Yassin in 1948 to last month's Qana bombing.
Under occupation, frustrated and angry people who see themselves as having nothing to lose turn to acts of terrorism, which in turn are exploited by the occupiers to justify continuing their domination. The fact that violent terrorist acts perpetrated by resisting groups are illegal and criminal should not overshadow their root cause - military occupations that cause mass suffering, humiliation and hatred. Occupation provides a permanent state of provocation.
This link between occupation and terrorism points to the crucial difference between the 9/11 attacks and the Middle East conflicts, which should not be held hostage to Washington's war on terrorism. An overwhelming majority of Arabs do not recognize their religion in the image of Islam projected by Al Qaeda. And in the region there is little identification with the Taliban, except in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
If this fundamental conflict of views continues, so will asymmetrical wars in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq that produce no white flags, only more nationalistic and religious extremism that deepens the fault lines between East and West.
Washington's strategy of "constructive chaos" - which is also Al Qaeda's and Tehran's - needs to be seen against a backdrop of mounting religious fundamentalism. In claiming to answer a higher calling, the likes of President George W. Bush, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran are theologizing what were colonial and imperial conflicts, recasting them in terms of jihad versus crusade.
If the 20th century is any guide, it is evident who will be the eventual loser in these conflagrations. America and its allies might possess far more advanced and destructive firepower, but they are far less committed than their opponents and far more prone to losing momentum.
Highly trained and highly equipped American, Israeli and British soldiers strive to stay alive as they fight low-tech volunteer militants who are more than ready to sacrifice themselves and die as martyrs. As America mourns its deaths, resisting Islamist and secular groups celebrate theirs. Military interventions have generated a huge reservoir of pent-up violence among Arabs, while hardly shaking Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese resolve against foreign domination.
In short, time is not on the side of America and its allies. In the Middle East, the continuing hardship of military occupation plays into the hands of religious fundamentalists and discredits moderate democrats.
There is a solution available, however - not divine intervention, but a measure that already exists. The West must apply to the whole region the basic principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for complete withdrawal of foreign troops and the disarming of local groups. That means U.S. and Israeli withdrawal from Iraq and Palestine as well as Lebanese and Syrian lands, as a prelude to disarming of all armed groups and freeing prisoners there.
The only means of halting the cycle of violence and terrorism in the Middle East, and paving the way toward real freedom, is to end military occupation.
08/08/2006, International Herald Tribune
THE ANALYSIS OF A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE
Firstly / First of all / Secondly / Thirdly / Then / Next / After that / Finally / Eventually
Furthermore / moreover / in addition to / to add to that / besides / what’s more / apart from this
It’s essential / vital / extremely important to understand
Ultimately / basically / most importantly
If we look at the problem closely
What it exactly means is
Because of / owing to / due to / for this reason
Therefore / as a result / hence / accordingly / consequently / as a consequence / thus
I fully understand that / I’m in favor of / I support / I share the author’s opinion / I see eye to eye with the author on this problem
The author is correct to point out
To a certain extent / up to a point I agree with …but
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