US-Russian Relations Remain Chilly

Russian Bear Roiled By US Policy Concerning Syria
Following a meeting between his nation and China, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed the US was holding a double standard on Syria by blocking a statement condemning a bomb attack near the Russian embassy in Damascus.

The US State Department said its opposition was a disagreement over the language of the statement, not with the condemnation of terrorist acts occurring in Syria.

A press release from Russia’s representative at the UN was less delicate stating that the US had “blocked” a condemnation of the attack due to “other issues,” which the delegation said was an effort “to justify the actions of terrorists.”

“Obviously, the U.S. delegation thus encourages those, who previously targeted American interests, including U.S. diplomatic missions,” the press release continued.

US, Russia Remain At Odds Over Syria
While the Obama administration has given vague indications in recent weeks that it was keeping open the option of arming Syria’s rebel forces, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that dialogue, rather than sending weapons, was the only option toward a workable peace.

More Than A Reset Of Syrian Policy Needed, Some Argue
Some argue that placing too much faith in Russia’s role in a negotiated peace would simply be repeating the mistakes of the past.

Vance Serchuk, a former Senate Foreign Relations aide, opines that the Obama administration had placed its hope in Russia’s ability – and willingness – to compel Assad to leave power and then to negotiate a transitional peace. However, he notes, “the inverse is unfolding in Syria: the emergence of a failed state in which a contracted, consolidated Assad regime fights on — more sectarian, repressive and tightly aligned with Iran and Hezbollah.”

Serchuk also points to the rising influence of al-Qaeda-linked extremists, who are gaining influence “by providing the help the West won’t — likewise dimming the chances of a negotiated peace.”

On February 26, Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with Russian officials to discuss a variety of issues, including Syria.


European Commission Reports Lower Growth Estimates
Marco Buti of the European Commission warned that the job market remains a “serious concern” after the Commission reported that the Euro Zone economy will shrink for a second year in 2013, which is expected to drive unemployment higher.

According to the Commission, gross domestic product will fall 0.3 percent this year, compared with a November prediction of 0.1 percent growth and unemployment can be expected to rise from 11.8 percent to 12.2 percent.

Will There Ever Be An Asian Spring?
The image of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire was enough to spark a wave of pro-democracy protests throughout the Middle East, sparking the so-called Arab Spring. What is ironic is that Bouazizi’s action was equated with the man standing in front of a tank in China’s Tiananmen Square years earlier, yet there has never been an Asian Spring.

While social media did not exist in China in 1989, it does now. So why has there been no similar revolutionary wave in Beijing?

One explanation, says The Diplomat’s Steve Hess, is that in China, “unlike most autocracies – including Mubarak’s Egypt and Ben Ali’s Tunisia—the state is highly decentralized. Local governments are given a substantial level of autonomy over development policies as well as social management – decisions related to dealing with popular challengers through repression or alternatively, the extension of concessions.”




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