The Global Report: April 26, 2012

By Michael J. Lockhart

This week, our international news update covers the China-Russia war games, the cozy US-Brazil relationship, and Israel prepares its defense force.

Welcome to the Global Report: our weekly column of the most important issues happening across the planet. From politics to war, monarchies to dictatorships, and everything in-between, we’ve got it covered. It’s world news, style.

The strengthening relationship between heavyweights Brazil and the US got another boost and regional vote of confidence yesterday, as US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered the South American country (Use Quote) if it purchases F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets. This move, while not accepted as of yet, would be extremely valuable to Brazil in its efforts to maintain its position as a regional security leader. This proposition is an interesting development for this relationship as the US only offers this technology to its closest allies.

The fight for the French Presidency began last weekend with Socialist opposition leader Francois Hollande taking the first round over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, 28 per cent to 26 per cent respectively. As there was no majority winner, a second runoff will be held May 6th to determine the new leader of one of Europe’s most powerful nations. While a two per cent differential isn’t horrible, it does indicate that Hollande’s primarily economic platform resonated well with French voters. It’s anticipated that third place candidate Marine Le Pen’s 19 per cent will be a deciding factor in the runoff, which begs the question if Sarkozy-ally, and ever popular German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will be more vocal in order to help sustain the monopoly the two leaders have created over the European Union institutions.

In addition to this, France caused a stir earlier today as it proposed border controls be reinstated across the European borderless ‘Schengen Area’ to prevent illegal migration. This development was quickly rebuffed by the German Foreign Minister who stated that freedom of movement in Europe is non-negotiable. While it could be coincidence, these talks come as recent EU members Bulgaria and Romania attempt to join the club.

A nice red flag we’d like to raise is today’s announcement that China will set up a purported $10B line of credit to Central and Eastern European nations in an attempt to spur growth in a number of sectors. While it may be a sign of good will during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to the region and taking part in a summit of leaders in Poland, external investment by China on Russia’s eastern border will do nothing but cause tensions as Russia’s Eurasian Union project gets underway.

In yet another bold statement regarding a preemptive strike on Iran, a ranking Israeli military chief announced today that several countries, including Israel, have prepared for a potential strike against Iranian nuclear sites if a need arises. This action follows months of threats from Israel to Iran that it would be willing to attack if it felt its existence was being threatened. However, any pre-emptive strike would raise a number of legal concerns for the country, a claim the country seems to disregard due to the perceived necessity of the action.

Jordanian Prime Minister Awn al-Khasawneh stepped down earlier today as a casualty in the on-going political protests that have called for political reform in the country. No successor has been named by the King Abdullah II as of yet. Jordan, along with the other Middle East monarchies informally known as the ‘oil-king’ countries, have been watched heavily over the past two years as the turmoil of the Arab Spring took a toll on their neighbors. We don’t expect any massive change in overall leadership of these countries in the immediate future, but we believe that has more to do with the monarch’s relatively stabled relationship with the US (and their love for oil) than it does to do with geopolitical factors.

After a 13 month deliberation ending yesterday, the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, became the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since post-Hitler German leader Karl Doenitz in 1946. Taylor was charged for his role in the mass atrocities committed in Sierra Leone in exchange for blood diamonds in the 1990s. The court in The Hague convicted Taylor for crimes against humanity as well as war crimes. His punishment and sentencing is unknown at this time.

China and Russia held joint naval exercises earlier today in the Yellow Sea. The exercises, which included fleet inspections, war games and a live ammunition firing is a key sign that the two powers are a determined to show their military presence in the area, which has recently seen similar exercises conducted between the US and neighboring Japan and South Korea. Let’s say that the next confrontation over Taiwan may feature a few more actors than last time.

Koala’s have made our Australian Creature Feature list for the first time this week as the government mulled the decision to list the marsupial as threatened. Australian environmental groups have long argued that the government hasn’t listed the species previously due to the potential impact the designation could have upon mineral mining. In related news, teen girls are blaming koalas for potentially giving a British boy band chlamydia. If this is a power they wield, we should have attempted to save them long ago.


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