The Global Report: May 24, 2012

By Michael J. Lockhart

From World Leaders watching soccer to backstabbing North Korea, this week's international news is on fire.

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.

Back-to-back G8 and NATO summits took place over the weekend between host President Obama’s Camp David retreat and his hometown of Chicago, I.L.

The 38th G8 Summit was a first for the recently elected leaders of France and Italy, Francois Hollande and Mario Monti respectively; Russian president Vladimir Putin was also expected to return to the group after a four-year absence, but sent former president and current prime minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place. Discussion among the leaders of the Western industrialized nations fell heavily to the European economic crisis, showing a rare sign of specificity in announcing their support for Greece within the Eurozone, and…watching the Chelsea - Munich Championship game.

The NATO Summit, which was primarily focused upon Afghanistan, occurred peacefully, apart from the usual demonstrations when a summit takes place in an urban environment. Discussion-wise, the group used the participation of presidential guest attendees from Afghanistan and Pakistan to make inroads on issues such as supply routes and post-withdrawal security and funding. But most interesting was the announcement from Lithuania over the decision to make NATO air patrols over the Baltic countries permanent. We would conclude that this action is directed at neighbor Russia and its increasingly common militarization in the area, and will likely draw some sort of denouncement from the country at upcoming former-Soviet meetings.

The term “Grexit” to describe the exit of Greece from the Euro pact has gone viral over the past week as several false reports indicating that other Eurozone countries were preparing for Greece’s withdrawal became widespread.

It’s no secret that the European Union is straddling a fine line these days as politicians, foreign governments and economists weigh in on the future of the quasi-federalist group. While it is hard to imagine the union would fall apart in its entirety, the most likely scenario would be a fragmentation separating the wealthier states from the rest. What remains to be seen is what will happen with the 17 Eurozone nations who run the real risk for global financial contamination if the monetary union were to falter. Despite its small size, the failure of Greece and the resulting default could bankrupt its creditors: several banks across the union. As some economists are now predicting, there could be two possible scenarios. One, Greece defaults and is kicked out of the union, serving as an unprecedented catalyst to the global financial markets and throwing Europe into a depression. Two, the more realistic outcome, sees Europe become ever more integrated, which will allow funds to flow more rapidly for growth, which could booster the faltering economy and provide confidence to investors. This second option has the consequence of European states giving up some of their sovereign power to the EU in Brussels, ultimately drawing the union closer to a federalist state.

Iran and the P5 group of Western nations have announced that they will resume talks in Moscow on June 18 to discuss the highly problematic Iranian nuclear program. While we’re not sure whether Iran’s agreement to participate is just a ploy to buy time from a potential pre-emptive Israeli strike, we’re happy to see that at least these parties are coming back to the drawing board.

On the Syrian front, the leader of the Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) has stepped down from his post, with elections to take place in early June for a new leader. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Syrian dictatorship take advantage of this fact in order to cause confusion within the party.

Wrapping up our weeks-long update on the Guinea-Bissau coup, governmental power was finally handed over to civilian control on Tuesday. The military had previously been in charge of the country.

With regards to the ongoing spat between Sudan and South Sudan over oil revenue and territory, the former attacked the latter earlier this week with aerial bombings, threatening the international efforts of peace and diplomacy that have been at work over the past month.

North Korea is once again playing with fire this week, finally agreeing to release 28 Chinese sailors and their fishing boats after holding them for ransom for most of the last two weeks. This spat is exceedingly worrisome considering North Korea’s closest ally and supporter is none other than China itself. While China in recent weeks is thought to be pressuring North Korea to abandon a third nuclear test, this action may be a clear sign to China to take new communist dictator Kim Jong-Un seriously. We imagine that this whole dispute may alarm Western nations such as the U.S. and Japan who believe that China’s overarching influence on the country could persuade it to back down on the nuclear front.

Creature Feature is outsourced to India this week as New Delhi’s rampant monkey population has been attacking and mugging tourists and locals. Better simians than sharks, right? Wait until they get access to iPads, then we’re all in for some trouble.

An Australian “farmer” has been jailed for life for conducting the world’s largest ecstasy haul and international smuggling ring that involved 4.4 tons of ecstasy. The drugs were reportedly found inside tomato cans being imported from Italy. Make sure next time that that’s parmesan cheese on your spaghetti.


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