(Nov. 22)   The three summit meetings last weekend resulted in what New York gamblers call a “trifecta” of three wins:  the leadership of the NATO alliance set a framework for missile defense in Europe without undermining nuclear deterrence as an ultimate security guaranty; Russia returned to its special partnership with NATO for the first time since the Georgia war in 2008; and the EU fielded an effectively streamlined team (the result of its own Lisbon treaty last year) that has already bolstered the pace of  EU-US cooperation.

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An Obama administration failure to get ratification of the so-called New Start treaty – as now seems probable – will inject damaging tensions into U.S. relations with Germany and other key NATO allies in Europe.

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(September 29)  After years of discussion and debate, Germany is moving to end military conscription—re-introduced in 1956, in an effort to break with the militaristic past and create a “citizen in uniform.” Earlier this week, German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel announced agreement of the governing conservative parties to abolish the draft in accordance with a proposal by German defense minister, Karl-Theodore zu Guttenberg.

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The Czech Republic and, more surprisingly, Slovakia, have announced plans to participate in the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system in Europe by hosting parts of the network on their soil. Poland has already signed up as a site for deploying part of the planned system.

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On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 launched from Cape Canaveral. A few days later, on Christmas Eve, its crew became the first humans to enter the gravitational pull of another body away from the home planet. The crew’s reading of Genesis from lunar orbit captivated a worldwide audience, and the astronauts brought home what may have been the most profound photograph in history: the famous “Earthrise” showing the blue planet Earth rising over the moon’s desolation, suspended in the dark of space. This was a stunning moment in the history of exploration, leading to the Apollo 11 landing a few months later.

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