On September 20, 2013, The European Institute, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria, convened a luncheon discussion with The Honorable Kristian Vigenin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.The meeting focused on the implications of the Syrian crisis for both Europe and Bulgaria. Minister Vigenin called for increased security and technical assistance to handle the steady flow of Syrian refugees to his country as well as for greater solidarity from Bulgaria’s European neighbors in providing humanitarian assistance for the refugees. He also expressed hope that a resolution could be agreed upon during the United Nations General Assembly for an effective dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons capability, and warily welcomed the marked change of tenor from Tehran’s leadership.

By Michael D. Mosettig, former Foreign Editor of PBS NewsHour

Some times great historical transformations come bundled in  packages of small statistics.

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john barry 1The seizing of the In Amenas natural gas extraction plant in the sandy wastes of southern Algeria and the subsequent deaths of at least 37 foreign nationals who worked at the plant was, of course, a tragic episode.    It was also a major strategic blunder by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, leader of the ragtag gang who overran the facility in mid-January.    Belmokhtar’s declared aim was to halt the French military action which had just begun in Mali --- or at least to deter other nations from joining the French effort.    The outcome was the reverse.   The four-day siege of the plant internationalized the crisis in Mali as nothing else could have done.

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Offhand, it’s hard to imagine a less propitious time and place for a NATO summit than the present gathering in Chicago.   From the start, of course, the event has been designed as an election boost for President Obama.   Why else Chicago, halfway through a presidential campaign?   Nobody who hasn’t observed this at close hand can comprehend the complexity and cost of setting up secure accommodations and communications for participants at summits like this. (Chicago was expecting 5000 delegates and their staffs, along with 2000 media.) 

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Is the Obama administration edging quietly towards an historic shift in U.S. national security strategy? Is a change in the works going far beyond the “pivot to Asia” and troop drawdown in Europe announced by the President in January as the first outcome of the Congressionally-mandated need to cut defense spending?

 

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