The Firing of Moscow’s Mayor Could Actually Make Russia More Democratic
September 30, 2010

Tired of the famous Churchillian formula about how hard it is to understand what goes on in the Kremlin (it’s a riddle, a mystery, an enigma, etc.), the American diplomat Chip Bohlen reportedly once joked, “No, it’s not—it’s a secret.” A crucial distinction, confirmed by President Medvedev’s dramatic firing of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov on Tuesday. It would be nice, of course, to know whether the decision really put Medvedev at odds with his predecessor and patron, When Putin said in August that those who demonstrate without a permit deserve a good beating, he was explicitly backing Luzhkov.

Why Are Chinese Millionaires So Stingy?
September 29, 2010

On Wednesday, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hosted a dinner for China’s billionaires. The pair, fresh off successful efforts to persuade Americans to leave their fortunes to charity, hoped to start a wave of philanthropy in China, which now has the second largest number of billionaires. Gates and Buffett described the event as “a private gathering to discuss philanthropy development.” Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency, earlier this month reported that only two of the approximately 50 invitees had accepted.

Chávez, on the Ropes
September 29, 2010

Sunday's parliamentary election in Venezuela saw Chávez's governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela slump to a landslide.

How Obama Was Brainwashed by the Microsoft Theory of Foreign Aid
September 27, 2010

With the fatuousness that has marked his administration from the outset, the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, has now issued a document called “Keeping the Promise,” timed to coincide with the 2010 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and the summit on the organization’s so-called Millennium Development Goals that is taking place simultaneously.

Democracy Corpse
September 25, 2010

Many South American politicians have laid claim to the spirit of Simón Bolívar, but very few have actually communed with it. At meetings, Hugo Chávez is said to leave an empty chair for the continent’s nineteenth-century liberator. When Chávez ordered the exhumation of Bolívar’s corpse from its grave in the National Pantheon last month, he took to Twitter and exclaimed, “Rise up, Simón, as it’s not time to die.” This latest escapade returns us to the eternal question: Is Hugo Chávez just a buffoon or something more dangerous? Certainly, the evidence for his buffoonery is strong.

Justice Undone
September 21, 2010

“Come stai…? Tutto bene…?” This had been U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's opening line since the early days of our professional relationship. I'd heard him use the greeting many times as he rose through the ranks, resorting to it whenever he met an Italian colleague (like me). Still, those words never failed to warm my heart. Walking around his desk Kofi smiled, hand stretched out towards the black leather sofa. It was early September 2006. Both Annan and I were about to leave the United Nations for good. He was leaving after two terms in office.

The Velvet Surrender
September 17, 2010

Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.

The Coming North Korean Coup?
September 09, 2010

In the next few days—perhaps Thursday—the Korean Workers’ Party will begin its national conference, the first since 1966. The meeting, according to state media, will “mark a meaningful chapter in the history of our party.” Some reports indicate that the gathering already started on Monday, with the registration of participants. The event, the third in the history of North Korea, is the result of a national mass mobilization. South Korean sources say military units have been converging on Pyongyang, presumably to take part in a show of might.

Egypt's Regime Will Change
September 04, 2010

Sometimes, it seems like the United States is more interested in giving aid to Egypt than Egypt is to receive it. This year, for example, Egypt objected to a $250 million civilian aid package if USAID funded unregistered NGOs. Many human rights groups in the country have trouble receiving official sanction from the Egyptian government and thus require outside support to be effective. So, instead of standing firm, the Obama administration agreed to cut their USAID support, departing from U.S.

Bishkek Blunder
August 28, 2010

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan—Smiling in a conference room of her aging Soviet-era office suite, Roza Otunbayeva appeared confident—possibly for the first time in her short presidency. It was only two weeks after June 10, when ethnic violence had begun engulfing the south of her country, but Kyrgyzstan's diminutive leader, a bespectacled former diplomat with a bob cut and the good-natured manner of a high-school principal, announced that the bloodshed had failed to discourage people from participating in a nationwide referendum.