Today’s Major World News
- Israel and Gaza cease-fire = Good
- Russia and Ukraine make a deal = Good
- N. Korea threatens S. Korea = Bad
Israel and Gaza cease-fire = Good
News: After three bloody weeks in Gaza, Israel decided on Saturday to enact a unilateral ceasefire. The idea was that Israel would stop attacks and then make their next decision based on Hamas’ actions. Today, Hamas has agreed to a week-long ceasefire, which could be continued if Israel pulled their troops out. Hamas also wants all of the borders to be immediately opened, whereas Israel wants monitoring to make sure that Hamas cannot re-arm, with border and tunnel monitoring. Israel is beginning to remove troops, which is a good sign.
Commentary: Provided Hamas sticks to and extends a ceasefire, this moves from the realm of military to that of politics. Hopefully, international border monitoring can be agreed upon, marginalizing Hamas. In such a case, Gaza could be rebuilt, with open borders allowing for a (more) normal life for the Palestinians therein. At this point, it’s really on Hamas’ shoulders. Of course, it isn’t that simple, international border monitoring will take some wrangling. Egypt is presently unwilling to have international personnel support at their Gaza border. And there will still be internal Palestinian problems as long as there is a disconnect between a Fatah that is willing to negotiate with Israel and a Hamas that denies Israel’s right to exist.
Russia and Ukraine make a deal = Good
News: The agreement for 2009 is that Ukraine will pay 20% of the “market price” that Europe pays, followed by full market price in 2010. 2009’s price is double the price that Ukraine paid in 2008.
There are still outstanding issues and no one will let out a collective sigh of relief until the gas starts flowing again.
Background: It’s hard to put blame squarely on the shoulders of only one of the countries. Russia claimed the stoppage was due to unpaid debt and a non-agreement on prices. Ukraine claimed that it was a separate, Swiss-registered country that owed/owes the money.
During the dispute, Russia claimed Ukraine was stealing gas that was meant for Europe. Ukraine’s claim was that it needed said gas was “technical gas” needed to maintain pressure in the pipelines. This is an outstanding issue, with both countries claiming that it’s the other’s responsibility to provide the daily 21 million cubic meters of “technical gas”.
Commentary: This will resolve itself soon. Both countries have made themselves look fairly bad. Russia is a key energy supplier of Europe. By not consistently maintaining supply, they have just heightened calls to reduce energy dependency. Ukraine wants to join NATO and the EU and they don’t do themselves any favors by looking so desperate and unreliable.
Bonus: Is it ‘Ukraine’ or “The Ukraine”? Find one opinion here.
N. Korea threatens S. Korea = Bad
News: With Kim Jong-Il, the “Dear Leader” of North Korea ill and a potential vacuum of power occuring, there is cause for increased worry on the Korean Peninsula. In recent news, North Korea told a visiting American expert that they have weaponized plutonium for 4-5 nuclear weapons. Additionally, the North Koreans have threatened South Korea with military action. While this may seem run-of-the-mill for an Axis of Evil state, it’s distinct in that it is usually done by written statement or read by non-uniformed press officers, as opposed to this time, by a uniformed spokesman for North Korean Joint Chiefs on North Korean TV.
In a shift from prior statements, a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, “We can live without normalizing ties with the United States, but we cannot live without a nuclear deterrent.”
Commentary: You never know what scared, brainwashed people might do. North Korea’s statements have frequently been contradictory and that was when it was clear who was in charge. Now, it is unclear who is in control and therefore, impossible to say what actions they will take next. North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006 was either unusually small or unsuccessful, so perhaps there is no cause for immediate alarm about their nuclear capabilities. On the other side, it is not impossible to see a desperate North Korea finding an excuse to attack South Korea. Perhaps it isn’t smart, but smart decisions shouldn’t be expected from people that feel backed into a corner.