President Barack Obama said he wouldn’t decide whether to supply weapons to Ukraine until European leaders exhaust one last diplomatic effort to resolve the conflict there, setting aside for now trans-Atlantic differences on the best way to get Russia to relent. Mr. Obama announced his decision after a White House meeting Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that followed days of sometimes testy exchanges between U.S. and German officials.
It was -3 degrees in Munich over the weekend and, inside the 51st Security Conference, there was an unmistakable cold war chill. For three days the Bayerischer Hof hotel was a security and diplomatic lockdown as western leaders clashed with Russian counterparts over the way into – and out of – the Ukraine crisis. Delegates arrived in glum agreement over the risks posed by the conflict, and departed after heated disagreements over whether military might or diplomatic skill could save the day.
Some European leaders are in a full court press to oppose Washington’s potential plan to give lethal aid to the Ukrainian military. The problem is, there has been no decision in Washington, and the Europeans may be fighting against a plan that U.S. President Barack Obama will never approve anyway.
Andy Lack, the new CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. international agencies such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, has identified Russia’s propaganda offensive as one of his job’s major challenges, along with the rise of ISIS on social media and Boko Haram. “We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram, “ Lack said.
A Russian initiative to host peace talks this month between the Syrian government and its opponents appears to be unraveling as prominent Syrian opposition figures shun the prospective negotiations amid deep distrust of Moscow and concerns the talks hold no chance of success.
The Australian government has an elaborate campaign, including a 600-page bureaucratic handbook, to build its international image using koalas.
Russia-watchers and Russians have spent much of the year debating what's behind Putin's adventurism in Ukraine, his meddling in eastern Europe's Baltic states, his support for anti-American dictators like Syria's Bashar al-Assad and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, and the headaches he is generally causing Western leaders.
The idea of Russian “soft power” became fashionable, but it was very different to European “soft power”. So-called Russian soft power was just “softer power”, including any means of coercion not involving tanks. It was, in the English phrase, “softly-softly” power, or “covert power”, the type of behind-the-scenes influence encapsulated in the Russian phrase kuluarna polityka – politics in corridors, not just away from public influence, but without formal record.