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Posts tagged ‘Baltic states’

McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama’s ‘Disturbing Lack of Realism’.

Image: McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama's 'Disturbing Lack of Realism'


By Joe Battaglia

A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.

Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”

“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.

He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.

“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”

Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”

While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.

The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.

He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.

McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.

“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.

McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.

“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?'” McCain wrote.

While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”

“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”

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EU’s Rehn: Latvia could join euro zone in 2014.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The small Baltic state of Latvia could become the 18th member of the euro zone in 2014 if it continues on its current economic course, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Thursday.

“It is possible that they could join in 2014. The review (of whether the country meets the criteria) will be done in spring next year as was done for Estonia in 2010,” Rehn told Reuters.

Latvia, which on Tuesday said it would aim for 2014, would be the second Baltic state to join the single currency bloc. Neighboring Estonia adopted the euro in 2011.

To join the euro zone, a country has to meet criteria on low inflation, debt and budget deficits as well as currency stability and long-term interest rates.

Latvia’s budget deficit is forecast to fall well below the threshold of 3 percent of GDP this year and even further in 2013.

The European Commission expects the country’s debt to be between 43 and 45 percent of GDP this year and next – also well below the 60-percent ceiling.

A candidate country also has to hold its price growth down to no more than 1.5 percentage points above the average of the three lowest inflation rates in the European Union.

The most recent EU data, released on Tuesday, put that target at 2.94 percent, while the inflation rate in Latvia was 2.90 percent, the Latvian finance ministry said in a statement. The ministry forecast the rate would stay below the EU threshold until next spring.

Despite the sovereign debt crisis that has spread through the euro zone’s weaker economies over the past 3 years, Latvia sees the euro as a more stable currency than its lat.

Public opinion is firmly opposed to euro entry, but the government does not intend to hold a referendum on the issue. Latvia, unlike Britain and Denmark, does not have an opt-out from the euro. This means that, as a member of the European Union, it is obliged to adopt the currency once it meets the criteria.

The Baltic nation carried out tax hikes and spending cuts after the global financial crisis hit, helping it overcome debt problems with the goal of adopting the euro.

The center-right government of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis this year cut the rate of value added tax to 21 percent from 22 percent as part of efforts to bring inflation within the euro criteria.

“Latvia is recovering from its very deep economic crisis, growth prospects for Latvia are in the scale of 4-5 percent next year,” Rehn said. “Even more importantly, it is much more sustainable growth than in the past and the Latvian financial sector has been restructured and is now healthy.”

He said new Commission economic forecasts, to be published on November 7, will show what prospects Latvia has of meeting the numerical criteria for membership.

“My assessment for the moment is that it is possible, even quite likely, that Latvia would be able to meet the convergence criteria,” Rehn said.

“Apart from the quantitative criteria we will make a qualitative assessment of the sustainability of the economic policy of Latvia, as we did in the case of Estonia,” he said. “Latvia has pretty good prospects of joining the euro if it maintains momentum and I would encourage Latvia to meet all the conditions.” (Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; editing by Rex Merrifield and Sebastian Moffett)


By Jan Strupczewski | Reuters

Clinton presses Latvia to give back Jewish property.

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RIGA (Reuters) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Latvia on Thursday to return property to Jewish groups which was seized by the Soviet Union and whose owners were killed by the Nazis, a rare point of tension between Washington and its Baltic ally.

              The issue of returning property such as schools, some synagogues and other communal buildings is controversial in Latvia, one of the EU’s poorest states and which is just recovering from a deep crisis. A nationalist minister quit the ruling coalition last week over the issue.

              “The United States strongly supports restitution or compensation for those whose property was confiscated by either the Nazis or the Communists,” Clinton told a news conference during a brief visit to the Baltic state.

Clinton, whose tour of Finland, Latvia and St Petersburg has been overshadowed by U.S.-Russia tensions over Syria, said she had raised the issue in all her meetings, with the president, prime minister and foreign minister.

              “We think that resolving these issues quickly and fairly is in everyone’s interest and we hope that the process … will be able to move forward and that this issue about communal property restitution can be addressed as soon as possible because it is a piece of unfinished historical business,” Clinton said.

Latvia’s main Jewish organization has claimed back the property which belonged to Jews before World War Two and which was seized when the Soviet Union annexed Latvia in 1940.

It says it is acting in the name of the tens of thousands of Jews who were killed during a subsequent Nazi occupation of the Baltic state in 1941-1944. Of a pre-war population of about 94,000, some 70,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

              Latvia regained its independence in 1991 and introduced laws on returning nationalized property. But with no one left to claim communal Jewish property, the issue was left unresolved.

              Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said the government had a good dialogue with the Jewish community and was establishing a process for restitution, but the process had to move gradually.

              “We have to exercise extra caution because they (the situation) is very sensitive due to historical considerations,” he said, referring to the Soviet and Nazi occupations.

              The nationalist minister for justice of junior coalition party All For Latvia/For Fatherland and Freedom resigned last week, saying the main coalition party of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was being too pushy on the restitution issue.

              The nationalists say Jews should not get special treatment as laws already exist for returning nationalised property.

              (Additional reporting by Patrick Lannin in Stockholm; Editing by Jackie Frank)


ReutersBy Andrew Quinn | Reuters

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