Relations between Russia and US chill; US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets with Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping; more mine protests in South Africa; France boosts security at embassies and schools following publication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons; and more
Top of the Agenda: Bilateral Relations Chill as Russia Expels USAID
The Russian government accused the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) of meddling in the country's political process and has ordered it to close its doors after two decades of service (BBC). Analysts say the decision will put pressure on bilateral relations, as President Obama seeks to "reset" ties between the two permanent members of the UN Security Council. Moscow has grown increasingly wary of non-governmental organizations, which it says have provoked civil unrest--including protests surrounding the reelection of President Vladimir Putin (NYT) earlier this year. USAID launched operations in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, focusing nearly $3 billion on a range of development issues including human rights, civil society, health, and the environment.
"A clear condemnation of Putin's actions is necessary out of principle and to show support to those brave Russians who are fed up with authorities' rampant corruption, abuses and heavy-handed tactics. Tens of thousands of Russians turned out at anti-Putin demonstrations last December, this spring and again on Saturday, despite the threat of arrest and beatings. Western governments should show unwavering solidarity with them," writes Freedom House's David J. Kramer in the Washington Post.
"With their roving camps, human chains, and white ribbons, the antigovernment protesters who have filled Moscow's streets since Russia's disputed legislative elections last December have shaken the old certainties about politics in the Putin era. More than any other event since President Vladimir Putin's rise to power 12 years ago, the protests have put the Kremlin on the defensive," write Mikhail Dmitriev and Daniel Treisman in Foreign Affairs.
Panetta Meets With Xi
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Beijing on Wednesday (WSJ). Xi, the heir apparent to the Communist Party presidency, recently sparked rumors of illness after disappearing from public view. No explanation for his absence has been provided.
On Tuesday, a group of anti-Japan protesters in Beijing damaged the car carrying the U.S. Ambassador to China (Bloomberg). Ambassador Gary Locke was not hurt in the melee, and damage sustained by the vehicle was reported to be minor.
More mine protests in South Africa
France boosts security at embassies after publication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons