Transatlantic Security News

China defends growing military spending
4 March 2013 – Al Jazeera
The figures for China’s defense spending will appear in the overall budget on Tuesday, said a spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress today. The statement came ahead of the elevation of party leader Xi Jinping to the presidency and the confirmation of other top-level cabinet appointments. There has been growing concern over China’s military spending because of ongoing territorial disputes with its neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. The Chinese government has insisted that its posture is strictly defensive.
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U.S. Army Expects Cost of Afghan Withdrawal To Grow Sharply
27 February 2013 – Defense News
With the sequestration looming, a major loser may be found in the Army’s scheduled 2014 departure from Afghanistan. Route conflicts in Pakistan have forced the Army to rely heavily on air transportation, costing the U.S. an additional $100 million a month. Army leadership claims that the potential funding cuts will make this extra transportation highly difficult. General Dennis Via, Army Materiel Command chief explained that, “sequestration takes away all of our flexibility.” The current proposals for the Army’s departure are likely to be impacted greatly. 
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NATO Secretary General Holds talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry
27 February 2013 – NATO HQ
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome to discuss many key global issues affecting the U.S. and NATO. These topics included advancements in Afghanistan, NATO’s strategic partnerships, and burden sharing within NATO. Rasmussen is pleased that Kerry selected Europe as the site for his first official trip, and is looking forward to the duo working together in the future.
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The search for a nuclear legacy
23 February 2013 – The Economist
This article discusses President Obama’s pledge to seek “a world without nuclear weapons.” According to the piece, Obama is planning negotiations with the Kremlin, which could reduce nuclear stockpiles to 1,000 warheads on each side. To improve the chances of securing an agreement, the article suggests that during his upcoming trip to Moscow Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security advisor, may propose "de-alerting” U.S. nuclear arsenals and postponing the development of the last stage of the anti-missile shield in Europe, which was planned to be operational by 2021.
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NATO considers post-2014 Afghan force of 8,000-12,000
22 February 2013 – Reuters
NATO allies have discussed keeping 8,000-12,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to train security forces, the Pentagon said on Friday. The announcement came following a defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels. NATO combat forces are scheduled to withdraw by the end of 2014 and have already begun handing over responsibility to Afghan security forces. NATO is also seriously considering keeping Afghan forces at their peak strength of 325,000 until at least 2018, according to a NATO source.
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Japan PM Shinzo Abe set for Washington talks with Obama
22 February 2013 – BBC News
Today in Washington, U.S. President Obama is holding talks with recently elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe has stated that improved relations with Washington are vital to his administration, and the visit is likely to focus on enhancing the security alliance between the two nations. He aspires to gain U.S. support in Japan’s dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea. The U.S. currently takes a neutral stance on the dispute, while advocating for Japan and China to seek a peaceful diplomatic solution over the contested islands. Other topics ranging from North Korea’s expanding nuclear program, to an economic Trans-Pacific Partnership, are also on the agenda.
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Air Force Commander Is Likely Candidate for Top NATO Post
21 February 2013 – The New York Times
General Philip Breedlove of the American Air Force units in Europe and Africa is emerging as the likely candidate to be NATO’s next supreme military commander, said senior NATO officials on Thursday. General John Allen of the Marine Corps, former top commander in Afghanistan, had been the previous nominee but opted instead to retire. The disclosure came as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joins other defense ministers for a two-day meeting in Brussels, with the future of the mission in Afghanistan on the agenda.
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Russia offers to broker Syria talks

21 February 2013 – Boston Globe
In an effort to end Syria’s civil war, Russia and the Arab League have offered to mediate talks between President Assad’s government and opposition forces. The offer to broker negotiations is remarkable because it comes from Russia, Assad’s main international supporter. This likely signifies that Assad is ready to speak with the opposition, particularly in light of recent headway made by the rebels in pushing toward Damascus. The opposition's response to Russia’s proposal emphasized that Assad and his allies must first depart before they negotiate.
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NATO chief urges member countries to stop cutting defense budgets to maintain security
21 February 2013 – Washington Post
In Brussels, NATO’s two-day meeting of national defense ministers has commenced. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the most pressing issue to be discussed concerns national defense cuts. Rasmussen plans to urge ministers that national defense reductions must cease in order for NATO nations to maintain security. The U.S. is NATO’s greatest contributor, but Pentagon officials have warned that recent national cuts will likely affect NATO’s budget. The defense secretaries will discuss other topics as well, ranging from Afghanistan to greater cooperation among members.
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World Powers See Progress on Iran with New Nuclear Offer
21 February 2013 – Bloomberg
The six world powers involved with the Iranian nuclear talks expect to make progress in the upcoming round of negotiations. The French Foreign Ministry explained that an updated offer will be made comprising of “new substantial elements,” while Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has stated his belief that the talks will advance. The powers also anticipate Iran returning to the talks better prepared to discuss tangible solutions to its nuclear program. The last set of talks produced no results.
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U.S. Ups Ante for Spying on Firms: China, Others Are Threatened With New Penalties
21 February 2013 – Wall Street Journal
After counting over a dozen cases of foreign cyber-attacks on U.S. corporations, the White House has threatened China and other nations with trade and diplomatic action in response to cyber espionage. Although past allegations of Chinese “cyberspying” were not uncommon, this move was set into motion by recent breaches at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other media outlets, as well as increased complaints of foreign theft of military and corporate secrets. New measures will include increased diplomatic pressure, as well as trade restrictions that will target foreign products and services that benefit from cyber espionage. Victoria Espinel, the U.S. intellectual-property enforcement coordinator has said that cybertheft, “undermines our global competitiveness, diminishes U.S. export prospects and puts American jobs at risk.” Last week, President Obama signed an executive order creating voluntary cybersecurity standards for companies running crucial infrastructure. In response, China has said that its institutions have also been victim to foreign cyberattacks and that it forbids this kind of computer hacking by law.
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China condemns hacking report by U.S. firm Mandiant
20 February 2013 – BBC News 
The Chinese Defense Ministry has characterized a report linking it to the hacking of U.S. targets as flawed. The report, released on Tuesday by U.S.-based firm Mandiant, has identified APT1 as one of the most prolific cyber-espionage groups and traced its activities to a Shanghai building, in which Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army is also located. Suspected cyber hacking by China has become more high profile recently because of hacks into media outlets such as the New York Times.
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Moment of reckoning for French troops in Mali after bloody battle shows dark face of war
20 February 2013 – Washington Post
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced today that French troops will begin withdrawing their presence in Mali during the next few weeks. There are currently over 4,000 French troops on the ground in Mali, who have been fighting insurgent forces since early January. Although the statement of future withdrawal is a sign of successful counterinsurgency operations, it is also an action taken to avoid getting involved in a conflict that may last a very long time. Although French President Francois Hollande has officially stated France is in the final stages of its operation, the fear that terrorist threats are continuing to spread throughout North Africa remains.
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Tunisia Seeks New Prime Minister After Resignation Of Hamadi Jebali, Consults Ruling Islamic Party
20 February 2013 – Huffington Post/Reuters
On Tuesday, Tunisian Prime Minister Jebali resigned after his plans to form a technocratic cabinet fell through. His original motivation in forming a new cabinet was to quell the political and social unrest that developed following opposition leader Chokri Belaid’s assassination. This move was generally supported among secular parties, but not by Jebali’s own Islamist party, Ennahda. The void left by Jebali’s departure has left Tunisia at a “crossroads” regarding cooperation between the Islamist and secular factions, with many fearing a deepening of the crisis.
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Russia to press for legal guarantees that U.S. missile defence not aimed at it
19 February 2013 – Russia & India Report / ITAR-TASS
Although U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield in Europe is a key difficulty in the NATO-Russia relations, it is also “discussable,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated last Monday after meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The Kremlin’s new foreign policy concept, posted later that day on the official website of Russian Foreign Ministry, reiterates the need for security reassurances that Russia’s nuclear deterrence will not be targeted by U.S. missile defenses.
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Moscow looking for NATO cooperation, missile defense guarantees
19 February 2013 - RT
According to Russia’s new foreign policy concept, the Kremlin intends to constantly insist on legally binding assurances that the European part of U.S. ballistic missile defense will not undermine the delicate strategic balance between the two countries by aiming at Russian nuclear arsenals. The document stresses the Kremlin’s readiness to cooperate on nuclear weapons reductions, but in a framework which takes into account “the unbreakable link between strategic, offensive and defensive means.” The new foreign policy concept also highlights the importance of international law, the UN, and “the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.” In addition, the document examines Russian participation in international organizations and the current crisis in Afghanistan.
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EU foreign ministers amend Syrian arms embargo to allow unspecified non-lethal aid
19 February 2013 - Washington Post 
The EU has renewed its sanctions on Syria for another three months. The sanctions imposed by the EU have gradually increased since May 2011, and have included an arms embargo to all sides in the conflict. But in response to increasing pressure from UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and British officials, the EU has passed a new amendment allowing for “non-lethal aid and technical assistance” to be given to the opposition. The Syrian conflict has lasted almost two years and according to the UN, resulted in around 70,000 deaths.
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Chinese cyberattacks: Hello Unit 61398
19 February 2013 – The Economist
A secretive Chinese military unit is the likely source of hacking attacks against more than a hundred companies around the world, according to a report released by information security firm Mandiant. Hired by the New York Times to investigate China-based cyber-attacks against its news operations, Mandiant has observed attacks from this unit against at least 141 companies across 20 major industries since 2006. The extent of official involvement is unknown. The Chinese government has denied the allegations.
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North Korea threatens South with "final destruction"
19 February 2013 – Reuters
Following North Korea’s conduct of a nuclear test, it has threatened South Korea with “final destruction” during a UN conference on disarmament. The comments drew sharp criticism and shock from many nations over the level of hostility expressed by North Korea. Testing a nuclear bomb directly flouts U.N. resolutions, but North Korea has said it will continue nuclear testing in hopes of coercing the U.S. to engage in diplomatic talks. Though North Korea is already heavily sanctioned, recent events indicate Washington is likely to propose implementing greater financial restraints on the rogue nation.
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Russian Deployment of Missile Defenses

18 February 2013 - Right Side News
According to this article, although the Kremlin constantly criticizes U.S. plans for missile defenses in Europe, which is designed to work against the Iranian nuclear threat, and asks for legal assurances that the system would be limited, Russia is pursuing an ambitious antimissile program aimed at U.S. nuclear arsenals. The article reports that by 2015 Russia plans to be initially able to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles, while by 2020 it intends to deploy a massive number of S-400 and S-500 anti-missile systems. These systems will protect against a wide spectrum of nuclear threats such as medium range, intercontinental, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as stealth bombers and cruise missiles.
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NATO Secretary General Discusses Cooperation with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
18 February 2013 – NATO
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about enhancing cooperation between the alliance and Russia on February 18 at NATO Headquarters. During the meeting, Rasmussen and Lavrov also discussed how to move forward on missile defense negotiations.
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EU opens way for direct aid to Syrian rebels
18 February 2013 – Reuters
A meeting of EU foreign ministers agreed to extend EU sanctions against Syria for three months, while allowing for more non-lethal support and assistance to the Syrian opposition. The compromise came after weeks of disagreement, as British diplomats advocated loosening the arms embargo to allow for limited arms transfers to Syrian rebels. Other EU countries were opposed to such a move, arguing that such a measure would only increase the proliferation of small arms in Syria.
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U.S., NATO will abide by Afghan President Karzai’s decree, commander says
17 February 2013 – Washington Post
General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the new commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, has agreed to abide by Afghan President Karzai’s order banning Afghan forces from requesting NATO airstrikes in residential areas. Kazari’s mandate comes in response to ten civilian casualties in a recent NATO airstrike. Since Afghanistan’s air force is in a developmental stage, Afghan troops must rely on NATO for protection. NATO says it does its best to limit civilian fatalities, and Dunford has stressed that his troops have made “extraordinary progress in mitigating the risk to civilians.”
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A way forward on nuclear disarmament
16 February 2013 – The Boston Globe
This article suggests that President Obama should abandon the last phase of the missile defense program in Europe in order to persuade Moscow to agree to further nuclear arsenal cuts. According to the opinion piece, Russia’s hostility to U.S. missile defense is founded on two factors. The Kremlin worries that the fourth phase of anti-missile shield could endanger Russia’s nuclear deterrence and, even more importantly, Moscow detests the idea of basing the system on the territories of Poland and Romania.
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Moscow continues to press for guarantees regarding U.S., NATO missile defense systems
15 February 2013 - Voice of Russia / TASS
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister, Alexei Meshkov, stated that the Kremlin regularly asks for assurances that the U.S. and NATO missile defense system will not target Russia’s strategic arsenals. Although the Kremlin would prefer cooperation on the anti-missile shield, it will employ asymmetric countermeasures if the program compromises Russia’s security, Meshkov warned.
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N.K. seen preparing for rocket launch
15 February 2013 – The Korea Herald
North Korea may be preparing for another long-range rocket launch, according to North Korea-watcher website 38 North. Tensions in the region are already high because of Pyongyang’s third nuclear test on Tuesday. The regime has also claimed that it has miniaturized and lightened nuclear warheads, which would pose a grave security threat. Seoul, Washington and Tokyo are working to create their own sanctions in response out of belief that the UN Security Council may not be tough enough. Beijing has appealed for “calm and restraint.”
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Mali sets 7 July election date, says minister
15 February 2013 – BBC News
Mali’s interim government has announced that elections will finally be held this July. This election was originally to take place in April 2012, but the coup by Islamist militants forced a postponement. France’s recent intervention has aided Mali in stabilizing the nation and bringing it under control. The interim government believes these July elections will assist in stabilizing Mali further.  
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Key U.S. general backs keeping Afghan forces at peak strength
15 February 2013 – Reuters 
U.S. General Lloyd Austin, who was the former commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq and recently appointed by President Barack Obama to head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, has stated that he wants to maintain a larger Afghan force than NATO had planned. Allen wants to keep Afghan forces at 352,000 by 2015, while NATO member countries had planned to reduce the forces to 230,000 by that time. As NATO countries and its allies will be funding these forces, such a statement by U.S. forces could signify a change in Obama’s recent statements about drawing down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. 
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Hollande hopes big ticket deals will fructify
14 February 2013 – The Hindu
India and France today concluded a deal to co-develop a short-range air defense system. Both sides are simultaneously in the commercial negotiations stage for France to sell Rafale fighter jets to India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the discussions as going well, while both he and French President Francois Hollande have “agreed to give further impetus to the strategic partnership.” The two countries have strong defense ties, with several ongoing projects, such as the construction of the Scorpene submarine and aircraft upgrades, and joint military exercises.
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Arabs rap Iranian call for atom talks to include Bahrain, Syria
14 February 2013 - Reuters
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rebuffed Iran’s proposal to discuss Syria and Bahrain at the upcoming nuclear talks centered on Iran’s nuclear program. In the past, diplomats have accused Iran of sidetracking the nuclear talks with other issues, and GCC Secretary General Abdulatif al-Zayani stated that Iran’s recent request confirms this. While no members of the U.S.-allied GCC are part of the six-power nuclear talks, they frequently criticize Iran for attempting to interfere in the Gulf region. The nuclear talks will take place on February 26 in Kazakhstan.
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USA's missile defense system in Europe takes U-turn
13 February 2013 – Pravda 
The article comments on a Pentagon report that allegedly is skeptical about the effectiveness of further stages of the missile defense program in Europe. According to the publication, since Romania is not an optimal location for the deployment of U.S. interceptors, the Obama administration may decide to dispatch them to the North Sea. However, because the U.S. missile shield would be able to intercept Russian strategic nuclear missiles at early phases of their launch, this choice would cause significant tensions with the Kremlin.
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No nukes reductions without U.S. missile defence guarantees

13 February 2013 – The Voice of Russia / Interfax
The Head of the Duma International Affairs Committee, Alexei Pushkov, stated that there will be no further nuclear reductions on the Russian side without U.S. assurances that missile defense will not be used against Russia, unless the U.S. agrees to Russian demands for admission to the system. The article refers to President Obama’s recent State of the Union address and his proposals for new reductions in nuclear arsenals within the framework of the New START.
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Kerry Says Trip Will Focus on Finding Syria Solution
13 February 2013 - New York Times
The new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that during his first foreign trip, he intends to advance new ideas on persuading Syrian President Assad to step down from power. While Kerry did not give specifics behind his ideas, he stated, “I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception.” Kerry also emphasized looking for shared ground with Russia, a nation that has long supported the Syrian regime financially. Kerry’s comments come a day after President Obama only gave a small mention of the Syrian civil war in his State of the Union address.
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Afghanistan Withdrawal: Karzai Welcomes Drawdown of NATO Forces
13 February 2013 – Huffington Post 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai today welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement that half of American troops would be withdrawn within the next year. A spokesman from the Ministry of Defense also stated that Afghan security forces would be ready to take over security responsibilities. All foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014, but there is concern throughout the country that Afghan forces are not yet ready to take the lead.

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Mali “hesitant” over UN peacekeeping force

13 February 2013 – BBC News
While Mali’s government remains undecided over stationing a UN peacekeeping force within their borders, many other nations support deploying an operation. French and African troops continue to fight the Islamist militants, with significant progress being made. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stated that UN peacekeepers would only be sent following the end of the operation’s “combat phase.” Despite Mali’s current hesitation, Eliasson believes it is likely the UN peacekeepers will eventually be deployed
.
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U.S. Becoming More Flexible on Missile Defense

12 February 2013 - The Moscow Times
In this article, Ilya Ponomaryov, a deputy t
o the State Duma, argues that since the U.S. Department of Defense’s report questioned the effectiveness of the planned European part of the anti-missile shield, the White House, in order to prevent deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relations, may decide to abandon further costly stages of the program. Ponomaryov worries that the Kremlin may mistake Obama’s “flexibility” in missile defense for weakness. The author also discusses the roots of Russian objections to the U.S. missile defense, citing, for example, concerns that it may be used against Russia’s nuclear missiles, and that it may be designed to improve security and military relationships with Eastern European NATO members.
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North Korea nuclear test branded “serious threat” to U.S.
12 February 2013 – BBC News 
Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has described North Korean military ambitions as a “serious threat” to the U.S. His comments came today after news broke that North Korea had conducted its third nuclear test. “Even stronger” action may follow, says North Korea. The UN Security Council responded by strongly condemning the test. Pyongyang has claimed that the device used was smaller than the one for its last test, which could bring it closer to building warheads small enough to place on missiles.
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Russia urges North Korea to return to talks after nuclear test
12 February 2013 – Reuters
Following North Korea’s declaration that it had executed its third nuclear test, Russia has joined international condemnation of North Korea’s actions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for North Korea to end its nuclear program and return to six-party discussions concerning its nuclear activity. Russia shares a short border with North Korea, making heightened military concerns in the area “extremely dangerous,” according to Lavrov.
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NATO Head: No Syrian Intervention Coming

11 February 2013 - UPI
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reaffirmed that NATO would not intervene in the Syrian civil war. Secretary General Rasmussen said that "NATO cannot act as the world's policeman. We cannot travel from country to country to solve every conflict." 
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In Afghanistan pullout, Pentagon favors phased reduction over 3 years
11 February 2013 – Washington Post 
The Pentagon is advocating maintaining around 8,000 troops in Afghanistan once NATO pulls out in 2014. This plan calls for continuously shrinking this number over a two-year period. The approach appears to be a compromise between Obama’s senior advisers and military commanders. Commanders favor a larger force to provide necessary stability and support, while the administration endorses a smaller force due to financial concerns. In his State of the Union address, Obama is expected to announce the return of 34,000 troops within a year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has expressed support for an enduring U.S. military presence.
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Obama to Renew Drive for Cuts in Nuclear Arms
11 February 2013 – New York Times
President Obama is reportedly going to speak about his desire to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in his upcoming State of the Union address on Tuesday. This discussion will refer back to the treaty signed between Russia and the U.S. in 2009, which called for significant reductions in both countries’ nuclear stockpiles. Since then, President Obama has faced some domestic contention over the matter; many oppose even small reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, including members of the Senate who will not ratify such a treaty with Russia. However, Obama and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in the summer to further discuss the issue.
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Obama to Renew Drive for Cuts in Nuclear Arms
10 February 2013 – The New York Times
The Obama administration, when negotiating with Russia on deep cuts in nuclear arsenals, will focus on an informal accord that would be based on the New START agreement. As a result, the White House could avoid complicated negotiations with the Kremlin on the U.S. and NATO missile defense program in Europe, and difficulties in ratification in the U.S. Senate.
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U.S. General Takes Control of Afghan Coalition Force
10 February 2013 – Wall Street Journal 
U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford took control of ISAF on February 10, following Marine General John Allen’s resignation while awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation to become NATO’s top military commander. Dunford is the fourth commander in three years and faces multiple challenges ahead of the end of ISAF’s mission in December 2014. His tasks will include training Afghan security forces ahead of the transition, continuing to fight the Taliban insurgency and providing security for presidential polls scheduled for next year. He will also have to carefully navigate relations with President Hamid Karzai.
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Disagreement on missile defence may tell on Russia-NATO cooperation in other areas – Ambassador
9 February 2013 - Voice of Russia, Interfax, TASS
Russian Ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, warns in an interview that since strategic balance between NATO and Russia is endangered by the development of an anti-missile shield, the disagreement on missile defense may put at risk broadly defined cooperation between the two sides. The efforts to utilize the cliché of the “Russian threat” as well as NATO’s planned expansion to the east are other obstacles to instituting a genuine NATO-Russia partnership, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the 49th Munich Security Conference.
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Obama unlikely to reconsider arming Syrian rebels despite views of security staff
8 February 2013 – Washington Post
Despite the revelation that top national security figures in President Obama's cabinet, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, supported a plan to arm the Syrian opposition, it is unlikely that the President will reconsider such a plan. Secretary Panetta and General Martin E. Dempsey revealed in testimony before Congress that each of them supported such an initiative devised by Secretary Clinton, but that the President rejected it out of fear of the arms falling to extremists among the rebels. One of the greatest fears cited by the administration was that providing the rebels with much needed surface-to-air missiles to combat President Assad’s air force could be used against Israeli aircraft by extremists.
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NATO urges Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement reforms
8 February 2013 – NATO
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with top Bosnian officials in Sarajevo on Thursday. Bosnia and Herzegovina has long aspired to be a member of NATO, and in 2010 the country embarked on the official path toward membership. However, NATO members continue to urge the nation to pursue political and economic reform. At the meeting in Sarajevo, Rasmussen thanked Bosnian troops for their support and help in Afghanistan. However, he reiterated the need for changes to be made within the Bosnian government. 
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China rejects Japan radar-lock allegation
8 February 2013 – BBC News
The Chinese Defense Ministry has rejected allegations that its navy ships twice locked weapon-targeting radar on Japanese military vessels last month. The Japanese foreign minister responded by dismissing the denial. Both countries are currently engaged in a bitter territorial dispute over control of islands called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Since the dispute was reignited in September 2012, both countries have been sending ships into surrounding waters.
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Islamic summit urges dialogue on Syria transition
8 February 2013 – Reuters
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation held a two-day summit to discuss the Syrian civil war and urge negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition. The statement issued following the summit said the OIC placed primary blame on the regime, and expressed grave concern over the violence and death that has afflicted Syria for nearly two years. The OIC initiative called for any outside opposition groups to join the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group. Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu emphasized the initiative’s aim, “focuses on the unity of the Syrian lands, comprehensive dialogue between the Syrian factions and responding to any country that wants to join in this dialogue.”
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United States Announces New Iran Sanctions
7 February 2013 – New York Times
In a new round of sanctions, the U.S. has added several companies and institutions to its sanctions against Iran. These are part of targeted sanctions against Iranian companies and individuals, and include the state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Iranian Cyber Police, and Iran Electronics Industries. These companies are considered to be, in some form or other, complicit in human rights abuses.  The U.S., EU, and UN have all imposed sanctions on Iran. The sanctions are also in response to Iran’s nuclear program, and target its oil sector, central bank, government officials, and various companies. 
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Afghan police killed in bomb attack
7 February 2013 – Al Jazeera
A remote-controlled bomb killed the police chief of the Kishindih district and three of his bodyguards while wounding three others in Afghanistan’s Balkh province. Taliban attacks on police have been increasing as Afghan security forces take over more responsibility ahead of NATO’s withdrawal at the end of 2014. Thursday also saw the crash of a NATO helicopter in the Kapisa province. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for shooting it down, although no serious injuries resulted. 
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Khamenei rebuffs U.S. offer of direct talks
7 February 2013 – Reuters
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has strongly rejected U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s offer of direct talks between the U.S. and Iran. Khamenei stated that direct negotiations would not solve disputes between the two nations. He further attacked the offer, saying the U.S. treatment of Iran since 1979 has been continuously insulting. In the past several decades, diplomatic meetings between the U.S. and Iran have been rare, and many believe deals over Iran’s controversial nuclear program can only take place if U.S.-Iranian relations thaw. Currently, discussions between the two nations are limited to the P5+1 group talks that concern Iran’s nuclear activity.  
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Tunisian Islamists disown PM over move to defuse crisis
7 February 2013 – Reuters
Civil unrest and chaos are spreading in Tunisia following the assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, a frequent critic of the Islamist ruling party Ennahda. Across the nation, protesters and mobs have taken to the streets. In response to social disruption, PM Hamdi Jebali attempted to dismiss cabinet members from the Ennahda party and install technocrats in their place. This was quickly met with opposition from both his party and secular coalition partners, as they called for consultation prior to forming any new cabinets. Ennahda has stated the party bears no responsibility for Belaid’s death. Major powers have implored Tunisia to seek democracy through non-violence, fearing the increasing levels of unrest in the nation.
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Russia doubts peaceful nature of European missile defence
6 February 2013 - Voice of Russia / Interfax
When talking with French MPs on Wednesday, the Speaker of the State Duma Sergey Naryshkin said that unless NATO offers legally binding and technologically confirmed assurances that its missile defense system will not be used against Russia’s [nuclear arsenals], relations with NATO will not improve.
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Panetta: New Cuts Could Hinder U.S. Ability to Meet Crises
6 February 2013 – DefenseNews
In a farewell speech at Georgetown University, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a warning about the consequences of widespread federal budget cuts on U.S. national security. Panetta stated that the military’s capability to respond to crises would be seriously impaired if these cuts go into effect, thus jeopardizing America’s ability to respond to crises. If Congress is unable to pass legislation to eliminate or postpone spending cuts for the Department of Defense, $46 billion will be axed from the Pentagon’s budget. Both Panetta and President Obama believe this cut is too severe.
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India prepared for US pullout from Afghanistan: Govt
6 February 2013 – Times of India
The Indian government is preparing for any eventuality that will arise after the U.S. withdraws troops from Afghanistan next year, said Defense Minister AK Anthony in Bangalore on Wednesday. The situation in the region is very tense, but Anthony insisted that the Indian armed forces are fully prepared. The transfer of the Gwadar deep-sea port from Pakistan to China on January 30 has also attracted India’s interest. The port is located 400 km from the Strait of Hormuz, through which global oil supply tankers pass.
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Obama Seen Laying Groundwork for Arms Control Push
5 February 2013 – NTI 
Over the course of the last week, Senior Obama administration officials have made trips to foreign nations in an effort to reinforce Obama’s nuclear arms control policy at the start of his second term. National security advisor, Tom Donilon, said that he was prepared to have, “important conversations with the Russians” about the potential for future arms reduction. EU diplomat Maceij Popowski and U.S. acting Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, Rose Gottemoeller, met on Tuesday to discuss the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the possibility of a space code of conduct. Gottemoeller is also expected to visit Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Israel and Russia. “Threat reduction” will be a main talking point for Gottemoeller’s visit to Moscow, where she will face the challenge of updating and renewing a bilateral enabling agreement for the Cooperative Threat Reduction agenda that is set to expire this June. 
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Syria is not Iraq
4 February 2013 – The Atlantic
This commentary argues that the United States has shied away from intervention in the Syrian civil war because of the legacy of intervention in Iraq, but that it is wrong to do so. The United States, European powers, and NATO have not even publicly discussed any military option, giving President Bashar al-Assad a carte blanche to commit brutal acts against civilians so long as they fall short of involving chemical weapons. 
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S. Korea, U.S. confront failure of diplomacy with N. Korea
5 February 2013 – Yonhap News Agency
South Korean and U.S. efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions have been a failure, said former Defense Secretary William Perry. Perry, who had previously served in the Clinton administration, made the comment at a one-day security forum in Seoul and advocated a change in strategy. Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, asserted that North Korea’s nuclear threat was “still in its infancy.” Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are currently quite high as North Korea threatens to conduct a third nuclear test in response to UN sanctions. 
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EU says new round of atom talks with Iran on February 26
5 February 2013 – Reuters
At the end of this month, six nations will meet with Iran in Kazakhstan to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The six - the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – hope that the talks will convince Iran to reduce its nuclear activity. Many in the international community fear the goal of Iran’s nuclear program is to construct an atomic bomb, a claim that Iran denies.
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Involving Russia in Syria
4 February 2013 – Washington Post
At the Munich Security Conference this past weekend, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concerning a joint U.S.-Russian effort to secure Syria's chemical weapons should the Assad regime collapse. Although there was no word as to how receptive Mr. Lavrov was, Vice President Biden's offer highlights how important Russia will be in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war. 
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Assad Can Avoid Trial by Leaving, Coalition Says
4 February 2013 – The New York Times
The Syrian opposition coalition has thrown its support behind leader Sheik Ahmad Moaz’s proposal to hold peace talks with President Assad to end the civil war, with the additional proposition of granting Assad amnesty if he were to resign and leave Syria. While Moaz’s offer was initially criticized within the opposition movement, the coalition has since retracted this criticism. A stipulation to holding talks rests on Assad complying with Moaz’s request to release 160,000 political prisoners and renew expired passports of the Syrian diaspora. In an interview with Russia Today, the Syrian minister of national reconciliation, Ali Haidar, stated the regime was open to discussions with non-violent opposition members and that the Syrian administration would consider the passport issue. Walid al-Bunni, a spokesman for the opposition, stressed, “that any dialogue should be based on the idea of transition and that the coalition welcomes any international effort if that’s the vision they have in mind.”
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Envoy makes “last appeal” for Syria as officials meet
4 February 2013 – Reuters
At the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which took place this weekend in Munich, high-level talks were held with the Syrian opposition and UN, U.S. and Russian officials. Despite the promising circumstances, UN and Russian officials expressed skepticism over chances for a possible solution. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy and representative of the Arab League, said: “I am much more conscious of the difficulties…than I am of a solution.” It was rumored that a separate meeting was going to take place between Russian officials and Moaz Alkhatib, the president of the National Council – Syria’s opposition group. The UN Security Council remains at an impasse in terms of taking decisive action on Syria, mostly because of Russia, which has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict.
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Ending conflict: Taliban name three guarantors for peace talks
4 February 2013 – The Express Tribune 
The Pakistani Taliban has today indicated a willingness to enter into peace negotiations with the government. However, this would be on the condition that three senior politicians – including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – would act as guarantors. In addition, the group has demanded that five of their members be released to participate in these negotiations. The Pakistani Taliban’s announcement follows a Saturday assault on a military camp that left two-dozen dead, including 11 civilians.
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Israel Suggests Responsibility for Syria Airstrike
3 February 2013 – AP
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly suggested that his state was behind an airstrike in Syria last week in a speech to diplomats and defense officials in Munich. Although there is strong evidence that Israel launched the attack on what was thought to be an arms shipment to Lebanon, the Israeli government has refused to acknowledge its role in the assault. Barak also signaled that Israel would continue to take such actions in order to prevent arms transfers out of Syria. This threat could lead to a regional conflict as Iran has also promised retaliation to protect Syria. 
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NATO chief dismisses Russian missile defense worry
2 February 2013 – ABC News / AP
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last Saturday that since “it's [NATO’s] obligation to ensure effective defense of [the alliance’s] populations," the Atlantic Alliance will proceed with its missile defense plans, regardless of Russia's constant complaints on this matter. While dismissing the Kremlin’s allegations that a European missile defense system may become powerful enough to reduce the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear deterrence, Rasmussen reminded Moscow of NATO’s invitation to cooperate. He also warned European leaders against defense spending cuts that may follow NATO’s reductions of forces in Afghanistan “because security challenges won't wait while we fix our finances, and more cuts now will lead to greater insecurity in the future…”
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Syrian Opposition Talks with Russia and Iran
2 February 2013 – Reuters
On Saturday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition Moaz Alkhatib, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a round of meetings in Munich - though not all at the same table as many hoped. Th