When I first visited Estonia over 20 years ago, the Baltic country had recently regained its independence from the Soviet Union. Tallinn, the capital and an old Hanseatic trading city, offered an intriguing mix of medieval architecture and shoddy Soviet style construction. Situated on the Gulf of Finland, Estonia, though occupied by Moscow, was deceptively close to the free Nordic countries.
The seemingly never ending presidential primary circus came through New York with the predictable partisan name calling and puerile political promises. For much of the campaign the political charges and arguments resembled peeved sandbox-kicking kindergarten kids more than serious adults running for the nation's highest office.
Calling for an end to "human trafficking and other forms of human slavery," British Cardinal Vincent Nichols presented a stunning testimony against the "resurgence of slavery" where up to 21 million people are affected by the scourge. As archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nichols has led the fight against global human trafficking, which given recent chaos around the world, is actually now on the rise.
The modern day barbarians have been routed from the ancient city of Palmyra, but the destruction left in the wake of the nearly yearlong Islamic State occupation has been near catastrophic. After five years of conflict, war-torn Syria sees the fruits of limited cease-fires allowing observers to gaze upon a near apocalyptic humanitarian and physical landscape.
The tide of hate has come to Brussels with three terrorist attacks in the Belgian capital. Islamic State (IS) jihadi militants carried out coordinated bombings at the Brussels Airport, as well as the metro, killing at least 31 people and wounding hundreds of civilians.
It's a stunning reality check which many diplomats knew but did not expect to hear. That for 2016, "Survival will be an achievement for the National Unity Government" in war torn Afghanistan. The words came as a blunt assessment by the U.N.'s new political point man for Afghanistan, Mr. Nicholas Haysom who warned the Security Council that the beleaguered South Asian land faces a "difficult fighting season" as the Taliban will seriously confront the Kabul government on a nationwide scale.
Five years after the Arab Spring revolutions swept the Middle East, the expansive North African country of Libya has descended into a dangerous downward spiral in which competing governments, militias, and terrorist elements have formed a chaotic witch's brew on the doorstep of Europe. Ominously, according to diplomatic and military officials, Islamic State (ISIL) terrorists have become entrenched in this strategic but fragmented state that borders six other countries.
The U.N. Security Council has tightened the economic sanctions noose on North Korea in response to the Pyongyang regime's nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation. The 15-member Council voted unanimously to slam a wide range of economic, scientific and trade bans on the reclusive communist country in direct response to North Korea's fourth nuclear weapons test and a ballistic missile launch earlier this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama promised yet again to fulfill his election pledge to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo, Cuba. This time he means it. With less than a year remaining on the presidential clock, Obama plans to release some of the 95 remaining combatants to places like Uzbekistan and Sudan while shifting the remainder of up to 60 of the most hardcore terrorists to "supermax" prison facilities in the U.S. He may seal a wider deal on the leased naval base on an upcoming landmark visit to Havana in late March.
Reversing the trend of economic mismanagement, ending a 15-year debt impasse with foreign lenders, calming a percolating political crisis over the disputed Falkland/Malvinas islands in the South Atlantic, and overcoming the image of unpredictability, Argentina's new conservative government faces serious obstacles in reintroducing Argentina to an often skeptical world.