The Chinese government, to which the United States is in debt approximately $1 trillion, is preparing to use its leverage to exact concessions from the U.S. government. “We are concerned about the safety of our assets,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at a news conference March 13. “I would like to call on the United States to honor its words, stay a credible nation and ensure the safety of Chinese assets."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, participating in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on March 5, invited her counterparts to make a "fresh start" in their diplomatic relationship with Russia. Formal relations between NATO and Russia were suspended last August over differences concerning Russia's military operations in Georgia and its breakaway regions.
After waging a successful campaign to lift term limits in February, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is on a rampage. He recently sent the military to take control of all the nation’s rice processing plants. According to the National Election Board, the change in the country’s Constitution was approved by 54.3 percent of the population. But despite his narrow margin of victory, Chávez plans to proceed with his imposition of socialism on the nation, and can now potentially run for president indefinitely.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) leaders in Ramallah, West Bank, on March 4, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters news described Fayyad as the "pointman in Western-backed reconstruction plans for the Gaza Strip that freeze out the territory's Hamas Islamist rulers."
A report released in January by the U.S. Joint Forces Command is warning of the potential for "rapid and sudden collapse" of the Mexican government. The "Joint Operating Environment 2008" document also lists Pakistan as one of two large and important states that "bear consideration," explaining that these would be "worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world." In addition to the report, countless government officials both in the United States and Mexico have offered similar analyses.
During a Gaza reconstruction conference held at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, on March 2, international donors pledged $4.481 billion in aid help the Palestinian economy and rebuild the devastated Gaza strip. The United States was represented at the conference by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who pledged $900 million — $300 million for Gaza reconstruction and another $600 million to support the Palestinian National Authority's (PNA) budget shortfalls and operating expenses.
In her first trip abroad since becoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton traveled to four Asian countries including China, the world's most populous country, where human-rights concerns were trumped by global economic concerns during Clinton's February 20-22 visit. China is still an openly communist nation and has a dismal human-rights track record. But it also has the world's fastest-growing major economy and is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities.
President Barack Obama made his first visit international trip as president on February 19, as he made a seven-hour visit to Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. The U.S. president was honored by a double line of Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Ottawa’s airport and was welcomed by Canada’s governor general, Michaëlle Jean, who escorted him inside the terminal. The governor general is the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in Canada.
Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, predicted on February 18 that the additional 17,000 U.S. troops scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan will remain there for three to five years. "This is not a temporary force uplift," said McKiernan at a Pentagon news conference. "It will need to be sustained for some period of time, for the next three to four to five years."
President Barack Obama decided February 16 to send an additional 17,000 U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan, as part of his campaign promise to increase U.S. presence in that troubled nation. The decision comes days after a sobering U.S. intelligence assessment authored by retired Admiral Dennis Blair concluded that "corruption has exceeded culturally tolerable levels and is eroding the legitimacy of the government.”
The government of Pakistan announced on February 16 that it had agreed to accept a system of strict Islamic law, or sharia, in the Malakand region of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which includes the Swat Valley, as well as a suspension of military operations in the area. The agreement effectively abandons parts of Pakistan to the Taliban insurgents, creating a sanctuary from which they can further threaten supply lines supporting the NATO military operation in neighboring Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have also used the area as a base from which to launch attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.