Connect to share and comment

The Saint Sophia cathedral is reflected in the glasses of a new volunteer recruit of the Ukrainian army 'Azov' battalion, after a military oath ceremony in Kiev and before his contingent heads to eastern regions, on June 23, 2014.

- AFP/Getty Images

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Putin’s annexation of Crimea and the massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border have pushed a divided society into armed conflict. The big question now is what, if anything, can be done to prevent a full-fledged civil war.

At a minimum, Petro Poroshenko’s new government will have to exercise exceptional political and military leadership if Kiev is to reassert control without destroying all possibilities for rapprochement with the country’s Russian-speaking minority.

Putin still holds most, if not all, of the trump cards. He has also made it clear that Moscow’s preferred “solution” to Ukraine’s problems lies in federalization. Early in the crisis, Secretary of State Kerry seemed to concur, though recently Washington has stopped using the term.

Nonetheless, there is no shortage of Western politicians, pundits and scholars who see federalism as the only way for Ukraine to accommodate its linguistic, religious and regional differences.

This embrace of “Ukrainian Federalism” by Western observers is troubling, given the evidence that Putin is interested in a weak and divided Ukraine and not a just and functional one.

Read on »

Syrian refugee children sit on a United Nations High Commission for Refugees barrier as they wait to be registered at a refugee camp in Bar Elias, in the Lebanese Bekaa valley, on May 30, 2014.

- AFP/Getty Images

PORTLAND, Oregon —
The charcoal drawing was slightly larger than a man’s thumbprint. Adjusting my sense of scale, I studied the tiny sketch: a tree, bare of its leaves, straining under a stiff wind.

“It’s a small drawing, but it has big meaning,” said the artist, 15-year-old Youssef. The small tree, he said, represents him. The wind that had blown the leaves from the branches represents the forces that try to blow him off course. The roots — Youssef’s friends, family and education — hold the tree firm.

Youssef is one of more than 150 adolescents — Syrian refugees and their host community peers — who participated in focus groups organized by the global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps earlier this year.

We were seeking insight into how to best support the hundreds of thousands of youth from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, victims of more than three years of conflict. One day they will carry the responsibility of rebuilding a broken country and shoring up a fractured region.

Read on »

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The fight for LGBT rights has in recent years created a rift that has separated much of the world into two camps and forced everyone to take sides. That rift is widening, reaching faraway places. On June 17, it reached my motherland, Kyrgyzstan, and my country is positioning itself on the wrong side of history.

At one time, after the end of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan was considered Central Asia's only democracy — an island of human rights in a stormy sea of authoritarianism and human desolation. Since then, my country has steadily regressed — a deterioration fueled by the warring political clans inside the country and by stronger neighbors, like Russia, outside the country.

Kyrgyzstan has now taken yet another step toward sinking into that deep, dark sea.

Read on »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at Bhutan's National Assembly in Thimpu on June 16, 2014. India's Narendra Modi arrived in Bhutan on his first foreign trip since becoming prime minister, stepping up a charm offensive with neighbours to try to check China's influence in the region.

- AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Since Narendra Modi swept to power in India, observers have intensified their search for clues to the likely shape of his foreign policy. Many have paid particular attention to his observations on China, which seem more muscular than those of his predecessor.

Asked in April to describe his vision of Sino-Indian relations, he replied: “There should not be any compromise on India’s interest. We should look at each other eye to eye, not lower our eyes.”

This past October, he warned that India’s leaders “cannot allow China to dominate India in foreign policy matters.” Most notably, he asserted in February that China must “leave behind its mindset of expansion.”

Read on »

In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag. U.S. officials say Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, was exchanged for five Taliban commanders being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to published reports. Bergdahl is in stable condition at a Berlin hospital, according to the reports.

- Getty Images

BRUSSELS — The former Taliban commander Mullah Fazil has arrived in Qatar, after his release from the Guantanamo Bay detention center, along with four other Afghans, in exchange for US Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban since 2009. Under terms of the exchange, Fazil will remain in Qatar for one year and then will be allowed to return to Afghanistan.

This doesn’t mean he should escape justice.

The critical commentary in the United States set off by the prisoner exchange misses a key point: Fazil should have and still can be prosecuted for his role in a massacre of over 170 civilians in Afghanistan in January 2001, as well as other serious crimes.

Human Rights Watch and others have long argued that Guantanamo has been used to illegally hold detainees and should be closed; there shouldn’t have been any Afghans there to swap for the American soldier.

Read on »

Families arrive at a checkpoint next to a temporary displacement camp on June 13, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISAS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region.

- Getty Images

DENVER — Iraq is collapsing. The Middle Eastern nation, where nearly 4,500 American lives were lost and nearly one billion dollars were spent from 2003-2011 to oust a dictator and rebuild a nation, is approaching chaos, perhaps even “failed state” status.

The deterioration in Syria and the invasion and spread of extremism in northern and western Iraq is putting the “cradle of civilization” under the control of the Middle East’s most militant, ruthless and vile Islamic extremists.

They proffer no future for the region’s inhabitants other than oppression under the guise of rigid adherence to Sharia law.

Extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — expelled from Al Qaida because of its extreme militancy — have seized Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul and took possession of Ninewah Province, after taking Fallujah and Ramadi just west of Baghdad late last year. They quickly moved south to Samarra and Tikrit, capturing both cities with little government resistance. They also seized Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. The militants have made no secret of their objective: Baghdad.

Read on »

CALI, Colombia — As Colombia heads into the June 15 run-off election that will determine its next president, the fate of the thousands of child soldiers in illegal combatant groups across the country is unclear.

Much of the presidential campaign has centered around current negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — a domestic armed militant group known as FARC.

The incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, has led an 18-month negotiation with FARC and has reached agreement on significant areas of conflict. His political challenger, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a former finance minister, has staked his campaign in opposition to the negotiations with the slogan “peace without impunity” — charging Santos as weak on terrorism.

Regardless of the outcome, what needs to be central in a subsequent government going forward is a commitment to the rescue and re-integration of the thousands of child soldiers that have been pressed into combat by illegal militant groups on both sides.

Read on »

Ecuador fans hold their match tickets outside of the National Stadium, ahead of their opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Switzerland on June 12, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.

- Getty Images

EVANSTON, Illinois — As the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil kicks off, media reports have surfaced about fraud surrounding the 2010 event in South Africa, as well as accusations of a pattern of bribery by Qatar to win support for its bid to host the event in 2022.

In South Africa, allegedly, a phony company acting as a front for criminal syndicates offered referees for exhibition matches — all expenses covered — to the country’s soccer federation.

Under financial pressure from the costs of hosting the Cup, South Africa accepted the referees for the exhibition games, even though FIFA rules barred host countries from doing so. Despite significant evidence that South African officials were complicit in the plan to fix the exhibition matches, the prosecuting authority in South Africa has filed no criminal charges.

Read on »

Bags with human complete blood are filtrated and scanned at the production and logistics center of the Bavarian Red Cross (BRK) blood donation service in Wiesentheid, southern Germany, on July 24, 2012.

- AFP/Getty Images

LONDON — Donating blood is, for the most part, a comfortable experience. The clinicians are friendly. The chairs are soft. You get cookies. You get stickers. You get endless compliments on your veins.

It’s so easy to give blood that I fear it may lull donors into thinking of their gift as an anodyne act of do-goodism, the human tissue equivalent of chucking a Pepsi bottle into the recycling bin. It’s not.

Having recently been at the other end of this particular supply chain, I’d like to offer some perspective on how much these pints matter.

Read on »

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — For many African countries, the problem of unemployment is a major concern. This is the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where unemployment is seen as a curse, and the situation runs the risk of becoming a new post-war plague if we don’t find urgent and lasting solutions.

The population, especially Congolese youth, is waiting for adequate policy and concrete commitments from the government to put an end to the poverty that has affected the Congolese for decades, despite the country’s soil and geological resources being exceptionally rich.

In Goma, located in eastern DRC, and throughout the country in general, many young adults find themselves without work after finishing their studies. Those who are more creative throw themselves into a career in salvaging or sort themselves out while waiting for a good job opportunity to present itself, or for a successful family member to offer them help.

According to recent studies, more than 80 percent of young Congolese are underemployed and 58 percent are unemployed, even though the government claims otherwise.

Read on »