Putin’s Big (Awkward?) Milestone 

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

September 14, 2017

Putin's Big (Awkward?) Milestone

On September 12, Vladimir Putin passed a notable landmark in Russia's modern political history. But it's not one the country's leaders are likely to want to talk much about, writes Adam Taylor in the Washington Post. He has now spent more days as Russian leader than anyone since Stalin.

By Tuesday, Putin had spent "6,602 days as the top leader of Russia," Taylor notes. But "[t]his may not be the sort of record the Kremlin is keen on publicizing. Although the Soviet era is often remembered fondly in Russia, Stalin and Brezhnev were clearly not democratic leaders. Putin is -- at least in theory.

"That makes his lengthy time in office more unusual. During his time leading Russia, Putin has dealt with four U.S. presidents, as well as four British prime ministers and two German chancellors."

Why Israel's Leaders Are Panicking

The Iran nuclear deal is bound to be central to discussions when Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Trump in New York next week. But on issues from North Korea to Iran's presence in Syria, one thing is clear: Israel's leadership is worried about how U.S. policy is unfolding, argues Ben Caspit for Al-Monitor

"The current U.S. administration is losing interest in the region and stepping away, while Iran is continuing to expand its influence and will be able to jump-start its nuclear program again in eight years," Caspit writes.

"Eight months after Trump entered the White House, Israel still does not fully understand what the president hopes to achieve from his policy. In terms of the Palestinian issue, Israel's greatest concerns have been replaced by a certain level of satisfaction as the president's peace initiative and his dream of reaching the 'ultimate deal' dissipate rapidly. On the other hand, on the Iranian file, Trump has been a major disappointment to the Israelis. The rushed U.S. exit from the Syrian conflict without blocking Iran's race to the Mediterranean and the Golan Heights are disconcerting to Jerusalem. The same is true of the helplessness that the United States is showing toward North Korea. Normally, it takes a lot less to get Netanyahu to panic."
  • Netanyahu has found a two-state solution he can get behind – in Iraqnotes Rhys Dubin in Foreign Policy, following a statement that backed a non-binding, September 25 independence vote for Iraqi Kurds.
"For Israel, supporting an independent Kurdistan makes plenty of sense: Its spent years courting non-Arab allies in the region, and Iraqi Kurds have over the last decade carved out a reputation as tough fighters," Dubin writes. "But the Kurdish referendum has spooked nearly everybody else -- including countries who've worked hand-in-glove with the semiautonomous northern Iraqi region, such as Germany, Turkey and the United States."

The Coming Global Fish War?

Congress appears to be wising up to a potential threat that America's military has long been aware of: "a global fish war," argues former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis in the Washington Post.

"The decline in nearly half of global fish stocks in recent decades is a growing and existential threat to roughly 1 billion people around the world who rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. No other country is more concerned about the increasingly empty oceans than China, whose people eat twice as much fish as the global average," Stavridis writes. 

"In order to keep its people fed and employed, the Chinese government provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in subsidies to its distant-water fishing fleet. And in the South China Sea, it is common for its ships to receive Chinese Coast Guard escorts when illegally entering other countries' fishing waters. As such, the Chinese government is directly enabling and militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources."

Britain Needs to Get Over Its Brexit Fantasies – and Itself

Brexit might be preoccupying Britain's government, but the reality is that Europe has largely moved on. That should worry a country that still hasn't decided what it wants – months after negotiations have begun, argues Guntram Wolff in The Guardian.

"For many in the EU, the UK is increasingly self-absorbed. And Brexit is too unimportant for the EU to be distracted from euro-area repair or the fight against tax avoidance by multinationals," Wolff says. "It is time for the UK to make up its mind about what it really wants from Brexit, and start building the trust and alliances it will need to get the EU's full attention."

Iran Faces Up to Its Alcohol Problem: NYT

Alcohol may officially be banned in the country, but recent moves by Iran's government suggest that it is facing up to an awkward reality: "like most other nations, it has an alcohol problem," Thomas Erdbrink writes in the New York Times.

"President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in 2013, has been trying to insert realism into Iran's often strict ideology. The decision to open more alcohol treatment clinics came from his Health Ministry, and reflects the way many social changes are introduced in Iran: quietly ordered and carried out by local governments under the radar," Erdbrink says.

"The change in attitude by those in power is driven by changing realities in Iranian society. Official statistics show that at least 10 percent of the population uses alcohol in the Islamic country…The Iranian news media have reported that those Iranians who do drink tend to do so more heavily than people even in heavy-drinking countries like Russia and Germany.

"One reason is that alcohol is relatively easy to procure. There are alcohol suppliers anyone can call, and they will deliver whatever you want to your doorstep. Dealers receive their goods through a vast illegal distribution network that serves millions with alcohol brought in from neighboring Iraq."

There's a Traffic Jam in Space

There's a traffic jam of space junk, with the United States tracking around 23,000 orbiting objects at least the size of a baseball. That is poised to get even worse in the next few years – and it's putting at risk everything from the international space station to satellites essential for weather data and navigation systems, writes Robert Lee Hotz in the Wall Street Journal.

"Within a few years there might be another 20,000 or so small craft launched into a narrow band of space around Earth, more than 10 times the number of all working satellites in orbit today. The growth is spurred by advances in miniaturization, low-cost electronics and rocketry. Companies, space agencies, universities and even elementary-school students are jockeying for position," he writes.

"Traveling at orbital speeds up to 17,000 miles an hour, even an aluminum pellet 1-centimeter wide packs the kinetic equivalent of a 400-pound safe moving at 60 miles an hour. Last year, a scrap barely bigger than a grain of salt blew a hole in the European Space Agency's Sentinel 1-B satellite, knocking off five pieces that narrowly missed a nearby satellite."



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