On multiple occasions I have criticized the Obama administration for its deficient international religious freedom policy. So in fairness, I want to offer some praise for the administration when it takes positive measures. This week brings two such steps, modest but still meaningful.
President Obama formally accused Russia on Monday of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. It was clearly part of the White House response to Vladimir Putin's continued meddling in Ukraine. Word that Russia may have violated the treaty a while ago by testing a new missile is distressing, of course. However, what is more distressing is that the Obama administration remained quiet about this building issue for years only to unveil it as part of a package meant to punish Russia.
Although a retired Venezuelan general and confidante of President Nicolás Maduro just managed to evade U.S. extradition to face drug smuggling charges, the unsealed indictment in his case reveals that U.S. prosecutors have gathered compelling evidence of widespread criminality at the highest levels of the Maduro government. Dozing U.S. diplomats let Major General Hugo Carvajal slip away this past weekend, but the fact that Caracas pulled out the stops to keep him from facing U.S. justice has exposed a regime with a very guilty conscience.
Whatever shortcomings it may have, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement should not have problems with self-esteem. When former Secretary of State James Baker last month listed seven keys to restoring U.S. leadership in the world, the TPP came in at number four. For Japan, the TPP sits atop the list of structural reform measures for Abenomics' so-called "third arrow." But when will the TPP transform from an idealized vision to an actual, concluded trade agreement?
How many game changers will it take to change the game? That was my reaction to the news that the Putin-backed rebels have apparently shot down more planes, this time two Ukrainian fighter jets.