Must-Reads from Around the World

Russia hosts APEC in its remote Far East; arms sales skyrocket in 2012; the rest of the world yawns at the U.S. election

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Vladimir Rodionov / Ria-Novosti / AFP / Getty Images

Russia's president Vladimir Putin takes his oath of office in the Kremlin, on May 7, 2012. In a brief speech, he said Russia was "entering a new phase of national development."

Russia Pivots to the East — As Russia prepares to host the Asia-Pacific economic summit this weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin is aiming to strengthen ties with the Pacific Rim, reports the New York Times. The Kremlin is capitalizing on the rising global demand for gas and oil, which are found in abundance in Russia, and redirecting its focus to the East “as a hedge against any contraction of its business in the West,” it said. The Times adds that Russia’s growing ties with China and the prospect of windfall profits with grain exports to Asian countries explain the Kremlin’s pivot to the Pacific Rim.

A Booming Year for the Arms Business — Although global military spending is slowing down, the global weapons trade is growing, notes Foreign Policy. International arms transfers of major conventional weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), grew by 24% from the five-year period between 2002-2006 compared to 2007-2011. The rise is mainly attributed to an increasing number of arms transfer agreements between developed and developing nations; unlike the U.S. and its close allies who have been hit by the global economic downturn, major weapons importers in the developing world with brighter economic prospects are fueling the international arms trade, explained Foreign Policy.

Endangered Wildlife Haven — The Guardian observes that Korea’s wildlife haven in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a depopulated narrow strip of land that divides the two Koreas, is under threat from encroaching agricultural development. Since the Korean War ended in 1953, the DMZ has turned into a wildlife haven, with “at least 67 of the world’s most endangered species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects,” but rice fields and ginseng plantations are crowding the wetlands bordering the zone, it wrote. Activists and scientists are pleading with the South Korean government to have the area declared as an internationally protected site to prevent further destruction of habitat and plant life.

Israel Reacts to Obama – Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention, the Jerusalem Post focuses on Obama’s renewed commitment to Israel. Stressing his foreign policy credentials, he said: “Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace.” Nonetheless, Israel’s Haaretz suggests it “makes very little difference to Israel who wins this election,” as both parties subscribe to a “single American foreign policy on Israel,” with “some differences in style but very modest differences in substance.”

Angering Both Sides – Despite efforts by the Japanese government to “to craft an energy mix that will respond to growing anti-nuclear sentiment among voters after the Fukushima crisis without alienating powerful pro-atomic energy interests,” Reuters writes that its new energy plan appears “in danger of satisfying neither side.” The plan will replace a 2010 program, which was abandoned following the Fukushima nuclear power plant went into meltdown, releasing radiative material in the atmosphere, after being hit by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami last year.
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