China‘s Arms Trade — A report by a think tank in Sweden reveals that China has become the world’s fifth largest arms exporter for the first time since the end of the Cold War. From 2003 to 2007 and 2008 to 2012, the volume of Chinese exports of major conventional weapons grew by 162% and China’s share of the total volume of global arms exports also increased from 2 to 5%, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan have raised demand for Chinese weapons, explains SIPRI. The world’s top four arms exporters are the U.S., Russia, Germany and France.
Revival of Cossacks — The Cossacks — Slavic warrior-peasants who helped colonize the south for the Russian empire — are expanding their role in Russia’s public sphere as President Vladimir Putin tries to adopt a conservative, nationalist ideology for his country, reports the New York Times. The Cossacks, well-known for their vigilante-style violence in campaigns against Turks, Jews and Muslims highlanders, are taking on a greater role in law enforcement to stem an influx of ethnic minorities into certain parts of Russia, most notably in the southern city of Stavropol. The arrival of Muslims from the Caucasus into territory long-dominated by Orthodox Slavs has raised tensions in the south, and the Cossacks are receiving growing financial and political support to act as standard-bearers of a conservative Russia.
Mining in Kyrgyzstan — The Economist examines how troubled politics in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan hinders development in the gold and mineral-rich Kumtor mine. Officials in the capital of Bishkek are trying to renegotiate terms — for the third time in a decade — with the Canadian mine operator Centerra Gold, which signed a deal with Bishkek in 2009. Economy minister Temir Sariev said the deal has to be scrapped because it was signed during the authoritarian rule of the ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Corruption remains pervasive in the Kyrgyz government and “its negotiating tactics — emotionally charged and highly public — are frightening off investors,” notes the weekly.
Kenyatta Hearing – The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will hold a special hearing to review the case against Kenya’s President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, writes the BBC. Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity over the violence that sprung up when 1,200 people were killed following Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections. His hearing comes a week after the charges against his co-accused, Francis Muthaura, were dropped. Kenyatta’s trial is expected to begin in July. According to Aljazeera, his lawyers intend to call for the case to be either dropped or postponed.
Pope Meets Kirchner – Argentina’s president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is scheduled to meet Pope Francis on Monday following a letter of congratulations sent by the Argentine leader to the pontiff, notes CNN. As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, Francis disagreed with Kirchner over the legalization of gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives. Pope Francis has also been accused of failing to protect two Jesuit priests after they were seized by the navy during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War.’ Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, has responded to the claims as “false and defamatory.” During the years of military dictatorship in Argentina, 30,000 students, labor leaders, intellectuals and leftists disappeared or were held in secret jails and torture centers.
Arms Trade Negotiations – Representatives from 150 countries will meet in New York Monday to negotiate a binding U.N. international treaty to end unregulated conventional arms sales, reports Reuters. The U.N. General Assembly voted in December to relaunch talks for the treaty after a drafting conference in July 2012 collapsed because the U.S., Russia, and China wanted more time. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is pressurizing President Barack Obama to block the pact, while diplomats said that if the U.S. or another major arms producer opposes the treaty, nations can still put the draft to vote in the U.N. General Assembly. “The U.S. traditionally has an allergy to treaties,” a European diplomat told Reuters. “It might be better to have a good treaty without the U.S. and hope they come around later.”