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FDR and the United Nations: An Enduring Legacy

When most Americans think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States - whether they remember him personally or simply learned about him in their U.S. history classes - they are likely to recall a few key things about him: he was our country's longest-serving president (in office for twelve years); was elected more times than any other American president (four); created the New Deal; and served as Commander-in-Chief during World War Two.  However, in addition to these noteworthy achievements, FDR, who died sixty-five years ago this week on April 12, 1945, has another enduring legacy - his role in the creation of the United Nations.

Even as the Second World War was raging across Europe and the Pacific, FDR played the role of "global statesman" by looking not simply to ensure that the Allies won the conflict, but that after the war was over, there would be an international venue for nations to resolve their differences without resorting to war.  A previous attempt to create such a body - the League of Nations - after World War One had proven a failure, in part because the United States never agreed to join the League despite the efforts of then - President Woodrow Wilson.  President Wilson had championed the League but was unable to get U.S. membership ratified by the Senate once the war was over and American attitudes had grown more isolationist.

Determined to avoid a similar outcome, FDR worked throughout the final years of his life to create the United Nations and ensure that the U.S. would play an active role in the organization.  On October 24, 1945, six months after FDR's death, the U.N. officially came into existence once the U.N. Charter was signed by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and a majority of other signatories.  FDR's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, also played a large role in the creation of the U.N. and served as U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

Is Europe the "Second Superpower" of the 21st Century?

Usually, when the topic of European Union foreign policy comes up, responses range from doubts as to whether the 27 - member body can even be said to have a coherent foreign policy, to questions on whether EU foreign policy matters much in a world increasingly dominated by rising powers such as China, India, and Brazil, as well as the United States.  But at a Brookings Institution event on April 8th entitled "The Foreign Policy of the European Union: Assessing Results, Ushering in A New Era," panelists sounded a generally optimistic note on the future of a common foreign policy for the EU, and how Europe might still exert a positive influence on the world outside its borders.

Featured speakers at the briefing were Giuliano Amato, former Prime Minister of Italy and Vice President of the European Constitutional Convention; Daniel Hamilton, Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies; Andrew Moravcsik, Professor of Politics and Director of the European Union Program at Princeton University; and Pierre Vimont, French Ambassador to the United States.  Former Prime Minister Amato noted that Americans are often much more enthusiastic about the EU than are Europeans; however, he asserted that grounds for optimism about the Union do exist.  He pointed out that the expansion of the EU to include twelve new nations, ten of which were formerly Communist states, since 2004 illustrates the "transformative power of Europe" and the attraction that the EU holds for non-member states in the region.  While Europe can play a positive role outside its own region of the world, Amato said that Europeans will have to work with the U.S. in order to tackle global problems, thus making the transatlantic relationship more important now than ever.

Presidents Obama and Medvedev Sign Historic New START

President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) alongside Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Prague early Thursday morning, which proposes modest cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both countries. The 30% reductions required by the treaty will bring the number of nuclear weapons available to levels not seen since the 1960's. The signing ended more than a year of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, and President Obama noted that New START has been an opportunity to "reset" relations between the two countries. This constitutes a diplomatic victory for President Obama, who hopes that the Senate will be receptive to the treaty. Still, some advocates insist that the cuts were not deep enough, and hope that priority will be given to securing further agreements on arsenal cutbacks with the Russians.

The treaty and accompanying protocols will be forwarded on to the State Department, where it will undergo an article-by-article analysis. Then it will be sent to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for hearings. There have been relatively few criticisms of the treaty's provisions, and it received bi-partisan support throughout the negotiation process. Still, the treaty is likely to face some trouble once it reaches Senate, where 67 votes are required for the Senate to pass its "advice and consent" on to the President for ratification. Republican roadblocks may lie ahead on the path to ratification, especially when it comes to the U.S. plans for missile defense and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide

Sixteen years ago, a bloody killing rampage began in Rwanda on April 7th and continued for 100 days. Organized by the majority Hutus, the genocide was ethnically motivated and systematically executed against the Tutsi minority population in Rwanda. The campaign was sparked by the assassination of President Habyarimana, and radical Hutus accused Tutsis rebels of being responsible for his death. Compounded by the country's history of civil war, this led to the widespread rape and murder of Tutsis and even moderate Hutus. The tragic failure of the international community to act rapidly and effectively once the killings began - or even beforehand - left as many as 1 million dead by July 1994. UN Security Council members refused to commit troops to the tiny UN force in Kigali. The horrific episode has left an indelible mark on many, affirming the vow that genocide will happen "never again."

Yet genocide has since raged in Darfur, Burma, and elsewhere, so it is not clear that the "never again" pledge has been fulfilled.  Genocide is preventable and early signs are detectable, but stopping atrocities before they begin requires political will at the national, regional, and international levels.  As we remember the thousands of Rwandans that were killed, we must urge our government to commit to taking action at the first signs of future genocide. For example, supports the introduction and passage of new genocide prevention legislation which includes funds to prevent or halt emerging genocidal crises. CGS also advocates that Congress fully fund the President's FY 2011 International Affairs Budget request of $2.182 billion.

Nuclear Posture Review sticks to the middle ground

Today the Obama administration released the much-anticipated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), coinciding with the anniversary of President Obama's progressive Prague speech last April. Splitting with Bush-era nuclear doctrine, the NPR renounces the development of new nuclear weapons and states that the "fundamental purpose" of nuclear weapons is deterring other states from deploying them. The NPR is the beginning of a six week focus on nuclear issues, as President Obama signs New START on Thursday, hosts a Nuclear Security Summit in April, and the UN holds the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May.

Yet the NPR might be more of a status quo document than an expression of President Obama's Prague vision, as some advocates had hoped. Despite the its modest advances, there were early expectations that the language in the NPR would be bolder and suggest more concrete numbers for nuclear weapons reductions. The NPR's largely middle ground stance indicates some political signaling to Congress. The Obama administration's nuclear priority in Congress at the moment is to ratify the New START, which will require 67 votes in the Senate, including the votes of key Senate Republicans. More drastic changes to the NPR might have fueled conservative opposition to New START.

April 4: International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

Sunday marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, commemorating victims who have suffered the effects of the deadly weapons. Antipersonnel landmines have been dubbed indiscriminate killers, as they injure and kill more civilians than soldiers. In the wake of armed conflict, women and children often come across these hidden killers - in fields or on the way to school - and are maimed or killed.

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibits all use, production and trade of antipersonnel mines, provides timelines for destroying stockpiles, and recommends assistance programs for mine victims. Although 156 other countries have signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. has not. All U.S. military allies are party to the treaty, and Cuba is the only other country in this hemisphere that hasn't signed the treaty. Given that the U.S. was the first country to call for the elimination of landmines in the 1990s, the U.S. ought to sign the treaty to solidify its commitment to arms control.

In 2009, 67 national organizations asked President Obama to undertake a review of U.S. landmine policy. The State Department announced the beginning of the review in December 2009, and there is hope that it will end with a decision to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is considered one of the most successful NGO campaigns to create momentum around a multilateral arms control instrument. The treaty was signed and ratified in a record 15 months, and over the course of the last 11 years, the weapons have come to be regarded by many countries as illegitimate weapons of war. Click here for more information about the treaty and the campaign.

Still, the U.S. has one of the largest landmine stockpiles, despite the fact that landmines have not been deployed by the U.S. since the first Gulf War.

Harry Potter: Wizard or War Criminal?.... (An April Fools' blog)

The answer may be both according to British lawyer Shami Charkrabarti.  That's right, children of the world, it's time to pick a new hero (and it's slim pickings kids, Twilight? Seriously? No.) Is this a lawyer's idea of an April fools' joke you ask?  Of course not! Find me one legal text with a joke and we can reconsider, so let me continue analyzing the 'Crucio curse' as a war crime...enjoy…

So how can anyone profess to put dear Harry in the same category as the likes of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Darth Vader and other evildoers?  Shami Chakrabarti CBE is a former British Home Office lawyer who has been outspoken on many civil liberties issues including Britain's role in extraordinary rendition.  She is also a self-professed "Potter-head," claiming to be the "biggest Harry Potter fan over the age of 12."  Yet Chakrabarti was willing to come forward with a very serious allegation against the young wizard. In a somber statement to the press she said: "Yes, Harry Potter has tortured someone. That was a war crime."

The prima facie case is strong.  In "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Mad Eye Moody explains to his class that there are the three Unforgivable Curses. "The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban." The first, is the "Imperius curse" which makes one dance like a puppet on a string.  (I welcome any suggestions as to the real world equivalent of this. American Idol?) The third curse, "Avada Kedavra," kills the victim, an act which may be legal depending on the situation, such as in self-defence or combat.  It is the second curse which is our main concern here: "Crucio," is effectively torture. A crime that is never legally acceptable in the wizarding world or in the muggle world where it is universally accepted as a war crime.

"Oh no he didn't...!"

Part III: This is the third post from Ariela Blatter, Director of Policy and Programs for Ariela is attending the 8th Resumed Session of the Assembly of States Parties in New York City this week.

 Did the US delegation get unfairly singled out today, as the only country that feels that haste makes waste when it comes to the dash to finalize the crime of aggression? Not according to the UK, who stood up in the ICC Assembly to agree with the US concerns on the inclusion of the crime. The US remained silent in the session as the UK took on the Venezuelan delegation's constant attempts to prove that the US stands alone. Today's colorful closing session on the crime of aggression at the UN became an interminable he-said-she-said debate over the language used in the Chair's summary report of the Assembly of States Parties. All of the fuss arose when the states parties were asked to approve the aggression working group report, drafted by Prince Zeid, which stated that "some [countries] cautioned the assembly that in so far as the Rome Statute, the crime of aggression should not be concluded hastily, and should be built on consensus." So in the end, at least in diplomatic "speak," the US may not be in good company with "some" countries in its position on aggression, but it can now return to DC knowing that that the final text reflects that it stands with "a few" countries. Phew- that was a close one!

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Is the ICC greater than the sum of its parts?

By: Ariela Blatter

Part II: This is the second post from Ariela Blatter, Director of Policy and Programs for Ariela is attending the 8th Resumed Session of the Assembly of States Parties in New York City this week.

Calling the ICC a "game-changer" in international relations and international criminal law, Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein, Chair of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression, spoke last night about the US relationship with the Court. Against the backdrop of this weeks meeting of delegates at the UN, Ambassador Wenaweser painted a picture of the ICC as more than just an institution; instead, it is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the Court is more than the individual preferences and beliefs of the States that support it.  Although he took great pains to remain neutral during his panel presentation at NYU, his remarks were directed at the US, represented by Ambassador Stephen Rapp, to make a leap of faith by putting the need for achieving international criminal justice above any of its own agenda or its "national interests" as it considers its future policy on the Court. That may be a hard pill for the US to swallow, who stated very clearly on the floor of the Assembly and during this panel that there is a lot that needs to be done to bring the Court to the highest level of effectiveness. And top of the US's list of things that still need to be done, with no leap of faith on the horizon, is reworking or removing the crime of aggression.

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U.S. & Russia reach agreement for New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)

After more than eight months of talks between the U.S. and Russia, negotiators have reached agreement on the terms of the New START treaty, reported the Kremlin on Wednesday. The most comprehensive arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia in almost two decades, the treaty calls for reductions of more than one-quarter in the number of deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles in both countries.

New START replaces START I, the 1991 bilateral pact governing arms reduction that expired in December 2009. A new treaty was originally anticipated prior to the December expiration of START I, but disagreement over thorny issues such as the American missile defense system in Europe and the verification process for nuclear arsenals prevented the two parties from finding consensus. Officials from both countries have not disclosed detailed contents of the treaty nor have they discussed how these particular issues were ultimately resolved.

The date of the treaty's signing has yet to be determined, though early April seems likely. Prague is the tentative location for the signing in order to commemorate the one-year anniversary of President Obama's famed Prague speech on nuclear non-proliferation. If the signing ceremony takes place in early April, it will precede the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Obama in Washington on April 12-13.

However, some challenges to ratification are anticpated in the Senate, where 67 votes are needed to pass a resolution of ratification and provide "advice and consent" to the President. Some Republicans have stated that they do not intend to agree to a treaty that would restrict the planned missile defense shield for Europe. President Obama has already initiated discussions regarding ratification with Senate Committe on Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and the committee's ranking minority member Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).