President George W. Bush signed a new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, nicknamed SORT, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was what one commentator called the end of a "prolonged funeral" for the Cold War. The agreement commits both presidents to reducing their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds. It symbolizes that in the post-Cold War era, mutual deterrence is a policy that no longer applies.
The two leaders also pledged to increase economic ties. One result for the United States is that it will likely draw more oil from Russia and the Caspian Basin in coming years. Mr. Bush has even hinted that Russia could assume a cooperative role in development of a missile-defense plan-an unthinkable prospect when President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in 1983 calling for a missile-defense plan to counterbalance threats from Moscow.
Also unthinkable at that time was Russia's admittance last month as a limited member of NATO-an alliance formed to defend against the Soviet Union.
Warming ties are in large part a result of the post-9/11 world, where Russian cooperation in fighting terrorism is considered vital to U.S. and European interests.
Has the former Soviet Union really come so far? Skeptics are drawing attention to a vast underground facility in the Ural Mountains where the Russians are spending more than they have spent on the Space Station to construct a mystery facility-along with continued reports of covert manufacture of chemical and biological weapons. Human-rights monitors are also concerned about continued restrictions for non-Orthodox Christians and abuses by Russian troops in the war in Chechnya.
Holding fast for children at UN Summit
One of hundreds of events postponed after Sept. 11 attacks was the UN Children's Summit scheduled for the following week in New York City. It reconvened in May with all sides reinvigorated in a debate that dogged the year-long preparatory process of the UN's special assembly on children: how to properly define a family and whether to endorse reproductive rights, including birth control and abortion, for children.
The United States, the Vatican, and Muslim countries including Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan opposed language that promotes abortion. The European Union, Canada, and many Latin American countries supported UN statements extending abortion access to adolescents. The Bush negotiating team insisted that the phrase reproductive health services could not be used in final documents from the summit because it could be interpreted as promoting the legalization or expansion of abortion, including in countries where it remains illegal. U.S. negotiators also insisted that the promotion of sexual abstinence was the most effective way of ensuring adolescent health and preventing the spread of AIDS-a stance that earned them the designation "irresponsible" from several European groups and The New York Times. In the end the European Union agreed to remove the phrase "reproductive health services" from the document in order to have a document at all. It will be the working paper health, education, and government officials were left with after the celebrities, guest dignitaries, and 370 children from all over the world left the splash in New York.
Cooling with Fox
In a significant departure from protocol, President Bush made his first meeting with a foreign head of state with President Vicente Fox and his first trip abroad to Mexico. Never before had a U.S. president singled out Mexico for that honor. In fact, Mr. Bush met with his counterpart south of the border five times in his first eight months in office. Mr. Bush, who speaks Spanish, said the meetings acknowledged "that the United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico."
But that was before Sept. 11. A distracted U.S. president, and concerns about tightening border control and immigration during a time of more careful screening of who enters and exits the United States, have pushed key goals in the U.S.-Mexico relationship to the back burner.
Mr. Fox thinks old friends should not be forgotten. "Mexico, as much as the United States, ha[s] a responsibility to perform a constructive role in Latin America. Not assuming that role could contribute to a possible loss of control in our hemisphere," he said. The United States cannot "abandon Latin America to its fate," which he believes the Bush administration is doing in reneging on immigration reform and trade policy.
Imagine not being able to withdraw money from your own bank account. That has been the rule for Argentinians since last December when the government defaulted on $141 billion, the largest national default in history. Since then, the crisis has only worsened. Half of those once living in Latin America's third-best economy now officially live in poverty. The economic collapse sent unemployment to 25 percent and dumped many angry Argentinians onto the street.
It is a political battle, with Eduardo Duhalde, the country's fifth president since December, now caught between his own party and the opposition, and between the government and the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is demanding additional reforms before releasing emergency capital-more loans-to the country. "We are keenly aware that the crisis advances at 100 kilometers per hour and solutions are coming very slowly," Mr. Duhalde told Argentinians in a nationally televised speech.
So there was good news for economists and policymakers when Brazil released its first-quarter economic report in May. Gross Domestic Product had fallen, but by a far smaller margin than predicted (less than 1 percent). Many worried that a steeper slide in Latin America's largest country could be at hand. Energy rationing and high interest rates have been daily bothers for Brazilians. The government eased rationing earlier this year. Presidential elections are slated for October. The leading contender is Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, an extreme leftist who could undo important market reforms and lead to instability like that in Argentina and Venezuela, where earlier this year socialist President Hugo Chavez was first ousted in a coup then reinstated.
Colombian voters say no to terrorists
Vowing to bring law and order to one of the most violent nations in the world, Alvaro Uribe swept into the presidency of Colombia after winning more than 53 percent of the vote. His margin of victory in May precluded a customary runoff election. The 49-year-old independent is described as a "hawk" and a "hardliner" by most of the media-unusual epithets for someone educated at Harvard and Oxford. But Mr. Uribe's political positions-and respected reputation among voters-have been fired in the tough arena of Colombia's local politics. He was mayor of Medellin, the country's second-largest city and once one of its drug centers, before becoming governor of Antioquia State.
Mr. Uribe hotly criticized Andres Pastrana, his predecessor, who extended an olive branch to rebel groups by granting them a safe haven. The rebels in turn have used their enlarged territory to strengthen their forces and increase kidnappings, even of high-ranking government officials.
Mr. Uribe promised voters "security, so [the rebels] don't kidnap the businessman, so they don't kill the labor leader, so they don't extort the rancher, so they don't force the peasant to flee his home." He also promised increasing ties to the United States, which already funds drug-interdiction and anti-terrorism programs in Colombia. If anything, his mandate from the voters could draw the United States further into the war, including providing ground forces in addition to the advisers who currently assist Colombia's military.