Romney invested in Russia, Putin endorses Obama

What's the world saying about the U.S. presidential elections?

By Nicholas Nehamas

Putin and Obama shake hands at the G20 summit earlier this summer in Mexico. (Reuters)

At every week’s end, Latitude News brings you a global perspective on the U.S presidential elections.

We kick off our tour in Russia, where both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been in the news.

The Moscow Times reports that last year Romney’s personal equity fund — which is managed by a blind trust — purchased over 1,000 shares of the Russian state-owned energy titan Gazprom and the search engine Yandex. He also invested in the Chinese equivalent of YouTube and a state-owned oil company there too.

As the Times points out: “Revelations about the investments come amid Romney’s harsh rhetoric against Moscow and Beijing. In particular, he said in March that Russia is America’s ‘No. 1 geopolitical foe.’”

Unfortunately, the Russian investments weren’t profitable and Romney sold them soon after.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin seems to have realized he’s made a bad investment too: Republican presidential candidates.

In an opinion piece also in the Moscow Times, Andrei Tsygankov describes how many members of Putin’s inner circle, generally, prefer Republican presidents. The inner circle, Tsygankov argues, believes Republicans are more anti-Russian, and therefore easier to demonize in the public mind, thus stirring up anti-American sentiment in Russia and distracting Russians from domestic problems.

But, Tsygankov says, Romney may be so anti-Russian that he would be impossible to work with as president. Tsygankov writes:

Although President Vladimir Putin recently thanked Romney for his openness regarding the ‘No.1 foe’ comment, he also indicated that it would be hard for the Kremlin to work with Romney as president, especially on sensitive security issues such as the missile defense system. During Putin’s interview with RT state television, he also called Obama an ‘honest man who really wants to change much for the better.’ This comment was widely viewed as Putin’s most direct endorsement of Obama in the presidential race.

Talk about a flip-flop. Last week Latitude News featured an opinion piece, also from the Moscow Times, which argued that Putin should support Romney because his energy policy would favor Russia in the short term.

What Obama should have said at the UN

The Jerusalem Post tends to run conservative, so no surprise that its correspondent Hilary Leila Kreiger was disappointed with President Obama’s recent speech to the UN.

Kreiger does credit Obama with delivering a couple of “money quotes” on the threat Iran poses to U.S. and Israeli interests. But she felt tougher talk was needed to deter the Persian nation from going nuclear.

Obama didn’t mention ultimatums or anything close to the red lines on what would trigger a US attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which Israel has been asking America to set out . . . He didn’t make any reference to military force, or even use the euphemism that ‘all options are on the table.’ He didn’t express any personal criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Instead, Kreiger approvingly pointed to comments made by Mitt Romney, who described Ahmadinejad as “a voice of unspeakable evil and hatred . . . threatening Israel and the civilized world.”

Social media: the new kingmaker

In a lengthy piece in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Abdul Majeed Abid takes a look at the rising political influence of social media, which he argues helped swing the 2008 election in Obama’s favor. Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are the new campaign rally with one advantage: they’re cheaper and spread your message more quickly. Going viral is what it’s all about.

To look at just one measure, Candidate Barack Obama’s official Facebook page boasted 2.4 million friends. The less digitally-engaged John McCain looked like a nerdy loser in comparison with just 620,000 Facebook friends. Poor John.

And, of course, social media is not just an American tool, but a global one. Looking at the political events of the last few years, Abid analyzes the role of social media in organizing Iran’s unsuccessful “Green Revolution,” the protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the Occupy Movement in Zuccotti Park and the viral video “Kony 2012.”

Now, Abid writes, social media is making an impact on Pakistani politics. Former dictator Pervez Musharraf has an active social media following and is said to be contemplating a return to public life in Pakistan. But no amount of Twitter followers can help when you’re wanted for helping to plot the murder of your nation’s former prime minister.

The latest Pakistani politician to take up the social media torch is the popular former cricketer Imran Khan. A one-time playboy turned Islamic populist, Khan now uses Internet tools to organize huge rallies for his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. While not expected to win the elections outright, Khan’s party could form part of a governing coalition.

Hey, speaking of social media, did you know Latitude News is on Twitter and Facebook?

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