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Week In News: Russia Joins Chorus Against Gadhafi


Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(Soundbite of speech)

President BARACK OBAMA: We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but meeting the U.N. mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gadhafi remains in Libya, directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people.

MARTIN: President Barack Obama speaking this week from France during the G8 Summit. NATO's military campaign in Libya began 10 weeks ago today. And the big headline out of the G8 was Russia joining the call for Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to go. President Dmitry Medvedev now says Russia, which had initially opposed the NATO operation, will now try to help negotiate a diplomatic exit for Gadhafi.

For more on that story and the rest of the week's news, James Fallows of The Atlantic joins me now.

Hey, Jim. Nice to talk with you.

Mr. JAMES FALLOWS (National Correspondent, The Atlantic): Nice to speak with you, Rachel.

MARTIN: So if this happens, this would be a new role for Russia, taking a role like this in a NATO operation.

Mr. FALLOWS: Certainly would - and especially it's significant in the Libyan operation because Russia was one of several countries ostentatiously to abstain in the Security Council vote on the resolution 10 weeks ago. So it would be significant in that way, and I think all parties recognize the removal of Gadhafi as the only way out of this situation.

MARTIN: Let's move on to that G8 meeting that was the reason for President Obama's visit to Europe. There was a lot of general talk there about the uprisings in the Middle East. But as far as a forum for global conversations like these, how valuable is the G8 anymore when rising powers like China, India and Brazil aren't even there?

Mr. FALLOWS: Well, certainly, it made sense that this meeting would concentrate on the Libyan situation because most of the participants are members of this G8 group.

But it's striking that 15 or 20 years ago, what was then the G7 before Russia joined, was really the place for worldwide decision making about economic and often strategic matters. And now the G20 Summit crucially includes China and India and Saudi Arabia and Brazil, and all these other rising powers. That's become where more and more of the action is.

MARTIN: Speaking of China, yesterday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the Chinese government is not manipulating its currency. So break this down for us, Jim. Why is this significant?

Mr. FALLOWS: The simplest explanation is that most economists, even inside the Chinese government, recognize that the artificially low value of the Chinese currency has preserved an unbalanced relationship between the Chinese economy and the entire rest of the world. It's a real reason why China exports so much, imports so little and saves so much of what it produces.

And so everybody agrees the Chinese currency has to go up for the Chinese economy to rebalance with the entire rest of the world. The U.S. has been pushing on this for a long time.

But I think its decision now and, as in previous reports, not to file claims of actual manipulation reflects its sense that fundamental economics are now pushing the Chinese government in this direction. The value of the RMB, the Chinese currency, has been going up about 10 percent over the past year and most people expect it will keep going that way.

MARTIN: This is, of course, Memorial Day weekend, a time when we as a country take a few moments and remember the servicemen and women who've lost their lives. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, have both talked a lot recently about what they call the military-civilian divide, that the society as a whole has become somehow disconnected with the wars that the U.S. is fighting.

Mr. FALLOWS: Yes. And that's a very striking theme, including Admiral Mullen's recent commencement address at West Point, where he said to the graduating cadets, the rest of the public does not know us.

We're now almost 40 years into the volunteer Army era - that is a couple of generations that have passed entirely through military service and political leadership, and there are clear advantages of a volunteer force in efficiency and morale and all the rest.

But I think that these military leaders, the head of the civilian and the uniformed military command, have been pointing out there are dangers, too, of having a military be at war when its nation is not conscious of being at war. And so I think this is an item to reflect on this weekend.

MARTIN: And we'll leave it there. That's Jim Fallows, national correspondent of The Atlantic. You can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com.

Jim, thanks so much.

Mr. FALLOWS: My pleasure. Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.