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On July 26, 1953 – 57 years ago – a group of Cuban revolutionaries stormed the Moncada barracks in Santiago. The rebellion against dictator and US puppet Fulgencio Batista, which was led by Fidel Castro, marked the starting date of a broad-scale guerrilla campaign which evolved into the Cuban revolution. On January 1, 1959 the triumphant rebels marched into Havana. July 26 is celebrated in Cuba as a national holiday.

I happened to tour the Middle East back in the mid-1990ies, at a moment when the Intifada peaked. My colleague and I stood at the top of a hill overlooking a spectacular landscape, on a site decorated with a UN flag. Here, the abbreviation is decoded as 'United Nothing', said my companion with bitter irony. Given the  situation we were witnessing, the remark sounded upsetting but  realistic. The EU sanctions slapped on Tehran atop those imposed by the UN Security Council will have multiple dire consequences, and not only for Iran.

As requested by the UN General Assembly, on July 22 the International Court of Justice issued a ruling on Kosovo independence. The verdict is that the unilateral declaration of independence by “the Pristina administration” was legal, though the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (the one concerning the territorial integrity of Serbia) still remains an element of the international law that should not be disregarded.

For the last few days following on the “Rolling Stones” interview by Gen. McChrystal and President Obama’s decision to replace him with Gen. Petraeus there has been a great deal of attention paid to the current situation in Afghanistan and what the change in command will portend for the strategy that Gen McChrystal had devised to achieve President Obama’s goal of disrupting dismantling and defeating the Al-Qaeda network and ensuring that Afghanistan did not again become a safe haven for terrorists intent on attacking the United States and its allies.

On July 22, the UN International Court of Justice in the Hague will issue its opinion on the status of  Kosovo, the breakaway province which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. For the first time in its history, the Court is to judge on the legality of the proclamation of independence by a territory of a UN-member country without the consent of the latter. The ruling is sure to set a precedent for scores of likewise cases, including those in the post-Soviet space.

Since Uzbekistan had always been known for having plenty of natural gas deposits and well-developed pipeline infrastructure, already in Soviet times the country actively cooperated with Russia as part of a single oil and gas complex providing gas supplies to industrial centers in the Urals and to the European part of the USSR. Apart from this, Uzbekistan was a transit country for the Turkmen gas. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Uzbekistan experienced dramatic changes in oil and gas cooperation, living through both decline and rise.

The international law in its present form abounds with paradoxes. For example, it explicitly disallows the use of incendiary bullets, but contains no ban on the use of nuclear weapons. The present-day criminal law is in many parts just as incoherent: degrading treatment of captured occupants who brought death to the country they invaded is punishable internationally while aggression against a sovereign country is not.

IN ANTICIPATION OF the President's visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Smolensky Square was spruced up fit for a king. The marble was polished until it shone, and all the cars were removed from the parking lot. The pompous conference hall, which has seen more auspicious occasions and guests in its time than one would care to count, removed its crimson red apparel to don a shade of subtle terracotta instead. The ministry's new emblem, approved the previous day by the President, adorned the wall with its heraldic symbol emblazing the center, while each of the eagle's talons clutched a palm branch distinctly reminiscent of goose feathers. The image does not seem complete, however, without the wax-sealed scroll, the prototype of old embassy dispatch...

The atmosphere of intense anticipation was defused by the President's delay; he would not arrive and deliver his speech for another three hours. This gave Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina, Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov, Chairman of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin, and Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute of Contemporary Development Igor Yurgens the opportunity to speak at the very beginning of the meeting. They were listened to attentively, just as the audience listens to the overture at the opera while the curtain is still closed before the main performers appear.

Belgium took on the rotating 6-month EU presidency on July 1. Due to the country's own internal divisions and occasionally strained relations with the Balkan EU hopefuls, Belgium's presidency will likely confront the “united Europe” with a serious test. Just one of an array of reasons why the nearest future may hold new problems for the already embattled EU is that currently Belgium has an interim government. In a rather ironic recent comment, Radio France Internationale described the whole arrangement as somewhat eccentric.

Summer is not only the best season to have a vacation but also time to think over some political events and revise, if necessary, existing political strategies. India is not an exception.
Major issues on the agenda are as follows: what links are there between Delhi's focus on polycentric world order and almost hidden but consistent steps aimed at changing India's position in global politics?