The Mysterious Monsieur Hollande

Article excerpt

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

American Roulette

Nearly 20 years after it asked to join the World Trade Organization, Russia has finally been admitted to the global body, which counts on its roster every major economy and--come to think of it--virtually every country that isn't regarded as rogue. American businesses might expect to double their exports to Russia but for one anachronistic hitch: the Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974. This law, a pillar of America's Cold War architecture, linked the granting of "permanent normal trading relations" with Moscow to Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, and its continued presence on the statute books, in violation of WTO rules, would entitle Russia to withhold the benefits of liberalized trade from U.S. companies. Russia's accession to the WTO was the result of tortuous negotiations: the implicit promise was that if American demands were met, the U.S. would grant Russia the same treatment it grants every other WTO member. For Congress to refuse to repeal Jackson-Vanik is, many believe, a most un-American betrayal of that deal. As Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations told this column, "There are certainly human-rights issues in Russia, as there were and continue to be in China, which acceded to the WTO in 2001. There is no sensible reason to treat Russia any differently."

Lost in Translation

The French are different. Their biographers burrow into mysterious places that chroniclers from other lands would regard as terra incognita. In Nothing Goes as Planned, a new book about Francois Hollande, the novelist Laurent Binet offers us these psycho-gems, as quoted in The New York Times: "I noted this in [Hollande]. What we take too often for joviality masks a fundamental irony that he only abandons in exceptional circumstances, when the gravity of the moment demands it." (In plain English: Hollande can be serious when he wants to be.) There is in Hollande's voice, Binet continues, "the indication of a distance from himself and from events that I have not observed in others, like an admission that he is not fooled by all this human comedy, in which he wants nonetheless to play a leading role. …