A Pentagon research team is studying the body language of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders to better predict their behavior, officials said Friday. The project, previously conducted under the State Department, is now backed by the Defense Department's Office of Net Assessment. Putin's psychological profile was last updated in 2012, a Pentagon official said. Pentagon analysts have studied about 15 foreign leaders including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, North Korea's Kim Jong-Un and late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Rand Paul, a potential 2016 White House contender, on Friday accused President Barack Obama of restricting civil liberties and urged conservatives to "stand with me" in electing a president who would protect personal rights. In a starkly libertarian speech, the senator from Kentucky condemned National Security Agency electronic surveillance, detention without trial programs and what he said were other encroachments on civil rights under the Obama administration. But unlike other Republican speakers at the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference, Paul said the issues were bigger than the two major political parties. I'm talking about electing lovers of liberty," Paul told the cheering crowd.
The White House on Friday played down the risk posed to the European economy by Russia's threat to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, insisting the region has adequate stocks. "There is no indication currently that there's much risk of a natural gas shortage in the region," President Barack Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters from aboard Air Force One. Russia is Europe's biggest single energy supplier and its natural gas pipelines mainly run through Ukraine, where some is used and some passes through to major western economies such as Germany.
The United States on Friday voiced concern over what it says are politically motivated charges brought against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, urging Malaysia to ensure fairness and transparency. In a long-running case which stretches back to the late 1990s, the Malaysian Court of Appeals Friday overturned Anwar's acquittal on sodomy laws and sentenced him to five years in jail. "The decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar, and his trial, have raised a number of concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the court," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "In this high-profile case, it is critical for Malaysia to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently and apolitically in order to promote confidence in Malaysia's democracy and judiciary."
US Vice President Joe Biden will hold talks with Latin American leaders about protest-hit Venezuela during his trip to Chile from Sunday for the inauguration of President Michelle Bachelet. Peru's Ollanta Humala, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto are among those Biden plans to meet to discuss "the concerns that the entire region has about the unrest and the challenges" in Venezuela, said a US official on Friday.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel thanked his Ukrainian counterpart Friday for what he said was the admirable restraint the country's armed forces have shown in a tense stand-off with Russia. In a morning phone call to Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh, Hagel reiterated Washington's strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. "He praised the performance and the restraint of the Ukrainian armed forces, who have not allowed the situation to escalate," Kirby told reporters. The Pentagon also confirmed reports that Russia has deployed more forces to the Crimean peninsula over the past week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday warned US Secretary of State John Kerry against Washington taking "hasty" action or imposing sanctions over Ukraine, in what has escalated into the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War. In a telephone call, the two men followed up on their talks in Paris and Rome that had failed to lead to an agreement on how to resolve the situation in Ukraine, where Russian troops have taken effective control of Crimea. The two diplomatic chiefs "agreed to continue looking at the problems of the sharp political crisis that has seized this country," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. The US State Department confirmed that Kerry had spoken with Lavrov Friday from his plane.
US spy agencies had warned the White House of imminent action by Russia in Ukraine and were not caught off-guard by the crisis, a top official said Friday, rejecting criticism from lawmakers. Facing accusations the spy services were taken by surprise, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, said the intelligence community predicted the likely intervention of Russian troops at least a week in advance. "I think for easily seven to 10 days leading up to the Russian troops as we see them now in Crimea, we were providing very solid reporting on what I would describe as just strategic warning," Flynn told National Public Radio. The warnings gradually escalated to the point where Russian intervention on the peninsula was described as "imminent," Flynn said in a rare interview.
The United States is finding talks with Japan on opening its agricultural market "extremely tough", a senior U.S. trade official said on Friday, as the two countries prepared for another round of bilateral negotiations. Japanese officials will visit Washington next week in a bid to break a deadlock over tariffs on farm and industrial products, which is drawing out plans to conclude a wider free trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The United States had hoped to wrap up the deal last year, but ministerial-level talks in Singapore last month ended with many issues still on the table, most notably Japan's protection of its farm sector. U.S. Acting Deputy Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said Japan was moving very slowly, despite a commitment to work towards a comprehensive and high-standard agreement when it joined the TPP talks last year.
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Former presidential candidates and a few new potential White House contenders known for their focus on social values are trying out their speeches, as early auditions for the next Republican presidential contest rolled on Friday at the nation's largest annual gathering of conservative activists.