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The Ten Most Important Foreign Events of 2008

Of the tens of thousands of foreign events this tumultuous year, here are my top ten, ranked more or less in ascending order of importance:

1. Russia’s signaling in September of its willingness to provide nuclear technology to Venezuela, thereby raising the prospect of a South American bomb.

2. The failure this month of the six-party talks to disarm North Korea, an event highlighting the general collapse of American anti-proliferation policy.

3. Iran’s test firing of missiles in the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, reminding the world of the importance of keeping the Persian Gulf open.

4. The Iraqi parliament’s ratification last month of the agreement to keep American troops in the country until 2012, a sign of the success of Washington’s recent policies.

5. The successive devaluation of the ruble, signifying the spreading of the global financial crisis.

6. The October signing of the U.S.-India nuclear pact, an event symbolizing the growing ties among the Pacific democracies.

7. The summit between Russia and China in Beijing in May, a cementing of relations among the authoritarian states.

8. Last month’s Mumbai attack, which is now leading to growing hostility between New Delhi and Islamabad.

9. The passage in September of the Security Council’s toothless resolution on the Iranian nuclear program, a clear indication of the failure of multilateral action to stop one of the gravest threats to international stability.

10. Russia’s August invasion of Georgia.