Despite Hope of Minsk Summit, Damage Done to Russia-West Relations

Next week, Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a face-to-face trilateral summit in Belarus with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and a European Union delegation headed by its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. The summit has an ambitious agenda on the table to defuse the Ukraine crisis. Assuming that a major breakthrough does occur in Minsk, what next?

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The Costs and Benefits of Trade Agreement Disputes

By The Editors

Last month, Germany voiced concerns over the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. In an email interview, Timothy Josling, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, discussed the settlements and their role in international trade agreements.

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Diplomatic Fallout

Why the International System Is Still Worth Fighting For

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

The multilateral security system is stumbling around the world as it suffers from major structural weaknesses. Yet elements of it have worked surprisingly well in the current set of crises, from documenting atrocities in Syria to mediating in Ukraine. Despite setbacks, a mix of international officials and observers, soldiers and governments remain willing to stand up for the vulnerable and uphold that system. more

The Realist Prism

Time for the U.S. to Make Hard Choices on Russia, Middle East

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

It is the misfortune of the Obama administration to preside over the unraveling of several long-term U.S. strategies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The tactics used by previous administrations to delay making hard choices in the hope that problems would resolve themselves without Washington being required to make sacrifices are no longer available, as the crises in both regions make abundantly clear. more

Ukraine Crisis Torpedoes Russia-Japan Rapprochement

By Richard Weitz
, , Briefing

One of the major sticking points to improved Japan-Russia relations has long been the two sides’ territorial dispute over the Southern Kurils. Now the two countries have an opportunity to change matters. For the first time in decades, both have leaders who could negotiate a territorial compromise and then sell it domestically. But the Ukraine crisis has put an end to earlier hopes for a resolution. more

EU Strives to Overcome Its North-South, East-West Divides

By Maria Savel
, , Trend Lines

The current debate in the EU over how to respond to the Ukraine crisis highlights the political and ideological divisions between Eastern and Western Europe. Meanwhile, the economic division between Northern and Southern Europe stemming from the eurozone crisis are as strong as ever. The EU is taking steps to overcome these divisions and create a more united union, but lasting solutions are hard to come by. more

With Eye on Russia, Poland Reshapes Military Modernization Plan

By Tomasz Szatkowski
, , Briefing

Compared to other Central European countries, the Polish military might appear to be a giant, due to Poland’s size but also its relatively high fixed level of defense spending. But it still has to face a seriously deteriorated security environment with fewer expectations of help from its Western allies. Poland needs to craft a more cohesive military modernization plan to respond to an array of challenges. more

Hungary’s Orban a Threat to ‘Liberal Democracy’—and EU Norms

By David Klion
, , Trend Lines

In April, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative Fidesz party maintained its majority in parliament in national elections. Since then, Orban’s reactionary rhetoric has only increased, most notably in a speech last month in which he rejected “liberal democracy” as the model for Hungary. No head of state in the EU has ever so bluntly aligned with autocratic values.

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West Can Use Nagorno-Karabakh Tensions to Push Azerbaijan to Reform

By Aslan Amani
, , Briefing

Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh have prompted worries of a full-fledged war. But Russia’s presence in Armenia suggests that the escalation has less to do with the two belligerent parties and more with Russia’s growing geopolitical ambitions. The West shouldn’t abandon Azerbaijan but must make clear that the usual way of doing business will not work. more

Global Insights

NATO Summit Must Make Further Progress on Smart Defense

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

Next month’s NATO summit needs to make greater progress on Smart Defense, the alliance-wide effort to get more collective benefits out of individual members’ defense budgets. The initiative aims to induce NATO members to acquire military capabilities collectively, so that smaller members can contribute to expensive joint projects. Unfortunately, Smart Defense initiatives have so far produced limited results. more

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Summer of Violence

By Laurence Broers
, , Feature

This year, while Europe commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I, a long-forgotten conflict on the edge of the continent rumbled on. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a contest for control over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 25 years. Following a particularly dismal stretch of the peace process over the past two years, tensions have come to a head in a summer of violence along the front line. Yet while front-line casualties have dominated the headlines, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also become a formidable weapon for both Armenia and Azerbaijan to securitize politics, exclude opposition and explain away the absence of domestic reforms. more

BRICS Bank Will Bolster, Not Challenge, Global Financial System

By Daniel McDowell
, , Briefing

The BRICS countries recently unveiled a new development bank that includes a $100 billion fund known as the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, designed to provide short-term support to BRICS members, similar to the International Monetary Fund. Despite suggestions that the CRA is another sign that the BRICS and the West are headed for confrontation, the new institution might leave all sides better off. more