In the ongoing saga of Russian energy diplomacy — intimately tied to Moscow’s attempts to consolidate its influence in its “near abroad” — the Dec. 9 oil-trade agreement with Belarus goes down as an important marker of Russia’s reinvigorated authority in its immediate neighborhood. With President Viktor Yanukovych now exercising increasingly authoritarian control in Ukraine, and Belarus no longer flirting with the West, Moscow can safely assume that the two-decade era of Western institutions and influence expanding eastward has been put on hold indefinitely. This turning point is concurrent with a thawing of relations between Russia and many Western countries, […]
Bangladesh police fired tear gas and water cannons to break up violent protests by investors earlier this week, as stock prices went into a freefall and authorities halted trading on the country’s stock market for a second day. The country’s stock exchange has been down more than 25 percent since December.
As Argentines enjoy the final summer before electing a new leader later this year, uncertainty surrounds the direction of the country’s domestic and international policies. High levels of inflation, social unrest, growing insecurity, a dissatisfied and powerful agricultural sector, a continued spat with the U.K. over the Falkland Islands and accusations of being a haven for laundering drug money are but a few of the challenges the next Argentine leader will face. Four years ago, on the eve of presidential elections in 2007, much of this uncertainty did not exist or had not yet become apparent. At the time, the […]
Although the referendum in South Sudan appears to be occurring without major incident, the main challenges lie ahead on the way to an independent South Sudan, the universally expected outcome of the voting and subsequent six-month transition period. The referendum was a key component of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) based in the South, and the Sudanese government in Khartoum, led by Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who seized power in a coup in 1989. Unfortunately, the CPA and subsequent rounds of talks have failed to resolve several important […]
It has been depressing to watch the reaction of the American foreign-policy establishment to the Wikileaks debacle. Visceral rage has predominated, of course, but it has been mixed with a misplaced pride in the quality of State Department diplomacy. The leaks, we are told, provide reassuring evidence that all is working as it should be. Fareed Zakaria, for example, praised the insight and breadth of the analysis on offer. The cables, he wrote, are “well wrought” and reveal “clever minds” at work, with the best of them resembling something “straight out of Evelyn Waugh.” Such complacency comes as no surprise. […]
A central theme of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was the need to revitalize the institutions of governance for 21st-century problems. “We cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy,” he declared in one notable stump speech, and the sentiment was repeated throughout his campaign. Once in office, President Obama made the same claim regarding international order and governance. The 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) (.pdf) acknowledged that in a world facing transnational threats, and one where “new centers of influence” would shape diplomatic options, international cooperation was a necessity. But it recognized that outdated institutions are as much an […]
Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in December 2009, President Barack Obama expressed his concern that the existing global “architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats.” Part of the problem is that there is no true global-security forum. In the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, Amitai Etzioni suggested that the resulting ad hoc anti-terrorism coalition might evolve into what he termed a “Global Safety Authority,” but this has not occurred. The U.N. Security Council, which according to the United Nations Charter is supposed to take up this function, has several problems. First, its membership is […]
As federal deficits rise, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is looking to cut spending by close to $100 billion in the next five years, a sign that even the Pentagon’s massive budget is subject to government-wide belt tightening. Gates discusses the new budgetary measures, his China trip and “don’t ask, don’t tell” with Jim Lehrer. A transcript of the interview can be found here.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled his much-anticipated budget cuts last Thursday, signaling the beginning of the end of the decade-long splurge in military spending triggered by Sept. 11. Gates presented the package of cuts as being the biggest possible given the current international security landscape, warning that any deeper reductions could prove “potentially calamitous.” Frankly, I find that statement hard to swallow. How can America basically match the rest of the world’s defense spending combined, and then describe anything less as “potentially calamitous”? Clearly, given the “nation’s grim financial outlook,” as Gates himself put it, we’re going to have […]
The Middle East and North Africa welcomed the New Year with a rare phenomenon: protests in an arc stretching from Algeria to Kuwait, directed against repressive regimes at home rather than a foreign power. The protests are a rare outpouring of pent-up frustration and anger at discrimination and failed economic and social policies as well as corruption in a region that is governed by authoritarian governments intolerant of public criticism. It is too early to conclude that the protests signal a milestone after which Middle Eastern population groups no longer quietly endure repression and economic deprivation and instead increasingly and […]
This is Part IV in a four-part series. Part I examined the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Part II examined the REDD+ agreement. Part III examined financial assistance. And Part IV examines technology transfers and adaptation. CANCÚN, Mexico — In the past 10 years, technology developments in the environmental sector have progressed significantly. Solar panels now have the capacity to power entire regions of Germany. Wind turbines provide small to medium-sized cities across the world with their energy needs. Geothermal heating is a functional reality, while methane captured from modest-sized landfills can offer electricity to thousands of nearby homes. […]
The United Nations hopes to send between 1,000 and 2,000 more peacekeepers to Ivory Coast in the next few days as at least seven more people were killed in ethnic clashes, UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said on Wednesday. The clashes have occurred as President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to resign after a disputed election in the country.
Almost three years after its declaration of independence, backed by the U.S. and many of its allies, Kosovo is the object of increasing concern for the international community. On Dec. 12, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by incumbent Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, won a plurality in Kosovo’s first post-independence general elections. Only days later, Thaci, a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader, was accused of being the head of a mafia organization involved in murder, human-rights abuses, organ harvesting and heroin smuggling, among other offenses, in a report for the Council of Europe leaked to the U.K.’s Guardian […]
As Russia begins its countdown to elections for the Duma at the end of this year as well as the presidential ballot in early 2012, two predictions are making the rounds. The first is that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will reclaim the presidency, which the constitution required him to vacate in 2008. (Article 81.3 prohibits anyone from holding the office for more than two consecutive terms.) The second is that the “tandem” formed by Putin and current President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s former chief of staff, is not sustainable and that an open break between the two will occur sooner or […]
The recent release of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi could produce, as a ripple effect, a shift in the relationship between Burma and the U.S. Suu Kyi has stated that she intends to pursue reconciliation with the junta. This, in turn, could suit Washington’s softening stance toward the regime and the Obama administration’s stated preference for alternative policies in dealing with Burma. Suu Kyi’s decision is dictated by the reality on the ground. Her National League for Democracy party (NLD), which won 1990 elections that were never recognized domestically, was disbanded after it boycotted the November 2010 parliamentary […]