With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, the ice that covers the Arctic Circle continues to dwindle. Recent estimates suggest that the area will experience ice-free summers by 2030. Until now, the United States has largely avoided the frantic race for control of northern waters. But with the pace of the thaw exceeding expectations, the Navy has launched a strategic plan, the Naval Arctic Roadmap (.pdf), to maximize the U.S. stake in the Arctic. The plan was written by the newly launched Navy Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC), created last May amid growing […]

The Realist Prism: Obama Promises with One Hand, Delays with Other

In May, I raised concerns that the “first steps” taken by President Barack Obama had given the administration some “breathing room” in terms of deliverables. No one expected back then that Washington would be moving on key initiatives. It was understood that the new team needed to get settled: The first hundred days is not a good time for breakthroughs. But six months later, it still doesn’t seem like a good time for them. At the Guadalajara summit in August, any effort to move forward on a series of important issues dealing with North America — trade, energy security, coping […]

In hosting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week for the first state visit of his administration, President Barack Obama can claim to be taking India seriously as a partner and rising power. But Indian doubts remain. U.S.-India relations are currently drifting, rather than surging forward as they had been for a decade. Bilateral ties developed an unprecedented intimacy under President George W. Bush, capped by an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation that required both countries to take considerable political risks and overcome stubborn international opposition. Building on work begun by President Bill Clinton, Bush and his Indian counterparts unshackled […]

Amazonian countries, it seems, will have one chance and one chance only to work out a common negotiating position ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit next month. It will come in the form of a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 26, organized by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Perhapsreaching a regional agreement was seen as a formality, one so uncontroversial that even the feuding presidents of Colombia and Venezuela would join in. After all, the Amazon rain forest is a single ecosystem, and all the Amazonian countries emphasize the urgent need for its conservation. There is also broad […]

President Barack Obama failed to wring any concessions from China in his maiden voyage to Beijing last week. But the disappointing visit is only a symptom of the Obama administration’s dysfunctional and poorly conceived China policy, which, though well-intentioned, threatens to undermine U.S. objectives and wreck its global image. Dubbed “strategic reassurance,” the policy envisions a tacit bargain whereby the United States mollifies Chinese fears of containment, while Beijing assuages U.S. concerns about its global intentions and shoulders more international responsibilities. But so far, the policy has confounded more than clarified. Some China watchers wonder where Obama will strike the […]

Describing the changes taking place in the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Henry Kissinger once declared that the unification of Germany would be more important than the integration of the European Union, the fall of the Soviet Union more important than the unification of Germany, and the rise of India and China more important than the fall of the Soviet Union. He was right. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the Asian superpowers has been the most important factor in world politics. It is also the single trend most responsible for the increasing […]

For nearly three decades, there were few certainties about the global order as starkly tangible as the Berlin Wall. Cutting off East from West both literally and figuratively, it was the most important stitch in the Iron Curtain, and even on the eve of its collapse in the fall of 1989, few could imagine a world without it or the potentially apocalyptic divisions it represented. Yet when the Wall finally fell, eventually taking all of Soviet communism with it, a new set of certainties about the global political and economic order was born. And none has been more pervasive or […]

We are on the verge of repeating a pair of mistakes we made two decades ago, literally across the world from the scene of our errors in 1989. One lesson of the fall of the Berlin Wall was that states, or empires, can be much weaker than they appear. The revelation of Soviet vulnerability caught many American policymakers flat-footed. Another lesson was that careful strategic thinking is necessary for the United States to exploit shifts in the balance of power. While there were some successes in navigating the emergence of a post-communist Russia and independent former Soviet republics, the United […]

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Washington on Nov. 24 is imbued with a special significance for both the United States and India, one magnified by the fact that Singh is the first head of state to be accorded the honor of an official state visit since President Barack Obama moved into the White House. The prestige accorded to India is befitting its growing geopolitical heft, its example as a peaceful and peace-loving nation and its status as the world’s largest democracy. And there’s no denying that the invitation has also helped mellow the resentment […]

During his trip to Asia, President Barack Obama laid out a grand rhetorical vision for the future: a U.S.-China partnership working together to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Speaking in Japan, Obama declared, “America will approach China with a focus on our interests. It’s precisely for this reason that it is important to pursue pragmatic cooperation with China on issues of mutual concern, because no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century alone, and the United States and China will both be better off when we are able to meet them together.” It sounds very dramatic, […]

After years as a sidelined figure on the European political stage, Serbia is now attracting growing attention from both West and East. While continuing to line up its bid for European Union membership, Serbia is also the focus of Russia’s renewed interest in the Balkans. In October, Belgrade signed deals with Moscow that include support for a controversial oil pipeline, a generous loan deal and the establishment of a Russian base in Serbia that has the potential for military use. Some even see Serbia’s deepening ties with Russia as inimical to its pro-Western stance. But for the time being, Serbia’s […]

Middle Eastern diplomacy has intensified enormously in recent months, but don’t expect to see peace break out any time soon as a result of that new burst of activity. That’s because the latest wave of diplomacy has surfaced in a most unlikely place: South America. In November alone, Brazil is playing host to the presidents of Israel, Iran and the Palestinian Authority. Why have these leaders, all facing pressing problems at home, suddenly decided to travel thousands of miles to spend time with the heads of developing nations? The visits are hardly routine. When Israeli President Shimon Peres landed in […]

The U.S. and Chinese Economies Are ‘Superfused’

“This is not a detachable relationship,” Zachary Karabell said, referring to the U.S.-China relationship, at the EastWest Institute yesterday. The visit by the author of “Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World’s Prosperity Depends On It” could not have been better timed, coinciding with President Barack Obama’s trip to the world’s third-largest economy and the largest owner of U.S. debt. “There is an interdependence that has begun to erode the sovereignty of both nations,” Karabell said, outlining the premise of his new book. According to Karabell, after the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests in […]

President Barack Obama has successfully transformed America’s strategic dialogue with the world for the better in his first year, impressing Europe — or at least eminently sensible Norway — enough to win a Nobel Peace Prize. In relationship after relationship, America now finds itself talking about what really matters, which in most instances means prioritizing economics above terrorism (George W. Bush’s one-note presidency) and climate change (Al Gore’s shrill post-vice-presidency). For those who prefer a diet of constant fear, Obama’s maddeningly calm approach is not nearly as filling as an American foreign policy forever focused on perceived existential threats. The […]

HAVANA — In Havana, the most conspicuous evidence that hostility toward the U.S. has softened can be found at the U.S. Interest Section along the Malec√≥n promenade. When I was last here in early 2008, the gleaming white tower was camouflaged by more than a hundred billowing black flags that Fidel Castro had erected in 2006. The flags were meant to block a scrolling marquee displaying anti-Fidel, pro-America messages, installed by the Bush administration. Nowadays, the building gets a lot more direct sunlight. After the Obama administration pulled the plug on the marquee in June, Fidel removed almost all the […]

In a speech heralding the formation of his 37-member cabinet last month, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono lauded his new team as “credible and accountable,” and expressed confidence in its abilities. “You are the chosen ones . . . and I consider you to be capable of doing your duties as members of the Second United Indonesia Cabinet,” Yudhoyono said. However, many experts did not join in Yudhoyono’s glowing encomium, and with good reason. After Yudhoyono’s landslide re-election victory in July, many observers had expected him to seize on his overwhelming (60.9 percent) electoral mandate to surround himself with a […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Since the ouster in 1998 of the Suharto regime, Indonesia’s process of democratization has made remarkable progress. The peaceful re-election of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this year for a second five-year term served as the latest chapter, adding yet another layer of political stability to the country’s democratic advances. However, an extraordinary saga that sees the country’s independent anti-corruption commission (KPK) locked in a battle for survival against the police and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is an indicator of some of the difficulties the country still faces in its quest to grow into a mature democracy. […]

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