India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already scored his first diplomatic coup by receiving the heads of state of all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at his swearing-in ceremony Monday. Although Sharif took some time to accept the invitation, the fact that he finally came, in spite of reservations expressed in various quarters in Pakistan, shows that he is willing to stand up to the hard-liners in the Pakistani establishment in an effort to normalize relations with India. For his part, Modi may be better positioned than his predecessor […]

Ukraine’s new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, has promised to open talks with Moscow on repairing the frayed Russia-Ukraine relationship. With fighting continuing in the eastern parts of the country, the economy headed toward collapse and Western rhetoric of support unmatched by concrete deeds and dollars, Poroshenko and his team might want to consider learning from how another mid-sized Eurasian state has managed its relationship with the Russian bear. This week, in a ceremony in Astana overshadowed by the events in Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed the agreements formally creating the Eurasian Economic Union, along with the presidents of Russia and […]

If the past century’s dominant image of Ethiopia was that of an impoverished, war-torn state, epitomized by the horrendous 1984-1985 famine in Tigray and Wollo provinces, the early 21st-century picture of the country is surely exemplified by the construction of the biggest infrastructure project anywhere in Africa: Mere miles from Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, nearly 8,000 workers and engineers are laboring seven days a week, 24 hours a day as part of a round-the-clock construction schedule to erect the nearly 560-foot-tall Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Africa’s second-most populous nation is betting that the multibillion-dollar GERD will dramatically modernize Ethiopia’s […]

On May 21, after a decade of arduous negotiations, Russia finally signed a gas deal with China. The agreement foresees the delivery of 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Siberian gas a year to China for 30 years, starting around 2018. Media commentators have been quick to call the deal “historic,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin trumpeted it as “the biggest contract in the history of the gas sector of the former USSR.” With the deal’s value of $400 billion and the involvement in it of two major non-Western powers, one might be tempted to see the agreement as an […]

Russia and India are reportedly considering a $30 billion oil pipeline that would transit through China’s Xinjiang province. When seen in the context of other bilateral hydrocarbon initiatives between India and Russia, the discussions, first reported in late March, show that Russia is cultivating India in addition to China as part of its accelerated move away from dependence on European markets amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis. For its part, India, which has been on the lookout for stable sources of hydrocarbons outside the Middle East, finds a natural fit in Russia, given the two countries’ traditional ties and Russia’s vast […]

The past few years have seen a remarkable recovery of Russia’s international influence and ambitions. Rejecting an implicit offer of partnership with the West, albeit with junior status for Moscow outside its Eurasian region, the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin continues to pursue a separate agenda aimed at making Russia an important and independent pillar of the global order. Moscow may not yet aspire to become a global superpower and peer rival of the United States again, but its goals and some of its capabilities still exceed those of Britain, France, Germany, Japan and other typical regional powers. Not […]

Since the 1998 election of former President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan government has sought to bolster its state sovereignty and reduce its dependence on the U.S. These efforts have involved, among other strategies, strengthening relations with regional allies such as Cuba and Bolivia, shoring up new regional institutions such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and cracking down on domestic nongovernmental organizations that rely upon U.S. funding for survival. As a petro-state, however, Venezuela remains heavily reliant upon its oil industry for revenues. If Venezuela is to ever […]