How to best explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Over the past few months, spokesmen and leading officials have confidently made statements about Russian policy only to have the Russian leader suddenly change course. It can be quite confusing for analysts and commentators to assess Russia’s true intentions—and makes Putin look dangerously unpredictable. Putin’s long-term goals are clear: to prevent Ukraine’s full integration into the Euro-Atlantic world; to preserve some semblance of Ukraine’s former position as a neutral intermediary and buffer between Russia and the West; and to retain Russia’s special relationship with the country, particularly its southern and eastern […]

China has agreed to deploy additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, significantly raising its security profile in the war-torn country. With the failure of two cease-fires in South Sudan’s six-month-long conflict, China has committed a brigade of 850 soldiers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), bringing the force’s total deployment to roughly 20,000 in the coming months. The move reinforces a shift in tactics for China, from noninvolvement toward forging peace. China’s decision comes after months of turmoil that has impacted every facet of South Sudanese society. Since December, interethnic conflict between Dinkas supported by President Salva Kiir […]

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After months of sharp disagreement about the conflict in Syria, Turkey is eager to compartmentalize its relationship with Iran and focus on areas where the two countries can cooperate. Yet, despite the attempts to brand the recent meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “turning point” for the two countries’ relationship, the two sides continue to have serious disagreements about the price of natural gas, the Syrian civil war and the future of the region. Nevertheless, there are areas in which the two sides can work together to deepen trade and political […]

The controversial first shipment of oil from the Kurdish region of Iraq was exported through Turkey last month; meanwhile, Turkey is trying to expand its energy cooperation with Central Asian states. In an email interview, Gareth Winrow, an independent Turkey analyst, discussed Turkey’s energy priorities and key energy partners. WPR: What are Turkey’s main energy-related goals and through what strategies has it pursued them? Gareth Winrow: Turkey’s priority is to satisfy the energy demand of a growing economy. With little gas or oil, Turkey imports 75 percent of the supplies to satisfy its energy needs. Turkish officials are encouraging the […]

On May 28, the European Commission released its comprehensive energy security strategy. Although the immediate goal is to avert another winter energy crisis such as those Europe experienced in 2006 and 2009, the long-term objective is to reduce European Union reliance on vulnerable foreign energy supplies, especially from Russia. The European Council, comprised of the member states’ heads of state or government, will discuss the proposed plan at its June 26-27 session. Europe’s core challenge is that its energy demand will rise by an estimated 27 percent by 2030, while EU domestic energy production is falling. EU countries already rely […]

Tensions have been running high between China and Vietnam over China’s installation of an oil rig in disputed waters, with anti-China riots erupting in Vietnam in May. In an email interview, Carlyle Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales, explained how the maritime dispute threatens the otherwise booming China-Vietnam relationship. WPR: What is the extent and recent trajectory of Vietnam-China trade and investment ties, and what are the major sectors involved? Carlyle Thayer: Since Vietnam and China normalized relations in late 1991, bilateral trade has grown significantly. China is now Vietnam’s largest trading partner, with two-way turnover […]