Nuclear Pakistan, we are often told, is the Islamic-state equivalent of a Wall Street firm: In geostrategic terms, it is too big to fail. That explains why, even as the Obama administration begins preparing for modest troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this July, it dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week to smooth over bilateral relations with Pakistan’s paranoid regime, which were strained even before the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Clinton’s trip and the Obama administration’s instinctive embrace of Islamabad is a fool’s errand, doomed by history, geography and globalization itself. In fact, the U.S. should […]

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Last week, the U.S. appointed its first ambassador to Turkmenistan in five years. In an email interview, Luca Anceschi, an expert in Turkmenistan’s foreign policy at La Trobe University, discussed U.S.-Turkmenistan relations. WPR: What is the recent background for U.S.-Turkmenistan ties? Luca Anceschi: The recent appointment of a new U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan represents a further step in the timid process of U.S.-Turkmen rapprochement that was initiated by the Obama administration in 2009. In the George W. Bush years, Turkmenistan went off the radar of U.S. policy in Central Asia, as Washington’s attention was almost entirely devoted to military and […]

In recent months, news outlets in Japan and the U.S. have reported that Mongolia is negotiating with those two countries to serve as a regional depository for spent nuclear fuel. The proposed plan would permit geographically constrained countries in the region, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, to dispose of their spent fuel in the spacious Central Asian state. The veracity of the reporting on the negotiations is still unknown. When the story first broke in March, the Mongolian Foreign Ministry was quick to dismiss the notion that Mongolia would host Asia’s nuclear waste. The statement went on to […]

If terrorism recedes as the central defining question of contemporary international relations, will “natural security” rise to take its place? Thom Shanker sees natural security emerging “not just by competitive economic growth, but also by potentially disruptive scarcities — depletion of minerals; desertification of land; pollution or overuse of water; weather changes that kill fish and farms.” Natural security, and its potential to fuel new conflicts between states, is becoming an issue because of the rapid growth of a truly global middle class — projected to encompass some 5 billion people by 2030. Two of the drivers of a middle-class […]

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Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul paid a state visit to China last week, highlighting the two countries’ growing ties. In an email interview, Nicklas Norling, a research fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies Program, discussed China-Afghanistan relations. WPR: What is the history of relations between China and Afghanistan? Nicklas Norling: There have been few links between China and Afghanistan throughout the past century, with Beijing only very recently showing a real interest in engagement. Even though China and Afghanistan share a short border, China’s diplomatic, economic and other ties have hitherto been more significant with […]

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Myanmar was recently reported to have concluded its first set of international energy deals — with China, Singapore and South Korea — since the installation of a nominally civilian government late last year. In an email interview, Matthew Smith, a senior consultant for EarthRights International, discussed Myanmar’s trade and energy relations. WPR: What is the current state of Myanmar’s energy sector, and who are its major international partners? Matthew Smith: Myanmar — also referred to as Burma — is rich in natural gas, and its rivers have the region’s greatest potential for hydropower generation. Investment in the energy sector is […]

America’s successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, long overdue, naturally renews talk across the country about ending the nation’s military involvement in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Coupled with the ongoing tumult unleashed by the Arab Spring, Washington is once again being encouraged to reconsider its strategic relationship with the troubled Middle East. The underlying current to this debate has always been the widely held perception that America’s “oil addiction” tethers it to the unstable region. Achieve “energy independence,” we are told, and America would free itself of this terrible burden. The simplicity of that argument belies globalization’s crosscutting interdependencies, which only grow more […]

While pessimism is not in short supply in Pakistan, other resources are increasingly scarce. This is driving the country toward a crisis characterized by interlocking economic, political and security dimensions, and has already brought the government close to fiscal collapse. Yet the dangers are poorly understood. Few of the country’s policy elite fully grasp how Pakistan’s energy, food and fiscal challenges intersect, nor how quickly problems will spiral as the country’s population grows. Meanwhile, the international community is equally fragmented and short-term in its outlook, still working through sector-based silos that leave it unable to see the big picture. With […]