President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has raised concerns among Central Asian analysts, who worry that links between the Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamist militants in Central Asia could result in a negative spillover effect following the U.S. withdrawal. As if to highlight their fears, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed responsibility for a Sept. 19 attack on a military convoy in Tajikistan, which left 25 military personnel dead. And according to Baktybek Abdrisaev, former Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States and Canada and currently a visiting professor at Utah Valley […]

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There’s a conventional wisdom forming that in releasing the detained Chinese trawler captain, Japan backed down to Chinese pressure and as a result “lost” the confrontation. This is probably true from a short-term perspective, but the proof of the pudding will be whether Japan, in future, concedes on both the issue at hand — sovereignty over the disputed islands — and the broader issue that is China’s reach for regional dominance. I don’t think either of those are likely. And I think John McCreary sums up nicely why that is: The Chinese have overreached in their dealings with Japan, Southeast […]

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The excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars, have raised the question of whether President Barack Obama inappropriately let domestic political concerns determine or guide his military strategy in Afghanistan. I wanted to comment on that yesterday, but didn’t have time to. In the meantime, Stephen Biddle got there first, and covered some of the ground I had in mind. Biddle argues that in a democracy, popular support is necessary for waging war, so considering whether a strategy will enjoy that support is perfectly legitimate. Biddle frames the argument by reminding us that strategy is “the art of the possible,” […]

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Russia and India recently agreed to jointly manufacture a military transport plane. In an e-mail interview, Seema Desai, a London-based analyst in Eurasia Group’s Asia practice, discusses India-Russia defense relations. WPR: Historically, what kind of defense relationship have India and Russia shared? Seema Desai: India and Russia have traditionally shared a very strong defense relationship, with past purchases including fighter aircraft, missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers, in addition to other equipment such as radars and tanks. Although India still buys the bulk of its military hardware from Russia (around 60 percent), Russia is a less-dominant player than it has been […]

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During Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s three-day visit to China, the two countries announced the opening of a pipeline that will triple the supply of Russian oil flowing China beginning next year, and they touted closer regional security cooperation. They also extended the terms of an agreement for supplying Russian natural gas to China, but failed to agree on a price for the gas.

On Sept. 12, after months of negotiations, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a historically low-profile international institution, announced that its participants had agreed to new international minimum capital standards for banks. Scheduled to be phased in carefully over the next eight years, the new agreement — informally referred to as Basel III — represents the most significant set of international financial regulations to emerge since the onset of the global financial crisis. Yet, to succeed, Basel III depends entirely on national governments voluntarily following through on implementing and maintaining the new standards. As a result, distributional consequences across countries […]

According to virtually all global warming projections, humanity faces significantly more conflict in the decades ahead as we fight over dwindling resources in climate-stressed lands. However, those reports typically overlook one likely outcome that could counterbalance the more negative impacts of global warming — that of northern territories becoming significantly milder, more accessible, and, most intriguingly, more hospitable to immigration. This is the essential good news to be found in Laurence C. Smith’s fascinating new book, “The World in 2050.” The ambitious title is perhaps a bit misleading, for where Smith really delivers is on the subtitle: “Four Forces Shaping […]

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U.S. President Barack Obama met with leaders from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries in New York Sept. 24. In his opening remarks, Obama reiterated the U.S. intention, as “a Pacific nation,” to play a leadership role in Asia, and characterized closer relations with ASEAN as essential to that goal. Obama also confirmed that he would attend the East Asia Summit in Jakarta next year.

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When Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars,” is released on Monday, the denizens of Washington’s Beltway will eagerly skip to the index to see whether they are mentioned — and if not, who is. But as they digest the stories of infighting, rivalry and catty comments among the president’s national security team, excerpts of which have already begun to circulate, the larger question is whether the revelations in the latest Woodward tome will have an impact on the Obama administration’s Afghan policy. Woodward seems to confirm what many have suspected ever since President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point announcing the […]

On Sep. 6, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Financial Corporation (a branch of the World Bank Group) signed a mandate letter with the consortium behind the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, marking the start of an appraisal process that will eventually secure a €4 billion financing package for the project. The three international financial institutions committed €2 billion, €1.2 billion and €800 million, respectively. Along with the more modest €200 million grant provided by the European Commission last March, the contributions will certainly boost confidence in the project among private investors, who […]

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It seems like only last year that we were hearing warnings about how the state-capitalist model made possible by power concentrated at the top in places like China and Russia would ultimately make liberal economies a quaint artifact of the past. Now, it seems, China is increasingly going from mono to surround sound, as a marketplace of ideas emerges in its highest decision-making levels, at least when it comes to foreign policy and national security. It’s hard to imagine that this sort of policy-jockeying won’t also begin to characterize domestic economic policy, especially as the need to develop the vast […]

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U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake held a press briefing on U.S. policy in Central Asia, U.S. cooperation with Russia in the region, and the situation in the Kyrgyz Republic. The briefing occurred at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City, Sept. 22, 2010. For more on this region, browse WPR articles on Central Asia.

The idyllic valley of Kashmir has been gripped by violence for more than three months now. Unlike past unrest, however, this summer’s riots have seen a new generation of young Kashmiris venting their anger at a central government that has failed to capitalize on the stability of recent years to provide them with economic opportunities and political reconciliation. The state government led by the telegenic, much-hyped Omar Abdullah waited almost two months after the initial violence to begin outreach efforts, by which time more than 50 people had already died in street protests and police action. New Delhi, too, stayed […]

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From Judy Dempsey, describing China’s increasing reach in Eastern Europe: From the Baltic states to the Balkans, Chinese companies, flush with money, are buying real estate and competing for public infrastructure contracts, especially as Poland and Ukraine work at breakneck speed to jointly play host to the 2012 European soccer championship. I’d already seen some suggestion that Brazil was also turning to China for expertise and support in advance of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016. The 2008 Beijing Olympics were seen at the time through the prism of soft power — China’s coming out party. […]

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This proposed India-Oman deepwater natural gas pipeline represents a potential major shift in the connectivity networks linking Central Asia to South Asia. Once laid, pipelines help determine geopolitical realities for decades, as a glance at the legacy impact of Soviet-Russian pipelines on Central Asian politics reveals. If the Gulf serves as an effective workaround to bypass the Afghanistan-Pakistan transit route, it would dramatically reduce the strategic logic of stabilizing the Af-Pak region. The fact that Iran is involved in this deal as a source country is also a major plus, as it applies additional commercial constraints on Tehran to keep […]

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In searching for a graphic for Richard Weitz’s WPR column on the Afghanistan parliamentary elections, Kari stumbled across this photo, from the USAID flickr stream, of three Burqa-clad Afghan women giving the inked finger to the camera. My immediate reaction was to recoil, with a sense of shock that in 2010, this is a sign of progress for U.S. foreign and security policy in the world. Voting is good, but it implies a respect for the subjectivity and personhood of each individual citizen that the burqa, in my limited understanding of it, denies. My subsequent thought went to the current […]

The results of the Sept. 18 elections to the Wolesi Jirga, Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, will not be known for weeks, but from the point of view of the international community, in many ways the process is more important than the outcome. The strategy adopted by the Obama administration, NATO, and the other key international players in Afghanistan depends for success on establishing Afghan political, economic, and military institutions that are strong and legitimate. Without an effective Afghan partner able to reduce the threat from the Taliban insurgents to manageable levels, the coalition’s counterinsurgency strategy will never succeed. But […]

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