The protests in Ukraine and Venezuela and the unveiling this week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the Obama administration’s budget request to Congress would appear to be separate and unrelated events. Yet they are linked by the challenge those developments pose to the strategic assumptions that serve as the foundation of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. defense budget. The United States can no longer afford a strategy that hedges against all possible risks. The fiscal crunch, combined with the need to divert an ever-growing portion of the defense budget to personnel, health and pension costs and away from procurement—particularly […]

Whenever political violence breaks out anywhere in the world, one can predict the U.S. response without any hesitation. The State Department will: solemnly declare that the United States abhors the use of violence and sends its condolences to the casualties; promise that the U.S. will hold “all sides” accountable for their actions; demand that the government “show restraint”; and call for immediate “political dialogue” to resolve the crisis. This preset script has been followed, with minor modifications, as tensions have escalated in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand, among others; it was the initial response when violence broke out in in Syria […]

Expectations are high for Nepal’s new prime minister, Sushil Koirala, who was elected to head the government by more than two-thirds of lawmakers’ votes last week and whose centrist party has many more potential allies in the recently elected legislature than it did in the previous assembly. However, challenges to bringing stability to the country and writing the nation’s new constitution remain daunting. Members of the second Constituent Assembly, elected in November, chose Koirala of the Nepali Congress (NC) party on Feb. 10 as the fifth prime minister since Nepal held its first democratic elections six years ago. The first […]

Editor’s note: This is the last of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series examined each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here and Part V here. In 2001, the Taliban were thought to be all but defeated with the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, little more than a month after the U.S. launched its first airstrikes on […]

Photo: A North Korean soldier stands guard at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Aug. 11, 2011 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin).

Why does the North Korean regime still exist, and how much longer will it last? These questions have been asked continuously for nearly a quarter-century, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the People’s Republic of Mongolia and the Soviet Union itself over the following two years. In July 1994, North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung, died, and soon thereafter North Korea entered a period of famine that lasted three years and killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of North Korean citizens. Yet the regime carried on, […]

Myanmar took on the chairmanship of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Jan. 1, assuming this high-profile role at an important time for the regional bloc. Its ambitious integration program is gathering steam, though political turmoil—particularly in Thailand—and internal divisions over how to deal with China’s economic influence present formidable challenges to the group’s cohesion. Not surprisingly, then, the theme of Myanmar’s chairmanship is “moving forward in unity toward a peaceful and prosperous community.” But Myanmar’s chairmanship also comes at a critical time for the country itself, having only recently emerged from international isolation. Domestically, much attention […]

In the past few months, as the prospects have emerged for an agreement between Iran and U.S.-led world powers on Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia and nuclear-armed Pakistan have made high-profile moves to strengthen their links in what is most likely not a mere coincidence of timing. Recent developments bring to mind repeated warnings over the years from top Saudi officials, like that of King Abdullah who in 2009 told a U.S. envoy, “If Iran gets nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.” Saudi Arabia is content to let the world know it is exploring its options. The important question […]

For more than a decade, the United States has poured blood and money into Afghanistan, hoping to turn it into some sort of functioning democracy that could at least keep the Taliban at bay. This project always had a deep tinge of unreality. Few places on earth are less hospitable to accountable governance, robust rule of law, protection of human rights and security provided by the state. The United States and its allies never had a plan to make Afghanistan economically self-sufficient or able to pay for its own security forces. Everyone knew the state would remain a ward of […]

Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series runs every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here, Part II here, Part III here and Part IV here. In 2009, President Barack Obama vowed to narrow the U.S. mission in Afghanistan while expanding the resources for it, announcing a goal to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and […]

In addition to the magnificent opening ceremony and the admirable performance of the athletes on display at the Winter Olympics, Sochi has seen a remarkable show of solidarity between the host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his most important visitor, Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Chinese government is underscoring the foreign policy significance of Xi’s decision to go to Sochi, which marks the first time a Chinese leader has attended a major foreign sporting event. The visit is Xi’s first foreign trip this year, and Russia was also his first foreign destination after becoming president last year. Since then he […]

China’s unveiling of its fourth research base in Antarctica this weekend has produced a flurry of interest in the Chinese polar program. The broad consensus among analysts is that Beijing’s intent is more about gaining sway over long-term rule-making than furthering science. As Lily Kuo writes in Quartz, “China’s Antarctic aspirations are likely for status and more importantly, leverage over a distant future when the region opens up.” In a briefing for WPR last month, Anne-Marie Brady, editor-in-chief of the Polar Journal, outlines the impact of China’s Antarctic expansion, which also includes a newly announced fifth station. She writes: The […]

Last month, the New York Times documented the conditions of India’s relief camps for internally displaced people, some of which appear to be becoming permanent settlements. In an email interview, Sanjib Baruah, a professor of political studies at Bard College, explained the causes of and responses to internal displacement in India. WPR: Where are the major communities of internally displaced persons in India, and what caused their displacement? Sanjib Baruah: IDPs in India are forced to leave their homes because of (a) ethnic and sectarian violence, and (b) armed conflicts or insurgencies. Recent incidents of ethnic and sectarian violence include […]

In recent weeks, the State Department has begun a new push on Sri Lankan human rights issues in the aftermath of that country’s decades-long war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which came to an end in May 2009. This push will likely include a new resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the third such resolution in recent years, intended to pressure the government of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan government’s final push against LTTE-held territory, in the north of the country, resulted in the defeat of the group. But international observers criticized […]

The most recent replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association, a fund through which the bank provides grants and loans to poor countries, involved attempts to enlist more support from the so-called emerging donors—developing countries that have only recently begun giving aid to other developing countries. In an email interview, Sadika Hameed, who works with the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained how developing countries contribute to each other’s economic growth through trade and aid. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of “South-South” trade? Sadika Hameed: Following the financial crisis […]

What was widely expected to be an electoral victory last July for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has turned into a prolonged political impasse, as the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has refused to recognize the election results due to what it calls massive fraud. While continuing to boycott the National Assembly, the CNRP—which won 44.4 percent of votes and 55 seats, compared to the CPP’s 48.8 percent and 68 seats—has led a series of mass protests with three demands: an independent investigation into the alleged electoral fraud with the participation of the United Nations and civil society […]

Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series runs every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here. Regional Command South encompasses Afghanistan’s key southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the 1990s and an epicenter of its violent resurgence between 2005 and 2006. The province’s […]

With growth still lagging after the financial crisis, countries in the developed and developing worlds alike are looking to new trade agreements, closer financial integration and reforms to global economic governance to raise their economic outlooks. This WPR special report looks at the prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Pacific Alliance and the future of the dollar, among other topics, through articles published in the past year. Trade and Integration Opportunity Knocks for Obama on TradeBy Edward AldenJan. 8, 2013 With TPP and TTIP, U.S. and EU Reassert Control Over Rules of Global TradeBy […]

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