South Korea’s Yonggwang Nuclear Power Plant, Feb. 25, 2013 (photo by Flickr user Korea Yonggwang NPP, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

Dropping oil prices and alternative sources have resulted in dramatic changes for the global energy sector. As new players and relationships emerge, traditional powers, particularly Russia, still wield energy as a geostrategic weapon. This report covers the politics of energy over the past year. As Oil Prices Drop, Some Seek Hidden Hands Behind Market ForcesBy Frida GhitisOct. 23, 2014 Europe EU Seeks Energy Security Solutions to Russian Gas ChallengeBy Richard WeitzJune 3, 2014 Russia’s Energy Ambitions Explain Putin’s Zigzags on UkraineBy Nikolas GvosdevJune 27, 2014 Russia’s Energy Leverage Over Europe, Ukraine Considerably DiminishedBy Keith SmithMarch 4, 2014 Turkey Positions Itself […]

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai walks with his Chinese President Xi Jinping outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Oct. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

As a former World Bank official, Columbia University academic and Afghan minister of finance, newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani faces high expectations to turn his country’s war-torn economy around. Having actually written the book on fixing failed states, he now faces the challenge of putting theory into practice. Ghani’s deep skepticism of the merits of foreign aid and extractive industries positions him well to avoid the pitfalls of putting either at the economy’s helm. While aid levels will likely decline as foreign troop numbers continue to dwindle, Ghani’s real challenge will be nurturing Afghanistan’s fragile minerals sector while managing […]

U.S., Australian and Chinese service members disembark from an Australian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter at a remote landing zone in Northern Territory, Australia, Oct. 12, 2014 (DoD photo by Cpl. Jake Sims, Australian Defense Force).

Earlier this month, Australian, U.S. and Chinese troops took part in a survival training exercise in northern Australia. In an email interview, Benjamin Schreer, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, discussed Australia’s military and strategic partnerships. WPR: What is the extent of Australia’s military engagement, in terms of joint exercises and dialogue, with China? Benjamin Schreer: In recent years, Australia’s military engagement with China has gradually increased. In 2012 both countries agreed on a “strategic partnership,” which included a commitment for an annual high-level dialogue. In September, the second Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue was held in Sydney. […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014 (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz).

The first so-called 2+2 meeting of the U.S. and South Korean foreign and defense ministers since Park Geun-hye became South Korea’s president took place last week in Washington. At the meeting, the two sides reaffirmed their global partnership and also made progress in walking back a commitment to transfer wartime command from U.S. to South Korean forces by the end of next year. However, South Korea and the United States have yet to overcome their differences regarding missile defense and how to counter North Korea’s new missile capabilities. After years of tense talks on the issue between the two countries, […]

An Iranian police officer stands behind drugs which were seized on the border with Afghanistan, June 1, 2014 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Iran has long had one of the world’s biggest drug addiction problems, but the government’s attitude toward the drug war remains rife with contradiction. Iran has taken drug addiction very seriously, as evidenced both by its extensive and heavy-handed law enforcement efforts and by the resources it puts toward prevention, treatment and harm-reduction programs. However, officials have at times downplayed the extent of the problem, as politicians have sought to paint a positive picture of the state of drug addiction in Iran. In a June speech, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said that Iran was home to 1.35 million addicts, […]

Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherje and Norwegian Prime Minster Erna Solberg, Oslo, Norway, Oct. 14, 2014 (Photo from the website of the Indian President).

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Norway in mid-October, the first by an Indian head of state, was a signal of India’s rising profile in the Arctic. Mukherjee signed 13 agreements with Norway, including one exploring avenues for joint military research between India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and Norway’s Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, known as FFI. Mukherjee also visited neighboring Finland, where he signed an additional 19 agreements, on everything from civilian nuclear cooperation to education and fishing. But the trip, coming a year after India gained observer status in the Arctic Council—an intergovernmental forum that includes eight member […]

President Barack Obama walks over to greet people after arriving in the snow at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H., March 1, 2012 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Editor’s note: Due to travel, Richard Gowan’s column will appear Wednesday this week. Nikolas Gvosdev’s column will appear Monday. How three presidents—Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin—and one institution—the European Union—grapple with and navigate the political challenges they will face this winter will have a profound impact in shaping global politics in the years to come. The decisions that are taken, or deferred, will determine whether current assumptions about the international order are reconfirmed or discarded. Those assumptions include the belief that most countries, including the rising and resurgent powers, still prioritize their relationships with Washington over bonding together […]

Oil pumps work at sunset in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain, Oct. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Hasan Jamali).

Oil occupies a special place in the world of international trade and in the public lore. No other commodity carries the political, strategic and tactical power of petroleum. Since it became the world’s primary fuel less than two centuries ago, oil has played a major role in shaping world events, triggering trade embargoes and colonial wars, making and breaking political alliances and always offering a justification, real or imagined, for international conflicts. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the recent precipitous drop in global oil prices has generated a flurry of conspiracy theories. Speculation about “the real cause” behind the current […]

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, or Jokowi as he prefers to be called, was sworn in Monday in Jakarta. However, he has yet to announce his Cabinet since Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) vetoed eight of his 43 nominations owing to their alleged involvement in graft cases and human rights violations. Corruption is a persistent concern in Indonesia and was a key issue during both the parliamentary and presidential elections this year. Writing about April’s parliamentary elections in World Politics Review, Andrew Thornley explained: The primary concern, with Indonesia’s elections and its governance in general, remains corruption, which colors elections […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

With crude oil prices down 25 percent since June and holding at roughly $86 a barrel on Tuesday, Venezuela is getting nervous. Lower prices will put greater strain on Venezuela’s oil-reliant economy as its government struggles with growing macroeconomic imbalances. Yet even with all the problems that reduced oil prices create for his administration, President Nicolas Maduro is doubling down on his current policies. By stalling in the hopes of a bailout in the form of higher oil prices or Chinese credit, instead of attempting politically unpopular restructuring, Maduro is ignoring cracks in his political and economic program. Booming commodity […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping talk during their meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Sept. 11, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klementyev, Presidential Press Service).

Russia and China are good friends these days. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Moscow last week and, by signing a bundle of economic agreements, demonstrated Beijing’s disregard for Western sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. Early in the Ukrainian conflict, American and European officials hoped that Beijing would take steps to penalize Russia over its annexation of Crimea. But it has confined itself to token complaints, while reinforcing its trade relations with its northern neighbor. This is not the first time China has disappointed Western officials by sticking close to Moscow in recent years. Throughout the Syrian civil war, American and […]

Chinese workers walk past the No.1 reactor at the Ningde Nuclear Power Plant in Ningde city, Fujian province, China, April 18, 2013 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

As it enters middle age, the nuclear energy industry is facing a question common at this stage of life: Does it still have exciting possibilities for growth, or are its best days behind it? Optimists who see nuclear energy as an appealing low-carbon option for combating climate change praise its stability and reliability over decades of operating experience, as well as the cheapness and reliability of uranium fuel supplies. Organizations like the International Energy Agency foresee substantial increases in nuclear-generated electricity over the next few decades, with the number of nuclear plants worldwide—currently at roughly 400—perhaps doubling or tripling. Yet, […]

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, front left, welcomes Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an honor cordon at the Pentagon, July 11, 2014 (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

On Oct. 8, after a year of intense effort, the Japanese and U.S. governments released an interim progress report on planned revisions to the guidelines framing their militaries’ respective roles in the joint defense of Japan. The report does not identify specific threats or discuss detailed scenarios for joint military operations, but it does provide a series of principles guiding the revisions and lists some types of cooperative activities they will cover. These principles and examples make clear that the two countries plan to expand the range of possible operations both geographically and functionally. The two governments’ foreign and defense […]

Chadian workers guide a pipe down a well in the Doba oil fields in southern Chad, Oct. 10, 2003 (AP photo by Susan Linnee).

Chad is currently in talks with the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) over oil-extraction licenses that were revoked due to environmental violations. In an email interview, Celeste Hicks, a freelance journalist specializing in Africa, discussed Chad’s oil sector. WPR: What is the extent of Chad’s oil sector, and what plans are there for further development? Celeste Hicks: Chad is currently producing about 130,00 barrels per day (bpd) of oil. Around 100,000 bpd comes from the Kome oil fields near the southern town of Doba, which is operated by a consortium led by Esso and Malaysia’s Petronas, and about 15,000 bpd […]

President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

Over the next decade, the United States may play a smaller role in the management of global security, hold steady on its current course or even try returning to the halcyon days of unipolarity. But as Sun Tzu, the great philosopher of war, wrote, a military commander who tries to be strong everywhere ends up being strong nowhere. That also applies to grand strategy. So whatever course American strategy takes, the U.S. must have regional partners. While everyone recognizes that the U.S. must lean heavily on others, it can be easy to forget that strategic partnerships come in several varieties. […]

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 30, 2014 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Last week’s meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington provides a convenient benchmark to assess where U.S. foreign policy is as we approach the final stretch of the current administration. A consistent theme of Obama’s presidency has been the inability to pivot from crisis management to longer-term planning. With regard to the latter goal, the value of stronger ties with a rising power like India is clear. Yet, it is telling that the meeting took place even as the Obama administration struggles to manage the Ebola pandemic in West Africa, the fight against […]

President Barack Obama escorts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Sept. 30, 2014 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to the United States last week garnered massive media and think tank attention during the month before it occurred, but little coverage or reflection since then. This is mainly due to the limited concrete results achieved by the visit, compared to the heightened expectations of what some hoped the trip might achieve. Modi did meet with President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials. But he did not receive the lavish official attention shown his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, during Singh’s November 2009 state visit to Washington. Modi seemed to brush it off, expressing […]

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