The Ukraine crisis has once again highlighted a fundamental weakness of the U.S. national security process: its inability to hold to long-term planning in the midst of short-term crises. The entire Crimea imbroglio has been a gift to China’s leaders, further delaying the vaunted U.S. “rebalance” toward Asia. At the beginning of 2014, with war over the use of WMDs in Syria off the table, the prospects for a long-term troop presence in Afghanistan looking dim and a settlement with Iran over its nuclear program possibly within reach, it seemed that, at long last, Washington might finally begin to match […]

When the Cold War ended, the days of imperial expansion seemed to go with it. No one expected the revanchism of bygone empires to affect, much less shape, the 21st-century global security system. But that is exactly what is happening. Al-Qaida is using the dream of a long-lost Arab empire to justify terrorism. China is yearning for territory it owned centuries ago and seems willing to use its rising economic and military power to regain it. And now Russia has joined the revanchists by invading Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory. As a result, policymakers, military strategists […]

The Crimea crisis has given realists a field day for attacking the belief structures of rules-based internationalists. Ukraine just paid the price of giving up its nuclear weapons 20 years ago, we hear, and the Budapest Memorandum guarantees of Ukraine’s borders did nothing to change Moscow’s behavior. Integrating Russia into international economic institutions proved equally meaningless. As for human rights and the rule of law, everyone knows they don’t matter when the vital national interests of great powers are at stake. The reality, however, is more complicated. The fabric of international norms actually functioned as intended on the nuclear issue. […]

Right now, the U.S. foreign policy community should not be engaging in its favorite pastime of assigning blame for the situation in Crimea. Nor, given ongoing problems in other parts of the world—rising tensions in the Far East, the future of the Iran nuclear initiative, the fate of the protest movement in Venezuela—does Washington have the luxury of focusing on the Ukrainian crisis at the expense of other, equally pressing concerns. Instead, the focus right now needs to be on formulating a new policy toward Russia that is not subject to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics, and to situate […]

The ongoing crisis in Crimea has put many world leaders in awkward positions, but perhaps none more than Alexander Lukashenko. The president of Belarus since 1994, Lukashenko has just witnessed two of his worst nightmares in neighboring Ukraine. First, he watched as a mass movement in the streets of Kiev overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, a fellow client of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then the Russian Duma voted to give Putin the power to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty in order to “protect Russia’s interests and those of Russian-speakers,” which Putin promptly did. Since at least 70 percent of Belarusians are Russian-speakers (though only […]

The crisis in Ukraine has presented NATO with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to reassure its nervous members and partners about their security while deterring further Russian military aggression. The opportunity is that the crisis may rescue the alliance from perceived irrelevancy after the end of its major role in the Afghanistan War this year and against the backdrop of the ongoing U.S. military focus on East Asia and the Middle East. In a speech here in Washington yesterday at the Brookings Institution, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen termed Russia’s seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine […]

Over the past few years, Turkey’s “zero problem with neighbors” policy has become something of a joke. After some initial successes at resolving problems with surrounding states, Turkey is now the only major country without ambassadors in Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously. One major exception was arguably Turkey’s relations with Russia, which have remained solid despite differences over Syria, Iran and other issues. Now the Crimea crisis has confronted Turkey with the most serious challenge to its Russian policy since the Cold War. Until losing the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, the Ottoman Empire held sovereignty over Crimea, which was then […]

Central Asia has looked with alarm to the events in Ukraine, where massive protests have led to the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed dictator and the subsequent Russian invasion of Crimea. The region’s autocrats are worried by the fact that street protests were able to oust a strongman in a fellow ex-Soviet state. At the same time, Russia’s heavy-handed intervention in a former Soviet republic has unsettled Central Asians, who see themselves as Moscow’s next potential target. Russia’s move in Crimea is especially salient for Kazakhstan, which has a large ethnic Russian population concentrated on the country’s border with Russia. President […]

Editor’s note: WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Richard Gowan, who will be taking a leave of absence until June. As has become increasingly evident to observers of global politics over the past several years, we live in a Gramscian moment of systemic crisis, where in the interregnum between an old order on its deathbed and a new one not yet born, “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The latest of these symptoms is on display in Ukraine, where Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea highlights the waning power of the post-Cold War liberal order, even […]

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk traveled to Washington on Wednesday to plead for urgent U.S. help for his country, especially emergency assistance in coping with the country’s dire economic straits. Yet two polls of U.S. public opinion released this week will be little comfort to those pundits who advocate a more assertive American foreign policy, particularly in dealing with the current crisis in Ukraine. The Pew Center released data indicating that 56 percent of Americans eschew any major U.S. involvement in Ukraine, especially in confronting Russia over the situation in Crimea. A related CNN poll reveals only 6 percent […]

No secular organization has ever peacefully deprived states of as much sovereignty as has the European Union. National autonomy to regulate the environment, labor, the professions, antitrust, consumer protection, food and product safety, agriculture, advertising and almost any other area one can think of, even highly sensitive ones such as criminal law and civil procedure, has been gradually constrained over the years by rules coming from the EU. Often the source of these rules is EU legislation, usually in the form of directives, which are laws that contain instructions to the member states to take certain action or implement certain […]

Russia’s military occupation and impending annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine has put Beijing in a difficult spot, confronting Chinese leaders with numerous competing priorities and principles. Having cultivated good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, they would prefer to avoid antagonizing one party by siding too closely with the other. Yet, China’s recent approach shows how Beijing is now more willing to dilute longstanding foreign policy principles to align with Moscow. Throughout the months of unrest in Ukraine, Chinese media commentary has generally echoed Russia’s line that Western machinations were contributing to the instability in Kiev, which finally led […]

Will Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama ultimately benefit most from the crisis in Ukraine? Most pundits are betting on the former. The Russian president has pulled off a bravura display of ruthless guile in seizing control of Crimea. His American counterpart has looked limited, calculating that Moscow will want an “off ramp” out of a crisis that currently seems to be going Moscow’s way. Obama’s critics have naturally attributed Putin’s aggression to U.S. weakness, even though Washington has pushed for sanctions and other punitive measures. But Obama may emerge as the final winner. This is not because Russia will let […]

The Realist Prism: Obama Must Choose What Comes Next for U.S.-Russia

It’s safe to say that the U.S.-Russia reset is now dead and buried. It was already losing steam, in part because the low-hanging fruit it offered had already been harvested—and because many of the “concessions” made by both sides at the high point of the reset in 2010 and 2011 were decisions that Moscow or Washington would have taken anyway. The Obama administration’s decision, for instance, to cancel the Bush administration’s plan to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic was guided as much by concerns about cost and technical infeasibility as it was about improving […]

No, this is not a “war for oil,” to cite the old cliche. But behind all the maneuvering, speculation and strategizing in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and the West, oil and gas reserves and the pipelines that turn them into cash lie in the background, just a step behind the principal action. Russia’s vast hydrocarbon stocks figure into the calculations of the major players, who worry Moscow may deploy them once again as a weapon. Oil has played a decisive role in the arsenal of geopolitical disputes. And Russia has proved willing to use its massive exports of natural gas […]

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is an accomplished fact, but many questions remain unanswered regarding the crisis. Perhaps the most important of these are how far Russia will go, what steps the West can take to resist Russian belligerence and what economic consequences will ensue from Russia’s actions. Thus far, Russian forces have only occupied the Crimean peninsula. While it is possible they will go no farther, it remains unclear under what conditions Russian troops would end their occupation. Moscow might decide to occupy the region for a while simply to pry various concessions from Kiev, such as a pledge […]

Russia’s military and diplomatic opposition to the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has raised concern that Russia might cut off Ukraine’s gas as it has in previous disputes, disrupting broader European energy markets. In an email interview, Keith Smith, a former U.S. ambassador to Lithuania who is currently a distinguished resident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, explained how Russia’s leverage over energy markets has changed since it last cut off gas supplies to Ukraine. The views expressed here are Smith’s and do not represent those of any organization. WPR: How has Ukraine’s position in the […]

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