Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty

One of Nicolas Sarkozy’s first major European successes upon taking office last year was the negotiaiton of the Lisbon Treaty, which basically amounts to a do-over of the EU Constitutional treaty that was torpedoed by French and Dutch referenda in 2005. If approved, the Lisbon Treaty will basically free Europe from almost a decade of institutional paralysis that has basically cost proponents of further European integration ten years of precious time. Sarkozy managed to have the new treaty passed by parliamentary vote here in France this past February, causing a minor outrage but no lasting fallout. Ireland, on the other […]

The African Union launched an invasion of a separatist-controlled island off the coast of Mozambique last week in part, to bolster the multilateral organization’s image abroad. Around 1,300 AU troops joined 400 Comorian government troops to oust Col. Mohamed Bacar from Anjouan, one of the three islands that make up the Union of the Comoros. In a one-day fight, the AU-Comorian troops gained full control of the island, and Bacar fled to French-controlled Mayotte, the other island on the Comorian archipelago. The only problem for the AU was that hardly anyone noticed the successful mission. In the United States, there […]

In a March 26 interview at the White House with foreign journalists, U.S. President George W. Bush said he had accepted an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral issues at Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on April 6. Remarking that “It’s important that we have good relations with Russia,” Bush characterized the summit as “a follow-up” to the March 17-18 meeting between senior U.S. and Russian national security officials in Moscow. That “2+2” meeting — which included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the American side, and Foreign Minister Sergei […]

Imagine for a moment that the province of Quebec secedes from Canada, becomes an independent nation, and chooses to call itself “Vermont.” Or that the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon breaks from Mexico and becomes the independent nation of “Texas.” How would the United States respond to these developments? Would these names imply that the new countries have a claim on American territory? Does the name of the state of New Mexico create a claim on Mexico’s territory? These are exactly the types of questions facing Greece and Macedonia right now, as a long-simmering dispute comes to a head. NATO […]

Switzerland’s Social Democratic foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has a subtle approach to the issues that fall within her area of responsibility. When it is a matter of deciding between Swiss business interests and the upholding of human rights, her answer is: “we can do both!” The latest example is the gas deal between the Laufenberg Electricity Company (EGL) and Iran that was signed last week in Tehran in the foreign minister’s presence. Calmy-Rey let it be known that she used the visit to Tehran to explain matters of particular concern to her: among them the “pursuit of the human rights […]

PARIS — U.N. refugee camps in Chad’s eastern province now provide shelter to more than 200,000 Darfur refugees and close to the same number of Chadians displaced by their country’s civil war. But in the absence of any governmental control over the area, both the refugees and relief workers have been increasingly targeted by border-crossing insurgents, militias, and organized bandits that use the region as safe harbor, exacerbating an already desperate humanitarian crisis. The European Union peacekeeping force currently deploying just inside Chad’s border with Darfur was mandated last September by the United Nations to fill the security vacuum that […]

Downblended Uranium

Usually when the Bush administration appeals a lower court ruling to the Supreme Court, I start feeling a little queasy. Not this time. As Miles Pomper points out in this WPR feature, there are some really good reasons to worry about relaxing restrictions on Russian uranium exports to the American nuclear industry. So much is made of the threat of fissile material falling into the wrong hands, and the program to downblend Russia’s weapons grade uranium is one of the few lasting successes of the immediate post-Cold War period. Finding a way to make the program attractive enough to renew […]

Egypt, Russia and the Nuclear Middle East

Marc Lynch gave a comic roundup of yesterday’s Middle East nuclear energy news (the U.S. and Bahrain signed an MoU, and the UAE announced the start of their partnership with France) before wondering, “Seriously, does anyone else find the GCC’s rush to acquire ‘peaceful nuclear energy programs’ and the West’s seeming enthusiasm for the prospect a bit odd?” The long answer is here, a WPR article by yours truly on France’s nuclear diplomacy in the Muslim world, which I think gives a good summary of why, despite some basic security concerns, there’s no real need for alarm just yet. But […]

SO WHO WILL LEAD IN RUSSIA? — The election of Dmitry Medvedev as Russia’s new president, and the virtual certainty that departing President Vladimir Putin will take over as prime minister has produced a new power-sharing situation, and a new buzzword to describe it: diarchy. Coming up with the term was the easy part. The hard part is carving up the territory before the May changeover. Lyudmila Alexandrovna, a columnist for ITAR-TASS says Putin’s aide, Igor Shuvalov, has been instructed to “draw up a new structure of executive power . . . in which the office of future Prime Minister […]

U.S.-Russia Talks: No Breakthroughs

While the Moscow meeting between Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates and their Russian counterparts did not produce any breakthroughson the missile defense standoff, all reports suggested that there were some more wide-ranging strategic proposals on the table and that the mood was noticeably lighter thanprevious meetings. So I was surprised to see reports this morning ofRussian disappointment over promised written proposals that were not delivered. Apparently, though, that was atechnical glitch that was later ironed out. Frequent WPR contributor Richard Weitz has a good overview in the National Interest of some of the broader arms-control challengesfacing America and Russia. One thing […]

Today (March 19), Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House. The two heads of state will make an appropriately supportive mutual statement, particularly since the visit will mark Saakashvili’s first visit to the United States since his reelection in January. Nevertheless, the display of close presidential ties may not prove sufficient to restore Saakashvili’s luster as the leading democrat in the Caucasus, ensure Georgia’s territorial integrity, or enable Georgia to enter NATO — the most immediate mutual foreign policy objective of the two governments. In early January 2008, Mikhail Saakashvili won […]

Sarkozy the Middleman

Continuing on this week’s U.S.-France-Russia theme, it looks like there’s some more anecdotal evidence for a working arrangement taking shape. I’ve argued before that Nicolas Sarkozy is a valuable asset for the U.S., because he’s got a knack for identifying the doable deals and then getting them done. He’s never going to roll over for Washington, mind you. But where there are interests that overlap, he’s very effective at bringing people together. I get the feeling that he’s identified Putin and Bush as two guys he can reason with who have had trouble reasoning with each other recently. And that’s […]

Bush’s Strategic Framework for Russia

Just when I was getting set to declare that we’ve now entered into the “Case by Case Era” of global geopolitics, where strategic grand bargains will be set aside in favor of short memories, coalitions of the willing, and an atomized approach to crisis management, the IHT reports that Condoleeza Rice and Bob Gates are in Moscow to “dot the i’s” on a private letter sent to Vladimir Putin by President Bush laying out his vision for a new strategic framework between the U.S. and Russia. Now, that’s not just an 86-word, five-clause opening sentence. It’s also pretty good news. […]

Globalization’s Unintended Consequences

What do you get when you take a Finnish rock group that calls itself Leningrad Cowboys, back them up with the Red Army Choir, and put them in front of a stadium full of screaming Russian teenagers to sing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama? Thanks to this YouTube clip (via Russia Blog), the answer to that burning question is now just a click away. To proponents of globalization, I have just one question: Does your conscience bother you? Now tell the truth. . .

The EU and the Mediterranean

This is the best rundown of the demise of Nicolas Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union that I’ve read so far. A Fistful of Euro’s Alex Harrowell argues that the announcement of a Brussels-centric Union for the Mediterranean is good news for Angela Merkel (demonstrating the degree of her EU influence), good news for the Mediterranean (which gains a more solid footing in future EU relations), and good news for the EU (which avoids the complications of potentially competing institutional agendas). The big loser is Nicolas Sarkozy, who had proposed the M.U. during last year’s presidential campaign in part as a way to […]

Russia’s European Courtship

The other day, I flagged what seemed to be significant developments in Russia-EU and Russia-NATO relations. Specifically, Russia’s offer of material support (six to eight desperately needed helicopters) to the EUFOR Chad mission, as well as logistical support (relaxed supply transport restrictions) for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Today, M K Bhadrakumar has an Asia Times Online article that provides some context to the NATO angle. Basically, Russia is taking advantage of the desperate situation in Afghanistan to float a comprehensive proposal that would essentially break NATO’s (read: America’s) monopoly on stabilization efforts in Afghanistan in particular, but in the […]

Russia and the ‘Stans

It looks like the Nabucco gas pipeline project just took another hit. Russia just announced an agreement with the ‘Stans (Khazak-, Turkmeni-, and Uzbeki-) raising its purchase price of their gas to European market rates, thereby appropriating one of the major attractions of the U.S.-EU offer. As this analysis points out, though, the deal is something of a trade-off for Russia, since it complicates their South Stream pipeline project by reducing marginal profits that pipeline would have offered its southern European partners. That, more than the dissolution of the Serbian parliament, might be what motivated remarks by Serbia’s parliamentary speaker […]

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