Competition and Cooperation in U.S.-Russia Relations

A new IISS report (via the Times of London) finding that, despite symbolic demonstrations of force, the Russian military still suffers from the effects of twenty years of neglect will come as no surprise to WPR readers, as Richard Weitz covered that ground already. Same goes for this Jamestown Foundation report on the impact of the financial crisis on Russia’s defense industry and much-needed military modernization program, which Richard foresaw as well. (Although the news that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is now targeting the defense industry for mismanagement and inefficiencies makes running a Chinese dairy seem like a secure job.) […]

GADHAFI REACHES OUT — In recent days, Washington has been the target of a mini-media blitz by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including an op-ed piece in the New York Times and a video conference with Georgetown University students. The advertised purpose of both was to push Gadhafi’s idea of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, which he calls Isratine. But as commentator Dana Moss points out in the Guardian this week, the quirky Libyan leader is reaching out to the Obama administration “using his stance towards Israel as bait.” According to a Libyan source in Tripoli, Gadhafi is disappointed […]

Obama, Europe and the Arab World

There’s not really a whole lot to take issue with concerning the content of President Barack Obama’s interview with Al Arabiya. In terms of the scripted aspects — Israelis’ right to security, Palestinians’ right to a state — he was on point, and where he ventured off the script, it was to offer some compelling improvisation. For me, three things stood out: the remarks about his Muslim family members; his reference not to Israelis and Palestinians, but to Israeli and Palestinian children; and his emphasis on listening. What they all had in common was the way in which they personalized […]

The Reality of Afghanistan

I mentioned last week that France is facing severe budgetary pressureson its military deployments abroad. In the last few days, PrimeMinister François Fillon and Defense Minister Hervé Morin have announced the goal of reducing foreign deployments, now numbering 13000troops, by roughly 20 percent, or 3000 troops. So far, thecuts announced have been in African missions that are largely completed(Ivory Coast) or that will be relieved by the UN (Chad, where 600 outof 1800 French troops will remain). In addition, the two navy vesselsdeployed to the UNIFIL maritime mission in Lebanon are being removed,although it’s not clear if they will be […]

Russia Kinda’ Sorta’ Suspends Iskander Deployment

The European press (Guardian here, Le Figaro here, and EU Observer here) is citing a Russian Defense Ministry source who claims that Russia has suspended its plans to deploy Iskander missiles just across the border from Poland following American signals that Washington would “reconsider” European-based missile defense. The Russian state press agency, meanwhile, is citing a Russian Defense Ministry source who claims that “. . .it is inappropriate and premature to talk about practical steps to implement or suspend these plans.” The WPR blog, for its part, is citing a gut feeling that this — along with the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t agreement […]

The Nabucco Pipe Dream

Patrick Frost at the FPA’s Afghanistan and Central Asia blog flags a meeting of high-level participants in the EU’s Nabucco pipeline project. Frost’s rundown on the state of play is about the most thorough and concise analysis I’ve read of the issue, and well worth clicking through to read. Most Nabucco observers remain skeptical for two principal reasons. On the demand side, the commitment level of the European consortium torealizing the project has never met the threshhold to make it worth thepolitical risks (i.e. Russian retaliation) for the supplier and transitcountries involved. On the supply side, it’s unclear whether Turkmenistan […]

Rediscovering Trade Barriers

Guess what happens to Chinese products once destined for Western economies that can no longer afford them? They find destinations closer to home (via 2point6billion): Indian markets saw a flood of Chinese made toys in the second half of2008 after many western countries decided not to import toysmanufactured in China anymore. Besides a lack of capital, westernimporters decided to “buy American” also due to recent qualityproblems. Guess what happens to Chinese products that try to find destinations closer to home? They get turned away: India on Friday banned Chinese-made toys for six months in order toprotect the domestic industry which […]

Stop Hating on the EU

I did another appearance on France 24 this evening, my first in French. (I’ll have a link when it goes online tomorrow.) And while waiting in the green room — which is neither green, nor really a room — I chatted with an American journalist here in Paris. He was very dismissive of Nicolas Sarkozy’s efforts to broker a Gaza ceasefire, saying that in conducting an independent diplomatic mission that simultaneously overshadowed and undermined the EU’s concurrent mission, Sarkozy had effectively signalled the death knell of the EU’s common foreign policy. And I responded by saying that if so, perhaps […]

The Bridge to Nowhere

Patrick Barry at Demcoracy Arsenal says, “Not so fast,” on those Russian supply routes for Afghanistan. Seems like the Russians are denying that any formal agreement was reached. Frankly, I’d been surprised by the initial reports that the Russians had given the go ahead. President Obama has yet to clarify his stance on European-based missile defense and NATO expansion, and I doubt anything on the U.S.-Russia agenda will budge a whole lot until he does.

Taken as a whole, the European Union disposes of enormous foreign policy resources. Its population is larger than that of the United States or Russia. Its members have approximately 2,000 diplomatic missions. It provides more foreign aid than any individual country. Indeed, since its formation in 1993, the EU has striven to bolster its collective foreign policy capabilities, based on the underlying assumption that even the most powerful EU members will have more international influence when they unite around a common position and speak with a single voice than when they act alone. Yet, the EU’s Common Foreign and Security […]

ICC TRIAL TO TAKE AIM AT CHILD SOLDIER USE — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court hope the impending trial of Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga will focus international attention on the plight of child soldiers, and serve as a warning to others around the world that use of children in combat will result in prosecution. Lubanga is charged with three counts of war crimes for recruiting child soldiers into the armed wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots group. Hundreds of children as young as 10, prosecutors charge, were kidnapped or recruited by Lubanga, then beaten, […]

Worst Case Scenarios for Afghanistan

Rob over at Arabic Media Shack makes two good points, one strategic and one political, regarding my earlier post on France and Afghanistan, which I neglected to make in focusing on the financial and material constraints facing our European allies with regards to troop increases: Looking at this from the French perspective, it’s hard for me to see whyit’s in French interests to send troops to Afghanistan. If the U.S. shipis sinkingin Afghanistan, as many are saying, why should France jumpon board, given their long-term interest in maintaining a globalforeign policy independent of the United States? Furthermore,US-Europe relations during Bush […]

France, Afghanistan and the Price of Ambition

Apparently whoever blogs for the Economist found this Dan Drezner post a bit heavy on the French-bashing, too. (Drezner’s response here.) To be fair to Drezner, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin’s flat-out rejection of any troop increases in Afghanistan on the day after President Obama was sworn in was uncharacteristically clumsy. Morin’s a very savvy and articulate politician whose tenure as Defense Minister won me over despite the fact that he stabbed François Bayrou in the back to get it, and I’m sure that he’s already gotten an earful from Nicolas Sarkozy. Drezner also pointed out some of the public […]

China, France and the Dalai Lama

Interesting article in Le Figaro about the price France is paying for Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Poland last December. Sarkozy campaigned on a pretty strong human rights plank — with particularly robust rhetoric reserved for Russia — and chose Bernard Kouchner, a militant advocate of liberal interventionism, as his foreign minister. Since taking office, though, his approach to Russia has been pragmatic and surprisingly cordial. He also received Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi at Elysée Palace, a move condemned by even his own Undersecretary of Human Rights, Rama Yade. And as for Bernard Kouchner, although he’s been […]

Kosovo’s New Army

Reading this Der Spiegel piece about Kosovo’s new army, I found myself wondering which of today’s ethno-nationalist militias will become the world’s next national army. The Peshmerga of Iraqi Kurdistan would have to be pretty solid contenders, if it weren’t for the various factions in Somalia that already have a running head start. South Ossetia and Abkhazia already have what they claim to be national armed forces, so they’re out. Am I forgetting anyone?

A great deal of the fascination Barack Obama elicits in Europe is rooted in the acknowledgment that Europe lags behind the U.S. in the integration and political representation of its ethnic and religious minorities. Although a fifth of Germany’s residents are of foreign descent, for instance, less than 10 of the Bundestag’s 600-plus seats are occupied by ethnic minorities; the house of representatives of Vienna, Austria — where 25 percent of the city’s 2 million citizens originate from abroad — has only three. There are many causes of this lamentable state. Unlike America, which identifies as an immigrant country, national […]

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