When hundreds of thousands of Darfuri refugees flooded across the Chad-Sudan border in 2003, fleeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing orchestrated by the Sudanese government and its militia proxies, the U.N. and various aid groups raced to help. Humanitarian workers built a vast and sophisticated network of refugee camps to house as many as 300,000 people. The European Union and, later, the U.N. deployed peacekeepers to protect the camps. By 2008, the refugee camps in eastern Chad had become a self-contained society, one of the biggest and seemingly most permanent in all the world. It was also a major reason […]

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A 2008 visa-free travel agreement between Russia and Brazil came into effect earlier this month, spurring tourism and closer ties between the two BRIC countries. In an e-mail interview, Oliver Stuenkel, a fellow with the Global Public Policy Institute, discusses the potential for commercial and political cooperation among BRIC member states. WPR: What is the current state of trade and visa restrictions between BRIC countries? Oliver Stuenkel: Since June 2010, Brazilian and Russian tourists do not need visas to pass or stay on the countries’ territories up to 90 days within each six-month-period from the first entry. This does not […]

The first official visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Washington last week offers a convenient opportunity to assess the current Russian-U.S. relationship. Since assuming office, one of the priorities of U.S. President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team has been to improve ties with Russia and other foreign governments that had become alienated from the United States. Relations between Washington and Moscow became especially strained in 2007 and 2008 following the acute confrontations that arose over the planned U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia’s August 2008 War with Georgia, and other issues. Despite […]

Perhaps the most surprising feature of the protracted crisis in Kyrgyzstan is what has not happened: Neither of Eurasia’s two preeminent regional security institutions, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), have coordinated a military intervention in that country. The mass protests, deaths, and refugee crisis involving perhaps 1 million people has represented one of the most acute challenges to Eurasian stability in the history of either organization, both of which were founded almost a decade ago. In mid-June 2010, the Kyrgyz interim authorities even directly appealed for Russian military intervention on their behalf, but […]

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Human rights advocates and Russian opposition figures are criticizing two legislative proposals before the Russian legislature that impose restrictions on the rights to free speech and political expression reminiscent of Soviet-era repression. A recent bill, passed by the Duma on June 11, will expand the powers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to anticipate extremist activities and take pre-emptive measures against individuals and groups the agency suspects of such activities. The FSB was created in 1995 as Russia’s successor intelligence agency to the KGB. The language of the bill — which includes the authority to “eliminate causes and conditions that […]

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I had the pleasure of participating on France 24’s discussion panel, The World This Week, on Friday to recap the stories of the week: the G-20 summit, the McChrystal firing, the elections in Guinea, and the politicization of soccer. The other guests were Matthew Saltmarsh of the IHT, Célestine Bohlen, and Michael Kirtley. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. This was one of the rare times I’ve participated on this program where, upon leaving the set, I wasn’t immediately struck by everything I should have said, or how I might have expressed what I […]

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President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held a joint press conference after meeting at the White House. The leaders discussed areas of disagreement such as Georgia and areas of progress and collaboration such as non-proliferation and quelling violence in Kyrgyzstan. Obama discussed Medvedev’s visit to California’s Silicon Valley where the he met with industry leaders in an effort to lay the groundwork for Russia’s own version of the high-tech hub.

In the early 18th century, King Vakhtang VI of the ancient Georgian kingdom of Karlti watched as his land was overcome with chaos and warfare. Having traded his vassalage to Persian overlords for allegiance to Peter the Great, the Georgian king was unexpectedly abandoned by his new allies and saw his kingdom brought to ruin by the onslaught of Persians, Ottomans, Afghans, and Russians. Vakhtang’s submission would eventually lead to Georgia’s total capitulation to Russian domination in the 19th century and Soviet rule in the 20th. Today, the dynamics that marked the tumult of the 18th century are no less […]

Are the deck chairs being reshuffled on the Titanic that is the Afghan war? First, Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced the resignations of his interior minister, Hanif Atmar, and the head of his intelligence services, Amrullah Saleh. Next, the U.K. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, went on indefinite leave, turning over his post to his deputy. Now, in the aftermath of the infamous Rolling Stone profile, U.S. President Barack Obama has removed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus. What is interesting to note, of course, […]

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Apparently I wasn’t the only person who, in watching the North Korean soccer team’s World Cup matches, flinched every time one of their players screwed up, wondering what awaited them when they returned home. It turns out I should have been more concerned with the fate of the French national team, whose World Cup implosion has triggered the kind of absolute unity of opinion one rarely encounters here. But the popular outrage has become a political pile-on, with Thierry Henry scheduled to consult with President Nicolas Sarkozy at Elysée Palace today, and an Estates General of the country’s soccer federation […]

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Turkey’s civil nuclear program has recently gained momentum with a signed deal with Russia to build the country’s first nuclear power plant and talks of a possible $20 billion contract with South Korea for the construction of up to four nuclear energy reactors. In an e-mail interview, Henri Barkey, professor at Lehigh University and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discusses Turkey’s nuclear ambitions. WPR: What is driving Turkey’s renewed interest in nuclear energy? Henri Barkey: There are three reasons. First, the Iran debate has highlighted how far behind Turkey is on nuclear energy, as there are […]

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When Roza Otunbayeva came to power at the head of the Kyrgyz interim government in April, she knew that the road ahead was going to be tough. Her program of constitutional reform, new elections, and a jump-start for the country’s stagnating economy would have been difficult even in less uncertain times. But since the spring, Otunbayeva has been faced with a spate of riots, murders, violent clashes and burning villages in the south of the country, culminating in the flight of an estimated 400,000 Uzbeks and the death of more than 2,000 Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in violent riots over the […]

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A Congressional report, released Monday, detailing how taxpayer money is going into the pockets of Afghan warlords in return for protecting NATO truck convoys has drawn attention to an immense logistical problem in Afghanistan that gets only intermittent attention: resupplying NATO forces in the conflict. Hopefully the House will broaden its investigation to take in the broader issue of the cost and security of the resupply lines themselves. The high cost of providing American and other allied troops with everything from ammunition to condoms is a key reason why keeping a soldier on the ground there costs almost double what […]

As if to provide yet one more piece of evidence of the Afghan tragedy, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report yesterday showing the devastating effects of domestically produced opium on Afghanistan’s own population. It complements other studies (.pdf) that have highlighted the suffering that Afghan opium, heroin, and other opiates cause in other countries. Taken together, the reports make it clear that solving the Afghan drug challenge will require a comprehensive multilateral approach. Yesterday’s UNODC report (.pdf), entitled “Drug Use in Afghanistan: 2009 Survey,” confirms a pattern seen in the international evolution of the […]

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I explained in detail last week why I think the “Turkey turning East” meme is overblown in a dipomatic context. On the other hand, the fact that Turkish trade is turning East strikes me as a far more significant development, for Turkey, but also, if not more so, for the EU. In the absence of a credible hard power global role, the EU’s real influence comes in the form of its market’s ability to attract partners and thereby spread norms. With European growth projections looking bleak for the next few years, this trend is likely to become generalized, meaning that […]

In terms of foreign policy rhetoric, the Mediterranean has always represented a “special” interest for Italy, in part due to its geographical location. But the amount of resources and commitment Rome has mobilized for its Mediterranean foreign policy has never been commensurate with its declared ambitions. In practice, Italy’s Mediterranean policy since the end of the Cold War has been a function of its bipolar domestic political system, and largely linked to the role Rome has tried to play in the other two, fundamental pillars of Italian interests: the transatlantic partnership and the process of European integration. Although far from […]

BRUSSELS — With the euro plunging and budgets across the continent tightening, European Union member states are betting on an export-driven recovery from recession and the current debt crisis. A cheaper euro has allowed the eurozone export sector to regain competitiveness, as the common currency has fallen against the dollar from $1.50 to a four-year low of $1.20. At the same time, the eurozone’s external trade surplus showed a year-on-year increase in March, growing from €1.6 billion in 2009 to €4.5 billion this year. Year-on-year industrial production also grew by €9.5 billion from April 2009 to April 2010. The euro’s […]

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