DENPASAR, Indonesia — Washington’s decision to partially lift the ban on contact with Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces command has angered human rights organizations within the country and beyond. The decision, which had been rumored for some time, was announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a meeting last Thursday with Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta. The ban on Kopassus was part of a U.S. military embargo imposed more than a decade ago in response to repeated human rights abuses committed by Kopassus units and by Indonesia’s military, the TNI, in Papua, Aceh and East Timor. The […]

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British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments in support of Turkey’s EU membership bid offer a good opportunity to underline an important point: The question of whether or not Turkey belongs in the EU was already decided when the union offered Turkey membership. Clearly, member states enjoy a wide range of political methods for dragging out or blocking the subsequent negotiation chapters. Slovenia, for instance, has used its veto power to block Croatia’s membership negotiations over a border dispute that the two have since agreed to resolve by arbitration. It’s also worth mentioning that Turkey has played a significant role in […]

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It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention yet, but the Israeli helicopter that crashed in Romania is actually a major story. The copter had flown non-stop to Romania, with an in-flight refueling over Greece, as part of a “joint” air exercise designed to sharpen the IAF’s long-range search-and-rescue capabilities in unfamiliar terrain. In the past, the IAF has conducted similar drills, as well as long-range mock bombing runs, in Greek airspace. The implications of this latest setback for Israel’s military on a theoretical airstrike against Iran are significant. If this was a psychological operation targeting Tehran, it backfired. If it […]

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There have been a couple of “confirmed” inflection points in the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, Russia and China in the past few weeks, and the contrast between the outcomes is revealing, both about the relative challenges of the three portfolios, but also about the relative development of the three countries. With regard to Iran, although there are not yet any concrete outcomes, the Obama administration’s strategy of open-ended engagement accompanied by staged sanctions has clearly isolated Tehran, to an extent that many critics of the Obama approach — myself included — did not anticipate. In the past week, Iran […]

KYIV, Ukraine — To many observers, Ukraine’s recently elected President Viktor Yanukovych is the same pro-Russian stooge he was in 2004, when he walked away the loser of the Orange Revolution that catapulted pro-Western former President Viktor Yushchenko into power. The apparent evidence of Yanukovych’s pro-Moscow slant abounds. Since taking office in February, he extended the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s lease on its Ukrainian base in Sevastopol, a move attacked by opponents as endangering Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also signed an array of cooperation agreements across several sectors during one of his many meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. And he […]

A very alarmist mood has lately become the norm among experts of Islam in Europe. Is Europe doomed to become an extension of the Arab West? If you ask the eminent historian Bernard Lewis, the answer is yes. Migration and demography are working toward creating “Eurabia.” This allegedly unstoppable march of Islam in Europe is causing unprecedented anxiety for both Europeans and Americans. Emotions run high, and facts are in short supply on both sides of the Atlantic. Americans are understandably concerned about the “next” Sept. 11. After all, wasn’t Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers that struck that […]

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Last week, Greek forces intercepted Turkish fighter jets while on training flights over the Aegean Sea. In an e-mail interview, Dr. Petros Vamvakas, assistant professor of Political Science at Emmanuel College, explains the context for the airspace dispute between Turkey and Greece. WPR: What is the nature of the airspace dispute between the two countries? Petros Vamvakas: The airspace dispute is one component of a more complex quarrel between neighbors. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Seas (UNCLOS) favors Greece, an archipelagic state, since extension of territorial waters to 12 nautical miles would effectively result in 90 […]

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The United Nations International Court of Justice released its advisory opinion that Kosovo’s declaration of independence does not violate international law. The decision is non-binding. Russia Today talks to Bojan Brkic, a foreign policy editor at Serbian Public TV to get the Serbian reaction to the decision. Brkic acknowledges that Serbia will have to face the Kosovo accession issue before moving toward EU membership.

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Pretty hard to fathom how, years after it became widely apparent that we’re facing a global shortage of helicopters, we still read stories like this one. Obviously, the transfer of two Swedish helicopters from anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden to an EU defense standby brigade isn’t going to have a huge impact on global security. But this is one reason why Russia is looking like an attractive partner for both EU defense and NATO missions. (The other being that both Iraq and Afghanistan operate mainly Soviet-era helicopter fleets.) You’d think we’d have at least seen some sort of […]

The 2014 Afghan security plan unveiled by President Hamid Karzai this week at the international conference in Kabul raises once again the question of whether the U.S. and NATO are moving towards a 21st century variant of the “Najibullah strategy” as they seek to determine their end game in Afghanistan. The reference is to the regime of Mohamed Najibullah, the Afghan leader at the time the Soviet Union withdrew its combat forces from Afghanistan in 1989. The Afghan government that the Soviets left behind controlled the major population centers as well as some of the rural regions of the country, […]

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The Russian and South Korean coast guards held joint anti-piracy and anti-terrorism drills in the Sea of Japan earlier this month. In an e-mail interview, Richard Weitz, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a World Politics Review senior editor, discusses the historical context and changing dynamics of Russia-South Korea relations. WPR: How have bilateral relations between Russia and South Korea evolved since the end of the Cold War? Richard Weitz: During most of the 1990s, the new Russian Federation under President Boris Yeltsin shunned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) while pursuing better ties with the Republic of […]

The member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) finally took resolute action to assist fellow member, Kyrgyzstan, which remains vulnerable to further mass violence and other disorders due to its multiple difficulties. At a meeting this weekend, the foreign ministers of the 56-state grouping endorsed a package plan to increase the OSCE’s presence in the region as a catalyst to mobilize additional international support for the beleaguered country. The same governments will meet again in a few days, at a session of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, where they should endorse the intervention package. […]

With his recent selections of Gens. David Petraeus and James Mattis for command in Afghanistan and Central Command respectively, President Barack Obama signals his understanding that his previously established deadline of mid-2011 to begin drawing down combat troops in the “good war” cannot be met. The two were co-architects of the military’s renewed embrace of both counterinsurgency operations and the associated nation-building project that by necessity goes along with it. Neither flag officer can be expected to preside over a Vietnam-like exit that once again puts troubled and untrustworthy Pakistan in charge of Afghanistan’s fate. And so, despite the conventional […]

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The leaders of Japan and Russia met on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Toronto late last month to discuss ways in which they could move forward with negotiations over a longstanding territorial dispute over the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomais. A week later, Russian military forces carried out a drill on one of the disputed islands, leading Japan to express its objections. In an e-mail interview, Dr. Alexander Bukh, associate professor at Japan’s Tsukuba University and author of “Japan’s National Identity and Foreign Policy: Russia as Japan’s ‘Other,‘” explains the historical context for the ongoing […]

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, are currently involved in a diplomatic dance over resuming talks on Tehran’s nuclear program. If the talks do indeed come to fruition, Ashton could assume the negotiating role previously played by her predecessor, Javier Solana. While Solana’s diplomatic efforts ultimately did not bear fruit (.pdf), the circumstances that hampered his attempts to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff — namely, the lack of U.S. participation and Iranian perceptions that the country had little to gain by talking with Europe — have since improved and could be […]

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