Dating the commencement of the U.S. War in Afghanistan from the first entry of American troops into the country on Oct. 7, 2001, the war has now lasted longer than the failed Soviet effort of the 1980s. And at last weekend’s NATO summit, the U.S. government committed to continue fighting in Afghanistan at least through 2014, with one senior American official calling even that possible withdrawal date “aspirational.” Opponents of continuing the large-scale, American-led counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan cite the failure of the Soviet military to suppress the Afghan insurgency in the 1980s as evidence that the United States will […]

Art and culture are two pillars on which all societies build both identity and a sense of community. But despite the common function of culture in general, the task of developing coherent cultural-heritage laws and policies is complicated by the complexities of particular nations’ and cultures’ interactions with one another as well as the difficulty of finding concepts that are meaningful to all in order to define the resulting legal relationships. Western notions of property, ownership and restitution, for example, may not translate to other cultures, some of which function according to systems of beliefs and values that run counter […]

Last week, China and Russia announced they will no longer use the dollar to conduct their bilateral trade, but instead will use their domestic currencies, the yuan and ruble, to do so. Some doomsayers have depicted this move as yet another sign of the dollar’s imminent decline and claim it threatens the greenback’s status as the pre-eminent reserve currency. But a closer examination suggests the deal will have more of a symbolic impact than any tangible economic or geopolitical effects. Since 1992, self-imposed restrictions have been in place requiring that trade between China and Russia be conducted in dollars, a […]

On the surface, the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon, the North Korean artillery barrage against Yeonpyeong island, and the unmasking of the “fake” Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in Afghanistan would appear to be separate and unconnected events. But there is a common theme that ties these three news stories together. In his WPR column column on Monday, Thomas P.M. Barnett summed up the problem: The United States cannot “close the gaps” in the global security system. The end of the Cold War and the rise of new power centers around the world have not led to any appreciable shift in […]

Last weekend, graduate students at the University of Kentucky failed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. In and of itself this was not surprising, and did not distinguish last Friday and Saturday from a typical weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. What made the weekend special was that students at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, the terminal Masters program in foreign affairs where I teach, in conjunction with the Army War College, ran through the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise, a simulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh stand-off designed to expose students to the problems of international negotiations. The exercise involved dividing […]

On Nov. 18, for the first time since their October 2007 summit in Tehran, the leaders of the five Caspian Sea littoral states — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan — gathered in Baku to discuss issues including maritime-border delimitation, security and environmental protection. Despite a dramatically changed regional situation since the last summit, the Baku meeting nevertheless produced little in terms of substantive outcomes. But recent trends point to future breakthroughs. What has changed since the Tehran summit? Washington and Moscow have achieved a warming in relations, with burgeoning bilateral cooperation on Iran and Afghanistan in particular. To avoid […]

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There’s an inherent risk involved in taking at face value the policy declarations of a country’s leader. My general rule of thumb is to do so when the declaration in question supports an argument I’m trying to defend. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s description of Ukraine’s approach to its foreign policy posture: After his first meeting with the European Union, Mr. Yanukovich contrasted past disputes with Russia with the way in which he said Ukraine is now working — “in the spirit of partnership in the triangle of Russia-Europe-Ukraine.” But it’s worth […]

At the NATO heads-of-state summit held in Lisbon this weekend, the leaders of NATO member states resolved some important issues regarding the alliance’s future, but they deferred many key decisions for further deliberation. As a result, much of the summit’s outcome will not be definitively clear for some time. The topic that drew the most media attention this past weekend was how long NATO would continue its military effort in Afghanistan, and whether the alliance could actually win the war within whatever withdrawal timeline its members articulated. NATO leaders confirmed 2014 as the new target date for drawing down their […]

NATO approved a new Strategic Concept in Lisbon on Nov. 19, the first reworking of the alliance’s mission statement since 1999. Although the document offers plenty of promises, the alliance seems to have overlooked a number of problems it faces in making good on them. First, the promises. The new Strategic Concept: – calls on the allies to develop their capacity to “prevent, detect, defend against and recover from cyber-attacks,” to protect “critical energy infrastructure” and to “maintain robust, mobile and deployable conventional forces to carry out . . . Article 5 responsibilities and the alliance’s expeditionary operations.”– reaffirms the […]

Many observers expected late-2010 to be the moment of truth for what the European Union calls its “Southern Corridor”: a gas-transit route to Southern and Southeastern Europe regarded as a political priority by the EU and some Central and Eastern European countries, eager to reduce their dependence on Russian gas in their energy-supply mix. Since at least 2007, there has been fierce competition between two rival pipeline projects seeking to transport gas supplies from the Caspian basin and grab market shares in these profitable downstream outlets: Nabucco, backed by the EU and the United States; and South Stream, a joint […]

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy reshuffled his cabinet over the weekend, and in line with recent precedent under the Fifth Republic, the new government marks a shift back to Sarkozy’s political base in anticipation of the upcoming presidential election in 2012. So centrist Defense Minister Hervé Morin and Socialist Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner are out, replaced by UMP heavyweights Alain Juppé and Michèle Alliot-Marie, respectively. The fact that Juppé and Alliot-Marie are both dyed-in-the-wool Chirac loyalists also serves to heighten Dominique de Villepin’s isolation from the Sarkozy court, and could be an indicator of where on the right Sarkozy feels the […]

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I had the pleasure of participating last Friday in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, along with the IHT’s Eric Pfanner, Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey and the AFP’s David Clarke. The topics were the G-20 summit, Ireland’s debt crisis, the newly formed Iraqi government and George W. Bush’s return to the spotlight. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here.

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As the current political narrative has it, President Barack Obama has been weakened by the midterm elections. So it should come as no surprise that his failure to sell Congress’ version of the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement is a reflection of Obama’s weakened position, rather than, say, a reflection of Congress’ unrealistic expectations of what trade concessions other countries are willing to make in the current dismal economic environment. The same latent theme runs through much of the coverage of Obama’s tepid performance at the G-20 summit, although it is not as pronounced. So be it, narratives are often […]

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There are no dramatic developments here, but it is another data point — similar to something I flagged earlier — in the EU’s ability to toughen up its soft power approach in order to more strategically defend its interests: Europe’s top trade official has signaled his intention to create a new retaliatory trade tool, amid ongoing complaints from European businesses that they are being excluded from Chinese public contracts. I think of the EU’s strategic potential in the same terms as YouTube and Twitter’s revenue potential: tons of upside if they only figure out how to “monetize” the connectivity they […]

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was sent to the Senate for consideration in May 2010, but its outlook is far from clear. To be ratified, the treaty mustachievetwo-thirds majorityapproval. But some treaty provisions, viewed by certain senators as restricting U.S. missile defense objectives, were already an obstacle to ratification six months ago. Even in its current configuration, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has demanded elimination of the treaty provisions related to missile defense and certain non-nuclear systems. Given Republican gains in the Senate following the midterm elections, these provisions will face even greater opposition come January. Removing […]

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Asia and the European Union held their biannual interregional gathering, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), in Brussels last month. In an e-mail interview, Jonas Parello-Plesner, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, discussed relations between Asia and the EU. WPR: What are the major issues and obstacles driving economic relations between the two regions? Jonas Parello-Plesner: The main driver of cooperation is economic. Asia and particularly China are Europe’s largest trading partners, with the two regions intertwined as part of the global supply chain. That is illustrated by the biannual ASEM summit, which unites 49 countries and 60 […]

In the run-up to NATO’s heads of state summit later this month in Lisbon, much of the discussion has focused on questions of the alliance’s relevance and identity, with particular attention paid to the alliance’s new Strategic Concept to be rolled out in Lisbon. But a more practical issue that will be discussed at the summit is whether to make comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD) an alliance-wide mission. Despite a lack of enthusiasm in Turkey and continuing discontent in Russia and perhaps some other non-NATO countries, NATO governments generally support the Obama administration’s phased adaptive approach to European missile defense. […]

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