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When she was first named foreign minister last November, I, like most observers, noted Michèle Alliot-Marie’s reputation as a professional, the kind of minister who could be counted on to take care of business and not make headlines. She arguably delivered on the first count, but was done in by her abject failure to deliver on the second, with the never-ending revelations from her ill-fated Christmas holiday in Tunisia fatally undermining her legitimacy as the face of France’s foreign policy. Nevertheless, it’s worth repeating that Alliot-Marie’s failings were a function of her professionalism — that is, they reflect the standard […]

Will the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime be the salvation of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela? Even without a forcible overthrow of the “Brother Leader” and the uncertainty of a subsequent interregnum, a protracted Libyan civil war that damages the country’s energy infrastructure could drive energy prices back to 2008 levels. Joshua Schenyer, surveying the landscape, concluded grimly, “Regardless of what comes next in Libya’s lethal political standoff, the OPEC country’s oil sector is nearly certain to suffer, bringing long-lasting supply disruptions or even permanent damage. None of several potential outcomes is benign for Libya’s oil industry — the lifeblood […]

As more sickening details emerge of what actually happened to CBS reporter Lara Logan in Tahrir Square on Feb. 13, the partisan rhetoric shows no signs of abating. Some claim that it was “pro-Mubarak” thugs who sexually assaulted and almost killed the 39-year-old mother of two, while others point the finger at “pro-liberation” hooligans. Still others have used the incident to demonize Muslims in general. Such distinctions, however, have nothing to do with why Logan was attacked and, in fact, obscure the real issue. Like many millions of women, girls and young boys around the world, Logan was not a […]

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On Wednesday, 20 deputies of Ukraine announced a new political faction called “Reforms for the Future.” The new union is mostly made up of former members of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, supporting the reforms of President Viktor Yanukovych, as well as its own reforms, such as a state-run health care plan.

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One of the major points of speculation about the impact of the Egyptian uprising is over how a democratic government in Cairo will affect Egypt’s foreign policy, in particular regarding Israel. A just-released Ifop poll of French opinion on the Afghanistan War (via Jean-Dominique Merchet) highlights a point I’ve been meaning to make: Democracies are not immune to unpopular foreign policy. According to the Ipof poll, 72 percent of French people oppose the country’s involvement in the Afghanistan War. That’s slightly higher than the two-thirds who opposed the war at the time that French President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to deploy […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the G-20. Part I examined efforts to rebalance the global economy. Part II examines efforts to reform the global monetary system. Leading up to and throughout the G-20 finance ministers meeting last weekend, murmurs were heard about the role of the dollar and the need to reform the global monetary system. This is nothing new, of course, as a variety of major economies have expressed an interest in demoting the dollar since the global financial crisis broke out in 2008. The most recent examples came from Brazil and China, […]

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Russia and Pakistan recently held high-level talks on militancy and nuclear proliferation, a sign of warming relations following lingering Cold War antagonism. In an e-mail interview, Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, discussed Russia-Pakistan relations. WPR: What has been the nature of Russia-Pakistan bilateral relations historically? Dmitri Trenin: For decades, Moscow’s relations with Pakistan have been mostly a function of Russia’s relations with two major powers, the United States and India. During the Cold War, Pakistan aligned itself firmly with Washington, while New Delhi leaned toward Moscow. As an illustration of this dynamic, Soviet-era maps represented the whole […]

Naval power is characterized by fungibility and flexibility. Because of the relatively open nature of the seas, ships and fleets can be transferred between ports and crisis zones in order to conduct operations or exert influence. Indeed, one of the key appeals of naval power is the ability of warships to respond to crises in a variety of locations without requiring a longstanding political and infrastructural commitment. However, of all the major naval powers, Russia remains most tightly constrained by its unfortunate maritime geography. Russian warships based in the Arctic, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific cannot easily support one another. […]

A new report released on Feb. 11 by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the dangers of alcoholism and its impact on overall health highlights the urgency of Russia’s alcoholism crisis, itself just one part of the country’s broader demographic challenges. Official WHO (.pdf) and Russian statistics paint a horrifying picture on this subject for Russia’s population of 140 million: – Russians 16 and older drink the equivalent of roughly four gallons of pure alcohol per capita each year, almost twice the amount of their American counterparts.– Russia currently has 2 million alcoholics. – The number of Russian children aged […]

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The transformation currently unfolding in the Middle East could be as monumental as the changes in Europe that followed World War II and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In both of those instances, the goals of the United States and its allies were transparent and consequential: to solidify Western power and establish a world order based on democracy and market economics. This successful model should be pursued once more by providing smart, dual-benefit assistance to all Middle Eastern nations seeking to build free and democratic societies. In the coming months, numerous governments in the Middle East will likely need […]

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Russia and Turkey recently held the first meeting of the Russia-Turkey Joint Strategic Planning Group. The high-level coordination follows the signing of border-cooperation agreements in January. In an e-mail interview, Jenia Ustinova, associate for Russia and Eurasia at Eurasia Group, discussed Russia-Turkey relations. WPR: Historically, what has been the nature of Russia-Turkey relations? Jenia Ustinova: Russia and Turkey are not what one would call traditional allies — in centuries past the Russian and Ottoman empires have often been at odds with each other, competing — at time through armed conflict — for territory, power and influence in the region. During […]

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Hundreds of protesters gathered yesterday outside the mansion of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, calling for his resignation amid the alleged sex scandal that has tarnished his image. Writer and Philosopher Umberto Ecco and “Gomorra” author Roberto Saviano are among the intellectuals leading the movement against the prime minister.

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A few news items highlight a point I’ve been periodically raising over the past year, namely that Africa, as the region of the world with the most strategic upside, deserves more and better-conceived U.S. attention. We already know about China’s strategic inroads into Africa’s resource and infrastructure markets. That has driven what is to my mind perhaps the most under-appreciated story of the past few years: India’s push to play catch-up in Africa. That has taken the form of investments in resources and manufacturing infrastructure, but also mobile phone markets and consumer goods. At the same time, the European Commission, […]

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I never really understood at the time why so many observers ridiculed French President Nicolas Sarkozy for his efforts to launch the Union for the Mediterranean. Clearly, it was an ambitious project. If the global economic crisis hadn’t finished it off, the complicated politics of the region probably would have. But in light of the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, where the uprisings have been driven as much by frustrated economic aspirations as by repressed political aspirations, it’s hard not to see Sarkozy’s emphasis on economic development of the southern Mediterranean — as a pre-emptive effort to prevent inflows […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the fall of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s government. Part I examined the domestic factors leading to the government’s collapse. Part II examines the impact of the EU/IMF bailout on Ireland and the European Union. After almost half a year of lurching from crisis to crisis, the government of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen finally fell last week. His fate was effectively sealed at the end of last year by Ireland’s $100 billion bailout by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund, the only question being […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the fall of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s government. Part I examines the domestic factors leading to the government’s collapse. Part II will examine the impact of the EU/IMF bailout on Ireland and the European Union. DUBLIN — After months of lurching from crisis to crisis, the government of Ireland’s lame-duck Prime Minister Brian Cowen finally came to an end Tuesday, with new elections to be held Feb. 25. Whatever happens Cowen will not be returning as prime minister — he will not contest the election after having been […]

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I don’t want to belabor the point I made in a recent post about a global crisis of legitimacy, and I should clarify that I don’t think the West and the world in general is dozing indolently on a bed of potential revolution. But a couple of seemingly unrelated news items here in France draw out the inchoate dynamic I was trying to put my finger on. France’s Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie already got into hot water during the initial round of protests in Tunisia when she suggested in testimony to a parliamentary committee that French gendarmes could help train […]

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