The public commentary on the International Monetary Fund’s search for a new managing director to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn consistently stressed the need for a non-European to be selected in order to relegitimize the IMF. Now that French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has been named to the job, one could understandably expect the fund to slide into irrelevance. Whether this is the case, however, depends less on the actual selection process and more on how Lagarde handles the day-to-day operations of the fund once she takes over. Maintaining some continuity with the fund’s Strauss-Kahn era, while breaking with it on Greece, […]

The triple catastrophe represented by Japan’s March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency has thus far had two main effects on Japan’s national security policies. First, the crisis has focused the attention of Japanese security managers inward toward domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Second, it has reinforced the Japanese-U.S. alliance, which had already been strengthened by the Japanese government’s decision to abandon its earlier quest for a more independent security policy in light of increased external threats from the East Asian mainland. Given this increased salience of external threats, Japan’s earthquake-induced domestic preoccupation may prove to be of […]

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement Monday that he desires a second term as president but won’t run against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should Putin declare his candidacy has inspired heightened speculation over Russia’s unusual power-sharing duo ahead of elections next March. When attempting to understand the Putin-Medvedev dynamic, Ben Judah, a London-based policy fellow and Russia specialist with the European Council on Foreign Relations, says one must take care not to view the two as being in competition with each other. “It shouldn’t be confused as a battle between two rivals,” Judah reminded Trend Lines earlier this week. “The tandem […]

Two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired a parting broadside at the NATO alliance. Gates argued that many European countries have chronically underfunded defense, to the extent that they are now incapable of contributing to the multilateral expeditionary operations that have become part of the alliance’s portfolio. Gates’ exasperation focused mainly on operations in Libya, which have now considerably outlasted expectations and may soon outlast the will and capability of NATO’s European members. It is worth noting, however, that protection of Libyan civilians through airstrikes sits so far outside NATO’s founding purpose that the framers of the 1949 treaty […]

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently paid an official visit to New Delhi, where she discussed Indo-German differences over U.N. Security Council reform, among other issues, with Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh. In an email interview, Rajendra K. Jain, professor of European studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, discussed India-Germany relations. WPR: What is the recent history of Germany-India relations? Rajendra K. Jain: After several decades of “benign neglect” and mutual indifference, Indo-German relations have substantially improved and deepened in the past decade in nearly all fields, including a significant increase in high-level bilateral visits. A strategic partnership was established in 2001. […]

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) celebrated its 10th anniversary last week, with the leaders of its six member states gathering in Astana, Kazakhstan, for the occasion. In addition to assessing the achievements of the organization’s first decade, SCO leaders also considered the applications of Pakistan, India, Mongolia and Iran for full membership. There are now increasing indications that India and Pakistan might be admitted, although not before next year. Nevertheless, admission of these two nations could alter the mission and global relevance of the SCO as a regional multilateral organization. The SCO was initially created as a security pact to […]

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A steady stream of leaks suggests that, at the very least, a “soft” Greek sovereign debt default is now inevitable. And if Greece defaults, it is very likely that Portugal and Ireland might be forced to do so as well. But curiously enough, that scenario no longer seems to be as apocalyptic as it did even several weeks ago. Part of that is because the European Union, for all the flaws of its response to the debt crisis, has bought much-needed time, and is likely to buy a bit more, to allow European banks to begin cleaning up their balance […]

A constant refrain of the Democratic party’s foreign policy establishment during the administration of former President George W. Bush was that, in contrast to “unilateralist” Republicans with their cosmetic “coalitions of the willing,” Democrats were more skilled at constructing durable international partnerships that would lead to true burden-sharing. The assertion, which became almost an article of faith, served as the basis for John Kerry’s 2004 campaign promise that, if elected, he would be able to secure broader multilateral troop contributions in Iraq to relieve the burden on U.S. troops there. In the 2008 election, the same faith, combined with a […]

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Protestors opposed to austerity measures imposed by the Spanish government have been camping out in Madrid for the past few weeks. In an email interview, José M. Magone, a professor at the Berlin School of Economics and Law and the author of “Contemporary Spanish Politics,” discussed the protests in Spain. WPR: What is the driving force behind the current protests in Spain? José M. Magone: The driving force behind the protests is a general feeling of outrage on the part of the younger generation, as well as other groups that are suffering under the Spanish government’s harsh austerity program. It […]

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Despite Turkey’s stalled European Union accession bid and a seeming inability to influence the turmoil gripping the Middle East, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party sailed to its third consecutive parliamentary election victory last weekend by touting its success in raising the country’s profile on the world stage. According to Yigal Schleifer, an independent journalist and World Politics Review contributor, the party — known by its Turkish acronym, AKP — effectively portrayed itself “as the main driver of democratization in Turkey.” “The economy has been growing steadily, and Turkey’s profile on the world stage and in the region […]

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Iraq in May to discuss investments in Iraqi energy projects, among other issues. In an email interview, Marat Terterov, director and principal founder of the European Geopolitical Forum in Brussels, discussed Russia-Iraq relations. WPR: What is the recent history of Iraq-Russia relations? Marat Terterov: Russia, along with France, was one of Iraq’s closer allies during the 1990s, when Baghdad was heavily isolated and subject to U.N. sanctions. Moscow frequently lent diplomatic support to Baghdad during this period, pushing for the lifting of the oil embargo against Iraq and condemning occasional U.S. and U.K. airstrikes […]

On June 10, Robert Gates ended his last major policy speech in Europe as defense secretary with his most public rebuke ever regarding Europeans’ failure to provide adequate defense resources to the trans-Atlantic alliance. Gates complained that NATO had finally become what he had long feared: a “two-tiered alliance” divided between those few allies that engage in “hard” combat missions on one hand, and the overwhelming majority of members that can only contribute extensively to “soft” noncombat operations like humanitarian, peacekeeping and training missions on the other. Gates correctly noted that proposed NATO-wide reforms and efficiency measures would at best […]

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