Is it time for NATO to begin wrapping up its Libya operation? The observance of Ramadan will begin in a few days, and even though Islamic tradition permits those involved in combat to be exempted from the requirements of the fast, most analysts expect a dramatic slowdown in major combat operations on the part of both pro-Gadhafi and anti-government forces during August. While NATO spokesmen have indicated that sorties will continue to be flown during the holiday, the pace of combat will lessen. This, in turn, may reinforce conditions on the ground, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff […]

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Earlier this month, a clash between Iranian soldiers and Azerbaijani border guards left one Azerbaijani guard dead. In an email interview, Brenda Shaffer, a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and a visiting professor at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, discussed Iran-Azerbaijan relations. WPR: What has been the trajectory of Iran-Azerbaijan relations over the past 10 years? Brenda Shaffer: Iran’s policy toward Azerbaijan is one of the best illustrations of the gap between Tehran’s ideological declarations and its actual realpolitik-guided policies. Despite sharing a common Shiite identity with Azerbaijan, Tehran has worked to undermine Azerbaijan’s security since the latter’s independence. […]

Coming on the heels of Berlin’s decision to phase out nuclear power, the recently signed memorandum of understanding between German utility RWE and Russia’s state-owned Gazprom to negotiate a joint venture on downstream gas and power plants could spell bad news for Europe on three levels. First, if it bears fruit, the partnership will undermine European diversification efforts, since RWE was the leading utility behind the European Union’s Nabucco pipeline designed to tap new Central Asian supplies. Second, it will bolster oil-indexed pricing schemes against the impact of wholesale spot prices, serving to keep prices on an “artificial” footing. Third, […]

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Earlier this month, U.N.-led negotiations between Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus on the status of the divided island ended without any significant breakthroughs. In an email interview, Michális S. Michael, deputy director of the Center for Dialogue at La Trobe University, discussed the Cyprus talks. WPR: What are the primary areas of progress in talks between Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus, and how do they compare with the final status of talks in 2004? Michális S. Michael: In contrast to 2004, and despite 126 high-level meetings since 2008, little progress has been achieved on the core issues separating the two sides. While […]

Matthew C. DuPée’s WPR briefing last week on Afghanistan’s counternarcotics efforts skillfully analyzes how U.S, U.N. and Afghan policies are failing to achieve an enduring reduction in the country’s opium production. Now neighboring governments, especially Russia, are growing increasingly worried that NATO’s withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan will force them to confront the problem largely by themselves. At present, the main threat Russia faces from Afghanistan comes in the form of Afghan narcotics exports. According to the United Nations, Russians are consuming much of the recent surge in Afghan narcotics production, which has occurred despite stagnant or even declining […]

When historians come to write the history of the European Union in the period following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, they are likely to describe it as a litany of jarring crises. They will naturally prioritize the financial shocks to the eurozone in 2010 and 2011. But they will also have to make space for at least two major humanitarian crises that sparked angry debates about the EU’s global role. The first was the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. The second was the man-made disaster in Libya that began in February 2011. The Haitian catastrophe […]

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Farmers in Britain are harvesting a surprising new crop in an effort to combat a shortage of painkillers. It is a crop that is plentiful thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan, but there, British and U.S. troops are trying to destroy it.

Poland assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union at the beginning of July, at a time when the union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) was in need of a boost. With military cooperation among the 27 member states high on Warsaw’s agenda, Poland’s EU presidency might provide the needed stimulus to get EU defense back on track. However, recent disputes within the EU over the NATO-led intervention in Libya, as well as resistance from London, could impede Warsaw’s attempts to accelerate Europe’s defense integration. According to Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, the Polish presidency has four ambitious […]

The Nord Stream natural gas pipeline has the potential to deliver much of northern Europe’s natural gas requirements from a reliable source in Siberia to the German coast. It is one of Russian energy giant Gazprom’s best-planned and most-ambitious projects, involving a consortium of construction firms around the Baltic region and investors from Europe’s major energy firms. Yet when the first of the project’s two planned pipelines through the Baltic Sea was completed in May, it became apparent that Nord Stream’s cost was much higher than originally projected. Though the impact will be felt by all of the project’s European […]

One sign of how good relations between Russia and the United States have become is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent three days in high-level meetings in Washington without attracting much attention from the American news media. Bilateral ties may finally be evolving, at least for now, into a more mature, almost normal relationship between two great powers sharing common interests as well as limited areas of disagreement. Lavrov discussed a range of important issues with his American interlocutors, including Libya, Syria, Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, South Sudan, terrorism, the Israel-Palestine peace process, the United Nations and even Alaska and […]

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Italy’s ruling center-right coalition and its leader, Prime Minister Silvo Berlusconi, suffered a series of defeats in local elections and national referendums held over the past few months. In an email interview, Guido Legnante, an associate professor of political science at the University of Pavia, discussed Italy’s political landscape. WPR: What explains Italy’s swing to the left in the recent local elections? Guido Legnante: In order to understand the dynamics of the recent Italian local — towns and provinces — elections, it is necessary to consider that they were held in two rounds. The first round, on May 15-16, frustrated […]

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I had the pleasure of participating in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, last Friday. The other panelists were Paris Match’s RĂ©gis Le Sommelier, France 24’s Annette Young and Global Post’s Mildrade Cherfils. Topics included the News of the World scandal, the U.S. and European debt crises, and the Libya war. Part one can be seen here. Part two can be seen here.

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Belfast police have been attacked by rioters throwing flaming petrol bombs and rocks ahead of the July 12 Orange Day parade. The parade commemorating the Battle of the Boyne traditionally sees Protestants participating in hundreds of Marches across Northern Ireland.

Ever since the 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia has painstakingly cultivated its image as an emerging-market investor’s dream and a lonely bastion of Western-style modernity in the South Caucasus. But that image faces a credibility problem in light of Tbilisi’s continuing lack of political progress toward a truly liberal democracy. By allowing Georgia’s democratic development to remain at a standstill, President Mikheil Saakashvili risks damaging the country’s legitimacy, both domestically and with its partners in the West. When Georgian opposition leader and former Saakashvili ally Nino Burjanadze and her supporters took to Tbilisi’s streets in May, the protestors’ rhetoric was rife […]

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to Germany late last month, where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and signed several major trade deals. In an email interview, Gudrun Wacker, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, discussed China-Germany relations. WPR: What is the recent history of China-Germany diplomatic and trade relations? Gudrun Wacker: When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao came to Germany in June, he was accompanied by 13 cabinet ministers for the first-ever German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations. Germany has conducted such talks with very few countries in the world. These consultations reflect the importance of […]

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