Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement last Saturday that he would not stand for re-election, instead nominating his predecessor and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, to once again assume the office, came as a surprise to those of us who were expecting a continuation of the Medvedev-Putin tandem. At the same time, however, the somewhat trite and simplistic analysis being proferred by those who argue that Medvedev was nothing more than a seat-warmer for Putin until the latter could reclaim the presidency is not particularly helpful in understanding the direction Russian politics has taken — and will take. If Putin had […]

With the remaining loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi’s deposed regime facing their inevitable demise, it comes as no surprise that human rights organizations and international journalists are finding a multitude of mass graves and ample evidence that torture was a routine affair in Gadhafi’s Libya. But as Gadhafi’s bloody excesses return to the spotlight, so too does the corruption and cynicism exhibited by the regime’s fellow travelers from beyond Libya’s borders. It is well known that under Gadhafi, the country consistently maintained its place among the world’s “Worst of the Worst” violators of human rights and political freedoms. And yet, in […]

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Iran recently joined Russia in expressing concern about negotiations among the European Union, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over a proposed trans-Caspian pipeline. In an email interview, Gawdat Bahgat, a political science professor at National Defense University, discussed diplomacy among the Caspian littoral states. WPR: What are the main issues facing the Caspian littoral states in terms of maritime boundaries and resource rights? Gawdat Bahgat: Though the Caspian region does not have the massive proven oil and gas reserves the Persian Gulf region holds, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have proven themselves as major energy producers and exporters. The intense disagreement over maritime […]

The news this past weekend of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s impending return to the presidency has elicited a wide range of commentary on the potential impact it might have on Russia’s foreign policy and, in particular, on U.S.-Russia relations. There are several key points that one should keep in mind when considering the development. First, in the years since he left office in 2008 after serving as president since 2000, Putin has remained Russia’s most powerful figure. He has been able to determine policy in any area and any direction, constrained only by objective factors related to Russian state […]

In an effort to defuse the short-term crisis generated by the Palestinian push for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has offered a compromise proposal: a “precise timetable” of negotiations under the aegis of the Quartet that would produce a final status agreement between Palestinians and Israelis in a year’s time. The proposal’s utility as a practical means of generating an actual solution is minimal, but it could represent a face-saving off-ramp way for the U.S. from the current confrontation. On paper, setting deadlines for negotiations makes sense. But in the real world, […]

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European countries have been accused of ignoring the refugee crisis on Libya’s borders. This report produced by the U.S. government-owned Voice of America explores the fate of hundreds of thousands of mainly sub-Saharan migrants who were forced to flee Libya following the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests earlier this year.

Last week, WPR’s Judah Grunstein noted some interesting developments in Russia-Korea relations. These included North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s conferring with President Dmitry Medvedev and other Russian leaders in a rare visit to Russia in August; the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding construction of a gas pipeline connecting Russia to South Korea via North Korea; the launching of a rail link between Russia and the North Korean port of Rajin; and plans to conduct a joint maritime search-and-rescue exercise in 2012. These developments have highlighted Moscow’s desire to play a major role in the future of the […]

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British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Moscow last week, where he met with Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In an email interview, Edwin Bacon, a reader in comparative politics at the University of London, Birkbeck, discussed U.K.-Russia relations. WPR: What has been the nature of U.K.-Russian trade and diplomatic relations from the post-Cold War period until today? Edwin Bacon: In the immediate post-Cold War years, U.K.-Russian relations flourished, marked by reciprocal state visits in 1994 and 2003. When Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president in 2000, he singled out the U.K. as a key European partner. The […]

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The Turkish navy recently increased its patrols in the Mediterranean, against the backdrop of rising tension with Israel. In an email interview, Bill Park, a senior lecturer in the department of defense studies at King’s College London, discussed the Turkish navy. WPR: What is the current state of the Turkish navy? Bill Park: The manpower strength of the Turkish navy stands at around 55,000, about half of whom are conscripts. At root it is configured as a coastal defense navy, and as such possesses 14 submarines and numerous fast-attack vessels, mine-warfare craft and coastal-patrol vessels. It also has in excess […]

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It looks like North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s August meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was a productive one. This week has seen the announcement of a number of modest but significant initiatives with the potential to create lasting ties between the two countries. Most important is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Gazprom and the North Korean Oil Ministry for the construction of a gas pipeline linking Russian supplies to South Korea. (Separate but coordinated discussions were held with the head of South Korea’s state-run gas company as well.) Also, a rail link between a Russian […]

It’s happening again. International credit markets are showing signs of strain; economic growth around the world is stalling; and there are growing fears the global economy could slip back into a recession. Last Friday, amid this unfolding financial turmoil, the Group of Seven (G-7) finance ministers met in Marseille, France. Despite calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the group to “act now — and act boldly,” the summit ended without any concrete plan of action. Indeed, the finance ministers could barely even muster a short communique. This contrasts starkly with how the world’s leading economies reacted to similar, […]

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The visit to Paris this week of Rwandan President Paul Kagame coincided with coverage in the French press of allegations accusing former French President Jacques Chirac of accepting suitcases full of cash as kickbacks from African heads of state. Combined, the two stories highlight the ways in which France under President Nicolas Sarkozy is turning a page in its relations with Africa, but also the ways in which the legacy of the past has proven hard to escape. In this, Sarkozy’s presidency, like that of U.S. President Barack Obama in its own way, is likely to be a transitional one, […]

A memorandum of understanding between the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Isle of Man-registered International Minerals & Mines Ltd. is paving the way for the exploration of Armenia’s shale reserves. Should large-scale commercial extraction proceed, Armenia’s energy find could grant the landlocked Caucasus nation a measure of energy independence and, with it, newfound geopolitical freedom. The Aug. 3 deal comes on the heels of another agreement between the Energy Ministry and the U.S. State Department in June to cooperate in energy exploration, commercialization and investment. This agreement plans “cooperative assessment and technical studies of Armenia’s energy […]

Riots, like those that wracked the U.K. last month, tend to be portrayed as either righteous rebellions of the oppressed or mere criminality. The truth is that riots are propelled by a complex mixture of political motivations and the enjoyment by everyday people of the power to loot and otherwise transgress without punishment. The spectacle of British police losing the tactical advantage to swarms of electronically networked rioters amid general government paralysis does not bode well for a future in which economic austerity collides with raw public anger. Politics is about power, and containment of the crowd is a core […]