Russia is trying to look tough at the U.N. Security Council this week, promising to reject a resolution backed by the European Union, the U.S. and the Arab League that calls for a political transition in Syria to end the violence there.* This is a new phase in Moscow’s efforts to defend its friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which included blocking an earlier resolution in October that threatened U.N. sanctions against Damascus. Yet while Russia can use its veto power to paralyze the council again, the diplomatic battle over Syria has highlighted its weakness in global affairs. The U.N. serves […]

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In a huge win for the French defense industrial base, Dassault Aviation has emerged as the lowest bidder for a $10 billion contract to supply India with 126 of its Rafale fighter jets. If finalized, the deal for medium multi-role combat aircraft would be the first overseas order for the Rafale.* It would also represent a major loss for the rival bidder, the Eurofighter Typhoon, backed by the four-nation consortium of Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy. “Fighter jets are among the most expensive investment any country can make at the moment, and hence, because selling these is an expensive issue, […]

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The government in Edinburgh, Scotland is holding a public consultation on the terms of a ballot for the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, who wants to hold the vote in the fall of 2014, intends to ask voters: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” The U.K. government insists that these matters must be decided in Westminster, home to the U.K. Parliament. But while they want to keep Great Britain as a united country, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, wrote that they “will not stand in the […]

New figures from the European Defense Agency (EDA) confirm what is already well-known: The gap between what Europe and America spend on defense is only growing wider, despite perennial calls from Washington for Europe to share a bigger part of the military burden. In 2010, the European Union countries — excluding Denmark, which is not a member of the EDA — spent a combined $252 billion on defense, down from $266 billion in 2008. The U.S., in contrast, spent $689 billion in 2010. While U.S. defense expenditures accounted for 4.8 percent of GDP in 2010, for the EU this ratio […]

When former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was sentenced to death for espionage by an Iranian court earlier this month, he was accused, among other things, of helping to make video games. In his televised “confession,” Hekmati stated that, after working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from [the] CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East.” He added, “The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world […]

With anti-government protests in Romania moving into their second week, demonstrators are showing a persistence unusual for this part of the world, underscoring the symbolic importance they have placed in calling attention to their widespread grievances. The woes that have brought Romanians to the streets — low incomes, corruption and rising authoritarianism — are familiar to many in Eastern Europe. Indeed, the protests, which according to police estimates brought 13,000 people to the streets across the country over the weekend, follow similar demonstrations in Russia and Hungary, leading some to suggest that this is the European incarnation of the Arab […]

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Earlier this month, India approved a $1.18 billion deal for the purchase of 500 Mica air-to-air missiles from the French defense firm MBDA. In an email interview, Jean-Luc Racine, a senior CNRS fellow at the Center for South Asia Studies at the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences and the vice president of the Asia Center in Paris, discussed France-India relations. WPR: What have been the Sarkozy administration’s main priorities in advancing France-India ties? Jean-Luc Racine: Since then-President Jacques Chirac’s visit to India in 1998, France-India ties have improved consistently, and current President Nicolas Sarkozy has clearly toed the […]

The perennial standoff between Ukraine and Russia over natural gas prices will be accompanied by an added wrinkle this year, with news that Ukraine plans to ink a deal for a joint venture with energy-rich Azerbaijan for supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The partnership, which will finally introduce unconventional energy sources to Ukraine, underscores the flagging fortunes of Russia’s pipeline monopoly and the dwindling leverage it commands. According to Vladislav Kaskiv, the head of Ukraine’s State Agency for Investment and National Projects, the formal announcement between Baku and Kiev for the arrangement will be made later this month at […]

From the start, the eurozone crisis has been a battle over who will ultimately be liable for the billions worth of actual and potential losses on sovereign debt held by European financial institutions. With neither the issuance of collectively backed Eurobonds nor the use of the European Central Bank (ECB) as lender of last resort initially available as options, the European Union, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund decided to protect bank bondholders at all costs, choosing instead to impose losses on taxpayers, even at the risk of stretching governments’ solvency to the breaking point. But because voters’ tolerance […]

With fewer than 100 days left until the first round of France’s presidential election, President Nicolas Sarkozy is behind in the polls (.pdf) and facing an uphill battle for re-election. Although his principal rival, the Socialist Party’s François Hollande, has been losing ground at an alarming rate, Sarkozy’s numbers have stagnated, suggesting he will have his work cut out for him if he is to convince French voters to trust him with a second term at a time when his divisive and jarring style seems at odds with the country’s need for reassurance and unity. And in an election that […]

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A Russian naval flotilla, including an aircraft carrier, left the Syrian port of Tartus Monday after a six-day call, described by the Russian government as a routine stop. In an email interview, Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, discussed Russia-Syria relations. WPR: How committed is Russia to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and how deep are its contacts with other political actors in Syria? Mark N. Katz: Moscow had especially close relations with President Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez — who ruled from 1970 until his death in 2000 — during the […]

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asserted his power over the past 18 months by reducing the influence of independent institutions and increasing that of his ruling Fidesz party. In addition to passing a new constitution, which went into effect on Jan. 1, the government pushed through laws consolidating power over the judiciary and the central bank, while also restricting freedom of religion and freedom of the press. “Orban is trying to cement the place of the Fidesz party in the government,” said Balázs Jarábik, an associate fellow at FRIDE, a European think tank based in Madrid. “This democracy deficit […]

Analysts of Russian politics have always faced a conundrum when assessing developments like December’s mass protests in Moscow. Russia has a history of authoritarianism and cultural fatalism that has always discouraged reform. From Peter the Great to Leonid Brezhnev, Russian rulers have shown a near-endless capacity for tricking, co-opting or simply suppressing pro-reform movements. For centuries, developments that in any other nondemocratic regime would signal imminent and inevitable change have routinely failed to breach the Kremlin walls. But in the few historical instances where change has occurred, it has traditionally been rapid and unpredictable. The Bolsheviks took power just months […]

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