In January, when a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker escorted a Russian tanker carrying essential fuel to Nome, Alaska, it served as a reminder that the U.S. and Russia have many reasons to continue pursuing a thaw in relations. Unfortunately, beyond the New START agreement and a few other deals, the U.S.-Russia reset, which was announced with fanfare in 2009, seems to have descended into bureaucratic obscurity. While it is essential that the United States maintains a constructive relationship with the Russian federal government, there is much more to be gained in developing working relationships that extend to regional governments, nongovernmental […]

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The United Nations estimates that some 215 million people live away from their native countries. Many try to escape unbearable conditions at home, attracted by Europe’s wealth. But only a few manage to leave and make a new start abroad. World News Videos by NewsLook

This month marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the post-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a country that is currently playing a vital role in sustaining NATO forces in Afghanistan, supporting Georgia and other U.S. friends in Eurasia, and helping to moderate Iranian and Russian ambitions in the energy-rich Caspian Basin region. But Washington needs to prioritize its ties with Baku to strengthen the partnership and to make sure that Azerbaijan and its fragile neighbors in the geopolitically vital South Caucasus region remain strong and stable. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Azerbaijan was among the […]

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The European Commission published a document earlier this month to defend the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the face of large public demonstrations against the proposed agreement. In an email interview, Axel Metzger, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of Hanover, discussed ACTA in the context of European Union intellectual property norms. WPR: What is the background of ACTA, and what gaps in the global intellectual property regime is it meant to address? Axel Metzger: The goal of ACTA is to achieve a higher level of enforcement of intellectual property rights. The provisions, for the most part, […]

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Noting an improvement in Zimbabwe’s political situation since the signing of a power-sharing agreement in 2008, the European Union last week eased its targeted sanctions against the country’s leadership even as it encouraged further political reforms. With the goal of pushing further progress toward fair and peaceful elections, the EU removed visa bans and asset freezes on 51 individuals and 20 companies with links to the ruling party, ZANU-PF. But it kept an arms embargo in place, extended a freeze on aid for another six months and kept more than 100 party officials, as well as Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, […]

The Oval Office meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Jan. 30 has already been chalked up as a major victory by Tbilisi. Obama and Saakashvili discussed a range of topics, including the development of Georgia’s democracy, the country’s future transition of power and a possible free trade deal. For the Georgian government and their allies in the media, however, increased defense ties were the centerpiece development. Yet aside from an oblique reference by Saakashvili to “elevating our defense cooperation further,” details on any changes in the military relationship have been scarce. Several figures in […]

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The British government approved arms sales to Bahrain last year, despite ongoing unrest in the Persian Gulf state. In an email interview, John Louth, deputy head of the defense industries and society program at the Royal United Services Institute, discussed the U.K. defense industry. WPR: What is the current size and scope of the British defense industry, and how has it evolved in the past decade? John Louth: The U.K. defense market represents between about 1 percent and 2 percent of U.K. GDP annually, with the government spending about $28 billion each year on defense equipment and services from the […]

Iran’s decision this week to bar International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from visiting the Parchin military base, which Tehran allegedly used to test components needed to create a nuclear weapon, may prove to be a turning point in the diplomatic standoff over the country’s nuclear program. Up to this point, the “rising democracies” — especially Turkey, India and Brazil — have been unwilling to support efforts by the United States and Europe to further isolate Iran, in part because they have a much narrower definition of what constitutes a “nuclear weapons capability,” which the U.S. says is an unacceptable […]

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In late-January an influential member of the European Parliament urged the European Union to reject a deal with the U.S. on sharing information about air travellers for anti-terror programs. In an email interview, Rocco Bellanova, a researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, and Paul De Hert, a professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Tilburg University, discussed the EU-U.S. passenger data-sharing agreement. WPR: What is the background of the U.S.-EU passenger data-transfer deal? Rocco Bellanova and Paul De Hert: The 2011 iteration of the so-called passenger name record (PNR) agreement currently under discussion at the European Parliament […]

Russia has disappointingly blocked for now a U.S. State Department initiative to build a network of U.S.-supported counternarcotics centers in Central Asia. In public, Russian officials denigrate the effectiveness of programs to interdict drug transportation through Eurasia and instead have favored concentrating international resources on fighting opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan itself. But some Russian officials’ opposition to the initiative is driven by their desire to minimize the U.S. presence in Central Asia. Formally launched in June 2011 as a $4.1 million State Department program, the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI) aims to establish counternarcotics task forces in all five […]

At first glance, the ongoing efforts to remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria and the unrecognized referendum held in the majority-Serbian areas of northern Kosovo would not appear to have much in common. But both are symptoms of a larger problem that has accelerated in recent years: the delegitimization of the territorially defined state. The classic definition of a state in the international system, as provided by Max Weber and incorporated into international law by the 1933 Montevideo convention, gives the national government the exclusive right to use force to secure its existence and territory. But that norm is […]

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The Russian energy giant Gazprom announced in January that it had signed a deal to double gas purchases from Azerbaijan. In an email interview, Shahriyar Nasirov, a doctoral candidate at the University of the Basque Country and a research fellow in the energy department of the Orkestra-Basque Institute of Competitiveness, discussed Azerbaijan’s energy sector. WPR: How has Azerbaijan’s energy sector evolved over the past 10 years, and what are its current strengths and weaknesses? Shahriyar Nasirov: Azerbaijan’s major strengths are the existence of a stable legal framework and attractive environment for foreign investors in the energy sector, and the provision […]

After a period of healthier ties following the much-heralded reset, U.S.-Russia relations appear to be deteriorating. Whether it was the war of words between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last December over the flaws in the Russian Duma elections, or the harsh language used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice after Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution last week calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the optimism engendered by the Obama administration’s reset with Russia has dissipated. Nor does the immediate future bode well for “resetting the reset.” Putin is […]

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