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Immigration has been a key issue in the French presidential election, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy promising to drastically reduce immigration inflows, as well as to withdraw France from the European Union’s open-border internal Schengen zone unless the EU tightens its own border controls by the end of 2012. Both measures are widely seen as an effort to win over the first-round voters of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. But according to Saskia Sassen, a professor at Columbia University and an expert on European immigration, Sarkozy is simply the latest in a long line of European presidents and prime ministers […]

As U.S. President Barack Obama vies for a second term in office and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin struggles to reassert his authority at the outset of his third, the so-called Magnitsky bill currently under debate in the U.S. Congress could define U.S.-Russia relations for the next decade. Simply put, if and when the Magnitsky bill passes, Obama will have to sign it. To do otherwise would be electoral suicide. Similarly, Putin and the Russian elite will have to respond in kind. To do otherwise risks their continued authority, which for many members of the Russian elite could amount to actual […]

Vladimir Putin will be inaugurated to serve a third term as Russia’s president next month. The pomp and circumstance of the Kremlin ceremonies, however, won’t be able to hide the fact that, far from being a triumphal restoration of his rightful role, Putin’s return to the presidency is in fact a tacit admission of failure. Putin and his associates have not yet succeeded in achieving the truest mark of success for any political regime: the ability to pass the system intact to a next generation of leadership. The Putin system continues to depend on Putin personally for it to be […]

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Russia and China launched their first joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea on Monday. In an email interview, Simon Saradzhyan, a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, discussed military cooperation between Russia and China. WPR: How has Russia-China military and defense cooperation evolved over the past 10 years?Simon Saradzhyan: Bilateral military cooperation has developed steadily thanks to a general rapprochement between China and postcommunist Russia. On top of strong economic ties, the growth is based on the convergence of the two countries’ interests in opposing U.S. global dominance, the development of U.S. missile defenses, the expansion […]

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced his resignation Monday after his coalition government failed to agree on austerity measures needed to bring the Dutch budget into conformity with the European Union’s recently agreed-upon deficit limits. Budget talks in the Netherlands broke down after Geert Wilders’ euroskeptic Freedom Party abandoned negotiations over the weekend. “The news from the Netherlands drives home the fact that this crisis is no longer a crisis of the periphery. It is often portrayed as the core counties versus the periphery, as the North versus the South, but the Netherlands is a core country in the North,” […]

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Venezuela threatened in early April to retaliate against a European Union decision to ban Venezuelan state airline Conviasa from flying in the EU. In an email interview, Susanne Gratius, a specialist in EU-Latin America relations at the Madrid-based think tank FRIDE, discussed EU-Venezuela relations. WPR: What is the history of European Union-Venezuela relations under President Hugo Chavez? Susanne Gratius: Relations are distant but cordial. Unlike U.S. policy, there are no diplomatic tensions or open conflicts between the EU and the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Despite limited mutual interests, the EU has become the main donor and a principal […]

Russia has been in the international spotlight in recent months, with frustration over endemic corruption, lingering anger over December’s manipulated Duma elections and Vladimir Putin’s carefully orchestrated return to the presidency bringing Russian protesters out into the streets in greater numbers than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union. But despite its political crisis, Russia retains the ability to impact U.S. interests worldwide: The Kremlin is unafraid to flex its still-considerable muscle abroad, blocking U.S.-led efforts to sanction and topple the bloody government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, threatening to upend European and even global security over […]

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Socialist challenger Francois Hollande came out ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France’s presidential election Sunday, winning 28.6 percent of votes cast, compared to 27.2 percent for Sarkozy. It marks the first time in the history of the country’s present electoral system that a sitting president has been outpolled in the first round. The two will now face each other in a run-off election on May 6. Until then, the European Union will be holding its breath, as the implications of the election results will extend far beyond France’s borders. When asked what he considered […]

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Jiang Jiemin, the chairman of the China National Petroleum Corp., has reportedly floated the idea of building an undersea pipeline that would deliver Russian natural gas to South Korea via China, as an alternative to a long-discussed plan to build a pipeline connecting Russia, North Korea and South Korea. In an email interview, Se Hyun Ahn, chair of the department of international relations at the University of Seoul, discussed the prospect of a Russia-China-South Korea pipeline. WPR: What are South Korea’s sources of natural gas, and how is it delivered? Se Hyun Ahn: South Korea imports all of its natural […]

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Japan announced a new defense-industry partnership with the U.K. earlier this month, its first foreign deal after relaxing its decades-old restrictions on defense cooperation with non.-U.S. partners in December. In an email interview, Ralph A. Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS discussed Japan’s new overseas defense cooperation. WPR: What brought about Japan’s relaxation of restrictions on developing defense equipment with foreign partners? Ralph A. Cossa: This has been in the works for some time and had support both from the opposition — which had flirted with the change for years when it was in charge — and the U.S. […]

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Over the weekend, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign policy, oversaw 10 hours of talks in Istanbul, Turkey, between Iran and the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program, earning the respect of a number of diplomats. The praise for Ashton’s handling of the talks contrasts with past criticisms for her slow response to crises, her absence from the media and her tendency to follow an American lead rather than taking a forceful European stand. “It is in everyone’s interest that the EU has and plays a useful role in the Iran talks, and it […]

Twenty years ago this spring, newly independent Moldova, a former Soviet republic lodged between Romania and Ukraine, was consumed by fighting between neighbors on opposite banks of the Dniester River. The conflict broke out because citizens on the eastern or “left” bank of the river, in the largely Russian-speaking region known as Transnistria, feared that Romanian-speaking right-bank Moldovans would form a federal union with neighboring Romania. With tacit support from Moscow and in the protective shadow of the Russian 14th Army, Transnistria declared itself an independent republic in its own right and fought to establish its sovereignty. The conflict lasted […]

As NATO member states prepare for next month’s heads-of-state summit in Chicago, the alliance faces a number of difficult decisions on a variety of issues that will determine its deterrence and defense posture moving forward. And while NATO is often stymied by internal divisions among its members, in this case the major obstacle to any bold policy shifts is disagreement with a nonmember: Russia. As a result, NATO is likely to endorse current policies, unless Russia significantly alters its negotiating position on these issues. At the last NATO heads-of-state summit in November 2010 in Lisbon, faced with the question of […]

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