One of the challenges that President Barack Obama faces in his second term is how to salvage his vaunted reset of relations with Russia. An important assumption in Obama’s attempt to jumpstart what had been a rapidly deteriorating bilateral relationship during the second terms of both George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin was that Obama would be dealing with a younger, more modern, liberalizing Dmitry Medvedev as Russian president. While there was no illusion that Putin, as prime minister, was still an influential figure in Russian politics, the reset was predicated on the hope that Medvedev would, over […]

Editor’s note: Catherine Cheney is reporting on German policymaking this week as part of the German-American Fulbright Commission’s Berlin Capital Program, which is funded by the German Foreign Office. BERLIN — Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany announced an expensive and accelerated departure away from nuclear technology and toward renewable sources such as wind and solar. The latest step in that transition came yesterday, when the German parliament passed legislation to help prevent blackouts as the country’s reliance on renewables grows. Experts told Trend Lines that Fukushima confirmed Germans’ worries about nuclear energy, forcing the government to rapidly […]

Editor’s note: Catherine Cheney is reporting on German policymaking this week as part of the German-American Fulbright Commission’s Berlin Capital Program, which is funded by the German Foreign Office. BERLIN — After talks lasting more than 10 hours Tuesday, eurozone finance ministers reached an agreement on a bailout deal for the heavily indebted Greek economy this week, agreeing to cut Athens’ debts by $51 billion in return for austerity measures. Other steps to reduce the Greek debt to 124 percent of its gross domestic product by 2020 include cutting the interest rates on loans to the country and helping it […]

Although Russia and China are the only countries that have the capability to conduct a large-scale ballistic missile attack on the U.S. homeland, neither one is the focus of U.S. ballistic missile defense efforts, due to the unlikelihood of such an attack. Nevertheless, both Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly expressed their concerns that U.S. missile defenses will negatively impact their own strategic capabilities and interests. While China shares some of Russia’s concerns and responses regarding U.S. missile defenses, Beijing’s objections also differ in certain respects. Both countries fear that U.S. BMD systems threaten to weaken their nuclear deterrents and undermine […]

After a successful appeal at a United Nations tribunal, Croatian national hero Gen. Ante Gotovina, who led a 1995 offensive to retake a region of Croatia from Serbian militant control, was acquitted of war crimes last week. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia reversed the convictions of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Gotovina and Mladen Markac, a more junior general. Gotovina’s conviction in 2011 had dealt a blow to the image of Croatians as victims, rather than perpetrators, of the atrocities committed during the breakup of Yugoslavia. The successful appeal now provides Serbs with another example […]

Czech Prime Minister Czech Petr Necas announced plans earlier this month to significantly increase Czech nuclear power production by building new reactors at existing nuclear plants. In an email interview, Andrej Nosko, a doctoral student at Central European University, discussed the Czech energy sector. WPR: What is the breakdown of Czech energy consumption, in terms of fuel types and sources? Andrej Nosko: The majority of Czech final energy consumption is comprised of domestic solid fuels (12 percent), imported petroleum and products (26 percent), gases (26 percent) and electricity (19 percent). Electricity is generated mostly by coal-powered plants, which rely heavily […]

Commentary on generational conflict and the radicalism of youth goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks — from the tragedies of Oedipus to the comedies of Aristophanes, we find the younger generation contesting the power and morals of their elders. Such conflict is probably always present to some degree in every family and every generation. Yet the coalescence of individual youthful impatience with the ways of the older generation into social movements of rebellion or revolution is something that happens more rarely and only when certain economic, political and social conditions prevail. It is far too simple, […]

When assigning homework exercises for a survey course that I teach on American foreign policy, I tell my students that no matter how strong the arguments they use to defend their positions, if they neglect to examine how demographic trends will affect their proposals, they will get an F. What is true for my students is true for global policymakers: Demographic trends will shape our future in a much more profound sense than most of the developments we see on the front page of the New York Times. Four major demographic trends in particular will shape the global security landscape […]

Last week saw the largest general strikes to date against austerity policies in Southern Europe. In Portugal, Spain and Greece, but also in Belgium, public services were shut down for a whole day, with hospitals and airports closed, and street traffic almost nonexistent. Public mobilization was most impressive in Athens, Barcelona and Madrid, but a few cities in France also saw public demonstrations, especially of young people, against both cuts in social welfare and retirement benefits and tax increases. Without a doubt, the past three years of crisis and economic retraction has produced awful social distortions in Southern Europe, and […]

Russia dispatched a three-vessel squadron to join its anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia earlier this month. In an email interview, Thomas Fedyszyn, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, discussed Russia’s anti-piracy operations. WPR: What is the current size and scope of Russia’s anti-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa? Thomas Fedyszyn: The Russian Federation Navy (RFN) has conducted anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa since 2008. The minimal force is composed of one ocean-going surface combatant with helicopters, an oiler (tanker) and a seagoing tug. Each of Russia’s four fleets has […]

British Prime Minister David Cameron traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last week in an effort to promote sales of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. In an email interview, Rosemary Hollis, a professor of Middle East policy studies at City University London, discussed relations between the U.K. and the Persian Gulf states. WPR: What is the state of diplomatic and economic relations between the U.K. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states? Rosemary Hollis: British economic and diplomatic relations with the GCC states are intertwined. Fully aware of this, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently visited the […]

The main reason behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision last week to remove Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has become clearer in recent days with the subsequent firing of Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov and other senior defense officials and military officers in Russia’s Ministry of Defense. Taken together, the dismissals suggest that the shakeup was not due primarily to sex scandals, corrupt practices or alienation of the officer corps, as has been claimed by various observers. Rather, the purge was the result of a power struggle over who should control the distribution of the $700 billion that Putin pledged […]

If the U.S. presidential election had only been about the economy, Barack Obama would not have been re-elected. The U.S. federal government runs a $16 trillion deficit, a historical peak of sovereign debt whose only precedent dates back to World War II. And with 23 million Americans unemployed, the unemployment rate has not decreased dramatically since the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, with regard to the policy issues raised by the crisis itself, there has been little follow through on the numerous decisions taken by the G-20 to better contain and control financial markets. To the contrary, financial […]

Sergei Shoigu officially took over as Russia’s new defense minister yesterday, but the reasons for the sudden dismissal of his predecessor, Anatoliy Serdyukov, remain uncertain. Russian President Vladimir Putin insists that he dismissed Serdyukov to allow authorities to investigate allegations of widespread corruption in the Defense Ministry. Serdyukov, who has cracked down on corruption within the armed forces, is accused of allowing his key subordinates and family members to enrich themselves in more sophisticated ways, such as by selling off valuable Defense Ministry properties at below market prices to friendly buyers in return for kickbacks. But Russian and Western media […]

In 1992, shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the prominent German philosopher Peter Sloderdijk wrote that Europe’s hour had come, raising a question of historical importance: Would Europe be able to bind the U.S. and Russia together in a bold trilateral relation defining the new West? Twenty years later, in the aftermath of Russia’s recent presidential election and in the final hours before Tuesday’s presidential election in the U.S., it seems clear that Europe has failed to do so. Rather than being the powerful glue that secures a renewed relationship between […]

During last week’s presidential debate on foreign policy, Republican nominee Mitt Romney missed an opportunity to criticize one aspect of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy that has gone largely unnoticed: the shift away from U.S. international radio broadcasting in favor of more high-tech media outlets. The dangers of the shift were underscored by a new law spearheaded by Russian President Vladimir Putin that will ban radio broadcasting in Russia starting Nov. 10 by companies that are more than 48 percent foreign-owned. Without protest, the American station Radio Liberty — Radio Svoboda in Russian — has decided to comply with the […]

No matter who wins the U.S. presidential election next week, the man who governs from January 2013 to January 2017 will face several challenges during his term in office. While we don’t know who the next American president will be, we do know what items will be appearing on his agenda. In 2014, Scottish voters will go to the polls to determine whether they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom or secede as an independent nation. With separatist sentiment also on display in other key regions of Europe, especially in Flanders (in Belgium) and Catalonia (in Spain), the […]

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