More than four years after President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech declared the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, the nuclear landscape has become more complex and precarious and shows little sign of movement toward abolition. The so-called global zero initiative has arguably been overtaken by countervailing nuclear realities. Yet the administration remains mired in a Cold War paradigm, gearing up for more U.S.-Russia arms control. Instead, the Obama administration should focus on other components of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as priorities for advancing nonproliferation objectives. These include securing nuclear materials, institutionalizing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), capping […]

As the U.S. looks to the end of one phase of the war on terror, with military operations having ended in Iraq and currently winding down in Afghanistan, a new one is well underway, characterized by drone strikes and covert missions by special operations forces. In Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are battling serious challenges from Islamist terrorist groups. Meanwhile, in the Sahel, al-Qaida’s affiliates are carrying on the group’s ideology even as its central organization falters, with implications for the U.S. and Europe. This WPR Special Report examines the new fronts in the war on terror. Counterterrorism Containment Should Guide […]

Though Russian oil production continues to rise and is currently approaching Soviet-era levels, forecasts predict it will soon peak and then decline, causing potential problems both for global oil importers and the Russian government’s budget. Averting this decline will require applying more-advanced production techniques to existing fields and exploiting new ones in the Arctic Ocean and elsewhere. Russia’s oil companies will be unable to accomplish this transformation on their own, however. To do so, they will need to secure greater foreign investment and partnerships offering more-advanced technologies and the exposure to better management skills. The benefits of increased foreign investment […]

European Union member states, Canada and the United States have all committed military transport aircraft to move troops and equipment from Europe to West Africa in support of the French offensive to reclaim northern Mali from Islamist rebels. Six American C-17 Globemaster III aircraft are flying missions as part of U.S. Africa Command’s effort to support French operations, while one Canadian C-17 and two British C-17s are also flying cargo to support the air and land campaign. The involvement of North American aircraft in the French-led mission has brought Europe’s long-standing airlift shortage to the fore. Faced with the demands […]

In January, France began military operations to wrest northern Mali from the control of Islamist militants and prevent them from taking over the rest of the country. In an email interview, Rachel Utley, an expert on French defense and security policies at the University of Leeds, discussed France’s broader military posture in the Sahel region of North Africa. WPR: What are France’s overall military capabilities in the Sahel, and where are its regional bases? Rachel Utley: France maintains a long-standing military presence in Africa, as important for its political value — the promotion of French presence and influence — as […]

The response to last week’s hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria perfectly encapsulated the broader relationship between the European Union and Algeria. EU countries, notably France and the U.K., tried to encourage Algeria to consult with them on handling the dramatic events taking place on Algerian territory, but ultimately, the Algerian government acted on its own terms, on the basis of its better intelligence about the situation on the ground. In the end, European leaders acknowledged that, while they would have liked some advance notice, the Algerian army had responded swiftly and appropriately according to its […]

Germany’s reluctance to participate in the French intervention in Mali beyond providing logistical support and humanitarian assistance is hardly surprising. Europe’s “leading power” has been repeatedly absent from its partners’ past military efforts, the most notable recent example being its refusal in 2011 to take part in the operation against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. Although Germany now hopes to prove itself a reliable partner, it appears to be caught between its reservations about foreign military intervention and its responsibilities as an ally, neighbor and large European power. Despite every indication that the crisis in Mali is developing into a conflict with […]

Last week, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came to Europe to say “goodbye and good luck.” The U.S. is switching its strategic focus to the Pacific; in the future, Europeans will have to do more fending for themselves. The coincidental eruption of the Mali crisis underlined Panetta’s point. The U.S. found itself legally precluded from intervening because of the overthrow of the democratic government by the Malian army in March. So in this North African crisis, the U.S. would not even “lead from behind” as it had in Libya. Any intervention in Mali was strictly up to the Europeans. […]

Marine Le Pen, center, far-right National Front candidate for France’s 2012 presidential election,  with her father Jean Marie Le Pen, right, after her speech during the traditional May Day march in Paris, May 1, 2012 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. Political extremism has, in many places, become a kind of new normal. In most democratic political systems, whether firmly established or still early in their consolidations, we find parties deemed “extremist” by the mainstream that routinely enjoy sustained electoral success. These political parties espouse rejectionist philosophies, proffer illiberal policies and promote intolerance of targeted groups. They typically do this, however, while playing within the rules of the democratic game. Putatively extremist parties […]

Europe has consistently struggled to escape fully from the shadows of fascism and far-right politics. At various points since 1945, and despite continual attempts to forge European unity, mainstream political elites have been faced with a revival of public support for politicians or parties that are associated with fascism, anti-democratic ideas and prejudice. Whether expressed in strong performances by right-wing extremist parties at elections or periodic surges in levels of racially motivated violence, the landscape of postwar European politics has never truly been “far-right free.” Far from being ephemeral, the far right in postwar Europe has proved to be remarkably […]

France has been at war in Mali for just more than a week, and though you might not know it from much of the media coverage, France is winning. This fact has been overlooked in a good deal of commentary on the fighting for three reasons. First, the Islamist rebels the French set out to fight have proved surprisingly resourceful. Second, the Malian army has turned out to be hopeless. Finally, the seizure and murder of Western oil workers in Algeria by a group associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has shown that the Islamists have some strategic depth. […]

American and Russian leaders cannot agree on much these days. Yet pressing problems such as Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program and post-withdrawal Afghanistan demand U.S.-Russia cooperation. Liberals in both countries attribute the relationship’s difficulties to the erosion of democracy in Russia, their logic being that a convergence on basic political values would enable greater cooperation. Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama’s “reset” policy toward Moscow proceeds from a different premise, namely that America and Russia can find areas for cooperation despite disagreements on democracy and human rights because, on some issues, self-interest unites them. Thus the reset involves better communication, […]

On Dec. 5, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia heard testimony from American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael Rubin on Iran’s influence in the South Caucasus. While Rubin detailed Iran’s close ties to Armenia and contrasted them to Iran’s uneasy relationship with Azerbaijan, he closed his testimony with unexpected warnings of a potential Georgian alignment with Iran (pdf). “The victory of [Prime Minister] Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream party in October 2012 elections threatens to radically reorient the Republic of Georgia, which, under President Mikheil Saakashvili, has been reliably pro-Western,” cautioned Rubin, adding that Ivanishvili’s pledge to […]

Russia’s next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN), equipped with the new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), officially entered service with the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet on Jan. 10. Christened the Yuri Dolgoruky, this first Borey-class sub was under construction at the Sevmash shipbuilding company from 1996 to 2008. The ship had originally been intended to carry the much larger Bark SLBM. When the Bark’s development problems led the Russian governmentto abandon it in favor of the smaller Bulava, Russian shipbuilders had to redesign the entire Borey class to accommodate the Bulava — before the missile had even moved beyond the drawing […]

In mid-December, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made her first official visit to France amid speculation that the French-made Rafale might beat out competition from the U.S. and Sweden for a Brazilian fighter jet tender. In an email interview, Antonio Ramalho, an expert on Brazil-European Union relations at Brasilia University, explained the obstacles and opportunities facing the France-Brazil bilateral relationship. WPR: With new presidents in office in both countries, what are the main opportunities and obstacles facing the bilateral relationship? Antonio Ramalho: The main opportunities relate to their common views regarding the role of government in actively promoting economic growth through […]

More by accident than by design, 2013 is shaping up to be the most consequential year for U.S. trade policy since 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization and the star-crossed Doha Round was launched. By the end of this year, negotiations could be completed on the first trans-Pacific free trade agreement in history, and talks should be well underway on a trans-Atlantic deal between the United States and the European Union. At the same time, new WTO negotiations will begin on a broad agreement to liberalize trade in service industries such as consulting, banking, insurance and architecture, and […]

There was an overwhelming sense of relief in Europe following U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election in November. Although European approval of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has fallen since he took office in 2009, particularly over his increased use of drones in the war on terror and his perceived failure to put greater pressure on Israel toward a final status agreement with the Palestinians, Europeans overwhelmingly preferred him to his opponent, Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Indeed, according to one poll carried out in 12 European Union member states before the election, 75 percent of Europeans said they would vote for […]

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