Late last month, more than a decade of indecision over the so-called Southern Gas Corridor linking Caspian reserves to European Union markets finally came to an end with the selection of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) by the Shah Deniz consortium of gas producers in Azerbaijan. TAP was selected over the much more widely recognized and operatically named Nabucco pipeline, which had captivated the energy industry and shaped the geopolitics of the Black Sea-Caspian region for years. Shah Deniz consortium members, which include BP, Statoil, Total and Azerbaijan’s national energy company SOCAR, insist that the selection was based almost entirely on […]

At a NATO-Russia Council meeting last week, Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, complained about Moscow’s failure to provide advance notice of its recent large-scale military exercises. Gottemoeller stated that Russia had notified the U.S. about an exercise of “unprecedented size” in the Eastern Military District only as the activity commenced, while Washington “received word of the large aviation exercise in the Western Military District only through press reports.” According to the Russians, the “snap” exercises were designed to test the Russian military’s day-to-day readiness without advance warning of any drill. In addition, they […]

On June 26, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev formally signed a law “annulling” the country’s agreement with the U.S. to host an air base in his country. The true significance of the law is unclear, and it could be a bargaining ploy to gain more favorable terms for a new agreement on the base, which has been the United States’ most conspicuous presence in Central Asia since being established shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Regardless, the passage of the law has highlighted how U.S. interest in Central Asia is destined to diminish as the U.S. extracts itself from Afghanistan. In […]

Last week, Alexei Navalny, a Russian anti-corruption activist and blogger who gained a reputation as unofficial leader of the Russian opposition during protests against President Vladimir Putin, was freed on bail pending appeal of his five-year prison sentence on charges of embezzlement. Navalny now plans to run for mayor of Moscow, despite a prosecution many see as politically motivated. “The question still remains as to whether the movement can grow from ‘anti-Putin’ or ‘pro-Navalny’ to something with a real political program,” Sarah Oates, professor and senior scholar at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and author of […]

In addition to their growing energy and renewed arms trade, another sign of the strengthening Russia-China relationship was their recently concluded bilateral naval exercise. The drills were larger and more sophisticated than those held last year. But they are still far from establishing a Russia-China capacity for joint maritime combat operations, which does not appear a goal of either government in any case. The active phase of the maneuvers took place July 8-10 in the waters off of Vladivostok. Twelve Russian vessels from the Pacific Fleet participated in this year’s drill, compared to seven warships and support craft in 2012. […]

An increasing number of Southern Europeans are leaving their recession-ridden countries in search of work and opportunities in the North, especially in Germany, raising fears that these countries’ problems will be compounded by a brain drain should their economies not improve. Between 2009 and 2011, outflows of people from countries most affected by the crisis, in particular in Southern Europe, rose by 45 percent, according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And Germany, with its low rates of overall and youth unemployment—5.3 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively—is a prime destination for this new migration […]

In May 2010, while the rest of the Western world was busy picking up the pieces from the combined banking and real estate crises, a fiscal crisis hit Greece. The Greek government discovered it was unable to service the country’s soaring public debt, which stood at 129 percent of GDP in 2009. That year, Greece’s budget deficit was 15.6 percent of GDP, while its current account deficit was 15 percent of GDP. Soon the state coffers would be depleted, leaving the 20 percent of the country’s labor force that works in the public sector without compensation and numerous state-owned enterprises, […]

Last month, the European Union renewed the mandate of the European Network and Information Security Agency, its principal cybersecurity agency, giving it expanded responsibilities. In an email interview, Alexander Klimburg, a fellow at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs specializing in cybersecurity as well as EU foreign and security policy, explained the state of EU cyberdefense and its role in EU-U.S. relations. WPR: How is responsibility for cybersecurity divided among EU member states and the institutions of the EU? Alexander Klimburg: In the EU Cyber Security Strategy, published earlier this year, the EU committed itself to all five of the […]

A rather small country by its size and population—65 million, less than 1 percent of total global population—France is nevertheless one of five to 10 countries that can claim to be major powers in today’s world. The French economy is, however, plagued with sluggish growth, an unemployment level now hovering around 10 percent of the active population, a budget that has been in deficit for more than three decades and a public debt that represents more than 90 percent of its GDP—with more than 60 percent of that debt held by nonresidents, as opposed to about 30 percent for the […]

Portugal appeared to be on the brink of government collapse last week after a string of unexpected ministerial resignations. But so far, the coalition government under Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has survived. Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that Portugal, which has faced three years of recession and has imposed unpopular austerity measures under the terms of a European Union bailout, is more notable for its stability than its turmoil. “This recent political crisis is fundamentally driven by political positioning, not driven by people on the street saying enough is enough, and […]

Last week, the British government announced that it would ban khat, an herbal stimulant popular in the Middle East and Africa. In an email interview, Axel Klein, a lecturer in the anthropology of conflict, criminal justice and policy at the University of Kent’s Center for Health Services Studies, explained the rationale for the ban and its likely effect on khat-consuming communities within the U.K. WPR: What was the British government’s rationale for banning khat? Axel Klein: Interestingly, the arguments for the ban were not laid out clearly. All the home secretary said in her statement was that khat had been […]

Last week, Amnesty International reported that Russia, Ukraine and several former Soviet states were cooperating in illegal rendition programs, while Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to extradite Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who confessed to having leaked classified information on U.S. surveillance programs and who remains in a Moscow airport. In an email interview, Jacques Hartmann, a lecturer at the University of Dundee Law School who specializes in international law and extradition, explained Russia’s extradition and rendition practices, their political drivers and their legal implications. WPR: What are the main deciding factors when Russia considers an extradition or […]

The recent revelations about U.S. intelligence programs are causing an uproar in Europe. In particular, the wide-ranging efforts to monitor European diplomatic offices and communications networks have led a number of officials to voice their discontent publicly. German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that U.S. behavior “was reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the Cold War,” while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was unequivocal: “These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable.” The question now is: What will be the actual policy implications of recent revelations about PRISM and associated intelligence collection efforts? And to what extent will these […]

If a Western policymaker had sketched out a dream scenario for the Arab world in 2013, it would have looked something like this: In Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi would gradually mature into a semi-competent leader. In Syria, his counterpart Bashar al-Assad would fall quickly and the fragmented opposition would cobble together a half-decent government. Other countries in the region making the transition from dictatorship, such and Libya and Yemen, would make halting progress to lasting stability. Some Western officials had even greater ambitions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process an early priority since […]

The recent announcement by the deputy commander of Russia’s Caspian fleet, Nikolai Yakubovsky, that Russia and Iran intend to hold a combined naval exercise in the Caspian Sea later this year should not have come as a surprise. Not only have the two sides engaged in such joint drills in previous years, but since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic have enjoyed a surprisingly harmonious relationship regarding regional security issues. The Iranian government has refused to intervene on behalf of the Muslim guerrillas fighting Moscow in Chechnya or in other parts of […]

On his way to the G-8 Summit in mid-June, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a stopover in Warsaw for his first summit with the Visegrad Group, a subregional European alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia commonly called the V-4. While the gathering was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of V-4-Japanese cooperation, a closer look reveals its deeper significance: The summit was emblematic of the growing importance of Central Europe in the international arena. Individually, the Visegrad states, with the possible exception of Poland, are neither particularly rich nor influential. Viewed collectively, however, they have roughly […]