After a period of relative calm, the two recent attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd serve as a reminder that, despite the government’s pre-Olympic crackdown, Russia’s heartland remains vulnerable to militants from the Muslim-majority North Caucasus region. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings of the city’s main train station and a crowded trolleybus, which together killed at least 30 people, Volgograd has suffered from years of bombings, typically carried out by Islamist terrorists from the nearby North Caucasus. Russia’s Muslim militants are especially irritated by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to hold the February Winter Olympics in […]

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip. In an email interview, Robert O. Freedman, Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone professor of political science emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew University and visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, who has written on Russian policy in the Middle East, explained the state of Russia’s ties with Palestine. WPR: What is the status of Russia’s ties with the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza? Robert Freedman: Currently, Russia […]

Recent developments have led some commentators to worry that China and the United States may stumble into a shooting match. Two events in particular have heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington: Last month, China proclaimed an air defense identification zone covering disputed territories in the East China Sea; then, on Dec. 5, a collision was narrowly avoided between the USS Cowpens and a Chinese naval vessel that was accompanying the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, on its maiden excursion into the South China Sea. Aware of the possibility of a clash that neither country wants, Chinese and American spokesmen have […]

Last weekend, three weeks of anxious waiting came to an end in Germany when the Social Democratic Party (SPD), in an unprecedented internal referendum, approved a coalition agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). With the new German government sworn in on Tuesday, it is now possible to size up its key personnel and review its foreign and domestic policy agenda. After the federal election on Sept. 22, the victorious Merkel lost her preferred coalition partner when the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) failed to make the 5 percent threshold for representation in the Bundestag. As a result, […]

Never again. That was the sentiment I remember hearing over and over from developing country officials following the tumultuous completion of the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1993 that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) two years later. Once again, most of them believed, the United States and the European Union had dictated the final terms of a global trade agreement and forced it down the throats of the rest of the world. These countries were determined to have far more say in the shape of any future deals. For the past two decades, until this month’s […]

The Obama administration’s decision last week to continue the dual-hatted arrangement whereby a single military officer runs both the Cyber Command (Cybercom) and the National Security Agency (NSA) is the latest indication that the administration plans to make only modest changes in how the United States conducts offensive and defensive cyber operations in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA data collection. Instead, the administration’s aim will be to tighten security procedures to prevent yet another massive leakage of sensitive information from a rogue contractor such as Snowden, as well as to minimize further friction with friendly governments. Although […]

Crisis management and long-term strategy: French president Francois Hollande must juggle both priorities right now as he seeks to develop a sustainable approach to engagement south of the Sahara even as 1,600 French troops are deployed on an emergency intervention in the Central African Republic. The French public and political world are mostly supportive of the mission in the CAR, which seeks to halt a spiral of conflict between Christians and Muslims. Yet Hollande still has to overcome the skepticism of critics who see this latest military intervention as redolent of the post-colonial era, when Paris would send in its […]

Conflict settlement is a process rather than a singular act. At its most basic, a peace process comprises three phases: the negotiation, implementation and operation of an agreement meant to enable the conflict parties to resolve their disputes by nonviolent, political means. Yet the successful conclusion of a peace process is by no means a foregone conclusion—they can, and do, fail. Sometimes negotiations break down and no agreements are concluded, leading conflict parties back to violence. In other cases, disagreements about the meaning of particular provisions arise after an agreement has been reached. In the absence of effective dispute resolution […]

A concerted effort to portray the protests in Ukraine as a pivotal moment pitting the Euro-Atlantic community against a resurgent Russia has not gained much traction among the American public in general or the Obama administration in particular. Washington apparently has little interest in matching the Russian “bid” for Ukraine, despite dire warnings that a failure to do so will imperil the security of the Western world. Some of this may be due to “revolution fatigue” engendered after a decade of watching the promise of popular uprisings to usher in new eras of freedom, democracy and pro-American governments fade away. […]

Since Ukraine regained independence in 1991, analysts have often described the country as divided between a pro-European west and a pro-Russian east. Over the past two decades, elections and opinion polls have reflected that divide, though with some gradual blurring of the line. An interesting feature of the current political crisis, however, is that while pro-European sentiment grips the western and central parts of Ukraine, no alternate pro-Russian narrative has appeared with any force or passion. Like many things, the east-west divide in Ukraine oversimplifies. It is not strictly a divide between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. The latter make […]

Is there a lonelier or more poorly understood warrior than Francois Hollande? Last week, as French troops prepared to intervene in the Central African Republic (CAR) to stem pervasive disorder, there was praise from abroad for the domestically unpopular French president. The Economist characterized Hollande as a “strident neocon” and “decisive war leader” whose willingness to send soldiers to Mali and the CAR this year has been in contrast to his “shaky” performance at home. Noting that France’s recent interventions have enjoyed widespread African support, the Guardian announced the emergence of a “Hollande doctrine” involving a “benign form of armed […]

Much American analysis of the past week’s events in Ukraine has tended to focus on the advisability of removing President Viktor Yanukovych and getting Ukraine to sign an Association Agreement, including a free trade pact, with the European Union. But little attention has been paid to what might happen the day after. This thinking echoes the prevailing line a decade ago during the Orange Revolution, which assumed that everything would be fine once the protesters’ demands were met. Instead, the absence of a coherent, sustained Western approach in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution led to its unraveling. Ukrainian Deputy […]

Throughout the Syrian civil war, Moscow has refused to turn its back on one of its few remaining allies in the Middle East, despite the tensions this stubborn support for Damascus has caused with Turkey, some Arab states and the West. The Syrian civil war has presented Moscow with two major challenges. First, the collapse of the Assad regime would likely result in a sharp decline of Russian influence in Damascus, as Syrian opposition leaders have warned that, if they come to power, they will punish Russia and other foreign governments that stood by President Bashar al-Assad. A change of […]

The European Union is notorious for producing reams of official documents. Does it need to churn out another one on the state of the world? In last week’s column, drawing on a new paper published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), I argued that the EU needs an overarching strategy to respond to escalating challenges both on its periphery and at the global level. The existing European Security Strategy, completed 10 years ago this month, remains a pithy analysis of the problems the bloc faced in 2003. But its age shows: It contains just two extremely brief references […]