In NATO’s annual “state of the alliance” report published yesterday, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen details the areas in which Russia and NATO expanded their “practical cooperation” last year. Russia continued to allow NATO governments to transport supplies to their military contingents in Afghanistan through Russian territory, and joined with the alliance in developing the Afghan Air Force through the NATO-Russia Council Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund. NATO and Russia also expanded cooperation in counterterrorism, including the Vigilant Skies 2013 exercise, which simulated a joint mid-air response to the hijacking of civilian aircraft, and tests of their joint IED-detection technologies developed under […]

Can Estonian soldiers defend their country by fighting in the middle of Africa? Last week, the European Union approved plans to send up to 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR). Perhaps surprisingly, Estonia was the first EU member to make a firm pledge of ground forces to the mission, which will reinforce existing French and African contingents. Other eastern EU members, including Poland and the Czech Republic, are also reportedly considering participating, while Britain and Germany have hung back. This diplomatic maneuvering says more about the state of European defense cooperation than African affairs. The Estonians, Czechs and […]

When it joined the European Union in May 2004, Poland was experiencing troubled times. Although its GDP growth was satisfying—5.4 percent in 2004, compared to 3.9 percent last year—its unemployment rate had hit 20 percent. Instead of perceiving EU membership as a chance to boost living standards, many Poles thought membership would widen the gap between Poland and the West. Thousands left the country seeking jobs abroad, mainly in Germany, Britain and Ireland. Populist parties exploited these fears. Ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2005, they based their campaigns on euroskepticism and protection of national interests. Lech Kaczynski, the […]

In a visit to Havana this month, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans urged the EU to improve its ties with Cuba. In an email interview, Joaquín Roy, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at University of Miami, director of the University of Miami European Union Center and co-director of the Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence, explained European Union relations with Cuba. WPR: What is the current state of European Union relations with Cuba? Joaquín Roy: Each EU member state has maintained its own pragmatic relations with Cuba—in trade, investment and development aid—since the establishment of the EU Common Position […]

Recent U.K. government engagement with Asia has seen high-level visits to Japan and China, a growing role for London in the internationalization of China’s currency, the renmibi (RMB), and enhanced commercial diplomacy across Asia. This is in the context of a U.K. foreign policy that remains global in outlook. However, London’s continued focus on the Middle East in particular means that Asia’s relative importance in U.K. policy remains uncertain. The best place to start looking at the current U.K. government’s Asia policy is still the April 2012 speech given in Singapore by Foreign Secretary William Hague. The overall message of […]

In the past month, events in the long, drawn-out process toward the dissolution of ETA, the violent Basque separatist organization, have taken a surprising turn. On Dec. 28, ETA’s prisoners—more than 500 of whom are dispersed across prisons in Spain and France, vastly outnumbering the few dozen militants who remain in hiding—issued a statement in which they distanced themselves from armed struggle and recognized the suffering and harm inflicted by decades of violence. They also pledged to pursue their release from prison through the Spanish legal system, abandoning their old demand for amnesty. A week later came the turn of […]

The end of 2013 witnessed a flurry of legal activity in the Russian Federation. A number of prominent political defendants—including the members of Pussy Riot; some, but not all, of the Bolotnaya Square demonstrators arrested in May 2012; and the Greenpeace activists arrested offshore three months ago—were released as part of a major amnesty passed by the Russian Duma. President Vladimir Putin’s unexpected pardon of Mikhail Khodorkovsky fueled additional speculation as to the future direction of Russian legal reform. Some observers cited Putin’s own initiative in freeing Khodorkovsky as an encouraging sign, while other commentators insisted that far from having […]

Depressing headlines from the Middle East have thrown cold water on any lingering optimism that U.S. policy objectives in the region were on track. In Iraq, Fallujah and Ramadi have been lost, at least for now, to al-Qaida-linked insurgents. The Syrian conflict has apparently transformed into a multi-sided war, increasing the likelihood that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will survive. And progress remains elusive in Afghanistan as the countdown to withdrawal continues. Not long ago there was reason for hope in all these countries. The surges in Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to have worked, and the Arab Spring, it was hoped, […]

Although 2013 marked a respite for Europe compared to previous years, the relative calm underscored the degree to which strategic relevance remains hampered, economic recovery fragile and normality elusive. The implications, for Europe’s partners but also for its democracies, are significant. This WPR special report examines Europe’s international and domestic challenges. Foreign and Trade Policy Europe’s Struggle for Strategic Competitiveness, Part IBy Richard GowanNov. 25, 2013 Europe’s Struggle for Strategic Competitiveness, Part IIBy Richard GowanDec. 2, 2013 Ending the Pretense: Reinventing the Trans-Atlantic RelationshipBy Judy DempseyJune 25, 2013 U.S.-EU FTA Talks Chart a New Path for Global TradeBy Edward AldenMarch […]

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree mandating the dissolution of RIA Novosti, the main state news agency, and its replacement with a new agency aimed at promoting Russia’s image. In an email interview, Jukka Pietiläinen, a senior researcher at the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki, Finland, with expertise in Russian media and journalism, explained the relationship between the state and the media in Putin’s Russia. WPR: How has state involvement with media in Russia changed since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency? Jukka Pietiläinen: The Russian state has increased its presence in the media significantly […]

The Italian political landscape is slowly changing. In the past few weeks, major shifts have occurred in the leadership and structure of both the key parties of the left-right coalition that is supporting the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Developments in the center-right directly affected the size and composition of the parliamentary majority backing the cabinet. Due to his conviction for tax fraud, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was expelled from the Senate in late-November. Earlier that month, Berlusconi had decided to sink his People of Freedom Party (PdL) and relaunch Forza Italia, the movement of his 1994 political […]

Ireland and Portugal, though dissimilar in many ways, share the distinction of being the first members of Europe’s troubled periphery to graduate from a bailout. They also share a pressing need to go beyond the budget austerity they have had to adopt and secure fundamental economic and financial reforms. In this, the two countries exemplify a more general need throughout the eurozone and underscore why, for all the gains made in dealing with this fiscal-financial crisis, Europe remains vulnerable to another crisis. There is much reason to cheer the successful emergence of these countries from their bailouts. In 2011, Ireland […]