Two men met at the end of a ceremonial walk down a long corridor last week. One of these men carried the hopes of millions on his shoulders: His selection to high office reflected a new openness to those long discriminated against and raised global hopes for a power whose image had been damaged—a power despised but still desired, often in the same breath, around the world. The other man was Barack Obama. Pope Francis had just marked his first year in office, amid breathless discussion of the “Francis effect.” How real that effect has been is open to debate. […]

The Ukraine crisis has once again highlighted a fundamental weakness of the U.S. national security process: its inability to hold to long-term planning in the midst of short-term crises. The entire Crimea imbroglio has been a gift to China’s leaders, further delaying the vaunted U.S. “rebalance” toward Asia. At the beginning of 2014, with war over the use of WMDs in Syria off the table, the prospects for a long-term troop presence in Afghanistan looking dim and a settlement with Iran over its nuclear program possibly within reach, it seemed that, at long last, Washington might finally begin to match […]

With the United States and its allies ramping up the pressure on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, President Barack Obama spoke yesterday in Brussels at an annual summit between the United States and the European Union. Obama stated that the United States and other nations have an interest “in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one,” but he castigated Russia’s actions in Crimea and rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rationales for Russian annexation of the territory. In particular, Obama rejected comparisons to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo or to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. While noting his own […]

When the Cold War ended, the days of imperial expansion seemed to go with it. No one expected the revanchism of bygone empires to affect, much less shape, the 21st-century global security system. But that is exactly what is happening. Al-Qaida is using the dream of a long-lost Arab empire to justify terrorism. China is yearning for territory it owned centuries ago and seems willing to use its rising economic and military power to regain it. And now Russia has joined the revanchists by invading Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory. As a result, policymakers, military strategists […]

Following a period of subdued and difficult relations between the European Union and China, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first trip to Europe this week—which will include a stopover at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels, the first-ever such visit by a Chinese president—indicates that advances in ties made last year will continue into 2014. At the end of 2013, the two sides convened the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue for the first time since 2010, and the EU-China summit yielded a 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, a new EU-China Innovation Cooperation Dialogue and an agreement to launch negotiations on a bilateral […]

Even as the United States works with allies to isolate Russia diplomatically and deter further Russian aggression, the Obama administration hopes to maintain business as usual in efforts to restrain threats from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Russia is the sole U.S. peer in the strategic nuclear arena and an important global supplier of nuclear technology and advanced conventional weapons. Russian cooperation will therefore be a prerequisite for almost any meaningful progress in tackling nuclear and WMD proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. In an email to Trend Lines, a State Department spokesman welcomed a recent statement from […]

The Crimea crisis has given realists a field day for attacking the belief structures of rules-based internationalists. Ukraine just paid the price of giving up its nuclear weapons 20 years ago, we hear, and the Budapest Memorandum guarantees of Ukraine’s borders did nothing to change Moscow’s behavior. Integrating Russia into international economic institutions proved equally meaningless. As for human rights and the rule of law, everyone knows they don’t matter when the vital national interests of great powers are at stake. The reality, however, is more complicated. The fabric of international norms actually functioned as intended on the nuclear issue. […]

Right now, the U.S. foreign policy community should not be engaging in its favorite pastime of assigning blame for the situation in Crimea. Nor, given ongoing problems in other parts of the world—rising tensions in the Far East, the future of the Iran nuclear initiative, the fate of the protest movement in Venezuela—does Washington have the luxury of focusing on the Ukrainian crisis at the expense of other, equally pressing concerns. Instead, the focus right now needs to be on formulating a new policy toward Russia that is not subject to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics, and to situate […]

The ongoing crisis in Crimea has put many world leaders in awkward positions, but perhaps none more than Alexander Lukashenko. The president of Belarus since 1994, Lukashenko has just witnessed two of his worst nightmares in neighboring Ukraine. First, he watched as a mass movement in the streets of Kiev overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, a fellow client of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then the Russian Duma voted to give Putin the power to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty in order to “protect Russia’s interests and those of Russian-speakers,” which Putin promptly did. Since at least 70 percent of Belarusians are Russian-speakers (though only […]

The crisis in Ukraine has presented NATO with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to reassure its nervous members and partners about their security while deterring further Russian military aggression. The opportunity is that the crisis may rescue the alliance from perceived irrelevancy after the end of its major role in the Afghanistan War this year and against the backdrop of the ongoing U.S. military focus on East Asia and the Middle East. In a speech here in Washington yesterday at the Brookings Institution, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen termed Russia’s seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine […]

Over the past few years, Turkey’s “zero problem with neighbors” policy has become something of a joke. After some initial successes at resolving problems with surrounding states, Turkey is now the only major country without ambassadors in Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously. One major exception was arguably Turkey’s relations with Russia, which have remained solid despite differences over Syria, Iran and other issues. Now the Crimea crisis has confronted Turkey with the most serious challenge to its Russian policy since the Cold War. Until losing the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, the Ottoman Empire held sovereignty over Crimea, which was then […]

Like all states, the Federal Republic of Germany’s strategic posture is determined by its politico-strategic culture, which, in turn, is shaped by the country’s history, geographic position and economic status. In the German case, however, the outcome is particularly peculiar—because all factors involved are rather unique. Take, for instance, Germany’s history of Nazism and the incomparable civilizational crime of the Holocaust, the aftereffects of which can be observed in German society and public discourse even today, and very likely will be forever. Consider also Germany’s central position on the European continent and its tradition of wealth, mostly based on plenty […]

Central Asia has looked with alarm to the events in Ukraine, where massive protests have led to the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed dictator and the subsequent Russian invasion of Crimea. The region’s autocrats are worried by the fact that street protests were able to oust a strongman in a fellow ex-Soviet state. At the same time, Russia’s heavy-handed intervention in a former Soviet republic has unsettled Central Asians, who see themselves as Moscow’s next potential target. Russia’s move in Crimea is especially salient for Kazakhstan, which has a large ethnic Russian population concentrated on the country’s border with Russia. President […]

Editor’s note: WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Richard Gowan, who will be taking a leave of absence until June. As has become increasingly evident to observers of global politics over the past several years, we live in a Gramscian moment of systemic crisis, where in the interregnum between an old order on its deathbed and a new one not yet born, “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The latest of these symptoms is on display in Ukraine, where Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea highlights the waning power of the post-Cold War liberal order, even […]

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk traveled to Washington on Wednesday to plead for urgent U.S. help for his country, especially emergency assistance in coping with the country’s dire economic straits. Yet two polls of U.S. public opinion released this week will be little comfort to those pundits who advocate a more assertive American foreign policy, particularly in dealing with the current crisis in Ukraine. The Pew Center released data indicating that 56 percent of Americans eschew any major U.S. involvement in Ukraine, especially in confronting Russia over the situation in Crimea. A related CNN poll reveals only 6 percent […]

Twenty years ago it was fashionable in academic circles to predict the end of sovereignty. It was also fashionable for people to take to the streets to protest the end of sovereignty. In both cases, trade occupied a central role. For academics and policymakers, the transition from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a messy, poorly defined system that was never an organization administering an agreement that was never a treaty, to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a carefully structured organization administering a phalanx of treaties, was a thing of wonder and the object of almost constant scrutiny. […]

No secular organization has ever peacefully deprived states of as much sovereignty as has the European Union. National autonomy to regulate the environment, labor, the professions, antitrust, consumer protection, food and product safety, agriculture, advertising and almost any other area one can think of, even highly sensitive ones such as criminal law and civil procedure, has been gradually constrained over the years by rules coming from the EU. Often the source of these rules is EU legislation, usually in the form of directives, which are laws that contain instructions to the member states to take certain action or implement certain […]

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