It was no surprise when pro-Russian forces seized eight European military monitors in eastern Ukraine last week. A growing number of international observers have deployed to Ukraine over the past two months, and it was only a matter of time before some were snatched. A United Nations envoy, Robert Serry, had to make a quick exit from Crimea in early March after an encounter with a posse of armed men. The monitors’ captors have accused them of being NATO spies and forced them to make a humiliating appearance before the press, although one officer has since been released for medical […]

In addition to imposing more Western sanctions on Russia and rotating more U.S. troops into Europe, the U.S. and its NATO allies are considering increasing U.S. ballistic missile defenses (BMD) based in NATO’s European member states as part of their response to Russian actions in Ukraine. Moscow clearly hates these U.S. systems, and placing them near Russia is sure to capture Moscow’s attention. A few weeks ago, a pair of Russian warplanes “buzzed” a U.S. missile defense ship that was on patrol in the Black Sea. That said, the U.S. missile defense response needs to be nuanced to yield net […]

The 20th anniversary of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide this month was marked by the re-emergence of tensions between France and Rwanda, after Rwandan President Paul Kagame claimed that France bore some responsibility for the genocide.* In an email interview, Bruno Charbonneau, associate professor of political science at Laurentian University and the director of the Center for Peace and Humanitarian Missions Studies at Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Canada, explained the continuing tensions in France-Rwanda ties. WPR: To what extent have France and Rwanda succeeded at repairing ties in the past few years? Bruno Charbonneau: The two sides were talking, but the […]

Facing a level of criticism unprecedented since its restoration in 1975, the Spanish monarchy is in full damage control mode. “I am sorry, I made a mistake. It won’t happen again,” said King Juan Carlos in a seemingly improvised, but actually well-rehearsed, television address in April 2012. Prompting the extraordinary mea culpa by the 76-year-old Spanish monarch—a direct descendent of Europe’s most iconic rulers, including King Louis XIV of France, on both sides of his family, and Queen Victoria of England, on his mother’s side—was the controversy created by a photograph showing Juan Carlos holding a rifle next to a […]

The standoff in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the central government in Kiev is far from resolved. But whatever its outcome, NATO needs to take urgent measures to deter Russian military intervention in Moldova and reinforce its security guarantees to NATO members Bulgaria and Romania. These two countries are no less vulnerable to Russian pressure than the NATO members to their north, namely Poland and the Baltic states. In addition, Bulgaria and Romania’s strong support is needed to advance Western goals in the Balkans, the Caspian region and Central Asia. Ideally NATO would reassure Moscow that Moldova will not […]

Russia is on the hunt again, determined to engulf another part of Ukraine and possibly more. Moscow’s complex, multidimensional offensive uses intimidation, misinformation and any organization or group that can serve its interests. As Ukraine teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, Russian President Vladimir Putin is tightening the economic screws by threatening to require advance payment for essential natural gas shipments. Pro-Russian separatists have launched demonstrations across eastern Ukraine, attempting to goad the government into an overreaction that could give Moscow an alibi for open invasion. Meanwhile, Russian and pro-Russian troops have seized government buildings and police stations, engaging in […]

With Russian forces still massed on the Ukrainian border and the world watching to see whether President Vladimir Putin will try to seize more Ukrainian territory, a key question is how effective Russia’s military machine has become after a half-decade of modernization efforts. The takeover of Crimea proceeded competently, with little bloodshed, but any attempt to occupy more territory in eastern Ukraine would likely be met with resistance. Russia would probably still win due to the weak state of the Ukrainian armed forces, but the true strength of the Russian military remains uncertain. Although Russia’s defense budget started rising in […]

The first European Union-Africa summit since 2010 was held in Brussels earlier this month. Much of the media focus leading up to the summit was on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s failed bid to instigate a boycott of the meeting by African leaders after his wife was refused a visa to enter Europe. Beyond these headlines, however, the issue of trade relations between the two parties continues to be one of pressing importance. The EU has been negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries since 2002. The final declaration of the Brussels summit this year included […]

Americans are having a hard time coming to terms with the effect of National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks and the damage they have done to America’s status in the world. In part, U.S. leaders do not want to admit that the leaks were merely the final straw for the growing discontent with American global leadership that predated Snowden and has many causes, including failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global economic crisis that spread from Wall Street. The unipolar moment was never popular—the leaks confirm that it is over. Snowden’s material has been shaped to portray […]

Russian actions toward Ukraine have injected new urgency, and partisan vitriol, into the debate over U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Europe. Missile defense has been a locus of intense ideological divisions since the announcement of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983. Although the issue has receded somewhat in recent years, statements from some GOP lawmakers indicate it may once again become a prominent source of partisan tension. But beneath the surface, many of the most fundamental issues relating to U.S. missile defense plans appear to have become politically uncontroversial, even as technical experts continue […]

Petro Symonenko, the Communist Party deputy who was attacked earlier this week as he addressed the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, raised some uncomfortable points that Western policymakers need to consider about their response to the crisis in Ukraine. Symonenko aroused the ire of deputies from the nationalist Svoboda party by noting that some of those protesting the government of now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovych, including Svoboda activists, had used what might be termed improper methods—including storming buildings and breaking into armories—that are now being utilized by those who in turn do not recognize the authority of the interim government. By driving Yanukovych […]

The ruling Fidesz party of Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, won 45 percent of the vote in general elections on April 7, trouncing the left-liberal opposition in a poll that also saw the vote share of the far right top 20 percent. “The outcome of the elections is an obvious, unambiguous mandate for us to continue what we have begun,” said Orban after the results were announced. What might this continuation entail? Over the past four years, Orban has followed a course that his critics at home and abroad say is authoritarian, centralizing and nationalist; they warn of a […]

Last month, Serbia held parliamentary elections in which the conservative and pro-EU Progressive party won a decisive majority in the legislature. In an email interview, Marlene Spoerri, U.N. officer at Independent Diplomat who has done research on democracy promotion and post-conflict statebuilding in the Western Balkans, explained what led to the victory and what comes next. WPR: What factors led to the Progressive party’s decisive victory in Serbia’s parliamentary elections? Marlene Spoerri: A number of factors contributed to the Progressive party’s victory in the March 2014 parliamentary elections. The first is the party’s pro-EU, center-right platform. Since it was formed […]

It was no surprise when last Sunday’s emergency meeting in Paris between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ended inconclusively. The United States is not prepared to cut a 19th-century-style deal with Moscow to resolve the Crimea crisis, but neither has it articulated a 21st-century response that would change Russia’s calculus. The Kremlin remains puzzled as to why Washington is not more responsive to its pitch for a settlement for Ukraine that would result in the decentralization, federalization and neutralization of the country. After all, similar arrangements were made as late as the mid-20th […]

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has rekindled discussion in Sweden about raising military spending and, potentially, pushing for NATO membership. In an email interview, Jan Joel Andersson, senior research fellow and head of the North America Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, explained Sweden’s defense posture and how it may change after the Ukraine crisis. WPR: What is the current size and strength of Sweden’s military, in terms of both hardware and personnel? Jan Joel Andersson: The Swedish armed forces have undergone a dramatic transformation since the end of the Cold War. Never a member of NATO, Sweden based […]

The European Union has at last proposed what it calls the “second pillar” of its banking union. The first pillar, unveiled last December, consists of proposals for banking reform, aimed at reducing risk in the financial system. This next step proposes a mechanism should those reforms fail and the authorities have to deal with bank failures. Some, including Michael Barnier, the EU commissioner in charge of regulation, have referred to this proposed Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) as a “revolution” on a par with the adoption of the euro. That characterization surely overstates, as does use of the word “pillar.” Matters […]

In the wake of Russia’s military intervention into Ukraine, no states are feeling as unsettled by the fear of a revanchist Russia as Moscow’s erstwhile conquests along the Baltic and Black Seas. Though some of these states can now look to NATO as their safety net, nonmember Georgia, itself a recent victim of Russian aggression, appears isolated and badly exposed. Russia’s newly heightened aggressiveness could not have come at a worse time for Tbilisi. Just over a month ago, the context looked remarkably different. Though still smarting from the devastation wrought by Russia’s 2008 invasion, Georgia had managed to restart […]

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