Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu listens during a security conference in Moscow, Russia, May 23, 2014 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

On Nov. 20, Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu visited Islamabad along with dozens of other Russian officials and signed an unprecedented Russian-Pakistan defense cooperation agreement. While in Islamabad, Shoigu also engaged in wide-ranging discussions with his Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, on Afghanistan, regional security, arms sales and other issues. In so doing, Shoigu became the first Russian defense minister to visit Pakistan since 1969, when the Soviet government made an unsuccessful effort to mediate tensions between Pakistan and India. Since then, relations between Moscow and Islamabad have been atrocious, in part due to the close and enduring defense […]

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Nov. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Yves Logghe).

Earlier this month, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a cache of documents exposing how numerous multinational firms have avoided paying billions of dollars in taxes while maintaining only a token presence in Luxembourg. The so-called Lux Leaks scandal has directly touched Jean-Claude Juncker, who assumed his role as president of the European Commission, the European Union’s legislative body, on Nov. 1. Juncker served as both finance minister and prime minster of Luxembourg, prompting many questions about his knowledge of and role in the scandal. Lux Leaks has confirmed what many already knew, or at least suspected. In fact, […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris, France, Nov. 20, 2014 (State Department photo).

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s last-minute whirlwind tour of European capitals in the run-up to the Nov. 24 deadline for reaching a nuclear deal with Iran calls to mind the old aphorism about diplomacy: The hardest part isn’t getting the other side to agree to the deal, it’s convincing your own side to agree to it. In this case, Kerry’s stopover today in Paris for talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is illustrative. In November 2013, Fabius played a high-profile—and high-stakes—role in toughening up the initial interim framework accord that was extended once already and is now set […]

Four-image NAVCAM mosaic of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, using images taken on Sept. 24, 2014 when Rosetta was 28.5 km from the comet (ESA photo).

When the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully landed the spacecraft Philae on a comet last week, it accomplished something once thought to be the sole purview of the superpowers. In truth, the ESA—a consortium of 20 formal members—highlights a well-established and accelerating trend: Whereas space was once beyond the reach of all but the United States and the Soviet Union, recent decades have witnessed the spread and maturing capabilities of new space powers around the world. While the United States has reasons to be concerned with that shift related to national security, it also has cause to celebrate, as promoting […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Nov. 12, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy).

Whenever a U.S. president’s party experiences major losses during a midterm congressional election, there is always pressure to fire members of his team. In this particular cycle, pundits have urged President Barack Obama to consider replacing his national security adviser, Susan Rice, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, among others, as part of an effort to change course and find a new direction for his last two years in office. But staffing questions do not lie at the heart of the Obama administration’s problems. Rather, the administration has fallen short in its ability to define U.S. strategic priorities and to […]

Vietnam People’s Navy honor guard at the ASEAN defense ministers meeting, Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 12, 2010 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison).

As China attempts to assert maritime claims against neighboring Vietnam, Vietnam in turn has been expanding its navy and courting new allies, such as India. In an email interview, Abhijit Singh, a research fellow at India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, discusses the capabilities of the Vietnamese navy, known as the Vietnam People’s Navy. WPR: What is Vietnam’s naval capacity, and how operationally prepared is its navy? Abhijit Singh: Vietnam’s navy has modernized from a small coastal patrol force with limited capacity in the 1980s into a seagoing, fairly competent, combat-worthy navy. Equipped with old Soviet-era hardware and an […]

Supporters of Greece’s radical leftist party Syriza rally in Athens as European Union voters cast ballots in European Parliament elections, May 22, 2014 (Kyodo via AP Images).

This year, while the eurozone’s economy is grinding to a halt, the Greek economy may be able to grow by 0.6 percent, after six years in a row of recession. Greece follows the example of other countries of Europe’s periphery, such as Portugal and Spain, which after several years of recession are at last experiencing slim growth. Having almost defaulted on its sovereign debt in 2010, Greece has been bailed out through an economic adjustment program, the implementation of which is still closely monitored by the so-called troika of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (EC) and the […]

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently announced a pair of important initiatives, one to restore the Defense Department’s troubled nuclear enterprise to health and another to spur innovation within the department. The two initiatives are necessary, if incomplete, but achieving both goals will difficult. Hagel’s proposed overhaul of the Defense Department’s management of its nuclear weapons enterprise is long overdue. The U.S. nuclear command’s core components, besides the actual warheads, include the Air Force’s nuclear-capable bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines as well as the supporting infrastructure for the entire system. It also […]

A worker packs roses at a greenhouse in Naivasha, Kenya, April 19, 2010 (AP photo by Khalil Senosi).

After 12 years of divisive negotiations toward Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the East African Community (EAC) last month became the latest African region to agree to a bilateral trade deal with the European Union. Concluding the talks was not easy, and sticking points among stakeholders remain, particularly around key African exports like Kenya’s horticultural products. The final deal has far-reaching consequences for East Africa’s economic development—not all of them good, as alternatives to such economic liberalization pacts, which critics contend favor the EU, emerge. Following the Cotonou Agreement in 2000 between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, […]

An elderly man surrounded by campaign posters sits on a bench in front of his home in Floroaica village, Calarasi county, Romania. Nov. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Octav Ganea, Mediafax).

Romanians vote Sunday for a new president after a tumultuous 10 years under incumbent Traian Basescu, who oversaw both European Union accession and an economic boom followed by a crisis, and has survived two attempts at impeachment. Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who heads the ex-Communist Social Democratic Party (PSD), is widely expected to win the vote, but he has faced a closer race than anticipated against liberal rival Klaus Iohannis. Ponta has been a controversial premier, criticized by both the EU and the U.S. for measures seen as undermining independent institutions after he came to power via a parliamentary coup […]

Border of the U.N. buffer zone in Nicosia, Cyprus, Oct. 1, 2008 (photo by Flickr user peatc licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has announced that he will visit Turkey later this month. That comes after Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades suspended peace talks with northern Cyprus last month when Turkey declared plans to search for oil and gas off the southern coast of the island. The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 between the predominantly Greek Cypriot south and mainly Turkish north. Only Turkey recognizes the latter as an independent country. The United Nations has maintained a peacekeeping force in Cyprus since 1964, the longest-running U.N. peacekeeping operation in existence. There was optimism for a long-sought […]

Pablo Iglesias, center, at a Podemos rally in Malaga, Spain, May 17, 2014 (photo by Flickr user cyberfrancis licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

It was the poll that sent shockwaves through the nation. On Nov. 2, El Pais, Spain’s newspaper of record, unveiled what it called a “political earthquake.” Polling data suggested that Podemos, a left-wing party organized only in January of this year, was poised to win the 2015 national elections, besting the ruling, conservative Popular Party (PP), which enjoys a clear majority of seats in the Spanish parliament, and the leading opposition party, the venerable Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which last governed from 2004 to 2011. The poll showed that support for Podemos grew from 13.8 percent in October to 27.7 […]

The newly appointed Georgian Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili at a news conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, Nov. 5, 2014 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

The abrupt firing of Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania last week has triggered the country’s most serious political crisis since the Georgian Dream-led coalition government came to power in October 2012. The departure of Alasania, popular at home and widely respected abroad, has raised questions about the durability of Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy. But although Alasania spearheaded badly needed reforms in the Defense Ministry and was regarded as a guarantor of pro-Western policies within the coalition, his departure is unlikely to disrupt Georgia’s foreign policy—for now. The immediate origins of the crisis were the arrests of senior Defense Ministry officials […]

Sunset in the Arctic, Oct. 14, 2011 (photo by Flickr user MarineBugs licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

In a bid to protect its own interests in the Arctic, and wary of NATO’s growing attention to the region, Russia is set to reactivate former Soviet-era bases around the North Pole. But the Kremlin would do well to monitor the actions in the Arctic of its occasional partner and possible future rival, China, rather than those of its trans-Atlantic adversary. With global warming melting ice and making northern sea routes more passable, both Arctic and non-Arctic nations are competing for access to the mineral, hydrocarbon and fishing resources estimated to lie under the North Pole. The race is on, […]

Pro-Russian rebel military vehicle with Russian flag on top of it rolls towards Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Nov. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Mstyslav Chernov).

There were signs of easing tensions in some parts of the international system last week, but warnings of deepening crises on other fronts. It emerged that U.S. President Barack Obama had sent a private letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging greater cooperation in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. China and Japan agreed to step back from confrontation over the Senkaku Islands, claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyu. But Ukraine accused Russia of new military incursions on its territory, increasing the chances that the parlous cease-fire in the east of the country will […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service).

The Russian ruble hit an all-time low of 48.7 rubles to the dollar earlier today, a casualty of escalating sanctions from the United States and the European Union in response to the conflict in Ukraine. Beyond the sanctions, Russia’s economic outlook is increasingly grim given the recent drop in global oil prices. At the same time, the Moscow Stock Exchange has announced that currency trades between the ruble and the Chinese yuan reached an all-time high in October, increasing 80 percent over the previous month. The increase in currency trading is a direct result of a currency swap deal Russia […]

Supporters of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) attend the party's final pre-election rally in western Bosnian town of Banja Luka, Oct. 8, 2014 (AP photo by Radivoje Pavicic).

Almost a month after its general elections, with negotiations intensifying over potential ruling coalitions, Bosnia is confronted with two possible scenarios. If the political will for compromise prevails, the election results could enable the relatively swift establishment of stable governments at both the national and local levels. But if Bosnia’s irresponsible, hard-line and self-serving “politics as usual” lead to new deadlocks and delays in forming governments at the different administrative levels, it could further damage Bosnia’s already weak economic and social base and stoke new ethnic and social tensions. Which scenario emerges in the coming weeks and months will also […]

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