Local fishermen try to catch fish in front of Russian Navy ships in Sevastopol, Crimea, Oct. 27, 2014 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

After a lull, violence in Ukraine escalated once again this week, as Russian-backed rebels launched offensives both in the besieged eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and on a new front, against the southeastern port of Mariupol. Peace talks in Minsk were canceled today in response to civilian casualties in Donetsk. According to the Financial Times, Western intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not just trying to keep Ukraine destabilized, but actively working to carve out a viable Russian puppet state, to be called “Novorossiya” (New Russia), in southeastern Ukraine. While Putin’s ultimate ambition remains […]

Newly enthroned King Salman receives dignitaries who arrived to give their condolences for the late King Abdullah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP Photo/SPA).

The House of Saud proclaims that it stands “in the face of those trying to hijack Islam ‎and present it to the world as a religion of extremism, hatred, and terrorism.” In Saudi Arabia, at least, it has increasingly stuck to its word. Afraid that jihadis will overthrow them, Saudi royals have promulgated strict rules for oversight of waqfs, or religious charities, that hitherto funded Islamists at home and abroad. Last October, Saudi citizens were forbidden by decree from supporting the so-called Islamic State (IS), and the kingdom is building a stout 600-mile security fence along its border with Iraq […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Science and Education, St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 9, 2014 (photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).

In the past year, Russian aggressiveness has led the United States to augment its military presence in Europe. Even though declining oil prices and a paralyzing degree of corruption and inefficiency have, for the time being, put a brake on Moscow’s ambitions, hostility will persist so long as Russian President Vladimir Putin is in charge. As a result, bolstering European security will remain a central component of America’s global strategy. But what happens after Putin? While there are no serious challenges to his rule now, he is mortal. At some point, he will leave the scene. Historically, the departure of […]

The flags of Greece and the European Union billow in the wind in front of the ruins of the fifth century B.C. Parthenon temple, Athens, Greece, Jan. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

This Sunday, Jan. 25, Greeks will go to the polls for snap elections, with the radical left party Syriza currently polling ahead of the governing center-right New Democracy party by a margin of about 5 percent. The elections were called due to a technicality of Greece’s constitution requiring the dissolution of parliament if it is unable to elect a new president, a mostly decorative post in Greece’s parliamentary democracy. When that in fact transpired and parliament was dissolved on Dec. 29, three things became apparent about the course of the country’s politics and fragile economic recovery, even as new questions […]

Russian police officers check the identity papers of migrant workers arriving at Red Square ahead of New Year’s Eve festivities, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 31, 2013 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

Earlier today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov acknowledged that Russia is bracing for a rough year. “We will survive any hardship in the country—eat less food, use less electricity,” Shuvalov said. Russia, whose economy has been pummeled by falling global energy prices and Western sanctions in response to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, has seen a steep drop in the value of the ruble since last month. But Russia is not the only country affected by the ruble’s collapse. Russia under President Vladimir Putin has been one of the world’s […]

A Belgian security officer stands guard near the Palace of Justice, where suspects wanted in Belgium on terrorism-related charges are set to appear before the federal court, Brussels, Jan. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Following the attack on the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month, European leaders have called for more sharing of data and intelligence on national security and counterterrorism among European Union member states. As it stands currently, people and goods can travel freely within the EU but data about travelers cannot. Efforts to share information about air travelers in Europe have been repeatedly blocked by the European Parliament on the grounds that any such data-sharing system would violate Europeans’ right to privacy. “Cooperation between EU member states is a very important dimension of European counterterrorism […]

A Turkish member of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands in his sentry box at the entrance of the Turkish Engineer Construction Company stationed near the southern port city of Tyre, Nov. 16, 2006 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

In November 2014, Turkey announced plans to send peacekeepers to participate in U.N.-backed missions in the Central African Republic and Mali. In an email interview, Nil S. Satana, assistant professor at Bilkent University in Ankara and research affiliate at the START Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, discussed Turkey’s contributions to international peacekeeping missions. WPR: In what capacity has Turkey contributed to European Union peacekeeping missions, and how does Turkey decide whether or not to participate in a given mission? Nil S. Satana: In compliance with its framework agreement for participation in EU crisis management operations signed in […]

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaida militant holds an Islamist banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court in Sanaa, Yemen, April 23, 2013 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Even before the smoke cleared from last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, people were struggling to make sense of them. Because the initial victims were associated with Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known to deride Islam, attention fell on questions of free speech and whether it should be limited when religion is involved. But even if the belief that Islam is being insulted influenced the killers at a personal level, the al-Qaida strategists who claim to have directed the Charlie Hebdo attack had other goals. For them, the notion of blasphemy is useful propaganda, but their objectives are much […]

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin take part in the Eurasian Economic Union summit at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin).

Yesterday, the Belarusian ruble rebounded slightly in international currency markets for the first time since the Russian ruble plummeted in value in December. The gain follows emergency steps taken earlier this month by Belarus’ central bank to devalue the ruble by 7 percent, increase the main refinancing rate and add a new export tax on potash, all in an attempt to manage the fallout from Russia’s sudden economic crisis. This in turn followed a move in late December to replace Belarus’ prime minister and the head of the central bank in order to aggressively respond to the currency drop. The […]

Palestinian female militants of the Islamic Jihad hold their weapons during a rally marking the 26th anniversary of the movement’s foundation in Gaza City, Nov. 1, 2013 (AP photo by Hatem Moussa).

When French officials announced they were searching for a woman as an accomplice in the attacks on a Jewish grocery store in Paris in which four hostages were killed, many in the West shook their heads. How was it possible that a woman, one born and raised in the West, would become a jihadi, a fighter committed to an extremist ideology that is hostile to women? Hayat Boumedienne, it turns out, is only one of a surprisingly large number of Western women who have been joining Islamist groups in recent years. The exact figures are not known, but researchers have […]

French President Francois Holland and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 6, 2014 (photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).

Following a long-standing Gaullist tradition, and driven by romantic memories of their alliance from the two world wars, France has been careful to maintain good relations with Russia while remaining a member of NATO. But the Ukraine crisis has led to a significant change in France’s Russia policy, as evidenced by the saga over the sale to Russia of two Mistral-class warships. That deal was arranged in 2011 by President Francois Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Encouraged by his prime minister, Francois Fillon, a traditional Gaullist, and his defense minister, Herve Morin, who was keen on ensuring jobs for the beleaguered […]

Leaders from Israel, Mali, France, Germany, the EU and Palestine march during a rally in Paris, France, Jan. 11, 2015 (AP photo by Philippe Wojazer).

The failure of U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to send a high-level representative to the Paris unity march, convened in the wake of the terrorist attack on the editorial offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, is being described by some as the first foreign policy gaffe of 2015. Given the Obama team’s laser-like focus on domestic issues in the run-up to the State of the Union address, however, it is not surprising. Moreover, given that one of the administration’s goals seems to be to halt further deterioration in the critical U.S.-India relationship, it is very understandable why the president […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak during their meeting at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky).

Following a meeting in Tehran yesterday with visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called on Russia to assume a more active role in multilateral talks over Iran’s nuclear program, which will resume later this week. Despite fears that the meeting could produce a shift in Russia’s stance in the talks, however, it produced no unusual announcements or initiatives. The lack of drama from Ryabkov’s trip provides yet another welcome sign that Russian threats to abandon the United States on the Iranian nuclear issue are mostly bluff. In November 2014, a senior National Security Council […]

People gather at the site of a bomb explosion, Kano, Nigeria, Nov. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Muhammed Giginyu).

Where will international stabilization forces intervene in 2015? Potential answers include Libya, Syria, Nigeria’s northern borderlands and eastern Ukraine. Restoring order in any one of these places, let alone two or more at once, would be a daunting task. Libya is sinking into full-scale civil war. Syria has been ravaged by four years of violence, leaving over 200,000 dead. The Boko Haram militant group has inflicted repeated defeats on the Nigerian military in a conflict punctuated by massacres by both sides. Russia retains the ability to turn the war in Ukraine on and off at leisure. Few countries outside these […]

A pro-Russian rebel fires sniper rifle toward Ukrainian army positions at the frontline near Peski village, Donetsk, eastern Ukaine, Nov. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Mstyslav Chernov).

With combat operations in Afghanistan fading in the rearview mirror, the United States is turning its attention to finding ways to stem Russian aggression. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration supports the creation of a new NATO rapid reaction force and is sending more troops and tanks to Europe. These steps are intended to revive deterrence of Russia. They may do so given the nature of the challenge that Russia poses, but they also underscore the limitations of the old Cold War notion of deterrence in today’s security environment. When the Soviet Union fielded nuclear weapons during the opening years of […]

French President Francois Hollande, center left, flanked by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, right, walks outside the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s office, in Paris, Jan. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Remy De La Mauviniere).

PARIS—For the seven years I have lived here, the French military has been at war, first in Afghanistan, then in Libya, Mali and the wider Sahel region. Yet if the French armed forces were not only engaged, but at times stretched to the breaking point by their operational pace, the French people seemed oblivious to the country’s role in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa and now the Middle East. In all but the most dramatic circumstances, casualties were ignored, and while the spotlight of breaking news at times put these wars in the public’s mind, the debate was […]

U.S. President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi during a foreign leader call in the Oval Office, Jan. 5, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

U.S. President Barack Obama has returned from his holiday vacation in Hawaii to start a “barnstorming” tour across the United States to make the case for his domestic policy agenda in the run-up to the State of the Union address on Jan. 20. Faced with a new Republican-controlled Congress that will not be particularly hospitable to his proposals, Obama is likely to emphasize his core domestic priorities. When he does return to foreign policy matters after the address, Obama, like other “fourth quarter” presidents before him, will likely begin to sort the issues facing him in his last two years […]

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