U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), U.N. headquarters, New York, April 27, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

The monthlong 2015 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which began yesterday, will put a spotlight on a number of priority issues on the nonproliferation agenda. Of these, the potential deal between Iran and the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany—on Tehran’s nuclear program, which would bring Iran back into compliance with its NPT obligations, is likely to attract the most attention. However, the current arms control stalemate among the U.S., Russia and China, which has endured since the previous NPT review conference in 2010, will also shape the conference’s outcome. This stalemate results from […]

European Union Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager announces antitrust charges against Google, Brussels, Belgium, April 15, 2015 (EU Commission photo).

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, brought antitrust charges against Google earlier this month, alleging that the U.S. tech giant manipulated its search engine to favor its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping. The commission also expanded an investigation into whether Google forced manufacturers of Android mobile phones and tablets to use other Google services. The commission sent its “Statement of Objections,” outlining its allegations against the company, on April 15. Google now has 10 months to respond, and can either choose to settle and propose concessions to appease European regulators, or take the case to court. Either […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko watches a military exercise of the Ukrainian armed forces in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine, April 25, 2015 (Presidential Press Service photo by Mykola Lazarenko via AP).

The average European leader probably lacks the number of brain cells required to process the sheer amount of bad news he or she currently receives on a daily basis. This is not because they are stupid, but because there is so much dire news to digest. In the past two weeks, over 1,000 migrants have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean; there has been fresh fighting in Ukraine; and the Greek government has careened toward total bankruptcy. The European Union has responded to this torrent of crises with a mixture of big talk, half-measures and fraying tempers. At a summit […]

A Pakistani police officer walks pasts billboards showing pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Islamabad, Pakistan, April 19, 2015 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan this week, the reception was something to behold. The welcoming committee greeted him in midair, with eight Pakistani fighter jets in formation solemnly escorting the Chinese leader’s plane from the moment he crossed into Pakistani airspace. It was one more dramatic element underscoring the significance of a visit during which both sides were remarkably unrestrained in their exuberance. Islamabad was dotted with photographs of Xi and signs proclaiming that “Pakistan-China friendship is higher than mountains, deeper than Oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel.” Xi reciprocated, declaring that he feels as […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a welcome ceremony at the new Presidential Palace, Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

On April 14, Turkey broke ground on its first nuclear power plant, a controversial $20 billion project in Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast. Like Iran’s Bushehr plant, the only operational nuclear power reactor in the Middle East, the reactor at Akkuyu will be constructed by Russia. Moscow’s Middle Eastern sales drive doesn’t end there. It extends to recent nuclear cooperation agreements of varying degrees with Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. With little notice, Russia is on the verge of becoming the nuclear Wal-Mart of the Middle East. But if across the region Russian nuclear exports come with many advantages, […]

Meeting of NATO defense ministers, NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 5, 2015 (NATO photo).

Whether it was the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea of hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers desperate to enter European territory or the latest atrocities carried out by the Islamic State in their Libyan enclave, this week’s headlines could not have come at a worse time for the leadership of the North Atlantic alliance. Over the past year, NATO finally seemed on the verge of rediscovering a common purpose after two decades of trying out for different roles—a return to its original task of putting a brake on the westward spread of Russian influence and control from the Eurasian core into […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko meets with fired Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Ihor Kolomoysky, Kiev, Ukraine, March 25, 2015 (AP photo by Mikhail Palinchak).

On Wednesday, Ukrainian politician Oleh Kalashnikov was found dead with gunshot wounds in Kiev. The next day, the journalist and former politician Oles Buzyna was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his home in the capital. The two murders were just the latest in a string of deaths of leading Ukrainian opposition figures in recent months. Some of these may have been suicides, while others were clearly murders, but all of the dead were supporters of Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian client who was driven from power during the Maidan protests last year. Buzyna was an outspoken critic […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, March 31, 2015 (AP photo by Feng Li).

This year’s annual gathering of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be unlike any other in the two institutions’ history. As representatives of hundreds of countries converge in Washington this week, the event will prove historic and remarkable—not for what goes on in the official meetings, but for the intrigue, anguish and anticipation that will unfold on the sidelines. As the official speeches and parties take place, top officials in the hallways and private meeting rooms will come under pressure from both the United States and China. The reason: The fledgling but already formidable Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

One of the most salient criticisms of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent overtures to Iran and Cuba is that neither country, as a condition for engagement, has agreed to undertake fundamental reforms of their internal political systems or alter the general direction of their foreign policies. Indeed, the leaders of both countries have claimed victory in defying those types of demands. In theory, this need not be a setback. When Richard Nixon traveled to China in 1972, Mao Zedong did not repudiate his ideology, release any political prisoners or make any commitment to pursuing liberal political or economic reforms. Nixon, […]

British Prime Minister David Cameron unveils the Conservative Party manifesto, Swindon, England, April 14, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Macdiarmid).

The iconic 1957 Times headline “Heavy Fog in Channel – Continent Cut Off” once aptly captured the United Kingdom’s sense of its unique place in the world. In the British popular imagination, the U.K.’s cultural differences from the rest of Europe extend to its politics. Whereas politics on the continent is based on what Britons see as messy compromises, shifting alliances and hidden coalition deals sealed before the votes are even counted, British parliamentary democracy, embedded in a winner-take-all electoral system, rests on the clarity and legitimacy of a binary choice. When disgruntled, voters can simply “throw the bums out” […]

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini observes a minute of silence at Jose Marti Memorial, Havana, Cuba, March 24, 2015 (EU Commission photo).

Last month, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced that the EU and Cuba had agreed to accelerate talks on establishing a cooperation agreement to normalize ties, which would hopefully be signed by the end of the year. Mogherini was in Havana for the third round of talks between the EU and Cuba since negotiations started up again in April 2014. The EU has tried several times in the past to negotiate a cooperation agreement with Cuba, first in 1995 and again in 2000, but talks have always failed. On the Cuban side, one of the biggest factors preventing […]

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Hanoi, Vietnam, April 7, 2015 (photo from the website of the government of the Russian Federation).

Like the United States, Russia has been pursuing its own more limited version of a Pacific pivot. Most often President Vladimir Putin has led this campaign, with frequent visits to the region, but Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took charge of the effort last week with a pair of two-day visits to Thailand and Vietnam. In its approach to Asia, Russia has strived to strengthen relations with China while also pursuing other partnerships to maximize Moscow’s bargaining leverage and hedge against problems in any one relationship. Russia has long-standing ties with India and has sought to improve relations with Japan, although […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attend a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, April 8, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

This week, the United States found itself in a brief and unusual diplomatic spat with its normally quiet NATO ally, the Czech Republic. The U.S. ambassador in Prague, Andrew Schapiro, criticized Czech President Milos Zeman for saying he would attend the May 9 Victory Day parade in Moscow, which commemorates the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. The mainly ceremonial president’s announcement infuriated not only the U.S., but many Czechs, including Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, since it came despite the European Union’s ongoing sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Today, Zeman changed course, announcing that he would not be […]

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shake hands ahead of their meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, Dec. 15, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexander Astafyev, Government Press Service).

Beginning in January and accelerating in the last week of March, senior State Department officials have been making high-profile speeches on U.S. interests and policies regarding Central Asia. The policy rollout culminated on March 31, when Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution on Washington’s long-term vision for Central Asia. Combined, the speeches offer insight into Washington’s approach to the resource-rich and highly contested region. As some observers have pointed out, one novel element of that approach is an explicit U.S. attempt to praise China’s growing presence in Central Asia, while condemning that […]

Russian air force helicopters fly over Red Square during a Victory Day parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2014 (AP photo by Denis Tyrin).

Russia’s military has experienced a remarkable recovery during the past decade. This is most evident in the success of Russia’s swift occupation of Crimea last year and ongoing support for separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Equally impressive, if less visible, is the rebound of the country’s military-industrial complex, referred to by the Russian initials VPK, which suffered heavily from the break-up of the Soviet Union’s integrated defense industries and the Russian government’s budgetary difficulties during the 1990s. In its worst years, under former President Boris Yeltsin, the VPK was unable to manufacture more than a few weapons systems each year. […]

Uzbek President Islam Karimov greets people during the festivities marking the Navruz holiday, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, March 21, 2015 (AP photo).

On Monday, in a result that surprised no one, Uzbek President Islam Karimov won re-election to another five-year term with over 90 percent of the vote. Karimov, who became president of Uzbekistan in 1990, a year before the republic’s independence from the Soviet Union, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritarian post-Soviet leaders. But while his overwhelming victory was never in doubt, the 77-year-old president’s regime may be less stable than it appears. Political intrigue in Tashkent and a shifting geopolitical landscape in Central Asia hint at the uncertainty that might follow Karimov’s rule. The most populous of […]

A French soldier stands watch behind Malian soldiers during a visit by the head of France's Operation Serval and Mali’s army chief of staff to a Malian army base, Kidal, Mali, July 27, 2013 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

On March 11, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian unveiled an updated version of the Military Programming Law for 2014-2019, a five-year blueprint for the country’s force structure and defense budget that will be debated in Parliament in June. As part of the revised law, previous plans to reduce the armed forces have been walked back, with the government announcing new investment to meet persistent threats at home and abroad. However, in a climate of stagnant economic growth and austerity-driven fiscal constraints, doubts persist about how sustainable this approach is. Le Drian’s announcements are a direct consequence of the Charlie […]

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