European Council President Donald Tusk, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Eastern Partnership summit, Riga, Latvia, May 22, 2015 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

In May 2008, the foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden proposed the Eastern Partnership, an initiative designed to foster ties between the European Union and six former Soviet republics: Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. That August, a brief war broke out between Georgia and Russia, after which Russia formally recognized the Georgian breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states. Seven years later, the region remains divided along these lines, with the EU offering a possible future for Russia’s former satellites, and Russia itself using military force and separatist proxies to prevent that from happening. Last […]

Opposition candidate Andrzej Duda celebrates his victory with supporters, as the first exit polls in the presidential runoff voting are announced, Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

The surprise election of Andrzej Duda, a charming, relatively unknown, conservative 43-year-old lawyer, to the Polish presidency Sunday over the popular but low-key incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, has sent shock waves through Europe, raising fears of a radical change in the politics, economics and foreign policy of an increasingly important European Union member. The Duda revolution may take months to materialize, since the Polish presidency is not particularly strong and parliamentary elections in the autumn will reveal whether voters return his Law and Justice Party to power for the first time since 2006. Yet the depth of change Duda represents has […]

Presidents from Turkmenistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service).

As negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries—the U.S., France, U.K., Germany, Russia and China—over Tehran’s nuclear program enter the home stretch before their June 30 deadline, much of the attention in Washington and the media has been focused on the U.S. need to reaffirm its commitment to its Persian Gulf allies, in order to reassure them that an Iran nuclear deal would not compromise their security. In addition, however, the United States also needs to develop a strategy for managing the likely growth of Iranian influence in Central Asia and the South Caucasus that would follow any nuclear agreement. […]

A worker cuts a diamond, reflecting Botswana’s attempt to control stages of diamond production beyond mining, Gaborone, Botswana, March 18, 2008 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The past year has seen dramatic declines in the prices of global commodities. Between June 2014 and the beginning of this year, crude oil prices fell by 50 percent to around $50 a barrel. Similarly, mineral prices have seen a drastic fall since the peak of the “commodity supercycle” in early 2011. Between then and April of this year, iron ore prices fell by 70 percent, coal prices by 54 percent and copper prices by 40 percent. Many countries dependent on revenues from these commodities have been hit hard. Venezuela is unable to import food and medicine to satisfy the […]

Andrus Ansip, commissioner in charge of the digital single market, and Gunther Oettinger, commissioner in charge of digital economy and society, give a joint press conference, Brussels, May 6, 2015 (European Commission photo).

Earlier this month the European Union launched its so-called digital single market, which aims to expand Europe’s digital economy through broad reforms. In an email interview, Fabian Zuleeg, the chief executive of the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think tank, discussed the impact the new policy could have. WPR: What are the main goals of the European digital single market? Fabian Zuleeg: In its most basic form, the digital single market is about removing regulatory barriers, which prevent customers and businesses from fully realizing the potential of the developing Internet economy. But the ultimate goal of the digital single market […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma at the BRICS summit, Brazil, July 15, 2014 (AP photo by Silvia Izquierdo).

The BRICS grouping must rank as one of the oddest geopolitical blocs in history. It was born in 2001 from the mind of a Wall Street economist as little more than a mnemonic shorthand device to describe the growing importance of developing economies. Ever since, the five countries it comprises—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a later addition—have been trying to transform their snappy acronym into a global player. Nobody has promoted the ambition to leverage the BRICS bloc into a source of influence more enthusiastically than Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sees the grouping as a potential vehicle […]

A demonstrator holds up a banner at a ‘We Won’t Pay Campaign’ anti-water charge protest outside the Irish Water headquarters, Dublin, Ireland, Nov. 29, 2014 (Brian Lawless/PA Wire URN:21600475, Press Association via AP Images).

Ground zero in Ireland’s recent economic, political and social history can be traced to the night of Sept. 29, 2008. “The night of the bank guarantee,” as the Irish public came to call it, dramatically changed the country’s course. Before then, Ireland had enjoyed more than a decade of rapid economic growth, emerging from years of poverty to become one of Europe’s most dynamic economies, the so-called “Celtic Tiger.” Between 1990 and 2005, the employed population of Ireland increased from 1.1 million to 1.9 million. Gross domestic product soared, and gross national income per capita doubled between 1990 and 2000 […]

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly audience, the Vatican, May 20, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

Earlier this month, the Vatican concluded a treaty that recognizes the state of Palestine, immediately drawing criticism from Israel. In an email interview, John L. Allen Jr., an associate editor at Crux and expert on Vatican affairs, discussed the Holy See’s foreign policy under Pope Francis. WPR: What changes has Pope Francis effected in Vatican foreign policy, and how do his priorities for the church’s global role differ from those of Pope Benedict XVI? John L. Allen Jr.: There haven’t been major changes in substance in the transition from Benedict to Francis, as it’s the same blend of pro-life and […]

French President Francois Hollande with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council before the opening of its summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 5, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

French President Francois Hollande made a triumphal visit to the oil- and gas-rich kingdoms of the Persian Gulf earlier this month, touching down in Qatar to oversee the signing of a contract for the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets, then continuing on to Saudi Arabia to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit as the guest of honor, a first for a Western head of state. Hollande’s Gulf tour was in part the product of shrewd French diplomacy, which took advantage of Arab displeasure at current U.S. policies in the region, most of all a framework agreement with Iran on […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh after arriving at the Presidential Palace, Djibouti, May 6, 2015 (State Department photo).

China is in negotiations with Djibouti to open a military base in the country, adding to its current roster of French, U.S., Japanese and EU military facilities. In an email interview, David Styan, lecturer in politics at Birkbeck College, University of London and author of the report “Djibouti: Changing Influence in the Horn’s Strategic Hub,” discussed Djibouti’s foreign relations. WPR: Who are Djibouti’s main regional partners? David Styan: The dominant regional partner is Ethiopia. Djibouti’s small economy is essentially a gateway; the vast majority of Addis Ababa’s fast-growing trade flows transit through Djibouti’s new container and oil terminals. China’s reconstruction […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Moscow, Russia, May 10, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

Vladimir Putin has a busy social schedule these days. The Russian president looked a little isolated on May 9, when world leaders largely stayed away from the immense military parade he organized in Moscow to commemorate the end of World War II. But Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the few who did attend, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to Moscow for talks one day after the celebrations. Putin has had little time to recover from his big party. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited him in Sochi to talk about Ukraine and Syria. Washington followed […]

The tanker “Foscari” arrives in port carrying 562 immigrants, Naples, Italy, May 6, 2015 (Photo by Alessio Paduano/NurPhoto, Sipa via AP Images).

The recent spike in the numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe’s Mediterranean shores, accompanied by media images of fatal capsizings and other tragic scenes of human suffering, has reminded people of the moral as well as the humanitarian and political dimensions of the issue. This week, in response to months of urgent appeals, the European Union drafted recommendations for a quota system to distribute asylum-seekers and other migrants across the EU, to relieve some of the burden on the southern European states of Italy, Malta and Greece. But the debate over these migrants remains divisive and passionate. World media […]

A worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010 (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour).

In the run-up to the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran, alarmists in Washington, Tel Aviv and elsewhere are again warning of an imminent race to nuclear weapons capabilities in the Middle East—one that will occur in the guise of peaceful nuclear programs, as countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey all rush to construct their first nuclear power plants. But the logic of chain-reaction proliferation in the Middle East is critically flawed. Equally flawed are assumptions that the region’s nuclear power aspirants are anywhere near having operational programs. Ambitious rhetoric aside, including Saudi Arabia’s […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens as President Barack Obama addresses a Central American Integration System Heads of State Meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, Panama City, Panama, April 10, 2015 (State Department photo).

It’s kind of a tough week to start a new column on U.S. foreign policy. There’s just not much going on these days. The Iran nuclear debate has moved to the back burner as the P5+1 and Tehran try to hammer out the final details of a nuclear pact. The U.S. war against the so-called Islamic State (IS) is continuing apace, but with no horrifying images of American journalists being beheaded, it’s an issue that has largely fallen off the front pages. For about two days people were once again talking about drones and targeted killings, after an American unmanned […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany is how much Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized their two countries’ historical and other ties. Although Russian and Chinese officials no longer profess ideological solidarity based on a shared Marxist-Leninist ideology, their statements have displayed a remarkable harmony of ideas and expression. In practice, their political systems also more closely resemble each other, exposing shared vulnerabilities. Chinese presidents had attended Victory Day parades in 2005 and 2010, but this […]

View of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, Oct. 17, 2006 (photo by Flickr user hanming_huang licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, Azerbaijan’s separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region held parliamentary elections, which were denounced by Azerbaijan, the European Union and the United States. In an email interview, Laurence Broers, editor of Caucasus Survey and a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, discussed governance in Nagorno-Karabakh. WPR: What are the dominant political parties in Nagorno-Karabakh, and are their platforms locally determined or driven by broader Armenian political trends? Laurence Broers: Political parties in Nagorno-Karabakh show many of the same features as those across the wider region: Hard to distinguish ideologically, they are instead personality-driven and […]

Demonstrators hold placards reading “Say No to Mass Surveillance” and “Members of Parliament Protect our Freedom,” Paris, France, May 4, 2015 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

The French Parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday that will give authorities the ability to tap phones and read emails without first getting permission from a judge. The bill now moves the French Senate, where is it likely to pass. In addition to phone tapping, the law would allow French intelligence services to monitor telecom and Internet operators’ networks and servers, as well as track the behavior of suspected terrorists using algorithms that analyze metadata. French lawmakers have considered expanding the state’s surveillance capabilities since 2012, after Mohammed Merah committed a series of attacks on French troops and a Jewish […]

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