A Russia-backed rebel rests after fighting, near Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, June 12, 2015 (AP photo by Mstyslav Chernov).

In a speech at last week’s annual conference of the Center for a New American Security, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Russia and China as presenting a common challenge to the U.S.-backed “global order,” a characterization that echoes that of various Western think tanks and scholars in recent months. Elaborating, Blinken said, “In both eastern Ukraine and the South China Sea, we’re witnessing efforts to unilaterally and coercively change the status quo . . .” The United States, he said, would counter by “seizing America’s unique capacity to mobilize against common threats and lead the international community to […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits across from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other advisers, Vienna, Austria, June 27, 2015 (State Department photo).

Welcome to what could turn out to be the most important, and potentially the most destructive, week in international diplomacy since the end of the Cold War. In the next seven days, we are meant to reach three major turning points in global affairs. On Tuesday, major powers are meant to conclude an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. On the same day, Greece is supposed to make a 1.6 billion euro payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but may fail to do so. And on Sunday, Greek voters will vote in a referendum on the latest bailout […]

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron during a speech, London, U.K., May 21, 2015 (U.K. government photo by Arron Hoare).

British Prime Minister David Cameron once implored his fellow Conservative Party members to “stop banging on about Europe.” But that was back in 2006, when he was just running the party as its new leader. In a speech in January 2013, as his awkward coalition government with the pro-European Union Liberal Democrats was enacting unpopular austerity cuts at home, Cameron changed course. He promised that, if re-elected, he would renegotiate the fundamental terms of the United Kingdom’s EU membership and put the result up for an in-or-out referendum to be held by the end of 2017. Since all opinion polls […]

View of Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 19, 2011 (photo by Flickr user faungg licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

AMSTERDAM—Like much of Europe, the Dutch have been keeping a close eye on developments in Greece. As negotiators continue to meet in efforts to hammer out a deal that would avert a Greek default, experts warn that the consequences of failing to reach an agreement would range from very painful to catastrophic. Here in the Netherlands, the subject occupies private conversations, occasional streets protests and countless headlines. And yet, the dilemma of how or whether to give another lifeline to Greece is only a prelude to a more far-reaching and divisive political battle looming ahead. If Greece defaults and ultimately […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, June 25, 2015 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Another round of bailout talks today between Greece and its creditors, the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), ended without a deal. Next Tuesday Greece is scheduled to make a $1.8 billion loan repayment to the IMF at the same time its bailout program is due to expire. If there is no agreement, an additional $8.1 billion in bailout funds will remain frozen; Greece will default on its loans; and the country could be forced to leave the eurozone. European finance ministers are scheduled to reconvene Saturday for a […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 18, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

Russia’s joint naval exercises with Egypt in the Mediterranean earlier this month put into sharper relief its resurgent ties in the Middle East, where it is steadily reviving a meaningful role for itself. Russia has negotiated a slew of new arms sales and security cooperation agreements, both with Iraq and Egypt; is one of the chief arbiters of Syria’s fate, as a backer of President Bashar al-Assad; and remains an important component of the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Despite a toxic relationship with the West over the crisis in Ukraine, Moscow’s foreign policy is not inherently inimical to U.S. […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 18, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

At last week’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian and Greek officials negotiated a framework agreement for Greece’s participation in the Turkish Stream gas pipeline that, if realized, will transport Russian gas via the Black Sea and Turkey to European markets. The deal comes just a year after the European Union adopted a comprehensive strategy to enhance its energy security, with a key objective being to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian energy sources. However, if the Russia-Greece deal and other developments of the past year are any indication, this campaign could take decades […]

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi with United Nations special envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon as they arrive for a meeting, Chigi Palace, Rome, March 11, 2015 (AP photo by Alessandro Di Meo, Ansa).

In the winter of 2013, then-Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta came out of a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama with the idea that the United States, too busy with other issues, had delegated the solution of the turmoil in Libya to Italy. This perception soon percolated into both the foreign policy and the defense establishments in Rome: Libya was now important not just because of geography and longstanding ties, but also because it was one of the few areas of the world in which the rest of the West would look to Italy for a solution. Yet two years […]

Commerce Square, Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 26, 2013 (photo by Flickr user mgkm photography, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

With all eyes on Greece, especially after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) walked away from debt negotiations last week, bringing Athens that much closer to default, it is easy to miss that last week also marked the one-year anniversary of Portugal completing its bailout program. Portugal isn’t in the clear just yet: Its employment rate increased to 13.7 percent last month and debt to GDP ratio is 129 percent. But its economic situation has stabilized, and the government is repaying its debts on time, if not early. Portugal signed its 78 billion euro economic adjustment program with the so-called troika […]

The Russian navy ship Smolny, with about 400 Russian sailors aboard, leaves the port of Saint-Nazaire, France, Dec.18, 2014 (AP photo by Laetitia Notarianni).

Russia has been skillfully using its ground forces to support pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine and keep NATO guessing over Russian intentions in that country, the Baltic states and Moldova. In addition, Moscow’s air force has for the first time since the Cold War sustained a high tempo of operations in NATO’s vicinity for more than a year. But the revival of the Russian navy has been another key element of Moscow’s use of military force to press its great power status. Naval considerations were actually a major factor driving Moscow’s insistence on maintaining control over Crimea. The naval base at […]

Estonian army scouts practice defensive maneuvers during Exercise Steadfast Javelin, May 11, 2015 (NATO photo).

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the United States is seriously considering stationing hundreds of American troops, along with heavy weaponry, in the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Baltics, all of which are former Soviet republics bordering Russia as well as members of the European Union and NATO, have found themselves in an increasingly vulnerable position since Russia began intervening militarily in Ukraine last year. All three are home to large Russian-speaking minorities, whose controversial status could serve as justification for a Russian attack. In recent months, NATO and Russia have been staging military drills […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands at the White House, Washington, May 26, 2015 (NATO photo).

The Russian government’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty has recently risen in prominence as a concern in Washington and European capitals. What was originally an arms control issue for the United States has escalated into a major defense and security problem for all of NATO. Russia’s strategic modernization, nuclear saber-rattling and aggressive bomber patrols throughout the trans-Atlantic region have compounded the alarm over Moscow’s violation of the treaty as well as Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine. Moscow’s disregard for long-standing laws, borders and agreements demands a major re-evaluation of Russian goals and strategy. The U.S. and […]

A man plays an accordion in front of the “lovelocks” left by tourists on the Pont des Artes, Paris, Sept. 6, 2013 (photo by Flickr user Ben Francis, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic).

Tourism and travel are usually seen as what people do when taking time off from real life. An industry built on beach resorts and ski chalets, bus tours of the Eiffel Tower and African safaris doesn’t seem to rise to the same level of concern as burst oil pipelines or illegal logging in the Amazon. Yet considered as an industry, global travel and tourism is the world’s largest employer; would rank as the fifth-largest carbon emitter if it were a country; is second only to energy as the favored strategy for developing nations trying to rise out of poverty; is […]

Nikola Gruevski, Macedonian prime minister and leader of the ruling conservative VMRO party, at a rally in front of Parliament, Skopje, Macedonia, May 18, 2015 (AP photo by Boris Grdanoski).

A popular revolution against a corrupt, authoritarian government; a new battleground between Russia and the West; an attempted coup by barely-reconstructed communists against a democratically elected government; the latest failure by a flailing, out-of-touch European Union. These are just some of the narratives swirling around Macedonia, where an apparent government wire-tapping scandal has set off a months-long political crisis. In recent weeks, the situation has even acquired an ethnic tinge, deeply unwelcome in a country that fought a brief war against ethnic Albanian insurgents in 2001. This week brought some respite, with an EU-brokered deal to hold early elections by […]

Citizens greet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Odessa, Ukraine, May 30, 2015 (AP photo by Mykola Lazarenko, Presidential Press Service Pool photo via AP).

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, elected last year after his pro-Russian predecessor Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in the Maidan uprising, delivered his first annual message to Parliament yesterday. In it, he denounced the country’s pervasive corruption and called for significant reforms, while also accusing Russia of violating the Minsk agreement that established a cease-fire in embattled eastern Ukraine in February. Poroshenko, a billionaire whose business history drew suspicion from the U.S. State Department before he took office, may seem to be an unlikely reformer. His recent battles with Ukraine’s powerful oligarchs are ostensibly about establishing the rule of law, both to […]

A boat loaded with migrants is spotted at sea off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, March 7, 2011 (AP photo by Antonello Nusca).

The plight of migrants and refugees has made headlines around the world in recent months. Despite the globalized economy, governments remain stubborn about the movement of human beings across national borders. This report covers ongoing migration crises from the Mediterranean to Africa to Southeast Asia. For the next two weeks, all of the articles linked below are free for non-subscribers. Europe: Thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing to Europe in unsafe boats have drowned in the Mediterranean in high-profile incidents this year. The European Union has drawn much criticism for its inability to prevent these tragedies. Not the […]

A view of the General Assembly Hall as Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson addresses the opening of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, United Nations, New York, April 27, 2015).

As expected, the recently completed Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was much more contentious than the previous five-year review held in 2010. At that time, the Obama administration’s push to re-energize bilateral arms control initiatives with Russia and shore up the global nonproliferation regime resulted in a generally successful 2010 conference. However, since then great power tensions have grown, and, besides the Iran nuclear talks, progress toward meeting the Action Plan adopted at the 2010 Review Conference has generally been seen as incomplete. As a result, at this year’s review, fundamental differences among the participants regarding the […]