Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and northern Cyprus President Mustafa Akinci shake hands in the northern part of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, May 23, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

It has been a busy month in Cyprus, with visits from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And for the first time since the early 2000s, there seems to be real optimism that one of the longest-running conflicts in the world could finally be resolved. This newfound optimism is due in large part to the election of Mustafa Akinci as president of northern Cyprus last April. Akinci came to power on a pledge to reach an agreement on the reunification of Cyprus, which since 1974 has been divided between […]

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 14. 2015 (Photo from the Office of the Italian Prime Minister).

Earlier this month, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was in Kenya to discuss trade ties and pledge support for counterterrorism operations in East Africa. In an email interview, Mattia Toaldo, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, discussed Italy’s outreach to Africa. WPR: How extensive are Italy’s ties with Africa, and what are the main areas of cooperation? Mattia Toaldo: After the end of the Cold War, and with development aid money drying up, the Italian presence in sub-Saharan Africa quickly waned. But following a policy review conducted two years ago under then-Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, Italy […]

Ed Miliband speaks at a British Labour Party campaign rally in May, 2015 (U.K. Labour Party photo).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. Over the past decade, social democratic parties across Western Europe have been in ignominious retreat. The center-left’s electoral decline has been remarkable. Even where social democrats have attained governmental power, often in coalition with other parties, their experience has been unhappy and often quickly followed by defeat. As a result, many commentators insist that social democracy as a social movement and a political tradition has lost its vitality and is destined to […]

Titan II ICBM missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum, Arizona, June 2, 2012 (photo by Flickr user jurvetson licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Last week, I discussed why the Iran nuclear deal offers limited—if any—lessons for making progress on other regional nonproliferation issues. This week, I thought it would be valuable to assess the obstacles and opportunities that exist for making further global nonproliferation and arms control progress. One reason for the failure of this spring’s Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was the growing effort by some non-nuclear weapons states to highlight the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. This initiative seeks to mobilize support behind a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would mandate immediate nuclear disarmament. The existing nuclear weapons states […]

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech upon his arrival at Houari Boumediene airport in Algiers, Algeria, June 15, 2015 (AP photo by Sidali Djarboub).

Ever since the end of the colonial period, in 1956 for Morocco and in 1962 for Algeria, France has had a complex and often ambivalent relationship with the two former colonies that formed the core of its North African empire. Social and economic ties have drawn all three countries closer together, but diplomatic tensions, usually involving Algeria, remain. In a recent reversal, however, Morocco has aired resentments over its colonial past after a series of recent spats with Paris, while Algeria has a newfound preference for closer French trade and security ties. French relations with Algiers were strained for many […]

Ukrainian soldiers muster at a point close to Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 20, 2014 (AP photo by Petro Zadorozhnyy).

Ever since the 2004 “Orange Revolution” that led to its first turn toward the West, Ukraine’s future alignment between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic bloc has been the subject of much debate and speculation. The promise of a durable Western shift, already dimmed by 2010, receded even further under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, who tried to steer a middle course between Moscow and Brussels with some success until pressure from Brussels and Moscow, but also Ukraine’s pro-European public opinion, made nonalignment no longer tenable. Since the Euromaidan protests that drove Yanukovych from power in February 2014 and through the emergence […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2014 (AP photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev).

Ties between Russia and Japan are slowly picking up steam again after a 16-month chill following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Earlier this month, Shotaro Yachi, Japan’s national security adviser, traveled to Moscow and met with his Russian counterpart to discuss President Vladimir Putin’s plans to visit Japan later this year. And despite ongoing tensions over Ukraine, there are also signs that Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, may travel to Russia in the coming months to prepare for a potential Putin visit. Japan-Russia cooperation is also continuing on the security front with bilateral maritime security drills, focused primarily […]

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki waits to give an interview outside the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands, June 25, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

Can international legal mechanisms defuse tensions among the West, Russia and China? Last week, U.S. and European officials praised their Chinese and Russian counterparts for helping seal the nuclear deal with Iran. Yet there were warning signs of new spats with Beijing and Moscow over the South China Sea and Ukraine. These tensions concern not only the countries’ core national interests, but also their readiness to submit these interests to legal reviews. China and Russia seem determined to ensure that, as great powers, they cannot be contained through international law. In The Hague, the low-profile but august Permanent Court of […]

An Armenian protester waves a national flag during a protest against a hike in electricity prices, Yerevan, Armenia, June 22, 2015 (Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP).

Electric Yerevan, the name given to protests in Armenia that started last month, has mostly ended. But the grievances that catapulted anger over a utility rate hike into weeks of protests in the capital, Yerevan, and across the country remain all too relevant. While much international commentary on the protests has examined the geopolitical significance and repercussions of the unrest, both the Armenian government and the thousands of demonstrators themselves have insisted the protests focused on issues a little closer to home. Rather than a repudiation of Russia or a nod to the West, the protests sought to highlight the […]

NATO defense ministers meet to discuss the Ukraine crisis, Brussels, Belgium, June 25, 2015 (NATO photo).

Today’s international system is a confusing and hybrid mix of concepts about how states interact and manage their relations. Since the end of the Cold War, the absolute and relative importance of alliances is increasingly being questioned, and new forms of ad hoc cooperation that do not assume permanent shared interests have emerged. Above all, there’s no longer one rule book to govern interstate relations. Instead states in the 21st century work across a full spectrum of approaches, from insistence on absolute state sovereignty on one end of the spectrum to regional integration on the other, with a range of […]

Leaders attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, Ufa, Russia, July 10, 2015 (RIA Novosti photo via AP).

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which held its leaders summit in the Russian city of Ufa last week, remains a puzzle. Despite its potential, the organization has yet to have a major impact on world affairs. The decision at the summit to admit India and Pakistan as new members, which could occur as soon as 2016, should breathe new life into the organization. But the group’s future relevance will be determined by its ability to effectively address the continuing economic and security problems of neighboring Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been an area of collective interest for the SCO—which comprises China, Russia, […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the European Union foreign affairs chief and the foreign ministers of the other P5+1 countries, Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015 (State Department photo).

After 20 months of negotiations, which came down to the wire over 18 straight days in Vienna, Iran and six world powers, led by the United States, reached a deal Tuesday to curb Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade in exchange for lifting sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. All U.S. and European Union nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after international inspectors have verified that Iran is abiding by its commitments. According to The New York Times, “the United States preserved—and in some cases extended—the nuclear restrictions it sketched out with Iran in early April in Lausanne, […]

An employee surveys Reykjavik Energy's Hellisheidi geothermal power plant, Reykjavik, Iceland, July 28, 2011 (AP photo by Brennan Linsley).

Today, the phrase “Arctic energy” has become synonymous with snowy oil rigs, icy ocean exploration and Greenpeace activists. The conditional U.S. approval in May of Shell’s plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska has reinforced this narrow delineation of what’s included in polar energy debates. Reflecting how observers and international policymakers view the Arctic more generally, northern energy is written as an extractive narrative. From the opening of shipping routes to warnings of climate change consequences, the Arctic is frequently framed and valued by how it can help those living below the 66th parallel. But there is another […]

Leaders of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO) member states, Ufa, Russia, July 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

Who wants to live in a world designed by Vladimir Putin? The number of people who answer “yes” to that question may be rather higher than American and European officials might like to imagine. The Russian president has crafted a narrative about his nation’s revitalization as a global power that many of his countrymen clearly appreciate. Chauvinist nationalist leaders elsewhere, such as Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s National Front party, admire his success. But Western policymakers typically comfort themselves that Putin’s mainstream appeal remains limited. Moscow has not been able to offer a positive vision of a new […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses a conference held on the occasion of the 5th anniversary his government, Budapest, Hungary, May 29, 2015 (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP).

Earlier this month, European ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss the Mediterranean migrant crisis and the redistribution of asylum seekers. Though France and Germany voluntarily committed to take in 21,000 migrants, other European Union member states rejected the call for a mandatory quota system. Leading that call was one of the most vocal opponents of the EU’s asylum and migration policy: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Last month, Orban defiantly suspended the asylum rules known as the Dublin Regulation, which allows refugees to be sent back to the country where they first requested asylum, citing technical difficulties with its implementation. […]

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Prime Minister's office, Jerusalem, June 15, 2015 (AP photo by Abir Sultan).

In eastern Mediterranean politics, it used to be Turkey and Israel versus Greece and Cyprus. Now it’s Israel, Cyprus and Greece versus Turkey. This formulation is certainly exaggerated, but Israel and Cyprus do appear to be strengthening their ties, as represented by President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to Jerusalem last month. The shift is reflective of changed regional conditions in both the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East at large, as well as within the countries themselves, particularly Turkey. In the mid-1990s, Turkey and Israel drew closer because of shared regional threats and challenges from Iraq, Syria and Iran, with a particular […]

Saab JAS-39 Gripen fight jet at the Royal International Air Tattoo, Gloucestershire, U.K., July 21, 2013 (photo by FLickr user jez_b licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

In March, Sweden abruptly decided not to renew a five-year defense industry cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia, amid a diplomatic spat after Sweden’s foreign minister criticized Riyadh over its human rights record. The controversy led to headlines around the world and exposed the tension for Sweden, the world’s 12th-largest arms exporter, between promoting global defense sales and advancing democracy and human rights. But this is far from a new issue for Stockholm, and given the worsening security climate in Europe, the Saudi episode is unlikely to change minds in Sweden about the need to export defense equipment, even to non-democracies. […]

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