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I’m not really sure what to make of this NY Times report. After failing to secure Membership Action Plans for Georgia and Ukraine this past April in the face of strong German and French resistance to provoking Russia, in the aftermath of the intervening Georgia War that showed both the recklessness of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russia’s willingness to turn the frozen conflict into a hot war, and despite widespread popular opposition in Ukraine to the very idea of NATO membership, the Bush administration is now pushing to scrap the lengthy MAP procedures that guarantee operational compatibility altogether and […]

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I like the line of argument from David Capezza’s WPR piece on NATO-Russia relations. Taken to its logical extreme, it suggests that the way to resolve security disputes with Russia — like missile defense and NATO expansion — isn’t to engage in needlessly provocative behavior or to simply capitulate every time Vlad raises his angry head in our airspace, but to integrate Russia into the European security equation. I have my doubts about missile defense in general, in part due to its lackluster testing record. And I think that integrating Georgia into NATO is unnecessary so long as Russia considers […]

In a speech last Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced that the alliance’s relationship with Russia will no longer be “business as usual,” while stressing the need for a multidimensional approach towards relations with Moscow. With relations between NATO and Russia greatly strained, Scheffer argued against framing the issue as a choice between Russia and Georgia, declaring that, “No, we will not choose.” If acted upon, Scheffer’s call to action could mark the beginning of a new approach towards Russia. The multidimensional approach, according to Scheffer, includes “a broad cooperative framework embracing virtually all the countries on […]

TOKYO — At last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Japan and Russia had been expected to announce plans for a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Japan by the end of this year. But the decision to instead postpone the visit until early next year is a fair reflection of the state of political relations between the two nations — technically still at war — in recent years. “Relations have remained stunted,” says Joseph Ferguson, adjunct professor at the University of Washington, who argues that political relations currently lag some way behind economic ties. Ferguson, author of “Japanese-Russian […]

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The Guardian reports that Russia and Venezuela will sign a preliminary agreement next week clearing the way for Russia to build the country’s first nuclear reactor. A lot of the speculation about Barack Obama being tested if elected president centered on conflict scenarios. But I think this sort of development — situated squarely in the provocative zone where the multipolar and globalized world overlap with the Monroe Doctrine — is closer to what we’ll see over the next six months. Christopher Moraff’s WPR piece on how the Obama administration might address the “new reality” of Latin America is a good […]

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Nothing has been signed yet, but Kommersant is reporting that Cyprus President Dmitris Christofias will be shopping for Russian anti-missile systems, along with some tanks and helicopters, during his upcoming visit to Moscow. I’m not sure what to make of this. Should Russia agree, it seems like a pretty provocative gesture towards Turkey, which was already a bit rattled by the Georgia War. Russia is one of Turkey’s major trading partners, and Christofias was elected on a platform of Cypriot reconciliation. So it would seem that closer integration — as long as it weren’t of the military hardware variety — […]

Global arms sales continue to grow, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), with the value of worldwide weapons contracts rising by an estimated 9.2 percent in 2007. The CRS put the value of major arms transfer agreements at almost $60 billion, up from $54.9 billion the year before. The United States accounted for over 41 percent of the sales, or approximately $24.8 billion, a significant increase from the 2006 figure of $16.7 billion. Russia still ranked second, but the value of its arms transfer agreements actually fell from $14.3 billion in 2006 to $10.4 billion in 2007. Conversely, the […]

On Oct. 30, Murat Zyazikov resigned as president of Ingushetia — a small, mainly-Muslim republic in Russia’s North Caucasus region. Zyazikov’s fate was likely sealed two weeks previously, on Oct. 18, when a military convoy was ambushed by insurgents between the villages of Alkhasty and Surkhakhi, leaving approximately 50 servicemen dead. The ambush was the largest of its type yet seen in the republic. Ingushetia lies directly to the west of Chechnya (the Ingush and the Chechens are close ethnic relatives), and the leaders of the insurgency in Ingushetia have drawn inspiration from their Chechnyan counterparts, who have been fighting […]

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Art Goldhammer reads the tea leaves on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s abrupt about face on the American-Russian standoff over European-based missile defense. On Friday, at an EU-Russia summit in Nice, Sarkozy had called for what amounted to a mutual cooling off period, whereby both sides would postpone deployment of measure and countermeasure for six months. But in Washington, he reversed course, stating that the missile defense system is a good idea after all. Like Art, I’d imagined, when I first saw the news Friday, that Sarkozy would not have floated this kind of plan had he not had some sort […]

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Only eight months after losing Kosovo, their cultural and historical heartland, Serbs seem strangely passive these days. At this time last year, as negotiations over Kosovo’s final status reached an impasse, Serbs felt bitter and humiliated by the pariah-status they were dealt by the international community. So their initial reaction to Kosovo’s declaration of independence — and its quick recognition by Western capitals — this past February was predictable: amidst a crowd of 100,000 peaceful protesters (more than 1% of the population), a few hundred “extremists” attacked and ignited several embassies of Kosovo-friendly governments, including that of Kosovo’s strongest ally, […]

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Over the objections of Lithuania, the EU has decided to unfreeze partnership talks with Russia. By a happy coincidence, on the same day, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller announces that natural gas prices for Europe will decline in 2009. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Russia is willing to respond to favorably to engagement. That leaves three questions that the West needs to ask itself. First, is that likely to reverse Russian policy in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Second, is that likely to make future Russian behavior more responsible and predictable? And third, do the areas where Russia is willing […]

Just hours after President-elect Barack Obama’s election victory, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used his first state of the nation address before both houses of the Russian parliament to declare that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad “to neutralize if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe.” Medvedev also said that Russian electronic equipment would jam the U.S. systems and that he had canceled plans to dismantle three missile regiments deployed in western Russia. Kaliningrad, a Baltic Sea port which lies between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, hosts a major Russian military base. The Iskander surface-to-surface missile has […]

With the U.S. presidential election finally decided, attention has now turned to just how President-elect Barack Obama will handle American foreign policy. As a candidate, Obama often displayed the clearsighted vision of a foreign policy realist, while embracing the rhetorical flourishes of an idealist. In WPR’s latest biweekly feature issue, two prominent foreign policy analysts examine the challenges and opportunities that await The Obama Presidency. In Wilsonian Idealist or Progressive Realist? Nikolas Gvosdev, former editor of the National Interest, considers the kinds of “80 percent solutions” the Obama administration might be forced to consider, and whether it will be willing […]

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The EU Observer reports that Lithuania is the last holdout against restarting EU-Russia strategic partnership talks. France has proposed restarting the talks while simultaneously condemning Russia’s violations of the Georgia ceasefire agreement: The proposal was good enough for Russia-critical states Sweden, the UK,the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia, which agreed that major EUsecurity and financial interests outweigh the niceties of the Georgiaconflict. . . . “If you look at this issue, legally there is no reason to relaunch thetalks. But political reality dictates that we need to communicate withRussia,” an EU diplomat said. For some more on that political reality, […]

How is President-elect Barack Obama planning to shape the foreign policy of his administration? Is he a Wilsonian idealist? A progressive realist? Some mix of the two? How Obama will define his foreign policy still remains somewhat of a mystery. Between now and when he actually begins his term of office, I expect that his rhetoric about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world will become more expansive and lyrical. After all, this is to be expected. American chief executives traditionally use the post-election period, culminating in the Inaugural Address, as a time to appeal to our loftiest […]

FROM SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE TO PRESIDENT-ELECT — Amid the global euphoria — to say nothing of the often grudging admiration for the United States — following Barack Obama’s landslide victory, European ambassadors in Washington were already cautioning their governments that the new president will be no pushover. One ambassador said Friday, “On many major issues, there’s not a lot of difference in substance between an Obama administration and a McCain administration. However, where McCain could have been unpredictable, the Obama leitmotif has been mending international fences, so we can expect him to be tough, but hopefully open to reason.” While it’s […]

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Robert Hutchings and Frederick Kempe make the case over at Foreign Policy for what they call a Global Grand Bargain, an across the board approach whereby instead of trying to tackle individual problems one by one, Barack Obama tries to reach a global consensus on broad reform measures designed to clear the decks: Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once advised, “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” Itis a way of bringing more politically relevant clout to bear andcreating opportunities for constructive trade-offs. Most of thechallenges we face are interconnected, and the only way for the newadministration to […]

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