With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, the ice that covers the Arctic Circle continues to dwindle. Recent estimates suggest that the area will experience ice-free summers by 2030. Until now, the United States has largely avoided the frantic race for control of northern waters. But with the pace of the thaw exceeding expectations, the Navy has launched a strategic plan, the Naval Arctic Roadmap (.pdf), to maximize the U.S. stake in the Arctic. The plan was written by the newly launched Navy Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC), created last May amid growing […]

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The IAEA has censured Iran and is demanding Tehran freeze nuclear operations at asecret facility. The stern move by the agency is a victory for theObama administration says Iran expert Ervand Abhrahamian. WorldFocus’Martin Savidge talks with the history professor about what thecensure could mean for United States global positioning among powerssuch as Russia and China.

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The Northern Caucasus remains in trouble and Russia is not quite sure what to do about it. The region, notoriously ruled by clans, has seen a steady rise in violence, with Dagestan (gearing up for a change in leadership) and Ingushetia increasingly stealing the spotlight from the better-known bloody insurgency in Chechnya. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested a government post in charge of the region, however that looks more like a propaganda move than one that will actually garner results. Though Medvedev’s solution seems to be superficial, the motivation for it is real. The leader has acknowledged that an […]

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Being an opposition party leader in a country where the media doesn’t pay attention to the opposition is frustrating. So when Georgia’s former Foreign Minister Salomé Zourabichvili had the chance to speak at her alma mater, Columbia University, in New York, her searing criticism of the Georgian government came as no surprise. Zourabichvili’s political adversary, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, also attended Columbia, but that is where the similarities between the two end. As the leader of the political party, The Way of Georgia, Zourabichvili is fighting to stop what she believes to be the demise of the Georgian state under […]

For nearly three decades, there were few certainties about the global order as starkly tangible as the Berlin Wall. Cutting off East from West both literally and figuratively, it was the most important stitch in the Iron Curtain, and even on the eve of its collapse in the fall of 1989, few could imagine a world without it or the potentially apocalyptic divisions it represented. Yet when the Wall finally fell, eventually taking all of Soviet communism with it, a new set of certainties about the global political and economic order was born. And none has been more pervasive or […]

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Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: PresidentBarack Obama held one of his now-classic town hall meetings in Shanghaiwith Chinese students. The twist? Carefully picked attendees andquestions. In this video, Jim Lehrer interviews human rights experts who saythe Internet, a topic Obama made sure to mention in his talk with thestudents, is the key to human rights in China. Former Secretaryof State Henry Kissinger says the Obama administration has made greatgains for U.S.-Russian relations in this interview with Russia Today. IraqiVice President Tariq al-Hashemi has brought a much anticipate electionin Iraq to a halt. In […]

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Russia Today interviews former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.Kissinger says that since the Obama administration has taken office,great gains have already been made in the Russia-U.S. relationship. Hefurther explains that common interests such as curbing armsproliferation in Iran will bring the two powers even closer. OnAfghanistan, Kissinger says that after deliberations are over he thinksthere will certainly be a troop surge and that he is confident thiswill be the right decision.

After years as a sidelined figure on the European political stage, Serbia is now attracting growing attention from both West and East. While continuing to line up its bid for European Union membership, Serbia is also the focus of Russia’s renewed interest in the Balkans. In October, Belgrade signed deals with Moscow that include support for a controversial oil pipeline, a generous loan deal and the establishment of a Russian base in Serbia that has the potential for military use. Some even see Serbia’s deepening ties with Russia as inimical to its pro-Western stance. But for the time being, Serbia’s […]

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– After meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao calls the G-2 appelation premature, saying everyone should remain “sober-minded” about it. – After going online in August 2009, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s Web site was cyberattacked 2.3 million times in the first month. Payback? (Much more of interest in a People’s Daily interview with the site’s editor.) – China and Vietnam signed an agreement definitively demarcating their 800-mile land border, a process that took 10 years. They agreed to continue negotiations regarding their maritime boundary disputes. It’s important to remember when considering China’s rise that in addition […]

Observers might disagree about what to call the situation in tiny Ingushetia, a federal republic in Russia’s North Caucasus wracked by an increasingly bloody Islamist insurgency. But whether the violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in the past few years qualifies as a civil war, a colonial war, a war on terror, or just persistent instability, one thing almost everyone agrees on is that Ingushetia increasingly displays the features of a failed state. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the small territory’s dysfunctional security forces. Deteriorating relations between Russian federal authorities and the local police in Ingushetia […]

BEIJING — Although nuclear arms control is not likely to be a major agenda item during President Barack Obama’s visit to China, it should be. One of the obstacles facing the president as he seeks to realize the ambitious goals endorsed by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is the need to transform the primarily bilateral strategic arms control relationship inherited from the Cold War into one that places greater emphasis on multilateral frameworks. Although Moscow and Washington have made progress in negotiating a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that expires this December, other nuclear weapons states must […]

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President Barack Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during an Asia Pacific summit in Singapore. Though in Asia, the leaders took time out to discuss the persisting standstill in nuclear negotiations with Iran. “We are now running out of time,” Obama said, referring to Iran’s current tacitness. Both leaders say they are prepared hold a tougher line on the matter.

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This point by Flyntt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett about the recurring “Russia okays sanctions on Iran” meme is well-taken. For a while now, the bleak prospects on the Iran nuclear standoff have caused us to hear what we’d like Moscow to be saying, rather than what it actually is saying. That said, one thing the Leveretts don’t mention is that Russia’s recurring delays in bringing the Bushehr nuclear reactor online represents in some ways a hidden sanction on Iran.

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From Ukraine’s ongoing payment issues to a new gas pipeline that would circumvent a number of Central-Eastern European countries, Russia continues to use gas as a way to strengthen some relationships and cause fissures in others. As Russia warns Europe that Kiev may have a particularly cold winter, EU citizens are feeling the burden of picking up the tab for their Ukrainian neighbors.

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– Interesting, given the climate of anxiety in Washington over China’s military intentions, that in the week before President Barack Obama’s first state visit to the PRC, Beijing announces plans for closer military cooperation with Togo and Khazakhstan, to say nothing of Macedonia yesterday. – Fresh off a successful counterinsurgency campaign, a general quits his command amid rumors of a future in politics. Yet another reason Gen. David Petraeus will be keeping an eye on Sri Lanka. – When all you’ve got is nukes . . . In a leaked internal review, Russia’s military gets low grades on combat readiness. […]

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I mentioned last week that Poland’s shift toward EU defense had become more pronounced since the U.S. shift on European-based missile defense. But Nicolas Gros-Verheyde’s (French-language) summary of the French-Polish joint declaration on security cooperation really underscores that point. Time will tell how all of this will play out in terms of concrete developments. But as Gros-Verheyde observes, the potential for a French-Polish engine driving further EU defense cooperation is clearly in place. The declaration covers bilateral security cooperation in terms of training and industrial partnership, but places it in the context of European security. While it makes a point […]

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– Among the agreements signed during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Malaysia was an MoU on banking regulation. This seems to be an increasing priority for Chinese regional policy. – Count World Bank President Robert Zoeller as the latest believer in the Yuan as an alternative reserve currency. – If China is looking to raise its profile in the Gulf, Qatar makes for a logical partner. – It looks like Japan and the U.S. have agreed to downgrade the Futenma base dispute, in advance of President Barack Obama’s imminent arrival in Tokyo. – China agrees to sell $1.4 billion […]

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