In January, when a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker escorted a Russian tanker carrying essential fuel to Nome, Alaska, it served as a reminder that the U.S. and Russia have many reasons to continue pursuing a thaw in relations. Unfortunately, beyond the New START agreement and a few other deals, the U.S.-Russia reset, which was announced with fanfare in 2009, seems to have descended into bureaucratic obscurity. While it is essential that the United States maintains a constructive relationship with the Russian federal government, there is much more to be gained in developing working relationships that extend to regional governments, nongovernmental […]

This month marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the post-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a country that is currently playing a vital role in sustaining NATO forces in Afghanistan, supporting Georgia and other U.S. friends in Eurasia, and helping to moderate Iranian and Russian ambitions in the energy-rich Caspian Basin region. But Washington needs to prioritize its ties with Baku to strengthen the partnership and to make sure that Azerbaijan and its fragile neighbors in the geopolitically vital South Caucasus region remain strong and stable. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Azerbaijan was among the […]

The Oval Office meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Jan. 30 has already been chalked up as a major victory by Tbilisi. Obama and Saakashvili discussed a range of topics, including the development of Georgia’s democracy, the country’s future transition of power and a possible free trade deal. For the Georgian government and their allies in the media, however, increased defense ties were the centerpiece development. Yet aside from an oblique reference by Saakashvili to “elevating our defense cooperation further,” details on any changes in the military relationship have been scarce. Several figures in […]

Iran’s decision this week to bar International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from visiting the Parchin military base, which Tehran allegedly used to test components needed to create a nuclear weapon, may prove to be a turning point in the diplomatic standoff over the country’s nuclear program. Up to this point, the “rising democracies” — especially Turkey, India and Brazil — have been unwilling to support efforts by the United States and Europe to further isolate Iran, in part because they have a much narrower definition of what constitutes a “nuclear weapons capability,” which the U.S. says is an unacceptable […]

Russia has disappointingly blocked for now a U.S. State Department initiative to build a network of U.S.-supported counternarcotics centers in Central Asia. In public, Russian officials denigrate the effectiveness of programs to interdict drug transportation through Eurasia and instead have favored concentrating international resources on fighting opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan itself. But some Russian officials’ opposition to the initiative is driven by their desire to minimize the U.S. presence in Central Asia. Formally launched in June 2011 as a $4.1 million State Department program, the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI) aims to establish counternarcotics task forces in all five […]

After a period of healthier ties following the much-heralded reset, U.S.-Russia relations appear to be deteriorating. Whether it was the war of words between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last December over the flaws in the Russian Duma elections, or the harsh language used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice after Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution last week calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the optimism engendered by the Obama administration’s reset with Russia has dissipated. Nor does the immediate future bode well for “resetting the reset.” Putin is […]

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Russia announced last month that it plans to withdraw its eight helicopters and the 120 personnel who service them from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. In an email interview, Alexander Nikitin, director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and president emeritus of the Russian Political Science Association, discussed Russia’s involvement with international peacekeeping. WPR: What has been Russia’s recent involvement in international peacekeeping activities? Alexander Nikitin: Current Russian participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations remains on a quite low level for a great power and a permanent member of the U.N. […]

Russia has adopted a surprisingly firm stance regarding the ongoing violent crackdown on domestic opposition in Syria. Despite facing a solid bloc of Western and developing nations calling for strong action against the brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow defiantly vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution this weekend that would have supported the Arab League’s efforts to secure a peaceful transfer of power. Russian officials claimed that the resolution represented a masked call for “regime change” that would only help fuel the conflict. Although China also voted against the proposed resolution, Russia would probably have cast the sole […]

Germany’s handling of the sovereign debt crisis gripping the eurozone has led some to wonder whether Germany has lost interest in Europe, or in the role it has historically played in the European Union. But does Germany really believe it has other, global options for a more unilateral foreign policy? Is Berlin falling prey to an Eastern temptation, whether from Moscow or Beijing? The answer is clearly “no,” but it is a no that has shades of gray. And those shades of gray are now combining to cast a shadow over the skies of Berlin; German foreign policy is no […]