As U.S. President Barack Obama vies for a second term in office and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin struggles to reassert his authority at the outset of his third, the so-called Magnitsky bill currently under debate in the U.S. Congress could define U.S.-Russia relations for the next decade. Simply put, if and when the Magnitsky bill passes, Obama will have to sign it. To do otherwise would be electoral suicide. Similarly, Putin and the Russian elite will have to respond in kind. To do otherwise risks their continued authority, which for many members of the Russian elite could amount to actual […]

Vladimir Putin will be inaugurated to serve a third term as Russia’s president next month. The pomp and circumstance of the Kremlin ceremonies, however, won’t be able to hide the fact that, far from being a triumphal restoration of his rightful role, Putin’s return to the presidency is in fact a tacit admission of failure. Putin and his associates have not yet succeeded in achieving the truest mark of success for any political regime: the ability to pass the system intact to a next generation of leadership. The Putin system continues to depend on Putin personally for it to be […]

Global Insider: Russia-China Military Ties Growing Despite Friction

Russia and China launched their first joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea on Monday. In an email interview, Simon Saradzhyan, a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, discussed military cooperation between Russia and China. WPR: How has Russia-China military and defense cooperation evolved over the past 10 years?Simon Saradzhyan: Bilateral military cooperation has developed steadily thanks to a general rapprochement between China and postcommunist Russia. On top of strong economic ties, the growth is based on the convergence of the two countries’ interests in opposing U.S. global dominance, the development of U.S. missile defenses, the expansion […]

Russia has been in the international spotlight in recent months, with frustration over endemic corruption, lingering anger over December’s manipulated Duma elections and Vladimir Putin’s carefully orchestrated return to the presidency bringing Russian protesters out into the streets in greater numbers than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union. But despite its political crisis, Russia retains the ability to impact U.S. interests worldwide: The Kremlin is unafraid to flex its still-considerable muscle abroad, blocking U.S.-led efforts to sanction and topple the bloody government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, threatening to upend European and even global security over […]

Global Insider: North Korea the True Target for China-South Korea Pipeline Proposal

Jiang Jiemin, the chairman of the China National Petroleum Corp., has reportedly floated the idea of building an undersea pipeline that would deliver Russian natural gas to South Korea via China, as an alternative to a long-discussed plan to build a pipeline connecting Russia, North Korea and South Korea. In an email interview, Se Hyun Ahn, chair of the department of international relations at the University of Seoul, discussed the prospect of a Russia-China-South Korea pipeline. WPR: What are South Korea’s sources of natural gas, and how is it delivered? Se Hyun Ahn: South Korea imports all of its natural […]

As NATO member states prepare for next month’s heads-of-state summit in Chicago, the alliance faces a number of difficult decisions on a variety of issues that will determine its deterrence and defense posture moving forward. And while NATO is often stymied by internal divisions among its members, in this case the major obstacle to any bold policy shifts is disagreement with a nonmember: Russia. As a result, NATO is likely to endorse current policies, unless Russia significantly alters its negotiating position on these issues. At the last NATO heads-of-state summit in November 2010 in Lisbon, faced with the question of […]

Twenty years ago this spring, newly independent Moldova, a former Soviet republic lodged between Romania and Ukraine, was consumed by fighting between neighbors on opposite banks of the Dniester River. The conflict broke out because citizens on the eastern or “left” bank of the river, in the largely Russian-speaking region known as Transnistria, feared that Romanian-speaking right-bank Moldovans would form a federal union with neighboring Romania. With tacit support from Moscow and in the protective shadow of the Russian 14th Army, Transnistria declared itself an independent republic in its own right and fought to establish its sovereignty. The conflict lasted […]

Ever since Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill defined the BRIC group of countries in 2001, policymakers have been closely watching the rise of the presumed leaders of the 21st century. And it was widely expected that as Brazil, Russia, China, India and recently added South Africa exercised growing power in global politics, they would also play a larger role in efforts to promote global development by using their own success as a template for smaller and lesser developed states. At their recent summit in New Delhi, the BRICS heads of state signaled their intention to take up that responsibility. The […]

One of the principal challenges for U.S. policy toward Russia is the desire to balance the promotion of human rights with other American interests, such as security and trade. Advancing these pragmatic interests is often assumed to require shelving human rights issues. This problem is at the center of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which will come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later this month. This bill, however, takes a misguided approach to striking this balance, addressing an individual case rather than underlying problems, and creating confrontation where none need exist. The act seeks to punish those Russian officials responsible […]

Mitt Romney’s recently described Russia as the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the United States, arguing that Moscow consistently “lines up” with America’s adversaries. But does the claim stand up to closer scrutiny? After all, Moscow has not extended material and financial support to the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguably the greatest challenges to the United States, even though there are ample geopolitical justifications to try and bog Washington down in multiple Middle Eastern quagmires, thereby deflecting American attention from Eurasia. Nor does Russia reflexively block any and all U.S. priorities, as the Soviet Union routinely did during the […]

Territorial disputes to determine control of offshore energy reserves and multinational efforts to secure global shipping lanes are increasingly driving naval competition and international politics. Be it in the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean or the Arctic Ocean, maritime security and diplomacy will in part determine the emerging global order. This World Politics Review special report examines diplomacy and strategy in the world’s waterways. Below are links to each article in this special report, which subscribers can read in full. Not a subscriber? Purchase this document for Kindle or as a PDF from Scribd. Or subscribe to WPR now. […]

Given this administration’s resurging plans for regional missile defense schemes in both Europe and Asia, President Barack Obama’s recent open-mike admission to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he will have more freedom in his national security decision-making once he wins re-election is not a comforting thought. For a guy who promises “a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama seems awfully intent on incentivizing both Russia and China to field some more. With regard to Europe, America’s case for even limited missile defense is weak. We are told it is all about Iran and has nothing to do with Russia. But if […]