The recent review conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which took place April 8-19, addressed many important issues, including the need to completely eliminate the Russian and U.S. Cold War-era arsenals; states of proliferation concern that have refused to join the CWC; suspected chemical weapons use in Syria; tensions over technology-sharing and export controls; and the growing financial resource constraints on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the lead responsibility for administering and verifying the convention. But overshadowing all these issues are revolutionary and interrelated changes in chemistry, biology and nano and information technologies. […]

When authorities revealed the identity of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, the news that the two men, Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, were of Chechen origin might have put a smile of satisfaction on Vladimir Putin’s face. After all, the Russian president might have concluded, a terrorist attack by Chechens in America would go some way in vindicating his hard-line approach to Chechen rebels. The fact, however, is that the evidence so far does not support that view. Judging by what we know at this point, while the Tsarnaev brothers came from a Chechen family, their ideology had little […]

Later this month, representatives from Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States will meet in Washington to discuss a possible accord that would regulate commercial fishing near the North Pole. Until recently, lack of regulation over the Arctic Ocean was not a priority for world powers, since ice made its waters inaccessible. But as the world warms, more and more polar ice thaws during the summers, creating newly opened waters and the need to address commercial exploitation. The agreement under discussion, a possible fishing moratorium, “would set an important precedent by way of deviating from the frontier mentality that […]

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The significance of the ethnicity of the two Boston Marathon bombers is still unclear, as are the reasons for the Tsarnaev brothers’ transformation into Islamist terrorists, but the latest evidence seems to suggest that the elder brother’s trip last year to the North Caucasus played a key role. Many of the family’s friends and relatives still live in the North Caucasus, which includes the republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The region has been a hotbed of radicalism and militarism for at least a century. The North Caucasus became radicalized after Czarist Russia conquered the previously independent Muslim peoplesin the […]

Even without the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon this week, it is unlikely that the visit of U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to Moscow would have generated front-page news. But his meetings — including direct contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom Donilon handed over a personal letter from President Barack Obama — could end up being quite significant. After a year in which U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated, Donilon’s visit, which had already been postponed twice, was intended to reverse this decline and break the deadlock created by disagreements over Syria and human rights. Unfortunately, Donilon arrived […]

The International Energy Agency, an organization comprising 28 industrialized countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) aimed among other things at preserving global energy security, is reportedly seeking to expand energy cooperation with emerging powers. In an email interview, Thijs Van de Graaf, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ghent Institute for International Studies specializing in global energy politics and international institutions, explained the IEA’s expansion drive and its likely effects. WPR: What is motivating the IEA’s push to form an “association” with emerging economies for the first time in its 40-year history? Van de Graaf: When […]

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Experts are debating what precisely are the motives behind North Korea’s recent spike in belligerent rhetoric and posturing, with answers ranging from the opinion that “war talk” is an attempt by the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, to solidify his hold on power to the worry that the regime is losing its grip on reality. What is more certain, however, is the set of assumptions guiding Pyongyang’s strategic calculus. Whether the North Korean leadership’s assessments are accurate or not — and what steps the other powers in the region take to correct them — may help determine how this […]

In mid-March, three suspected militants were killed by Russian forces in the North Caucasus, a region that has long been a site of Islamist and separatist violence, beginning with the Chechen wars in the 1990s. In an email interview, Domitilla Sagramoso, a lecturer in security and development at King’s College London who specializes in conflict, security and development in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, explained the roots of the ongoing violence in the region and the evolution of Russia’s response to it. WPR: What is the immediate background and current extent of the insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus? Domitilla […]

In recent weeks, the Republic of Belarus has been attempting to break out of its near isolation from the European Union and end a period of tension that began after Belarus’ December 2010 presidential election. Following the arrests of more than 700 protesters in Minsk’s Independence Square after the election, the EU revived its travel sanctions on leading Belarusian political and judicial figures, headed by President Alexander Lukashenko. In response to the EU’s actions and its demand for the release of all political prisoners, including former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich, Belarus moved measurably closer to Russia. Belarus is a full-fledged […]

Last week, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced plans to move to New York to head the International Rescue Committee, a leading humanitarian organization. In his new position, Miliband is likely to be a powerful voice in debates over crises such as that in Syria. His decision may have inspired some envy at the United Nations, which would benefit from the services of such a seasoned political operator. U.N. officials are already starting to size up early candidates to replace Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general in 2017. The next leader of the U.N. is likely to be a European. But […]