How to best explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Over the past few months, spokesmen and leading officials have confidently made statements about Russian policy only to have the Russian leader suddenly change course. It can be quite confusing for analysts and commentators to assess Russia’s true intentions—and makes Putin look dangerously unpredictable. Putin’s long-term goals are clear: to prevent Ukraine’s full integration into the Euro-Atlantic world; to preserve some semblance of Ukraine’s former position as a neutral intermediary and buffer between Russia and the West; and to retain Russia’s special relationship with the country, particularly its southern and eastern […]

When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the George W. Bush team. The Iraq War was to be wound down, although, as it happens, more or less along the timeline laid down by the previous president. Afghanistan, the forgotten war, was to be quickly turned around by a judicious application of U.S resources and attention. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, “reset” relations with Russia and bring China into a new dialogue to solve global problems. After the massive […]

Since hosting a meeting last September to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the start of Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, China has stepped up shuttle diplomacy with the aim of resuming those negotiations. The result so far has been a virtual merry-go-round of periodic consultations among the respective chief delegates to the talks in Pyongyang, Beijing, Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul, but there has been no discernible progress toward resumption of the multilateral talks. On the contrary, rather than forging the consensus necessary to draw North Korea back into substantive multilateral negotiations, the process appears to […]

Over the past two years, whenever Russia has undertaken steps in the international arena that the United States disapproves of, there has been a predictable response in Washington: a parade of somber-faced U.S. officials solemnly warning Moscow that its actions are opposed by the “international community” and that Russia risks isolation by its policy choices. Indeed, #RussiaIsolated has become the hashtag of choice in the State Department’s social media arsenal. Certainly, the U.S. has had some successes in turning the hashtag into reality: winning some symbolic votes at the United Nations; getting a coalition of states to impose limited sanctions […]

When then-French Defense Minister Herve Morin was asked about the prospect of France selling Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia in a 2010 interview, he spoke of the need for a new kind of relationship with Russia. “We can’t go on calling for a strategic peace and security partnership” with Russia, he told the newspaper La Tribune, and “see the Russians simply as heirs of the Soviet Union.” Somewhat more practically, he also welcomed “the fact that we can hope to get a major contract for French industry.” Four years later, prospects are remote for the kind of Western rapprochement […]

On May 28, the European Commission released its comprehensive energy security strategy. Although the immediate goal is to avert another winter energy crisis such as those Europe experienced in 2006 and 2009, the long-term objective is to reduce European Union reliance on vulnerable foreign energy supplies, especially from Russia. The European Council, comprised of the member states’ heads of state or government, will discuss the proposed plan at its June 26-27 session. Europe’s core challenge is that its energy demand will rise by an estimated 27 percent by 2030, while EU domestic energy production is falling. EU countries already rely […]