Russian President Vladimir Putin passes by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti).

It is traditional to pen one’s last column of the calendar year as a retrospective of key events that have occurred over the last 12 months, along with predictions for the coming year. I would like to alter tradition to expand the scope of my inquiry—to compare expectations as they stood two years ago, on the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and to contrast that with the situation we face today. U.S. foreign policy has undergone several tectonic shifts, in a seemingly haphazard and unplanned fashion. Yet the fallout will shape the global strategic environment and constrain […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the anti-submarine ship Vice Admiral Kulakov, Novorossiysk, Russia, Sept. 23, 2014 (photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a revised national military doctrine. The updated text aligns better with recent Russian government statements and policies than the previous version, issued in 2010. In particular, the new doctrine presents a lengthier list of threats while also recognizing Russia’s revived military capabilities. The Russian Security Council directed the writing of a new doctrine in July 2013, well before the current crisis in Ukraine. The Council approved the new text on Dec. 19 and Putin signed it one week later. The document was then posted on the Kremlin website. This iteration is the fourth […]

Oil pump jacks work in unison on a foggy morning, Williston, North Dakota, Dec. 19, 2014 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

In the waning days of 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy, roundly castigated by critics for most of the year as being weak, feckless and indecisive, appears to have been vindicated by more recent developments. Eschewing the calls for immediate reactions to a series of disparate events—from anti-government protests in Venezuela to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine—the president opted for diplomacy and sanctions, augmenting his existing approach to perennial problems like Iran and its nuclear program. Now, the story goes, a whole list of U.S. opponents, from Cuba to Iran, are moderating their defiance of Washington and looking […]

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he gestures towards Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

This year has seen a remarkable strengthening of Russian-Chinese ties, building on a relationship that even before 2014 was at its historical best. Their growing closeness is evident in their security policies, economic ties and ideological alignment. U.S. policies presume that Russia and China can be successfully managed through a combination of firmness and patience, but there needs to be greater recognition of how these countries jointly present a more challenging environment for U.S. foreign policy. In an underappreciated interview with The Economist this August that focused mostly on Africa and the U.S. economy, U.S. President Barack Obama made revealing […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall for a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Kremlin, Moscow, Dec. 23, 2014 (AP photo by Maxim Shipenkov).

One year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin was releasing political prisoners in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, even as protesters were massing in Kiev’s central square to demand the ouster of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych. The international spotlight was already on Russia and Ukraine, but no one could have predicted what was to come. The events of 2014 have shaken both countries: Yanukovych’s ouster in February; Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March; the bloody stalemate in eastern Ukraine; the tragic downing of a Malaysian commercial airliner by Russian-backed separatists; escalating Western sanctions against Russian businesses; Ukraine’s steady progress […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker’s rally in Gauhati, India, Nov. 30 2014 (AP photo by Anupam Nath).

In the short time since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May, he has revolutionized his country’s foreign relations. Modi has defied conventional wisdom, upended national traditions and launched a peripatetic campaign of rebuilding India’s ties to other nations. The hallmark of India’s foreign policy under Modi is the pursuit of tangible, preferably signed results. Its motivating objective is fomenting investment and economic growth. Ideological concerns have been relegated far down the priority list. Modi’s international relations early in his term are reminiscent of Turkey’s old “Zero Problems” formula from a few years ago, a philosophy that collapsed […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his speech during a ceremony to mark the 57th anniversary of the 1956 uprising in Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/MTI, Tibor Illyes).

“A nation on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator, getting in bed with Vladimir Putin,” Sen. John McCain called it, addressing the United States Senate earlier this month. McCain was talking about a NATO ally, a European Union member state and an enthusiastic member both of President George W. Bush’s Coalition of the Willing in Iraq and the international force in Afghanistan: Hungary. What has gone wrong? Most of Hungary’s growing band of international critics lay the blame squarely at the door of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. A former liberal opponent of communism, Orban now stands […]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 2, 2014 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Cold War-era fears are resurfacing in northeastern Europe. Over the past year, Russian aircraft have violated the air space of nearly all Nordic and Baltic countries at a worrying rate, while this past fall, Sweden hunted for a suspected Russian submarine thought to be lurking in the waters off Stockholm. Those Russian provocations, along with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, have recharged debates in Finland and Sweden over joining NATO. In Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia, Prime Minister Alexander Stubb responded to a question in September about the possibility of his country joining NATO by saying, “We […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the World Diamond Conference in New Delhi, India, Dec. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Saurabh Das).

On Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin became the latest suitor to court Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi on the latter’s home territory. He follows Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and precedes U.S. President Barack Obama, who will travel to India next month for the country’s Republic Day celebrations. Unlike some Indian leaders, Modi does not have any ideological attachment to Russia. However, while New Delhi has ended its Cold War-era alignment with Moscow, India and Russia still share many overlapping interests. India is counting on Moscow to help secure New Delhi’s full membership in […]

Firefighters and emergency workers examine the burned market pavilions in downtown Grozny, Russia, Dec. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Musa Sadulayev).

On Dec. 4, a major gun battle broke out in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, leaving 14 police and 11 militants dead. It was the worst violence in several years for the semi-autonomous Russian republic, which suffered through two bloody, failed wars for independence from 1994-1996 and from 1999-2009. The Chechen government has responded by demolishing the homes of the families of suspected militants, prompting condemnations by multiple human rights groups this week. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some analysts suggested that the militants might have been affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS). As many as 800 […]

People walk past a display with currency exchange rates in central Moscow, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

December has been a brutal month for the Russian economy. On Dec. 1, the value of the ruble, already at a historic low, experienced its steepest one-day drop since the 1998 financial crisis. The exchange rate with the dollar remains high, and there are no signs of improvement in a slide that has seen the Russian currency lose over 40 percent of its value since the beginning of the year. On the same day, the Ministry of Economic Development announced that Russia would be in recession through at least 2015; quickly chastised by the Kremlin, the ministry removed the offending […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin passes by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti).

Because no two countries in the world share completely overlapping interests, the responsible leader must assess under what conditions disagreement with another state warrants interfering with beneficial ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent summit with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara this past week illustrates the delicate dance of this kind of selective partnership. There are serious divisions between Ankara and Moscow over several fundamental foreign policy issues, ranging from Russia’s longstanding support for the maritime claims of Cyprus, the northern part of which is recognized by Turkey as an independent country, to Turkey’s opposition to the regime of […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Ankara last week for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The biggest news coming out of the visit was Putin’s announcement that he is scrapping the South Stream pipeline project that was to bring Russian gas to Southern Europe. Putin cited the European Union’s opposition to the project as the reason for the cancellation. The EU has raised concerns that the Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom would own both the pipeline infrastructure and the gas being transported, which would violate the EU’s competition laws in the energy sector. South Stream, originally agreed upon […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden smile during their statement to the media at the Presidential Administration Building in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

I have a modest proposal: I would like to see all U.S. government representatives cease and desist from any further use of the phrase, “all options are on the table.” Initially, these six words did serve a useful purpose: During a crisis situation, assuming an administration practiced strict message discipline without being beset by leaks and second-guessing by anonymous officials in the media, they introduced sufficient doubt among adversaries and challengers as to what the U.S. response might actually be—raising the possibility that the United States might choose to react more forcefully than anticipated. Over the past few years, however, […]

The U.S. 6th Fleet command ship USS Mount Whitney participates in a passing exercise with vessels from the Georgian coast guard while transiting the Black Sea, Oct. 18, 2014 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright).

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have radically altered the European security equation, with the Black Sea region becoming an acutely contested zone between Russia and NATO. The juxtaposition of NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey as Black Sea littoral states alongside Russia and Ukraine creates an inherently explosive mix. Regional tensions are likely to increase before they dampen down. For example, the United States is establishing a missile defense base in Romania in 2015, while Russia is planning a major increase in the capacity of its Black Sea Fleet, Moscow’s main means of projecting maritime power into the Mediterranean. Yet while […]

France’s far right presidential candidate and National Front party president Marine Le Pen attends a political rally in Chateauroux, France, Feb. 26, 2012 (Sipa via AP Images).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. A quarter-century ago, a virtually unknown State Department official published an article in a neoconservative policy journal. The title of the piece as well as its author would go on to acquire global fame—or perhaps notoriety. Critics did not hesitate to dismiss Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History?” Strobe Talbott, for instance, called it “the beginning of nonsense.” Yet the article, and the subsequent book that grew out of it, was often […]

Pro-government supporters gather for a march in downtown Moscow to mark People’s Unity Day. The poster reads “the Crimea is ours,” Nov. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

As the end of each year rolls around, foreign policy pundits inevitably churn out columns reviewing the past 12 months and guessing at what comes next. These pieces will make for consistently bleak reading this year. Viewed in geopolitical terms, 2014 has been egregiously nasty. It is now conventional wisdom that the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, coupled with China’s increasing assertiveness in the Pacific, signal the looming implosion of the American-led international order. Like most conventional wisdoms, this may prove to be incorrect. While many analysts will make pronouncements about the future of the world in 2015, […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 181 2 Last