More than four years after President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech declared the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, the nuclear landscape has become more complex and precarious and shows little sign of movement toward abolition. The so-called global zero initiative has arguably been overtaken by countervailing nuclear realities. Yet the administration remains mired in a Cold War paradigm, gearing up for more U.S.-Russia arms control. Instead, the Obama administration should focus on other components of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as priorities for advancing nonproliferation objectives. These include securing nuclear materials, institutionalizing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), capping […]

For decades U.S. security policy has followed two distinct tracks. In Europe, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East, the extent of American national interests and the possibility of aggression by hostile states led to a direct approach with formal security treaties and the stationing of U.S. forces. In places like Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Central Asia, U.S. strategy was indirect, focusing on security assistance and the provision of advice and training. Partnerships were the coin of the realm. The idea was that other country’s militaries, helped by the United States, would take responsibility for security in their […]

Though Russian oil production continues to rise and is currently approaching Soviet-era levels, forecasts predict it will soon peak and then decline, causing potential problems both for global oil importers and the Russian government’s budget. Averting this decline will require applying more-advanced production techniques to existing fields and exploiting new ones in the Arctic Ocean and elsewhere. Russia’s oil companies will be unable to accomplish this transformation on their own, however. To do so, they will need to secure greater foreign investment and partnerships offering more-advanced technologies and the exposure to better management skills. The benefits of increased foreign investment […]

As the U.S. looks to the end of one phase of the war on terror, with military operations having ended in Iraq and currently winding down in Afghanistan, a new one is well underway, characterized by drone strikes and covert missions by special operations forces. In Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are battling serious challenges from Islamist terrorist groups. Meanwhile, in the Sahel, al-Qaida’s affiliates are carrying on the group’s ideology even as its central organization falters, with implications for the U.S. and Europe. This WPR Special Report examines the new fronts in the war on terror. Counterterrorism Containment Should Guide […]

With peace talks engaged for the first time in a decade, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at its weakest point in history, Colombia’s once-stifled oil and mining sectors have taken off, enabling oil production to reach a record of 1 million barrels per day in late-December. Yet the extractive industry has found itself increasingly targeted by the FARC and other rebels who are seeking to force concessions from the government, putting foreign investment, now at all-time highs, at risk. The FARC are suspected in the bombing of a gas pipeline in La Guajira in Northeastern Colombia on […]

Mexico’s new administration recently announced it would create a new national intelligence agency as part of a broader reform of the country’s security sector. In an email interview, Agnes Gereben Schaefer, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, explained the need for a new Mexican intelligence agency. WPR: What has been the state of Mexico’s intelligence apparatus in recent years? Agnes Gereben Schaefer: In recent years, Mexico’s intelligence apparatus has been splintered across many agencies, including 1,661 local, state and federal police agencies; the military; the attorney general’s office; the Ministry of Interior; the former Ministry of Public Security; […]

European Union member states, Canada and the United States have all committed military transport aircraft to move troops and equipment from Europe to West Africa in support of the French offensive to reclaim northern Mali from Islamist rebels. Six American C-17 Globemaster III aircraft are flying missions as part of U.S. Africa Command’s effort to support French operations, while one Canadian C-17 and two British C-17s are also flying cargo to support the air and land campaign. The involvement of North American aircraft in the French-led mission has brought Europe’s long-standing airlift shortage to the fore. Faced with the demands […]

It was odd to listen to foreign policy pundits comment on President Barack Obama’s inaugural address. Some announced that the administration had all but conceded that Iran will obtain a nuclear capability, and that Israel is being left out to dry. Others speculated that in his second term Obama will work to catalyze a broad-based Pacific alliance to counterbalance a rising China. There were those who argued that the second inaugural signals an expansion of the so-called drone war and use of special operations forces to deal with threats to the United States. Some read in Obama’s remarks a call […]

Since assuming power in early 2011, Myanmar’s government, led by President Thein Sein, has focused its energies on the domestic agenda: rejuvenating the economy, liberalizing the political system and bringing an end to the decades-long ethnic conflicts along the country’s periphery. In tandem with these reforms, however, Naypyidaw has also endeavored to rebalance its foreign relations, with a particular emphasis on improving ties with the United States and members of the European Union, as well as important Asian neighbors such as Japan and India. China, which forged a close economic and political relationship with Myanmar during the 1990s and 2000s […]

Venezuela president Hugo Chavez.

Although it is difficult to predict the precise course of Venezuela’s current leadership transition, it is almost certain that President Hugo Chavez will pass away within the coming weeks or months. His departure will impact not only Venezuela, but also the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the regional bloc that Chavez founded to promote his vision of Bolivarian socialism. While conventional wisdom assumes these impacts will be mostly negative, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, another outcome is possible: A rejuvenated ALBA could take shape, one centered on a new coalition of pragmatists and restructured around economic […]

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — On Wednesday evening, hours before she flew to Havana to symbolically visit regional ally Hugo Chávez, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner was in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires province, to celebrate the return of the naval ship Libertad. The ship had been impounded in Ghana at the request of NML Capital — an unpaid creditor from Argentina’s $100 billion default in 2002. The frigate’s homecoming, facilitated by an international maritime court ruling, was a victory for Kirchner’s self-proclaimed “national and popular” project. Her government refuses to pay so-called vulture funds such as NML, which bought up debt […]

In December, Canada announced it was considering alternatives to the long-planned purchase of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, in part because of the quickly rising expense of the American aircraft. In an email interview, Srdjan Vucetic, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa specializing in Canadian and American foreign and defense policy, discussed the foreign policy implications for Canada of considering alternatives to the F-35. WPR: How seriously is Canada considering aircraft other than the F-35, and what are the main contenders? Srdjan Vucetic: According to the Public Works and Government Services Canada, the department that in April 2012 […]

For the first time, Colombia’s civil society has been invited to contribute to peace negotiations between the government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with the discussion focused on the root cause of the country’s war: land reform. Hosted by the United Nations and the National University of Colombia, the Forum for Integral Agrarian Development was held in Bogota from Dec. 17 to 19. Not only did the forum place land reform at the center of peace negotiations, at least for the moment, it also has the potential to give the peace process legitimacy in the eyes […]

Brazil recently launched a $480 million effort to develop precision missiles and rockets, part of a larger effort to revitalize its defense sector. In an email interview, Salvador Raza, a former Brazilian naval officer and current adjunct professor at National Defense University, and Peterson Silva, a doctoral student at the University of Sao Paulo, discussed the state of the Brazilian defense sector. WPR: To what degree is Brazil independent in terms of arms production, and what systems does it need to import? Salvador Raza and Peterson Silva: Brazil has developed significant know-how in the production of relatively sophisticated defense products […]

In Transition to Civilian Rule, Myanmar Can Learn From Chile

In a year marked by democratic setbacks, Myanmar emerged as an unlikely success story. After nearly half a century of military rule, rights to unionize and protest were restored; opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest; and censorship was eased. Remarkably, these reforms happened because of, rather than despite, longtime dictator Gen. Than Shwe, in particular his decision to hand power willingly over to President Thein Sein. Than Shwe’s voluntary retirement ensured a peaceful transition, but the circumstances of his departure present unique challenges for the quasi-civilian government that has succeeded the junta. The military maintains […]

World Citizen: Will Venezuela-Iran Links Survive Chávez?

Today, Jan. 10, was the day when Hugo Chávez was scheduled to be sworn in for the fourth time as Venezuela’s president. Instead, he is lying in a Cuban hospital, suffering serious complications from cancer surgery, and the country’s legislature, dominated by the president’s loyalists, has delayed the ceremony indefinitely. As Venezuelans grapple with the political uncertainty created by Chávez’s precarious health, the prospect of a post-Chávez era poses complex choices for a number of other countries, not least among them, the United States. During almost 14 years in office, Chávez made anti-Americanism the cornerstone of his foreign policy, working […]

In mid-December, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made her first official visit to France amid speculation that the French-made Rafale might beat out competition from the U.S. and Sweden for a Brazilian fighter jet tender. In an email interview, Antonio Ramalho, an expert on Brazil-European Union relations at Brasilia University, explained the obstacles and opportunities facing the France-Brazil bilateral relationship. WPR: With new presidents in office in both countries, what are the main opportunities and obstacles facing the bilateral relationship? Antonio Ramalho: The main opportunities relate to their common views regarding the role of government in actively promoting economic growth through […]

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