Colombia’s long armed conflict against leftist guerrilla groups may be entering its final stages as peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) proceed. The possibility of peace comes after a decade-long military buildup and a series of offensives left both the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) weakened, but not defeated. Colombia, a distant third in population among Latin American countries, now has the region’s second-largest armed forces and its largest army. This buildup turned the tide in the conflict. But it has also altered the Colombian military’s relationship with its civilian leaders. The president […]

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. […]

Australia last sat on the Security Council in 1985-1986, and there was no great enthusiasm when the current Labor government announced it would seek one of the council’s rotating, nonpermanent seats for the current period. The opposition and much of the media claimed it would involve unnecessary expense, require concessions on policy to win over uncommitted votes and be unlikely to succeed. In something of a geographic absurdity, Australia has to compete with Western European states for a Security Council seat, and Finland and Luxembourg were already vying for the 2013-2014 seats at the time Australia tossed its hat into […]

In his recommendations for the United States to become more actively involved in determining the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has fallen victim to one of the more seductive temptations that regularly befall American policymakers: that with enough aggressive leadership and a healthy application of technological acumen, Washington can get other actors to align themselves with and then execute U.S. policy objectives. Summed up, Corker’s policy strategy is to locate the elusive Syrian moderates who, once armed, trained and equipped by the United States, will in […]

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 […]

Before the modern era, most nations didn’t spend much time speculating about where their next war would be or who it would involve. Geography largely determined who would fight whom. With the rare exception of invaders from afar, enemies often remained at each other’s throats for decades, even centuries. States knew who they would fight — the only question was when. But the United States is different. With no major enemies nearby, America’s wars have been fought around the world against a wide range of opponents. This meant that U.S. policymakers and military leaders needed to anticipate the location and […]

On Sunday, Colorado Party candidate Horacio Cartes was elected as the new president of Paraguay, beating his challenger, Efrain Alegre of the governing Liberal Party, by nine percentage points. The Colorado Party also secured a congressional majority and 15 out of 17 governorships. But while Cartes has promised “a new direction” for Paraguay, an expert who spoke with Trend Lines predicted that the vote would have the opposite impact. “The result, although widely expected, is a step back,” Peter Lambert, an expert on Paraguayan politics and an associate dean in the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Bath University, […]

The United Nations may be on the verge of launching a new wave of peace operations, beginning with a blue helmet force in Mali in July. Further deployments to Somalia and Syria are also on the horizon. Yet the U.N. still has a huge amount of unfinished business to complete in countries where peacekeepers are already deployed, ranging from Haiti to Liberia and Lebanon. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his advisers look for the resources for a new generation of missions, they will face pressure to cut costs and downsize existing missions — even if that means leaving some fragile […]

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 […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on Cuba’s economic reforms. Part I looked at the reforms to date. Part II examines the challenges facing future efforts. Cuba’s economic reform — or “updating” of the economy, as the Cubans prefer to call it — is aimed at introducing market mechanisms to boost Cuba’s anemic productivity. “We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world in which people can live without working,” President Raul Castro told the National Assembly in August 2010. So far, the changes being carried out in the […]

Few people expected Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles to defeat the handpicked successor to the late Hugo Chavez. The larger-than-life former president’s chosen heir, Nicolas Maduro, was, in fact, named the winner of Sunday’s election. But the election results still managed to stun. The two candidates received almost the same number of votes. The opposition is demanding a recount, and Maduro has emerged from the election surprisingly weakened, despite his victory. It is a risky turning point for the country, a challenge to Maduro’s untested skills and a perilous time for Chavismo. Venezuela went to the polls within weeks of […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on Cuba’s economic reforms. Part I looks at the reforms to date. Part II will examine the challenges facing future efforts. Since assuming office in July 2006, Cuban President Raul Castro has been on a crusade to bring the Cuban economy into the 21st century. The hyper-centralized model imported from the Soviet Union in the 1960s “doesn’t even work for us anymore,” Fidel Castro admitted. When Raul took over, the Cuban economy had yet to fully recover from the “Special Period” — the deep depression that followed the Soviet Union’s […]

On Tuesday, Morocco cancelled its annual joint military exercises with the United States and other international observers just as the “African Lion” war games were set to start, according to U.S. officials. Though no formal explanation for the cancellation was given, the move follows an expression of support from the White House for broadening the mandate of the United Nations observer mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, to allow it to monitor human rights in the disputed territory, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s. According to Human Rights Watch, “Moroccan abuses in Western Sahara particularly target Sahrawis” — residents […]

The American military is led by some of the most educated professionals in the world. It’s not unusual for a retiring commissioned officer to have spent more time learning in the classroom than a physician, attorney or professor. All commissioned officers and a surprising number of career noncommissioned officers have a four-year college degree; many add an advanced civilian degree — or several of them. This is bolstered by what is called the “professional military educational system,” which is made up of specialized schools operated by the military services themselves. The most important are staff colleges, whose students have 12-14 […]

A lot has changed in the world of technology since the indigenous Zapatista movement emerged in the mid-1990s in southern Mexico to become a symbol of the fight for global justice. To modern would-be revolutionaries, the communication technologies that allowed the Zapatistas to gain global visibility — highlighted by the then-futuristic-looking pictures of Subcomandante Marcos, the movement’s leader, posing in the Chiapas jungle wrapped in electronic gear — now look obsolete and cumbersome. Communication technologies have since morphed into devices that, despite being smaller, are incomparably more powerful for broadcasting, not only because exponential growth in Internet penetration over the […]

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently undertook a week-long visit to Japan and South Korea, highlighting NATO’s growing role in Asian security in partnership with nonmember governments. Rasmussen is convinced that NATO needs to deepen cooperation with partner states to address global security issues that can negatively impact NATO members’ security. Conversely, NATO has unique capabilities and experience in leading multinational military campaigns, as in Afghanistan and Libya, which can be applied to joint efforts among NATO and partner states to address security concerns in Asia and beyond. Since taking office in August 2009, Rasmussen has tried to induce alliance […]

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