View of Basseterre, St. Kitts, Dec. 21, 2010 (photo by Flickr usser sel licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Last week, the opposition Team Unity coalition ousted the Labour party in St. Kitts and Nevis’ parliamentary election after 20 years in power. In an email interview, Wouter Veenendaal, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, discussed domestic politics in St. Kitts and Nevis. WPR: What led to the success of the Team Unity coalition over the long-ruling Labour Party in recent election? Wouter Veenendaal: The election victory of Team Unity can be explained by a number of factors. First, the Labour Party and its leader Denzil Douglas ruled St. Kitts and Nevis […]

The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military’s Guantanamo Bay detention center, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close amid opposition in Congress, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, June 7, 2014 (AP photo by Ben Fox).

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there were 680 prisoners being held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Today, there are 122. As The Associated Press has reported, that is “less than half the number when [U.S. President Barack] Obama took office, and the fewest since 10 days after the U.S. began shipping al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, shackled and clad in orange jumpsuits, to the base on Jan. 11, 2002.” A slow trickle of prisoner releases has steadily picked up over the last year and a half, and especially in recent months, as part of a policy […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave to the media before a meeting in New Delhi, India, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s January visit to India saw some long-awaited movement on the two countries’ Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), touted by both sides as a means to transform the current buyer-seller defense relationship into one based on coproduction and co-development. In pursuit of this stated goal, India and the U.S. have agreed upon some pathfinder projects for production of U.S.-origin systems in India, in addition to exploring several high-end joint technology development proposals. The moves confirm that the DTTI will be a key element of the two sides’ renewed bilateral defense pact as it moves into its […]

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy guided missile destroyer Qingdao during a search and rescue exercise off the coast of Hawaii, Sept. 9, 2013 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brennan D. Knaresboro).

Earlier this month, while visiting Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart, China’s defense minister expressed Beijing’s opposition to the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. That followed a similar declaration by China’s ambassador to South Korea in November, and the topic was reportedly also raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during Xi’s visit to Seoul in July. The vocal expressions of Chinese concern are puzzling, since the U.S. and South Korean governments have not held any formal talks on such […]

Honor guards stand at the Pentagon Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the Pentagon, Arlington, VA, Sept. 11, 2011 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

For almost a decade now, since the publication of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s brilliant, discursive rumination “The Black Swan,” conventional wisdom has held that the biggest threats to strategy—in national security as well as areas like finance—come from sudden and unexpected events. A black swan, as Taleb named such an event, is at its core both a shock and a surprise. It is an “outlier,” Taleb writes, “as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.” He goes on to claim that such events are the engines of history. “A […]

Opposition demonstrators display a Venezuelan flag in front of a line of Bolivarian National Guard officers dressed in riot gear in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Llano).

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stepped up his crackdown on his political opponents with the arrest last week of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who stands accused of trumped-up charges of plotting a coup with support from the United States. Ledezma’s is the most recent in a string of arrests of opposition politicians and comes as Maduro faces a severe economic crisis at home. Since assuming power in 2013, Maduro has struggled escape the shadow of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and unify his base of support, known as the Chavistas. Last July, with oil prices only just falling, Frida Ghitis […]

A taxi driver transports a car full of passengers in Havana, Cuba, Feb. 17, 2015 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

U.S. President Barack Obama defends his opening to Cuba as a more effective way to bring democracy to the island than his 10 predecessors’ policy of isolation. Engagement, he argued in December, “chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.” This rationale has been echoed by administration officials at every opportunity since then, along with the hope that Washington’s new approach will enable it to recruit European and Latin American allies to push Havana on human rights and democracy. […]

NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 8, 2015 (NATO photo).

This past weekend, militants in Libya aligned with the so-called Islamic State (IS) brutally executed 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians they had captured. As the victims’ blood flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, their executioner declared, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” Even as most of Europe’s attention remains focused on the east and the fighting in Ukraine, the horrific murders highlight the threat the continent faces to the south. They also serve as yet another reminder, if one were necessary, that the operation to depose former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, once praised as a successful example of the responsibility to […]

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper marks the 100th anniversaries of the Royal 22nd Regiment and Valcartier Garrison in Quebec, Oct. 14. 2014 (Photo from the website of the Canadian Prime Minister).

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shook up his Cabinet, rearranging key members of his foreign policy team ahead of federal elections scheduled for Oct. 19. The move was triggered by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s decision to quit politics, possibly with the aim of collecting a larger pension than he might have if he had waited until 2016. Baird is one of several ministers to depart in recent months, forcing Harper to recalibrate his strategy in what is shaping up to be a difficult election year. Baird’s replacement is Rob Nicholson, who until last week had served as […]

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads in Creole “Coalition MOLEGHAF says: Down Martelly, down MINUSTAH” during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 4, 2015 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

There is no question that Haiti’s government has hit the ground hard lately. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s Cabinet resigned in December, following mounting criticism of its record on human rights and the economy, as well as its failure to hold local and parliamentary elections for over three years. The election delays rendered parliament dysfunctional last month, as terms expired for a third of Haiti’s Senate seats and the entire Chamber of Deputies. Meanwhile, on the streets, a steadily growing opposition movement generates at least one large anti-government demonstration each week. For two days last week, cities across Haiti were paralyzed […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a meeting during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Matthias Schrader).

The fate of the latest cease-fire in Ukraine remains precarious, and even if the current truce unexpectedly endures, a lasting settlement to the Ukraine conflict will still prove elusive given the players’ conflicting strategic aims. Russia wants to keep Ukraine weak and divided, while the Ukrainian government—backed by the United States—wants to rule a reunified country, to include Russian-occupied Crimea. For their part, many Europeans would seem content with almost any settlement that ended the fighting and the sanctions they have imposed on Russia. But despite these differences, the truce might buy time for progress on other measures that would […]

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jack Reed and Sen. James Inhofe prepare to vote on the nomination of Ashton Carter to be the Pentagon chief, Feb. 10, 2015, Washington (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

When Americans think of civil-military relations, what jumps to mind is the interaction of the armed services and the executive branch of government. This relationship is central to American democracy, but also relatively straightforward. The Constitution makes the president the commander-in-chief of the military, and commissioned officers serve “at the pleasure of the president.” Officers follow the president’s orders or are fired. Yet as Mackubin Thomas Owens points out, “Those who neglect the congressional role in American civil-military relations are missing an important element.” In many ways, this is a more complicated relationship, since it lacks the clear chain of […]

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office prior to a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Feb. 10, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has drawn a good deal of criticism for its concept of “strategic patience,” which serves as the core for the recently released National Security Strategy. It’s understandable why the president’s national security team chose that specific language. It is meant to give more gravitas to an approach more jocularly described as “don’t do stupid [things]”—and is supposed to convey that the current management does not plan to respond impulsively to the challenges of the day. In a 24/7 news culture, when demands for the United States to “do something” erupt within minutes of breaking news […]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 7, 2015 (Munich Security Conference photo).

Last weekend’s Munich Security Conference vividly illustrated the conflict in both vision and values between Russia and the West. The Russian delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, pushed a narrative of Western triumphalism, Russian victimization and the likelihood of further confrontation unless the West satisfied Russian grievances. The American and European leaders at Munich, despite their differences in emphasis and tone as well as over the question of supplying arms to Ukraine, were united in challenging this narrative, portraying a Russia that is clearly violating international norms. Lavrov denied the accusation made by many Western speakers at the conference […]

Former Congresswoman and opposition leader Maria Corina Machado holds up the Venezuelan flag outside of the Attorney General Office in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 3, 2014 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

As the oil slide further complicates Venezuela’s economic woes, with inflation and shortages of basic goods dominating the latest headlines from Caracas, another crisis is unfolding over the deterioration of the rule of law. In December, Venezuela’s highest court brought charges against opposition politician Maria Corina Machado, accusing her of a conspiracy to kill President Nicolas Maduro. Machado’s case came amid the ongoing trial of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was arrested in February 2014 during widespread anti-government protests and charged with inciting violence and conspiring to commit a criminal offense. In August, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary […]

Ukrainian military vehicles drive towards Debaltseve on the outskirts of Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 8, 2015 (AP photo by Evgeniy Maloletka).

Washington is contending with the blowback from its latest diplomatic gambit in the struggle with Russia. Last week, U.S. officials began to float the possibility of offering Ukraine defensive weapons to counter the latest advances by Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. If this was a trial balloon meant to reassure Kiev, it had the unfortunate side effect of throwing some major European powers into overt panic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande publicly declared their opposition to the plan and hurried to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are plans for […]

Electricity, telephone, cable and internet cables in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 10, 2008 (photo by Flickr user Padmanaba01 licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

Last month, 11 states in Brazil experienced a series of blackouts. In an email interview, Mark Langevin, director of BrazilWorks and adjunct professor of international affairs at the George Washington University, discussed Brazil’s energy infrastructure. WPR: What is the current state of Brazil’s electricity infrastructure? Mark Langevin: Brazil’s recent sporadic power outages highlight the external threats that stem from hydroelectricity dependence and volatile climate conditions. They also confirm the equally important, but less dramatic, progress Brazil has made in increasing power generation and the reliability of electricity service since the devastating blackouts of 2001. The current outages arise much closer […]

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