In the midst of deep crisis, cooler heads rarely hold sway — at least in the public discourse. Thus it was that just a year ago, we heard from many experts — and joyous activists — that globalization was on its deathbed: The global economy was on the verge of a great and permanent unraveling. It was to be an inexorable and exact reversal of everything that defined the go-go globalization of the 1990s, replete with social and political unrest of the highest order. In effectively re-enacting the Great Depression of the 1930s, we even faced the incredible prospect of […]

Last week, at West Point, President Barack Obama sounded a familiar theme that all recent U.S. presidents have lamented, when he said, “The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone.” Obama also reiterated time-honored propositions in his promise to “be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well,” and his desire “to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” The just-released 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States continues this approach, declaring, “Alliances are force multipliers: through multinational cooperation and coordination, […]

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombians will head to the polls on Sunday, May 30, in what has unexpectedly become not only the closest presidential race in years, but one that is too close to call. The neck-and-neck contest pits outsider Antanus Mockus, a quirky intellectual and former two-time mayor of Bogotá, against former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, a veteran political mover-and-shaker and heir to the outgoing conservative President Alvaro Uribe. All polls suggest that neither of the two contenders, in a field of six main candidates, will gain more than the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a second-round […]

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The Spanish government recently published guidelines for coast guard patrol limits around Gibraltar that closely resemble the borders claimed by Britain in an ongoing territorial dispute between the two countries over the peninsula, drawing criticism from the Spanish conservative opposition. In an e-mail interview, Peter Gold, Emeritus Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of the West of England and author of “Gibraltar: British or Spanish?” explains the current territorial claims to Gibraltar. WPR: What is the status quo, including the Spanish and U.K. positions, regarding Gibraltar? Peter Gold: The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar has officially been in British […]

KIGALI, Rwanda — Walking the streets of Rwanda’s tidy capital, it’s easy to forget that just 16 years have passed since this country’s grisly genocide. In this modern city of approximately 1 million, roads are smooth, sidewalks clean, and the crime, pollution and hassle of most African cities absent. Across Kigali, rising office towers reflect GDP growth that has averaged 8 percent over the last five years. In the countryside, though poverty remains rife, small-scale farmers have seen tangible benefits from the creation of cooperatives, increased use of fertilizers, a revival of the export coffee industry, and a unique system […]

It is by now the consensus view that the primary strategic beneficiary of the Iraq War has been Iran. By this view, the removal of a hostile regime in Baghdad has not only moved Iraq into the Iranian sphere of influence, but has also opened the floodgates for Tehran to extend its influence westward throughout the Middle East. This analysis, while compelling, begs the question: If Iran has “won” the Iraq War, just what has it really won? In a best-case scenario of a stable Iraq, it still amounts to a potentially volatile and dangerous relationship, and definitely a high-maintenance […]

MITROVICA, Kosovo — Back in 2003, when U.S. officials optimistically predicted that American forces would be “greeted as liberators” by the Iraqi people, their minds probably conjured images of the mass euphoria that welcomed NATO troops to Kosovo in 1999. During that war, cheering Kosovar Albanians chanted “NATO, NATO!!” as the U.S.-led military force entered the territory after pushing out Serbian forces with a 78-day bombardment. A NATO-led peacekeeping force known as KFOR has remained here ever since, helping the fledgling country get on its feet. But NATO, facing demanding commitments in Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere, is itching to pull […]

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Taiwanese Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Sheng-chung said today that Taiwan might delay the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, which was originally slated to be ready for a June deadline. In an e-mail interview, Eurasia Group associate Nicholas Consonery explains Taiwan-China trade relations and the likely impact of the ECFA.WPR: What is the status quo in terms of the regulation and extent of trade between Taiwan and China? Nicholas Consonery: The total volume of trade between Taiwan and China has increased precipitously since Taiwan lifted a long-standing ban on direct trade and transport links […]

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The U.S. announced plans to conduct naval exercises off the Korean peninsula in response to the sinking of a South Korean vessel two months ago. Former State Department Official Balbina Hwang and Center for International Policy’s Selig Harrison debate the possible ways forward that could both save face for North Korea and avoid military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Having trouble viewing this video? Click here to watch.

Popularly, Madagascar is known as an exotic and verdant island populated by cheeky animated characters voiced by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But politically, it remains one of Africa’s most volatile countries, regularly awash in coups, plots and prevarications that keep its tourist-dependent population in grinding poverty. The latest installment in the Indian Ocean island’s saga of political exploitation would seem to combine the two, pitting a yogurt salesman against a radio disc jockey in the battle for supremacy. In March 2009, following weeks of anti-government protests, Andry Rajoelina — the fresh-faced mayor of the capital, Antananarivo — ousted President […]

Congo wants the U.N. peacekeepers out. Eleven years after one the world’s biggest peacekeeping forces deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo in a bid to tamp down on insurgent violence and oversee the resolution of a bloody civil war, DRC President Joseph Kabila has grown uncomfortable with the sometimes corrupt and ineffective blue-helmeted troops. “Don’t do anything for us,” Lambert Mende, Kabila’s information minister, told the U.N. “We will do it ourselves.” Kabila’s call for an end to the Mission of the U.N. in Congo (MONUC) comes at a time of renewed international interest in the DRC’s overlapping conflicts, […]

The “fog of sanctions” has descended on Washington, obscuring what this week’s proposed U.N. Security Council resolution can accomplish in stifling Iran’s drive to nuclear weapons. No less perilous than the “fog of war” that besets generals, the “fog of sanctions” prevents pundits and politicians from having a clear view of the power and potential of this draft document (.pdf), which may be the strongest set of smart sanctions ever developed by the Security Council. The resolution’s first strength is that it undermines real assets and capabilities that Iran might use for weapons production. The document astutely mixes compulsory and […]

The last few weeks have been disappointing ones for European diplomacy and energy politics, to say the least. At the beginning of April, Russia began construction of the Nord Stream pipeline, which will bring up to 55 billion cubic meters a year of additional Russian gas to Germany, bypassing non-EU transit countries as well as the Baltic republics and Poland. Moscow also began floating proposals for a joint-venture between Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz, raising the real possibility of Russian participation in the troublesome Ukrainian pipeline network. Although the EU initially opposed the two Russian initiatives, Brussels ultimately expressed acceptance. Its […]

A new piece of legislation signed into law on Monday, May 24, by President Barack Obama has the potential to end one of Africa’s longest-running insurgencies. The “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Reconstruction Act” requires the Obama administration to prepare a multilateral strategy to eliminate the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group originating in northern Uganda that has terrorized civilians in numerous African nations since the late 1980s. To be successful, however, policymakers charged with designing this strategy need to understand why the Ugandan government has failed to defeat the LRA in the past […]

Last week, the group of experts assisting with the drafting of NATO’s new Strategic Concept released their final report, entitled “NATO 2020: Assured Security, Dynamic Engagement.” In anticipation of the planned Strategic Concept, which is scheduled for approval at this November’s NATO heads-of-state summit in Lisbon, the experts’ report recommends how the alliance should define its purpose, nature, and fundamental security tasks in the contemporary and future security environment. Since last fall, the 12-member group, led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, has convened a series of public and private meetings in various countries to discuss international security […]

Much ink has been spilled discussing the nuclear fuel swap deal that Brazil and Turkey brokered with Iran last week. The pundits have focused on whether the deal will resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, or whether Tehran is simply playing for time, as well as what the deal says about the growing prominence of Brazil and Turkey. Yet the real meaning of the nuclear deal has gone largely overlooked: The dominant trend of the early 21st century is the rise of democratic powers to positions of regional and even global influence. Of course, the most prominent rising power, […]

As somebody who voted for President Barack Obama, I am surprised to find myself believing that he is slated to be — and more so, should be — a one-term president, a possibility that Obama himself has already broached publicly. It’s not any one thing he has or hasn’t done that has led me to this admittedly premature conclusion. Rather, it’s a growing realization that everything Obama brings to the table in terms of both deeds and vision suggests that history will judge him to be a transitional figure. He is a much-needed leveling-off from Bush-Cheney’s nosebleed-inducing foreign policy trajectory, […]

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