This is the third of a three-part series on Thailand’s slide toward authoritarian rule. The first article discussed the domestic effects of Thailand’s faltering democracy. The second article discussed the regional effects. This final article discusses the broader implications for the U.S.-China rivalry in Southeast Asia. Thailand’s democratic crisis has complicated its relationship with the U.S., pushing Bangkok closer to Beijing. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s dubious legitimacy and Thailand’s progressive slide toward a military regime have left the U.S. undecided on how to proceed. Washington has not openly condemned Bangkok, but neither has it offered the political support that the […]

India has recently seen a succession of visits by the top leaders of the permanent Security Council members. The British prime minister was in India in late July, and the American president came calling in early November. Visits by the French president and the Chinese premier followed earlier this month. In contrast to the high-profile U.S. visit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev flew into India almost unnoticed on Dec. 21. Although the Soviet Union was India’s staunchest ally during the Cold War, India has drifted away from post-Cold War Russia. This stands in stark contrast to India’s ties with the U.S., […]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will rule on whether to issue summonses for six men accused of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in violence following Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election. But in announcing the suspects’ names on Dec. 15, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo indicted the entire East African nation, saying that “we had to launch this because nothing was happening in Kenya.” It was an overt and pointed critique of the government of national unity born from the post-election violence. Although only barely able to hold itself together, the government has managed to strengthen Kenya’s already entrenched culture […]

For Ban Ki-moon, the past few weeks have arguably been the most dramatic he has encountered since becoming United Nations secretary-general nearly four years ago. In Côte d’Ivoire, U.N. peacekeepers are guarding the internationally recognized winner of this month’s presidential election while the country slides toward chaos. Meanwhile, in New York, the Security Council spent Sunday locked in fruitless debates on the simmering Korean crisis. Ban, as South Korea’s former foreign minister, can do little to shape the council’s discussions of his home country’s security. He has based his tenure on maintaining good relations with both Washington and Beijing, and […]

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After nine years of war in Afghanistan and seven more in Iraq, Americans are understandably weary of military interventions designed to remake or rebuild failed or fragile states. Nevertheless, many countries are still falling apart, or worse, falling into the hands of fundamentalists, terrorists, and other militants who disregard popular will and care little for human suffering. As a result, such nation-building interventions will remain necessary for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. involvement in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan demonstrates. So instead of renouncing these missions, the U.S. must better define why and how it will carry them out, to […]

After a year of turmoil in Sino-Indian relations, India hosted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last week with a degree of fanfare. Wen’s visit came at a time of newfound assertiveness in India’s China policy. Having tried to brush significant divergences with Beijing under the carpet for years, New Delhi policymakers have been forced to acknowledge — if grudgingly so — that the relationship with China has become increasingly contentious. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggested just a few weeks ago that “China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality. . […]

Last week, China reported that over the past year, consumer prices had risen 5.1 percent. While prices have been creeping up in China for months now, the report grabbed international attention, and for good reason. As the world’s factory and its second-largest economy, China’s inflation rate has serious consequences for the global economy and domestic stability. To some extent, inflation in China is a delayed result of the $586 billion stimulus package Beijing announced in 2008. Following the initial onset of the global financial crisis, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) embraced a period of loose monetary policy as a […]

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It has been said that the transition of power is the weakest part of democracy. If developments surrounding Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections are any indication, the same might also be true — at least in some paradoxical sense — for authoritarian governments. Outside analysts generally agree that the country’s Nov. 28 elections were wracked by widespread fraud and poll-rigging, resulting in a nearly across-the-board victory for President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). However, as the nation’s crippled opposition now bands together to form a “shadow parliament,” the extent to which the ruling party will be able to use […]

Peru is again on pace to end the year as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, due in no small measure to its ambitious strategy of economic diversification. In 2010, it finalized four new free-trade agreements (FTAs) — three with Asian partners — and launched the test phase of a joint stock exchange, Mercados Integrados Latinoamericanos (Integrated Latin American Markets, or MILA), with Colombia and Chile. Peru’s global and regional trade diplomacy has resulted in more domestic investment and a larger network of export markets for Peruvian goods. Peru’s open-market policies can also be partially credited with the country’s rapid […]

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To follow up on Ukraine’s foreign policy rebalancing under President Victor Yanukovich, it’s worth noting that Yanukovich not only reiterated his desire to seek closer EU ties in his annual address to the country’s diplomatic corps, he actually used stronger language than ever before to describe Ukraine’s ultimate EU ambitions. Previously, Yanukovich had pulled back from seeking full EU membership, but he now not only called full membership a strategic goal, he called the “European prospect” the goal not just of Ukraine’s diplomats, but of “the entire state machine, our economic and social reforms.” That’s strong language for someone who […]

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the latest head of state to visit India at a time when the latter is looking to award lucrative contracts in energy, infrastructure, security and other areas. As with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit last month, Sarkozy sought to develop positive atmospherics by making the “right noises” on issues New Delhi holds dear, such as permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council and entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as terrorism emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The visit also saw forward movement on a number of bilateral deals valued at around $20 billion. […]

This is the second of a three-part series on Thailand’s slide toward authoritarian rule. The first article discussed the domestic effects of Thailand’s faltering democracy. This second article discusses the regional effects. A third article, to appear next week, will discuss the broader implications for the U.S.-China rivalry in Southeast Asia. The ripple effects of Thailand’s withering democracy are being felt across Southeast Asia, a highly dynamic region that has never fully embraced democracy. On one level, Thailand’s slide towards authoritarianism has deprived the key regional organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of its most-progressive leader. Until the […]

CANCÚN, Mexico — One thing is certain about the COP 16 climate talks in Cancún, Mexico: The summit was not the disaster of last year’s affair in Copenhagen. Though binding agreements were never on the table, even critical observers such as Global Witness, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace expressed measured optimism as the conference came to a close at 4 a.m. Saturday morning. “We hope countries can go back from [Cancún] with momentum to take national action, and with a sense of renewed purpose,” said Tara Rao of WWF. Rao nevertheless cautioned that the final agreement was far […]

While much has been said about the overall merits of the New START agreement, comparatively little attention has focused on the treaty’s Article 10. This relatively short but telling passage borrows decades-old language reinforcing both the United States’ and Russia’s mutual obligations regarding “national technical means” (NTM) of treaty monitoring and verification — diplomatic speak for spy satellites. Article 10 obligates both parties to use NTM in accordance with the principles of international law, to refrain from concealment measures intended to impede NTM verification of compliance, and, most importantly, not to interfere with each other’s NTM. The nod to NTM […]

Dilma Rousseff won Brazil’s recent presidential elections handily, benefitting from both the enthusiastic backing of the enormously popular incumbent, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and from the mobilization of historically disadvantaged voters excited by identification with a woman candidate. Despite some nasty exchanges with her second-round opponent, José Serra of the Social Democratic Party, the campaign was characterized by the lack of a clear programmatic separation between the two candidates. Although markets moderately preferred Serra, a casual observer might be excused for failing to see much daylight between the two. The fact that the two leading candidates for office differed […]

XI’AN, China — While often portrayed as a major international cyber-security villain, the Chinese state is also facing its own grave online security problems. Despite having one of the most restricted internets in the world, it has generally struggled to develop coherent or effective policy responses to these threats. Recent developments suggest China may be attempting to modernize and legitimize its cyber-security apparatus. This represents a significant opportunity for foreign governments to revisit their perceptions of the country’s cyber intentions and engage with Beijing on a major transnational security and intelligence issue. To do so, it is first necessary to […]

The recent revelation that a computer worm called Stuxnet had caused disruption to the Iranian nuclear program has raised concerns about the unintended consequences of so-called cyber war. It has also caught the attention of nation states and others as Stuxnet has proven to be a truly disruptive cyber weapon. We have witnessed the true dawn of cyber war. Noted cyber security specialist Bruce Schneier recently wrote that cyber arms “agreements are badly needed” and that it is “not too late to reverse the cyber arms race currently under way.” Schneier is not alone in this call. For several years […]

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