Even as Vietnam and China continue to conduct tit-for-tat naval maneuvers in the South China Sea, Hanoi has started making direct calls for foreign involvement in the two nations’ maritime territorial dispute. While many commentators saw this as a thinly veiled invitation to the United States, it could also be a precursor to India establishing a permanent presence in Vietnamese waters. India has apparently responded favorably to Vietnam’s offer of permanent berthing rights in Na Thrang port. The move would not only add military heft to India’s “Look East” policy, but is also emblematic of a larger Indian effort to […]

Coming on the heels of Berlin’s decision to phase out nuclear power, the recently signed memorandum of understanding between German utility RWE and Russia’s state-owned Gazprom to negotiate a joint venture on downstream gas and power plants could spell bad news for Europe on three levels. First, if it bears fruit, the partnership will undermine European diversification efforts, since RWE was the leading utility behind the European Union’s Nabucco pipeline designed to tap new Central Asian supplies. Second, it will bolster oil-indexed pricing schemes against the impact of wholesale spot prices, serving to keep prices on an “artificial” footing. Third, […]

BEIJING — Since 2009, China’s credit-fueled economic stimulus plan has dramatically increased overall indebtedness and created new risks to long-term headline growth. Among the most acute of these is mounting local government debt, which has tripled as a percentage of GDP since 2008 amid a carnival of inefficient spending. Clearing up the mess has emerged as a key challenge for maintaining strong economic growth. However, the solution is as much political as economic and requires a fundamental rebalancing of the power relations between central and local government. Compared to most developed economies, China’s national debt levels remain low at around […]

Economic and diplomatic relations between Iran and Turkey have improved significantly in recent years, and for good reason. Each side offers something the other needs. Turkey needs oil and gas for its growing economy and a market for its export products. Iran is Turkey’s second-largest supplier of natural gas and is eager to buy many Turkish products. Iran also needs trade partners who are willing to ignore American and international sanctions to sell it the products others won’t. Turkey has done just that, ignoring the sanctions selectively and periodically. In 2010, for example, Turkey exported gasoline to Iran at a […]

Last week’s discussion at the U.N. Security Council on the security implications of climate change was an important step in the right direction. This is only the second time that the subject, which may turn out to be the defining issue for global security in the 21st century, has made it onto the agenda of the U.N. body charged with maintaining international peace and security. The discussion’s importance is limited, however, since the real path to addressing the security implications of climate change lies outside the council. The special session, initiated by Germany, focused specifically on the council’s role in […]

Poland assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union at the beginning of July, at a time when the union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) was in need of a boost. With military cooperation among the 27 member states high on Warsaw’s agenda, Poland’s EU presidency might provide the needed stimulus to get EU defense back on track. However, recent disputes within the EU over the NATO-led intervention in Libya, as well as resistance from London, could impede Warsaw’s attempts to accelerate Europe’s defense integration. According to Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, the Polish presidency has four ambitious […]

The Nord Stream natural gas pipeline has the potential to deliver much of northern Europe’s natural gas requirements from a reliable source in Siberia to the German coast. It is one of Russian energy giant Gazprom’s best-planned and most-ambitious projects, involving a consortium of construction firms around the Baltic region and investors from Europe’s major energy firms. Yet when the first of the project’s two planned pipelines through the Baltic Sea was completed in May, it became apparent that Nord Stream’s cost was much higher than originally projected. Though the impact will be felt by all of the project’s European […]

CAIRO, Egypt — As demonstrators continue to hunker down in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website has blamed a number of groups for infiltrating the now two-week-long protest and fomenting instability by inciting confrontation. Undercover remnants of the deposed National Democratic Party-led regime, Ikhwan Online claimed last week, are responsible. State security, formerly a notorious government apparatus, is also culpable. And, not surprisingly, Israelis are involved. According to the website, foreign “thugs” were apprehended in Tahrir on July 8, wielding knives, carrying foreign currencies and exhibiting Star of David tattoos. “These accusations are nothing new,” says Tel […]

NEW DELHI — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in India yesterday for the second strategic dialogue between the two countries. The meeting’s agenda was dominated by the need to strengthen strategic counterterrorism and defense cooperation, iron out wrinkles over nuclear cooperation and adapt to the tectonic shift in the geopolitics of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The bilateral strategic dialogue was put into motion during Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Washington in March. Though there was nothing to rival the high-adrenaline excitement surrounding the 2008 Indo-U.S. nuclear deal or the histrionics that characterized U.S. President Barack Obama’s November […]

One year after taking office in July 2010, Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s effort to end the country’s decades-long internal conflicts is still stuck in first gear. Aquino has put the highest premium on reaching a political settlement with the Muslim Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and making inroads with the Maoist front led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) — while not forgetting the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another Muslim rebel group that signed a final, yet shaky, peace agreement in 1996. In fairness, Aquino has made progress. But doubts remain about whether the steps he has […]

Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega recently told the Financial Times that the global currency war “was absolutely not over,” and cited two countries that, according to him, have not ceased the hostilities: China and the United States. More and more, Brazil seems to be caught between — and battling against — the greenback and the yuan in its efforts to slow the rise in value of its own currency, the real. Part of the problem is due to the disparity in how the United States and China have bounced back from the 2008 global financial crisis. Economic recovery in the […]

An open-ended sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square will enter its seventh day today and may grow larger if calls for another major Friday protest are met. Five months after an 18-day uprising brought down President Hosni Mubarak, a substantial number of Egyptians feel that the pace of change has been too slow to satisfy their revolutionary demands. They are holding major demonstrations in Tahrir Square and around the country, explicitly condemning the ruling military council that took over after Mubarak’s resignation and pushing for faster and deeper reforms. In the week since the latest round of protests began, the interim […]

On June 26, at a gathering in Kabul marking World Counter Narcotics Day, the mood was somber. Gone was the positive spin of last year’s event, when Afghanistan’s minister of counternarcotics, Zarar Ahmad Moqbil, proudly announced that poppy cultivation had been reduced by up to 50 percent and that 23 out of 34 provinces were then free from poppy cultivation. Sadly, the significant decrease in opium production last year has since been attributed to a convergence of environmental and climatic variables that devastated the crops late in the season, not to effective counternarcotics measures. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan […]

Guatemala is confronting numerous problems as it prepares for presidential elections scheduled for Sept. 11. Organized criminal groups have made parts of the country all but lawless. Corruption and poverty remain widespread. Frequent natural disasters have strained state capacity. Even the preparations for the elections themselves have been plagued by political violence, with two dozen political workers killed in 2011 alone. But one problem has yet to become a major feature of the presidential campaign, despite its gravity: food insecurity, which threatens millions in Guatemala. With food prices rising globally, social upheaval over increasingly expensive basic staples has become more […]

Ever since the 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia has painstakingly cultivated its image as an emerging-market investor’s dream and a lonely bastion of Western-style modernity in the South Caucasus. But that image faces a credibility problem in light of Tbilisi’s continuing lack of political progress toward a truly liberal democracy. By allowing Georgia’s democratic development to remain at a standstill, President Mikheil Saakashvili risks damaging the country’s legitimacy, both domestically and with its partners in the West. When Georgian opposition leader and former Saakashvili ally Nino Burjanadze and her supporters took to Tbilisi’s streets in May, the protestors’ rhetoric was rife […]

Here lies the space shuttle. She kept the U.S. human spaceflight program alive after the euphoria of the Apollo missions. She led the way to reusable space flight. She provided jobs for armies of engineers and technicians. She also made human spaceflight seem routine — and in the end, that’s what killed her. But as with the retirement of the Apollo program — which was accompanied by less hand-wringing and fewer tears shed than that of the shuttle — it is time, not to mourn the shuttle’s passing, but to support the innovation that NASA and, more importantly, American industry […]

Since the 1980s, the Kurdish separatist group Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK), labeled as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, has been one of the main threats to Turkey’s domestic security. The PKK lost momentum after the group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured in 1999. But since 2003, the turmoil resulting from military operations in Iraq has facilitated the creation of a new safe haven for PKK bases in the Qandil mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the past few years, clashes between Turkish security forces and PKK militants have been interrupted only by sporadic and […]

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