As U.S. President Barack Obama vies for a second term in office and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin struggles to reassert his authority at the outset of his third, the so-called Magnitsky bill currently under debate in the U.S. Congress could define U.S.-Russia relations for the next decade. Simply put, if and when the Magnitsky bill passes, Obama will have to sign it. To do otherwise would be electoral suicide. Similarly, Putin and the Russian elite will have to respond in kind. To do otherwise risks their continued authority, which for many members of the Russian elite could amount to actual […]

With the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline project a casualty of U.S. opposition and persistent mistrust between New Delhi and Islamabad, India has increasingly turned to Qatar to meet its growing natural gas requirements over the past decade. Holding the world’s third-largest gas reserves after Russia and Iran, Qatar is a natural choice for such a role. But after the recent visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to India, the two states are looking to broaden their economic ties beyond trade in energy. Qatar is set to emerge as a strategic investor in India’s infrastructure plans, while […]

Although the tense standoff between Chinese and Philippine warships at Scarborough Shoal in the northern South China Sea has been walked back from the brink, it is a harbinger of more confrontations to come. Indeed, more such incidents are inevitable if China and the four Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — that also claim the sea’s disputed islands and their adjacent waters and resources cannot agree on and implement a robust code of conduct to govern their activities there. Unfortunately, the April 2012 ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh came and […]

Given the pressures that globalization generates for individual states, regions have obvious incentives to develop their cooperation in the economic field. Equally, given the costs of conflict, there is a compelling argument for regions to develop effective mechanisms for conflict management. Although these lessons apply to all regions, in Southern Africa the process of regional cooperation has been viewed more skeptically, mainly because the obvious disparities of power between South Africa and its neighbors raise the question of whether a more balanced and equitable set of regional relationships can be achieved. Though this is certainly a valid concern, it ignores […]

As Beijing prepares for a once-in-a-decade change of leadership, the ouster of Bo Xilai and a series of significant financial reforms have been widely seen as signs that reformist elements within the Chinese government are in the ascendency. This analysis may be correct, but it needs to be tempered with a broader look at the Chinese political and policy landscape, which shows that reforms still lag in multiple key areas and that progressive signals are so far limited to the financial sector. The position of the army, a key political constituent, also remains unclear. The political intrigue surrounding the removal […]

For more than two centuries, Englishmen have burned an effigy of Guy Fawkes every year on Nov. 5 to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. In the 21st century, Fawkes has been given a new lease on life by online activist groups who use photos of Guy Fawkes masks — modeled after that worn by the hero of the science fiction movie “V for Vendetta” — as their online avatars. These so-called hacktivists, who combine computer hacking with social, political and economic protest, have straddled the line between simple criminal behavior and legitimate […]

Since 2006, India has embarked on a robust ballistic missile defense (BMD) program aimed at a two-tier defense. In that time, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has conducted a number of successful missile-interception tests, with the latest coming in February. India’s plan for missile defense, however, dates back to the early 1980s, when it started its Integrated Missile Development Program (IGDMP). IGDMP envisaged an array of offensive missile platforms, such as the Prithvi and Agni ballistic missiles, as well as the development of defensive missile platforms, such as the Akash surface-to-air missile system. As currently conceived, the Indian […]

SEOUL, South Korea — In the months leading up to South Korea’s April 11 parliamentary elections, it looked like the liberal opposition was poised for an easy victory driven by voters who were sick of corruption and income inequality and in search of something new. To the opposition’s surprise, voters instead bolstered the majority of the ruling New Frontier Party (NFP), signifying a shift back to conservative tendencies in the country’s electorate. The NFP won 152 out of 300 seats, giving it a parliamentary majority, while the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) came away with 127. Though most observers had […]

Relations between South Africa and Nigeria have long resembled a rollercoaster without a safety bar. While Africa’s first- and third-largest economies, respectively, have for long stretches shared a close relationship, it is one marked by volatility and tension. And during the past three years, this critical bilateral relationship has begun to wobble dangerously, finding itself today in need of urgent détente. Nigeria has long seen itself as a leader in Africa, having played a championing role in the anti-apartheid struggle, while South Africa sees itself an exemplar of both democracy and the conduct of international relations. After a history of […]

Twenty years ago this spring, newly independent Moldova, a former Soviet republic lodged between Romania and Ukraine, was consumed by fighting between neighbors on opposite banks of the Dniester River. The conflict broke out because citizens on the eastern or “left” bank of the river, in the largely Russian-speaking region known as Transnistria, feared that Romanian-speaking right-bank Moldovans would form a federal union with neighboring Romania. With tacit support from Moscow and in the protective shadow of the Russian 14th Army, Transnistria declared itself an independent republic in its own right and fought to establish its sovereignty. The conflict lasted […]

ISTANBUL — Amid the mostly positive spin following the Iran nuclear talks in Istanbul on Saturday, one person who won’t have long to celebrate is Helga Schmid. The European Union deputy foreign policy chief was charged with the daunting task of coming up with a detailed agenda and substantive work plan to present to the six nations of the P5+1 group — the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany — and Iran when they meet again in Baghdad late next month. International negotiators declared the talks with Iran, the first held in 15 months, a success, noting […]

On March 30, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science (NRC) released to the public an important new study on the technical issues raised for the U.S. by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Packed with well-documented data, the 200-page study will surely inform the policies of the next administration, no matter who wins the White House in November, as it considers whether to pursue Senate ratification of the CTBT. Signed by then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, the CTBT failed to win Senate ratification when it was brought to a vote in 1999. The Obama administration […]

It is no surprise that piracy has steadily climbed up the ranks of threats to India’s security, given India’s energy trade with the Middle East. But now, with vast untapped oil reserves reported in Somalia and just off its coast, piracy emanating from the Horn of Africa is impinging on India’s future energy sourcing opportunities as well. Further complicating India’s plans for the region is the nexus between Somali pirates and the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab, which still has a significant presence in central Somalia and provides sanctuary to pirate fleets operating out of the central Somali city of Harardhere in […]

CARTAGENA, Colombia — The Organization of American States prides itself on being the world’s oldest regional organization. Yet, as its members prepare for the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, this weekend, its relevance in today’s world, especially amid Latin America’s recent wave of regionalism, will be called into question. The OAS remains the best-organized and most inclusive body in the Western Hemisphere, and apart from bilateral relationships, it is considered the prominent link between the United States and Latin America. Nevertheless, the region’s increasingly diversified global engagement and a growing sense of autonomy among Latin American nations […]

Colombia is in the midst of a mining boom, with high commodities prices and Chinese demand placing its nascent mining sector at the center of the country’s economic development model. The challenge for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is to capitalize on the sector’s promise, while avoiding some of the environmental and social challenges that have impacted other South American mining countries, such as Chile and Peru. These challenges are particularly salient for newcomers like Colombia, whose mining sector is slowly taking off. Excluding oil, mining now accounts for 30 percent of the country’s foreign investment and 24 percent of […]

Argentine officials have been ratcheting up the pressure on Spanish-owned oil company YPF-Repsol, demanding increased investment in hydrocarbon production against a backdrop of declines in output that have made Argentina one of the fastest-growing import markets for natural gas. The threat of a similar scenario with oil has the government on the offensive against the nation’s top energy company. The gas shortage is reverberating throughout the rest of the economy, driving import restrictions to shore up the trade balance and tighter currency controls to ensure the availability of dollars for purchases of foreign gas. Looking forward, the government’s posture on […]

Ever since Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill defined the BRIC group of countries in 2001, policymakers have been closely watching the rise of the presumed leaders of the 21st century. And it was widely expected that as Brazil, Russia, China, India and recently added South Africa exercised growing power in global politics, they would also play a larger role in efforts to promote global development by using their own success as a template for smaller and lesser developed states. At their recent summit in New Delhi, the BRICS heads of state signaled their intention to take up that responsibility. The […]

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