BEIJING — While China’s much-hyped clean energy drive has become bogged down in problems of impracticality and policy incoherence, the U.S. has quietly effected a genuine energy revolution that creates huge cost advantages for America’s manufacturing base going forward. With major structural shifts already underway, changing international energy market dynamics present Washington with an opportunity to fundamentally reorient its foreign policy approach, toward China and a broader range of actors, in the decades to come. In 2011, China overtook the U.S. in terms of renewable energy investment and under current plans will surpass the European Union in 2014. Beijing plans […]

BELGRADE, Serbia — The election of a former ultranationalist as Serbia’s new president has been greeted with surprise in some quarters and alarm elsewhere. But despite Tomislav Nikolic’s far-right past and his penchant for nationalist rhetoric, a radical change in direction by Serbia seems unlikely. Indeed, Nikolic looks likely to find himself presiding over a government headed by the man he defeated, newly ex-President Boris Tadic. Nikolic narrowly defeated the Western-leaning and liberal Tadic on May 20, confounding the widespread assumption that Tadic, president from 2004 until his tactical resignation in April, was a shoo-in for re-election. The victory for […]

As if the economic situation in Europe had not been bad enough of late, an even scarier picture has developed over the past few weeks. Greece is mired in political chaos and seems to be hurtling toward a euro exit. Meanwhile, new questions are emerging about the solvency of some major Spanish banks, and it now appears that much of the eurozone is experiencing what is being called a “slow-motion bank run.” Coupled with the fact that nearly 20 European Union summits have yet to find a solution to the 2-year-old crisis, it is no surprise that uncertainty about the […]

RUBAVU COUNTY, Rwanda — Like most of those seeking refuge at the Nkamira Transit Center, Queen Maombi has a harrowing tale of escape from her native Democratic Republic of Congo. Maombi, 34, is one of nearly 9,000 Congolese that have overwhelmed this temporary camp since April, when a fresh wave of violence hit eastern Congo’s long restive North Kivu province. Like Maombi, nearly all of the new arrivals are Congolese by birth but ethnically Rwandan — a distinction that effectively branded them enemies of the state following a mutiny against the Congolese army by soldiers loyal to Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, […]

Too often, political and economic analysts summarily lump Bolivia together with the rest of South America’s leftist governments. That has not been a comfortable category to be in over the past decade, and recent developments on the continent — such as Argentina’s nationalization of Spanish oil company YPF in April and Venezuela’s January announcement that it would withdraw from the World Bank-hosted International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a key arbitration forum — have only further rattled investors and governments. Even moderate Brazil has recently raised eyebrows with its tough treatment of multinational oil companies. But President Evo Morales’ […]

The noncommittal closing statement of this weekend’s G-8 Summit cannot hide the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel found herself completely isolated at Camp David. U.S. President Barack Obama closed ranks with newly elected French President Francois Hollande in stressing “an imperative to create growth and jobs” in opposition to Merkel’s rigid austerity programs. In Europe, after losing her two main allies earlier this month, Merkel stands alone, increasingly blamed for turning Greece’s June elections into a make-or-break moment for the future of the euro. Last weekend, she also suffered a grievous political setback when her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) […]

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series examining the challenges to reaching a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Part I examined the domestic challenges to national reconciliation. Part II examines the regional context of the Afghan peace process. When NATO leaders gathered in Chicago earlier this week for a much-awaited summit, the withdrawal strategy for Afghanistan dominated the proceedings. A twist in the plot had developed in the lead-up to the gathering when NATO extended a last-minute invitation to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The logic was straightforward: The occasion would be used not only to reach an […]

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012 (official White House photo by Pete Souza).

The U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement that President Barack Obama recently signed in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is especially noteworthy for the lessons it successfully draws from similar agreements with Iraq and other countries, as well as for the pitfalls it avoids repeating. For the past 90 years, negotiations toward such security agreements have repeatedly proved unsuccessful, divisive and downright destabilizing. Britain’s attempt to reach a similar treaty with Iraq in the 1920s contributed to years of tumult and instability in that country. In Iran in the 1960s, the Shah’s security agreement with the U.S. prompted an intense backlash […]

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series examining the challenges to reaching a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Part I examines the domestic challenges to national reconciliation. Part II will examine the regional context of the Afghan peace process. On May 13, Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban official who served on Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, was assassinated in Kabul. While the official Taliban spokesman denied the group’s involvement in the killing, a little-known splinter group aligned with al-Qaida, the Mullah Dadullah Front, claimed responsibility. Rahmani is the second major figure of the council to be killed, following […]

A series of recent crises in West Africa have put the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the spotlight, demonstrating the organization’s potential to shape West African politics, but also the limitations on its ability to do so. In Mali, one domino after another has fallen since a Tuareg-led rebellion began in the north of the country on Jan. 17. Junior military officers seized power in the capital, Bamako, on March 22. Tuareg rebels seized control of three major cities in northern Mali and declared independence for the territory they call the “Azawad” on April 6. In nearby […]

BEIJING — Senior leaders from China, Japan and South Korea met in Beijing last weekend for a trilateral summit, where they signed an eye-catching agreement to work toward establishing a free-trade zone, the latest in a flurry of trilateral economic deals in recent months. But despite these developments, the geopolitical situation in Northeast Asia remains fragmented, and a multilateral architecture capable of containing latent regional threats is some way off. Recent months have brought a series of initiatives to increase economic integration among the three countries. In March, Tokyo announced it would invest in Chinese sovereign bonds for the first […]

Advocates of the G-8, what few are left of them, might be forgiven for having a case of the “told ya so’s” this year. The importance many observers have attached to tomorrow’s gathering of G-8 leaders at Camp David in Maryland seems to vindicate those who defended the summit format against charges of irrelevance over the past few years. Certainly, the G-8 is no longer the control room of the global economy that it once was. The shift of the global economy’s dynamic center of gravity to Asia, unlocked by globalization and accentuated by the global financial crisis, has made […]

An important challenge for U.S. diplomacy during the upcoming NATO summit is to ensure that the lack of a decision to enlarge NATO does not become a defining outcome of the gathering. Most NATO summits do not invite new members. Indeed, there have been only three enlargement summits since 1989. But even at summits where new members were not invited to join, NATO leaders have emphasized that the alliance maintains an “open door” to new members, and the Chicago summit should be no exception in this regard. Perhaps nowhere is this more relevant than in the case of Georgia, which […]

While attempts to frame Algeria within the Arab Spring narrative have proved unrealistic, some observers thought the country’s May 10 parliamentary elections could present an opportunity for substantive political change. European and American officials lauded President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s invitation to international organizations to send election observers, as well as recently passed “reforms,” as progress toward democracy, likening these moves to Morocco’s top-down reform process enacted at the onset of the regional uprisings. But Algeria’s ability to avoid the upheaval that has swept North Africa over the past year has less to do with a proactive leadership and more to do […]

In the run-up to the next round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group on May 23 in Baghdad, reports have suggested that Tehran is prepared to make substantive concessions on its uranium enrichment program. Political paralysis in Tehran, however, will be an obstacle to reaching any definitive decision, meaning the Baghdad talks could prove as inconclusive as previous ones. Not that Iran doesn’t need a deal. Crude oil exports are at a 20-year low due to the threat of U.S. financial sanctions on third-party purchasers. Domestic supplies of gasoline are in short supply, too, as rising sanctions prevent […]

El Salvador, only recently home to the world’s second-highest homicide rate, has watched murders plummet by 60 percent since early March. The unprecedented decline, however, is not the result of conventional policies aimed at eliminating criminal activity, but rather a very different development: a negotiated truce between the country’s two leading gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18. On March 9, some 30 gang leaders were moved to lower security prisons to engage in discussions led by the Catholic Church and a former congressman. El Salvador’s online investigative journal El Faro broke the story on March 14, and the […]

Despite parallel histories and a concerted push on both sides to forge lasting ties over the past decade, it is apparent today that Georgia and Israel face very different geopolitical concerns and increasingly conflicting national interests. Indeed, their partnership, which once seemed so natural, now looks permanently derailed. After Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution propelled a new generation of Western-educated modernizers to power in Tbilisi, the country sought to leverage its 130,000-strong diaspora in Israel for investments and partnership. Georgian officials praised Israel as a model and frequently drew comparisons between Israel’s difficult journey to statehood and Georgia’s ongoing conflicts with […]

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