India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already scored his first diplomatic coup by receiving the heads of state of all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at his swearing-in ceremony Monday. Although Sharif took some time to accept the invitation, the fact that he finally came, in spite of reservations expressed in various quarters in Pakistan, shows that he is willing to stand up to the hard-liners in the Pakistani establishment in an effort to normalize relations with India. For his part, Modi may be better positioned than his predecessor […]

If the past century’s dominant image of Ethiopia was that of an impoverished, war-torn state, epitomized by the horrendous 1984-1985 famine in Tigray and Wollo provinces, the early 21st-century picture of the country is surely exemplified by the construction of the biggest infrastructure project anywhere in Africa: Mere miles from Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, nearly 8,000 workers and engineers are laboring seven days a week, 24 hours a day as part of a round-the-clock construction schedule to erect the nearly 560-foot-tall Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Africa’s second-most populous nation is betting that the multibillion-dollar GERD will dramatically modernize Ethiopia’s […]

On May 21, after a decade of arduous negotiations, Russia finally signed a gas deal with China. The agreement foresees the delivery of 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Siberian gas a year to China for 30 years, starting around 2018. Media commentators have been quick to call the deal “historic,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin trumpeted it as “the biggest contract in the history of the gas sector of the former USSR.” With the deal’s value of $400 billion and the involvement in it of two major non-Western powers, one might be tempted to see the agreement as an […]

Shortly after assuming power in May 2010, the government of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron began setting caps on immigration levels, ultimately promising to reduce net migration into the U.K. to fewer than 100,000 people per year by the 2015 general election. The focus on immigration was unsurprising; migration is highly politicized, particularly near elections and during economic crises. But the overlooked and crucial question was how effective a cap on immigration could be given the European Union’s free movement provisions. The U.K. could indeed limit non-EU immigration by decreasing the number of visas issued. However, there was not much […]

Of the 380 million eligible voters in the 28 countries of the European Union, very few will actually bother to cast ballots in the May 22-25 European parliamentary elections, according to recent polls. Popular disinterest in these elections runs deep, and the trend toward massive abstention—already 60 percent in the most recent EU elections in 2009—will likely be the polls’ biggest winner. Facilitated by the present climate of crisis, right-wing parties, which number approximately 60 across Europe, continue to surge for their part, raising concerns about their weight in the next parliament. What exactly are their chances of success? Analysts […]

Russia and India are reportedly considering a $30 billion oil pipeline that would transit through China’s Xinjiang province. When seen in the context of other bilateral hydrocarbon initiatives between India and Russia, the discussions, first reported in late March, show that Russia is cultivating India in addition to China as part of its accelerated move away from dependence on European markets amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis. For its part, India, which has been on the lookout for stable sources of hydrocarbons outside the Middle East, finds a natural fit in Russia, given the two countries’ traditional ties and Russia’s vast […]

Less than a year ago, Armenia appeared well on its way to taking its first substantial step in years toward European integration. Negotiations with the European Union had been finalized, and all but minor details had been overcome for Yerevan’s initialing of an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the European Union at the November 2013 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. For the briefest of moments, Armenia looked ready to venture outside of the pro-Russia system within which it had long been firmly ensconced. But in early September, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced during […]

A recent wave of violence in China attributed to members of the Uighur ethnic group, including a knife attack at the Kunming railway station in March that left 29 dead and an explosion at the Urumqi railway station in late April that killed 3, has brought international attention to China’s domestic security policies. China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang has been the scene of simmering ethnic and separatist tensions between the province’s mainly Muslim Uighur majority and the Han Chinese. As the China analyst Kendrick Kuo wrote in WPR in March, the source of the conflict is disputed, with Chinese authorities […]

On May 9, 2014, Guillermo Solis became Costa Rica’s 47th president. His ascension to the office marked the end to one of the country’s most unusual election cycles in recent memory. Solis succeeds Laura Chinchilla, who departed office with the lowest presidential approval rating in the hemisphere, at one point as low as 9 percent. During Chinchilla’s four years in office (2010-2014), her administration was dogged by corruption scandals, tensions with Nicaragua and a growing deficit. How Solis will manage Costa Rica’s mounting difficulties remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Costa Ricans are ready for change. Chinchilla, […]

Kachin leaders are intensifying calls for U.S. involvement in talks between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). At a meeting with State Department officials in Washington last month, Gen. Gun Maw, the KIO’s chief negotiator and deputy commander-in-chief of its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), raised the possibility of the U.S. playing a more active role in resolving the decades-old Kachin conflict. Since the collapse of a 17-year cease-fire between the Myanmar government and the KIO in June 2011, hostilities have escalated dangerously. Several rounds of talks have taken place, but a breakthrough remains elusive. […]

Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica’s May 12 meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington was an important if belated step in the right direction for U.S. engagement with South America, reconfirming to a frequently skeptical region the importance that the United States places on building relationships with leaders from across the political spectrum. Since his election in 2009, the former guerrilla fighter has guided Uruguay as a democratic leftist more interested in results than ideology. Certainly, the successful effort last year to legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana and Mujica’s purposeful outreach to Cuba are among the topics that […]

South Africa’s fifth national and provincial elections were held on May 7, just after the 20th anniversary of the country’s first democratic elections and six months after Nelson Mandela’s death. The outcome bore a strong resemblance to that of the 2009 election: The African National Congress (ANC) secured more than 60 percent of the vote; the main opposition grew nationally and retained its provincial stronghold; and a newcomer on the political scene finished third with almost 7 percent of the vote. It might be tempting to conclude that in South Africa the more things change, the more they stay the […]

France’s announcement that it will reorganize its deployment of thousands of troops across the Sahel region of Africa came as a blow to early hopes that security could be swiftly restored in northern Mali after last year’s Operation Serval. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said on May 8 that despite assurances in 2013 that his country’s military intervention in Mali would be over in a matter of months, 1,000 French troops will now remain in the country, down from what are thought to be about 1,600 French troops at present. A further 3,000 will be based in three other […]

Over the course of the past year, there has been a cascade of African-led initiatives to increase security cooperation in the Sahel and Maghreb regions. While such initiatives are a function of the enduring imperative for states there to develop a more robust regional response to counter nonstate transnational threats, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other violent extremist organizations, Sahel and Maghreb states may yet struggle to let go of some of the baggage that had impeded previous regional cooperation efforts. Prior to the 2012-2013 Mali crisis, mistrust among regional partners had hampered efforts to convince […]

The United States has been active in its policies toward the smaller countries of South Asia in the Indian Ocean region. In recent weeks, the U.S. concluded its third annual security dialogue with Bangladesh and sponsored a resolution against Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes. Since early 2014, Washington has called for new elections in Bangladesh after much of that country’s opposition boycotted national polls, and last year the U.S. pursued a defense agreement with Maldives that would have allowed rights for U.S. military personnel visiting the country. […]

Since the 1998 election of former President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan government has sought to bolster its state sovereignty and reduce its dependence on the U.S. These efforts have involved, among other strategies, strengthening relations with regional allies such as Cuba and Bolivia, shoring up new regional institutions such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and cracking down on domestic nongovernmental organizations that rely upon U.S. funding for survival. As a petro-state, however, Venezuela remains heavily reliant upon its oil industry for revenues. If Venezuela is to ever […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just finished a 10-day, six-country tour of Europe. The trip’s primary focus was securing momentum toward an end state in Tokyo’s negotiations with the European Union on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The trade talks have been moving at a steady pace since the first round of negotiations in early 2013. A finalized Japan-EU EPA would facilitate trade between the world’s third-largest economy and the EU, a partnership that would be worth over $20 trillion dollars, or nearly one-third of global GDP. According to a report from the European Commission, the EPA would result in […]

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