Parts of a natural gas pipeline station in the village of Primda, western Czech Republic, Jan. 14, 2013 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

The uneasy mutual dependence between Russia and the European Union’s energy sector is well documented. With some EU member states relying on Russia for up to 90 percent of their energy needs, Brussels has long wanted to remedy the situation by diversifying the sources of oil and gas shipped into EU borders. These efforts intensified after Russia spooked the continent in 2006 and 2009 by cutting off natural gas supplies to Ukraine over a pricing dispute, leading to gas shortages in parts of Europe during the dead of winter. Since then the EU has invested in infrastructure to link so-called […]

Supporters of Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and allies of the Houthis at a rally against the Saudi-led intervention, Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2016 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Good news has been in desperately short supply in Yemen over the past year. So reports of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire and peace talks aimed at bringing an end to a civil war that has devastated what was already the Arab world’s poorest country should have been well received. Instead, they were met with skepticism, and with good reason. After a year of brutal war, Yemen is hardly ripe for peace. Last week in New York, the U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced that the “parties to the conflict” had agreed to a countrywide cease-fire, due to […]

A soldier outside the Splendid Hotel, which was attacked by extremists, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 18 , 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in Burkina Faso’s capital in January, followed by a raid on a military armory by dissident Burkinabe soldiers, the country’s newly elected government is ramping up security. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore promises to continue reinforcing democratic freedoms, but already some of his government’s reactions have been heavy-handed or inept, raising concerns about how liberties can be preserved in an atmosphere of uncertainty and tension. In February, for example, the independent newspaper in Ouagadougou, L’Evenement, published an article on the armory attack, which was carried out by recalcitrant members of […]

A masked Somali pirate near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore, Hobyo, Somalia, Sept. 23, 2012 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) decided to widen its definition of official development assistance to include certain security and defense costs, including measures to prevent violent extremism and provide limited military training. The redefinition of aid expanded the relationship between security and development. Several leading international development players, like Sweden, balk at the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee’s change and view it as the militarization of aid. Helen Clark, the United Nations’ development chief, has suggested that this redefinition could undermine fragile states, since any aid channeled to security and peacekeeping programs would reduce the amount […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of local administrators at his palace, Ankara, Turkey, March 16, 2016 (Pool photo by Murat Cetinmuhurdar).

The cease-fire brokered by Russia and the U.S. in Syria late last month could not have come at better time for Turkey. A few months before the cease-fire took effect, the momentum of the Syrian civil war had dramatically shifted in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor. The Syrian army and its allies on the ground, supported by Russian air power, were making significant gains across the country. Rebels were on their heels: Their defensive lines were gradually collapsing; their supply routes were thinning out; and they found themselves outflanked on multiple fronts. Even worse for Turkey, the United States has […]

Recovered antiquities displayed at the Iraqi National Museum, Baghdad, Iraq, July 8, 2015 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Last month, the government of Italy and UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, signed two agreements that aim to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas. One of these agreements will lead to the creation of a training center in Turin. The other agreement formalized the Italian government’s intent to create a task force, supported by UNESCO, for dealing with and safeguarding cultural property and heritage during times of crisis. According to UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, this so-called United for Heritage task force would bring together cultural heritage experts and members of Italy’s national police, the Carabinieri, which have a long […]

A soldier holds the Polisario Front flag as a U.N. helicopter flies over the Smara refugees camp, Tindouf, Algeria, March 5, 2016 (AP photo by Toufik Doudou).

The conflict over Western Sahara has lasted well over 40 years—25 under the oversight of the United Nations Security Council since it brokered a cease-fire in 1991—but it suffered the latest and perhaps worst of its many setbacks earlier this month, thanks to none other than U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban caused an uproar in Morocco by calling its presence in Western Sahara an “occupation,” while he was visiting a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria, near the border with the disputed territory. Ban’s comments came during a larger visit to North Africa that did not include Morocco, the key player […]

A constitutional referendum poster reading "Vote yes," Dakar, Senegal, March 20, 2016 (AP photo by Carley Petesch).

March 20, a day some analysts dubbed “Africa’s Super Sunday,” included a referendum in Senegal on the question of whether to reduce presidential terms from seven to five years. By the next day, both the press and the government were projecting a sweeping victory for the “yes” camp. The divisions surrounding the vote may seem strange at first: President Macky Sall and his supporters favored the reduction, while opposition parties opposed it. Sall emerges from the referendum battle politically strengthened. He can put a nagging controversy behind him, and he positions himself to approach the next election on his own […]

A protest against President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brasilia, Brazil, March 17, 2016 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Brazil is facing its most severe political crisis since its transition to democracy two and a half decades ago. Large-scale street protests; a government weakened by massive corruption scandals and unable to initiate meaningful reform; and a divided opposition, a large part of whose leadership is also beginning to be investigated, have all combined to create a crisis that Eurasia Group has called one of the top 10 global political risks in 2016. The political turmoil cannot be understood without taking Brazil’s economic plight into consideration. Mainly triggered by President Dilma Rousseff’s financial largesse and interventionist policies, Latin America’s largest […]

Women carry images of slain environmental activist Berta Caceres, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 8, 2016 (AP photo by Fernando Antonio).

On March 3, Berta Caceres, a prominent indigenous and environmental activist, was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, Intibuca, in the mountains of Honduras. Caceres was a campaigner for the rights of her native people, the Lenca, and a staunch opponent of one of Central America’s biggest dam projects. Her shocking murder was but the first recent example of the growing threat to human rights activists across Latin America. Less than two weeks after Caceres’ assassination, her fellow activist Nelson Garcia was murdered during a community eviction in the village of Rio Chiquito in northern Honduras. The next day, […]

A poster of Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama outside a restaurant in Havana, Cuba, March 17, 2016 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba on March 21-22 marks a pivotal moment in the unfolding process of normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations. In the 15 months since Obama and Raul Castro declared the end of the cold war in the Caribbean on Dec. 17, 2014, there has been just enough progress to justify the historic presidential visit. But much remains to be done. By underscoring the commitment of both presidents to prioritize better relations in the time they have left in office, the trip should energize their government bureaucracies to accelerate the pace of change. After a slow start—it took six […]

South African President Jacob Zuma, left, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Palace, Abuja, Nigeria, March 8, 2016. (AP photo).

South African President Jacob Zuma’s two-day trip to Nigeria earlier this month was the first step in a campaign to first stabilize and then hopefully radically improve relations between Africa’s two anchor states. Analysts have been lamenting for some time the degree to which this pivotal relationship has been allowed to deteriorate. Poor relations have been detrimental to African unity, the cohesion and purpose of the African Union, and the promotion of the wider African agenda of development, conflict management and democratization. What’s behind this overdue diplomatic outreach, and what are the prospects for a lasting rapprochement? Since 2009, the […]

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beijing, Feb. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Wu Hong).

“The future Australian Defence Force will be more capable of operations to deter and defeat threats to Australia,” declares the 2016 Defense White Paper, released in late February. The ambitious strategic document backs up this assertion with extravagant promises to raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP in just a few years; to double the size of Australia’s submarine fleet from 6 to 12; and to develop a maritime force with formidable anti-submarine warfare capabilities. The paper boasts that it “sets out the most ambitious plan to regenerate the Royal Australian Navy since the Second World War.” And yet, […]

Soldiers patrol in front of the Sacre Coeur basilica, Paris, Dec. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

In recent years, the issue of lone-actor or so-called lone-wolf terrorism has risen as a national security priority across Europe following the attacks carried out in Oslo in July 2011 and Toulouse and Montauban in March 2012. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks last November, fears of lone-wolf terrorism have only grown, as officials worry that the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its extensive propaganda may inspire more individuals to carry out acts of violence on the continent. In September 2014, the Countering Lone Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project, funded by the European Commission and led by the Royal United Services […]

A funeral procession for a senior Hezbollah senior commander who was killed in Syria, in the southern Lebanese village of Ansar, March 2, 2016 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).

On Feb. 19, Saudi Arabia announced it was canceling $4 billion in aid earmarked for Lebanon since 2013 and imposed a travel ban for Saudi citizens to the Mediterranean country. The moves represented an unequivocal shift in Saudi foreign policy toward Lebanon, where for years the kingdom has competed with Iran for influence by backing the Sunni-led March 14 coalition, headed by the Future Movement of Saad Hariri, against Hezbollah and the rival March 8 coalition that it leads. Saudi allies swiftly followed suit: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates called on their citizens to leave Lebanon. Less […]

Syrian Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the village of Esme near Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Mursel Coban).

Frustration over U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish militants seems to have prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pose a thought experiment over what, exactly, is a terrorist. The United States has developed a close working relationship with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have emerged as the most effective fighting force against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Turkey has watched this with increasing alarm. It alleges the YPG and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), together form the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Marxist-Kurdish nationalist organization that waged a decades-long war against the […]

People wait in line to buy products at government-regulated prices, Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s ongoing political battle between its three branches of government, which has paralyzed efforts to stop the country’s slide into the economic abyss, is slated to get worse this weekend when the opposition takes to the streets to press President Nicolas Maduro to resign. The Democratic Unity Roundtable—the opposition coalition known by its Spanish acronym, MUD, that won a parliamentary majority in last year’s elections—has called for demonstrations in Caracas and other cities Saturday as part of a full-court press to end Venezuela’s crisis peacefully by forcing Maduro out and holding fresh presidential elections. In a press […]

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