Despite all the uproar generated by President Barack Obama’s open-mike comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the nuclear summit in Seoul, no one should be shocked that election-year calculations play a major role in international politics. It is perfectly understandable that, in gearing up for what will be a tough and challenging re-election campaign, Obama would prefer not to have to deal with crises now if they can be postponed until after the ballots have been cast. This same logic has driven efforts to persuade Israel not to launch a strike on Iran, which might have immediate and drastic […]

Launched in 1991 by then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, India’s “Look East” policy was long regarded by many as lacking in vision and substance. Yet as India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to mark two decades of formal relations later this year, there is much to celebrate. Given the recent advances New Delhi has made in its relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors, as well as with ASEAN as an institution, both parties can proudly toast the progress achieved thus far. But they should also use the anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen ties further. India has […]

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Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti approved major changes to the country’s labor laws last month, the latest of Italy’s attempts to overhaul its economy. In an email interview, Carlo Bastasin, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on European politics and economics and author of “Saving Europe,” discussed Italy’s economy. WPR: What have been the major weaknesses of the Italian economy, with regard to its European and non-European trade partners? Carlo Bastasin: The two features that have distinguished the Italian economy are the high level of public debt and the low growth of the past 10 years. The […]

The 13 months since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down have been turbulent and chaotic for the country. But it is only now, with a presidential election scheduled to begin in eight weeks and a committee being put in place to write a new constitution, that full-on political crisis seems to be looming. In recent days, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power when Mubarak resigned and has been overseeing the transition process, has found itself in conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood over the powers and responsibilities of the recently elected parliament. At the same time, secular […]

The Egyptian activists whose protests brought down the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 are becoming increasingly alarmed as their dream of a liberal, secular and egalitarian democracy in Egypt is starting to look unattainable. In a severe blow to their hopes, Islamist members of parliament brazenly staked out a large majority of the positions in the newly chosen constitutional assembly, all but ensuring that the fundamental law of the land will be written by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the more radical Salafists, with only minimal, easily discardable input from other sectors of society. By a conservative […]

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Business groups from the U.S. and the European Union last week called on U.S. and European leaders to move forward with the creation of a barrier-free trans-Atlantic market. In an email interview, Fredrik Erixon, the director of the European Center for International Political Economy, discussed the prospects for a U.S.-European Union free trade agreement (FTA). WPR: What impact would a FTA have on U.S.-EU trade, and what sectors would be most affected? Fredrik Erixon: It would have a positive influence on trade, jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. If you eliminate or reduce trade restrictions between two […]

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The international community has quickly and strongly condemned the coup d’état in the West African state of Mali after soldiers overthrew the democratically elected government of President Amadou Toumani Touré last week. The country, which had been regarded as a strong model of democracy, was preparing to hold elections in April, and Touré had already announced he would be stepping aside rather than seeking a thrid term in office. But frustrated with the handling of the Tuareg insurgency in the north of the country, a group of mid-level officers from the military and security forces took matters into their own […]

As Israel contemplates military action to retard the development of Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. and Arab policymakers are trying to determine the second- and third-order effects that such a strike would have on the region. A recent exercise by U.S. Central Command has raised concerns among U.S. policymakers that an Israeli strike on Iran would do serious damage to U.S. interests in the region in particular, but analysts must remain humble about what we can really know with certainty about such contingencies. Both Iranian and Israeli intentions are unclear, and the United States and its allies have remarkably poor political […]

Peruvian Justice Minister Juan Jiménez’s appearance before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week marked the latest challenge to President Ollanta Humala’s strategy of marrying mining-based growth with social development. Jiménez faced the commission Saturday to dispute a law proposed last year by local organizations concerned about environmental impacts from the $4.8 billion Conga gold and copper mine. Later this week, the country’s Constitutional Tribunal will also consider the constitutionality of a decision by the president of Cajamarca province, where the Conga mine is located, to declare the project “unviable.” Local communities argue that the mine will empty several […]

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China reportedly suspended orders for Airbus aircraft this month in protest of the European Union’s emissions trading system. In an email interview, Miriam Schröder, managing director of the climate consulting firm Sinergi, discussed the European Union-China emissions dispute. WPR: What is the background of the dispute between the European Union and China over the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), and how has it developed? Miriam Schröder: Since January 2012, aviation has been included in the EU ETS. Not only flights within Europe, but also non-European aircraft operators that fly to or from Europe have to comply with the EU ETS. […]

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Several hours after polls closed for Senegal’s presidential election Sunday, President Abdoulaye Wade, the 85-year-old incumbent whose decision to seek a third term in office led to waves of protest across the country, conceded defeat to Macky Sall, 50, and even called to congratulate Sall on his victory. Many had feared that Wade, whose popularity has suffered since he took office in 2000 due to rising levels of unemployment, the soaring cost of living and increasingly visible corruption, would remain in office regardless of the election results. But with a peaceful transfer of power, the results of the runoff voting […]

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President Jose Ramos Horta conceded defeat on March 19 after failing to win enough votes to make it into the second round of Timor-Leste’s ongoing presidential election. In an email interview, Gordon Peake, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, discussed Timor-Leste’s presidential election. WPR: Who are the candidates in the runoff election, and what are their platforms and electoral bases of support? Gordon Peake: The first round whittled down 12 candidates to two men who were once comrades-in-arms in the Timorese resistance. On April 16, Francisco Guterres from the opposition FRETILIN […]

After months of aggressive debates over the Middle East, the U.N. Security Council is starting to calm down. Last week the council released a statement supporting Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria — which calls for a U.N.-supervised cease-fire and an “inclusive Syrian-led political process” — signaling the change of mood. The Western powers reached consensus with Russia and China on the text, toning down and cutting controversial passages, after Moscow called for daily cease-fires to let humanitarian aid reach suffering Syrians. The contrast with the mood at the United Nations in February, when the Chinese and Russians vetoed a […]

The largest number of world leaders to visit South Korea in the country’s history are in Seoul for the March 26-27 Nuclear Security Summit. The delegations from the 54 countries and four international organizations that are participating include some 45 heads of state, with deputy prime ministers or foreign ministers representing the rest. The main objective of this week’s summit is to prevent nonstate actors, including terrorists and criminals, from acquiring dangerous nuclear materials, as the greatest obstacle to nuclear terrorism is not designing a weapon, concocting a plot or recruiting volunteers willing to suffer martyrdom — it is acquiring […]

President Barack Obama has presented himself as the ender of wars. Moreover, where the preceding administration went heavy with its military power, the Obama administration goes laparoscopically light. And as if to culminate a quarter-century trend of U.S. military interventions that have all somehow devolved into manhunts of some sort, America now simply skips the intervention and gets straight to hunting down and killing bad guys. We stand our ground, as it were, on a global scale. Give us the wrong gesture, look, attitude or perceived intention, and wham! One of ours might kill one of yours — in a […]

Serious threats require serious action, and there is broad nonpartisan agreement that nuclear terrorism remains one of the most daunting threats of the 21st century. That is why national leaders from more than 50 countries will meet this week in Seoul, Korea, at the second Nuclear Security Summit to address nuclear terrorism. The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington helped catalyze new commitments by states to secure loose nuclear materials, and today more than 80 percent of these commitments have been accomplished. But these measures only go so far, because there is no globally agreed-upon standard for securing nuclear material, […]

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently returned home after his latest trip to Cuba to seek cancer treatment. In an email interview, H. Michael Erisman, a professor of international politics and Latin America at Indiana State University specializing in Cuban foreign relations, discussed Cuba-Venezuela relations. WPR: What is the recent history of the Cuba-Venezuela relationship? H. Michael Erisman: In a nutshell, the relationship has been extremely close in both the bilateral and the larger multilateral dimensions. The multilateral dimension refers to Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation in hemispheric affairs. The centerpiece project here is the Bolívarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), which seeks to […]

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