Two men met at the end of a ceremonial walk down a long corridor last week. One of these men carried the hopes of millions on his shoulders: His selection to high office reflected a new openness to those long discriminated against and raised global hopes for a power whose image had been damaged—a power despised but still desired, often in the same breath, around the world. The other man was Barack Obama. Pope Francis had just marked his first year in office, amid breathless discussion of the “Francis effect.” How real that effect has been is open to debate. […]

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia last week, where simmering dissent and repression in the Shiite-majority areas of the Sunni-dominated country continue to claim the lives of protesters and police three years after the Arab Spring. In an email interview, Stephane Lacroix, an associate professor at Sciences-Po who studies authoritarianism and Islamic social movements with a focus on Saudi Arabia, explained the status of Shiites in Saudi Arabia. WPR: What is the status of Shiites in Saudi Arabia in terms of political rights and access to state resources? Stephane Lacroix: Saudi Shiites, about 10 percent of the Saudi population, […]

In early March, India’s national security adviser announced that Mauritius and Seychelles had expressed an interest in joining the trilateral maritime security cooperation arrangement among India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives known as IO-3. Should they join, it would mean the consolidation of an Indian maritime domain awareness network in the island states of the Indian Ocean region (IOR) where India has historically had influence. However, while these island states look to India to meet nontraditional security threats, India sees them primarily as sites for sensor chains that can monitor Chinese naval movements in the IOR. Indeed, India’s embrace of […]

On March 1, a group of Uighurs from Xinjiang attacked the Kunming train station in southwest China using foot-long knives, killing 29 and injuring 143. The terror attack, popularly referred to as “China’s 9/11,” is a spillover from Xinjiang’s internal conflict. Since being “liberated” by Chinese Communists in 1949, the region has experienced sporadic episodes of significant violence between Uighurs, the dominant ethnic group in the region, and Han Chinese. The source of conflict is disputed—the Chinese narrative emphasizes external, separatist and jihadist influences, whereas Western analysts tend to focus on Uighur grievances toward discriminatory government policies. China’s narrative regarding […]

The Ukraine crisis has once again highlighted a fundamental weakness of the U.S. national security process: its inability to hold to long-term planning in the midst of short-term crises. The entire Crimea imbroglio has been a gift to China’s leaders, further delaying the vaunted U.S. “rebalance” toward Asia. At the beginning of 2014, with war over the use of WMDs in Syria off the table, the prospects for a long-term troop presence in Afghanistan looking dim and a settlement with Iran over its nuclear program possibly within reach, it seemed that, at long last, Washington might finally begin to match […]

When ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez publicly anointed Nicolas Maduro as his desired successor a year ago, Chavez apparently forgot to hand over one element of his power: his more than 4 million Twitter followers. Chavez’s account, @chavezcandanga, has not posted a new message since Feb. 18, 2013, about two weeks before the populist leader’s death on March 5, 2013. The account retains Twitter’s coveted blue checkmark for “verified” accounts and, if anything, has gained followers since Chavez’s death. A triumphant press release issued by the Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S. a day after that final tweet noted that the […]

World Citizen: Venezuela, Once an Ideological Magnet, Now Worries Region

The continuing clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Venezuela are being watched with a view toward the national interest in Caribbean and Latin American countries, most notably Cuba, which is feeling the impact of the contest for Caracas with particular intensity. The fall of President Nicolas Maduro and the end of the policies instituted by his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, would have strong repercussions in the region. Even if Maduro holds on, the Chavista goal of exporting Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” revolution and bringing Chavez’s brand of “21st century socialism” to the rest of Latin America has already […]

Thailand’s political deadlock has shifted from the streets of Bangkok to the courts. It is there that the real battle is now being played out. A March 21 ruling by the Constitutional Court invalidating the result of the country’s Feb. 2 election most vividly highlighted the change of venue. The court, with a vote of 6-3, threw the current turmoil onto a new trajectory. When the court made a similar ruling in 2006, annulling an election result, the military swooped in and installed a new, unelected government. The judicial instruments that are now being used to wade into Thailand’s political […]

With the United States and its allies ramping up the pressure on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, President Barack Obama spoke yesterday in Brussels at an annual summit between the United States and the European Union. Obama stated that the United States and other nations have an interest “in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one,” but he castigated Russia’s actions in Crimea and rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rationales for Russian annexation of the territory. In particular, Obama rejected comparisons to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo or to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. While noting his own […]

When the Cold War ended, the days of imperial expansion seemed to go with it. No one expected the revanchism of bygone empires to affect, much less shape, the 21st-century global security system. But that is exactly what is happening. Al-Qaida is using the dream of a long-lost Arab empire to justify terrorism. China is yearning for territory it owned centuries ago and seems willing to use its rising economic and military power to regain it. And now Russia has joined the revanchists by invading Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory. As a result, policymakers, military strategists […]

Following a period of subdued and difficult relations between the European Union and China, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first trip to Europe this week—which will include a stopover at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels, the first-ever such visit by a Chinese president—indicates that advances in ties made last year will continue into 2014. At the end of 2013, the two sides convened the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue for the first time since 2010, and the EU-China summit yielded a 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, a new EU-China Innovation Cooperation Dialogue and an agreement to launch negotiations on a bilateral […]

Even as the United States works with allies to isolate Russia diplomatically and deter further Russian aggression, the Obama administration hopes to maintain business as usual in efforts to restrain threats from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Russia is the sole U.S. peer in the strategic nuclear arena and an important global supplier of nuclear technology and advanced conventional weapons. Russian cooperation will therefore be a prerequisite for almost any meaningful progress in tackling nuclear and WMD proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. In an email to Trend Lines, a State Department spokesman welcomed a recent statement from […]

During the course of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has faced challenges in treating wounded soldiers on a scale it hasn’t witnessed since the Vietnam War. In response, the military has succeeded in reducing the mortality rate of soldiers injured in combat through a radical shift in doctrine, procedures and medical technology. The duration of the two wars has also produced a wealth of research that has informed Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), which has become the standardized set of procedures used to treat U.S. casualties across active-duty military services. Despite this, the cost has been […]

The arrest of two elected mayors in Venezuela last week demonstrated that repression is ramping up in the oil-producing and deeply troubled country. The arrests—on trumped up charges of inciting and tolerating a rebellion in which 33 protesters have already been killed—signaled that the government of President Nicolas Maduro has shifted from systematically but subtly dismantling institutional checks and balances and independent media to purging the government of elected officials. Sadly, Venezuela’s neighbors are unlikely to do anything about it, and this collective failure to protect democratic norms and human rights has placed the U.S. in the position of coming […]

President Barack Obama’s whirlwind visit to Europe began yesterday in The Hague against the looming shadow of the Ukraine crisis. While Obama will seek to rally Western resistance to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and affirm the administration’s strong commitment to European security, the trip was initially scheduled to coincide with the third Nuclear Security Summit, which focuses on preventing nuclear terrorism. The Nuclear Security Summits look to be one of the Obama administration’s major international security legacies. These recurring meetings of senior national leaders have sustained global attention on an issue that previously had preoccupied mostly technical experts, ad hoc […]

There is not sufficient evidence on the use of sexual violence in conflict to determine whether it is increasing or decreasing in prevalence or institutionalization. However, evidence indicates it is widespread. Conflict-related gendered violence can range from a tool of economic exploitation, oppression and violence, especially during conflicts, disasters and their aftermath, to the systematic use of sexual violence as a strategy in armed conflict. Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined in humanitarian contexts as “an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will, and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and […]

In recent years, the security threats facing humanitarian aid workers have been the subject of headlines and debates. The humanitarian advocacy community has been filled with discussions of a perceived increase in the politicization of humanitarian aid—attributed in part to declining respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence—and growing difficulties ensuring operations can be conducted in accordance with those principles. These discussions frequently highlight attacks on relief personnel and assets to show that humanitarian workers are under attack. In the past year, the focus has narrowed to a particular area of humanitarian operations: medical and health […]

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