Following World War II, the United States reluctantly became a global superpower. By the end of the Cold War, Americans had so taken to the exercise of power that they found it unthinkable to be anything but a superpower. Preserving that status shifted from a necessary evil to an explicit objective. But now what was once unthinkable is back on the table. For the first time in decades, many Americans are questioning whether the United States wants to or even can remain a global superpower. In some ways, the United States has always been ill-equipped to orchestrate the international security […]

Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising in January 2011 sent waves of anxiety coursing through the Israeli establishment. By mid-February, a close partner had been deposed in Cairo, and popular Egyptian sentiment demanded a tough, polemical line against Israel: no more gas deals, no security cooperation, no political collaboration. The strategic relationship reached its nadir that fall, when a crowd in September stormed the Israeli Embassy while the Egyptian military stood by. A phone call from Washington was required to resolve that crisis, prompting the Egyptians to intervene before any Israelis were injured. Fast-forward to today, and the Israel-Egypt strategic relationship appears […]

Last month, the Israeli navy took control of a Panamanian ship off the coast of Sudan that was carrying Iranian munitions to Gaza. The Red Sea operation underscored the growth of the navy’s role in Israel’s power projection, which has accelerated in the 21st century after many decades in which maritime strategy was something of an afterthought for Israel’s military. A maritime perspective was central in pre-state Zionist strategic thinking, because the seas were the gateway for Jewish immigration into Palestine. However, once the state of Israel was created in 1948, the seas and the navy lost their significance in […]

Panama’s seven presidential candidates are wrapping up their campaigns ahead of the country’s election on Sunday. In an email interview, Orlando J. Pérez, a professor in the Department of Political Science at Central Michigan University who has done field research in Panama, explained the country’s electoral landscape. WPR: What are the major domestic issues at stake in Panama’s presidential election? Orlando J. Pérez: The electoral campaign has been framed around the dynamic of continuity versus change. The government has touted social spending, infrastructure investments and economic growth. The government candidate, Jose Domingo Arias, has campaigned on continuing and expanding President […]

U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent trip through East Asia was only the latest reminder of the growing economic and geopolitical influence of the region’s rising powers. Now more firmly installed, the governments in China, Japan and South Korea have each begun to put their stamps on their countries’ strategies, as each country confronts the challenges posed by its neighbors and by relations with the United States. This special report examines the dynamic geopolitics of East Asia through articles published in the past 18 months. Regional Perspectives China’s Slowing Growth May Help Rebalance Regional RoleBy Iain MillsAug. 12, 2013 Beating Expectations, […]

It was no surprise when pro-Russian forces seized eight European military monitors in eastern Ukraine last week. A growing number of international observers have deployed to Ukraine over the past two months, and it was only a matter of time before some were snatched. A United Nations envoy, Robert Serry, had to make a quick exit from Crimea in early March after an encounter with a posse of armed men. The monitors’ captors have accused them of being NATO spies and forced them to make a humiliating appearance before the press, although one officer has since been released for medical […]

In addition to imposing more Western sanctions on Russia and rotating more U.S. troops into Europe, the U.S. and its NATO allies are considering increasing U.S. ballistic missile defenses (BMD) based in NATO’s European member states as part of their response to Russian actions in Ukraine. Moscow clearly hates these U.S. systems, and placing them near Russia is sure to capture Moscow’s attention. A few weeks ago, a pair of Russian warplanes “buzzed” a U.S. missile defense ship that was on patrol in the Black Sea. That said, the U.S. missile defense response needs to be nuanced to yield net […]

Launching a new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians last July, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set a deadline for the two sides to reach a peace deal within nine months. Today, that deadline is passing with the sides seemingly no closer to resolving their long-running dispute. Israel suspended the negotiations last Thursday, after rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas announced that they would form a unity government in the coming weeks. The move to form a unity government presented perhaps the final complication to the United States’ recent push for peace. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel […]

Earlier this month Kazakh Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov resigned unexpectedly after only 18 months in the post. In an email interview, Anthony Bowyer, senior program manager for the Caucasus and Central Asia at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, explained what led to Kazakhstan’s cabinet reshuffle. WPR: What was the context of the sudden replacement of Kazakhstan’s prime minister earlier this month? Anthony Bowyer: The main reasons for Akhmetov’s resignation had to do with the state of the economy. There were significant issues with the state budget, scandals surrounding taxes on automobiles and real estate, problems with the pension fund […]

Despite the turbulence in South Africa’s domestic politics during the troubled presidency of Jacob Zuma, South Africa has continued to be viewed as the African continent’s natural leader, its principal conflict manager and its chief interlocutor with major external powers and international organizations. However, within the space of a week in late March and early April 2014, two separate yet related developments combined to bring this conventional wisdom into serious question for the first time. The first was on March 25, when the 2014 South African Defense Review—details of which were leaked to Reuters—highlighted a “critical state of decline” in […]

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia this past week seemed to push the “legacy” cliche button in the minds of editors everywhere. I’ve lost track of how many times I was asked about it, and, embarrassingly, the question took me by surprise the first several times. We’re still six months from the midterms, after all. For right now, at least, a more interesting question to ask might be: In national security and foreign policy, how has Obama set the stage so that he and his team can construct a legacy over the next two years? Presidential administrations always deny that […]

Corruption in the public sphere is typically defined as the use of public office for private gain, and in addition to undermining public faith in governmental legitimacy, it also carries a significant economic cost in terms of growth and development. Using data from 2001-2002, the World Bank Institute estimated that $1 trillion in bribes is paid every year and that addressing corruption would quadruple income per capita in the long term. Beginning in the 1990s, increased attention was paid to addressing corruption, with the lead primarily taken by governments, including the U.S., and international organizations, including the World Bank and […]

By the numbers at least, there was plenty at stake in Indonesia’s April 9 parliamentary elections. On that single day, more than 200,000 candidates contested almost 20,000 seats in 532 legislatures across the country. But to what extent were these elections a referendum on the sitting government? What do the elections tell us about the July presidential election and Indonesia’s future political landscape? And what do they reveal about the state of democracy in Indonesia? The only significant loser on election day was Partai Demokrat (PD), President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s party, which won approximately 9 percent of the national parliamentary […]

If a national security policy is to be worth more than the paper it is printed on, it needs to serve as a guide to making tough policy choices by outlining priorities and indicating where trade-offs may have to be made. But controversies around two long-standing U.S. strategic objectives show how poorly strategy is guiding current policy. These objectives are to develop a new and deeper partnership between the United States and India and to open up new sources of energy in the Western Hemisphere to decrease U.S. dependence on overseas sources. One secondary impact of these strategies would be […]

In an increasingly crowded and contested western Pacific, navies from more than 20 countries—including the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia—want to make sure that incidents at sea don’t unintentionally escalate to broader conflict. This week, they agreed on a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium held in Beijing. In a statement, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who attended the symposium, clarified that CUES “is not legally binding, but is an agreement upon which the participating nations have a standardized protocol of safety procedures, basic communications and basic […]

The geopolitics surrounding the crisis in Venezuela captures the new normal of inter-American relations. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a regional South American body created in 2008, has stepped up its involvement and, through a three-member delegation of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador’s foreign ministers, is playing a prominent role in fostering dialogue. Meanwhile, the United States, though keen to shape the post-Chavez trajectory of Venezuela, is in the background, unsure of how to make a constructive impact. This unfolding episode serves as further reminder that U.S. foreign policy toward South America remains largely unsettled. Washington’s preferences do not […]

When a book about economics rises to the No. 1 spot on the bestseller list, it says as much about society as it does about the book. That’s why the explosive rise of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty, is so revealing and why the book will become a self-reinforcing phenomenon likely to carve a deep mark in the political landscape. Piketty’s work, on its own, is an important and impressive accomplishment. But the fact that it has been welcomed so enthusiastically by such a wide spectrum of the population proves that it has hit a nerve. Because […]

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