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 […]

Ukraine’s new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, has promised to open talks with Moscow on repairing the frayed Russia-Ukraine relationship. With fighting continuing in the eastern parts of the country, the economy headed toward collapse and Western rhetoric of support unmatched by concrete deeds and dollars, Poroshenko and his team might want to consider learning from how another mid-sized Eurasian state has managed its relationship with the Russian bear. This week, in a ceremony in Astana overshadowed by the events in Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed the agreements formally creating the Eurasian Economic Union, along with the presidents of Russia and […]

“Modern warfare is evolving rapidly,” warned the introduction to the Obama administration’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, “leading to increasingly contested battlespace in the air, sea, and space domains—as well as cyberspace.” U.S. attempts to erect effective cyberdefenses are, however, facing significant challenges. This is due both to the nature of the threat, which can affect a vast array of critical networks with little or no warning, and to political dynamics in the United States. The Justice Department’s recent indictment of five Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers accused of hacking U.S. companies is only the most recent sign that previous […]

A funny thing happened on the way to the apotheosis of Egypt’s next president: The adoring crowds stayed home. The former military leader, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, was supposed to win a landslide victory with strong support from a public that had given every indication of burning with passion for the strongman. El-Sisi urged them to come out en masse to give him a strong mandate, and in the past they had always responded. There was never any doubt that el-Sisi would win. The only other candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, served the useful purpose of giving a patina of legitimacy to the process. […]

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 […]

Representatives from the six-country negotiating group known as the P5+1 and Iran met earlier this month for talks on Iran’s nuclear program that observers generally agree were inconclusive. As the parties prepare for the next round in Vienna June 16-20 and the July 20 deadline for a final agreement approaches, domestic forces in both the United States and Iran are trying to affect the goals and substance of a final agreement. In particular, the arrest two weeks ago of six young people in Tehran who had appeared in an online music video in defiance of Iran’s public morality rules has […]

The confirmation process last week for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about the justification for what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. But as the politics of the issue heat up, the administration and its critics seem to be relying on different interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate, and their underlying disagreement speaks to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. For many critics of the administration’s approach to counterterrorism, the term “targeted killing” has come to […]

The mass kidnapping of schoolgirls by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram put an unwelcome spotlight on Nigeria. Though the attention is new, Nigeria’s security and governance deficits are not, with implications for the country’s domestic politics and regional influence. The United States and international partners have a role to play in assisting Nigeria, particularly in terms of improving security, but ultimately it is how Nigeria rises to the challenges it faces that will determine the course of its future. This special report reviews those challenges, and the responses to them, through recently published articles. Domestic Politics Nigeria’s Fault Lines […]

War games provide insights into the mind of the U.S. military, showing the types of conflicts it anticipates and what it might be ordered to do in them. While war games vary, almost all share one characteristic: They are based on a relatively short war or operation, sometimes followed by a lengthy period of stabilization. Few strategic war games think through American involvement in a long major war. This is not surprising. Throughout history, Americans have expected and planned for short wars. When Abraham Lincoln decided to forcefully stop the South’s secession, for instance, he initially asked for 90-day volunteers, […]

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 […]

I had the opportunity to spend part of last week in Russia, giving a talk at the Moscow Carnegie Center on U.S.-Russia security cooperation after Ukraine, and attending the third annual Moscow International Security Conference, organized by the Russian Defense Ministry. The difference between the two audiences was striking: The talk at Carnegie attracted mostly members of the liberal intelligentsia eager to manage the Ukraine crisis in a way that preserves U.S.-Russian cooperation in some areas; in contrast, the Russians who addressed the conference, including top officials of the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries as well as the armed services, […]

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 […]

Venezuela has faced months of opposition protests as international mediation efforts have proved inconclusive. In an email interview, Michael McCarthy, a professorial lecturer of Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, explained the diverse constituencies the opposition represents. WPR: Who are the major constituencies that make up the political opposition in Venezuela? Michael McCarthy: The Venezuelan constitution currently bans public financing of parties and political campaigns. This creates a structural issue for the 19 political parties formally composing the opposition’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), an electoral coalition with the objective of winning support away from the […]

In the aftermath of the Indian elections, President Barack Obama expressed his desire for rejuvenating the U.S. relationship with India, which is still seen as a linchpin for America’s rebalance to Asia. But at present Obama is not scheduled to meet with India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, until the East Asia summit in Myanmar in November, and again at the G-20 conclave later that month in Brisbane, Australia. But if last year’s G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg is any guide, the U.S. president will have a full dance card at these two multilateral meetings and will not, in […]

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 […]

Last month, Ecuador expelled 20 U.S. Defense Department employees from the country. Less than two weeks later, the U.S. announced it would withdraw its anti-narcotics personnel from Ecuador, dealing a further blow to America’s ailing counternarcotics partnerships in the Western Hemisphere. Ecuador’s expulsion of U.S. military personnel “reflects the increase in capacities and resources of Ecuador to directly assume security and defense efforts independently,” said a statement from the Ecuadorean Embassy in Washington. The statement pointed in particular to Ecuador’s own counternarcotics efforts from the previous year. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that while the United States would […]

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 […]

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