European Council President Donald Tusk, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Eastern Partnership summit, Riga, Latvia, May 22, 2015 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

In May 2008, the foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden proposed the Eastern Partnership, an initiative designed to foster ties between the European Union and six former Soviet republics: Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. That August, a brief war broke out between Georgia and Russia, after which Russia formally recognized the Georgian breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states. Seven years later, the region remains divided along these lines, with the EU offering a possible future for Russia’s former satellites, and Russia itself using military force and separatist proxies to prevent that from happening. Last […]

Houthi rebels hold up their weapons as they chant slogans at the residence of a military commander of the Houthi militant group destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike, Sanaa, Yemen, April 28, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Since the first Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen in late March, aimed at dislodging the Zaydi Shiite Houthi movement from the towns and cities they hold across the country, a number of competing and contradictory narratives have emerged. Who, exactly, is fighting whom? What are their aims? And who is winning on the ground? Thanks to sporadic coverage of the ongoing military offensive and a lack of substantive reporting from the ground, these questions have remained largely unanswered. Yet several things have become clearer. First, the bombing campaign alone will not allow the Saudis to meet their strategic goals in Yemen […]

U.S. soldiers participate in a training mission with Iraqi army soldiers outside Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2015 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

As the conflict with the so-called Islamic State (IS) swings back and forth, one thing is increasingly clear: Even if Iraq survives the fight intact, there is no chance it will ever return to the pre-war status quo where the government in Baghdad controls the entire nation. Neither the Kurds nor Sunni Arabs will trust the Shiite-dominated central government to protect them. The newly empowered Shiite militia leaders also will cling to their autonomy from Baghdad. If Iraq holds together at all, it will have a titular national government in the capital while regional potentates actually run the place. Local […]

Israeli soldiers march during training in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, near the border with Syria, March 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

Israel and Syria have never been friends, but the two countries settled on a tense but mostly peaceful modus vivendi since their last face-to-face confrontation in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Despite their continuing enmity, the Israeli-Syrian border became one of relatively predictable calm. That has been true for decades, even if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad actively sided with Israel’s most committed foes, helping the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. In the past few years, however, the region’s strategic landscape has changed drastically, particularly with regard to Syria’s ongoing civil war. For Israel, that has introduced an extremely complicated security dilemma. […]

Mexican state police stand guard near the entrance of Rancho del Sol, near Vista Hermosa, Mexico, May 22, 2015 (AP photo by Refugio Ruiz).

On May 1, the first day of a military-led operation meant to restore peace in a region wracked by recent drug-related violence, Mexico’s western state of Jalisco suffered one of the deadliest days in its recent history. Across the region, a bold new criminal gang known as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel reportedly shot down a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, set 11 banks and 19 gas stations on fire and used flaming vehicles to put up at least 39 roadblocks. The attacks, apparently carried out by the group to prevent the capture of its leader, killed 15 people, […]

U.S. President Barack Obama with officials from the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Camp David, Maryland, May 14, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

In Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s iconic 1950 film, “Rashomon,” four people witness a crime outside the gates of Kyoto. When called on to testify in court, each has a distinctly different version of the events, and even different ideas of who the guilty party is. The Rashomon effect, as this phenomenon is often called, was in evidence this month, when reports leading up to and following the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit earlier this month produced wildly divergent assessments, from total failure to “better than expected.” There’s a danger of imbuing too much importance to the summit itself, which is […]

Opposition candidate Andrzej Duda celebrates his victory with supporters, as the first exit polls in the presidential runoff voting are announced, Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

The surprise election of Andrzej Duda, a charming, relatively unknown, conservative 43-year-old lawyer, to the Polish presidency Sunday over the popular but low-key incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, has sent shock waves through Europe, raising fears of a radical change in the politics, economics and foreign policy of an increasingly important European Union member. The Duda revolution may take months to materialize, since the Polish presidency is not particularly strong and parliamentary elections in the autumn will reveal whether voters return his Law and Justice Party to power for the first time since 2006. Yet the depth of change Duda represents has […]

Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, interpreter Paul Otto Gustav Schmidt and British Prime Minister Neville Chamerlain, Munich, Germany, Sept. 29, 1938 (German Federal Archives photo).

The Nobel-winning author William Faulkner once famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” While Faulkner’s insight applies to a wide array of human affairs, it has become something of a professional hazard for foreign policy pundits. There is perhaps no field of public policy more regularly misdescribed and misrepresented by false historical analogies than international affairs. It’s a problem that exists across the political spectrum—both for hawks, who view any willingness to utilize diplomacy or deal with nefarious regimes as another Munich and any reluctance to use military force as a concession to tyrants; and for […]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee meeting, Ramallah, April 18, 2015 (AP photo by Fadi Arouri).

Earlier this month, a few days after the Holy See finalized a treaty to formally recognize Palestine as a state, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the Vatican, where Pope Francis set off a minor frenzy, including criticism from Israelis, by calling Abbas “an angel of peace.” It wasn’t much of a controversy, in the end, though Israel remains opposed to the Vatican’s official recognition of Palestinian statehood, which is another step in Abbas’ efforts to secure more international recognition of Palestine, even as Israel’s occupation of the West Bank appears more permanent and its blockade of Gaza continues. But Abbas’ […]

Filipe Nyusi is sworn in as the newly elected Mozambican president, Maputo, Mozambique, Jan. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Ferhat Momade).

Earlier this month, fears of Mozambique sliding back into civil war receded after Afonso Dhlakama—the leader of the rebel group turned political party, the Mozambican National Resistance, known as Renamo—toned down his bellicose rhetoric over last year’s contested election. Dhlakama had disputed the October 2014 results, claiming electoral fraud, and Renamo refused to take up its seats in Parliament, demanding a share of power in the provinces where it won majorities over the longtime ruling Frelimo party. Dhlakama threatened to seize control of the provinces by force. To end the boycott, newly elected President Filipe Nyusi, a member of Frelimo, […]

Presidents from Turkmenistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service).

As negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries—the U.S., France, U.K., Germany, Russia and China—over Tehran’s nuclear program enter the home stretch before their June 30 deadline, much of the attention in Washington and the media has been focused on the U.S. need to reaffirm its commitment to its Persian Gulf allies, in order to reassure them that an Iran nuclear deal would not compromise their security. In addition, however, the United States also needs to develop a strategy for managing the likely growth of Iranian influence in Central Asia and the South Caucasus that would follow any nuclear agreement. […]

A worker cuts a diamond, reflecting Botswana’s attempt to control stages of diamond production beyond mining, Gaborone, Botswana, March 18, 2008 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The past year has seen dramatic declines in the prices of global commodities. Between June 2014 and the beginning of this year, crude oil prices fell by 50 percent to around $50 a barrel. Similarly, mineral prices have seen a drastic fall since the peak of the “commodity supercycle” in early 2011. Between then and April of this year, iron ore prices fell by 70 percent, coal prices by 54 percent and copper prices by 40 percent. Many countries dependent on revenues from these commodities have been hit hard. Venezuela is unable to import food and medicine to satisfy the […]

The port in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Jan. 19, 2011 (photo by Flickr user the brit_2 licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, Jamaica announced plans to expand regional trade ties through a framework agreement with Cuba and a deal that supplements the existing free trade agreement with Costa Rica. In an email interview, Krista Lucenti, an economist with the Inter-American Development Bank, discussed Jamaica’s trade policy. WPR: What are Jamaica’s main exports, and who are Jamaica’s main trade partners? Krista Lucenti: Jamaica exported roughly $2.3 billion in goods and services in 2014. Exports of goods are concentrated in bauxite, alumina and other non-traditional exports, including chemical, minerals and food processing exports, and represent nearly three-fourths of the total value […]

U.S. door gunners in H-21 Shawnee gunships look for a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla who ran to a foxhole from the sampan on the Mekong Delta river bank, Jan. 17, 1964 (AP photo by Horst Faas).

As Iraq devolved into insurgency in 2004, the Washington policy community was filled with ominous warnings of “another Vietnam.” The war in Vietnam was, after all, America’s benchmark for counterinsurgency and hung like a dark cloud over every debate on U.S. national security policy during the height of the Iraq War. But it soon seemed that the Vietnam analogy did not apply to Iraq. After a careful assessment, Jeffrey Record and Andrew Terrill, both widely published national security experts, concluded as early as May 2004 that “the differences between the two conflicts greatly outnumber the similarities.” Soon references to Vietnam […]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses the media, Berlin, Germany, Dec. 3, 2014 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

There are few political posters to be found on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, ahead of Sunday’s general elections. Print media coverage is remarkably cryptic. The few debates held on TV have been derided by some Ethiopians as boring and even embarrassing for the opposition, which today is weaker and more divided than it has ever been. Election results seem like a forgone conclusion, with good reason. In 2010, the longtime ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), won 546 out of 547 seats in Parliament. The country’s political context has not changed in the five […]

Andrus Ansip, commissioner in charge of the digital single market, and Gunther Oettinger, commissioner in charge of digital economy and society, give a joint press conference, Brussels, May 6, 2015 (European Commission photo).

Earlier this month the European Union launched its so-called digital single market, which aims to expand Europe’s digital economy through broad reforms. In an email interview, Fabian Zuleeg, the chief executive of the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think tank, discussed the impact the new policy could have. WPR: What are the main goals of the European digital single market? Fabian Zuleeg: In its most basic form, the digital single market is about removing regulatory barriers, which prevent customers and businesses from fully realizing the potential of the developing Internet economy. But the ultimate goal of the digital single market […]

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly audience, the Vatican, May 20, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

Earlier this month, the Vatican concluded a treaty that recognizes the state of Palestine, immediately drawing criticism from Israel. In an email interview, John L. Allen Jr., an associate editor at Crux and expert on Vatican affairs, discussed the Holy See’s foreign policy under Pope Francis. WPR: What changes has Pope Francis effected in Vatican foreign policy, and how do his priorities for the church’s global role differ from those of Pope Benedict XVI? John L. Allen Jr.: There haven’t been major changes in substance in the transition from Benedict to Francis, as it’s the same blend of pro-life and […]

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