Current focus: Partner Insights

Turning Back Time: Putting Putin’s Molotov-Ribbentrop Defense Into Context

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (left) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (right) agreeing on a non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Image: unknown uploader/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radion Liberty on 16 May, 2015. Editor’s note: Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Russian President Vladimir Putin got the world’s attention on May 10 when, during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he unapologetically defended the infamous 1939 nonaggression pact between Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — named after the two foreign ministers who signed it in the late-night hours of August 23, 1939 — was formally a nonaggression pact. But it also encompassed a secret protocol under which the two dictatorships agreed to carve up Eastern Europe. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Tackling Militant Islamism Means Also Confronting its Non-Violent Forms

Muslim extremists protesting the release of the movie “Innocence of Muslims” in Sydney. Image: Jamie Kennedy/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Europe’s World on 5 May 2015.

The call is often from a worried teacher. They are noticing changes in students from immigrant backgrounds. Before, they defined themselves by nationality, as Kosovars, Bosnians or Turks, now they say they are Muslims. Before, they took part in art classes, now they insist their religion prohibits art. Then there’s a second change: these young men and women start to talk of a war against Islam that targets Muslims – targets them.

When I listen, I remember myself as a 16-year-old, the daughter of a diplomat from a secular family, coming back to my home country, Yemen, after four years in Morocco. It was 1982 – a period that saw the mushrooming of Islamist ideology in North Yemen. I was fascinated by a religious group led by a charismatic young woman of 17. The group met in the schoolyard. I would later learn it was part of a strong Islamist movement that saw Salafists work hand-in-hand with the Muslim Brotherhood. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

After April Stalemate, Could Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement Rise Again?

Protesters in Hong Kong during the “Umbrella Revolution”. Image: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 May 2015.

With Hong Kong’s April reform package to elect a new chief executive in 2017 falling far short of creating genuine universal suffrage, and doing little to bridge the region’s political divides, the battle between the government and pro-democracy supporters for hearts and minds has been revived. The “umbrella” movement that caught the world’s attention last year could therefore resurface in the coming weeks and months.

By strictly following an August 2014 decision made by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), the April package angered pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council—the so-called “pan-democrats” who supported the street-based umbrella movement—who want to preserve the region’s autonomy as part of the “one country, two systems” model. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Will the 2018 World Cup Start the Next Football War?

Russia hosting the 2018 soccer World Cup. Soccer player Andrey Arshavin (center) is holding up Russia’s placard. Image: Александр Вильф/Wikimedia

Over the last year, a number of top government officials in the United States and Europe have called upon FIFA to punish Russia by moving the 2018 World Cup to another country. FIFA has refused to do so, claiming that the tournament can be “a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.” This idea is based on the theory that international sports encourage peace and cooperation between countries. FIFA frequently champions this theory as if it is a proven fact, but without providing much evidence to support it.

The World Cup may influence society in many positive ways, such as by encouraging exercise, entertaining the masses, and giving fellow citizens something to bond over. If it also promoted international peace, we would have yet another reason to feel good about investing so much of our time and energy in it. However, there is more evidence that the opposite is true – that international sporting events like the World Cup actually increase the likelihood of conflict. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

John Quincy Adams — The Grand Strategist

John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States. Image: J.C. Tichenor/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) on 7 May, 2015.

Who knew that John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was so interesting? Or that he was probably the most sleep deprived and crankiest U.S. President ever to live in the White House?  Or that he wrote in a journal  every day — totaling some 17,000 pages and 51 volumes — since he was twelve until the day he died on the floor of Congress in 1848?

The word “fascinating” doesn’t begin to describe this man. But unfortunately for John Quincy Adams, his father has seemed to eclipse him in many ways.  David McCullough’s wonderful biography of John Adams, which was turned into a popular HBO series, cemented the founding father’s stature in the collective American conscience.  Thus, many of us only know John Quincy as a sequel, a trivial pursuit question: “Which eighteenth-century U.S. President had a son who also became a U.S. President?”  It is always, it seems, this way with sequels.  They never quite measure up in our minds and in our hearts. » More

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