The NATO Global Hub

This blog is republished here as part of our special holiday selection.

NATO headquarters

NATO headquarters. Photo: Utenriksdept/flickr.

WASHINGTON, DC – What should an alliance do when its leading member and dominant pillar decides to shift its focus to the other side of the world? NATO leaders have been grappling with this question since US President Barack Obama’s announcement of his administration’s “pivot” to Asia last year compelled them to examine the Alliance’s global role.

NATO leaders have examined their approach to managing relations with countries, such as China and Russia, that still view NATO as a potential threat rather than as a genuine partner. And they have had to consider whether to engage in more missions beyond the North Atlantic, like that in Afghanistan, where 22 countries – including El Salvador, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, and Tonga – have deployed forces under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. » More

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Why is Russia Favored by Mongolia and North Korea?

This blog is republished here as part of our special holiday selection.

Border between Russia and Mongolia. Photo: Geoff Sowrey/flickr

Russia is favored by Mongolia and North Korea just as the United States is welcomed by some of its Southeast Asian partners. At the same time, Mongolia and especially North Korea provide opportunities for Russia to raise its stakes in Northeast Asian matters.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and relative inattention by the Kremlin in the 1990s, Ulaanbaatar and Pyongyang never abandoned their attempts to renew ties with Russia. High-ranking political and military officials constantly made calls to advance political, military, economic, and cultural ties with Moscow. Positive responses came after a decade, under Russian President Putin. Putin’s visit to the DPRK and Mongolia in 2000 demonstrated the Kremlin’s new emphasis on two its former allies, whose industrial facilities and enterprises were built with Soviet assistance and technology. Their treaties of mutual assistance with Russia were replaced by treaties of good neighborliness in 1993 (Mongolia) and 2001 (North Korea). And the $11 billion debts incurred during the Soviet era, were resolved favorably for Mongolians in 2003 and North Koreans in 2012. As a result, Russia seems to have secured its stake in key infrastructure development projects. In North Korea, Russia will invest in the trans-Korean railway, a gas pipeline, special economic zones, and education. Russia will invest in the trans-Mongolian railway, its extension, and the mining of uranium and aluminum in Mongolia. Economic cooperation with Mongolia and North Korea will play an important role in Putin’s agenda to develop Russia’s long-neglected Far East and Siberia and to secure Chinese and East Asian markets for its mineral exports. » More

Time to Test Iran

This blog is republished here as part of our special holiday selection.

Satellite imagery of suspected Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility in Iran

Satellite imagery of suspected Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility in Iran. Photo: Podknox/flickr.

NEW YORK – Most of the debate about how to address Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear-weapons capacity focuses on two options. The first is to rely on deterrence and live with an Iran that has a small nuclear arsenal or the ability to assemble one with little advance notice. The second is to launch a preventive military strike aimed at destroying critical parts of the Iranian program and setting back its progress by an estimated two or more years.

But now a third option has emerged: negotiating a ceiling on the nuclear program that would not be too low for Iran’s government and not too high for the United States, Israel, and the rest of the world.

In fact, such an option has been around for years – and in several rounds of negotiations. What has changed, however, is the context. And changes in context can be critical; indeed, what happens away from the negotiating table almost always determines the outcome of face-to-face talks. » More

Energy Independence in an Interdependent World

This blog is republished here as part of our special holiday selection.

Jonah natural gas field near Pinedale, WY

Jonah natural gas field near Pinedale, WY, US. Photo: World Resources/flickr.

CAMBRIDGE – When President Richard Nixon proclaimed in the early 1970’s that he wanted to secure national energy independence, the United States imported a quarter of its oil. By the decade’s end, after an Arab oil embargo and the Iranian Revolution, domestic production was in decline, Americans were importing half their petroleum needs at 15 times the price, and it was widely believed that the country was running out of natural gas.

Energy shocks contributed to a lethal combination of stagnant economic growth and inflation, and every US president since Nixon likewise has proclaimed energy independence as a goal. But few people took those promises seriously. » More

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The Sinai Peninsula: Egypt’s “Wild West”?

From the series "Sinai's most wanted militants", by Mosa'ab Elshamy. Image used with permission.

From the series “Sinai’s most wanted militants”, by Mosa’ab Elshamy. Image used with permission. Egyptian photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy has a few series of photos on Sinai.

In April of this year, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt a “kind of Wild West” after rockets fired from there targeted the resort town of Eilat. According to Netanyahu, the peninsula is exploited by Islamist militants helped by Iran to smuggle weapons and stage attacks on Israel. In August, 16 Egyptian border guards were killed in an attack by Islamist militants who then crossed the border. This is one of a string of violent incidents since Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected president of Egypt in June.

Since the fall of the Mubarak regime, Egypt has had to recalibrate its interactions with Israel and Palestine. The August attack exposed a particular set of vulnerabilities in Egypt’s security policies. The country was already shaken by riots and sectarian violence challenging Morsi’s presidency, and the border incident placed the spotlight on the messy question of who actually controls the country’s national security policy. » More

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