Cuba: Russia’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Havana, Cuba. Image:

This article was originally published by the Jamestown Foundation on 30 October, 2015. Republished with permission.

Despite all of the other major foreign policy issues on its agenda, Russia has not forgotten Cuba. Indeed, it appears that Moscow’s strategic interest in this Caribbean island country has grown steadily, despite reported stagnation in their bilateral economic ties (, October 22). Recently, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced plans to establish a signals calibration center in Cuba for Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System, more commonly known as GLONASS—the Russian equivalent of the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS). He also announced that Russia may set up an aviation engineering center in Cuba (TASS, October 22). These initiatives are not coincidences or wholly new gambits. Russia has sought to reestablish military bases in Cuba for some time. For instance, in February 2014, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Moscow was seeking a network of global naval bases that included Cuba and Nicaragua; and Russia could be discussing similar arrangements with Argentina as well (RIA Novosti, February 26, 2014). Although Moscow’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, denied that Russia was seeking or needs foreign bases, he did admit that his country wants “repair and maintenance stations” for its ocean-going fleet. Yet, at the same time, Shoigu observed that Moscow not only wanted the use of ports for its ships but also installations for the refueling of its long-range bombers (TASS, March 17, 2014). » More

Obama’s Failure to Demilitarize US Foreign Policy

Obama exiting a camouflaged Air Force One. Image: Truthout/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 30 October, 2015.

The Obama administration has received much attention for its policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. The rebalance has been described as President Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative. Launched in 2009, it has received much attention from academics, practitioners, think tanks, and the media. In reality, the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been more evolutionary than revolutionary; a U.S. shift in focus and grand strategy began well before President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.

If the Obama presidency in fact initiated a revolutionary rebalancing, it was his effort to rebalance American foreign policy generally from over-reliance on the military and toward greater reliance on diplomacy and development. Despite a concerted effort, when viewed through several lenses it seems clear that demilitarization has failed and U.S. foreign policy remains very, perhaps overly, militarized. As a result, the Pentagon can expect to be handed messy military operations short of inter-state war that it may not be prepared, equipped, or organized to handle efficiently or effectively. » More

Ten Quick Steps to Reset Canadian Foreign Policy

Justin Trudeau at Canada 2020 on June 22, 2015, speaking on rebuilding the Canada-US relationship. Image: Canada 2020/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for International Policy Studies on 20 October, 2015.

Foreign policy rarely becomes a matter of electoral debate in Canada. But this time was different. The refugee crisis in Europe, trade negotiation deadlines, and Canada’s involvement in the Syria conflict — all pushed foreign policy under the electoral microscope for significant parts of the campaign. The decision of the three main party leaders to participate in a two-hour debate dedicated to foreign policy brought added attention. » More

How Abe is Losing the Narrative on Japan’s New Security Laws

The Prime Minster of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Image: vrchase/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 9 October, 2015.

Japan’s new security laws, which were passed on 19 September and allow for limited forms of collective self-defence, have been described as a ‘move away from pacifism’, the opening of a ‘Pandora’s box’ and the ‘unsheathing of a new Japanese sword’. But considering the bill’s extreme limitations and significant domestic constraints — including a greying and shrinking population, mounting domestic debt and deeply embedded pacifist norms — one wonders how and why this narrative has taken root so deeply. » More

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Where does Oman and Iran’s Pipeline leave Saudi Arabia?

Flag of Oman. Source: Flickr Groundhopping Merseburg

This article was originally published by Gulf State Analytics on 24 September, 2015.

Recent reports suggest that officials in the Sultanate of Oman and the Islamic Republic of Iran have given the go-ahead for the rumored 173-mile underwater gas pipeline connecting the two nations. As of March 2013, only an “understanding” had been reached. The new reports raise clear implications for the wider Gulf region, particularly Saudi Arabia.

For decades, and especially since the “Arab Spring” uprisings several years ago, Saudi Arabia has attempted to bind its smaller Gulf neighbors in a tight bloc to counter perceived Iranian aggression. On numerous occasions, Riyadh has provided military and economic support for its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The Saudis have also pushed for the establishment of a Gulf union comprising the Council’s six member states. The kingdom’s objective has been to further bind the GCC together in a united political and economic front vis-à-vis Iran. » More

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