The Politics of Oil in Today’s Middle East

Old Gas Station. Image: Rob Brewer/Flickr

On 26 March 2015, the ISN hosted an Evening Talk on “The Politics of Oil in Today’s Middle East.” The featured speaker was Dr. Gawdat Bahgat, who is currently a Professor of National Security Affairs at the US National Defense University’s Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies. The following video excerpts highlight the observations Dr. Bahgat made in his prepared remarks and in a follow-on question and answer (Q&A) session which was moderated by the ISN’s Peter Faber. » More

High Stakes: Understanding Risk and Why This Year’s Climate Negotiations Are So Important

Arctic ice sea. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

This article was originally published on 6 April 2015 by New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

Expectations for the upcoming UN climate change summit in Paris are higher than they’ve been in years. Experts expect it will be the best chance to achieve a binding, universal agreement to limit carbon emissions. But the conference is still not getting the attention it deserves from policymakers and the public, given the stakes – and not just for the environment but for the international system writ large, said Nick Mabey, founding director and chief executive of the UK-based environmental NGO E3G at the Wilson Center on February 12. » More

Cuba: The Embargo Continues

A ship leaving the port of Havana, Cuba. Image: Travel Aficionado/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 3 April, 2015.

Since the Obama administration announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, it’s common to hear people talk about what will happen “now that the embargo has ended.”  The new measures are significant for the tone that they set, and there are some concrete changes that will result.  It will be easier for certain limited categories of US citizens to travel to Cuba, and the tension between the two governments is somewhat reduced.  But the embargo is still very much in place. » More

Is Russia Really a Threat to NATO?

A Russian officer guarding the Kaliningrad border. Image: Igor Zarembo/Flickr

Russia’s ongoing military modernization program continues to alarm NATO’s eastern flank. Over the next five years, Moscow aims to have revitalized between 70 – 100 percent of the country’s armed forces. To assist, the Russian military budget was increased by 33% this year, to approximately 3.3 trillion Rubles ($81 billion), or 4.2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with an estimated $700 billion to be spent between now and 2020.

Yet, can Moscow really afford its current defense spending spree? And why has Russian President Vladimir Putin decided that the time to revitalize the country’s armed forces is now? Part of the answer to these questions lies in a concurrent development in Russian defense policy – the recent adoption of the country’s new military doctrine. » More

China’s Domino Tactics Boost Infrastructure Bank

President Jacob Zuma receiving the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping in Pretoria in March of 2013. Image: GovernmentZA/Flickr

This article was originally published by the CIPS Blog, hosted by the Centre for International Policy Studies on 22 March 2015.

China is looking ever the experienced super-power. In a week it has scooped up all the important European dominos, humiliating a U.S. government which has lobbied hard to block the launch of China’s new $50b Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The dominos have fallen quickly. Last week it was the UK’s turn to join, preferring its commercial interest and geo-political judgment over its friendship with the U.S. Now it is a coordinated set of EU announcements from France, Germany and Italy. The driver was their desire to be well-connected economic partners in Asia, but there was also an element of blowback on U.S. geo-political arrogance, be it spying on Angela Merkel or military jingoism towards Russia. » More

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