The Challenge of Arctic Cooperation

Image: flickr/NASA Goddard Space program

This article was originally published on the World Policy Blog on 13 May 2015.

Today, the global community is devoting unprecedented attention to the Arctic. Most people are primarily concerned with the effects of climate change, as the media often attributes the frequency of recent natural disasters to the significant warming of the Arctic. Meanwhile, businessmen are exploring new profit-making avenues through the extraction of the region’s rich natural resources, along with the development of the Northern Sea Route. Military officials are spending time and resources estimating emerging threats to regional security, while seeking appropriate ways to prevent them. Politicians of both Arctic and non-Arctic states are eager to participate in its exploration, weighing the pros and cons of their further involvement in Arctic affairs, as well as the expected gains and losses from cooperation or confrontation with other states. Finally, the residents of the Far North humbly are hoping that the new international spotlight their home has acquired will not negatively impact their lives.

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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

Building a Viable Ukraine: Can the EU Deliver?

Image: Wanderherr/Wikimedia

It has been clear for some time that EU governments, and most of their publics, find the thought of extending military support to conflict-ridden Ukraine wholly unpalatable.  Debates regarding the pros and (mostly) cons of sending European military aid and European peacekeepers have run their course throughout European capitals without much enthusiasm.

Against this background another struggle has begun to receive the attention of pundits, and rightly so. It is the long and arduous battle for a viable Ukrainian state, one that is built on a functioning democracy, a competitive economy, and the rule of law. This vision entails a process that The Economist has aptly termed de-oligarchisation and—most importantly—the ultimate objective of countering corruption.  If this vision is to succeed, the EU and Ukraine will have to demonstrate that they are as committed to each other as they claim to be. » More

Solving the ‘Rise’ Dilemma: How the Chinese Silk Road Initiative Could Challenge the United States

Symbolic image of a clash between the US and China. Image: Iecs/Wikimedia

On March 28, China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade presented the first national action plan to promote the “One Belt, One Road” initiative (一带一路, Yīdài yīlù). This initiative has become the economic and diplomatic priority of Chinese President Xi Jinping since the presentation of two complementary projects in late 2013: a “Silk Road Economic Belt” throughout the Eurasian continent, and a “21st century Maritime Silk Road”, connecting the South China Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. These initiatives aim to boost economic integration on the Eurasian continent and its peripheral seas through the construction of an infrastructure network. Beijing has been pursuing this goal through the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which has been joined by 56 countries including France and Germany, recently announced investments worth $46 billion to build a China–Pakistan Economic Corridor bypassing the Strait of Malacca, and the creation of a $40 billion Silk Road Fund. » More

Realignment in the Caucasus

Image: Travelpleb/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 22 April 2015.

An April 2 meeting between the defense ministers of Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan might have easily passed as routine. Yet in a region like the Caucasus, fraught with deeply entrenched interstate rivalries, this summit could hardly be described as inconsequential. At the meeting, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov identified Armenia as a regional threat, remarking that it “is the only state in the region which lays territorial claims to our countries.” The same day, Russian fighter jets stationed in Armenia began three-day drills. Though these two events probably coincided by chance, they illustrate two distinct – potentially competing –  regional orders in the South Caucasus: a deepening Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan coordination and a historic Russian presence represented by the Kremlin’s close alliance with Armenia. » More

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