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

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

Al-Shabaab’s Kenyan Ambitions

The flag of the terrorist group ‘Al-Shabaab’. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group on its ‘In Pursuit of Peace’- Blog on 15 April 2015.

Why is Al-Shabaab increasingly targeting Kenya?

In its statement following the attack, Al-Shabaab claimed it acted to avenge atrocities it alleges have been committed by the Kenyan military deployed in Somalia (now part of the African Union peace-support operation AMISOM). This puts pressure on the Kenyan commitment to that mission. Al-Shabaab also claimed that its fight is to liberate “all Muslim lands under Kenyan occupation”, including “north-astern province and the coast”. Despite being anachronistic given Kenya’s recent divisions into county based government, this language chimes with pan-Somali nationalist and irredentist slogans of the 1960s and 70s. » More

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

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