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Showing posts from December 16, 2013

Ukraine Enters a Critical Period

As protests continue in Kiev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Dec. 13 held talks with three opposition leaders: popular boxer and political activist Vitali Klitschko, nationalist Oleh Tyahnybok, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of the leaders of the party of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko. Ukraine's religious leaders and three former presidents, including Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko, also joined them for a two-hour discussion about the country's European aspirations and the treatment of protesters. Despite the ongoing protests and pressure from the West, Yanukovich has refused to agree to opposition demands for a new election. This weekend, large-scale competing protests are planned in the capital. On Dec. 16, Yanukovich will travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be discussing the situation with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels. The outcome of these…

Singapore's Immigration Dilemma

Firefighters hose down a burned ambulance after riots in Singapore on Dec. 8. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)


Singapore has long been a destination for immigrants. Inflows of foreign laborers fueled economic growth and helped make its economy as strong as it is today, thanks in part to a liberal immigration policy. But Singaporean officials and residents alike may be reconsidering this policy. Citizens are becoming anxious about the growing number of migrant workers, and migrant workers feel aggrieved by what they consider unfair treatment and substandard social status.

Tensions came to the fore Dec. 8 during an episode of uncharacteristic violence. Some 400 immigrants, most of whom were Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepalese workers, rioted after an Indian national was hit and killed by a bus. They set fire to nearby vehicles and attacked police and emergency services workers. Violence subsided only after roughly 300 police officers were deployed to the area. Two days later, author…

The Policy Impact of North Korea's Latest Purge and Execution

South Korean TV broadcasts news about the alleged dismissal of Jang Song Thaek on Dec. 3. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)


Analysis Update: Shortly after the North Korean government confirmed Jang Song Thaek's execution Dec. 12 for crimes against the state, South Korean media reported that two deputy prime ministers were rumored to have fled to China. The rapid purge and subsequent execution suggests the regime feared there was a slow coup forming in North Korea. However, this did not necessarily entail a rapid military move.

Jang worked with the Chinese even before Kim Jong Il's death to solidify his own power and effectively be China's regent for running North Korea. He was also in charge of keeping Kim Jong Il's successor, Kim Jong Un, in line. Jang's power and influence were relatively substantial, but it came with a high cost. There are many among North Korea's elite families and interest groups who have seen themselves and their power eroded by Jang…

Turkish Relations with Russia Hinge on Iran


Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Armenia on Dec. 12 to participate in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation meeting. Turkey has a troubled relationship with its neighbor, and this was Davutoglu's first trip to Yerevan since 2009. His visit comes a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Armenia, a close Russian ally that in September announced its decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union.

Davutoglu's decision to renew efforts to normalize relations with Armenia is the outcome of a significant reorientation in regional dynamics. Warming relations between the United States and Iran are motivating both Turkey and Russia to re-evaluate their regional strategies. Should the American rapprochement with Iran continue, Turkey will likely attempt to indirectly challenge Russia, competing for influence in two strategic regions: the Black Sea and the Caucasus.


One of Russia's main strategic goals is to extend its in…

Catalonia Announces a Referendum on Independence


Catalonia's announced independence referendum is an open challenge to the Spanish government, but it is also part of a difficult compromise between the members of the autonomous region's fragile ruling coalition. The Catalan government released news of the referendum, scheduled for Nov. 9, 2014, and which Madrid considers illegal, on Dec. 12.

The ambiguous wording of the referendum will likely exacerbate existing fault lines within the Catalan government, enabling Madrid to manage Catalonia's bid for secession. Even if on the surface it looks as if Catalonia is making progress on its path to independence, the situation has only gotten more complicated for the region.


The president of Catalonia's regional government, Artur Mas, said the November referendum will include two questions. The first will ask the Catalans if they want Catalonia to be a state. In case people respond affirmatively, there will be a second question: whether Catalonia should be an in…

Libya's Latest Oil Standoff

Libyan protesters gather Dec. 13 in Tripoli to call for an end to a monthslong blockade of oil terminals by armed groups. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)


International oil markets are apprehensive about ongoing negotiations in Libya, where political and security concerns ranging from labor protests to campaigns for federalism brought oil production nearly to a standstill in August. For the past few months, terminals in the eastern cities of Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina, which at 600,000 barrels of crude per day account for 60 percent of total exports, have been offline almost continuously, depriving the country of much-needed revenue. Though local tribal leaders and the country's nominal central authority are confident that eastern Libyan oil production will restart Dec. 15, Tripoli still faces significant challenges in guaranteeing and protecting its energy industry.


At the center of the dispute is former rebel commander-turned-regional Petroleum Facilities G…