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Showing posts from April 30, 2014

The Iraqi Kurds' Waiting Game Could Be Near an End

April marks the two-year anniversary of the Kurdistan Regional Government's stoppage of oil exports to protest what many Kurds considered unfair export terms from Baghdad. The Iraqi government responded by severely constraining budgetary allowances for Arbil. But with Iraqi national elections slated for April 30, there are indications that the Kurds' years-long game of brinksmanship with Baghdad could be coming to an end.

In the years surrounding the 2012 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, nervous Kurds were desperate to find a regional backer to support their local autonomy against Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arab political forces. Starting in 2003, Turkish firms eager to gain a share of their regional government's energy revenue windfall built roads, schools and power plants with favorable credit terms as part of Turkish foreign policy prerogatives for the region.

Facing rising authoritarianism and a consolidation of political power in Baghdad, the Kurds made a gamble in April 201…

Despite Weak U.S. Sanctions, Russia Plans for the Worst

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin (L), one of the officials targeted in new U.S. sanctions, in October.(ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)


The United States expanded sanctions on Russian officials and companies on April 28 in response to what Washington says is continued Russian aggression in Ukraine. Though the list of sanctions includes many of Russia's most important figures and entities, it remains fairly weak -- particularly in light of recent U.S. government leaks indicating that Washington was considering imposing far more painful sanctions on Russia. The European Union is expected to release its expansion of sanctions on April 29, but these will likely be even weaker than those imposed by the United States. These moves will probably elicit a response from Moscow, but neither side appears to have the appetite to take more forceful action against the other. Nonetheless, efforts by Russian companies to protect themselves from tougher U.S. sanc…

NATO: The Current State of Play

NATO weathered the Cold War significantly better than its Warsaw Pact rivals, but it did not escape unscathed. Without the anchor of the Soviet bloc, NATO was cut adrift from its strategic imperative, suffering diminished budgets and dwindling force levels. Despite this, NATO has conducted more operations since the fall of the Soviet Union than it did during the previous four decades of carefully orchestrated stalemate. A modern NATO has been forced to learn new lessons, forged in the crucible of intervention, global terrorism and numerous Balkan winters. The new, adaptive framework of NATO has enabled members to conserve resources and avoid the associated costs of large standing forces. However, without these large armies the alliance has lost some of its deterrence capability, forcing it to be a relatively slow reactor to world events.


The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 compelled NATO to re-evaluate its reason for being

South Stream Support Could Further Fragment the EU

Workers weld together sections of the South Stream pipeline in Serbia in November 2013.(ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)


EU institutions and some countries in Central and Eastern Europe keep moving in their own directions regarding relations with Russia. In recent months, the South Stream pipeline -- which could bring Russian natural gas to countries in the Balkans and Central Europe, bypassing Ukraine -- has become a source of friction between Brussels and Moscow as well as between the European Union and the member states involved in the project. Bulgaria has been pushing for the construction of the pipeline despite warnings by the EU Commission that it could go against European norms. Austria recently also regained interest in the project.

The Ukraine crisis is deepening existing divisions within the European Union, and the debate over South Stream -- where some member states are putting their national interests ahead of Brussels' policies -- is a perfect illustration. Fr…