After decades of Cold War hostility and economic embargoes, President Barack Obama held a historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro on April 11, marking an important step toward diplomatic normalization between the two nations. At a news conference, President Obama emphasized that “it was time to try something new…to engage more directly with the Cuban government and the Cuban people. And as a consequence, I think we are now in a position to move on a path towards the future.” In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the U.S.-Cuba diplomatic normalization.
Chinese media reflected positively on the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. (more…)Continue Reading →
Nationalism has recently become more salient in Russian foreign policy debates, especially after the annexation of Crimea last year. How does this resurgence of nationalism affect Russia’s foreign policy and its relationship with the United States and Europe? Should we expect to see a more assertive Russia in the coming years?
There are three broad schools of thought in Russian foreign policy discourse: 1) liberal westernizers; 2) great power balancers; and 3) Russian nationalists. President Vladimir Putin came into power as a great power balancer who at times tacked toward the liberal westernizer camp and at times toward the Russian nationalist camp. But with his decision to annex Crimea one year ago and later in the spring and summer of 2014 to directly support an insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, Putin has firmly placed himself in the camp of Russian nationalists, in fact, quite a chauvinistic strain of Russian nationalism at that.
The question one year later remains why Vladimir Putin took this dramatic and dangerous step. It appears he did so to more firmly consolidate domestic political support for his leadership. Over the course of more than twelve years of his two terms of de jure leadership as President and one term of de facto leadership as Prime Minister, Mr. Putin’s high popularity ratings were principally buttressed by robust economic growth and a sense of growing prosperity among the Russian people.
However, when he returned to the Presidency in May 2012, Russia’s economic performance began to plummet. In 2013, growth stagnated to a meager 1.3%, and on the eve of the military occupation of Crimea at the end of February, growth was close to zero, the ruble was losing value, and capital flight was at an all-time high rate. (more…)Continue Reading →
Rajesh Rajagopalan, Professor at the Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University, recently offered his critical view on the Iran nuclear deal reached last Thursday between US Security Council plus Germany and Tehran, in a piece published by Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He argues that the lack of details in the deal makes the conclusion of a final agreement, expected by the end of June, difficult, and that “the Iranians are correct about Obama and Kerry trying to spin what has been agreed to.”
Iran and the major powers (EU3+3) have reached a very preliminary and extremely vague agreement on principles for an agreement, released in the form of an exceedingly brief joint statement of less than 500 words. Whether this ’agreement about an agreement’ would lead to an actual deal is anybody’s guess, but it’s not going to be easy. Both sides have agreed it will be done by June 30, but no one should be surprised if this self-imposed is missed.
One reason for the difficulty in reaching an actual deal is that in their desire to conclude this political framework, a lot has been left fuzzy which will need to be clarified in the actual deal. The advantage of leaving things unclear is that both sides can claim victory (and they are), but the problem is that they are already disagreeing in their interpretation of what has been agreed. Within hours of the joint statement being released, the Iranians criticised the Obama administration for ’spinning’ the deal in a factsheet the White House released. For their part, the Iranians also released their own ’factsheet’, with their interpretation of the agreement.
The joint statement released by Iran and the EU3+3 provides few details. The White House factsheet is three times longer and provides specifics, but it’s a US interpretation of what was agreed, parts of which Teheran has already dismissed. For example, the White House factsheet specifies durations for the deal: number of centrifuges will be limited for 10 years, uranium enrichment will be limited for 15, no new enrichment facilities for 15 years and so on. But the official joint statement mentions no time limits for the agreement, using phrases such as ’specified duration’ and ’mutually agreed period of time’. (more…)Continue Reading →
Last Thursday, the 18-month-long negotiations between the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 + 1) and Iran finally reached a framework agreement designed to curtail the Iranian nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions against the country. President Barack Obama called the deal a “historic understanding” between Washington and Tehran, urging Congress, U.S. allies in the Middle East, and the Iranian regime to work toward a final agreement by a June 30 deadline. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil on the Iran nuclear deal. (more…)Continue Reading →