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  • Author: John R. Haines
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Several weeks after winning a plurality in Bulgaria’s late March parliamentary election, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov did something unprecedented: he brought the nationalist United Patriots (Obedineni Patrioti) into his coalition government. The United Patriots is an electoral alliance of three parties, the IMRO[2]-Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO-Bulgarsko Natsionalno Dvizhenie), the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (Natzionalen Front za Spasenie na Bulgaria), and Attack (Attaka). Their inclusion in the coalition government has given rise to concern among Bulgaria’s NATO allies (and many Bulgarian themselves) about what the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Korneliya Ninova called Mr. Borissov’s “floating majority, his unprincipled alliance”[3] (plavashti mnozinstva, bezprintsipni sŭyuzi). That concern is well placed for several reasons. Only a few years ago, even the nationalist IMRO-BND and NFSB excluded the radical Ataka[4] from their electoral alliance dubbed the “Patriotic Front” (Patriotichen front) because of Ataka’s positions on Russia and NATO. Even then, however, the Patriotic Front’s “nationalist profile” (natsionalisticheskiyat profil) was so far to Bulgaria’s political right to cause Mr. Borissov to exclude the Patriotic Front from his coalition government. He did so with the active encouragement of his center-right European People’s Party allies across the European Union. “Nothing against the PF, but unfortunately the things Valeri Simeonov [a PF leader, more about whom anon] proposes do not correspond to our Euro-Atlantic orientation,” said Mr. Borissov at the time.[5]
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Nationalism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Bulgaria
  • Author: Hajnalka Vincze
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: “One only comes out of ambiguity to their own detriment,” this maxim often repeated by former President François Mitterrand sounds like a premonitory warning in the aftermath of Emmanuel Macron’s election in France. Indeed, for the new president whose figure of speech, “but at the same time,” has practically become his trademark during the campaign, the inevitable clarifications are likely to entail hurdles. In the economic and social policy field, Macron’s “right and left” positioning enabled him to capture a wide audience, but at the cost of sometimes contradictory statements that might prove to be difficult to reconcile between two very different camps. In foreign policy, who Macron appoints to key position should lift part of the mystery as to the actual preferences of the new president. While claiming to want to perpetuate the voluntarist Gaullo-Mitterrandian tradition, Emmanuel Macron has so far given no indication that he would break with the policy carried out over the past ten years, a policy that resulted precisely in the noticeable vanishing of what used to
  • Topic: International Affairs, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: France
  • Author: David Danelo
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On January 29, 2016, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a law changing the official name of Mexico’s capital region from Distrito Federal, or D.F., to Ciudad de Mexico. Beyond altering nearly two centuries of dialectical urban description—the region had been called D.F. since 1824 when Mexico’s first constitution was written—the adjustment grants Ciudad de Mexico a level of autonomous governance similar to the country’s other 31 states. The name change devolved power from Mexico’s federal government “to the citizens of Mexico City” and was presented with great public fanfare. Much of Ciudad de Mexico’s new constitution, which was signed in February 2017 and will become law in September 2018, was crowd-sourced from online petitions and community advocates. With articles enshrining green space and LGBT protections, the document has been hailed by liberal advocates as the most progressive in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: June Teufel Dreyer
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The first 100 days of a president’s term—the “honeymoon period,” during which his power and influence are believed to be their greatest—are, whether rightly or wrongly, regarded as a predictor of a president’s success during the remainder of his term. Given the often bombastic tone of Candidate Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it was to be expected that the foreign powers against whom much of his vitriol was directed would seek to challenge the determination of President Trump to live up to his promises. And so it has been.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lawrence Husick
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: In Greek mythology, the Hydra was a many-headed serpent (accounts range from six to more than 50 heads) which grew back at least two heads for each one lopped off. The Hydra had poisonous breath and blood so virulent that even its scent was deadly. It took Heracles to vanquish the beast in his second labor. It’s a pity then that the less-than-heroic Jared Kushner now has the task of modernizing and reforming the federal government’s information technology (IT) and cybersecurity infrastructure—a hydra-like beast if ever there was one.
  • Topic: International Security
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John R. Haines
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The Hungarian proverb Madarat tolláról, embert barátjáról translates roughly as “You can tell a bird by its feathers, and a person by his friends.” If so, it says much about Hungarian President Viktor Orbán. Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked during a 12 April interview with Russia’s MIR television and radio network whether “relations deteriorated with Trump in office from what they were under his predecessor?” He answered, “We could say that at the working level, the degree of trust has dropped, especially in the military area. It has not improved and has probably worsened.”[1] Mr. Putin premised this appraisal with an extended dissemble about “several versions” about “the chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province, which led to the US air strike on a Syrian air base:”
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Hungary
  • Author: June Teufel Dreyer
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Palm Beach heaved a collective sigh of relief as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plane lifted off from the county airport. Gone were the noisy cheers of his supporters and the anti-Xi banners and jeers of Falongong practitioners, human rights advocates, and admirers of Tibet and Taiwan. The Palm Beach Post reverted from moment-to-moment briefings from the chief of police on street blockages and security precautions to issues of more immediate concern like rip tides and coverage of the Master’s golf tournament competition. Members of Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago private club, whose initiation fee had doubled to $200,000 after his election, could now return to accessing the privileges for which they had paid so handsomely.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: China, America
  • Author: David Danelo
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: “You should have said something,” a perturbed Chilean university professor tells me in Spanish, soon after we disembarked from a bus in Córdoba, Mexico. Wearing combat boots, fatigues, and a shaved head with scrubby facial hair, the short, slender, middle-aged man had watched me get inspected three times by Mexican migration and military personnel while traveling north from the Mexico-Guatemala border. At each checkpoint, I was the only passenger who drew attention; my passport and documents permitting me to travel through Mexico were scrutinized, and each compartment in my backpack was unzipped. The Chilean, who looked like he could have been in the military himself, claimed he was an advisor to Mexican border forces. “They were profiling you. They are not supposed to do that.” I laughed. Of course, they were profiling me. I look exactly like what I am: a gringo; a güero; an American. Given the attitude the United States government has directed recently towards Mexico, why wouldn’t I be a primary target for extra security screenings? I considered myself fortunate that Mexican authorities were content with seeing my passport and searching my backpack. All things considered, it was a courteous reprieve
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: Artyom Lukin
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Russia is now the only major country that is on more or less friendly terms with Pyongyang. Its current economic leverage with the North comes mostly from the importation of North Korean labor, which provides Pyongyang with a vital source of cash. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) trusts no person or country, but it probably distrusts Russia much less than China and the United States. This dynamic gives Russia a potential diplomatic role in the North Korean problem. The Kremlin does not support using high pressure tactics against Pyongyang, especially military options, as it might have unpredictable and disastrous consequences for the entire Northeast Asian region. Moscow is committed to the denuclearization of North Korea, but sees it as a long-term goal, while the most realistic objective at present should be a North Korean nuclear and missile moratorium, or “freeze.”
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: North Korea