Uzbekistan emerging from isolation
The rise of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to power in Uzbekistan has brought with it economic reform and billions of dollars in new investment. The country desperately needs foreign partners, both to diversify its economy and strengthen its military. China and Russia, respectively, have stepped in to play these roles. At the same time, the U.S. is withdrawing from the region. As the influence of Beijing and Moscow grows, President Mirziyoyev’s options will shrink.
2019 Global Outlook: The volatile Moscow-Kiev-Brussels triangle
In 2019, the geopolitical interplay between Russia, Ukraine and Europe will depend on their leaders. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin will have to decide whether to continue his assertive foreign policy. In Ukraine, the presidential election could bring the mercurial Yulia Tymoshenko to power – how she will deal with the war in the east remains a mystery. In Europe, the Franco-German alliance is losing traction. Rifts in the EU will deepen, making it impossible to present a united front on the challenges Russia and Ukraine present.
A new military buildup in the Balkans
Throughout the world, military spending is reaching new heights, as countries beef up their defense forces. The trend is evident in the Balkans, where both Russia and NATO plan to build new bases and countries in the region reverse their postwar demilitarization. With Kosovo deciding to create its own army and a dangerous land-swap deal with Serbia on the table, tensions are rising.
2019 Global Outlook: The Fertile Crescent
The single most important development in the Middle East has been the end of Syria’s civil war, which was unequivocally won by the Baath regime. Even the hammer blows of a determined religious opposition could not destroy the post-World War I system that created Syria, Iraq and Jordan as Arab states. But with the announced U.S. withdrawal from Syria and the victory of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian sponsors, the way could be cleared for an explosive confrontation with Israel.
Withdrawal from Syria: George Washington’s warning revisited
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria was neither a bolt from the blue nor a departure from his predecessor’s strategy. Even so, the announcement allowed a new and perhaps more stable configuration to emerge in the Middle East. While the short-term winner appears to be Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the longer-term advantage may be with the United States.
Opinion: Populism as Reformation
Though it is popular to contrast “populism” with “democracy,” the two are more alike than different. Like the Reformation 500 years ago, today’s populist movements aim to wrest power from the elites and give it back to the people. Instead of petering out, variations on the democratic populist system are likely to multiply, and traditional democratic models may undergo a radical renewal.
Tajikistan: A Sino-Russian flashpoint?
The drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan and Chinese persecution of the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang could turn Central Asia into a hotbed of jihadist terrorism. One country that is particularly vulnerable to such a resurgence is Tajikistan. It is also the area where Russian and Chinese security interests could most easily come into conflict.
China’s threat to Russia’s Far East: Real or perceived?
The vulnerability of Russia’s Far Eastern and Siberian regions to Chinese expansion has become a truism. Yet most Russians seem to favor closer ties with China, and bilateral relations may be at their best in history, without a trace of military or political tension. There are also few signs of Chinese economic penetration, at least on a level that exceeds Japan’s or South Korea’s. Migration pressure from China into the underpopulated Russian north may be the hollowest of these popular myths.
Macedonia: A new front in Russia-West tensions
Macedonia is moving forward with changing its name and securing membership in the EU and NATO, even though a referendum to approve these steps failed to meet minimum turnout requirement. But the damage has already been done. Russia, which does not want to see another Balkan country absorbed into Western institutions, has gained clout and could potentially scupper the process. That would leave Macedonia in limbo, creating further instability in this already volatile region.
Essay: As Russian history repeats itself, Putin becomes Yeltsin
Russia’s pension reform continues to reverberate in domestic politics. For the first time ever, President Vladimir Putin has assumed full personal responsibility for an unpopular decision that directly infringes on the lives of most Russians. The effects are already visible in his slumping popularity and in the startling results of gubernatorial elections in several regions. Mr. Putin could be looking for an electoral out as he follows the downhill path of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.