Photo by Chris LeBoutillier from Pexels
By Shawn Rostker
The Russian Federation has a history of using energy policy as a coercive tool of foreign policy. This practice dates back to the late 1980’s before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It continued through the early years of the newly formed Russian state as it sought to rebuild from economic ruin. Moscow, in its contemporary form, continues to exercise this practice as it seeks to capitalize on its natural abundance of oil and natural gas reserves. Currently, Russia boasts the world’s largest proven reserves of natural gas with roughly 48 trillion cubic meters. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s most recent figures it is also the world’s number one annual exporter of natural gas at over 210 billion cubic meters. While the playbook may not be new, the Russian state is not the same player that the Soviet Union was. The Soviet Union struggled to implement these tactics effectively due to an incompetent central planning system, disjointed leadership structures, and their failure to adequately maintain technological progress due to a lack of incentive schemes. Over the course of the last twenty years, however, Russia has consolidated its energy industries under state purview, established a vertically-oriented ladder of leadership, provided incentive and opportunity for innovation, and strengthened its economic might through integration into global markets. These characteristics enable Russia to behave more subversively within bilateral partnerships.
Continue reading “Op-Ed: The Strategic Shifts Caused by Nord Stream 2 and What the United States Can Do Moving Forward”
An organized demonstration protesting the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in San Francisco, CA.
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
By Gabriella Clinton
Last week, the U.S. State Department, under the guidance of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, officially accused the Chinese government of committing genocide and other crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims and other religious and ethnic minority groups living in the Xinjiang region. This statement was released on the last full day of the Trump Administration—Tuesday, January 19th. The Chinese government has since denied the accusations; however, it is estimated that as many as 2 million Uyghur Muslims, as well as members of other minority Muslim groups, have been detained in internment camps located throughout the country’s northwestern region. This abuse of human rights and endorsement of ethnic cleansing by the government has occurred for several decades, but drastically intensified around March 2017.
Continue reading “Op-Ed: Genocide in Xinjiang?: The Complexities of the U.S. State Department’s Declaration”
“Security Council Adopts Resolution on Iran Nuclear Deal” by United Nations Photo is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
By Shawn Rostker
The New York Times reported recently that President Donald Trump sought out options for military engagement with Iran after a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material was reported by international inspectors. Senior advisers persuaded the President not to engage with Iran out of fear that it could escalate quickly into a more wide-scale conflict. The Trump administration has been walking a tight rope with Iran since it withdrew its support from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action) in the earliest days of its tenure. Since that point, Iran has increased its production of low-grade uranium beyond the limits laid out by the landmark nonproliferation agreement and increasingly restricted regulatory commissions’ access to its nuclear facilities and centrifuges.
The Trump administration’s inept foreign policy has backed itself into this corner it now finds itself in; a corner in which the president considers a military strike on an Iranian nuclear compound to be a viable solution to a problem that his administration has been unable to quell. The “maximum pressure” campaign the Trump administration has waged against Iran has been brutish and clumsy, and has failed to achieve any of its preconditions to restarting negotiations. Instead it has inflamed U.S./Iranian relations, corroded diplomatic channels of communication, and brought us to the brink of war on multiple occasions. Additionally, our reneging on the multilateral commitment has emboldened the most hawkish, anti-Western elements within Iran, and politically empowered the factions most fervently opposed to working with us. The outgoing administration’s parochial foreign policy has inflicted lasting damage that will affect U.S./Iranian relations for years to come. The incoming administration will be forced to deal with an Iranian regime increasingly hostile towards U.S. interests and increasingly skeptical of U.S. entanglement. If we are able to escape the final weeks of this current administration without plunging into war with Iran, we will have narrowly avoided catastrophe. Unfortunately however, the damage done will remain, and the United States will face an Iran growing in nuclear-capability and ambition and reshaping regional power in a direction detrimental to United States’ interests in the Middle East.