Afghans celebrated the new access that Iran’s Chabahar port provides the country, but this victory may turn out to be a pyrrhic one. As recent as May 2016, India, Iran, and Afghanistan signed their first-ever trilateral partnership agreement allowing Indian goods to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran, while also inserting new geopolitically competing players into the region. Over one year later, in October 2017, the first shipment of Indian wheat arrived in Zaranj, Afghanistan, via Chabahar port.
No one needs to remind Poland of the strategic dangers arising from its geography. Often sandwiched between great European powers, Poland has been invaded, carved up, and occupied for over two centuries. During World War II, its mostly flat and open terrain made it particularly vulnerable to the mechanized armies of Germany and the Soviet Union. Today, Poland’s position is less tenuous, but still fraught. While its western and southern borders are anchored by friendly NATO countries, its eastern border abuts Russia’s military stronghold of Kaliningrad, Belarus (a close Russian ally), and Ukraine (a country riven by Russia).
Discussions concerning the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have lately shifted to when, rather than if, the group will ultimately be defeated. After being pushed out of longtime strongholds in places like Mosul and Raqqa, the group no longer appears to pose the kind of entrenched threat that prompted the intervention of global powers just a few short years ago. Surprisingly, the game of poker offers important lessons about the group’s changing strategy amid its current circumstances. One reason why poker is such a popular game is because it offers players with weak hands the opportunity to turn the tables on stronger opponents. While ISIS undoubtedly weakens with every passing day, the potential threat it poses remains at an all-time high. If the global community no longer takes this threat seriously, or shifts attention to other issues, ISIS could successfully reverse its fortunes.
In the two months between Vladimir Putin’s virtually assured victory on March 18 and the presentation of the new government in mid-May, Russia’s president will need to address three very different economic proposals. He’ll need to oversee enough change to satisfy the public without alienating an elite that has done exceedingly well through corruption and insider access.
On March 18, a significant number of Russian voters will go to the polls with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they want to vote for Putin—at least out of habit—but they are not very happy with the idea that Putin’s reelection means nothing will change in their lives for the subsequent six years. On the other hand, they are afraid to vote against Putin because they think that without him everything will come crashing down in Russia.
Russians are growing frustrated with poor healthcare, underfunded schools, and increasing poverty, a recent poll shows. As President Vladimir Putin prepares for his fourth term, he is making promises and boosting pensions. But he has a mixed record delivering enduring social goods. And in the past, benefits like pensions were often reversed soon after the vote.
It’s not unusual for U.S. politicians on the campaign trail to decry free trade. Most voters will be happy to hear that they can blame other countries for their own economic problems. And most politicians know that it’s safe to talk tough on trade before an election, but then they quietly reverse course once in office. Republicans, of course, usually don’t have to distance themselves from market liberalization; their constituencies usually favor free trade and preferential trade agreements.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly promised to tackle corruption. But in his new term, corruption is likely to get worse, not better. The rot of corruption in Russia is no failing of the system – in many ways it is the system working as intended.
Most Russians would be forgiven for skipping this month’s presidential election. With less than two weeks until polls open, we can say with strong confidence that Vladimir Putin will win his fourth term in office. Officials are taking no chances to ensure turnout isn’t embarrassingly low, however, mobilizing students and workers, plastering the regions with pro-Putin materials, and seemingly handpicking the other candidates allowed to run.
The news that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has invited Donald Trump for talks, and that Trump has accepted, is surely a breakthrough given the past months of sky-high tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missiles program. The two are tentatively set to meet in May of this year, but there is still a long way to go: talks could falter at the planning stage over issues such as what should be on the table, or where the parties should meet (or who should represent the countries). But for now, this is at least a step back from the brink that the world looked to be standing at only a few weeks or months ago.