Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia

View from Nicosia of the Northern Cyprus flag painted on the southern slope of the Kyrenia Mountains, January 4
View from Nicosia of the Northern Cyprus flag painted on the southern slope of the Kyrenia Mountains, January 4 (Wikimedia Commons/Alexander Savin)

Located between Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has historically been of strategic significance to powers on either side of the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of natural gas off its shores has raised the island’s geopolitical profile — and might help it overcome communal tensions.

Cypriot waters are estimated to contain between 140 and 220 billion cubic meters of gas with an approximate value of €38 billion.

Exploration should spur economic growth and could make it easier for internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkey to hash out a compromise for the future of the island. Read more

Quit Talking About World War III

American soldiers observe a nuclear weapons test in the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, November 15, 1952
American soldiers observe a nuclear weapons test in the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, November 15, 1952 (NNSA)

Especially after the downing of a Syrian jet by the Americans.

It’s in The Sun, on talk radio and, of course, whispered by the “underground” corners of the Internet. Passive monitoring of geopolitical movements have led far too many to conclude the next world war is right around the corner.

It isn’t. Not that it can’t be, just that it isn’t. At least, not over Syria or North Korea. Read more

Why America and Russia Are Closer to Confrontation in Syria

American sailors direct an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean, November 16, 2015
American sailors direct an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean, November 16, 2015 (USN/L.A. Preston)

Russia has suspended a military hotline it maintained with the United States to avoid clashes in Syria and warned that it may shoot down any “flying objects” west of the River Euphrates.

The escalation comes after an American fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday that was attacking rebel ground forces supported by the United States in the vicinity of the Tabqa Dam. Read more

Russian Gas Pipeline Triggers Transatlantic Spat

German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015
German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

An Americans sanctions bill that explicitly mentions the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has set off alarm bells in Berlin and Vienna.

In a panicky joint statement, the foreign ministers of Germany and Austria urge the United States not to impose “illegal extraterritorial sanctions” on the European companies that are building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

Sigmar Gabriel, a social democrat, and Sebastian Kurz, a conservative, warn that such penalties could affect transatlantic relations in a “new and very negative way” and “diminish the effectiveness of our stance on the conflict in Ukraine.”

European countries and the United States are currently united in condemning Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support for an insurgency in southeastern Ukraine. Both sides have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read more

Trump and the Turks

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

As Donald Trump returns from his first international tour as American president, one thing that stands out is, as usual, the difference between his and Barack Obama’s approach to diplomacy. Whereas Obama’s first Mideast destinations were Turkey and Iraq, Trump’s were Saudi Arabia and Israel, a country Obama did not even visit until his second term in office.

Trump’s trip also included stops in Brussels, Sicily and the Vatican in Rome. Along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, these represent four of the five most significant allies of the United States within the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region: Italy, Israel, the Saudis and the EU.

The fifth ally, which appears to have been snubbed, is Turkey. The Turks were not honored with a stop during Trump’s first trip to the region, as they were during Obama’s.

Turkey failing to make it onto Trump’s travel itinerary might seem to be of little significance, if it were not for the flurry of unpleasant events involving the Turks and Americans that have occured this same month. Read more

Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice

Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at an event of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 29, 2014
Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at an event of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 29, 2014 (ImageLink Photography/Dennis Kan)

For almost a century, America’s strategic priority has been to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in Eurasia that could challenge it for world supremacy.

Halford Mackinder recognized as early as 1904 that a single power could lord over the continent if it controlled the entire Eurasian “Heartland”, stretching from Moscow to Tehran to Vladivostok.

Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas Spykman argued it was rather control of the “Rimlands” on the edge of Eurasia that could tip the balance of power: Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.

Their ideas were not mutually exclusive. They both informed the United States’ successful policy of containment during the Cold War. To block Russian ambitions, America allied with democratic Europe, Turkey, the shah’s Iran and Japan. It exploited the Sino-Soviet split and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to hasten the Soviet Union’s demise.

Now Donald Trump is overturning this century-old wisdom. Read more

Bashar Assad’s Big Push to Recover His Eastern Border

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enters a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enters a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Bashar al-Assad hadn’t had control of his Iraqi frontier for years. It’s a major headache; it’s allowed Sunni rebels to supply themselves from Anbar, a favorable route for Gulf states hoping to keep the war going.

It’s also allowed the Islamic State to slide supplies from its shrinking Iraqi domains to its shrunken Syrian ones.

The Islamic State famously demolished the literal border wall between the two countries. That was right after they blitzed across it to capture Mosul in June 2014.

Now Assad’s Iranian and Iraqi allies are hoping to rebuild the border and thereby secure the regime they’ve fought so hard to preserve. Read more