Must Reads

A sortable index of the best online analyses and inquiries on foreign policy.

New Republic: The Loneliness of Vladimir Putin

Author: Julia Ioffe

"The increasingly real threat of economic turmoil is already chipping away at Putin's power with more effectiveness than any protest movement. There is bound to be a vacuum when the forces of economics prevail. But a movement that is pulled in myriad different directions, that cannot decide on an identity, and yet lacks variety in its leaders cannot fill the void. By crushing the opposition, Putin has all but ensured that, once again, Russia's history will repeat itself, and only the wrong people will be there to step in—the ultra-nationalists, childlike faddists, and dangerous purists."

See more in Russia and Central Asia; Economics; Development

Al-Jazeera: Flipping the Corruption Myth

Author: Jason Hickel

"Many international development organizations hold that persistent poverty in the Global South is caused largely by corruption among local public officials. In 2003 these concerns led to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which asserts that, while corruption exists in all countries, this 'evil phenomenon' is 'most destructive' in the global South, where it is a 'key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.' There's only one problem with this theory: It's just not true."

See more in Global; Corruption and Bribery

ICG: The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration

"Recent attacks, including two in Volgograd, suggest that Islamist terrorists may try to strike across the country and embarrass Moscow during the Olympics, the preparations of which have been beset by allegations of abuses against the local populace. Beyond the immediate risk, they underline the urgent need to achieve a comprehensive political solution to the North Caucasus conflicts before rolling out fully an ambitious tourism project in republics that still have active insurgencies or have been seriously affected by conflict."

See more in Russian Federation; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights

Bloomberg: Turkey Crisis Puts Jailed Millionaire at Heart of Gold Trail

Author: Mehul Srivastava

"As western nations ring-fenced Iran's banks, they created a temporary market where gold could be used to pay Iran for its only major export: oil and gas. That chaotic marketplace created opportunities for men like Sarraf. He used his connections in Iran and Turkey to move almost a metric ton of gold to Iran every day for 1 1/2 years, according to a person familiar with his finances."

See more in Turkey; Corruption and Bribery

Politico: The Day We Lost Atlanta

Author: Rebecca Burns

"What happened in Atlanta this week is not a matter of Southerners blindsided by unpredictable weather. More than any event I've witnessed in two decades of living in and writing about this city, this snowstorm underscores the horrible history of suburban sprawl in the United States and the bad political decisions that drive it."

See more in United States; Disasters

FT: Growth and Globalisation Cannot Cure All the World's Ills

Author: Gideon Rachman

"Just as doctors fear the emergence of superbugs that will not respond to existing drugs, so world leaders are beginning to witness the emergence of new forms of political conflict that are resistant to their traditional prescriptions – more trade and more investment, washed down with a good dose of structural reform."

See more in Global; Economics

Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2014

"The praise bestowed on the father of post-apartheid South Africa was often delivered with more than a note of wistfulness. For it was apparent to many that the defining convictions of Mandela's career—commitment to the rule of law and democratic choice, rejection of score settling and vengeance seeking, recognition that regarding politics as a zero-sum game was an invitation to authoritarianism and civil strife—are in decidedly short supply among today's roster of political leaders. Indeed, the final year of Mandela's life was marked by a disturbing series of setbacks to freedom. For the eighth consecutive year, Freedom in the World, the report on the condition of global political rights and civil liberties issued annually by Freedom House, showed a decline in freedom around the world."

See more in Global; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights; Development

National Interest: Can Egypt Handle Ansar Bayt al Maqdis?

Author: David Barnett

"The Egyptian government blamed its bitter political rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood, for the Mansoura attack, despite ABM's claim of responsibility…. With significant support for their actions against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian government may not even care if ABM takes credit. With crowds calling for the Muslim Brotherhood's 'execution' after Friday's attack, to some respect it makes sense politically for the government to blame supporters of fallen Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi, who continue to partake in efforts to delegitimize the new regime. This is why Cairo, which believes it is in an existential battle, declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization shortly after the Mansoura bombing."

See more in Egypt; Terrorism

NYT: The Franchising of Al Qaeda

Author: Ben Hubbard

"As the power of the central leadership created by Osama bin Laden has declined, the vanguard of violent jihad has been taken up by an array of groups in a dozen countries across Africa and the Middle East, attacking Western interests in Algeria and Libya, training bombers in Yemen, seizing territory in Syria and Iraq, and gunning down shoppers in Kenya."

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Terrorism

NYT Magazine: Putin's Olympic Fever Dream

Author: Steven Lee Myers

"The megaproject has returned — another Soviet legacy pursued by the singular will of Vladimir Putin, who seems incapable of escaping the ideas that nurtured him from youth. The Olympics in Sochi are often called Putin's games, a profligate investment to prove to the world Russia's resurrection, a personal validation of his 14 years — and counting — as the country's paramount ruler."

See more in Russian Federation; Development

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China's Elite

Authors: Marina Walker Guevara, Gerard Ryle, Alexa Olesen, Mar Cabra, Michael Hudson, and Christoph Giesen

"The data illustrates the outsized dependency of the world's second largest economy on tiny islands thousands of miles away. As the country has moved from an insular communist system to a socialist/capitalist hybrid, China has become a leading market for offshore havens that peddle secrecy, tax shelters and streamlined international deal making."

See more in China; Economics

NYT: Patients' Costs Skyrocket; Specialists' Incomes Soar

Author: Elisabeth Rosenthal

"Doctors' charges — and the incentives they reflect — are a major factor in the nation's $2.7 trillion medical bill. Payments to doctors in the United States, who make far more than their counterparts in other developed countries, account for 20 percent of American health care expenses, second only to hospital costs."

See more in United States; Health

European Council on Foreign Relations: Syria's Uprising Within an Uprising

Author: Rania Abouzeid

"The armed Syrian opposition, in all of its disparate glory, has long talked of a revolution after its revolution to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a period when scores would be settled between various anti-Assad groups…. Elements of all of these various fault lines had become frontlines during isolated bouts of rebel infighting over the past year or more, but the decision by so many different groups to take on ISIS at the same time, and in so many locations, was surprising. What was also surprising was how quickly ISIS was initially routed from some areas."

See more in Syria; Defense and Security; Terrorism

New Yorker: The Syrian War's Private Donors Lose Faith

Author: Elizabeth Dickinson

"Since the Syrian revolution began, in 2011, private Kuwaiti donors like Herbash have been among its most generous patrons, providing what likely amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars to the armed opponents of Assad…. As the war took a more sectarian and extremist turn, so, too, did its private funders."

See more in Syria; Wars and Warfare

NYT: Does Egypt's Vote Matter?

Author: Ursula Lindsey

"This is the third constitutional referendum since Mr. Mubarak was forced out. Security conditions have deteriorated and political divisions deepened. Instead of real conversation about policies and politics, the debate has been reduced to slogans."

See more in Egypt; Politics and Strategy