Must Reads

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

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

BuzzFeed: 60 Words and a War Without End: The Untold Story of the Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History

Author: Gregory Johnsen

"Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here's how it came to be, and what it's since come to mean."

See more in United States; Counterterrorism

FT: A Bullingdon Bust-Up That Masks a Real Welfare Problem

Author: Gideon Rachman

"The enlargement of the EU and the free movement of people are both fine ideas. But, taken together, they have changed the nature of the union. A pragmatic pro-European should acknowledge that, when circumstances alter, democratic systems adapt. Changes to the welfare rules – allowing countries more scope to give priority to their own citizens – would make it easier to win the more important argument for open borders."

See more in Europe; Society and Culture

New America Foundation: Do NSA's Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorists?

Authors: Peter Lampert Bergen, David Sterman, Emily Schneider, and Bailey Cahall

"Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group.... The overall problem for U.S. counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don't sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques."

See more in United States; Defense and Security

FT: Investment: Dollar Disruptions

Author: Robin Wigglesworth

"A dollar renaissance is unlikely to prove as agonising as it did in the past. The biggest risk in 2014 is going to be the more immediate impact that the Fed's unwinding of its quantitative easing programme will have on global borrowing costs. Chinese economic growth – a big driver of emerging economies – is another wild card. But a stronger dollar will not prove painless and policy makers in the developing world should not be complacent."

See more in Global; Economics

Cairo Review of Global Affairs: Legitimizing an Undemocratic Process in Egypt

Author: Michele Dunne

"It will be nearly impossible for observers to do a credible job under the present conditions in Egypt. And even if the referendum goes smoothly, it is not at all clear that the vote will make a meaningful contribution to getting Egypt back onto a democratic path. Observers and foreign governments, including the United States, would do well to make sure that their engagement and statements keep the focus on the big picture of Egypt's worrisome trajectory."

See more in Egypt; Elections; Democratization

Harper's Magazine: The Pious Spy: A Taliban Intelligence Chief's Death and Resurrection

Author: Mujib Mashal

"Perhaps Ahmadullah no longer feels that his life is at risk. Unlike al-Qaeda, the Taliban have emerged from the past decade remarkably unscathed. Many of the group's leaders have vanished into tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and others live in urban areas—such as Quetta and Karachi—where U.S. drones could not reasonably operate. Still, if Ahmadullah who is no older than forty-seven, has any hope of playing a role in Afghanistan's future, he will have to emerge at some point from 'under the grave.'"

See more in Afghanistan; Intelligence

Journal of Democracy: Breaking the News: The Role of State-Run Media

Authors: Christopher Walker and Robert W. Orttung

"Aside from outliers such as Cuba, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, today's authoritarian regimes do not seek total domination of all the means of mass communication. What they want instead is what we might call "effective media control"—enough for them to convey their strength and puff up their claims to legitimacy while undermining potential alternatives. Such state dominance—whether exerted through overtly state-run or merely state-pliable media outlets—enables regimes to put progovernment narratives front and center while using the power of editorial omission to limit systematic criticism of official policies and actions."

See more in Global; Media and Foreign Policy