John Feffer

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and a research fellow for Provisions Library Balkan Arts Project. He is the author of Shock Waves: Eastern Europe after the Revolutions.

Recent Articles

A Return to Diversity in the Balkans?

The failure of multi-party talks over Kosovo's independence has many bracing for further conflict in southeastern Europe. But the region is finding ways to negotiate conflict without violence.

Southeastern Europe is bracing for one final aftershock from the break-up of former Yugoslavia. The largely Albanian enclave of Kosovo is poised to declare its independence from Serbia after multi-party talks failed to reach a compromise by the UN deadline of December 10. Around the epicenter of Kosovo, the tectonic plates of geopolitics threaten to buckle much as they did in the 1990s. Washington supports statehood for Kosovo, while Moscow and Serbia are adamantly opposed. Brussels, trying to accommodate different European Union positions, is just as adamant about managing this crisis non-violently. When Slovenia and Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the EU was unable to prevent a series of increasingly brutal wars. This time around, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned of the consequences of a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence: "It will create a chain reaction throughout the Balkans and other areas of the world." But will Kosovo’s move...

One China? Two Headaches

Backing both the favorite and the underdog in a boxing match might win points for evenhandedness, but it would leave sports fans scratching their heads. In the battle of affections between China and Taiwan, though, the Bush administration has done just that. Both countries have been led to believe that they are enjoying the best relations with Washington in years. While this win-win stratagem stands in sharp contrast to the administration's divide-and-rule policies elsewhere in the world, it also contradicts a key element of George W. Bush's foreign policy -- the promotion of democracy -- and has irked some Bush supporters who are China critics. With presidential elections coming up in both Taiwan and the United States, the administration is now under pressure to take sides. Four years ago, Bush sang a different tune. As a presidential candidate, he rebuked the Clinton administration for being too soft on Beijing. But when a candidate becomes president, he soon comes to understand...

Second Act

The Bush administration has been at times dangerously ambiguous in its policy toward North Korea. With a second round of six-party talks likely for early 2004 and North Korea's nuclear program chugging along, the upcoming debate on Capitol Hill over a new bill, the North Korea Freedom Act, may well be pivotal in pushing U.S. policy toward either engagement or increased confrontation. The stakes are huge: Even if the current conflict doesn't escalate into a shooting war, failure to bar North Korea from the nuclear club could set a poor precedent for nonproliferation and seriously damage the president's prospects for re-election. This fall, after two years of alternately ignoring and threatening North Korea, the Bush administration seemed to change course. Anticipating election-year criticism, the administration announced that it was ready to talk, even to extend a multilateral pledge not to invade or attack, in exchange for North Korea's ending of its nuclear program. U.S. negotiators...

Wish List

Conflict-resolution professionals often say that to break a deadlock requires parties to shift from "positions" to "interests." For the past year, the United States and North Korea have repeated their positions ad nauseum. The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear program; North Korea wants a guarantee that the United States won't pull an Iraq and bomb Pyongyang. These positions couldn't be any clearer -- or a resolution any more elusive. Recently the Bush administration showed signs of flexibility in its position by announcing the possibility of a multilateral security guarantee for North Korea. Pyongyang responded, predictably, that the offer, because it was neither bilateral nor a treaty approved by the U.S. Senate, was "laughable." George W. Bush's gambit clearly did not appeal to Kim Jong-Il's underlying interests. All of which begs the question: What does North Korea really want? While a piece of paper from senators may break the ice, North Korea ultimately...

Trans-Atlantic Food Fight

At the Sunday market at the Place de la Bastille in Paris, the produce proudly announces its origins. There are bananas from Martinique, olives from Spain, artichokes from Brittany and broccoli from Saint-Malo, the place names written just above the prices. Signs tell which family dairies the cheeses come from and whether the lamb grazed on salty coastal grasses. The provenance of the wine on display is even more precisely noted. The open-air markets in France are a good place to understand terroir , the French belief that local conditions such as soil and weather produce distinctive tastes. The markets are also a good place to understand why the French -- and most other Europeans -- are so up in arms over genetically modified (GM) crops. In Europe people want to know how their food was raised and made. For quality control, they generally trust farmers over biotechnicians. In 1998, responding to consumer demands, the European Union blocked the commercial introduction of new GM...

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