Is U.S.-India diplomatic strain over?

On this week’s episode of Conversations with Nicholas Kralev, Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, talks about the complex U.S.-India relationship, and about attitudes toward Russia in Central Asia.

Can Washington ever please Moscow?

On this week’s episode of “Conversations with Nicholas Kralev,” two experts discuss the successes and failures of U.S. diplomacy with President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the need for Washington to be more strategic in its dealings with Moscow.

German envoy seeks to ‘rebuild trust’

On this week’s episode of “Conversations with Nicholas Kralev,” the German ambassador to the United States, Peter Ammon, talks about his country’s diplomatic priorities, rebuilding trust with Washington following the NSA spying revelations, and the West’s relationship with Russia.

U.S. expects Syrian stockpile destroyed ahead of schedule

On this week’s episode of “Conversations with Nicholas Kralev,” Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, offers insights about the recent U.S.-Russian negotiations aimed to destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, and talks about Washington’s conventional arms sales worth tens of billions of dollars a year.

Do U.S. sanctions help or hurt diplomacy?

On this week’s episode of “Conversations with Nicholas Kralev,” Ambassador Daniel Fried, the U.S. global sanctions coordinator, talks about sanctions as a tool of American diplomacy, where they have been effective, and what it takes to impose them and lift them.

U.S. issued record 8.9m visas in 2012

Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs talks about managing U.S. visa operations around the world, the record number of visas issued in 2012, foreign students, and the challenges of consular work in the Foreign Service.

Ambassadorship to Russia goes political

“Going political” is a phrase used in the U.S. Foreign Service to indicate career diplomats’ frustration that yet another ambassadorship has been taken from them and given to a political appointee. For 20 years, the post in Russia has been reserved for professionals because of its difficulty and sensitivity — but that’s about to change.

Although President Obama’s decision to nominate Michael McFaul as the next U.S. ambassador to Moscow, which the White House announced late last week, surprised many in the Foreign Service, it’s unlikely to be met with serious criticism. Despite my recent series of critical columns on political ambassadors, I have no reason to question Obama’s motives in this case, either.

Who thought spying on U.S. was dead?

Many people, including famous ex-KGB spies, were shocked this week that Russia is still spying on the United States. Really? Did we forget that even Washington’s allies have been known to engage in such activities?

As I said in three radio and TV interviews, the real surprise in the latest case is that those people were willing to risk so much to gain so little. It appears that they sent no classified information or any other intelligence secrets to Moscow in the decade they operated. In fact, most of the information they were tasked with collecting can be obtained in perfectly legal ways.

True German unity proves elusive

BERLIN — Most Berliners adore their city and are proud that this former symbol of East-West division has become a modern and united capital, as well as one of the world’s most visited places. But 20 years after the wall dividing Berlin fell, the country is still not nearly as unified as the capital, many Berliners and other Germans say.

“We all underestimated the challenges,” said Friedrich Merz, a former member of parliament from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union and now chairman of Atlantic Bridge, a nonprofit organization. “It takes much longer to unify a country.”

Political analysts, economists and ordinary Germans point to the rapidity of communism’s fall, the legacy of state ownership and mistakes made at different stages of the reunification process as reasons why parts of eastern Germany remain underdeveloped and are still losing people to the West…

Poland embraces past and moves ahead

KRAKOW, Poland — A black Trabant pulled up in front of the Sheraton hotel and its driver helped passengers out of the boxy, cut-rate car that remains a symbol of communism two decades after its collapse.

The “communist tour” of Krakow was over. The 23-year-old guide, Eryk Grasela, had taken a Washington Times reporter and photographer to Nowa Huta, a suburb built in the 1950s as a “model communist city” and counterpoint to “bourgeois” old Krakow, long known as Poland’s cultural capital.

While other former communist countries have tried to erase many Cold War memories since they became democracies in 1989, Poland has embraced its past, made the best of it and moved on. Today, Poles seem more satisfied with their lives than many others in the region…