All foreign policy is local

France, Italy, and Saudi Arabia wrestle with their "near abroad" problems.

By , Editor

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    An Italian Coast Guard vessel rescues a boatload of would-be migrants believed to be from North Africa in the waters off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Europe has long seen itself as a champion of democracy, and its ideals are being tested by the real life consequences of democratic change sweeping a region that supplies a great part its immigrant population, one that has become increasingly restive in recent years. Many fear a flood of refugees hitting European shores.
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Russians consider the states of former Soviet Union their "near abroad." Think of the term as being similar to Saul Steinberg's New Yorker cover showing a parochial view of the world from Manhattan. What happens closest to home is more important than what happens far away.

Every nation has a near abroad. For the United States, it's Latin America and the Caribbean. For China, it's East and Southeast Asia. India looks at the Indian Ocean basin. You can see three more cases of near-abroad thinking in the news today:

France's interventions in Africa, specifically Libya and Ivory Coast, where a combination of urgent issues -- from energy security to migration control to human rights -- have upped its direct involvement.

Recommended: 10 voices for change in Saudi Arabia

Italy, the first place most migrants land, wants other members of the European Union to help it with the flow of refugees from instability in Libya and other parts of North Africa.

• Finally, Saudi Arabia is taking a bigger role in trying to break the deadlock in Yemen. Instability in Yemen threatens the Saudis, just as it did in Bahrain, where the Saudis intervened last month.

For most nations, it seems, foreign policy begins at the near abroad.

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