Nikolas Gvosdev

Nikolas K. Gvosdev is the former editor of the National Interest, and a frequent foreign policy commentator in both the print and broadcast media. He is currently on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the Navy or the U.S. government. His weekly WPR column, The Realist Prism, appears every Friday.

Articles written by Nikolas Gvosdev

The Realist Prism

For U.S., Middle East ‘Moderates’ a Fool’s Errand

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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The elusive unicorns wandering the forests of America’s Middle East policy are the so-called moderates who will battle the extremists on behalf of the West. There is a touching faith in the existence of these moderates. However, finding them has proved to be an impossible challenge. more

The Realist Prism

Despite Hope of Minsk Summit, Damage Done to Russia-West Relations

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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Next week, Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a face-to-face trilateral summit in Belarus with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and a European Union delegation headed by its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. The summit has an ambitious agenda on the table to defuse the Ukraine crisis. Assuming that a major breakthrough does occur in Minsk, what next? more

The Realist Prism

Time for the U.S. to Make Hard Choices on Russia, Middle East

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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It is the misfortune of the Obama administration to preside over the unraveling of several long-term U.S. strategies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The tactics used by previous administrations to delay making hard choices in the hope that problems would resolve themselves without Washington being required to make sacrifices are no longer available, as the crises in both regions make abundantly clear. more

The Realist Prism

Time Running Out for Obama to Reboot U.S. Foreign Policy

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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Are we on the verge of personnel shifts that will produce a national security team 4.0 for the Obama administration? The third iteration has enjoyed a particularly rough tenure, with public confidence in Obama's handling of national security diminishing as a result. The upcoming November midterm elections could prove decisive to what an Obama foreign policy agenda for the end of his presidency might look like. more

The Realist Prism

Syria, Ukraine May Force Obama to Learn to Love Coalitions of the Willing

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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Democrats often mocked the George W. Bush administration's invocation of "coalitions of the willing" to legitimize U.S. action abroad. Once back in power, they argued, Democrats would be able to generate genuine multilateral support to back U.S. initiatives. Although the Obama administration initially seemed to fulfill those predictions, two crises now threaten to derail the Obama approach to multilateralism. more

The Realist Prism

On Iran and Russia, Obama Gambling for More Time

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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Though it is axiomatic that almost any foreign policy action taken by President Barack Obama will be reflexively criticized by the Republican opposition, in recent months congressional Democrats have been more willing to publicly voice critiques of the president’s performance. But Obama appears to be willing to swallow his pride and suffer domestic political attacks if it buys him time and maneuvering room.

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The Realist Prism

U.S. Watches From Sidelines as Global Leaders Gather in Brazil

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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The U.S. missed out on a rare geopolitical opportunity this past week. Vice President Joe Biden, who has emerged in Barack Obama’s second term as more of an alter ego for the president on the international stage, should have taken a short trip to Brazil for the World Cup final. Sure, the U.S. team had already been eliminated, but Biden still had good reasons to drop in at the close of the tournament. more

The Realist Prism

As Ukraine Looks West, EU Seeks Russia Accommodation

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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After the Cold War, there was a sense of optimism that the Euro-Atlantic community could be expanded at little risk and without significant cost. Western policymakers did not consider the possibility of a Russia both hostile to Western expansion and with the strength to stymie it. Now the Ukraine end game is challenging assumptions of European security that have guided policymakers for the past two decades. more

The Realist Prism

Russia’s Energy Ambitions Explain Putin’s Zigzags on Ukraine

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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How to explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Putin’s long-term goal is to prevent Ukraine’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic world. In the short term, however, there is a lodestone that accounts for the shifts in Russia’s Ukraine policy: completing Russia’s emergence as the world’s energy superpower. This involves accomplishing two major projects: the South Stream pipeline and the opening of the Arctic. more

The Realist Prism

Time for Plan B on Obama’s Triple Containment of Russia, China, Iran

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the Bush team. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, reset relations with Russia and bring China into a dialogue to solve global problems. Things did not go according to this plan, and it is past time to move to a “Plan B” for U.S. foreign policy. more

The Realist Prism

Instead of Isolating Putin’s Russia, U.S. Must Offer Alternatives

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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Over the past two years, whenever Russia has undertaken steps in the international arena that the U.S. disapproves of, there has been a predictable response in Washington: a parade of somber-faced U.S. officials solemnly warning Moscow that it risks isolation by its policy choices. Certainly, the U.S. has had some successes in turning the threats into reality. But for the most part the rhetoric has fallen short. more

The Realist Prism

Between Warsaw and West Point, a Contradiction in Obama’s Foreign Policy

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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President Barack Obama has delivered a consistent message during his trans-Atlantic sojourn this week, including a stirring address in Warsaw, and hit all the right rhetorical notes. The president reaffirmed his commitment to the security of Europeans concerned that the long-announced “rebalance to the Pacific” means less U.S. attention to their continent. Now comes the hard part: translating words into policy. more

The Realist Prism

Kazakhstan a Model for Ukraine in Accommodating Russia

By Nikolas Gvosdev
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With chaos continuing in Ukraine, the country’s new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, and his team might want to consider learning from how another mid-sized Eurasian state has managed its relationship with the Russian bear. This week, in a ceremony overshadowed by the events in Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the agreements formally creating the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia. more