Richard Gowan

Richard Gowan is an associate director at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, and a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Articles written by Richard Gowan

Diplomatic Fallout

Now Is Not the Time for a 'Grand Bargain' With Russia

By Richard Gowan
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Throughout the Ukrainian crisis, Russia has shown little concern for international agreements and institutions. Some observers even suggest changing the international system to recognize Russia’s national interests. But there are at least five good reasons not to do so at this time. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Ebola Crisis Offers Ban Ki-moon a Last Chance to Lead

By Richard Gowan
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon revealed a new side to his character over the past week: Action Ban. A self-confessed fan of action movies, Ban must daydream of tackling threats with the speed and stern decisiveness of on-screen world leaders. Yet to date, he generally hasn’t done so. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Why the International System Is Still Worth Fighting For

By Richard Gowan
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The multilateral security system is stumbling around the world as it suffers from major structural weaknesses. Yet elements of it have worked surprisingly well in the current set of crises, from documenting atrocities in Syria to mediating in Ukraine. Despite setbacks, a mix of international officials and observers, soldiers and governments remain willing to stand up for the vulnerable and uphold that system. more

Diplomatic Fallout

U.S., Russia Duel Over Humanitarian Interventions in Iraq and Ukraine

By Richard Gowan
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There has been a lot of talk about humanitarian interventions over the past week. Russia has pressed for a “humanitarian mission” to the war zone in eastern Ukraine. While telling Russia to back off, the Obama administration has launched air strikes in Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State. The humanitarian case for American action is clear. It may nonetheless also have unwelcome consequences. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Lacking Primetime Partners, U.S. Remains ‘Indispensable’ Crisis Manager

By Richard Gowan
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s ill-fated attempts to staunch conflict after conflict seem to confirm that Washington’s global influence is shriveling, even as the argument that the U.S. has little choice but to keep fighting diplomatic fires implies it is unable to choose where and when to expend its diplomatic energy. Does the U.S. have to be trapped in this pattern of obligations and setbacks? more

Diplomatic Fallout

Lacking Security Strategy, EU Counts on Nearby Crises to Absorb Threats

By Richard Gowan
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The EU’s security may actually benefit from ongoing crises in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the efforts of potential foes, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly. EU members have no appetite to get involved in these wars, leading critics to grumble that it refuses to fight for its interests. But it may be in its interests to let others keep fighting. more

Diplomatic Fallout

West Needs New Rules to Contain Proxy Wars With Russia

By Richard Gowan
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The events of the past week in Ukraine have confirmed three painful facts about the state of international affairs. The first is that the West is trapped in a cycle of proxy wars with Russia, running from Libya through Syria to Ukraine. The second is that there is no real rulebook for managing these conflicts. The third is that these confrontations are liable to escalate with unnerving frequency. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Despite Risk of Escalation, West and Russia Keep Ukraine Crisis Limited

By Richard Gowan
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Ukraine a model for the management of future international crises? At first glance, it looks like nothing of the sort. Kiev is in the middle of a bloody military campaign against pro-Russian rebels in the east, with more and more civilians caught in the crossfire. There is still a danger that this conflict could escalate further. Yet the most striking feature of the crisis is just how limited it remains. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Syria’s Chemical Arms Destroyed, but Aid Effort Unravels

By Richard Gowan
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Although no end to the war in Syria is in sight, remnants of international cooperation have survived. The U.S. and Russia have dismantled Syria’s chemical arms stockpile, and the U.N. is, in theory, committed to getting humanitarian aid into the country. This ugly modus vivendi is arguably a potential model for big-power cooperation in managing future conflicts. But is even this minimal consensus sustainable? more

Diplomatic Fallout

For U.N. in Iraq, ISIS Irrelevance Worse Than 2003 Impotence

By Richard Gowan
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The 2003 Iraq war split the Security Council, but the U.N. ultimately sustained only limited long-term damage from the incident. In the 11 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the council has passed over 600 resolutions on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to African conflicts. Now the U.N. faces another war in Iraq, at a time when its overall credibility may be in greater danger than it was in 2003. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Race to Succeed Ban at U.N. Heats Up

By Richard Gowan
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The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the United Nations is heating up. More or less open candidates are emerging with growing frequency. This may seem premature: Ban will not leave office until the end of 2016, and he has a lot of unfinished business to attend to. But if Ban seems intent on going out with a bang, U.N. officials and diplomats are already speculating about his successor. more

Seizure of OSCE Monitors Raises Questions About Ukraine Mission

By Richard Gowan
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It was no surprise when pro-Russian forces seized eight European military monitors in eastern Ukraine last week. A growing number of international observers have deployed to Ukraine over the past two months, and it was inevitable that some would be snatched. But the episode also raises strategic questions about the goals of international monitors in Ukraine. Does their presence calm or complicate the conflict? more

Diplomatic Fallout: Why the Ukraine Crisis Is Good for Obama

By Richard Gowan
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Will Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama ultimately benefit most from the crisis in Ukraine? Most pundits are betting on the former. The Russian president has pulled off a bravura display of ruthless guile in seizing control of the Crimea, while his American counterpart has looked limited. Obama’s critics have naturally attributed Putin’s aggression to U.S. weakness. But Obama may emerge as the final winner. more

Diplomatic Fallout: U.N. and OSCE May Offer Least-Bad Options in Ukraine

By Richard Gowan
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The Ukrainian crisis has aroused an ugly array of thugs, from the snipers who fired on protesters in Kiev to pro-Russian biker gangs. But numerous multilateral organizations have been implicated too, from the EU, G-8 and U.N. to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A political settlement will involve a messy mix of these organizations. That may at least be preferable to victory for the thugs. more

Diplomatic Fallout: Putin’s Failure in Ukraine Could Worsen Syria Crisis

By Richard Gowan
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The Ukrainian revolution and Syrian rebellion appear to be on different trajectories. President Bashar Assad maintains a brutally tenacious hold on power, while his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from the capital, Kiev, last week. Assad may view Yanukovych’s humiliation as proof of the need for utter ruthlessness against his opponents. But the two men’s fates remain intertwined. more