Last month, the Israeli navy took control of a Panamanian ship off the coast of Sudan that was carrying Iranian munitions to Gaza. The Red Sea operation underscored the growth of the navy’s role in Israel’s power projection, which has accelerated in the 21st century after many decades in which maritime strategy was something of an afterthought for Israel’s military. A maritime perspective was central in pre-state Zionist strategic thinking, because the seas were the gateway for Jewish immigration into Palestine. However, once the state of Israel was created in 1948, the seas and the navy lost their significance in […]

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 only a matter of time before some were snatched. A United Nations envoy, Robert Serry, had to make a quick exit from Crimea in early March after an encounter with a posse of armed men. The monitors’ captors have accused them of being NATO spies and forced them to make a humiliating appearance before the press, although one officer has since been released for medical […]

In addition to imposing more Western sanctions on Russia and rotating more U.S. troops into Europe, the U.S. and its NATO allies are considering increasing U.S. ballistic missile defenses (BMD) based in NATO’s European member states as part of their response to Russian actions in Ukraine. Moscow clearly hates these U.S. systems, and placing them near Russia is sure to capture Moscow’s attention. A few weeks ago, a pair of Russian warplanes “buzzed” a U.S. missile defense ship that was on patrol in the Black Sea. That said, the U.S. missile defense response needs to be nuanced to yield net […]

Despite the turbulence in South Africa’s domestic politics during the troubled presidency of Jacob Zuma, South Africa has continued to be viewed as the African continent’s natural leader, its principal conflict manager and its chief interlocutor with major external powers and international organizations. However, within the space of a week in late March and early April 2014, two separate yet related developments combined to bring this conventional wisdom into serious question for the first time. The first was on March 25, when the 2014 South African Defense Review—details of which were leaked to Reuters—highlighted a “critical state of decline” in […]

In an increasingly crowded and contested western Pacific, navies from more than 20 countries—including the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia—want to make sure that incidents at sea don’t unintentionally escalate to broader conflict. This week, they agreed on a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium held in Beijing. In a statement, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who attended the symposium, clarified that CUES “is not legally binding, but is an agreement upon which the participating nations have a standardized protocol of safety procedures, basic communications and basic […]

For this week at least, Russia’s revived aggression is dominating the news in the United States. Once the furor subsides, the conflict with al-Qaida will likely regain most of the attention from the media and national security experts. But in the long term, these issues pale in importance to the challenge of China’s rising power, however much it may have faded into the background today. As China’s economy took off in recent decades, the nation undertook a vast military expansion and became increasingly confident and assertive, shifting from a sullen, insular nation to a global power. The United States responded […]

The standoff in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the central government in Kiev is far from resolved. But whatever its outcome, NATO needs to take urgent measures to deter Russian military intervention in Moldova and reinforce its security guarantees to NATO members Bulgaria and Romania. These two countries are no less vulnerable to Russian pressure than the NATO members to their north, namely Poland and the Baltic states. In addition, Bulgaria and Romania’s strong support is needed to advance Western goals in the Balkans, the Caspian region and Central Asia. Ideally NATO would reassure Moscow that Moldova will not […]

One of the Obama administration’s biggest foreign policy gambles, the agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons in the midst of that country’s civil war, is behind schedule but still making progress. Despite tensions over Ukraine and the outcome of the Syrian civil war itself, the United States, Russia and others appear to be maintaining cooperation on the issue. On Monday, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—the Netherlands-based international organization responsible for ensuring compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention—announced in a statement that the Syrian government had delivered two additional shipments of chemicals to the port city […]

Russia is on the hunt again, determined to engulf another part of Ukraine and possibly more. Moscow’s complex, multidimensional offensive uses intimidation, misinformation and any organization or group that can serve its interests. As Ukraine teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, Russian President Vladimir Putin is tightening the economic screws by threatening to require advance payment for essential natural gas shipments. Pro-Russian separatists have launched demonstrations across eastern Ukraine, attempting to goad the government into an overreaction that could give Moscow an alibi for open invasion. Meanwhile, Russian and pro-Russian troops have seized government buildings and police stations, engaging in […]

On a 10-day trip through Asia that ended last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sought to build military ties with allies and partners involved in the U.S. rebalance to the region. He also reached out to China, the presumptive main U.S. competitor in the region, and announced the need for a “new model” of military-to-military relations between the two nations. As with other aspects of the U.S.-China relationship, military ties between the two countries are underdeveloped, and China remains wary of U.S. intentions. But the Obama administration, which has its own worries about China, appears to believe that […]

With Russian forces still massed on the Ukrainian border and the world watching to see whether President Vladimir Putin will try to seize more Ukrainian territory, a key question is how effective Russia’s military machine has become after a half-decade of modernization efforts. The takeover of Crimea proceeded competently, with little bloodshed, but any attempt to occupy more territory in eastern Ukraine would likely be met with resistance. Russia would probably still win due to the weak state of the Ukrainian armed forces, but the true strength of the Russian military remains uncertain. Although Russia’s defense budget started rising in […]

Russian actions toward Ukraine have injected new urgency, and partisan vitriol, into the debate over U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Europe. Missile defense has been a locus of intense ideological divisions since the announcement of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983. Although the issue has receded somewhat in recent years, statements from some GOP lawmakers indicate it may once again become a prominent source of partisan tension. But beneath the surface, many of the most fundamental issues relating to U.S. missile defense plans appear to have become politically uncontroversial, even as technical experts continue […]

Late last month, Venezuela’s government arrested three generals of the country’s air force, accusing them of plotting a coup. In an email interview, Harold Trinkunas, senior fellow and director of the Latin America Initiative in the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, explained the state of Venezuela’s civil-military relations. WPR: What has been the overall state of civil-military relations in Venezuela in recent years? Harold Trinkunas: In recent years, civil-military relations in Venezuela have become progressively less institutionalized and more politicized. After he was elected in 1998, President Hugo Chavez, a former army officer, took a particular interest in military affairs, […]

Australia has provided ships to the international search effort for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 which is taking place in part in Australia’s vast maritime domain. In an email interview, Sam Bateman, professorial research fellow at the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources at the University of Wollongong in Australia and senior fellow in the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, explained how Australia secures these waters. WPR: What are the key goals of Australia’s maritime security strategy? Sam Bateman: The key goals of Australia’s maritime security […]

While Americans debate when and where the United States should use drones to strike at insurgents and terrorists who cannot be reached by other means, they may be overlooking an important trend: the move to supply a targeted killing capability to allied nations. This began when the Bush administration decided to provide technology and advice to help the government of Colombia kill the leaders of its narco-insurgency. Today, the U.S. military is also helping the armed forces of Yemen field systems for the targeted killing of anti-government extremists associated with al-Qaida. This is the beginning of a trend, as more […]

With Chad’s announcement in early April that it was pulling its peacekeeping troops out of the Central African Republic (CAR), the country finally seemed to be bending to widespread criticism of the actions of its soldiers. Things had gone from bad to worse for Chad’s armed forces, the ANT, from a high point last year when its role in support of France’s Operation Serval in Mali was widely praised. The ANT’s achievement in Mali has been overshadowed by recent events in the CAR, including reports from the African Union’s MISCA peacekeeping force in Bangui that Chadian soldiers in a suburb […]

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has rekindled discussion in Sweden about raising military spending and, potentially, pushing for NATO membership. In an email interview, Jan Joel Andersson, senior research fellow and head of the North America Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, explained Sweden’s defense posture and how it may change after the Ukraine crisis. WPR: What is the current size and strength of Sweden’s military, in terms of both hardware and personnel? Jan Joel Andersson: The Swedish armed forces have undergone a dramatic transformation since the end of the Cold War. Never a member of NATO, Sweden based […]

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