Members of the House of Representatives bow their heads in prayer during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Sept. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Molly Riley).

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that John Bolton was replacing U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as assistant to the president for national security affairs, otherwise known as the national security adviser. While Bolton is a longtime government official, having served every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, his appointment was immediately condemned across the political spectrum, given his well-documented views as a war hawk. Colin Kahl and Jon Wolfsthal, two veterans of the Obama administration, labeled him a “national security threat,” arguing that his “ascendance increases the risk of not one but two wars—with North Korea and Iran.” Writing […]

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, arrive at the commission’s offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 9, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In early March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov embarked on a five-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa. During his trip, Lavrov signed new trade agreements with Russia’s two long-standing partners in southern Africa, Angola and Mozambique. He also strengthened Moscow’s diplomatic ties to Zimbabwe’s new government and highlighted the role Russia could play providing security to several countries facing political unrest at home. Even though Russia’s power projection capabilities on the continent remain limited, the broad range of deals signed by Lavrov suggests that Russia is actively seeking to expand its economic and security influence in Africa, and perhaps reassert some […]

An Israeli F-16 warplane takes off for a mission from an air force base in southern Israel, July 23, 2006 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

Last week, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a long investigative report on how Israel discovered and then destroyed a nearly completed plutonium nuclear reactor in Syria’s eastern desert in September 2007. The episode, including the ups and downs of the intelligence process that led to the decision to strike in what Haaretz called a “daring, hair-raising operation,” provides a window into how to think about intelligence and policy challenges in other cases involving nascent nuclear programs. After a decade of secrecy, military censors in Israel lifted the ban on journalists publishing the details of the attack. Haaretz reporters Amos Harel […]

Recently freed schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Dapchi attend a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Abuja, Nigeria, March 23, 2018 (AP photo by Azeez Akunleyan).

On March 23, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared that his government “is ever ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard.” Two days later, his information minister, Lai Mohammed, revealed that “unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now.” The immediate context for Buhari’s offer and Mohammed’s revelation was Boko Haram’s recent kidnapping of 111 schoolgirls in Dapchi, in northeastern Nigeria. The girls were kidnapped in February; the extremist group released most of the girls […]

U.S. President Donald Trump pours the remainder of his fish food into a koi pond at the Akasaka Palace as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks on, Tokyo, Nov. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

TOKYO, Japan—Just when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believed he had put the relationship with his unpredictable American counterpart on a solid footing, U.S. President Donald Trump threw two curveballs into the mix. The first was Trump’s snap decision to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, after months of holding to a hard-line approach backed by Japan. The second was the administration’s announcement that it would impose steep tariffs on metal imports, a measure that was notionally targeted at China but could also harm several allies, including Japan, unless they are able to win exemptions. So far, Japan […]

U.S. Army soldiers conduct a mortar exercise at a small coalition outpost in western Iraq near the border with Syria, Jan. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Susannah George).

This week marked the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was ostensibly launched to make the Middle East more secure. By any measure, it failed to do that. The region is significantly more unstable now than it was then and shows every sign of remaining that way. A few thousand miles from Iraq, American troops continue fighting and dying in Afghanistan. Victory there—at least as it was envisioned when U.S. forces first arrived in 2001—remains elusive. So is the global defeat of the Islamist extremist movements that caused the United States to get involved in Iraq and […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a working dinner during a NATO summit, Brussels, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lengthy visit to the United States and Washington’s relationship with Riyadh under President Donald Trump. For the Report, Salvatore Babones talks with Peter Dörrie about how U.S. alliances in Northeast Asia could serve as a useful model for reconfiguring the NATO alliance in Europe. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks during a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Athens, Greece, Dec. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Thanassis Stavrakis).

On March 16, a Greek appeals court denied an extradition request by Turkey for eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in July 2016, following the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was the third such rejection by Greek courts, which say the men could face an unfair trial in Turkey. The fate of the servicemen, whom Turkey accuses of being involved in the attempted coup, has been a source of escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies. In an email interview, Simon Waldman, a visiting research fellow in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies […]

Gen. Joseph Dunford, right, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean counterpart, salute during an honor guard ceremony, Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

It is the world’s most successful, most powerful and most popular security alliance. Considering the number of countries waiting to get in, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seems to have even more admirers than it can handle. But it also has an unexpectedly prominent and powerful critic: the president of the United States. As he has scolded NATO members over their defense spending and cast the alliance as a protection racket, Donald Trump has seemingly undermined an organization whose purpose and unity have rarely been questioned—and never before by an American president—since it was founded in 1949 as a bulwark […]

Former child soldiers stand in line for registration with UNICEF, Yambio, South Sudan, Feb. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Sam Mednick).

Negotiations to bring peace to South Sudan have restarted in earnest, with the parties circulating a power-sharing plan that has failed once before. It is unclear if negotiators have a new strategy to successfully resurrect that agreement or if they are simply out of ideas. What is clear is that there is no end in sight for the current negotiations, even as fighting rages on into a fifth year and aid agencies report that 9,000 people are estimated to be losing access to food every day. Last December, the High-Level Resolution Forum (HLRF) announced a cessation of hostilities agreement between […]

A U.S. Marine wears knee braces and a backpack that harvest energy from his movements during an exhibition of green energy technology, Twentynine Palms, California, Dec. 7, 2016 (AP photo by Gregory Bull).

From the homeland security folks who respond to national disasters to the armed forces planning for hostile encounters with state or nonstate adversaries, the U.S. security community understands that climate change affects what they do, often profoundly. Despite the skeptics in the highest ranks of government, there is quiet and steady progress being made to integrate greater knowledge about climate change and its impacts into threat assessments, planning and training for future security contingencies. For more than 20 years, the defense community has been studying the environment and climate change, and their implications for how the U.S. prepares for military […]

Biafran separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu attends a court hearing, Abuja, Nigeria, Jan. 29, 2016 (AP photo).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and associate editors Robbie Corey-Boulet and Omar H. Rahman discuss the announcement of face-to-face talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. For the Report, Eromo Egbejule talks with Andrew Green about how longstanding grievances and heavy-handed security crackdowns are fueling a revived Biafran separatist movement in Nigeria. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered twice a week straight to your inbox. The […]

Russia’s new Sarmat intercontinental missile as shown on Russian television at an undisclosed location in Russia, March 1, 2018 (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP).

Late last week, during his annual speech to the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a raft of new and exotic military weapons systems that were in development, and in some cases ready to be deployed. Putin’s inventory included an enormous, new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile known as “Sarmat”; new maneuverable re-entry vehicles that will, in theory, be fitted onto Russian ballistic missiles to help them overwhelm American missile defenses; a nuclear-powered cruise missile apparently able to fly for thousands of miles just feet above the surface of the earth; and a nuclear-armed underwater drone potentially able to lay dormant […]

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Egyptian Central Military Zone Commander Gen. Ayman Abdel Hamid Amer stand for the U.S. national anthem, Cairo, Egypt, April 20, 2017 (Pool photo by Jonathan Ernst).

Security assistance is a longstanding American tool to build up cooperation with key countries, including regional heavyweights like Egypt, Nigeria and Pakistan, where security deficits have consequences for the United States. But security cooperation often requires bureaucratic agility and a true convergence of interests between the sender and receiver. Both elements have been in short supply recently, and new efforts to reform the enterprise seem unlikely to transform these difficult partnerships. In the past few weeks, Trump administration officials have engaged in several public dialogues about efforts to improve the suite of government-funded programs called security sector assistance. As with […]

Uboha Damia, 75, who fought for the separatists during Nigeria’s civil war, attends an event honoring veterans in Umuahia, Nigeria, May 28, 2017 (AP photo by Lekan Oyekanmi).

UMUAHIA, Nigeria—Six months after the raid, the house still lies in shambles. Its walls are pocked with bullet holes; clothes are strewn about the grounds; and the windshields of the cars on the property are shattered. Located in the city of Umuahia, the capital of Abia state in southeast Nigeria, the house belongs to the family of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB, a group that wants this corner of the country to form a breakaway nation dominated by members of the Igbo ethnic group. On the morning of Sept. 14, Kanu and other members […]

Soldiers in the German Army attend a military parade ceremony marking the 99th anniversary of the Lithuanian military on Armed Forces Day, Vilnius, Lithuania, Nov. 24, 2017 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

A report released on Feb. 20 by the parliamentary commissioner for Germany’s armed forces revealed serious deficiencies in the military’s readiness, with many weapons systems nonoperational and 21,000 officer positions vacant. The state of the German military raises concerns for NATO and its response force, the effectiveness of which has gained new urgency since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. In an email interview, Patrick Keller, coordinator for foreign and security policy at Konrad-Adenaur-Stiftung in Berlin, explains how Germany’s military got to this state, and what it will take to get its house in order. WPR: How concerning for Germany […]

The Chinese naval frigate Huangshan is seen anchored in the waters off RSS Singapura Changi Naval Base, Singapore, May 15, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Kurt Campbell and Ely Ratner—both former senior officials in the Obama administration—noted that over the past 45 years, “neither carrots nor sticks have swayed China as predicted.” From Richard Nixon on, American presidents believed that U.S. diplomacy and military power could “persuade Beijing that it was neither possible nor necessary to challenge the U.S.-led security order in Asia.” But that didn’t prove true. Today, as Campbell and Ratner note, “China is on the path to becoming a military peer the likes of which the United States has not seen since the Soviet Union” […]