A Ukrainian soldier in the trench, on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Andriy Dubchak).

Beyond its immediate implications for European security, the current crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border highlights the enduring importance of state sovereignty as an ordering principle in world politics, notwithstanding frequent claims that globalization has rendered it obsolete. It also exposes the tendency of governments to invoke, dismiss or reinterpret this bedrock principle to suit their situational needs. In fact, global stability now depends on whether the United States and European Union are able to reaffirm and defend the centrality of state sovereignty against a Russian attempt to dismiss it. On one level, the Ukraine situation would seem to have turned […]

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony for a French soldier killed in action in Mali, at the Invalides monument in Paris, Sept. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Thibalt Camus).

When historians look back and try to explain how France lost its historical position as the dominant outside actor in West Africa, the oft-repeated line that Ernest Hemingway used to describe how one of his fictional characters went bankrupt will undoubtedly come to mind: gradually, then suddenly. The signs of a gradual deterioration of France's ties in the region have been apparent for some time. But if the past 12 months are any indication, 2022 might very well be the year that process comes to a head suddenly. Since May, military coups in Mali, Guinea and most recently Burkina Faso […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at his watch at the end of his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The United States and NATO have delivered written responses to  Russian demands for security guarantees, rejecting Moscow’s insistence on a withdrawal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe and an assurance that Ukraine will never be granted membership in the alliance. That firmly puts the ball back in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s court, while doing nothing to reduce the prospects of a Russian military invasion. Now European governments must consider the practical realities of what a war in Ukraine would mean, particularly in neighboring EU member states. Following a meeting of the NATO security council on Tuesday, Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav […]

People inspect the wreckage of buildings after they were damaged by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 18, 2022 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

A ballistic missile attack on a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates yesterday, the second attack on Emirati soil in a week carried out by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, marks a dangerous escalation in regional tensions. It also underscores the difficulty of achieving a diplomatic settlement to bring an end to years of violent conflict between Iran, Saudi Arabia and their many partners and proxies across the Middle East.  According to statements from U.S. and UAE officials, two missiles were intercepted Monday near Abu Dhabi. A spokesman for the Houthis claimed that the attack targeted U.S. airmen stationed […]

People wait in queues to receive cash at a money distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

International attention has been trained this week on Ukraine, where fears of an imminent outbreak of conflict have many observers worrying about the future of multilateralism in a period of strategic competition between the U.S., Russia and China. Yet an equally troubling bellwether for the future of multilateralism lies in the world’s collective failure to address the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.   Five months after the Taliban’s takeover, the international community appears no closer to an answer on how to manage its strategic interests in Afghanistan, from dealing with the Taliban to addressing the needs of millions of suffering Afghans. […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Jan. 21, 2022, Geneva, Switzerland (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

If Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of invading Ukraine, he sure has a funny way of showing it. Roughly 100,000 Russian troops remain massed on the two countries’ border, with units continuing to be deployed. And a joint Russian-Belarus military exercise scheduled for February is set to position even more still to Ukraine’s north, adding a potential vector of attack. Russian officials continue to deny that an invasion is imminent, but there is a palpable sense of foreboding across Europe and in Washington that the continent stands on the brink of what would be its first major interstate […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are seen on the screen during an online opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 25, 2021 (photo by An Khoun Sam Aun for the Ministry of

Early last December, the European Union unveiled its Global Gateway, a plan to spend up to 300 billion euros, or $340 billion, over the next six years financing major infrastructure projects around the world, particularly those to develop clean energy and combat climate change. Although the Global Gateway does not have an explicit focus in terms of specific countries, it prioritizes developing regions such as Southeast Asia.   The investment plan is just the latest expression of Europe’s heightened interest in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region more generally. In the past year, several European countries have released Indo-Pacific strategy […]

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani speaks with the United Arab Emirates’ top national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

A series of deadly explosions in Abu Dhabi, the normally placid capital of the United Arab Emirates, has created a strategic quandary for the UAE government. Its leaders are in the midst of a major diplomatic reinvention, seeking to develop good relations with all of their regional neighbors, including, notably, Iran. The recent attacks, which were carried out by Houthi rebels in Yemen, may cause the UAE to reconsider its rapprochement with Tehran, the Houthis’ chief sponsor. The Houthis’ weapons, reportedly advanced missiles and drones, killed three people­—two Indian nationals and one Pakistani—and injured six others. The strikes targeted an area near the […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Rwanda wait to escort members of the U.N. Security Council as they arrive at the airport in Juba, South Sudan, Sept. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Justin Lynch).

The United Nations has no standing army, despite its initial plans to create one. Instead, when it launches a peace operation—the best established tool the international community has to address security threats—it relies on member states to voluntarily contribute personnel and troops. These U.N. deployments have grown in number and size throughout the 21st century, reaching a peak around 2014, when more than 100,000 military peacekeepers were stationed around the world. Today, four of the U.N.’s 12 peace operations—in South Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic—are staffed with more than 10,000 troops each. Along the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet with President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

There’s much that remains unknown about the violent turmoil that has engulfed Kazakhstan in recent days. But one clear fact has emerged from the mayhem: Vladimir Putin’s political doctrine has a new, now openly displayed centerpiece. On Monday, as the Russian president declared Kazakhstan’s crisis essentially resolved following a military intervention by Kremlin-led troops, he also announced the new policy. It amounts to a vow by Russia to protect autocratic rulers in former Soviet Republics when they face popular unrest. According to Putin, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization—a security alliance formed by a subset of post-Soviet states in 1992—had […]

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Much has already been said about the recent heightening of U.S.-China tensions and its potential fallout. What gets less attention is how the U.S. and China themselves perceive the status of their relationship, and how that affects their plans for the future. An analysis of prevailing elite opinion in the U.S. and China—starting with reactions to the Nov. 16 virtual summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping—can shed light on how each side understands the root causes of the current competition, and why they believe they can overcome them. For the United States, the rivalry is […]

President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

There is something clarifying about the fact that the opening of high-level U.S.-Russian talks this week to discuss the crisis Moscow has provoked over Ukraine comes just days after the one-year anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The two events are not directly related, but they both make up parts of a difficult challenge facing U.S. policymakers: how to preserve Washington’s global leadership role at a time when its model of governance, both domestically and internationally, is increasingly called into question. That dual-pronged challenge has come into sharper focus in the past five years, as the U.S. foreign […]

Colombian navy soldiers stand guard near the Arauca River, the natural border with Venezuela, in Arauquita, Colombia, March 26, 2021 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

BOGOTA, Colombia—Violent confrontations on the Colombian-Venezuelan border between leftist armed groups with roots in the Colombian civil war have left at least 27 dead and an unknown number of people displaced or confined to their homes since fighting began on Jan 2.  The 10th Front—a dissident group that splintered from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC—has been engaged in a simmering conflict with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, in the Arauca region of Colombia since at least last year. But the recent fighting represents a serious escalation between the two groups. Investigators at Human Rights Watch have […]

People take part in a demonstration to ban killer robots in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, March 21, 2019 (dpa photo by Wolfgang Kumm via AP Images).

By some media accounts, the recent Convention on Conventional Weapons Review Conference was a colossal disappointment for advocates of a treaty ban on autonomous weapons systems. After 10 years of calls for a ban on so-called killer robots—including powerful arguments against their use from scientists, scholars, engineers, Nobel laureates and a wide-ranging network of civil society organizations—governments at the RevCon, as the conference is known to participants, could come up with little more than an agreement to keep talking. Fortune magazine reported that “the world just blew a major opportunity.” In reality, however, the outcome at the RevCon is neither surprising nor troubling. […]

A Russian soldier looks through a binocular during drills in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 14, 2021 (AP photo).

When the Soviet Union collapsed three decades ago, the European security architecture suddenly became uncertain, its future put in play. After all, much of the postwar balance of power in Europe—and the world—had rested on the icy pillars of the Cold War, pillars that in 1991 abruptly melted. It didn’t take long, however, before the euphoria of freedom in the former Soviet bloc was translated into a series of diplomatic agreements enshrining a vision of cooperation, democracy and respect for independent states.  Those same agreements now lie in ruins, trampled by Russia’s anti-democratic turn and President Vladimir Putin’s determination to […]

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after a meeting via video-conference with leaders of the G5 Sahel countries, Feb. 16, 2021, Paris (AP photo by Francois Mori).

In mid-December, with little forewarning, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would soon be visiting Mali, a country in West Africa’s Sahel region that, along with several others there, has been afflicted with rising communal violence in recent years. It seems that the surprise Macron trip was conceived in order to serve multiple goals. Foremost was the desire to call Mali’s interim leader, who took power in a military coup last May, to heel, and get him to commit to a calendar for democratic elections early in 2022. By the same token, Macron surely also wanted to personally warn […]

U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington, May 21, 2021 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

South Korea’s era of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to taking sides in the great power rivalry between its historical ally and its rising neighbor is well and truly over. The Moon Jae-in government has moved away from seeking a middle ground between the U.S. and China. Quietly but surely, Seoul has decided to side with Washington in its competition with Beijing. The signs of this shift are everywhere. Prominent examples include the joint statement signed by Moon and U.S. President Joe Biden in May, which called out Beijing’s behavior in everything but name, and Seoul’s military build-up, which targets China as […]