A U.S. nuclear missileer crew checks systems in the underground control room where they work a 24-hour shift at an ICBM launch control facility near Minot, N.D., June 24, 2014 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

To say that the world is closer to the brink of nuclear war today than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 feels less controversial by the day. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently told media representatives that the “prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.” Certainly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been signaling a willingness to at least consider the nuclear option. In late February, he raised the readiness level of Russia’s nuclear response force, stating that Western interference in the ongoing war in Ukraine will result in “consequences greater than any you have faced […]

A Russian officer stands near a landed Il-76 military cargo plane on Alexandra Land, an island near Nagurskoye, Russia, May 17, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Since Feb. 24, the eyes of the world have been fixed on Eastern Europe. But the events unfolding in and around Ukraine portend great changes for another region: the Arctic. Commonly viewed as a “territory of dialogue,” the Arctic has over the past three decades won a reputation as a “zone of peace” marked by exceptionally calm and collaborative security dynamics. Indeed, this is what former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev envisioned back in October 1987, when he launched a series of policy initiatives aimed at lowering the level of military confrontation in the Arctic by facilitating cooperation among the eight […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses for a photograph with the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates at the Negev Summit, Sde Boker, Israel, March 28, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

DOHA, Qatar—Washington’s partners in the Gulf believe that the United States has fundamentally altered the terms of the deal that has historically governed their relationship. From the period beginning with the end of the Cold War until recently, governments in the Gulf Arab countries considered themselves protected by an ironclad security guarantee provided by the U.S. In exchange, those countries tacitly agreed to leverage their dominance of global oil markets in support of Washington’s policies, particularly at moments of strategic urgency. There is no mutual defense pact requiring the U.S. military to come to the defense of the Arab oil […]

A woman holds a sign with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the word “Genocida,” or committer of genocide, during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 6, 2022 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Lately, elections in Latin America are making people squirm in Washington. For foreign policy old-timers, victories by leftist candidates have conjured images of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Others are haunted by memories of more recent bogeymen, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine deepened these anxieties, fueling fears that the region’s ideological pendulum is swinging in President Vladimir Putin’s direction. But more than a month into the war, those fears have proven to be unfounded. Indeed, if anything, Latin America’s response to Putin’s brutality reinforced shared hemispheric values with the United States, suggesting that […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Nov. 21, 2020 (Sputnik photo by Alexei Nikolsky via AP).

Western outrage over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine has prompted calls to eject Russia from apex institutions of global cooperation, most notably the Group of 20 and the United Nations Security Council. While this impulse is tempting, efforts to exclude Russia from both institutions would be imprudent and likely futile, given the diverse membership of the former and U.N. Charter provisions regarding the latter. Rather than tilt at windmills, the United States and its allies should use both forums to shame Moscow for its criminal actions, while sharpening the already punishing sanctions they have deployed […]

Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missiles roll in Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

From the very start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the risk of it escalating into a nuclear conflict has been a feature of much commentary about the war. From explicit as well as thinly veiled mentions of it by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the warnings of Western observers about the dangers of any direct confrontation between NATO and Russian forces, the nuclear dimension to this war has never been far from the surface. While the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons, even absent NATO’s involvement in Ukraine, does exist, it is in all likelihood minimal. Nevertheless, the war […]

Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2022 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

On March 9, after a long campaign and an even longer election night, South Korea finally elected a new president: Yoon Suk Yeol, of the conservative People Power Party. The 61-year-old career prosecutor, who won by less than 1 percent of the vote, may not have the strongest electoral mandate to work with. But he is nevertheless expected to make dramatic changes to the country’s foreign policy once he enters office on May 10. Since Yoon is new to politics, it’s hard to know what to expect of him once he takes over. That’s all the more true because public […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks toward U.S. President Joe Biden at a group photo during an extraordinary summit at NATO headquarters, Brussels, March 24, 2022 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

European Union and NATO leaders gathered in Brussels today for a mammoth day of three major summits, all with overlapping guest lists. The first was a combined assembly of national leaders from NATO and the EU’s member states, which took place this morning at NATO’s headquarters in the city’s northeast. After that meeting, six of the NATO leaders were then joined by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as well as the presidents of the European Council and European Commission for a G-7 summit that was also held at NATO’s headquarters. The final gathering featured 22 of the 30 NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a live broadcast of the opening ceremony for the National People’s Congress, March 5, 2022, Beijing (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Not long after the commencement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I wrote that for China, binding itself tightly to Moscow would do harm to Beijing’s long-term interests. That is because, I wrote, an alliance between a superpower like China and a far less dynamic country like Russia, whose economy is a small fraction of the former’s size, is not much of an alliance. This would especially hold true if Beijing’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin deepened European wariness of China and caused Europe and the United States to grow even closer, both of which now seem almost certain. Some object that […]

U.S. President Joe Biden meets virtually from the Situation Room at the White House with Chinese President Xi Jinping, March 18, 2022, Washington (White House photo via AP).

A two-hour virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, failed to yield progress on efforts to halt the war in Ukraine, while leaving relations between Washington and Beijing locked in a stalemate. A month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has proven unable to convince Beijing to end its diplomatic tap dance around the conflict. But Beijing views its long-term rivalry with Washington as its chief geopolitical concern, making it unlikely to abandon Moscow, its new strategic partner, over the war. Xi spoke to Biden on Friday at the latter’s request, following a […]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a visit of the German armed forces’ Joint Operations Command in Schwielowsee, Germany, on March 4, 2022 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

On Feb. 27, nothing less than a revolution took place in Germany. In a 30-minute speech to parliament, Chancellor Olaf Scholz overturned all the old certainties that have dominated German security policy for over 30 years. He replaced them with an ambitious agenda that had defense, a topic with which Germany normally only reluctantly engages, at its core. Since the end of the Cold War, Germany has not felt threatened militarily. As a result, Berlin has felt little urgency to invest in its military and was reluctant to engage in the various military operations of the post-Cold War period. Where […]

An aerial view of destroyed buildings and shops in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

MOSUL, Iraq—On both sides of the Atlantic, the war in Ukraine and its direct impacts on regional security and the international order  continue to be the focus of policymaking attention. By contrast, because Iraq is physically distant to the conflict, the country continues to remain embroiled in its own affairs. Six months after parliamentary elections held last October, Iraq’s political class remains stuck in a protracted negotiation over government formation that is slowly morphing into a governance crisis, with all the ingredients of state failure. Meanwhile, Iran and the United States continue to jostle for influence in the country, confronting each other […]

Russian servicemen ride a military vehicle along a road near the border with Ukraine, in Crimea, Russia (Sputnik photo by Konstantin Mihalchevskiy via AP).

News headlines this week warned that Russia is recruiting mercenaries to scale up its operations in Ukraine. Some 16,000 fighters from Syria and other Arab states have already volunteered, joining the hundreds of Russian mercenaries that were already reportedly operating in Ukraine. The whiff of guns-for-hire was seen as a sign that an even more ruthless phase of the conflict may be ahead. But considering how states have used privatized force in the past, it seems unlikely that mercenaries will introduce any risk factors that could make the conflict much worse than it already is. That says something both about the current state […]

Refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Ukraine arrive at Przemysl, Poland, Feb. 26, 2022 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

In last week’s Wrap-Up, I noted that the war in Ukraine was entering a new phase, one in which the human costs of Russia’s brutal siege tactics will become more evident, even as whatever political objectives Russian President Vladimir Putin initially sought to accomplish through the invasion become increasingly unachievable. The course of the fighting in the week since then has only reinforced that conclusion. While both sides are engaged in negotiations to end the war, the prospects for a compromise agreement seem dim, and even if some deal is reached, it’s hard to see how it could be durable […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro pose for a photo during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 (Sputnik photo by Mikhail Klimentyev).

Over the past decade or so, the Kremlin has endeavored to exploit Latin America’s internal divisions and its differences with the United States with the purpose of building a beachhead of diplomatic and strategic support in a region geographically close to the U.S. The success of that project is now being put to the test in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Three weeks into the ensuing war, there is little evidence that Moscow’s efforts to woo Latin America have yielded any significant benefits. In fact, if anything, they look like a failure. The Kremlin has spent billions of dollars […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a meeting with the prime ministers of Slovenia, Czech Republic and Poland in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 15, 2022 (photo by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP).

Diplomats in Brussels breathed a sigh of relief yesterday following the safe return of three leaders from the European Union’s eastern bloc who made a surprise visit to Ukraine earlier this week. The prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday evening. Their visit was cheered across Europe as a brave gesture of support and solidarity for Ukraine. But for EU diplomats, the unilateral initiative was nonetheless alarming news that does not bode well for the continental and trans-Atlantic unity on display within the EU and NATO since Russia’s invasion three weeks […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive at a BRICS Summit event at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

On the night of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, South African Defense Minister Thandi Modise attended a reception at the Russian Embassy in Pretoria, held in honor of the Russian armed forces. Four days later, officials from the ruling African National Congress, or ANC, celebrated 30 years of Russian-South African friendship over drinks at a reception held at the Russian consulate in Cape Town. Though both episodes are shocking, neither should come as a surprise. South Africa’s foreign policy has been on a long, downward ethical trajectory since the Mandela era, when the promotion of democracy and human rights were […]

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