A Norwegian artillery observer takes part in NATO’s “Wettiner Heide” joint military exercise, Munster, Germany, May 10, 2022 (DPA photo by Philipp Schulze via AP).

One of the biggest geopolitical questions raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is whether it will transform European defense. At first glance, the answer is obviously, yes. After all, Germany declared a zeitenwende, or turning point, announcing it would invest at least 100 billion euros in its military, while also pledging to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of GDP annually on defense. Other countries around Europe are similarly upping their defense budgets to meet or surpass the NATO goal. And the EU itself has allocated 2 billion euros to support the provision of security assistance to Ukraine. Europe is suddenly taking defense very seriously and […]

People hold a banner showing Col. Assimi Goita, leader of the junta running Mali, as they demonstrate to show support for the junta in the capital Bamako, Mali, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo).

In May 2021, Mali suffered its second coup in the space of a year, both of which were perpetrated by the same group of colonels. While the first coup, in August 2020, followed a recognizable script of quickly standing up a civilian-led transitional government with the task of guiding the country to democratic elections, the second has upended that “business-as-usual” approach to post-coup transitions. As such, for Mali and for West African democracy in general, it represents a real turning point, revealing the coup-makers’ combination of shrewdness and ambition—a combination that is already being replicated by military juntas that have […]

Russian military vehicles take part in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

At least once at every conference about an international security crisis, in the midst of debate, a participant will suddenly lean back and quote Carl von Clausewitz in a booming voice to underscore a tenuous point. Sometimes, in order to demonstrate that they are not just drawing on conventional wisdom about politics and war, the Clausewitz citation might be followed up by an observation borrowed from Henri Jomini. Every once in a while, there might even be a Sun Tzu quip thrown in for good measure. When it comes to analysis of what the Russo-Ukrainian war tells us about the […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, March 25, 2022, in Jasionka, Poland (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Ukraine wasn’t supposed to stand much of a chance in a military conflict with Russia. It was outgunned and outmanned. In the first months of 2022, as the threat of an invasion loomed, the Russian military was expected to quickly and decisively defeat its much weaker neighbor with ease. Many experts were asking not if Russia could win the coming war, but how far its ambitions stretched within and beyond Ukraine. But as the war grinds on for a fourth month, Ukraine has defied expectations. With external assistance, its military has been able to force Russia’s troops to pull back […]

Afghans chant slogans against Iran during a demonstration in Massoud Square, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 12, 2022 (AP photo by Mohammed Shoaib Amin).

Over the past month, a series of violent episodes on Afghanistan’s borders have put the country’s relations with its neighbors in the spotlight. Some incidents involved Taliban fighters, such as clashes on the border with Iran. Others, like the Islamic State’s rocket attacks on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, highlighted the Taliban’s inability to control Afghanistan’s borderlands. And a wave of violence in Pakistan by militants based in Afghanistan has grown so intense that in mid-April Pakistan conducted reprisal airstrikes on Afghan territory, killing dozens of civilians and turning up the diplomatic heat between Islamabad and Kabul. Inflamed tensions between the struggling […]

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As of last week, NATO seemed well on its way to expanding, when Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications for membership. When they officially join, becoming the 31st and 32nd member of the alliance, it could potentially mark the fastest accession process in the alliance’s history. This is reflective of the sudden about-face in the two countries’ foreign policies in the months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both went quickly from countries content with a posture of non-alignment marked by occasional cooperation with NATO, to expressing increasing support for the alliance, to applying for full membership. It is not […]

Ukrainian servicemen in a penal colony in Olyonivka, in eastern Ukraine, after leaving the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, May 19, 2022 (Photo by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP Images).

On Wednesday, more than 250 Ukrainian soldiers who were hiding out in a steel plant in Mariupol surrendered to Russian forces and were swiftly detained. Speculation about what will happen to them has been intense, given Russia’s poor adherence to the Geneva Conventions since its troops invaded Ukraine in February. According to Reuters, at least one Russian negotiator involved in talks with Ukraine has called for the prisoners to be executed, an act that is expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. Ukrainian officials, as well as the soldiers’ families, have expressed hopes for a prisoner exchange. Another possibility, though, is […]

European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager speaks at the EU headquarters in Brussels, May 18, 2022 (SIPA via AP Images).

The European Commission yesterday unveiled a watershed proposal to shore up the European Union’s ability to coordinate military decision-making among the bloc’s member states. The proposal to strengthen the union’s defense coordination powers takes on added significance against the backdrop of Turkey blocking Sweden’s and Finland’s bids to join NATO, underscoring the urgency of an upgraded EU military framework in the interim. The commission’s proposal to analyze and coordinate defense spending among EU member states, including a collective defense acquisition framework similar to its joint vaccines procurement strategy, came in response to a request made by EU national leaders during […]

Police officers detain a protester in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Feb. 24, 2022 (AP photo by Roman Yarovitsyn).

As Ukrainian society faced the shock of Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, separatist protests coordinated by Russian intelligence services in Donetsk and Luhansk generated mockery across much of Ukrainian social media. With every escalation of tensions around the Donbas region in the months that followed, demands from Russian President Vladimir Putin for a so-called federalization of Ukraine triggered a torrent of angry memes from Ukrainian social media users satirizing proposals that would have meant the de facto partition of the Ukrainian state. One such image was a map proposing the partition of Russia into a dozen self-governing regions that applied […]

Migrants cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, near the border of Morocco and Spain, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Nearly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the crisis continues to dominate, if not quite monopolize, the attention of policymakers and pundits in Europe and the U.S. It is the cause of weekly and even daily debates and ructions over everything from how much aid to Ukraine is enough and how much is too much, to which European leader has done the most to support Kyiv in its hour of need and which the least. In addition to upending Europe’s security landscape, the war has also transformed Europe as an economic and political space. Finland and Sweden are clamoring to […]

Forces loyal to Libya’s U.N.-appointed interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah arrive from Misrata to Tripoli in a show of support, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Yousef Murad).

By any definition, Libya is a so-called fragile state and a high-priority challenge for international security. Since 2011, it has been wracked by repeated cycles of internal division and proxy warfare. It is a key node of arms smuggling and human trafficking, and a feeder of violence, conflict and human suffering across North Africa and down to the Sahel and the broader West Africa region. In recognition of these challenges, the U.S. recently named it one of the priority countries for the Global Fragility Act, or GFA, a 2019 law designed to change the way the U.S. government approaches conflict-prevention and peacebuilding […]

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, right, marks his election win with incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, left, in Mogadishu, Somalia, May 15, 2022 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somali lawmakers elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s next president yesterday in a vote broadcast live on national television, bringing a conclusion to a dramatic, long-delayed presidential election that threatened to exacerbate socio-political tensions in the country. Mohamud, who previously served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017, beat out 36 candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Farmaajo, as Mohamed is known, conceded defeat, paving the way for Mohamud to be sworn in immediately. The poll was conducted in a tent on the premises of Mogadishu’s heavily guarded airport complex, amid a lockdown and curfew imposed on the city by […]

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

International security is inherently a secretive business. Governments and militaries like to hide their capabilities and plans from their rivals. Yet in the post-Cold War years, states began to become more transparent about their military postures, aiming to create a new sense of international cooperation and openness. This process has now gone into reverse, with post-Cold War transparency arrangements in sharp decline. With the war in Ukraine signaling a new era of great power conflict and mistrust, can international organizations like the United Nations do anything to maintain some transparency over security affairs between states? The idea that multilateral bodies […]

Chad’s interim president, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron for a meeting on the Sahel crisis at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Nov. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

The spate of military takeovers and attempted coups across Africa over the past two years has led to speculation in some quarters about a generalized “return to military rule” or “coup contagion” on the continent. In August 2020, a group of Malian officers led by Col. Assimi Goita overthrew the government of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. A little over nine months later, Goita also deposed the transitional government the interim junta had selected to steer the country back toward a democratically elected civilian government. In Guinea and Sudan, the army toppled civilian leaders last year, while Chad’s armed forces […]

Demining experts search for mines in Kohsan district of Herat province, northwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 3, 2010 (AP photo by Reza Shirmohammadi).

On the morning of April 1, seven children were playing in the lush wheat fields of Afghanistan’s Marjah district, in the southern Helmand province, by tossing around a metal object. Moments later, it exploded. The blast claimed five of their lives, including the youngest in the group, a 5-year-old boy. “My daughter has not only lost her three sons, but also her senses,” Haji Abdul Salam, a 55-year-old farmer who lost two children and three grandchildren in the explosion, tells me at his home while attending to visitors there for the funeral. “She neither sleeps nor eats.” But Salam is […]

A sign at a rally for Ukraine at the White House shows Russian President Vladimir Putin in prison and calls for him to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (NurPhoto by Allison Bailey via AP).

Terrible stories are emerging from Ukraine about the mass rape of civilian women by Russian soldiers. Among the most notorious reports is one involving a group of teenage girls who were held captive in a basement in Bucha. Nine of them are now pregnant after multiple gang rapes. According to Ukraine’s ombudsman for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova, “Russian soldiers told [the victims] they would rape them to the point where they wouldn’t want sexual contact with any man, to prevent them from having Ukrainian children.” Currently, these are reports from officials of a nation at war, and must therefore be verified by independent […]

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Reserve, May 4, 2022 in Washington (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

It’s a widely acknowledged truth that when the United States’ economy sneezes, many countries catch a cold. And so it is with this week’s interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in Washington, whose efforts to contain inflation in the U.S. are sure to create new problems for already battered economies and families in less affluent countries. The move will unintentionally pile onto the multiple, interconnected crises and growing challenges already facing developing countries. As I noted a few weeks ago, Russia’s war on Ukraine is sending economic, and therefore political, shockwaves across the planet, from Peru to Sri Lanka. Now comes the […]

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