Historical comparisons with contemporary events are always risky, particularly with regard to warfare. But two historical patterns in the use of mercenaries in Europe can provide insights into the role that private military contractors like the Wagner Group play within the Russian political system, and how that might evolve over time.
Critics call the Afghanistan withdrawal one of the biggest failures of President Joe Biden’s administration. Afghanistan was indeed a failure of U.S. foreign policy. But the failure was not in how the U.S. left Afghanistan in August 2021. Rather it was in the fact that U.S. forces were still in Afghanistan in August 2021.
The latest conflict in the Gaza Strip has put the international spotlight on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or PIJ, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas. Despite the group’s losses in the fighting, the PIJ may have emerged politically strengthened and with its credibility as a resistance movement enhanced.
Because the Wagner Group has such an established reputation, many took claims made earlier this year that the group would deploy to Burkina Faso at face value. However, rumors about Wagner rarely square with reality. The actual evidence that the group will imminently deploy to Burkina Faso is far from conclusive.
In the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China engaged in a military show of force that raised fears Beijing could be preparing to take control of Taiwan by force, if not immediately, then in the near future. Such concerns are not off base, but fears of an imminent invasion of Taiwan are likely overblown.
In contrast to the reactions of some Western observers, Taiwan has remained remarkably unruffled by China’s reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s visit. From Taiwan’s point of view, China’s military display certainly represents a high-water mark in its pressure campaign, but part of a long pattern of behavior by Beijing.
A debate is raging across Europe over whether all Russians should be banned from entering the EU. Politicians are debating whether that would unfairly hold the Russian people collectively responsible for the war in Ukraine, and conversely whether it is fair to let them in while Europeans cannot safely travel to Russia.
In the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week, much of the commentary in the U.S. has been on the visit’s impact on U.S.-China relations. Unfortunately, the reactions within Taiwan and China have attracted less attention, as they are revealing of domestic factors driving decision-making on both sides of the strait.
With polls showing that he may lose by a wide margin in Brazil’s Oct. 2 presidential election, President Jair Bolsonaro is setting the stage to claim fraud and have his supporters protest his loss. More troubling, Bolsonaro has hinted that elements of the military and police will back his efforts.
In the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China has responded with an unprecedented range of diplomatic, economic and military measures. The entire episode suggests that the One China policy, the diplomatic sleight of hand that has governed U.S.-China relations for over 40 years, might be reaching its expiration date.
The human suffering and risks of escalation caused by the war in Ukraine are leading many observers to call for the U.S. and NATO to take any steps necessary to strike a deal with Russia for an immediate cease-fire. It is understandable to want to end the war. But calls for the West to do so in Ukraine’s stead are misplaced.
The first ship exporting grain from Ukraine since February left Odessa’s port this week thanks to a deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N. The agreement aims to ease the global food crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but there are doubts as to whether it will hold for long enough to make a difference.
In response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit this week to Taiwan, China has applied an expanded political, military and economic coercion toolkit to punish Taipei. That points to Beijing’s desire to increase the cost on Taiwan for attempting to expand its international space and further solidify the U.S.-Taiwan bilateral relationship.
One year after the Taliban seized power in Kabul, the situation in Afghanistan is—in a word—worse. Now, the killing of al-Qaida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a U.S. drone attack has raised renewed concerns that the Taliban are providing sanctuary to the terrorist group, which could have grave implications for the country’s future.
When U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres first released “Our Common Agenda,” his 2021 report on the future of multilateralism, many diplomats were skeptical of how it would apply to peace and security. But parts of the report actually look more, rather than less, relevant after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Kyiv has barred adult men aged 18-60 from leaving the country and fleeing the war with their families—regardless of their training or fitness for military service. But is this policy strictly necessary, or could the war effort be helped by allowing men to leave the country?