In January, when a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker escorted a Russian tanker carrying essential fuel to Nome, Alaska, it served as a reminder that the U.S. and Russia have many reasons to continue pursuing a thaw in relations. Unfortunately, beyond the New START agreement and a few other deals, the U.S.-Russia reset, which was announced with fanfare in 2009, seems to have descended into bureaucratic obscurity. While it is essential that the United States maintains a constructive relationship with the Russian federal government, there is much more to be gained in developing working relationships that extend to regional governments, nongovernmental […]

This month marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the post-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a country that is currently playing a vital role in sustaining NATO forces in Afghanistan, supporting Georgia and other U.S. friends in Eurasia, and helping to moderate Iranian and Russian ambitions in the energy-rich Caspian Basin region. But Washington needs to prioritize its ties with Baku to strengthen the partnership and to make sure that Azerbaijan and its fragile neighbors in the geopolitically vital South Caucasus region remain strong and stable. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Azerbaijan was among the […]

Where is the positive vision for U.S. foreign policy in this election? President Barack Obama and on-again, off-again “presumptive” GOP nominee Mitt Romney now duel over who is more anti-declinist when it comes to America’s power trajectory, with both slyly attaching their candidacies to the notion that “the worst” is now behind us. On that score, Obama implicitly tags predecessor George W. Bush, while Romney promises a swift end to all things Obama. Halftime in America? Indeed. But what’s the animating vision, besides rebounding? What course are we setting, besides up? So far, all the candidates’ visions seem negative — […]

The Oval Office meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Jan. 30 has already been chalked up as a major victory by Tbilisi. Obama and Saakashvili discussed a range of topics, including the development of Georgia’s democracy, the country’s future transition of power and a possible free trade deal. For the Georgian government and their allies in the media, however, increased defense ties were the centerpiece development. Yet aside from an oblique reference by Saakashvili to “elevating our defense cooperation further,” details on any changes in the military relationship have been scarce. Several figures in […]

Russia has disappointingly blocked for now a U.S. State Department initiative to build a network of U.S.-supported counternarcotics centers in Central Asia. In public, Russian officials denigrate the effectiveness of programs to interdict drug transportation through Eurasia and instead have favored concentrating international resources on fighting opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan itself. But some Russian officials’ opposition to the initiative is driven by their desire to minimize the U.S. presence in Central Asia. Formally launched in June 2011 as a $4.1 million State Department program, the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI) aims to establish counternarcotics task forces in all five […]

The United States’ relationship with Singapore has been and continues to be one of its most important and successful in the Asia-Pacific. Despite its small size, Singapore has transformed itself into a major player in Southeast Asia and the broader global economy, and has been a consistent supporter of a strong U.S. presence in Asia. Today, the city-state is America’s 13th-largest trading partner, hosts U.S. naval ships in its waters, serves as a model for Washington on issues such as education and offers valuable strategic advice to the United States on a variety of policy questions. These past few weeks […]

While America has begun an economic recovery of uncertain strength and staying power, we Americans nonetheless face a far longer-term and more substantial national rebuilding project. This daunting task has placed us in a contemplative space, in which we nervously toggle between bouts of renewed self-confidence and crippling self-doubt. But the same thread runs through both cycles of this national bipolar disorder: the assumption that we must bear this burden alone. That assumption is our greatest weakness right now, for it blinds us to the economic opportunities at hand, while encouraging us to adopt an unwise defensiveness in our national […]

With All Eyes on Xi, What About the Rest of China’s Leadership Transition?

All eyes have been on Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping this week, as the heir apparent to Chinese President Hu Jintao continues his tour of the United States. But Xi will not be the only new face to emerge this fall, when the Chinese Communist Party will convene its 18th National Party Congress to announce a new generation of leaders in the top party and government positions. The congress convenes every five years to announce changes in policy or to make changes in personnel. But this year, the political transition is particularly important, with more than half of the 25 […]

With Marine Basing Decision, U.S. Sidesteps Stalemate With Japan

After years of controversy and disagreement, the U.S. and Japan agreed last week to decouple the terms of an agreement to close the U.S. Marines’ Futenma air base in Okinawa, after negotiations over relocating the base elsewhere on the island had reached a stalemate. The 2006 agreement had required the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to another site on Okinawa as a precondition for reducing the amount of U.S. troops stationed there. But heavy opposition among residents of Okinawa to hosting a new base, even in a less populated part of the island, had made the issue a […]

Over the past two weeks, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps conducted Bold Alligator, an exercise off the Atlantic seaboard designed to refine expertise in amphibious operations and test new amphibious capabilities. The exercise included the USS Enterprise supercarrier, three amphibious assault vessels — the USS Wasp, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Iwo Jima — as well as a bevy of support vessels. Nine international partners joined Bold Alligator in some fashion, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom, with the French LPD Mistral representing the most significant allied commitment. The […]

While the debate over whether Israel will strike Iran ebbs and flows on an almost weekly basis now, a larger collision-course trajectory is undeniably emerging. To put it most succinctly, Iran won’t back down, while Israel won’t back off, and America will back up its two regional allies — Israel and Saudi Arabia — when the shooting finally starts. There are no other credible paths in sight: There will be no diplomatic miracles, and Iran will not be permitted to achieve a genuine nuclear deterrence. But let us also be clear about what this coming war will ultimately target: regime […]

After a period of healthier ties following the much-heralded reset, U.S.-Russia relations appear to be deteriorating. Whether it was the war of words between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last December over the flaws in the Russian Duma elections, or the harsh language used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice after Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution last week calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the optimism engendered by the Obama administration’s reset with Russia has dissipated. Nor does the immediate future bode well for “resetting the reset.” Putin is […]

Global Insider: Russian Peacekeeping Grows with Russian Self-Identity

Russia announced last month that it plans to withdraw its eight helicopters and the 120 personnel who service them from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. In an email interview, Alexander Nikitin, director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and president emeritus of the Russian Political Science Association, discussed Russia’s involvement with international peacekeeping. WPR: What has been Russia’s recent involvement in international peacekeeping activities? Alexander Nikitin: Current Russian participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations remains on a quite low level for a great power and a permanent member of the U.N. […]

Afghanistan to Highlight Challenges of Collaboration Between Pentagon and CIA

In the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Special Operations Command sent intelligence officers and special operations forces to Afghanistan, making them the first American boots on the ground. Now, with the official end of the Iraq War and the upcoming withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, it is becoming clear that the first ones in will be the last ones out. As the U.S. military begins to shift away from combat missions in Afghanistan over the coming two years, instead focusing on advising Afghan forces, CIA paramilitary operations officers […]

Arguably the greatest strategic gift offered by America to the world over the past several decades has been our consistent willingness to maintain a high and hugely expensive entry barrier to the “market” that is great-power war: first by deterring outright war with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and then by maintaining a lopsided and unipolar military superiority in the post-Cold War period. However, a case can be made that in recent years, the greatest threat to this enduring component of global stability arises from within the United States itself — namely, a national security establishment intent on […]

On Nov. 26, NATO helicopters killed 26 Pakistani soldiers at Pakistan’s Salala checkpoint, mistakenly believing them to be Taliban militants. The incident provoked a furious reaction from Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership as well as from the population at large. In what was already shaping up to be one of the worst years ever for U.S.-Pakistan relations, the Salala incident represented the final straw. Pakistan immediately shut down NATO’s supply lines, ordered an end to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani territory and boycotted the Bonn Conference on Afghan reconciliation. Shortly thereafter, Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) began a […]

Immediately following World War II, the United States undertook a complete restructuring of its foreign policy apparatus. The 1947 National Security Act redesigned the national security bureaucracy of the United States, giving birth to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force. This redesign was necessary because the United States had taken on a global role during World War II, one that the extant bureaucratic structure was insufficient to manage. The title of Dean Acheson’s memoir of his tenure as secretary of state from 1949 to 1953, “Present at the Creation,” captured this moment […]