When the Cold War ended, the days of imperial expansion seemed to go with it. No one expected the revanchism of bygone empires to affect, much less shape, the 21st-century global security system. But that is exactly what is happening. Al-Qaida is using the dream of a long-lost Arab empire to justify terrorism. China is yearning for territory it owned centuries ago and seems willing to use its rising economic and military power to regain it. And now Russia has joined the revanchists by invading Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory. As a result, policymakers, military strategists […]

In recent years, the security threats facing humanitarian aid workers have been the subject of headlines and debates. The humanitarian advocacy community has been filled with discussions of a perceived increase in the politicization of humanitarian aid—attributed in part to declining respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence—and growing difficulties ensuring operations can be conducted in accordance with those principles. These discussions frequently highlight attacks on relief personnel and assets to show that humanitarian workers are under attack. In the past year, the focus has narrowed to a particular area of humanitarian operations: medical and health […]

During the course of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has faced challenges in treating wounded soldiers on a scale it hasn’t witnessed since the Vietnam War. In response, the military has succeeded in reducing the mortality rate of soldiers injured in combat through a radical shift in doctrine, procedures and medical technology. The duration of the two wars has also produced a wealth of research that has informed Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), which has become the standardized set of procedures used to treat U.S. casualties across active-duty military services. Despite this, the cost has been […]

President Barack Obama’s whirlwind visit to Europe began yesterday in The Hague against the looming shadow of the Ukraine crisis. While Obama will seek to rally Western resistance to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and affirm the administration’s strong commitment to European security, the trip was initially scheduled to coincide with the third Nuclear Security Summit, which focuses on preventing nuclear terrorism. The Nuclear Security Summits look to be one of the Obama administration’s major international security legacies. These recurring meetings of senior national leaders have sustained global attention on an issue that previously had preoccupied mostly technical experts, ad hoc […]

There is not sufficient evidence on the use of sexual violence in conflict to determine whether it is increasing or decreasing in prevalence or institutionalization. However, evidence indicates it is widespread. Conflict-related gendered violence can range from a tool of economic exploitation, oppression and violence, especially during conflicts, disasters and their aftermath, to the systematic use of sexual violence as a strategy in armed conflict. Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined in humanitarian contexts as “an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will, and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and […]

The Crimea crisis has given realists a field day for attacking the belief structures of rules-based internationalists. Ukraine just paid the price of giving up its nuclear weapons 20 years ago, we hear, and the Budapest Memorandum guarantees of Ukraine’s borders did nothing to change Moscow’s behavior. Integrating Russia into international economic institutions proved equally meaningless. As for human rights and the rule of law, everyone knows they don’t matter when the vital national interests of great powers are at stake. The reality, however, is more complicated. The fabric of international norms actually functioned as intended on the nuclear issue. […]

Right now, the U.S. foreign policy community should not be engaging in its favorite pastime of assigning blame for the situation in Crimea. Nor, given ongoing problems in other parts of the world—rising tensions in the Far East, the future of the Iran nuclear initiative, the fate of the protest movement in Venezuela—does Washington have the luxury of focusing on the Ukrainian crisis at the expense of other, equally pressing concerns. Instead, the focus right now needs to be on formulating a new policy toward Russia that is not subject to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics, and to situate […]

The crisis in Ukraine has presented NATO with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to reassure its nervous members and partners about their security while deterring further Russian military aggression. The opportunity is that the crisis may rescue the alliance from perceived irrelevancy after the end of its major role in the Afghanistan War this year and against the backdrop of the ongoing U.S. military focus on East Asia and the Middle East. In a speech here in Washington yesterday at the Brookings Institution, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen termed Russia’s seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine […]

Last week I wrote about the challenges that the future U.S. military might face if ordered to intervene in the type of sprawling, coastal megacities that are emerging around the world. This sparked some intense debates among national security experts, many aghast at that prospect. “So what if there are megacities,” one strategic thinker wrote in a private communication, “why in heaven’s name do we want to go into them, simply because they are there and somebody is telling us that they are important?” The complexity and human costs of such an operation, the critics noted, would be great, and […]

Over the past few years, Turkey’s “zero problem with neighbors” policy has become something of a joke. After some initial successes at resolving problems with surrounding states, Turkey is now the only major country without ambassadors in Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously. One major exception was arguably Turkey’s relations with Russia, which have remained solid despite differences over Syria, Iran and other issues. Now the Crimea crisis has confronted Turkey with the most serious challenge to its Russian policy since the Cold War. Until losing the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, the Ottoman Empire held sovereignty over Crimea, which was then […]

Central Asia has looked with alarm to the events in Ukraine, where massive protests have led to the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed dictator and the subsequent Russian invasion of Crimea. The region’s autocrats are worried by the fact that street protests were able to oust a strongman in a fellow ex-Soviet state. At the same time, Russia’s heavy-handed intervention in a former Soviet republic has unsettled Central Asians, who see themselves as Moscow’s next potential target. Russia’s move in Crimea is especially salient for Kazakhstan, which has a large ethnic Russian population concentrated on the country’s border with Russia. President […]

Editor’s note: WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Richard Gowan, who will be taking a leave of absence until June. As has become increasingly evident to observers of global politics over the past several years, we live in a Gramscian moment of systemic crisis, where in the interregnum between an old order on its deathbed and a new one not yet born, “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The latest of these symptoms is on display in Ukraine, where Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea highlights the waning power of the post-Cold War liberal order, even […]

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk traveled to Washington on Wednesday to plead for urgent U.S. help for his country, especially emergency assistance in coping with the country’s dire economic straits. Yet two polls of U.S. public opinion released this week will be little comfort to those pundits who advocate a more assertive American foreign policy, particularly in dealing with the current crisis in Ukraine. The Pew Center released data indicating that 56 percent of Americans eschew any major U.S. involvement in Ukraine, especially in confronting Russia over the situation in Crimea. A related CNN poll reveals only 6 percent […]

Many security analysts and futurists agree that in the coming decades the prevalent form of conflict will not take place in remote rural areas like in Afghanistan but in the massive, highly connected megacities that are already experiencing most of the world’s population and economic growth. In his recent book “Out of the Mountains,” David Kilcullen, one of the most astute thinkers on the changing nature of security, argues that all aspects of human life in the future will be “crowded, urban, networked and coastal.” Megacities will be the locus of economic energy and cultural creativity in the future, but […]

Russia’s military occupation and impending annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine has put Beijing in a difficult spot, confronting Chinese leaders with numerous competing priorities and principles. Having cultivated good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, they would prefer to avoid antagonizing one party by siding too closely with the other. Yet, China’s recent approach shows how Beijing is now more willing to dilute longstanding foreign policy principles to align with Moscow. Throughout the months of unrest in Ukraine, Chinese media commentary has generally echoed Russia’s line that Western machinations were contributing to the instability in Kiev, which finally led […]

President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia later this month will come at a time of considerable shifts in Saudi regional strategy. Three recent policy changes in particular—the moving of the Syria file from Prince Bandar bin Sultan to counterterrorism chief Prince Mohammad bin Nayef; the withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors from Qatar; and the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as terrorist organizations by Saudi Arabia—are signs that Riyadh is taking a more assertive approach to dealing with a range of Islamist forces. The […]

Will Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama ultimately benefit most from the crisis in Ukraine? Most pundits are betting on the former. The Russian president has pulled off a bravura display of ruthless guile in seizing control of Crimea. His American counterpart has looked limited, calculating that Moscow will want an “off ramp” out of a crisis that currently seems to be going Moscow’s way. Obama’s critics have naturally attributed Putin’s aggression to U.S. weakness, even though Washington has pushed for sanctions and other punitive measures. But Obama may emerge as the final winner. This is not because Russia will let […]

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