Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Aug. 15, 2014 (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a busy schedule next week in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. On Aug. 26, along with the heads of Belarus and Kazakhstan, the other states that make up the Eurasian Customs Union, Putin will have a face-to-face trilateral summit with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and a European Union delegation headed by its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. The summit has an ambitious agenda on the table to try and defuse the Ukraine crisis: ending Russia’s not-so-covert support for rebels in eastern Ukraine; brokering a political settlement between the separatists and […]

Tuareg Malian soldiers under the command of Colonel El-Hadj Ag Gamou patrol the streets of Gao, northern Mali, Feb. 16, 2013 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Tuareg rebels and Malian government officials have begun meeting in Algeria to try and hammer out the terms of a lasting peace in northern Mali. In July, the parties signed a road map deal that paved the way for talks on a wide array of political and security issues. In September, they will return to the Algerian capital for three weeks of negotiations. But so far, the prospects for peace look slim with so many divisions among rebel groups. The Algeria talks take the place of the 2013 Ouagadougou peace accord signed in neighboring Burkina Faso, which had allowed government […]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she greets a customer during a book signing of her new book "Hard Choices" at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Mike Groll).

The United States is at a transitional point in its national security strategy at least as important as the one after Vietnam and perhaps as crucial as the opening years of the Cold War. Although debate today about America’s future role in the world is limited to think tanks, academia and the media, during the 2016 presidential campaign, this will change. National security will move into the limelight as differing visions within and between the Democratic and Republican parties clarify policy options and choices. For both U.S. and global security, much will be at stake. It is, of course, too […]

Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol a area having a presence of Naxalites, at Dantewada district, Chattisgarh, India, April 17, 2007 (AP photo by Mustafa Quraishi).

Two Indian police officers were injured over the weekend when Maoist insurgents detonated a landmine below their convoy. In an email interview, P.V. Ramana, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, discussed the insurgency of Maoist groups, also known as Naxalites, and the Modi administration’s response. WPR: What is the current status of the Naxalite insurgency in India? P.V. Ramana: The Communist Party of India (Maoist) was banned in 2009 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967. The Maoist insurgents have a presence to varying degree—intense to negligible—in 182 districts across 20 […]

Hundreds of newly trained Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18Km south of Mogadishu on Thursday Feb. 17, 2011 (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh).

More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks. More than any other actor involved in the two-decade-old Somali conflict, al-Shabab has demonstrated its ability to adapt. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does […]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi speak during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 23, 2014 (AP photo by Ahmed Saad).

When asked recently by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman whether China, as the “biggest energy investor in Iraq,” should behave more like a stakeholder there, U.S. President Barack Obama had a pointed reply. The Chinese, he said, “have been free riders for the last 30 years and it’s worked really well for them,” while the United States has had to bear the burdens of maintaining international security and prosperity for the good of the world. Those comments triggered a sharply negative reaction in the Chinese press. Although Obama might not have intended to be so blunt, his remarks […]

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay meets with South Sudan's former Vice President and now rebel leader Riek Machar at an undisclosed location in South Sudan, April 29, 2014 (AP photo by UNMISS).

“The System Worked.” That is the title of a new book by Daniel W. Drezner reviewing the role of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization in the global financial crisis. Although the world economy tanked in 2008, Drezner argues, multilateral organizations helped save it from collapse. It is unlikely that anyone will write a book about the current wars in the Middle East and Ukraine with a similar title. A pithy summary of the United Nations’ rifts over Syria or NATO’s inability to halt Russia from seizing Crimea could be “the system flopped.” While the […]

A fighter with the Islamic State group stands guard in front of the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Christian village of Bartella, northern Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014 (AP photo).

For Islamic extremists, particularly the most angry and violent ones, al-Qaida is yesterday’s news. From Yemen to Africa, fighters are leaving al-Qaida-affiliated groups and joining the ultra-radical and violent movement now known as the Islamic State. This gives some worrisome hints about the future of extremism in the Islamic world. The ascendance of the Islamic State, initially known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is due in part to al-Qaida’s failures. Over the years much of the funding al-Qaida used to energize and stoke militant movements was cut off or dried up. Pummeled by the United States […]

Palestinian boys, holding Hamas flags, stand on the rubble of Aisha mosque destroyed in an Israeli strike, Gaza City, Aug. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Hatem Moussa).

With another ceasefire set to expire, Israeli and Palestinian diplomats are once more in Cairo for Egyptian-brokered talks to end the fighting in Gaza. Egypt is hardly a neutral mediator: President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas, is no secret; neither, for that matter, is Egypt’s close security relationship with Israel, firmly established under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. But the inner workings of that relationship are rarely exposed. That made the Wall Street Journal’s reporting last week of Israel’s close coordination withel-Sissi during its military assault on Gaza all the more revealing. The month-long conflict […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev as they attend an annual international tournament in combat sambo in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Aug. 9, 2014 (AP photo/RIA-Novosti).

On Aug. 1, heavy clashes erupted along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, prompting worries that the unresolved conflict over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh was about to reignite into a full-fledged war. With a death toll of at least 15, the skirmish was the worst outburst of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the cease-fire protocol came into effect in 1994. Publicly, each side has tried to blame the other for the escalation. However, a number of factors suggest that the recent escalation might have less to do with the two belligerent parties and more with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing geopolitical […]

Two A-129 Mangusta helicopters fly over an unknown location in Afghanistan, Sept. 8, 2013 (AP photo courtesy of the Italian Army Public Affairs Office in Herat).

Next month’s NATO summit needs to make greater progress on so-called Smart Defense, the alliance-wide effort to get more collective benefits out of individual members’ defense budgets. The initiative aims to induce NATO governments to acquire military capabilities collectively that they cannot afford individually, so that even members with limited resources can contribute to expensive joint projects. The May 2012 Chicago summit launched almost two dozen Smart Defense projects in such areas as logistics and sustainment; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and force protection. One country leads each project. For example, Germany is in charge of pooling maritime patrol aircraft; France […]

Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers and tanks return to their positions during military exercises outside Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh, April 19, 2006 (AP photo by Karen Minasian).

This year, while Europe commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I, a long-forgotten conflict on the edge of the continent rumbled on. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a contest for control over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 25 years. Beginning as an obscure conflict in a remote Soviet province during perestroika, the Nagorno-Karabakh stand-off has evolved into an enduring rivalry between two independent states, profoundly affecting both and casting a consistent shadow of insecurity across the South Caucasus. The conflict began in 1988, when a movement formed by the local Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh, then an […]

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community cross the Syria-Iraq border at Feeshkhabour border point, in northern Iraq, Aug. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

There has been a lot of talk about humanitarian interventions over the past week, but much of it has been muddled, misleading or both. Russia has pressed for a “humanitarian mission” to the war zone in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies argue that Moscow is just using this as a pretext to invade the region. While telling Russia to back off, the Obama administration has stumbled into a new intervention of its own, launching air strikes in northern Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The […]

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter positioned behind dirt barriers along the front line with militants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State, Mariam Bek village, between the cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk, Iraq, June 30, 2014 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

A Texas court is the new battleground between the Iraqi government and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Baghdad insists that a tanker full of oil off the Texas coast, originating from the country’s Kurdish region, properly belongs to Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, and obtained a ruling to that effect from a Texas judge. On Aug. 4 the Kurdistan Regional Government filed a motion in a Texas court to lift the order. A KRG statement said that oil had been “legally produced, exported, and sold . . . in accordance with the Iraqi constitution and law.” The dispute comes amid […]

Iraqis from the Yazidi community chant anti-Islamic militants slogans in front of U.N. headquarters to ask for international protection in Irbil, Iraq, Aug. 4, 2014 (AP photo).

Last June, when Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, abruptly fell to a militia of ultra-radical Islamists barreling in from Syria, the consensus among international observers was that the stunning collapse of Iraqi forces was the result of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s disastrous policies. Maliki’s sectarian regime had undermined the Iraqi military’s unity, preparedness and willingness to fight. To be sure, Maliki’s governing approach has proved devastating for Iraq, but events of the past few days point to a much more ominous explanation. The new evidence coming from the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq suggests that Baghdad’s dismal response to the […]

Syria U.N. ambassador Bashar Ja'afari listens after a U.N. Security Council vote on referring the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court for investigation of possible war crimes, May 22, 2014 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

Last week, a former Syrian military photographer, his identity hidden under a blue hoodie, appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee with thousands of photographs allegedly showing widespread torture and killing in Bashar al-Assad’s jails. Known as “Caesar,” the photographer defected last year with a trove of what he says is evidence of mass atrocities in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil-war: 55,000 photographs of more than 11,000 victims—many of them tagged and numbered. The photographs first came to light last January, in a report by three prominent international lawyers who previously prosecuted cases at the criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Sierra […]

The U.S. military's Active Denial System, a non-lethal ray gun, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Jan. 24, 2007 (AP photo by Elliott Minor).

Conventional militaries normally avoid fighting in cities, instead seeking open ground where generals can see what is happening and control their forces as much as possible. Certainly there have been large urban battles like Stalingrad, Manila and Berlin during World War II, but they were the exception rather than the rule, an act of desperation by a commander with no other options. Militias and insurgents, though, see things differently. Usually weaker than state security forces, they often choose to fight, as British Gen. Rupert Smith put it, “amongst the people,” in the hope that state security forces will not bring […]

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