Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the anti-submarine ship Vice Admiral Kulakov, Novorossiysk, Russia, Sept. 23, 2014 (photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a revised national military doctrine. The updated text aligns better with recent Russian government statements and policies than the previous version, issued in 2010. In particular, the new doctrine presents a lengthier list of threats while also recognizing Russia’s revived military capabilities. The Russian Security Council directed the writing of a new doctrine in July 2013, well before the current crisis in Ukraine. The Council approved the new text on Dec. 19 and Putin signed it one week later. The document was then posted on the Kremlin website. This iteration is the fourth […]

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel observes a training scenario at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 16, 2014  (DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt).

In a Nov. 15 speech to the Reagan National Defense Forum, outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the creation of a Pentagon initiative to develop new military technologies and operational concepts to counter growing threats to U.S. military supremacy. He noted that potential American adversaries are increasingly able to field advanced weaponry that rivals U.S. capabilities at a time when the Pentagon finds itself in a severely constrained fiscal environment. According to Hagel, the new initiative will seek to produce breakthrough innovations and eventually “develop into a game-changing third ‘offset’ strategy” that will allow the United States to […]

Adoration of the Magi by El Greco, 1568

The Christmas story is full of joy and wonder, but it also includes a cautionary tale about a diplomatic blunder. The blunderers are the three ostensibly wise men from the east who visit King Herod in Jerusalem to ask: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” This query sets in motion a chain of events that culminates in Herod’s decision to massacre the baby boys of Bethlehem and its environs in a failed attempt to kill Jesus. This atrocity ensures that […]

Yazidi fighters head to battle Islamic State militants, on the summit of Mount Sinjar, in Iraq, Dec. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Dalton Bennett).

After months of military gains by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, there is some hope that the tide is turning. Backed by American air strikes, Kurdish fighters broke IS’s four-month siege of Mount Sinjar, freeing thousands of Yazidis who weathered the extremist assault. Meanwhile Iraqi government troops are moving to recapture the Tal Afar military airport, which IS seized last June. As Winston Churchill famously said in November 1942 as Nazi forces in North Africa surrendered, this may not be the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning. During World War II, the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall for a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Kremlin, Moscow, Dec. 23, 2014 (AP photo by Maxim Shipenkov).

One year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin was releasing political prisoners in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, even as protesters were massing in Kiev’s central square to demand the ouster of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych. The international spotlight was already on Russia and Ukraine, but no one could have predicted what was to come. The events of 2014 have shaken both countries: Yanukovych’s ouster in February; Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March; the bloody stalemate in eastern Ukraine; the tragic downing of a Malaysian commercial airliner by Russian-backed separatists; escalating Western sanctions against Russian businesses; Ukraine’s steady progress […]

Dozens of immigrants who arrived on a cargo ship from Turkey line up for meals in a basketball arena where they have been given temporary shelter, Ierapetra, Crete, Nov. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

European decision-makers are accustomed to appearing weak. Their collective economic, political and military weight has plummeted in recent years. But they like to think that they retain moral authority. Europe’s governments claim to be virtuous on a wide range of issues. The United Kingdom and the Nordic countries are committed to international aid. Germany is standing up for personal privacy in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. France has shrugged off accusations of neocolonialism to intervene in benighted ex-colonies such as the Central African Republic (CAR). Europe may not be a great power, but it wants to do the […]

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Summit on Early Education held in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Dec. 10, 2014. (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Beginning in the early 20th century, America’s global strategy coherently linked U.S. actions in different places and on different issues. Today it does not, instead treating each security challenge in isolation, with little or nothing connecting them. The reason for this incoherence is clear: The United States has no unifying strategic vision. It didn’t used to be this way. President Woodrow Wilson designed America’s first strategic vision based on support for national self-determination, democracy and international law, with the great powers acting as guardians of the system. After World War II, when American power seemed to be the only thing […]

Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following airstrikes by the U.S. led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, Nov. 17, 2014 (AP photo Vadim Ghirda).

GAZIANTEP, Turkey—Since June, hundreds of airstrikes by the United States and its Arab allies have killed thousands of fighters in Syria belonging to the so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS. But the strikes have also played into the group’s recruitment strategy, drawing thousands of new militants from other Syrian rebel groups, along with ideologues from around the world. If the U.S. and its allies would like to effectively combat IS, they will need to go beyond just airstrikes and work toward a decisive political solution in Syria while countering the group’s narrative about global jihad. When the coalition […]

Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the U.N. and the League of Arab States for Syria, during the second round of Syrian peace, Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 13, 2014 (U.N. photo by Jean-Marc Ferré).

This festive season, spare a thought for all the frustrated diplomats and politicians who have spent their time, if often in vain, trying to make the world a less bloody place in 2014. This week brings the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. This year’s prizewinners, the Pakistani champion of girls’ education Malala Yousafazi and Indian children’s rights defender Kailash Satyarthi, are both unimpeachably impressive honorees. Yet traditionalists grumble that the Nobel committee rarely recognizes the diplomats and mediators who engage in the grinding work of negotiating the end to civil wars: The last time an old-school peacemaker earned a […]

Thai Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers inspect the site where their colleagues were killed by a bomb detonated by suspected Muslim insurgents in Bacho, Narathawat province, southern Thailand, Oct. 28, 2013 (AP photo by Sumeth Panpetch).

On Dec. 1, during Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s first visit to Kuala Lumpur, he and his Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Najib Razak, agreed on the conditions to restart peace efforts to resolve the deadly southern Thailand insurgency. While the resumption of Malaysia-hosted peace talks between the Thai state and Malay-Muslim rebels is an encouraging sign, the parties are likely to encounter formidable challenges as they attempt to structure a political solution that will lead to a durable peace and end Southeast Asia’s most lethal ongoing conflict. Since the latest outbreak of the insurgency in Thailand’s Malay-Muslim-majority southernmost provinces in […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Ankara last week for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The biggest news coming out of the visit was Putin’s announcement that he is scrapping the South Stream pipeline project that was to bring Russian gas to Southern Europe. Putin cited the European Union’s opposition to the project as the reason for the cancellation. The EU has raised concerns that the Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom would own both the pipeline infrastructure and the gas being transported, which would violate the EU’s competition laws in the energy sector. South Stream, originally agreed upon […]

A Kurdish fighter walks through rubble in Kobani, Syria, Nov. 19, 2014 (AP photo by Jake Simkin).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat the so-called Islamic State (IS) only deals with half of the problem. That militant organization grew powerful in part because the Iraqi government led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was more interested in entrenching Shiite control than in building a stable, inclusive political system. This alienated Sunni Arabs and allowed the Iraqi military to decay through sectarianism and corruption. But IS was also born out of armed resistance to the parasitic dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In a very real sense, it took not one but two repressive, inept governments […]

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Fifty years from now, when historians look back at 2014, they will likely be struck by how many seemingly contradictory trends co-exist in today’s world. The crisis in Ukraine suggests a fraying of the liberal international order and its consensus against territorial conquest, even as relatively robust international crisis-management mechanisms manage to deter or contain conflict elsewhere. A global rise of anti-pluralist populism has led to the resurgence of nationalism at the same time that national sovereignty is increasingly embedded in a globally integrated and largely supranational economic order. In Asia, historical grievances at times slow down but cannot derail […]

Residents chant slogans supporting the creation of Basra region, in front of the Basra provincial headquarters, Basra, Iraq, Sept. 27, 2014 (AP photo by Nabil al-Jurani).

The Iraqi government agreed Tuesday to a long-term oil wealth sharing deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In an email interview, Kirk Sowell, a political risk analyst who is the publisher of the biweekly newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics, discussed regionalism in Iraq. WPR: What are the main non-Kurdish regional movements (i.e., potential autonomous regions) in Iraq, and what grievances are driving their regional aspirations? Kirk Sowell: There are three. The first, chronologically speaking, is what might be called the “southernist tendency,” which has existed in two variants. One focused on Basra province, and another on combining Basra with the […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (Photo from the website of the Russian president).

Hassan Rouhani assumed the presidency of Iran last year amid great expectations for reform at home and renewed engagement abroad. From nuclear negotiations to the crises in Iraq and Syria, Rouhani’s term has so far been a mixed bag, offering hope but not yet transformation, as the articles in this report show. Domestic Politics Iran’s Structural Constraints Limit Rouhani’s Domestic AgendaBy Rouzbeh ParsiMarch 6, 2014 Iran’s Rouhani Stokes Domestic Backlash With Attack on CriticsBy Nader HabibiAug. 18, 2014 Dual Powers: Repression and Participation in IranBy Manochehr DorrajFeb. 18, 2014 Out of the Shadows: Iran’s Evolving Approach to Drug AddictionBy Mehrun […]

The U.S. 6th Fleet command ship USS Mount Whitney participates in a passing exercise with vessels from the Georgian coast guard while transiting the Black Sea, Oct. 18, 2014 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Wright).

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have radically altered the European security equation, with the Black Sea region becoming an acutely contested zone between Russia and NATO. The juxtaposition of NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey as Black Sea littoral states alongside Russia and Ukraine creates an inherently explosive mix. Regional tensions are likely to increase before they dampen down. For example, the United States is establishing a missile defense base in Romania in 2015, while Russia is planning a major increase in the capacity of its Black Sea Fleet, Moscow’s main means of projecting maritime power into the Mediterranean. Yet while […]

Pro-government supporters gather for a march in downtown Moscow to mark People’s Unity Day. The poster reads “the Crimea is ours,” Nov. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

As the end of each year rolls around, foreign policy pundits inevitably churn out columns reviewing the past 12 months and guessing at what comes next. These pieces will make for consistently bleak reading this year. Viewed in geopolitical terms, 2014 has been egregiously nasty. It is now conventional wisdom that the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, coupled with China’s increasing assertiveness in the Pacific, signal the looming implosion of the American-led international order. Like most conventional wisdoms, this may prove to be incorrect. While many analysts will make pronouncements about the future of the world in 2015, […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 181 2 Last