A U.S. nuclear missileer crew checks systems in the underground control room where they work a 24-hour shift at an ICBM launch control facility near Minot, N.D., June 24, 2014 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

To say that the world is closer to the brink of nuclear war today than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 feels less controversial by the day. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently told media representatives that the “prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.” Certainly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been signaling a willingness to at least consider the nuclear option. In late February, he raised the readiness level of Russia’s nuclear response force, stating that Western interference in the ongoing war in Ukraine will result in “consequences greater than any you have faced […]

People wave Polisario Front flags while taking part in a demonstration in support of the Polisario Front and a free Western Sahara, Pamplona, Spain, March 23, 2022 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

In mid-March, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent a letter to Moroccan King Mohamed VI, supporting Rabat’s plan to grant Western Sahara autonomy over its internal affairs, while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty. The move appeared to be an abrupt departure for Spain, which has maintained a position of careful neutrality over its former colony’s efforts to gain independence from Morocco for nearly 47 years. When the Moroccan Foreign Ministry eventually made Sanchez’s support public, it provoked an uproar in Spain centered around two primary questions. First, Does this really constitute a major policy change for Spain, given that it has never explicitly ruled out the Moroccan autonomy […]

A woman holds a sign with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the word “Genocida,” or committer of genocide, during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 6, 2022 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Lately, elections in Latin America are making people squirm in Washington. For foreign policy old-timers, victories by leftist candidates have conjured images of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Others are haunted by memories of more recent bogeymen, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine deepened these anxieties, fueling fears that the region’s ideological pendulum is swinging in President Vladimir Putin’s direction. But more than a month into the war, those fears have proven to be unfounded. Indeed, if anything, Latin America’s response to Putin’s brutality reinforced shared hemispheric values with the United States, suggesting that […]

Timothee Chalamet, left, and director Denis Villeneuve pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film “Dune” in London, Oct. 18, 2021 (Invision photo by Joel C Ryan via AP).

This weekend, “Dune,” the highly acclaimed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic of the same name, capped off a successful box-office run by bagging an impressive six Oscars at the Academy Awards. The movie, directed by French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, has received particular praise for its stunning cinematography and soundtrack, and for breaking from prior adaptation attempts by “sensibly” tackling only the first part of the 412-page novel. This is why, critics have argued, this version of Dune has been so well-received compared to previous versions. But an alternative—or perhaps complementary—explanation could be that today, there is simply more demand for stories […]

A Russian officer stands near a landed Il-76 military cargo plane on Alexandra Land, an island near Nagurskoye, Russia, May 17, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Since Feb. 24, the eyes of the world have been fixed on Eastern Europe. But the events unfolding in and around Ukraine portend great changes for another region: the Arctic. Commonly viewed as a “territory of dialogue,” the Arctic has over the past three decades won a reputation as a “zone of peace” marked by exceptionally calm and collaborative security dynamics. Indeed, this is what former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev envisioned back in October 1987, when he launched a series of policy initiatives aimed at lowering the level of military confrontation in the Arctic by facilitating cooperation among the eight […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses for a photograph with the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates at the Negev Summit, Sde Boker, Israel, March 28, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

DOHA, Qatar—Washington’s partners in the Gulf believe that the United States has fundamentally altered the terms of the deal that has historically governed their relationship. From the period beginning with the end of the Cold War until recently, governments in the Gulf Arab countries considered themselves protected by an ironclad security guarantee provided by the U.S. In exchange, those countries tacitly agreed to leverage their dominance of global oil markets in support of Washington’s policies, particularly at moments of strategic urgency. There is no mutual defense pact requiring the U.S. military to come to the defense of the Arab oil […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Nov. 21, 2020 (Sputnik photo by Alexei Nikolsky via AP).

Western outrage over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine has prompted calls to eject Russia from apex institutions of global cooperation, most notably the Group of 20 and the United Nations Security Council. While this impulse is tempting, efforts to exclude Russia from both institutions would be imprudent and likely futile, given the diverse membership of the former and U.N. Charter provisions regarding the latter. Rather than tilt at windmills, the United States and its allies should use both forums to shame Moscow for its criminal actions, while sharpening the already punishing sanctions they have deployed […]

Then-President Ronald Reagan shakes hands with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the two leaders signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the White House East Room in Washington, Dec. 8, 1987 (AP photo by Bob Daugherty).

The Cold War was bookended by two signal developments—one scientific and technical, the other political and diplomatic—that opened and seemingly closed a terrible parenthesis in the history of the 20th century, but also of humankind. The first was the invention of nuclear weapons. The second was the process by which the U.S. and Russia gradually but methodically rolled back the threat of nuclear war in Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the U.S. reduced Hiroshima and then Nagasaki to rubble with just one atomic bomb apiece in the final days of World War II, military strategists and […]

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher while taking cover after a tank blast in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012 (AP photo by Manu Brabo.)

For the community of analysts that have focused on Syria’s civil war over the past decade, the images of bombed out Ukrainian cities, civilian casualties and refugees flooding across the border over the past month are bitterly familiar. As a policy problem, too, the war in Ukraine invites obvious comparisons to the Syrian conflict. Both raise questions about the costs and benefits of U.S. intervention. Both, of course, involve Russia. And in both cases, “realism” has somehow become synonymous with non-interventionism in the U.S. policy discourse.  In fact, those that make a career out of non-interventionism while casting themselves as […]

Volunteers provide refugees from Ukraine with relief goods after they arrive at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2022 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

AMSTERDAM—Back in February, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, a meme went viral on Facebook: “Just booked a Kiev AirBnB for 1 week, simply as a means of getting cash into the hands of Kiev residents. It’s really cheap and can make a small difference right now.” The phenomenon, known as “ghost-bookings,” became a simple, personalized, grassroots method to provide resources to and demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine’s civilian population, while assisting Airbnb hosts in Kyiv who were housing internally displaced persons, or IDPs, fleeing from the invasion further east. This sort of grassroots effort has become not only common […]

Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missiles roll in Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

From the very start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the risk of it escalating into a nuclear conflict has been a feature of much commentary about the war. From explicit as well as thinly veiled mentions of it by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the warnings of Western observers about the dangers of any direct confrontation between NATO and Russian forces, the nuclear dimension to this war has never been far from the surface. While the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons, even absent NATO’s involvement in Ukraine, does exist, it is in all likelihood minimal. Nevertheless, the war […]

State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi poses with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken following a meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Jan. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

A civilian population comes under brutal attack by a heavily armed military force. What is the world to do? Amid Russia’s ongoing onslaught against Ukraine, this question has dominated the agendas of policymakers, monopolized headlines and taken over discussions on social media. But when Myanmar’s military, a perennial human rights violator, unleashed a scorched-earth campaign against the country’s Rohingya minority in 2016, the crisis was a secondary matter for most of the world. Now, six years later—and one year after Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, overthrew the country’s incipient democracy—the United States has finally formally designated that 2016-2017 campaign […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks toward U.S. President Joe Biden at a group photo during an extraordinary summit at NATO headquarters, Brussels, March 24, 2022 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

European Union and NATO leaders gathered in Brussels today for a mammoth day of three major summits, all with overlapping guest lists. The first was a combined assembly of national leaders from NATO and the EU’s member states, which took place this morning at NATO’s headquarters in the city’s northeast. After that meeting, six of the NATO leaders were then joined by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as well as the presidents of the European Council and European Commission for a G-7 summit that was also held at NATO’s headquarters. The final gathering featured 22 of the 30 NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a live broadcast of the opening ceremony for the National People’s Congress, March 5, 2022, Beijing (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Not long after the commencement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I wrote that for China, binding itself tightly to Moscow would do harm to Beijing’s long-term interests. That is because, I wrote, an alliance between a superpower like China and a far less dynamic country like Russia, whose economy is a small fraction of the former’s size, is not much of an alliance. This would especially hold true if Beijing’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin deepened European wariness of China and caused Europe and the United States to grow even closer, both of which now seem almost certain. Some object that […]

U.S. President Joe Biden meets virtually from the Situation Room at the White House with Chinese President Xi Jinping, March 18, 2022, Washington (White House photo via AP).

A two-hour virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, failed to yield progress on efforts to halt the war in Ukraine, while leaving relations between Washington and Beijing locked in a stalemate. A month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has proven unable to convince Beijing to end its diplomatic tap dance around the conflict. But Beijing views its long-term rivalry with Washington as its chief geopolitical concern, making it unlikely to abandon Moscow, its new strategic partner, over the war. Xi spoke to Biden on Friday at the latter’s request, following a […]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a visit of the German armed forces’ Joint Operations Command in Schwielowsee, Germany, on March 4, 2022 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

On Feb. 27, nothing less than a revolution took place in Germany. In a 30-minute speech to parliament, Chancellor Olaf Scholz overturned all the old certainties that have dominated German security policy for over 30 years. He replaced them with an ambitious agenda that had defense, a topic with which Germany normally only reluctantly engages, at its core. Since the end of the Cold War, Germany has not felt threatened militarily. As a result, Berlin has felt little urgency to invest in its military and was reluctant to engage in the various military operations of the post-Cold War period. Where […]

A little girl runs past soldier with his weapon drawn, during a surprise operation in the City of God slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

It has now been nearly a month since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Though the shockwaves of this invasion will continue to be felt for years to come, the world has slowly started to process the crisis and to examine the rapid developments in Ukraine more analytically. One clear pattern in particular has emerged from close observation of Russia’s military tactics, Ukraine’s defensive strategies and the international system’s response: The main battlegrounds in this conflict are Ukraine’s cities.  As of March 16, Russian forces were attempting to surround Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, from multiple angles, while simultaneously targeting its second-largest […]

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