A Norwegian artillery observer takes part in NATO’s “Wettiner Heide” joint military exercise, Munster, Germany, May 10, 2022 (DPA photo by Philipp Schulze via AP).

One of the biggest geopolitical questions raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is whether it will transform European defense. At first glance, the answer is obviously, yes. After all, Germany declared a zeitenwende, or turning point, announcing it would invest at least 100 billion euros in its military, while also pledging to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of GDP annually on defense. Other countries around Europe are similarly upping their defense budgets to meet or surpass the NATO goal. And the EU itself has allocated 2 billion euros to support the provision of security assistance to Ukraine. Europe is suddenly taking defense very seriously and […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote feed during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, April 5, 2022 (AP Photo/John Minchillo).

How should one think about the future of the global order and international organizations against the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine? The war has highlighted the limitations of multilateral security institutions at both the global and European levels, as Moscow has blocked or ignored calls from the United Nations and other bodies to cease the hostilities. While some observers believe these organizations are as a result doomed to irrelevance, others have argued that the crisis creates an opportunity to revitalize them. There has been a lot of talk, for example, of changes to the U.N. Charter to stop Russia from using […]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 24, 2022 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a gathering at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos this week that Russia is deliberately stoking a global food crisis as a form of “blackmail.” Her remarks underscore Brussels’ fears over an impending global food crisis. Recognizing the high stakes involved in global food security, European Union policymakers are now racing against time to prepare for what they anticipate will be a food security crisis unprecedented in the modern era. Russia’s weaponization of global commodities is not limited to the energy sector, von der Leyen told her audience in Davos. “In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the […]

Russian military vehicles take part in the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

At least once at every conference about an international security crisis, in the midst of debate, a participant will suddenly lean back and quote Carl von Clausewitz in a booming voice to underscore a tenuous point. Sometimes, in order to demonstrate that they are not just drawing on conventional wisdom about politics and war, the Clausewitz citation might be followed up by an observation borrowed from Henri Jomini. Every once in a while, there might even be a Sun Tzu quip thrown in for good measure. When it comes to analysis of what the Russo-Ukrainian war tells us about the […]

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah speaks during a conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. The United States’ partners in the Middle East continue to enjoy impunity when it comes to Washington’s responses to their human rights abuses. Witness the ease with which Saudi Arabia escaped accountability for the murder in 2018 of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who lived in exile in the […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, March 25, 2022, in Jasionka, Poland (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Ukraine wasn’t supposed to stand much of a chance in a military conflict with Russia. It was outgunned and outmanned. In the first months of 2022, as the threat of an invasion loomed, the Russian military was expected to quickly and decisively defeat its much weaker neighbor with ease. Many experts were asking not if Russia could win the coming war, but how far its ambitions stretched within and beyond Ukraine. But as the war grinds on for a fourth month, Ukraine has defied expectations. With external assistance, its military has been able to force Russia’s troops to pull back […]

Afghans chant slogans against Iran during a demonstration in Massoud Square, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 12, 2022 (AP photo by Mohammed Shoaib Amin).

Over the past month, a series of violent episodes on Afghanistan’s borders have put the country’s relations with its neighbors in the spotlight. Some incidents involved Taliban fighters, such as clashes on the border with Iran. Others, like the Islamic State’s rocket attacks on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, highlighted the Taliban’s inability to control Afghanistan’s borderlands. And a wave of violence in Pakistan by militants based in Afghanistan has grown so intense that in mid-April Pakistan conducted reprisal airstrikes on Afghan territory, killing dozens of civilians and turning up the diplomatic heat between Islamabad and Kabul. Inflamed tensions between the struggling […]

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As of last week, NATO seemed well on its way to expanding, when Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications for membership. When they officially join, becoming the 31st and 32nd member of the alliance, it could potentially mark the fastest accession process in the alliance’s history. This is reflective of the sudden about-face in the two countries’ foreign policies in the months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both went quickly from countries content with a posture of non-alignment marked by occasional cooperation with NATO, to expressing increasing support for the alliance, to applying for full membership. It is not […]

Ukrainian servicemen in a penal colony in Olyonivka, in eastern Ukraine, after leaving the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, May 19, 2022 (Photo by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP Images).

On Wednesday, more than 250 Ukrainian soldiers who were hiding out in a steel plant in Mariupol surrendered to Russian forces and were swiftly detained. Speculation about what will happen to them has been intense, given Russia’s poor adherence to the Geneva Conventions since its troops invaded Ukraine in February. According to Reuters, at least one Russian negotiator involved in talks with Ukraine has called for the prisoners to be executed, an act that is expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. Ukrainian officials, as well as the soldiers’ families, have expressed hopes for a prisoner exchange. Another possibility, though, is […]

European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager speaks at the EU headquarters in Brussels, May 18, 2022 (SIPA via AP Images).

The European Commission yesterday unveiled a watershed proposal to shore up the European Union’s ability to coordinate military decision-making among the bloc’s member states. The proposal to strengthen the union’s defense coordination powers takes on added significance against the backdrop of Turkey blocking Sweden’s and Finland’s bids to join NATO, underscoring the urgency of an upgraded EU military framework in the interim. The commission’s proposal to analyze and coordinate defense spending among EU member states, including a collective defense acquisition framework similar to its joint vaccines procurement strategy, came in response to a request made by EU national leaders during […]

Police officers detain a protester in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Feb. 24, 2022 (AP photo by Roman Yarovitsyn).

As Ukrainian society faced the shock of Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, separatist protests coordinated by Russian intelligence services in Donetsk and Luhansk generated mockery across much of Ukrainian social media. With every escalation of tensions around the Donbas region in the months that followed, demands from Russian President Vladimir Putin for a so-called federalization of Ukraine triggered a torrent of angry memes from Ukrainian social media users satirizing proposals that would have meant the de facto partition of the Ukrainian state. One such image was a map proposing the partition of Russia into a dozen self-governing regions that applied […]

Migrants cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, near the border of Morocco and Spain, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Nearly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the crisis continues to dominate, if not quite monopolize, the attention of policymakers and pundits in Europe and the U.S. It is the cause of weekly and even daily debates and ructions over everything from how much aid to Ukraine is enough and how much is too much, to which European leader has done the most to support Kyiv in its hour of need and which the least. In addition to upending Europe’s security landscape, the war has also transformed Europe as an economic and political space. Finland and Sweden are clamoring to […]

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with business leaders in the White House to discuss the Bipartisan Innovation Act and its provisions for increasing U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, Washington, March 9, 2022 (SIPA photo by Yuri Gripas).

Semiconductors, the tiny chips that power everything from Apple iPhones to F-35 fighter jets, are a true product of globalization. Their technological sophistication is matched only by the logistical complexity of their supply chains, which stretch across the planet. It should be no surprise, then, that these chips are feeling the impact of accelerating deglobalization. Over the past several years, manufacturers of everything from shoes to home appliances have moved to reshore production, encouraged by protectionist governments erecting trade barriers to protect domestic economies from geopolitical forces. Gradually, the “just-in-time” supply chains of the globalized world, which outsourced aspects of […]

Forces loyal to Libya’s U.N.-appointed interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah arrive from Misrata to Tripoli in a show of support, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Yousef Murad).

By any definition, Libya is a so-called fragile state and a high-priority challenge for international security. Since 2011, it has been wracked by repeated cycles of internal division and proxy warfare. It is a key node of arms smuggling and human trafficking, and a feeder of violence, conflict and human suffering across North Africa and down to the Sahel and the broader West Africa region. In recognition of these challenges, the U.S. recently named it one of the priority countries for the Global Fragility Act, or GFA, a 2019 law designed to change the way the U.S. government approaches conflict-prevention and peacebuilding […]

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, right, marks his election win with incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, left, in Mogadishu, Somalia, May 15, 2022 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somali lawmakers elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s next president yesterday in a vote broadcast live on national television, bringing a conclusion to a dramatic, long-delayed presidential election that threatened to exacerbate socio-political tensions in the country. Mohamud, who previously served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017, beat out 36 candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Farmaajo, as Mohamed is known, conceded defeat, paving the way for Mohamud to be sworn in immediately. The poll was conducted in a tent on the premises of Mogadishu’s heavily guarded airport complex, amid a lockdown and curfew imposed on the city by […]

A Russian soldier looks through a binocular during drills in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 14, 2021 (AP photo).

International security is inherently a secretive business. Governments and militaries like to hide their capabilities and plans from their rivals. Yet in the post-Cold War years, states began to become more transparent about their military postures, aiming to create a new sense of international cooperation and openness. This process has now gone into reverse, with post-Cold War transparency arrangements in sharp decline. With the war in Ukraine signaling a new era of great power conflict and mistrust, can international organizations like the United Nations do anything to maintain some transparency over security affairs between states? The idea that multilateral bodies […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, shake hands after a signing ceremony at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Twenty years ago, the firebrand mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, led his party to a landslide victory in a parliamentary election that would transform Turkish politics. What followed were two decades of uninterrupted control of the government by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which set out to prove that an Islamist party was not a threat, but could in fact move the country forward. Soon after winning in 2002, the government launched one of its most intriguing plans: a new policy branded “zero problems with neighbors,” introduced by Ahmet Davutoglu, an obscure academic then serving as the government’s […]

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