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 […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban waves after his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall, Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Many observers in Brussels will be keeping a close eye on this Sunday’s general election in Hungary for an early indication of how much European far right leaders’ ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin could affect their domestic political fortunes. But they are under no illusion about the seemingly united opposition’s slim odds of wresting power from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has manipulated the political landscape and electoral process to his benefit. After 12 years of playing themselves off against each other, Hungary’s six opposition parties have united behind a single candidate in this election for the first […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

An aerial view of destroyed buildings and shops in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

MOSUL, Iraq—On both sides of the Atlantic, the war in Ukraine and its direct impacts on regional security and the international order  continue to be the focus of policymaking attention. By contrast, because Iraq is physically distant to the conflict, the country continues to remain embroiled in its own affairs. Six months after parliamentary elections held last October, Iraq’s political class remains stuck in a protracted negotiation over government formation that is slowly morphing into a governance crisis, with all the ingredients of state failure. Meanwhile, Iran and the United States continue to jostle for influence in the country, confronting each other […]

Russian servicemen ride a military vehicle along a road near the border with Ukraine, in Crimea, Russia (Sputnik photo by Konstantin Mihalchevskiy via AP).

News headlines this week warned that Russia is recruiting mercenaries to scale up its operations in Ukraine. Some 16,000 fighters from Syria and other Arab states have already volunteered, joining the hundreds of Russian mercenaries that were already reportedly operating in Ukraine. The whiff of guns-for-hire was seen as a sign that an even more ruthless phase of the conflict may be ahead. But considering how states have used privatized force in the past, it seems unlikely that mercenaries will introduce any risk factors that could make the conflict much worse than it already is. That says something both about the current state […]

Refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Ukraine arrive at Przemysl, Poland, Feb. 26, 2022 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

In last week’s Wrap-Up, I noted that the war in Ukraine was entering a new phase, one in which the human costs of Russia’s brutal siege tactics will become more evident, even as whatever political objectives Russian President Vladimir Putin initially sought to accomplish through the invasion become increasingly unachievable. The course of the fighting in the week since then has only reinforced that conclusion. While both sides are engaged in negotiations to end the war, the prospects for a compromise agreement seem dim, and even if some deal is reached, it’s hard to see how it could be durable […]

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On March 2, the European Union announced that the Russian state-sponsored channels Sputnik and RT would be banned from broadcasting within the union, citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s “systematic, international campaign of disinformation, information manipulation and distortion of facts.” And British media regulator Ofcom announced today that it was taking RT off the air after an investigation found it was “not fit and proper to hold a license in the UK.” The dangers of the propaganda spouted by RT and Sputnik are considerable. These outlets sow divisions, cleave societies, threaten free and fair elections—and, now, shield […]

Czech volunteer Lukas Saranga cooks soup in a giant pot for refugees fleeing Ukraine at the train station at the border crossing of Medyka, Poland, March 8, 2022 (AP photo by Visar Kryeziu).

WARSAW, Poland—Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, war refugees have been flooding across the country’s western border into Poland, greeted by local Poles, international volunteers and a few small NGOs operating in the country. How is this effort going three weeks into Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II? In Poland this week, I asked these questions of journalists, aid workers and Polish citizens. The reality is, almost as unprecedented as the refugee flows is the absence of most of the big NGOs that Americans think of—and are most likely to donate money to—when it comes to a refugee […]

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