Since the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991, the Russian government has been careful to limit military spending, hoping to avoid the Soviet error of engaging in a ruinous arms race with the West. As recently as February, then-Russian President-Vladimir Putin reaffirmed that Russia “must not allow [itself] to be drawn into [a new global arms race].” But while Russian defense spending has already been rising in recent years, one long-term effect of the Georgia War could be to accelerate Russia’s military rearmament. On several occasions since the Georgia War began, Russian leaders have made statements that could be […]

Missile Defense Moves Forward

These are heady and crucial days for the burgeoning international missile defense system (IMD), which the United States is building in cooperation with its closest allies. Indeed, every week seems to bring with it another validation of IMD’s necessity, viability or practicality. The past several weeks are no exception. On the capabilities front, just this month, the Airborne Laser (ABL) was successfully tested aboard its demonstrator aircraft (though not yet in the air; that comes next year). “We have now demonstrated all of the technical steps needed to shoot down a boosting missile in flight,” explained Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, […]

The Case for Strategic Patience: Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan

AFOE’s Edward Hugh offers a solid analysis of the current financial turmoil roiling Russian markets, that among other things debunks the idea that the invasion of Georgia was an essential cause — as opposed to a catalyzing event — of the capital flight in the invasion’s aftermath. In other words, absent other fundamental weaknesses and contributing factors, there’s no way of knowing whether globalized markets would have “punished” Russia’s muscle-flexing in the Caucasus. While most of the loud arguments about the Russian invasion have framed it in terms of NATO enlargement and some sort of moral obligation to defend Georgia’s […]

Corridors of Power: Crisis is in the Eye of the Beholder, EU Translators and More

THE U.S. FINANCIAL CRISIS — Not surprisingly, a wide cross-section of the world press is having a field day with the U.S. financial crisis and its political implications. A couple of typical samples: In the Italian left-of-center newspaper La Repubblica, foreign policy and U.S. specialist Vittorio Zucconi unleashes a scathing commentary on the Bush administration. The roots of the crisis, Zucconi writes, are not financial, nor economic, but political. In his lame address to the nation Bush Wednesday blamed everybody but himself and his government for the crisis, but the reality is that for nearly eight years, “America has been […]

The Self-Imposed Costs of Punishing Russia

A few weeks ago, it looked like the Rice-Gates faction was winning out in the Bush administration’s internal debate about how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Georgia. That view argued in favor of restraint and a collective response with our European allies instead of unilateral “punitive” measures. But according to this LA Times article (via Ilan Goldenbeerg at Democracy Arsenal), the Cheney hardliners might be carrying the day. This faction is advocating for “. . .the continuation of what they confirm has been a White House-imposed communications blackout on most dealings with Russia and a halt to nearly all […]

German Agents Maintained Contacts with Saddam’s Secret Service During Iraq War

Last Thursday, two agents of the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, who had been stationed in Baghdad during the Iraq War in 2003 testified before the intelligence oversight committee of the German Bundestag. The purpose of the hearing was to determine what exactly they were doing in Baghdad at the time and, above all, whether the information they reported back to BND headquarters in Pullach could in turn have been used by American military command. The latter possibility is regarded as controversial in Germany and has previously been reported as established fact by the New York Times. (The Times […]


Anyone who’s followed the force generation challenges faced by multilateral operations recently knows that there’s a huge shortage these days in strategic and tactical airlift. For the most part, that’s meant a desperate need for helicopters. The kind of desperate need that led the EUFOR Chad mission to accept a Russian offer of six helicopters, plus support crew, because none were forthcoming from EU member states. The NATO mission in Afghanistan faced similar difficulties. But it’s also meant a shortage in strategic and heavy air transport. The EUFOR Chad mission, for instance, was also required to lease planes from a […]

Turkey, Armenia Engage in ‘Football Diplomacy’

In what has been heralded by Armenian and Turkish diplomats as “football diplomacy,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan joined Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandian earlier this month to watch the two nations’ teams play a World Cup qualifying match in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. The face-to-face meeting, the first ever since Armenia became an independent nation in 1991, removed “a key psychological barrier” that has existed between the two nations and was a clear first step forward in the process of reconciliation between the two neighbors. Turkey closed the border with […]

McCain on Meeting with Zapatero: Misunderstanding or Gaffe?

The liberal blogosphere is making a lot of hay with John McCain’s recent interview with Radio Caracol Miami in which he appears to dodge a question about meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Below is the audio, via TPM. The relevant passage starts around 2:58. Contrary to the assertions of most bloggers, it’s perfectly clear to me that McCain’s dodging of the question is a result of his not understanding the interviewer rather than his not knowing who Zapatero is (though the latter remains a possibility). He clearly doesn’t hear the translator say “Spain” in her first […]

The Russian military intervention in Georgia has imparted a new tension in the Sino-Russian relationship. Earlier this month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry made the surprising suggestion that the United Nations could help resolve the Georgia crisis. Spokesperson Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing that the U.N. might, “through dialogue and consultations . . . help achieve regional peace and stability and should embody the common ground of all the various parties.” In previous U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sessions, the Chinese representative had adopted a low-key position while Russian and Western diplomats deadlocked over proposed UNSC resolutions to resolve their acrimonious […]

Russia’s Willingness to Act

When I see Bob Gates struggling to formulate a response to Russia’sinvasion of Georgia, it makes me feel better about not having any easyanswers myself. A lot of people have been trying to come up withexplanations for why Russia is the big loser of the conflict, and whythe invasion was a strategic blunder. To me, Gates’ statementsundermine that argument, and reveal the hollowness of Condoleezza Rice’s more confrontational remarks. What strikes me as obvious is that, despite our overwhelmingsuperiority in terms of the balance of force and power, the rolesbetween the U.S. and Russia have been reversed. From the end […]

Beating Missile Defense

I suppose that one of the advantages of the anti-missile defense system the Bush administration is so intent on deploying in Eastern Europe is that it will give the Russians something to do with all their weapons grade uranium stockpiles that might otherwise fall into dangerous hands. Think of it as an arms race doubling as counter-proliferation policy.

The Cyprus Model

Good down the road analysis on Russia and South Ossetia from A Fistful of Euro’s Douglas Muir. A propos my point that South Ossetia’s dependence on Russia undermines the initial claims for autonomy that justified the whole intervention, Muir calls that a feature, not a bug. He cites a EurasiaNet articlewhich predicts the “Cyprus model” for the two provinces, withinternational isolation leading to dependence on Russian aid and thedevelopment of the illicit market (drug trafficking, smuggling andmoney laundering), but points out: Russia has no interest in Abkhazia and South Ossetia being prosperousdeveloping liberal economies with access to World Bank technicalassistance […]

Breaking Away?

Russia seems intent on compounding its major strategic blunder of the Georgia conflict, recognizing S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, by signing security agreements with the two breakaway provinces that among other things establish permanent Russian bases. As I mentioned last week, this is the only way Russian forces could have remained in the provinces post-conflict, as the UN peacekeeping mandate was scheduled to expire next month. But it also very obviously underscores the two provinces’ dependence on Russia, undermining the claims of autonomy and independence that the intervention was meant to defend. Question: What happens to all the Russian passports handed […]

Rights & Wrongs: Poland, Climate Change, Srebrenica, and More

POLAND’S LAST COMMUNIST LEADERS IN THE DOCK — The Warsaw district court opened proceedings last Friday against former Communist Party Chairman Wojciech Jaruzelski and six other high-ranking former communist officials. They are charged for their roles in the declaration and maintenance of martial law in 1981, which resulted in mass arrests and politically motivated murders. Lawyers for Jaruzelski, 84, argued the declaration was a defensive move designed to prevent a Soviet invasion in response to the Solidarity union movement’s growing people power, but rights advocates have long decried the large scale abuses that occurred in the approximate 18 months Poland […]

The Strategic Danger of Knowing Where History’s Going

“For those like President Bush who profess certainty as to history’s purpose, using any means necessary to hurry history along to its predetermined destination offers a nearly irresistible temptation. When that conviction is accompanied by a further certainty that on the far side of victory permanent peace awaits, the resort to force becomes almost obligatory. The greater the sense of conviction the easier it becomes to justify any mayhem committed on behalf of big ideas.” –Andrew Bacevich, in a review of “The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth ofWarfare as We Know It,” by David A. Bell, in […]

The Bulgarian Option

So far all I’ve seen in the English-language press is a denial by a NATO official that it was discussed. But according to Nicolas Gros-Verheyde at the Bruxelles 2 blog,a Greek military office cited by the Bulgarian press claims that theU.S. is considering basing part of its anti-missile system in Bulgaria.That’s a long way for a rumor to travel, but Bulgaria has expressed interest in the idea before.

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