LONDON — The business of war-fighting just got more difficult. These days, British troops — over-stretched, under-funded and ill-equipped — must contend not only with implacable enemies abroad, but also with a seemingly disinterested Defense Ministry and a sometimes hostile public at home. No surprise, then, that morale has plummeted. The low level of morale was highlighted in a survey — the first ever — that was conducted among more than 24,000 service personnel across the armed forces. It revealed that almost half are ready to quit. The reasons are not hard to find. During October alone, the British government […]

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After the Georgia War, I argued that whatever damage Russia had done to its international reputation could be recouped with a demonstration or two of reasonabless and responsibility. I expected the demonstration to come in Abkhazia and South Ossetia themselves, but I underestimated the degree to which the conflict with Georgia was “personal.” Instead, it looks like Russia has chosen the other two frozen conflicts of the region — the breakaway Moldovan province of Trans-Dniester and the breakaway Azerbaijan province of Nagorny Karabakh — to demonstrate that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were a one-off — Russia’s equivalent of the West’s […]

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Looks like Russia is about to suffer some more strategic fallout from the Georgia War, to the tune of $20-30 billion in direct and immediate loans to its oil industry from China. That, in return for guaranteed exports of two billion barrels a year for 20 years. Obviously, Beijing is having some trouble digesting Russia’s recognition of the separatist provinces. Seriously (or if not seriously, then with slightly less irony), it’s quite a bargain compared to what we’ve spent in Iraq securing our oil imports for the next twenty years. Moscow and Beijing are also talking about dispensing with the […]

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It’s ironic that just a week after Nicolas Sarkozy proposes a coordinated European economic governance that emphasizes European sovereign wealth funds designed to protect European companies in strategic industries from “cash-flush foreign investors,” Gordon Brown heads off to the Middle East to try to convince some of those cash-flush foreign investors to sink some of their cash into the IMF’s bailout fund, dangerously undercapitalized at $250 billion. (Question: Will the IMF impose the same kind of Draconian restrictions it applied to Third World economies when it comes time to bail out industrialized Western nations?) Meanwhile, Robert Manning at the New […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Venezuela’s strengthening military and diplomatic ties with Russia have led to alarmist headlines announcing the return of a Cold War standoff, and raising questions about the impact of Hugo Chávez’s arms shopping spree on the regional balance of power. But even with the latest arms purchases, Venezuela does not top the list of the region’s biggest military powers. Since 2005, Venezuela has spent over $4 billion on Russian hardware, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets and dozens of combat helicopters. The purchase of over 100 T72 tanks to replace older French models is in the pipeline, say Venezuelan […]

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A couple of articles in the French language press (one this weekend in Le Monde, the other today in Le Figaro) indicate that, contrary to what I’d expected, Russia is in fact annexing South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the installment plan. Apparently most of the political leaders installed in the two provinces are Russian (the new South Ossetian prime minister is a product of the Russian security forces), a rail bridge that linked the Abkhazia’s ethnically Georgian populaiton to Georgia has been blown up, and negotiations are under way for pemanent military bases. (I imagine that bargaining will be less […]

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In thinking about how France’s EU presidency has been dominated bycrisis management, I recently found myself wondering what’s become ofthe ambitious European defense agenda that was so dear to NicolasSarkozy’s heart? It doesn’t really answer that question, but this Times of London (via Defense News) interview with British Defense MinisterJohn Hutton is eye opening nonetheless: John Hutton has becomethe first defence secretary to back a French plan for a European army,branding those who dismiss it as “pathetic”. In a wide-ranginginterview with The Sunday Times, he said: “I think we’ve got to bepragmatic about those things. Where it can help, we […]

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I think the trouble Art Goldhammer of French Politics identifies here is the kind oftrouble Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes. The two things Sarkozy really lackeddomestically in the first year of his presidency were a real crisis anda real opponent. They’re the gas that makes his political engine run,and he’s gotten both in spades on the European level during France’s EUpresidency. As for the opponents Art mentions, I don’t think Sarkozyloses much politically by counting Czech president Vaclav Klaus amonghis enemies. Same goes for President Bush. In his response to thefinancial crisis, I think Sarkozy, despite his wild ideologicalopportunism (neoliberal to state-directed […]

Last week, the U.S. government completed one of the largest nuclear recovery operations in history when it helped relocate 341 pounds (154.5 kilograms) of highly enriched uranium — enough to construct six nuclear weapons — from a Soviet-era nuclear research reactor in Hungary to a more secure storage site in Russia. The operation was led by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and involved the cooperation of Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Euratom Supply Agency. While lauding the Russian and American governments (.pdf) “for […]

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I just got finished reading David Sanger’s NY Times article comparing the foreign policy positions of the two presidential candidates. Like David Shorr at Democracy Arsenal, I agree that it’s “probably the best stand-in we’ll get for the foreign policy debate that might’ve been,” and an illustration of how the much-derided written press can often confront candidates’ position more effectively than the presidential debate format, which veers towards the theatrical for obvious reasons. Like Shorr, too, I agree that John McCain’s late reversal on the acceptability of an NPT-compliant uranium enrichment program in Iran is probably closer to my own […]

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SUMMIT — The Bush administration’s announcement of an emergency financial summit on Nov. 15 in Washington ruffled some international feathers, notably in Spain and France, but in other countries as well. The meeting of global leaders to address the current crisis and bring a measure of control to the unruly financial world was originally proposed last week by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He pushed for the United Nations as the venue, and encouraged the widest possible participation. That’s not what the White House announced Wednesday. To the more or less private annoyance of the French, the White […]

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A quick followup to Benjamin Friedman’s and Justin Logan’s well-argued piece against NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia: it ain’t happening. It occurs to me that given Barack Obama’s foreign policy positions — and I’m thinking about upping the ante in Afghanistan, support for European missile defense, and NATO expansion — the honeymoon with Europe is likely to be a short one.

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Hard to know what went on in that high-level timeout in Helsinki the other day between JCS Chief Adm. Mike Mullen and his Russian counterpart, but I’d be surprised if today’s declaration by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov that Russia will not veto a UNSC resolution extending American troop presence in Iraq in the absence of a deal between Baghdad and Washington is just a happy coincidence. Mullen went on talk tough in Lithuania about the need to better integrate Baltic defense into NATO’s architecture. But the Baltic is already a done deal. To my mind, Russia’s major strategic blunder in […]

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A number of very interesting aspects to this NY Times article on how the Goergia War has impacted Azerbaijan. First, it illustrates how the argument that Russia will pay a longterm cost for its belligerence, while valid, is limited to those countries (and investors) who have a choice as to whether or not they deal with Russia, or who have little to fear from Russia’s demonstrated willingness to use military force. As this article makes clear, Azerbaijan meets neither of those criteria, and so it’s not surprising that “the chess board has been tilted.” Second, while many analysts have focused […]

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At the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in December, U.S. officials will once again make the case for admitting Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance. Our NATO allies, with Germany and France leading the way, already blocked the two countries’ path to membership last spring, a move that in retrospect might have prevented August’s dustup between Russia and Georgia from escalating into a nuclear standoff. Rather than being grateful to them, U.S. leaders are instead doubling down on folly. If the Bush administration gets its way, NATO will this time offer these nations Membership Action Plans, one of the […]

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Nikolas Gvosdev, writing at the Atlantic Council, is the latest analystI’ve seen make the case that Cyprus — and not Kosovo — is theprecedent to study when considering the aftermath of the Georgia War. Sothe fact that Georgia-Russian talks may have broken down in Geneva maynot have much of an impact on Europe’s relations with Russia, just asnon-resolution of the Cyprus issue over the last three decades has notdramatically affected either the U.S. or European relationship withTurkey. In other words, we already have a precedent of the Westperfectly willing and able to compartmentalize such problems. Europeanstates can easily proclaim their […]

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