In recent years, the security threats facing humanitarian aid workers have been the subject of headlines and debates. The humanitarian advocacy community has been filled with discussions of a perceived increase in the politicization of humanitarian aid—attributed in part to declining respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence—and growing difficulties ensuring operations can be conducted in accordance with those principles. These discussions frequently highlight attacks on relief personnel and assets to show that humanitarian workers are under attack. In the past year, the focus has narrowed to a particular area of humanitarian operations: medical and health […]

President Barack Obama’s whirlwind visit to Europe began yesterday in The Hague against the looming shadow of the Ukraine crisis. While Obama will seek to rally Western resistance to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and affirm the administration’s strong commitment to European security, the trip was initially scheduled to coincide with the third Nuclear Security Summit, which focuses on preventing nuclear terrorism. The Nuclear Security Summits look to be one of the Obama administration’s major international security legacies. These recurring meetings of senior national leaders have sustained global attention on an issue that previously had preoccupied mostly technical experts, ad hoc […]

There is not sufficient evidence on the use of sexual violence in conflict to determine whether it is increasing or decreasing in prevalence or institutionalization. However, evidence indicates it is widespread. Conflict-related gendered violence can range from a tool of economic exploitation, oppression and violence, especially during conflicts, disasters and their aftermath, to the systematic use of sexual violence as a strategy in armed conflict. Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined in humanitarian contexts as “an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will, and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and […]

The crisis in Ukraine has presented NATO with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to reassure its nervous members and partners about their security while deterring further Russian military aggression. The opportunity is that the crisis may rescue the alliance from perceived irrelevancy after the end of its major role in the Afghanistan War this year and against the backdrop of the ongoing U.S. military focus on East Asia and the Middle East. In a speech here in Washington yesterday at the Brookings Institution, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen termed Russia’s seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine […]

Last week I wrote about the challenges that the future U.S. military might face if ordered to intervene in the type of sprawling, coastal megacities that are emerging around the world. This sparked some intense debates among national security experts, many aghast at that prospect. “So what if there are megacities,” one strategic thinker wrote in a private communication, “why in heaven’s name do we want to go into them, simply because they are there and somebody is telling us that they are important?” The complexity and human costs of such an operation, the critics noted, would be great, and […]

Many security analysts and futurists agree that in the coming decades the prevalent form of conflict will not take place in remote rural areas like in Afghanistan but in the massive, highly connected megacities that are already experiencing most of the world’s population and economic growth. In his recent book “Out of the Mountains,” David Kilcullen, one of the most astute thinkers on the changing nature of security, argues that all aspects of human life in the future will be “crowded, urban, networked and coastal.” Megacities will be the locus of economic energy and cultural creativity in the future, but […]

Twenty years ago it was fashionable in academic circles to predict the end of sovereignty. It was also fashionable for people to take to the streets to protest the end of sovereignty. In both cases, trade occupied a central role. For academics and policymakers, the transition from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a messy, poorly defined system that was never an organization administering an agreement that was never a treaty, to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a carefully structured organization administering a phalanx of treaties, was a thing of wonder and the object of almost constant scrutiny. […]

The way the Internet is governed is of strategic importance to modern society. Yet current Internet governance (IG) is not robust enough to address the Internet’s critical relevance. The revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the deep reach of spy agencies online created a major earthquake in digital politics, showing the limitations of the existing Internet governance institutions in dealing with major economic and geopolitical tensions. Many governments, international organizations, think tanks and experts, have started a search for a new IG formula, moving the issue from the realm of engineers and geeks into the premier league of […]

Russian troops pouring into Ukraine last weekend were one more wake-up call to America about the scale of Moscow’s ambition. The first came with Stalin’s creation of satellite states in Eastern Europe after World War II; the second was the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Each step reminded Americans that Moscow felt that it had an inherent right to dominate surrounding regions and had no qualms about using force to see that it got what it wanted. Both of these episodes led to American military build-ups and strengthened resolve, thus restoring the containment of Russia. But this latest wake-up may […]

The Ukrainian crisis has aroused an ugly array of thugs, from the snipers who fired on protesters in Kiev to pro-Russian biker gangs. But numerous multilateral organizations have been implicated too. The crisis began when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych nixed a trade deal with the European Union in November. Three months later, with Yanukovych in exile and Russia having abruptly seized control of Crimea over the weekend, many more international institutions risk being entangled in the conflict. They range from the Group of Eight (G-8) and United Nations to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A […]