Just as the turning of the leaves heralds the arrival of winter’s chill, so too are there unmistakable signs whenever a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization draws near. The media is filled with commentary about “NATO’s crisis,” while statements percolate forth from the alliance’s capitals about NATO’s clear purpose for the 21st century. This is a yearly ritual, with the proclamations of alliance unity and cohesion that inevitably accompany any NATO summit having similarly acquired a totemic quality. When the meeting is over, reality catches up with the vision that has been so ardently reaffirmed. The same issues […]

Efforts to save the newly revived peace process between Israelis and Palestinians have moved into a feverish phase with only days left before an Arab League summit that could declare the process dead. The negotiations, sponsored by the Obama administration, are on life support just weeks after their birth. Palestinian negotiators refused to continue talks with Israel unless the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to extend a moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, which expired on Sept. 26. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition strongly disliked the original 10-month freeze, and it would likely oppose another extension — […]

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a two-part series. Part I focused on the impact of budget cuts on the British navy. Part II focuses on the implications for U.S. national security policy. As part of government-wide cuts meant to rein in decades of deficit spending, in October the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced an initial 8 percent reduction in its roughly $63 billion annual budget. The Royal Navy will suffer the deepest cuts, with around one-quarter of the fleet — as measured by tonnage — to be decommissioned and future purchases of ships and planes delayed and […]

The EU Parliament & U.S.-EU Data-Sharing

Back in February, in a series of posts written in the immediate aftermath of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty coming into effect, I argued that institutional power struggles would have as much, if not more impact on the shape of the post-Lisbon union than the personalities chosen to fill the president and foreign minister positions. In particular, I highlighted the EU Parliament’s enhanced oversight power under the treaty, and identified as a potential flashpoint the privacy vs. security trade-offs raised by many of the U.S.-EU counterterrorism agreements previously negotiated by the EU Commission. We already saw that play out over the […]

Now that Russian President Dimity Medvedev has committed to attending next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, allied leaders need to finalize the negotiating package they will present to the Russian government at the event. NATO and Russia agree on many important security issues, such as the need to counter maritime piracy, while they differ on others, including Medvedev’s proposed European Security Treaty and further NATO expansion. Some of their most significant disagreements lie in the realm of nonproliferation and arms control, with the three most divisive issues in this area concerning Iran’s emerging nuclear weapons capability, the alliance’s missile defense […]

NATO has undergone many changes since its inception in 1949, but its commitment to collective defense has remained intact. During the Cold War, the strong wording of the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5, which states that “an armed attack against one . . . shall be considered an attack against them all,” helped deter a confrontation between East and West in Europe. Despite a sea change in NATO’s strategic context, membership, activities and functions, Article 5 has retained an almost mythical quality, enshrining the alliance’s fundamental pledge: e pluribus unum. Thus, despite the intense deliberation on NATO’s future surrounding the […]

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been in trouble for much of its 60-year existence. Indeed, since the earliest days of the alliance, Americans have complained about burden sharing and important policymakers have issued dire predictions about the organization’s imminent demise. More recently, few thought NATO would survive the collapse of the Soviet Union, which it was created to contain. Yet, two decades later, the alliance is bigger than ever and engaged in the most significant military conflict in its history. Still, many continue to believe that NATO is outmoded. Europe is largely without threat, they say, and the […]

NATO is slated to adopt a new Strategic Concept in November, a document that will serve as a guide for the alliance in what might be called the “post-post Cold War” world. NATO does not revisit its basic guidance often — the last Strategic Concept was approved in 1999. So it is important to craft an enduring statement, as it will likely stand for the next decade. With global support for nuclear arms control and disarmament gathering momentum, it might seem like an appropriate moment for NATO to fundamentally rethink its approach to the role that nuclear weapons play in […]

U.K. Strategic Review and the New Security Protectionism

The U.K. defense review is now available (.pdf), and to make a long story short, London — with a great deal of help from Washington — broke its military and is now looking at about a decade of shore leave. There are some parallels with France’s Defense White Paper from two years ago, with the major differences being that the French review took place before the pain of the financial crisis took hold, and without needing to absorb the toll of the Iraq War. But this is clearly a cautionary tale. The U.K. cuts now bring the British military’s force-projection […]

In June, Rolling Stone helped bring down Gen. Stanley McChrystal by publishing “The Runaway General,” a Michael Hastings article depicting McChrystal’s staff as contemptuous of civilian authority. Last month, Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” suggested that the uniformed military had boxed President Barack Obama into an escalation of the Afghanistan War. In tandem, the publications re-awakened concerns about the health of civil-military relations in the United States. Although the military has not directly challenged civilian authority, some observers worried that contempt in the ranks and the effort to control policy in Afghanistan could spell trouble for civilian supremacy. The Winter 2010 […]

With many U.S. allies bracing for imminent cuts to defense budgets, and with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates engaged in a campaign against profligate spending at the Pentagon, the military reserve components — which frequently suffer disproportionately from reductions in defense spending — might make for a tempting target. But cutting back on these crucial elements of modern Western militaries would be a mistake with significant operational consequences. As in other countries, the U.S. military reserve structure reflects the nation’s distinct historical origins, security requirements, and constitutional principles. But the U.S. Department of Defense is unique in possessing seven major […]

The ebullient celebration in Brazil over Petrobras’ historic $70 billion share-issue last month was bitterly received in Mexico City, where the state-owned oil company Pemex is mired in debt, inefficiency and ongoing political wrangling. With little having changed since Mexican President Felipe Calderón sought to reform the country’s energy sector two years ago, the contrast between Petrobras’ successes and Pemex’s failures has reignited discussion of Pemex’s future and renewed the public’s interest in the beleaguered Mexican oil giant. Once Latin America’s largest company, Pemex has persistently lost profits and market share to other state-led oil companies, including PetroChina, Russia’s Lukoil, […]

TBILISI, Georgia — Turkey’s ongoing foreign-policy reorientation will not only reshape the contours of the surrounding region, but could also force the West and those hopeful of joining its orbit to consider how to position themselves in the resulting geopolitical landscape. Georgia, in particular, will be especially affected by Ankara’s emergence as a regional center of influence. In addition to proximity, Georgia shares longstanding historical ties and burgeoning trade with Turkey. Georgia’s precarious geopolitical relationship with Russia is also a significant factor driving Tbilisi’s calculations. Turkey’s rising tide has been a safe bet for Georgia so far, but future Turkish […]

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn recently caused a stir in official Washington by publicly confirming that the Pentagon had suffered a massive computer breach in 2008. A foreign intelligence service successfully slipped an infected flash drive into a Central Command computer. The drive contained software that surreptitiously spread through both classified and unclassified government networks, establishing a “digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control.” According to Lynn, “it was a network administrator’s worst fear.” In addition to confirming the breach, Lynn previewed the Defense Department’s cyber strategy, expected to be finalized by the […]

The United States and Europe are pressuring oil-rich members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GGC) to forge closer ties with Yemen in a bid to link the fight against al-Qaida to tangible economic benefits for the Arab world’s poorest nation. U.S. officials say the Obama administration recently conveyed to GCC leaders Yemen’s reiteration of its 10-year-old request for GCC membership. The officials believe that U.S. and European endorsement of the request will prompt GCC leaders to respond more favorably when they meet in Abu Dhabi in December. The U.S. and Europe are exerting pressure against the backdrop of an increasing […]

In his 1996 classic, “The Clash of Civilizations,” Samuel Huntington characterized Mexico as a “torn country” — a condition produced by the Westernizing instincts of its elites pulling against the weight of its cultural heritage. Today, however, Mexico is not torn by internal discord, its drug violence notwithstanding. Rather, it is trapped — caught between dynamic global trends washing over Latin America on one hand, and the dogged political realities of North America on the other. In heralding the end of trade barriers between Mexico, the United States and Canada, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cast modern Mexico’s […]

In the first light of dawn on New Year’s Day 1994, indigenous campesinos wearing ski masks and toting assault weapons stormed major towns in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas. By midday, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in Spanish) had introduced itself to the world as the new face of social revolution. The nature of this face — or more accurately, the lack thereof — immediately distinguished the movement. Black balaclavas, worn at all times in public, along with the rugged attire of the indigenous population, captivated the lenses of the world’s media. So did the eloquent dispatches […]

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