The recent review conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which took place April 8-19, addressed many important issues, including the need to completely eliminate the Russian and U.S. Cold War-era arsenals; states of proliferation concern that have refused to join the CWC; suspected chemical weapons use in Syria; tensions over technology-sharing and export controls; and the growing financial resource constraints on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the lead responsibility for administering and verifying the convention. But overshadowing all these issues are revolutionary and interrelated changes in chemistry, biology and nano and information technologies. […]

Australia last sat on the Security Council in 1985-1986, and there was no great enthusiasm when the current Labor government announced it would seek one of the council’s rotating, nonpermanent seats for the current period. The opposition and much of the media claimed it would involve unnecessary expense, require concessions on policy to win over uncommitted votes and be unlikely to succeed. In something of a geographic absurdity, Australia has to compete with Western European states for a Security Council seat, and Finland and Luxembourg were already vying for the 2013-2014 seats at the time Australia tossed its hat into […]

In his recommendations for the United States to become more actively involved in determining the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has fallen victim to one of the more seductive temptations that regularly befall American policymakers: that with enough aggressive leadership and a healthy application of technological acumen, Washington can get other actors to align themselves with and then execute U.S. policy objectives. Summed up, Corker’s policy strategy is to locate the elusive Syrian moderates who, once armed, trained and equipped by the United States, will in […]

When authorities revealed the identity of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, the news that the two men, Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, were of Chechen origin might have put a smile of satisfaction on Vladimir Putin’s face. After all, the Russian president might have concluded, a terrorist attack by Chechens in America would go some way in vindicating his hard-line approach to Chechen rebels. The fact, however, is that the evidence so far does not support that view. Judging by what we know at this point, while the Tsarnaev brothers came from a Chechen family, their ideology had little […]

Later this month, representatives from Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States will meet in Washington to discuss a possible accord that would regulate commercial fishing near the North Pole. Until recently, lack of regulation over the Arctic Ocean was not a priority for world powers, since ice made its waters inaccessible. But as the world warms, more and more polar ice thaws during the summers, creating newly opened waters and the need to address commercial exploitation. The agreement under discussion, a possible fishing moratorium, “would set an important precedent by way of deviating from the frontier mentality that […]

Before the modern era, most nations didn’t spend much time speculating about where their next war would be or who it would involve. Geography largely determined who would fight whom. With the rare exception of invaders from afar, enemies often remained at each other’s throats for decades, even centuries. States knew who they would fight — the only question was when. But the United States is different. With no major enemies nearby, America’s wars have been fought around the world against a wide range of opponents. This meant that U.S. policymakers and military leaders needed to anticipate the location and […]

Even without the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon this week, it is unlikely that the visit of U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to Moscow would have generated front-page news. But his meetings — including direct contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom Donilon handed over a personal letter from President Barack Obama — could end up being quite significant. After a year in which U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated, Donilon’s visit, which had already been postponed twice, was intended to reverse this decline and break the deadlock created by disagreements over Syria and human rights. Unfortunately, Donilon arrived […]

On Tuesday, Morocco cancelled its annual joint military exercises with the United States and other international observers just as the “African Lion” war games were set to start, according to U.S. officials. Though no formal explanation for the cancellation was given, the move follows an expression of support from the White House for broadening the mandate of the United Nations observer mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, to allow it to monitor human rights in the disputed territory, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s. According to Human Rights Watch, “Moroccan abuses in Western Sahara particularly target Sahrawis” — residents […]

The American military is led by some of the most educated professionals in the world. It’s not unusual for a retiring commissioned officer to have spent more time learning in the classroom than a physician, attorney or professor. All commissioned officers and a surprising number of career noncommissioned officers have a four-year college degree; many add an advanced civilian degree — or several of them. This is bolstered by what is called the “professional military educational system,” which is made up of specialized schools operated by the military services themselves. The most important are staff colleges, whose students have 12-14 […]

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently undertook a week-long visit to Japan and South Korea, highlighting NATO’s growing role in Asian security in partnership with nonmember governments. Rasmussen is convinced that NATO needs to deepen cooperation with partner states to address global security issues that can negatively impact NATO members’ security. Conversely, NATO has unique capabilities and experience in leading multinational military campaigns, as in Afghanistan and Libya, which can be applied to joint efforts among NATO and partner states to address security concerns in Asia and beyond. Since taking office in August 2009, Rasmussen has tried to induce alliance […]

In December, if only for a brief moment, the prospects of a brighter future for Venezuela-U.S. relations appeared on the horizon. With Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s firebrand socialist president, having just returned to Cuba to undergo what would be his final cancer treatment, his vice president and anointed successor, Nicolas Maduro, announced that Caracas would engage in a dialogue with Washington to examine and possibly improve bilateral relations. Five months later, Chavez is dead, and this Sunday Venezuelans will vote in a snap election for a new president. The election will decide whether Chavez’s so-called Bolivarian revolution, a policy of social […]

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The announcement this week that Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front), one of the main armed groups battling to take down the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has formally announced its allegiance to al-Qaida could signal a major shift in Syria’s two-year-long civil war. It certainly complicates matters for the United States. Over the past several months, Washington has concentrated its efforts on two parallel but complementary tracks: forging a broad-based, secular-leaning, pro-Western provisional government that could take over the administration of areas where the government in Damascus has lost control; and encouraging different rebel military groups to develop a […]

The Arab-Israeli conflict has never lost its power to conjure visions of Nobel Peace prizes among world diplomats, even as it has repeatedly thwarted the efforts of even the most skilled among them. Despite the occasional success, well-intentioned plans have also backfired disastrously, triggering new waves of deadly violence. As the Obama administration launches a new push for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the watchword must be, “First, do no harm.” Forging a successful peace process that brings results would obviously create tremendous benefits for the local population and for America’s strategic interests. It is undeniably a worthy goal. But […]

Under North Korea’s former dictator Kim Jong Il, crises followed a well-choreographed pattern. There would be provocation and sometimes outright aggression accompanied by paranoid, hostile and even hysterical rhetoric from Pyongyang. Eventually Kim would be mollified by some diplomatic concession or more assistance to keep the ramshackle North Korean economy from collapsing altogether, and things would return to normal — such as it was. However much this game frustrated the United States, Washington was fairly confident that it would not escalate into accidental war. Kim knew how far to push and when to back off. Unfortunately, the young Kim Jong […]

The new South Korean government of President Park Geun-hye finds itself in a difficult situation. On the one hand, it must respond to North Korea’s missile threats to avert more serious ones. On the other, it must do so without provoking Pyongyang or Beijing. Chinese officials are already concerned by South Korea’s strengthening security ties with the U.S. as well as by Seoul’s recent decision, supported by Washington, to acquire longer-range offensive ballistic missiles capable of reaching Chinese territory. But responding to the urgent North Korean threat requires bold action, and, despite Beijing’s complaints, the added pressure that closer U.S.-South […]

The U.S. has recently made two high-profile moves to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. has not joined and is barred by domestic law from supporting financially. In an email interview, Harry Rhea, assistant professor of criminal justice at Florida International University and author of the book “The United States and International Criminal Tribunals: An Introduction,” discussed U.S.-ICC cooperation and how the U.S. can bolster the court without joining it. WPR: Do recent U.S. moves to cooperate with the court — transferring Bosco Ntaganda to The Hague and including ICC suspects in the Rewards for Justice program, […]

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Experts are debating what precisely are the motives behind North Korea’s recent spike in belligerent rhetoric and posturing, with answers ranging from the opinion that “war talk” is an attempt by the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, to solidify his hold on power to the worry that the regime is losing its grip on reality. What is more certain, however, is the set of assumptions guiding Pyongyang’s strategic calculus. Whether the North Korean leadership’s assessments are accurate or not — and what steps the other powers in the region take to correct them — may help determine how this […]

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