The protests in Ukraine and Venezuela and the unveiling this week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the Obama administration’s budget request to Congress would appear to be separate and unrelated events. Yet they are linked by the challenge those developments pose to the strategic assumptions that serve as the foundation of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. defense budget. The United States can no longer afford a strategy that hedges against all possible risks. The fiscal crunch, combined with the need to divert an ever-growing portion of the defense budget to personnel, health and pension costs and away from procurement—particularly […]

More than anything else, grand strategy is about balancing risk. In a world of limited resources, countries cannot have everything they might like to have, or achieve everything they might like to achieve. They cannot defend perfectly against every threat, or spend robustly on every priority at home and abroad. This is why grand strategy requires policymakers to choose—to make judgments about what risks a country can accept, and what risks it cannot. This is precisely the dilemma illustrated by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s speech on the defense budget on Feb. 24. As Hagel made clear, the armed forces […]

Last November, the United States suspended aid and arms transfers to Egypt in reaction to the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. In contrast, earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, praising the “unconditional friendship” between Egypt and Russia countries and reportedly working to negotiate a $2 billion arms deal. Although American officials express a continued commitment to the U.S. partnership with Egypt—and the United States is likely to remain Egypt’s top arms supplier—leaders on both sides of the relationship are wondering where it’s heading. The confusion was heightened this week when the interim Egyptian […]

On Feb. 16, the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of Syria’s Western-backed rebel grouping, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), expelled its chief of staff, Gen. Salim Idris. Idris, who had long been seen as ineffective, was replaced by Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, a Syrian army defector and head of the FSA’s Quneitra military council. His deputy is to be Col. Heitham Afeisi, co-founder and deputy commander of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a large FSA outfit mainly active in the northwest. The move capped a difficult six months for Syria’s rebels. Plagued by divisions and infighting, as well as indecision among their […]

Every day seems to bring news of another nation slipping into political crisis. With Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Egypt and a host of others still not close to restoring stability, Venezuela and Ukraine have followed them into chaos. It’s hard to know what nation will next fall off the cliff, but it’s a sure bet that some will. Democratization was the most important strategic megatrend of the 1990s, but today it has been dethroned by pervasive, persistent and deep political turbulence, as both old dictatorships and new democracies prove unable to meet the mounting demands of a young […]

Last week’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada trilateral summit resulted in a communique that among other things called for increased energy cooperation on the continent. In an email interview, Jed Bailey, managing partner of Energy Narrative, a research and consulting group focusing on Latin America’s energy sector, explained the recent history of and next steps for North American energy integration. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of energy integration in North America? Jed Bailey: Energy integration across North America has steadily strengthened for several decades as cross-border trade has grown in electric power and natural gas as well as oil and oil products. […]

Although the geopolitical tug-of-war between the European Union and Russia was recognized as a principal factor driving recent events in Ukraine, NATO’s full role in the crisis is not widely understood. Like the EU, the alliance’s pull on Ukraine has long aroused anxieties in Moscow as well as among pro-Russian Ukrainians, exacerbating tensions related to the East-West standoff. But while NATO took no military action in the crisis, its partnership policies toward Ukraine have helped keep the Ukrainian armed forces out of the recent street fighting and could help the country emerge from its recent security crisis. Ukraine is not […]

Three months after Iran reached an interim agreement with the U.S. and its negotiating partners in the P5+1 to limit Iranian nuclear capabilities, the two sides announced last week that they had agreed upon a framework for negotiation of a final comprehensive agreement. In remarks in Jerusalem following the announcement, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said that these negotiations, scheduled to begin March 17, will be “very tough” and “will go on through July.” At the same time, a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessed that, in the agency’s judgment, Iran is complying […]

Will the Ukrainian revolution help or harm the Syrian rebellion? The two uprisings currently appear to be on very different trajectories. It is three years since Syrian citizens began protests against President Bashar Assad, precipitating the cycle of violence that would lead to civil war, yet he maintains a brutally tenacious hold on power. By contrast, Assad’s Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from the capital, Kiev, last week after just three months of demonstrations culminating in a sudden spike in violence. Assad may view Yanukovych’s humiliation as proof of the need for utter ruthlessness against his opponents. But the […]

Whenever political violence breaks out anywhere in the world, one can predict the U.S. response without any hesitation. The State Department will: solemnly declare that the United States abhors the use of violence and sends its condolences to the casualties; promise that the U.S. will hold “all sides” accountable for their actions; demand that the government “show restraint”; and call for immediate “political dialogue” to resolve the crisis. This preset script has been followed, with minor modifications, as tensions have escalated in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand, among others; it was the initial response when violence broke out in in Syria […]

With senior officials acknowledging that the potential damage from infectious disease could rival the impact of a nuclear, chemical or large-scale cyberattack, the Obama administration recently launched a new effort to respond to this growing threat. The initiative, called the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), is intended to build coordination across U.S. government agencies and between partner governments. In an op-ed announcing the GHSA, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Lisa Monaco, a senior White House homeland security and counterterrorism official, called the need to “prevent, detect and respond” to new biological […]

Speaking to a crowd in Tel Aviv last month, former Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror emphasized a common Israeli concern about future conflicts. “Whatever will be the scenario,” he said, Israel “will have to deal with many missiles and rockets.” But, he added, Israel now faces “a new scenario” because “the numbers now are so different.” He pointed especially to Hezbollah’s arsenal, estimated by some senior Israeli officials at 100,000 projectiles. Israel has therefore been building up its layered active defense systems, and last week an Israeli firm unveiled the newest layer at the Singapore Air Show: the laser-based […]

Over the past few decades, violence in Mexico has reached horrific levels, claiming the lives of 70,000 as criminal organizations fight each other for control of the drug trade and wage war on the Mexican police, military, government officials and anyone else unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. The chaos has spread southward, engulfing Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Americans must face the possibility that the conflict may also expand northward, with intergang warfare, assassinations of government officials and outright terrorism in the United States. If so, this will force Americans to undertake a fundamental reassessment of the threat, […]

That Russia and NATO are developing plans to conduct a rare joint maritime show of force to reaffirm their commitment to the Syrian chemical weapons elimination process is a good development. According to Reuters, Russian and U.S. warships will jointly escort a U.S. vessel, the USS Cape Ray, which has been re-equipped to destroy Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons. Russian and NATO experts are currently developing a unified command structure, possible rules of engagement and other details within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, the most important alliance structure linking the parties. The escort mission would be largely symbolic since […]

In the past few months, as the prospects have emerged for an agreement between Iran and U.S.-led world powers on Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia and nuclear-armed Pakistan have made high-profile moves to strengthen their links in what is most likely not a mere coincidence of timing. Recent developments bring to mind repeated warnings over the years from top Saudi officials, like that of King Abdullah who in 2009 told a U.S. envoy, “If Iran gets nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.” Saudi Arabia is content to let the world know it is exploring its options. The important question […]

Last month, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told a crowd in Virginia that “we have the most advanced platforms in the world, but quantity has a quality of its own.” Mabus and other Navy leaders are currently grappling with severe budget constraints, and as he said those words the Navy was reportedly considering decommissioning one of its 10 active Nimitz-class aircraft carriers as a cost-saving measure. The $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of the next-generation Ford-class carriers, was christened in November and is currently expected to join the fleet as the 11th carrier in 2016.* Although […]

For more than a decade, the United States has poured blood and money into Afghanistan, hoping to turn it into some sort of functioning democracy that could at least keep the Taliban at bay. This project always had a deep tinge of unreality. Few places on earth are less hospitable to accountable governance, robust rule of law, protection of human rights and security provided by the state. The United States and its allies never had a plan to make Afghanistan economically self-sufficient or able to pay for its own security forces. Everyone knew the state would remain a ward of […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 261 2 Last