Two men met at the end of a ceremonial walk down a long corridor last week. One of these men carried the hopes of millions on his shoulders: His selection to high office reflected a new openness to those long discriminated against and raised global hopes for a power whose image had been damaged—a power despised but still desired, often in the same breath, around the world. The other man was Barack Obama. Pope Francis had just marked his first year in office, amid breathless discussion of the “Francis effect.” How real that effect has been is open to debate. […]

The Ukraine crisis has once again highlighted a fundamental weakness of the U.S. national security process: its inability to hold to long-term planning in the midst of short-term crises. The entire Crimea imbroglio has been a gift to China’s leaders, further delaying the vaunted U.S. “rebalance” toward Asia. At the beginning of 2014, with war over the use of WMDs in Syria off the table, the prospects for a long-term troop presence in Afghanistan looking dim and a settlement with Iran over its nuclear program possibly within reach, it seemed that, at long last, Washington might finally begin to match […]

With the United States and its allies ramping up the pressure on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, President Barack Obama spoke yesterday in Brussels at an annual summit between the United States and the European Union. Obama stated that the United States and other nations have an interest “in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one,” but he castigated Russia’s actions in Crimea and rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rationales for Russian annexation of the territory. In particular, Obama rejected comparisons to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo or to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. While noting his own […]

Even as the United States works with allies to isolate Russia diplomatically and deter further Russian aggression, the Obama administration hopes to maintain business as usual in efforts to restrain threats from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Russia is the sole U.S. peer in the strategic nuclear arena and an important global supplier of nuclear technology and advanced conventional weapons. Russian cooperation will therefore be a prerequisite for almost any meaningful progress in tackling nuclear and WMD proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. In an email to Trend Lines, a State Department spokesman welcomed a recent statement from […]

When the Cold War ended, the days of imperial expansion seemed to go with it. No one expected the revanchism of bygone empires to affect, much less shape, the 21st-century global security system. But that is exactly what is happening. Al-Qaida is using the dream of a long-lost Arab empire to justify terrorism. China is yearning for territory it owned centuries ago and seems willing to use its rising economic and military power to regain it. And now Russia has joined the revanchists by invading Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory. As a result, policymakers, military strategists […]

During the course of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has faced challenges in treating wounded soldiers on a scale it hasn’t witnessed since the Vietnam War. In response, the military has succeeded in reducing the mortality rate of soldiers injured in combat through a radical shift in doctrine, procedures and medical technology. The duration of the two wars has also produced a wealth of research that has informed Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), which has become the standardized set of procedures used to treat U.S. casualties across active-duty military services. Despite this, the cost has been […]

The arrest of two elected mayors in Venezuela last week demonstrated that repression is ramping up in the oil-producing and deeply troubled country. The arrests—on trumped up charges of inciting and tolerating a rebellion in which 33 protesters have already been killed—signaled that the government of President Nicolas Maduro has shifted from systematically but subtly dismantling institutional checks and balances and independent media to purging the government of elected officials. Sadly, Venezuela’s neighbors are unlikely to do anything about it, and this collective failure to protect democratic norms and human rights has placed the U.S. in the position of coming […]

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 […]

Right now, the U.S. foreign policy community should not be engaging in its favorite pastime of assigning blame for the situation in Crimea. Nor, given ongoing problems in other parts of the world—rising tensions in the Far East, the future of the Iran nuclear initiative, the fate of the protest movement in Venezuela—does Washington have the luxury of focusing on the Ukrainian crisis at the expense of other, equally pressing concerns. Instead, the focus right now needs to be on formulating a new policy toward Russia that is not subject to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics, and to situate […]

Greeted with much fanfare in 2012, the Obama administration’s so-called pivot to the Asia-Pacific region has of late been beset by doubts and distractions. Developments in the Middle East and Europe have consumed a great deal of top-level attention, and declining U.S. defense spending has raised concerns that the military aspect of the rebalance may simply not be feasible. On top of this, the administration is working to convince two of its most important regional partners, Japan and South Korea, to move past an especially rough diplomatic patch and form a durable and consistent partnership on security and other matters. […]

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 […]

One year into Xi Jinping’s presidency of China, it would be easy to despair about the current state of U.S.-China relations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to push cooperation with Beijing on North Korea and climate change have fallen well short of Washington’s ambitions. China’s search for a “new relationship among major powers” has yet to materialize into something of real substance. And sparks are flying as the United States and its allies contend with a China that appears determined to enforce its claim to contested areas in the East and South China Seas in increasingly provocative and […]

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk traveled to Washington on Wednesday to plead for urgent U.S. help for his country, especially emergency assistance in coping with the country’s dire economic straits. Yet two polls of U.S. public opinion released this week will be little comfort to those pundits who advocate a more assertive American foreign policy, particularly in dealing with the current crisis in Ukraine. The Pew Center released data indicating that 56 percent of Americans eschew any major U.S. involvement in Ukraine, especially in confronting Russia over the situation in Crimea. A related CNN poll reveals only 6 percent […]

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 […]

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