On Sept. 12, after months of negotiations, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a historically low-profile international institution, announced that its participants had agreed to new international minimum capital standards for banks. Scheduled to be phased in carefully over the next eight years, the new agreement — informally referred to as Basel III — represents the most significant set of international financial regulations to emerge since the onset of the global financial crisis. Yet, to succeed, Basel III depends entirely on national governments voluntarily following through on implementing and maintaining the new standards. As a result, distributional consequences across countries […]

Compared to their predecessors of three or four decades ago, U.S. national security officials are thinking in new terms, about new categories of threats. To an unprecedented degree, they must monitor the social, political, economic and psychological trends and processes that will determine the security environment in the years ahead. The kinds of things they are likely to worry about include the factors that will encourage Pakistan to take more aggressive action against militants or impede it from doing so; the conditions under which narco-violence could threaten the stability of Mexico; the likely lifespan of Tehran’s theocracy; the causes and […]

The U.S. government is making significant progress in its understanding of the cyber threat to U.S. national security, as demonstrated by a recent article in Foreign Affairs magazine by the deputy secretary of defense, William J. Lynn. The article also provides useful insights into government programs and capabilities to counter this threat, as well as the role of U.S. intelligence in helping the public and private sectors step up to this emerging national security challenge. More is needed, however, in terms of understanding what’s at stake in cybersecurity, improving intelligence regarding adversaries’ capabilities, intentions and activities, and creating the mechanisms […]

The changes to the U.S. intelligence community (IC) effected after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States were the most comprehensive in decades. Intelligence reformers sought to restructure the IC to make it more flexible and integrated, to improve the sharing of information both horizontally between federal agencies and vertically between Washington and state and local bodies, and to expand the capabilities at the IC’s disposal. The reforms have achieved important progress in some areas. But a series of high-profile incidents and revelations — including repeated turnover in the position of director of national intelligence, media exposés by […]

According to virtually all global warming projections, humanity faces significantly more conflict in the decades ahead as we fight over dwindling resources in climate-stressed lands. However, those reports typically overlook one likely outcome that could counterbalance the more negative impacts of global warming — that of northern territories becoming significantly milder, more accessible, and, most intriguingly, more hospitable to immigration. This is the essential good news to be found in Laurence C. Smith’s fascinating new book, “The World in 2050.” The ambitious title is perhaps a bit misleading, for where Smith really delivers is on the subtitle: “Four Forces Shaping […]

Venezuelan Parliamentary Elections Could Weaken Chavez

In parliamentary elections on Sept. 26, Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity Coalition is looking to weaken Chavez’s hold on that country’sgovernment. They seek to win at least a third of the seats in the national assembly. The election is the first parliamentary election since opposition parties boycotted elections in 2005.

The Coming Brazil Backlash

The title refers to a recurring thought I’ve been having since Brazil announced it was unilaterally extending its offshore sovereignty to cover the sea-bed oil reserves it recently discovered, despite the fact that its previous proposal to that effect had been rejected by the U.N., and its re-application has not yet been decided upon. That was soon followed by the news that Brasilia would further expand its naval capabilities — beyond the four Scorpene-class subs as well as a nuclear-powered one it has already contracted with France — to back up its claim. Everyone loves a soft, cuddly Middle Power […]

U.S. Brings Aid into 20th Century

Yesterday, in response to the Obama administration’s announcement that it was “changing the way we do business” on development, I remarked on Twitter that it is more likely “changing the way we do bureaucratic infighting on development.” It was a bit snide, I admit, as is the title of this post. And it bears noting that aid advocates have applauded the changes. But really, my expertise on international aid and development comes from having spent some time visiting with development workers of various nationalities while travelling in Ecuador back in 1993 and 1996. Which is to say, I have no […]

The Long Tail of the Beijing Olympics

From Judy Dempsey, describing China’s increasing reach in Eastern Europe: From the Baltic states to the Balkans, Chinese companies, flush with money, are buying real estate and competing for public infrastructure contracts, especially as Poland and Ukraine work at breakneck speed to jointly play host to the 2012 European soccer championship. I’d already seen some suggestion that Brazil was also turning to China for expertise and support in advance of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016. The 2008 Beijing Olympics were seen at the time through the prism of soft power — China’s coming out party. […]

Afghanistan and the Great U.S. Shariah Scare of 2010

In searching for a graphic for Richard Weitz’s WPR column on the Afghanistan parliamentary elections, Kari stumbled across this photo, from the USAID flickr stream, of three Burqa-clad Afghan women giving the inked finger to the camera. My immediate reaction was to recoil, with a sense of shock that in 2010, this is a sign of progress for U.S. foreign and security policy in the world. Voting is good, but it implies a respect for the subjectivity and personhood of each individual citizen that the burqa, in my limited understanding of it, denies. My subsequent thought went to the current […]

A great deal of ink has been spilled on the domestic trajectory of the “Tea Party” movement, which is demonstrating its growing clout within the ranks of the Republican party and could end up playing a decisive factor in the 2010 midterm congressional elections. But less attention has been given to the foreign policy implications of the Tea Party’s possible ascendancy. Even if the Republicans take back control of both houses of Congress this fall, the Tea Party is unlikely to play a major role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. However, its perspective will shape popular perception, and its counsel […]

Critics of the New START treaty charge that, if ratified, it would constrain U.S. missile defense plans. Whether or not the treaty’s non-binding preamble supports their argument, the broader question regarding the future of missile defense is an important one. Missile defenses bolster deterrence and strengthen the security of U.S. allies, giving them a significant role to play in a fluid and dynamic contemporary security environment. But regardless of the New START treaty, the Obama administration will have to limit U.S. missile defense plans if it wishes to remain credibly committed to future arms reduction agreements with Russia, as well […]

In June of this year, the United States Navy published the 2010 Naval Operations Concept (.pdf) (NOC), designed as the operational fulfillment of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy (.pdf) (CS-21) released in 2007. The 112-page NOC is an elaboration of the concepts set forth in the 20-page Cooperative Strategy, with detailed discussion of how the missions laid forth in the earlier document can be accomplished with the forces available to the United States Navy. CS-21 itself is a curious document. Deceptively modest, it was developed as the Navy’s strategic answer to the post-Cold War environment. But whether intentionally, as some have […]

In U.S. domestic politics, which demands that presidential administrations pursue policies with near-instantaneous results, the biblical adage, “One sows, another reaps,” is anathema. As a result, President Barack Obama is not only under growing pressure to demonstrate results to a skeptical American electorate months before the 2010 midterm elections, he also needs to chalk up a series of successes to buoy his 2012 re-election campaign. Fortunately, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pithily noted during her last visit to Georgia, the United States is able to walk and chew gum at the same time. This logic also applies to the […]

U.S. after Iraq: Africa as Strategic Priority

I mentioned in my first post back from vacation that the U.S. should be focusing its foreign policy attention on Africa in the “post-Iraq” era. The reasons why remained inchoate and intuitive, untilNikolas Gvosdev, in his WPR column today, helped me bring them into focus when he wrote: Beyond Latin America, the [U.S. should] explore ways to bind Western and Southern Africa closer to the United States. . . . Washington should pay more attention to surrounding the United States with a “ring of friends” to its south, rather than thinking of our security as guaranteed by the oceans to […]

In his April 2009 Prague speech, President Barack Obama ambitiously pledged to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” The goal is driven by the need to ensure that terrorists never obtain a nuclear weapon or materials usable for a nuclear device, and its urgency cannot be overstated. Twenty countries are believed to possess bomb-grade nuclear material that is not secure. While fissile material security is usually associated with developing countries, developed countries such as the U.S. must also take additional steps to safeguard their own nuclear materials. What’s more, despite a myriad of national laws […]

Brazil, Russia Postpone Decision on French Defense Purchases

Bad day for the French defense industry: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that the final decision on a fighter jet purchase will be made after the upcoming Brazilian presidential elections on Oct. 3, but before he leaves office on Jan. 1, 2011. The contract, expected to be worth upwards of $3 billion, was all but awarded to the French Rafale earlier this year, before the Brazilian Defense Ministry objected to a decision being made before its tender and performance evaluation had been completed. Meanwhile, Russia opened its search for amphibious command vessels to an international tender, after […]

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