The Valdai International Discussion Club held the first meeting of its Defense and Security section in Moscow from May 25-27. The discussions, which focused on Russia’s military modernization program as well as on Russian cooperation in international security, brought together about two-dozen Russian and Western international security analysts. The meeting was co-organized by the Russian RIA Novosti state news agency, the independent Council on Foreign and Defense Policy think tank and the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology (CAST) research institute, and included visits to several important Russian military facilities. Participants were also able to meet with some of […]

Nuclear Pakistan, we are often told, is the Islamic-state equivalent of a Wall Street firm: In geostrategic terms, it is too big to fail. That explains why, even as the Obama administration begins preparing for modest troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this July, it dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week to smooth over bilateral relations with Pakistan’s paranoid regime, which were strained even before the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Clinton’s trip and the Obama administration’s instinctive embrace of Islamabad is a fool’s errand, doomed by history, geography and globalization itself. In fact, the U.S. should […]

When President Barack Obama laid out his vision for moving forward on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process last week, he — like the Clinton and Bush administrations before him — emphasized trying to settle the question of borders first, while deferring negotiations on more contentious issues, like the status of Jerusalem, for later. Indeed, at first glance, the question of Jerusalem appears to be insolvable, given both sides’ starting points for negotiation. Speaking before the U.S. Congress this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu declared, “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know […]

When President Barack Obama addressed the world’s Muslims from Cairo in 2009, his message, to put it bluntly, added up to, “Please love America — or at least stop hating it.” Two years later, when Obama took the podium once again to address the restive Middle East, his message was much different, but just as stark. This time he seemed to be saying, “Please believe that America still matters.” Obama’s May 19 speech from the State Department in Washington represented a desperate attempt at relevance. The president was essentially trying to demonstrate that during this transformative phase in the region, […]

Seventy years ago yesterday, the Royal Navy battlecruiser the HMS Hood was destroyed by the German battleship the Bismarck, striking the British national security apparatus with panic. Although the Hood was 20 years old when it faced off against the Bismarck, it was still one of the largest, fastest and most powerful warships in the world. It was also the most visible symbol of British naval power, having conducted many “show the flag” cruises during the interwar period. The loss of the Hood inspired an intense, emotional desire for vengeance on the part of the Royal Navy, as well as […]

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Since even before the controversy surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in Pakistani territory, analysts have been assessing whether China would exploit the growing tensions between Islamabad and Washington to expand its own influence in Pakistan. The results of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s four-day official visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) suggest that Chinese officials are pondering one potential option, a naval base in Pakistan, even if they do not seem eager to displace U.S. influence in Pakistan entirely. Upon Gilani’s return, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar told the press […]

Much of the reaction to President Barack Obama’s speech on U.S. Middle East policy last Thursday focused on his reference to Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the basis for a future two-state solution with Palestine. But Obama’s speech was far more focused on long-term realities, suggesting that he is not really willing to push for some historic Israeli-Palestinian peace plan against the background of the Arab Spring. In fact, it’s fair to wonder why he chose to expend any of his political capital on this deadlocked issue, especially since he had to know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would reject […]

If terrorism recedes as the central defining question of contemporary international relations, will “natural security” rise to take its place? Thom Shanker sees natural security emerging “not just by competitive economic growth, but also by potentially disruptive scarcities — depletion of minerals; desertification of land; pollution or overuse of water; weather changes that kill fish and farms.” Natural security, and its potential to fuel new conflicts between states, is becoming an issue because of the rapid growth of a truly global middle class — projected to encompass some 5 billion people by 2030. Two of the drivers of a middle-class […]

When the Arab Spring began erupting late last year, most world leaders responded with a mixture of bewilderment and incoherence. Whether in Tunis or Cairo, Washington or Paris, heads of government seemed confused about how to react to the mass popular demands for democratic change. That, however, was not the case inside the palaces that house the reigning monarchs of the Middle East. There, the swelling political seas were met with a steady hand on the rudder. As they watched besieged presidents plead or do battle with their people, and as they observed Western leaders nudge and later withdraw their […]

The air campaign against Libya is now well into its third month, and there is as of yet little sign of progress on either side. What does this mean for the future of airpower? With the exception of small special forces teams and several warships, the military aspect of the Libyan intervention has been conducted from the skies. Gen. Sir David Richards has now called for an expansion of the air campaign to include leadership targets, with the goal being the removal of Moammar Gadhafi’s government. This brings a strategic element to a campaign that has thus far lacked coherence […]

Last weekend I attended a seminar on “Liberty and Responsibility in the Major Works of Samuel P. Huntington.” The participants included former Huntington students, such as myself, as well as academics and independent scholars interested in his writings. Though it operated under Chatham House rules, meaning that participants’ contributions were off the record, the seminar served as a useful reminder of Huntington’s prolific genius and of the continued relevance of his work. Like many Harvard professors, Huntington was active in both real world politics and academia. He was an early New Deal supporter, advised several Democratic presidents and became a […]

There is a profound sense of completion to be found in America’s elimination of Osama bin Laden, and the circumstances surrounding his death certainly fit this frontier nation’s historical habit of mounting major military operations to capture or kill super-empowered bad actors. Operation Geronimo, like most notable U.S. overseas interventions of the past quarter-century, boiled down to eliminating the one man we absolutely felt we needed to get to declare victory. Now we have the opportunity to redefine this “long war” to America’s most immediate advantage. I spot four basic options, each with their own attractions and distractions. Declare victory […]

Much has been written about the potential impact that the demise of Osama bin Laden and the possible disintegration of al-Qaida will have on U.S. foreign policy, beginning with the question of whether this will trigger a more rapid disengagement from Afghanistan. But bin Laden’s death could also change the foreign policy calculus of other states, notably Russia, which for the past 10 years has promulgated its own version of the global war on terror as a central organizing principle for international affairs. Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, Moscow had already seen bin Laden as a threat to the […]

Last November, when the State Department learned that an outfit called WikiLeaks had acquired tens of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, the reaction in Washington bordered on panic. WikiLeaks had already released secret papers on the Afghanistan war, which the Pentagon said had gravely endangered many lives. Facing an impending torrent of classified documents covering U.S. interests on all continents, top American diplomats tried to brace the country for the harsh impact. They anxiously predicted the massive leak would be “harmful to our national security.” Five months after WikiLeaks broke the latch on its treasure trove and started scattering […]

Driven in part by a recent article in Proceedings, the magazine of the United States Naval Institute, the debate over the nature and utility of aircraft carriers has once again erupted between naval analysts. In “Twilight of the $uperflous Carrier,” Capt. Henry J. Hendrix of the U.S. Navy and retired Lt. Col. J. Noel Williams of the U.S. Marine Corps argue that modern supercarriers are simply too expensive and too vulnerable to be usable weapons of war. They contend that the era of the supercarrier has come to an end, and that the future of naval power resides in warships […]

U.S. and NATO officials are currently deciding what specific arms control measures they will seek regarding the remaining tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe. Although NATO officials have linked further reductions in the alliance’s TNW to reciprocal Russian reductions, NATO governments have yet to propose any formal TNW negotiations with the Russian government. Specifically, they must determine what objectives to seek, what negotiating forum to use, and how to verify any agreement regarding these weapons. When the U.S. Senate ratified the New START Treaty last December, it also enacted a resolution directing the Obama administration to begin negotiations with Russia […]

America’s successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, long overdue, naturally renews talk across the country about ending the nation’s military involvement in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Coupled with the ongoing tumult unleashed by the Arab Spring, Washington is once again being encouraged to reconsider its strategic relationship with the troubled Middle East. The underlying current to this debate has always been the widely held perception that America’s “oil addiction” tethers it to the unstable region. Achieve “energy independence,” we are told, and America would free itself of this terrible burden. The simplicity of that argument belies globalization’s crosscutting interdependencies, which only grow more […]

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