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 […]

World Citizen: Venezuela, Once an Ideological Magnet, Now Worries Region

The continuing clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Venezuela are being watched with a view toward the national interest in Caribbean and Latin American countries, most notably Cuba, which is feeling the impact of the contest for Caracas with particular intensity. The fall of President Nicolas Maduro and the end of the policies instituted by his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, would have strong repercussions in the region. Even if Maduro holds on, the Chavista goal of exporting Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” revolution and bringing Chavez’s brand of “21st century socialism” to the rest of Latin America has already […]

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 […]

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 […]

The Crimea crisis has given realists a field day for attacking the belief structures of rules-based internationalists. Ukraine just paid the price of giving up its nuclear weapons 20 years ago, we hear, and the Budapest Memorandum guarantees of Ukraine’s borders did nothing to change Moscow’s behavior. Integrating Russia into international economic institutions proved equally meaningless. As for human rights and the rule of law, everyone knows they don’t matter when the vital national interests of great powers are at stake. The reality, however, is more complicated. The fabric of international norms actually functioned as intended on the nuclear issue. […]

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 […]

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to find out whether his strategy for quelling an increasingly effective opposition will prove successful and help him secure his place of prominence in Turkey’s future. Erdogan has brandished an eye-popping catalog of conspiracy theories in response to, first, mass popular protests and, more recently, a growing corruption scandal that has ensnared close associates, family members and, allegedly, the prime minister himself. The defense by conspiracy theory will either destroy his critics’ charges or subject Erdogan to ridicule, bringing an end to his political career. On March 30, Turkish voters will go […]

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 […]

Over the past few years, Turkey’s “zero problem with neighbors” policy has become something of a joke. After some initial successes at resolving problems with surrounding states, Turkey is now the only major country without ambassadors in Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously. One major exception was arguably Turkey’s relations with Russia, which have remained solid despite differences over Syria, Iran and other issues. Now the Crimea crisis has confronted Turkey with the most serious challenge to its Russian policy since the Cold War. Until losing the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, the Ottoman Empire held sovereignty over Crimea, which was then […]

Editor’s note: WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Richard Gowan, who will be taking a leave of absence until June. As has become increasingly evident to observers of global politics over the past several years, we live in a Gramscian moment of systemic crisis, where in the interregnum between an old order on its deathbed and a new one not yet born, “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The latest of these symptoms is on display in Ukraine, where Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea highlights the waning power of the post-Cold War liberal order, even […]

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 […]

What does a gambler do when a large bet suddenly looks like it’s riding on a losing hand? Many will fold and cut their losses. Others push ahead, even doubling down, hoping their game plan will ultimately pay off. The emirate of Qatar has opted for the second approach in its high-stakes gamble to support the Muslim Brotherhood. With the Brotherhood losing ground dramatically after sweeping to multiple victories in what was once known as the Arab Spring, Qatar is sticking with its strategy and paying an increasingly high cost for its reluctance to change course. The unavoidable question is […]

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 […]

Russia’s military occupation and impending annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine has put Beijing in a difficult spot, confronting Chinese leaders with numerous competing priorities and principles. Having cultivated good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, they would prefer to avoid antagonizing one party by siding too closely with the other. Yet, China’s recent approach shows how Beijing is now more willing to dilute longstanding foreign policy principles to align with Moscow. Throughout the months of unrest in Ukraine, Chinese media commentary has generally echoed Russia’s line that Western machinations were contributing to the instability in Kiev, which finally led […]

Will Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama ultimately benefit most from the crisis in Ukraine? Most pundits are betting on the former. The Russian president has pulled off a bravura display of ruthless guile in seizing control of Crimea. His American counterpart has looked limited, calculating that Moscow will want an “off ramp” out of a crisis that currently seems to be going Moscow’s way. Obama’s critics have naturally attributed Putin’s aggression to U.S. weakness, even though Washington has pushed for sanctions and other punitive measures. But Obama may emerge as the final winner. This is not because Russia will let […]

The Realist Prism: Obama Must Choose What Comes Next for U.S.-Russia

It’s safe to say that the U.S.-Russia reset is now dead and buried. It was already losing steam, in part because the low-hanging fruit it offered had already been harvested—and because many of the “concessions” made by both sides at the high point of the reset in 2010 and 2011 were decisions that Moscow or Washington would have taken anyway. The Obama administration’s decision, for instance, to cancel the Bush administration’s plan to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic was guided as much by concerns about cost and technical infeasibility as it was about improving […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 211 2 Last