Just as the turning of the leaves heralds the arrival of winter’s chill, so too are there unmistakable signs whenever a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization draws near. The media is filled with commentary about “NATO’s crisis,” while statements percolate forth from the alliance’s capitals about NATO’s clear purpose for the 21st century. This is a yearly ritual, with the proclamations of alliance unity and cohesion that inevitably accompany any NATO summit having similarly acquired a totemic quality. When the meeting is over, reality catches up with the vision that has been so ardently reaffirmed. The same issues […]

BEIJING — At its recent plenary session in Beijing on Oct. 14-18, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee rubber-stamped the country’s latest five-year economic plan, oversaw the further emergence of a new generation of political leaders and issued a number of significant policy announcements. Taken together, these events signal a changing political tide in Beijing and the ascendancy of the CCP’s Maoist-influenced “Princeling” faction in the run-up to the 2012 leadership transition. The Princeling faction is so named because many of its key figures are the sons of revolutionary heroes. The Princelings effectively represent the CCP’s traditionalist wing, littering their […]

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Turkey’s deepening ties with China are worth paying attention to regardless of the academic reasoning used to justify them. But I thought Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s formulation was worth passing on. Referring to Francis Fukuyama’s famous “end of history” as a framework for understanding the end of the Cold War, Davutoglu instead referred to the Cold War and the colonial period that preceded it as historical anomalies, with Turkey’s foreign policy orientation now reflecting the ways in which history is undergoing a “normalization.” I’ve seen this same anomaly framework applied by French Gen. Vincent Desportes to Cold War approaches to […]

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I haven’t discussed the French pension reforms, and the strikes opposing them, because it’s taken me a while to dial in the broader context that I felt was lacking in a lot of the debate. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has for the most part used demographic arguments to justify the reforms, which essentially involve moving the age of retirement from the age of 60 to 62. The growing pool of retirees coupled with budget shortfalls makes the need for reform obvious. The problem is one of distributing the increased burden fairly. Here, Sarkozy shot himself in the foot by making […]

On Oct. 11, Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mir Kazemi announced a reassessment of the country’s oil reserves, increasing them by 9 percent to 150.31 billion barrels, from the previous official figure of 138 billion barrels. The announcement closely followed a similar move by Iraq, which had a week earlier raised its proven reserves by one-quarter — to 143 billion barrels — allowing Iraq to temporarily overtake Iran as the world’s third-largest oil-reserve holder. The back-to-back announcements do not signal the discovery of new oil in the Middle East, however. As Iranian and Iraqi subsoil resources have been extensively surveyed over […]

Efforts to save the newly revived peace process between Israelis and Palestinians have moved into a feverish phase with only days left before an Arab League summit that could declare the process dead. The negotiations, sponsored by the Obama administration, are on life support just weeks after their birth. Palestinian negotiators refused to continue talks with Israel unless the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to extend a moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, which expired on Sept. 26. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition strongly disliked the original 10-month freeze, and it would likely oppose another extension — […]

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a two-part series. Part I focused on the impact of budget cuts on the British navy. Part II focuses on the implications for U.S. national security policy. As part of government-wide cuts meant to rein in decades of deficit spending, in October the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced an initial 8 percent reduction in its roughly $63 billion annual budget. The Royal Navy will suffer the deepest cuts, with around one-quarter of the fleet — as measured by tonnage — to be decommissioned and future purchases of ships and planes delayed and […]

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series. Part I will focus on the impact of budget cuts on the British navy. Part II will focus on the implications for U.S. national security policy. It was an event worthy of the British Royal Navy’s 500-year history. On June 3 at Portsmouth Naval Base, hundreds of dignitaries and citizens gathered to celebrate the commissioning of HMS Dauntless, the second of six high-tech Type 45 destroyers now entering service. A band played, the crew marched in parade and the ship’s captain, Richard Powell, read the traditional “commissioning warrant.” There […]

Last Friday, Wikileaks released a huge trove of documents on U.S. conduct of the war in Iraq. The release was conducted in collaboration with the New York Times, the Guardian, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, and Der Spiegel, and consisted mostly of U.S. military incident reports. Early reaction has concentrated much more on the substance of the material than on criticism of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. In part because of improvements in redaction policies, but also because negative revelations about the Iraq War are no longer as controversial as criticism of the ongoing Afghanistan conflict, attacks on Wikileaks have been more […]

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Back in February, in a series of posts written in the immediate aftermath of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty coming into effect, I argued that institutional power struggles would have as much, if not more impact on the shape of the post-Lisbon union than the personalities chosen to fill the president and foreign minister positions. In particular, I highlighted the EU Parliament’s enhanced oversight power under the treaty, and identified as a potential flashpoint the privacy vs. security trade-offs raised by many of the U.S.-EU counterterrorism agreements previously negotiated by the EU Commission. We already saw that play out over the […]

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A number of rail link items have caught my attention recently, and I thought it worthwhile to pass them along. The first is this massive China-Turkey joint development of a Turkish high-speed rail project, with China financing the project to the tune of an estimated $30 billion. The second is this Burma project linking its deep-water port of Kyaukphyu to Kunming, the capital of China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. Then there’s this one, in Africa, linking South Sudan to Uganda. And finally, there’s this rundown of the current rail projects in Southeast Asia. We often talk about ties between two […]

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In the aftermath of a trilateral German-French-Russian heads of state meeting, John Vinocur (or a headline writer at the Herald Tribune) wonders whether the U.S. is losing Europe to Russia. There are a few problems with this way of addressing this issue, not least of which is the fact that Russia is in no way capable of providing the same kind of partnership to Europe that the U.S. does. It also confuses an effort to harmonize relations with an alignment, and ignores the point of such a harmonization, which is to mitigate the significant power that Russia already exercises within […]

Now that Russian President Dimity Medvedev has committed to attending next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, allied leaders need to finalize the negotiating package they will present to the Russian government at the event. NATO and Russia agree on many important security issues, such as the need to counter maritime piracy, while they differ on others, including Medvedev’s proposed European Security Treaty and further NATO expansion. Some of their most significant disagreements lie in the realm of nonproliferation and arms control, with the three most divisive issues in this area concerning Iran’s emerging nuclear weapons capability, the alliance’s missile defense […]

U.S. and European efforts to stabilize Yemen and Somalia are boomeranging. Rather than weakening militants in both countries, Western counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies are fueling radicalism and turning wide swathes of the population against the West. With little real effort to economically and politically stabilize the two countries, U.S. military and security support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the embattled head of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, exacerbates local fault lines and strengthens deep-seated anti-Americanism. The backfiring of Western policies is compounded by a one-size-fits-all approach and a failure to address local grievances. To be […]

NATO has undergone many changes since its inception in 1949, but its commitment to collective defense has remained intact. During the Cold War, the strong wording of the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5, which states that “an armed attack against one . . . shall be considered an attack against them all,” helped deter a confrontation between East and West in Europe. Despite a sea change in NATO’s strategic context, membership, activities and functions, Article 5 has retained an almost mythical quality, enshrining the alliance’s fundamental pledge: e pluribus unum. Thus, despite the intense deliberation on NATO’s future surrounding the […]

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been in trouble for much of its 60-year existence. Indeed, since the earliest days of the alliance, Americans have complained about burden sharing and important policymakers have issued dire predictions about the organization’s imminent demise. More recently, few thought NATO would survive the collapse of the Soviet Union, which it was created to contain. Yet, two decades later, the alliance is bigger than ever and engaged in the most significant military conflict in its history. Still, many continue to believe that NATO is outmoded. Europe is largely without threat, they say, and the […]

NATO is slated to adopt a new Strategic Concept in November, a document that will serve as a guide for the alliance in what might be called the “post-post Cold War” world. NATO does not revisit its basic guidance often — the last Strategic Concept was approved in 1999. So it is important to craft an enduring statement, as it will likely stand for the next decade. With global support for nuclear arms control and disarmament gathering momentum, it might seem like an appropriate moment for NATO to fundamentally rethink its approach to the role that nuclear weapons play in […]

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