Issue Briefs

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On the eve of the 2016 Warsaw Summit, NATO faces a new and challenging security environment dominated by a revanchist Russia increasingly willing to challenge the West and turbulence and violence across the Mediterranean's southern rim. In this new security environment, the maritime domains around Europe are potential friction zones and where these challenges increasingly play out. The Russian navy is growing its capabilities, is increasingly active, and challenges NATO at sea. In April, Russian attack jets buzzed the USS Donald Cook at close range in the Baltic Sea, but that is only one example of recent risky interactions. The Alliance, however, has not yet done enough to prepare for these new challenges in the maritime domain. The current Alliance Maritime Strategy, approved in 2011, does not reflect this challenging security environment and is instead focused on lower-end missions and challenges, such as counter-piracy.

 

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On June 23, 2016, a referendum will decide whether Britain will leave the European Union (EU) or remain a member. Britain’s departure from the EU would affect the rest of the world, because it would have implications for a broad spectrum of international concerns–very importantly, international security. For the United States, Britain remains among the most important allies across the security spectrum, but the prospects of a Brexit leave the future of UK-US security cooperation uncertain.

 

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Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, the Baltic States have come into sharp focus as a key friction zone between a much more assertive Russia on the one hand, and the United States, NATO, and the broader transatlantic community on the other. NATO and the United States have made promising first steps to better secure the Baltic States and the surrounding region. But meeting the challenge of an assertive Russia under Vladimir Putin will require a long-term strategy by NATO, and the United States in particular. In this piece, the Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson and Magnus Nordenman argue that a coherent strategy for the region must be built on a clear vision, a determined force posture, regional cooperation, and a focused program—supported by resources from across the Alliance—to build Baltic deterrent capabilities. These efforts, backed by strong US leadership, will ensure northeast Europe remains stable, secure, and prosperous.

 

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The past decade has witnessed a marked increase in Russian aggression and assertiveness. Many Eastern European nations, the Baltic States in particular, have recognized this disturbing and fundamental change in the European security environment and are responding both nationally and multilaterally.

 

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Over the last decade, cyber threats have continued to advance in both depth and breadth with the expansion of exploitation, disruption, and destruction activities. In warfighting, as demonstrated in conflicts in Crimea, Syria, and Iraq, cyber capabilities are increasingly being integrated as part of adversarial attack strategies. Cyber vulnerabilities are one of NATO’s and its member-states’ most significant challenges and continue to undercut the Alliance’s deterrent and defense capabilities. In “Cyber, Extended Deterrence, and NATO,” Franklin D. Kramer, Robert J. Butler, and Catherine Lotrionte set forth an approach for cyber extended deterrence, focusing on a potential conflict involving NATO. The paper's recommendations aim to strengthen NATO’s cyber capabilities and incorporate them into wider Alliance defense strategies, laying out multinational and intergovernmental steps and exploring the role of the private sector.

 

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In the aftermath of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a major question has been whether the landmark nuclear deal would have any impact on Iran’s other policies, including its record on human rights. While US President Barack Obama’s administration stressed that in negotiating the JCPOA its focus was on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, there was an unstated hope that Iran’s reintegration into the global economy as a result of the deal would also promote a less repressive Islamic Republic.

 

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Across Africa, leaders are tinkering with term limits and prolonging their tenures. In an increasingly unstable Central African region, Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), appears poised to be the next African leader to sidestep the relinquishing of power and the election of his successor, constitutionally mandated for November 2016. A new Atlantic Council study by Dr. Pierre Englebert, "Congo Blues: Scoring Kabila’s Rule," examines Kabila’s leadership of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country and traces the contours of the ineptitude, massive corruption, and frequent resort to violence in the face of criticism that characterize his decade and a half in power.

 

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When NATO leaders convene for the Warsaw summit this July, their agenda will be dominated by external threats—from an aggressive Russia, to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), to the refugee crisis that has spread from the Middle East and North Africa throughout Europe. Yet an equally important issue, though not explicitly on the agenda, will be the internal health of the Alliance. NATO faces unprecedented challenges to its values, cohesion, and effectiveness, all integral to dealing with these external threats.

 

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The two major drivers of Europe’s newly insecure strategic environment both have reflections in the maritime domain: Russia’s military assertiveness is often expressed above, on, or under the sea; and the instability of the Middle East and North Africa spreads turbulence and disorder around the Mediterranean’s southern rim.

 

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Diane Francis’ new issue brief, “Stolen Future,” exposes the depth and breadth of the economic devastation a corruption fueled oligarchy has wrought in Ukraine. In the wake of the Euromaidan Revolution, Ukraine has the opportunity to break the cycle of wealth appropriation which has plagued both Russia and Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, due to the lingering influence of oligarchy, reforms have been slow coming in some sectors, and as Francis states, “the tide will only turn in favor of Ukraine if its oligarchy is brought to its knees, hopefully without further violence.”

 

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