Issue Briefs

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Over the past decade and a half, Russia has placed an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in its military strategy and doctrine. Moscow’s assertive “escalate-to-de-escalate” nuclear strategy poses a distinguishable threat to NATO nations, and requires greater strategic thinking about NATO’s nuclear posture. After a quarter century of reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons, NATO now lacks a credible deterrent for Russian “de-escalatory” nuclear strikes. To grapple with this possibility, NATO must consider the development of new, more flexible nuclear capabilities of its own.

 

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A permanent rotational presence of NATO troops in the Baltic States and Poland, the outcome from the recent NATO Warsaw Summit, will form an integral part of NATO’s increased deterrence measures against Russia in Europe’s east. One of NATO’s key challenges as it seeks to enhance its presence in the Baltic Sea region is the lack of modern military infrastructure, especially the kind that meets the needs of large Allied units. The Baltic states have not been unaware of their military infrastructure gaps, and all three countries have built their armed forces from the ground up, focusing on manning the force and equipment requirements. But if NATO troops cannot get their tanks and supply convoys to training ranges and bases far from the Baltic coastline, they will not be of much use. Additionally, improving military infrastructure is not just a matter of presenting a more palatable offer to NATO allies; it is also an issue of operational capabilities.

 

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At the outset of the political uprisings that began in North Africa in 2010, the four countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia faced similar economic and political challenges. Over the past almost six years, the countries have adopted different approaches to address these problems, however the overall economic picture today is grim amid varied political environments. In “Aftermath of the Arab Spring in North Africa,” authors Mohsin Khan and Karim Mezran examine whether these four North African countries have been successful in meetings the demands of their populations as expressed in the 2010-11 uprisings and what challenges remain for them in the future. 
 

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The Baltic Sea region has emerged as a key friction zone between the West and Russia since the onset of the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Russia has built up its military presence and activity in the region, challenging the post-Cold War order in Europe and spurring new concerns in the United States, NATO, and its partners about the region’s security. The overriding US security priority in the Baltic Sea region is to provide deterrence against aggression toward the Baltic States and effective defense if that deterrence fails. The Baltic States are arguably NATO’s most vulnerable members, and their small geographical size and limited military resources mean that they cannot, by themselves, offer strategic depth to the United States and NATO during a crisis. However, the region also contains two of NATO’s most valuable partners—Sweden and Finland—along with the emerging leader of NATO’s east, Poland.

 

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It might be true that history does not repeat itself, but it can provide examples of what to do and what does not work. In the spirit of the adage that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it,” History’s Lessons for Resolving Today’s Middle East Conflicts, by Mathew J. Burrows, examines past precedents for resolving highly complex conflicts, by delving into seven historic examples of peacemaking. Each conflict is different, but there are common patterns for resolving them. Based on our study of historical precedents, we list seven key requirements for success based on outcomes in these examples and have highlighted several of the precedents of special relevance to the situation today in the Middle East.

 
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Considering its geographic distance and lack of formal allies, the Middle East has played an outsized role in the history of Australia's global engagement. While Australia's interests in the region are real and increasing, as a middle power with finite resources it must take a smart approach to pursuing them. Australia has a strong track record of effective security partnership and investing in a close relationship with a key partner there offers a range of benefits. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ideal candidate as the two countries have rapidly built a strong and collaborative relationship, and they share a surprising number of mutual interests. But an expanded relationship faces several natural constraints, and both countries must have a clear-eyed and well-articulated understanding of the benefits and limitations if it is to mature.

 

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NATO faces a worsening security environment defined by Russia's growing willingness to challenge the West and a Europe whole, free, and at peace. In this new geo-political context the Black Sea region is one of the central friction zones between Russia and NATO. While the Alliance has recently pledged to protect its eastern flank against aggression, overall capacity challenges have resulted in little increased presence in the Black Sea. "A NATO Strategy for Security in the Black Sea Region" takes stock of the security and defense challenges in the broader region and offers operational and policy recommendations for NATO to address security in the Black Sea region. 

 
The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the concurrent war in Syria present serious challenges to European and Middle Eastern security. For many in the West, the direct appeal by ISIS for scores of men and women to travel to Syria and Iraq in order to live in a self-declared caliphate has overwhelmed intelligence organizations. In Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, France, and Belgium, people who had spent time in Syria or Iraq returned home to carry out terror attacks. Turkey has faced a similar spate of large-scale attacks since the start of the Syrian conflict... READ FULL ANALYSIS ONLINE

 


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China and Russia do not have an established history of prolonged cooperative engagement. However, beginning in 2014, the two countries began laying the foundation for an enduring energy partnership. A secure energy relationship between China and Russia could have profound geopolitical effects in Asia, as well as in Europe. The ramifications of this relationship could alter the role and influence of the United States in Asia.

In this issue brief, Dr. Miyeon Oh, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and Brent Scowcroft Center, provides critical analysis of the evolving relationship between China and Russia vis-à-vis energy trade. Examining the evolution of various energy agreements, Dr. Oh breaks her analysis into three stages: relations before the gas deals were signed, relations at the time of signing, and relations following signing. 

 

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The pace with which Iran’s conventional missile program has been developing in recent years suggests that the country’s missiles could become much more accurate, and thus deadly, within a few years, potentially providing Tehran with a new set of military options and a higher degree of operational flexibility. This would force (and most probably already has forced) the Pentagon to strategize and plan for a range of Iran-related military contingencies in the region like never before. As the utility of Iranian missiles expands beyond deterrence and possibly enters the realm of offense, the likelihood of military crises and kinetic flare ups in the Gulf rises.

 

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