Articles

Two Decades After Pullback, Russia Chases Gas Resources, Minerals and UN Votes

Ukraine, Georgia and the Middle East are not the only places Vladimir Putin’s Russia has put a muscular foreign policy on display. Quietly, but with equal determination, President Putin has directed a robust strategic push into a region farther from Russia’s borders – Africa.

Talk of a “new Cold War” may be premature, but it should not be forgotten that, during the original Cold War, Africa was a major theater of the Soviet Union’s competition not only with the United States, but with the People’s Republic of China. And while Beijing’s burgeoning engagements across Africa have received considerable attention, the Kremlin’s reemergence as a significant power in Africa has gone largely unnoticed, unwittingly giving an increasingly assertive Russia a free hand in forging multiple economic, political, and military ties.

Read More

Five Ways the Kremlin Has Weakened Itself at Home and Abroad

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters in Moscow and the West are explaining and justifying his invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea in various ways and celebrating the divisions and weaknesses of the West that it has highlighted, but in every case, they are treating it as a geopolitical victory for the Kremlin. They could not be more wrong.

There are five reasons for what may seem to many a counter-intuitive conclusion, each of which must be kept in mind in the face of the bombast coming out of Moscow and the apologetics in some Western capitals for this latest example of Russian bad behavior. [They also affect] the ensuing arguments for not taking serious actions that would inflict a real punishment on Putin -- even and often because none contemplated could immediately reverse what he has done.            

Read More

As President Vladimir Putin seems to be finalizing Russian suzerainty over Crimea, capitols in Europe and Washington are struggling to find ways to reverse this land grab.  Unfortunately, short of using force---a response no one considers sane---for the short term, the cupboard of options is relatively bare.  Canceling visas, boycotting the G-8 meeting in Sochi, expelling Russia from the G-8 and other sanctions are hardly pinpricks on Putin’s thick hide.  Of course, taking aim at Russia’s central bank and hastening a run on the ruble would hurt and have broader secondary and tertiary effects such as cramping business or forcing a cut-off of energy to the West.

Read More

As Syria burns, Iran negotiations drag on and Ukraine melts down, the absence of decisive US action just about anywhere is causing great heartburn to the strategic mindset that brought you Iraq, Libya and other nation-building successes. US and EU helplessness in the face of Russian intervention in the Ukraine has turned that into an ulcer.

Two recent laments come to mind. The first comes from the AEI’s Michael Rubin who, in an Outlook piece in the Washington Post warns about the dangers of negotiating with bad guys. The other comes from ubiquitous Harvard know-it-all Niall Ferguson, who  ponders Obama’s failure to lead in the Wall Street Journal.

Read More

Almost two decades have passed since the Middle East Resolution – agreed by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – called to rid the region of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Yet the Middle East remains a heavily militarised theatre of conflict awash with such capabilities, and is still very far from the goal of disarmament.

Read More

You would think it’s self-evident that Ukraine’s current crisis and the controversies sparked before its eruption by Iran’s nuclear program, China’s muscle-flexing against Japan and the Philippines over disputed tiny islands, and Syria’s continuing carnage are distinct—that they have little, if anything, in common. Well, you’d be wrong, at least in the eyes of the staunchest critics of American foreign policy under Barack Obama. In their mind, what connects these conflicts, which are so far apart spatially, is that each has been aggravated, perhaps even enabled, by Obama’s fecklessness, which projects to adversaries America’s weakness instead of its strength. In this reading, America’s friends have lost confidence in wayward Washington, while its foes have developed a contempt for American will, which inclines them to brazenness because they believe there’s no price to be paid. In this portrayal Obama is a stick figure evoking memories of Neville Chamberlain.

Read More

History tends to repeat itself (especially if its lessons are forgotten). More than 160 years ago, in 1853, war broke out between France, Britain, Turkey and Piedmont on one side and Russia on the other. In military operations that stretched from the Baltic to the Romanian Principalities and the Crimean Peninsula, Russia was defeated and withdrew its borders northward from the Danube River – but it kept Crimea, thanks in part to a historic defense of its key city, Sevastopol, against a year-long siege by British and French forces.

In World War II, Russian-ruled Sevastopol fought invaders again – the army of Nazi Germany – and was proclaimed by Stalin a “hero city,” its name carved into the polished stone of a somber memorial outside the Kremlin walls. In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had roots in Ukraine, transferred Crimea to the jurisdiction of the Soviet Ukrainian Republic, a declaration of Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood that had no consequence then for the region’s power politics. The consequence is enormous now, as President Vladimir Putin uses the Russians’ emotional sense of ownership over Crimea to win support at home for his seizure of the peninsula from independent Ukraine.

Read More

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was on the road to irrelevance. The most successful military alliance in history has lacked a real enemy since the Soviet Union disintegrated a quarter of a century ago.  After a dozen years of war in Afghanistan,  NATO’s role is coming to an ignominious end.

Because of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a Basic Security Agreement (BSA), NATO is now forced to plan for the withdraw of all of its military forces by the end of 2014.  Without substantial coalition forces and, as important, the money and aid Afghanistan receives because of that presence, the Karzai government will be unable to prevent the Taliban, local tribes, warlords and gangs from wresting power and control away from Kabul.  Violence, chaos and instability loom as the legacies of  NATO’s engagement.

Read More

As a Small Nation Faces Russian Pressure, Europe’s Future is on the Line

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leancă’s meetings at the White House today are a crucial sign of US support for his leadership and for Moldova’s Euro-Atlantic future, especially alongside Russia’s invasion of Moldova’s neighbor, Ukraine. In November, Moldova, alongside Georgia, signed a European Union (EU) Association Agreement, a step toward what Moldovans hope will be their country’s eventual membership in the EU. Russia’s occupation of Crimea is a blunt reminder of the high price – territorial dismemberment – that President Vladimir Putin is extracting for these countries’ desire to be part of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. Leancă is taking a real political risk by adhering to his people’s wishes despite Russia’s coercion.

Read More

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is part of the highest-stakes gambits of President Putin’s career. Putin is not bent on war or on dismembering Ukraine. Rather, he seeks to reverse his humiliating defeat in failing to intimidate Ukraine into abandoning its return to Europe.

Read More