Defense & Security
Military strategy, alliances, weapons, troops and firepower. Defense and security issues shape geopolitical events now more than ever. GIS experts provide scenarios for future military developments.
Opinion: Venezuela’s endless endgame
Bankrupt and in an economic freefall, Venezuela has become the scene of a humanitarian drama. The opposition is finally unified and appears close to being able to push the die-hard Chavista regime out. Much of the outside world, including Latin America, Europe and the United States, is eager to help, but the devil, as always, is in the detail.
Filling the void in Libya
Libya continues to fall apart. Daily life is in a downward spiral, militias run Tripoli like criminal cartels, and as rival governments in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica vie for control, the desert interior is up for grabs. UN mediation has failed to overcome these centrifugal forces, and hopes for U.S. involvement – perhaps the best chance for reunification – were dashed by the troop pullout from Syria. As outside powers circle for advantage, Russia is only too eager to fill the power vacuum.
The future of Russia’s Special Operations Forces
Russia’s special forces have gained prominence and valuable combat experience in recent years playing crucial roles in Crimea and Syria. Now they are training to engage their NATO counterparts. As a result, Western militaries have been forced to change the way they approach this threat. Though Russian special forces are still playing a game of technological catch-up, they are a tool the Kremlin is increasingly likely to use.
Opinion: Political implications of terminating the INF Treaty
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is one in a series of withdrawals from contractual security arrangements. For the U.S., this step changes little in the bilateral relationship with Russia, but among European policymakers and media it has stirred up outrage. Paradoxically, this comes at a time when nuclear missiles – which are political weapons par excellence – have lost much of their significance in Europe.
Strategic defense: NATO’s conventional deterrent
The undeclared neo-Cold War between Russia and the West mixes 21st-century techniques – below-the-threshold operations, cyberattacks, information warfare through social media – with more traditional forms of military confrontation. As arms races, proxy wars and nuclear blackmail stage a comeback, NATO must rethink conventional deterrence. Yet even a beefed-up force will prove ineffective if the alliance chooses the wrong defensive strategy.
African migration: From polarization to win-win
With this year’s European Parliament elections, the EU may be approaching a watershed moment on migration. Voters and politicians are questioning the fundamental assumptions of globalized approaches like the UN Compact on Migration and the EU Trust Fund for Africa, which may do more to encourage than curb the migrant influx. But “outsourcing” management of migration flows to transit countries may only increase Europe’s vulnerability to political shocks in buffer states like Sudan, Libya or Algeria.
Post-Mattis uncertainty and the future of U.S. defense policy
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is not expected to reverse his predecessor’s key Pentagon policies, such as Gen. James Mattis’ signature program to improve force readiness, but he will not be as effective as his predecessor in explaining the vagaries of U.S. policies to allies abroad. Also, President Donald Trump may find out that his ambitious plan for force strengthening and modernization proves even more difficult to push through Congress in the absence of a well-recognized figure at the Pentagon.
Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces and the new arms race
The Strategic Rocket Forces branch of Russia’s military is getting upgrades for its missiles and improved methods for delivering them. Moscow’s key goal is to maintain the ability to “escalate to deescalate” – likely with nuclear weapons – in case of any confrontation with NATO. With Cold War arms control structures breaking down, Russia’s vulnerabilities are becoming more exposed, increasing the potential for conflict.
2019 Outlook: U.S. foreign policy to stay the course
Unconventional as his leadership style may be, President Donald Trump, succeeded in 2018 in getting both U.S. allies and competitors to pay serious attention to his foreign policy agenda. His administration is undaunted in pursuing U.S. policy goals despite replacements of key officials in the president’s national security apparatus. Mr. Trump will remain focused on crushing transnational terrorist threats to the U.S. and its allies, and dealing with great power competition in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in 2019 before he turns his attention to his bid for reelection.
2019 Global Outlook: Playing for high stakes in North Korea
Less than a year after the Korean Peninsula appeared poised for war, little on the ground has changed. North Korea appears to be forging ahead with its nuclear program. Yet the public perception is that things are moving ahead on the diplomatic front, and there is even a whiff of détente in the air. When dealing with Pyongyang, however, surprises come with the territory.