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.
Two scenarios for the future of U.S.-China relations
There are no longer any illusions that the U.S. sees any potential in partnership with China. The two countries have entered into a strategic competition that in the worst case, could quickly become a cold war-style confrontation. Negotiation on the biggest economic sticking points could ease tensions, but only for the short to medium term. The emerging rivalry of the two powers is with us to stay.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 2)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s to-do list reads like Mission Impossible. Staff his cabinet with honest officials; rebuild war-torn Sunni areas in the north; placate an angry Shia south that is desperately short of water and power; deal with Kurdish demands; reintegrate Iranian-backed militias into civilian life; balance carefully between Iran and the U.S. He must do all this without a secure parliamentary majority or even a solid support base. Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s position as an honest broker gives him great strength, but if he fails, Iraq could become Libya.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)
Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was reportedly hand-picked at meeting in Beirut by the leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah. Yet the man they chose is far from a radical. Close examination of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s career shows him to be an experienced, honest and gutsy politician, friendly to the U.S. and hardly in Tehran’s pocket. The task he faces is gargantuan, but Mr. Abdul Mahdi has hidden strengths.
GIS Dossier: Europe as a global player: The Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa
The most important part of Europe’s security perimeter in the 21st century may be its southern rim. The migration crisis of 2015 was only a foretaste of the demographic, economic and political pressures that are building up in the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the approaches tried by European powers in this vital and growing region have generally failed. They need to get it right as new rival enters the neighborhood – China.
Russia’s ground forces: No return to large tank armies
Moscow’s propaganda touting the scale of its military maneuvers notwithstanding, the country does not command nearly enough ground forces to defeat NATO or China in a protracted open conflict. The Russian Federation also does not have the demographics to expand its armies significantly. Its military planners, however, have been demonstrating an impressive dexterity in finding ways to address the changing defense needs of the Eurasian colossus.
Saudi Arabia’s key role in the Middle East
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has upset the Middle East’s geopolitical balance in two dimensions: the three-sided rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and stable monarchies in the region. For the Saudis, the crisis poses an unexpected opportunity to improve governance. For the West, it presents a choice between triggering chaos and a possible radical takeover, or helping the kingdom make a difficult transition.
U.S. defense spending: A bellwether for Trump’s security policy
The Trump administration has signaled its plan to maintain “peace through strength” with significant increases in defense expenditures for 2018 and 2019. However, to sustain its readiness, the U.S. military says it needs much more. The White House faces a difficult political landscape, one that will likely resist further rises in defense spending. That means President Donald Trump’s plan to rebuild the military could stall.
The future of China-Taiwan relations
Is Taiwan so economically tied to China that unification is imminent? Or has its new identity become so ingrained that de jure independence is only a matter of time? These questions are playing out in Taiwanese politics ahead of some crucial nationwide elections. A sudden move by China (military attack) or Taiwan (declaration of independence) remains unlikely, partly because of the crucial role the U.S. plays in maintaining the status quo.
Kazakhstan: Russia’s staunchest ally wavers
Could the linchpin in Russia’s plan to reassert its control over former Soviet states be in danger of slipping away? Moscow fears it might. Kazakhstan has been making overtures to the U.S. and China, and chipping away at key cultural ties. For now, Astana cannot afford to break away from Russia’s orbit, especially in security matters, but an overreaction by the Kremlin could tip the balance.
Iran and Israel’s proxy war in Syria escalates
The accidental downing of a Russian military plane by Syrian anti-missile defense, which coincided with Israeli air force jets’ presence in the area, highlights the danger of the increasingly open proxy warfare between Israel and Iran. The number of parties involved – Israel, Russia, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah – points to the risk of the drawn-out Syrian conflict exploding into full-fledged regional war.