The Friendship Bridge misnomer
China and North Korea have long ceased being true friends and allies. Beijing, just as Washington, is at a loss for how to stop the North Korean leader’s nuclear brinkmanship. The Chinese government wants the country to be seen abroad as a great new power, equal to the U.S. in dealing with the Korean Peninsula issue. But the reality is harsh. Over seven decades, the only policy tool that China has finessed to calm Pyongyang is paying money to the Kim family. In return, Pyongyang insults Beijing whenever its leader gets in a fit, and it embarrasses China abroad. No money means no talk.
2018 Global Outlook: Nuclear proliferation threat is exaggerated
The world’s existing nuclear powers are wary of proliferation, even if prospects for nuclear arms control appear to be dim. The United States, Russia, China and smaller states in possession of such arms are, at most, modernizing their arsenals. North Korea and possibly Iran cannot be prevented from developing nuclear warheads and delivery systems, but the emerging Western containment strategy is likely to work.
2018 Global Outlook: North Korea and the U.S.-China-Russia triangle
Tensions between the United States and North Korea are having a big impact on the relationship between Moscow, Beijing and Washington. China has every incentive, but few options, to rein in its neighbor, while pressure on the U.S. to escalate increases. Russia is playing a double game by which a conflict in Northeast Asia could help it attain its goals in Ukraine. Any major shock to today’s delicate balance could have drastic consequences.
U.S. missile defense tries to keep ahead of North Korea and Iran
The U.S. strategic missile defense program tends to speed up under Republican presidents and slow down under Democrats. This trend seems to be holding as the Trump administration puts renewed emphasis on missile defense as a cornerstone of its military strategy. Amid threats from North Korea, look for Washington to prioritize defending the homeland against nuclear missiles.
Japan’s growing nuclear dilemma
The security environment in East Asia is becoming increasingly unstable, with China rising, North Korea threatening nuclear war and the U.S. seemingly less willing to support allies. Japan is in a difficult predicament, with a constitution curtailing its military abilities and a public strongly against nuclear weapons. But the government wants to abolish those limits, and popular opinion might change once the nuclear arms race in East Asia accelerates.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mongolia’s role in security on the Korean Peninsula
Mongolia might be one of the only countries with which North Korea could have a normal conversation: the countries have historically had friendly ties. And Mongolia has hosted negotiations between North Korea and Japan, for example, before. However, a wide gap remains between Pyongyang’s goals and the West’s. Until the sides come to the negotiating table, Mongolia will play its own role: showcasing an example of a country in Northeast Asia with communist roots that achieved security without pursuing nuclear weapons.
Russia writes new rules for post-Cold War rivalry with NATO
Russia has been honing its conventional and nuclear forces for Hybrid Cold War confrontations with potential enemies, especially NATO. An important role in its new strategic toolbox is reserved for “safety valves”: Russia’s doctrine of first use of tactical nuclear weapons and the increased mobility of its conventional forces. At present, NATO has no effective countermeasures for either, dangerously adding to international instability.
GIS Dossier: Nuclear energy
The 2011 Fukushima disaster brought nuclear energy development programs around the world to a screeching halt – temporarily. Though Germany plans to fully phase out nuclear power production, Japan has brought several reactors back online, and other countries have restarted construction on nuclear plants. These developments have had huge geopolitical effects: Germany’s fossil fuel imports from Russia have grown, while China has found an opening to increase its sway on four continents by financing nuclear projects.
What Russia gains from militarizing the Arctic
Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic continues apace, complete with a state-of-the-art forward base not far from Norway. The moves are meant to protect strategic nuclear submarines and tactical nuclear weapons – and put NATO in a tight spot. The alliance has yet to come up with a clear, decisive response.