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  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vedran Džihić, Paul Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In societies devastated by the pandemic, the EU needs to leave its conventional tool-box behind and urgently speed up the Europeanisation of its neighbours in Southeast Europe. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the vulnerabilities affecting Western Balkan countries and exposed the weakness of their state institutions, especially in the health sector and social protection. At the same time, related to the limited effectiveness of the EU enlargement process over the past years, the progress of reforms has stagnated and some countries have even experienced concerning regressions in the rule of law. The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis has meanwhile increased the presence of other geopolitical players in the region, mainly in the context of competition over vaccinations, not only of China but also of Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Awareness is growing that the EU and the West is not the only available partner. As other powers not known for their democratic practices use or misuse the Western Balkans to promote their interests, the vision of a free, democratic and truly European Balkans is no longer self-evident.
  • Topic: European Union, Institutions, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept through European societies and economies, causing more than 500,000 deaths (and counting) and a GDP downturn of –6.4 per cent in 2020. This is the third big crisis – and possibly the most dramatic – to impact the EU over the last 12 years, following the economic and financial crisis in 2008– 2010 and the extraordinary influx of migrants arriving on European shores in 2015–2016. All these crises produced asymmetrical consequences on the member countries and citizens. The already marked differences among member states have been exacerbated, making a unified response by EU institutions difficult in the process and suboptimal in the outcome. Indeed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, the actions and statements of national leaders revealed a deep rift within the EU and the Eurozone, leading to nationalistic moves in border control and the export of medical supplies. Citizens were therefore exposed to the negative consequences of a Union with limited powers in sectors such as health and crisis management. Meanwhile, important decisions such as the approval of the Next Generation EU package and the new budget for 2021– 2027 risked ending in failure due to the opposition of some member states.
  • Topic: Regional Integration, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Marine plastic pollution has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nuclear technology provides a sustainable and scientific approach to tackling this environmental problem. Can it help Southeast Asian countries battle plastic pollution?
  • Topic: Environment, Science and Technology, Pollution, Pandemic, COVID-19, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Author: Jose M. L. Montesclaros
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: With vaccines not expected to fully roll out until 2024, lockdowns remain a critical priority to save lives today. February 2021 marks the end of a year of COVID-19, and the opportunity to re-visit and improve the way lockdowns are implemented in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Pandemic, ASEAN, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As is well known, then acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly fired Captain Brett Crozier, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after he wrote a letter arguing that all but ten percent of the crew should disembark the ship to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Doing so, he acknowledged, would diminish the carrier’s readiness and slow its response time in a crisis. Justifying that decision, however, he argued, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”1 The problem for the captain, of course, was not the content of the letter as much as it was the subsequent leak to the San Francisco Chronicle. Setting aside the fiasco that resulted in his firing, and led to Modly’s sudden resignation, 2 the captain raises some important concerns regarding what the risks sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines3 should be required to take in peacetime. Because it is peacetime, he argues, “[W]e … cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.”4 Of course, even in war no one should die unnecessarily; however, the captain raises a good question: “what risks are necessary in peacetime?” To answer that question it is first important to understand what risks are necessary in wartime
  • Topic: War, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Risk, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: John R. Deni
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Over the last month, an array of analysts and experts has attempted to ascertain what the post-pandemic world might look like from strategic, policy, or institutional perspectives. Several of these assessments feature dramatic predictions of a new world unlike what existed just months ago. It’s reasonable to expect change following a global crisis, but the near breathlessness detectable in some of these analyses evinces a lack of nuance or an appreciation for stasis. Moreover, few of these or other analyses have addressed the implications in a transatlantic context, or suggested specific mitigation steps. This brief essay reflects a more balanced attempt to fill these gaps, identifying recommendations for the US Army and Department of Defense to leverage the crisis and mitigate the damage across the transatlantic community.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Transatlantic Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Steven Metz
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the United States, the Army is simultaneously providing extensive support to civil authorities and maintaining readiness to perform its deterrence and warfighting missions. Eventually the current crisis will subside but the United States and its Army will not simply return to the way things were before. The pandemic has unleashed great change within the United States and the global security environment, accelerating forces that will, in combination, be revolutionary. As Dmitri Simes put it, "If ever the modern world faced a “perfect storm,” this is it. The combination of a deadly and highly infectious virus, an emerging worldwide economic depression, the collapse of global governance, and an absence of a coordinated and effective international response—all have contributed to a tragedy of historic magnitude, one that will not be easily overcome." While it is impossible to predict precisely the course of any revolution, it is important to assess the likely or possible direction of change. Given that, this discussion paper suggests some of the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the US Army and recommends one or more senior leader steering committees the Army should undertake once the immediate crisis is under control.
  • Topic: Security, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mr. Nathan P. Freier, Robert Hume, John Schaus
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to re-institutionalize horizon scanning for “strategic shock” and integrate this perspective into its strategy, plans, and risk assessment. Defense-relevant “strategic shocks” are disruptive, transformational events for DOD. Though their precise origin and nature are uncertain, strategic shocks often emerge from clear trends. Shocks are often recognized in advance on some level but are nonetheless “shocking” because they are largely ignored. Too often, rapid strategic shock catches the DOD off guard because leadership fails to account for it. To be sure, accounting for shock is a value judgment. Many may actually see what ultimately becomes a shock well in advance. However, readying for shock requires leadership to understand a contingency event’s potential for strategic-level hazard. Failing that, and once confronted with shock, leadership frequently mischaracterizes it as defying reasonable prediction and prior planning.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Army, COVID-19, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: John Schaus, Mr. Nathan P. Freier
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to over three million confirmed infections and more than one hundred thousand dead globally. In the United States, over sixty thousand people have died and more than 1 million have been infected. According to epidemiologists, this is only the first phase. Thus, near-term “success” against the outbreak reflects a current snapshot in time, not necessarily a permanent outcome. In light of our very preliminary understanding of the long-term impact of the outbreak and national-level responses, there are discernible trends about how countries’ responses are impacting their standing in key regions and around the world. Few regions offer such stark contrast in stories as the Indo-Pacific. In that region, South Korea is up, China is down, and the United States is out. These shifts may or may not endure. What is increasingly clear, however, is that ineffective responses—perceived at home or abroad—will limit policymakers’ freedom of action for some time to come.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Korea, United States of America, Indo-Pacific