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  • Author: Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Ville Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The US president has considerable power over the country’s foreign policy. The different worldviews espoused by President Trump and presidential candidate Biden are likely to have an impact on how the most significant foreign policy challenges of the coming years are addressed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Elections, Party System
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Mariette Hagglund
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: A key issue dominating Iran’s foreign policy agenda is the future of the Iran nuclear deal with regard to the next US president. Non-state armed groups mark the core of Iran’s leverage in the region, but Iran is currently looking into diversifying its means of influence. Although Iran considers its non-aligned position a strength, it is also a weakness. In an otherwise interconnected world, where other regional powers enjoy partnerships with other states and can rely on external security guarantors, Iran remains alone. By being more integrated into regional cooperation and acknowledged as a regional player, Iran could better pursue its interests, but US attempts to isolate the country complicate any such efforts. In the greater superpower competition between the US and China, Iran is unlikely to choose a side despite its current “look East” policy, but may take opportunistic decisions.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Elections
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Jyrki Kallio
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Speculation is rife that China could take advantage of the potential confusion during the US presidential election and invade Taiwan. Although China has never relinquished the military option for resolving the Taiwan issue, there are sound reasons to downplay the risk of a military confrontation at the present time.
  • Topic: War, Military Strategy, Elections, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Taiwan, Asia, North America
  • Author: Teresa Val
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EastWest Institute
  • Abstract: Terrorism in Afghanistan: A Joint Threat Assessment is intended to serve as an analytical tool for policymakers and an impetus for joint U.S.-Russia action. The report provides an overview of the security situation and peace process in Afghanistan, taking into account U.S. and Russian policies, priorities and interests; surveys the militant terrorist groups in and connected to Afghanistan and explores the security interests of various regional stakeholders vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Challenges relating to border management, arms trafficking and terrorist financing in Afghanistan are also briefly addressed.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, United States, Europe, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Malcolm Davis
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: This paper examines the key drivers shaping Australia’s role as a middle power in an era of intensifying US-China strategic competition. These drivers include the influence of strategic geography; its historical legacy in international affairs; the impact of its economic relationships with states in the Indo-Pacific region; the changing demands of defence policy, including the potential offered by rapid technological change; and, the impact of climate change, resource constraints and demographic factors. The paper considers three possible scenarios that will shape Australia’s middle power policy choices – a US-China strategic equilibrium; a “China crash” scenario that promotes a more nationalist and assertive Chinese foreign policy; and a third “major power conflict” scenario where competition extends into military conflict. The paper concludes that Australia cannot maintain a delicate balance between its strategic alliance with the US and trading relationship with China. It argues there is a need for Australia to adopt a deeper strategic alliance with the US while promoting closer ties with its partners in the Indo-Pacific and supporting the growth of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region to counterbalance growing Chinese power. Australia needs to embrace an Indo-Pacific step up, and as a middle power, reduce the prospect of a Sino-centric regional order emerging.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Australia, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Sven Biscop
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: When Trump says that he wants NATO to take more responsibility in the Middle East, what he means is that he wants the European allies to do more. He is campaigning for re- election and has promised to bring the boys (and girls) home for Christmas. And of course, in Iraq American troops are less than welcome these days, after the targeted assassination of Iranian General Soleimani near Baghdad airport (3 January 2020). In late 2019, Trump had already withdrawn most troops from Syria, and now the peace agreement with the Taliban (29 February 2020) will allow him to draw down the US military presence in Afghanistan too. And the US is considering pulling its troops out of the Sahel as well. What does this mean for Europe?
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Military Strategy, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: In 2020, candidates and elected officials will face questions on national security and foreign policy issues. In this memo, we provide short talking points on these issues that acknowledge the concerns of Americans, critique current approaches and policies, and present a vision for the future: 1. Global Health Security, 2. China & COVID-19, 3. China Trade War, 4. Russia, 5. Terrorism, 6. Domestic Extremism, 7. Iran, 8. Election Security, 9. Saudi Arabia & Yemen, 10. Syria, 11. Alliances, 12. North Korea, 13. Cyberthreats, 14. Venezuela, 15. Afghanistan, 16. Forever War, 17. Border Security, 18. Defense Spending, 19. Impeachment, 20. Climate Change, 21. Corruption
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Elections
  • Political Geography: United States, North America, Global Focus
  • Author: Cecilia Polizzi
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on International Policy (CIP)
  • Abstract: For the past nine years, two U.S. administration have sought to end the catastrophic war in Syria, reach a negotiated political settlement to the conflict and ensure the enduring defeat of the Islamic State (IS). Yet, the Syrian crisis has not been meaningfully contained and IS continues to threaten regional and global security. While U.S. counterterrorism strategy remains stagnant, heavily reliant on technological superiority and prioritizing aggressive intervention, IS has continuously found opportunities to evolve. The IS has systematically recruited and indoctrinated children across Syria and Iraq and demonstrated unprecedented capacity to influence children and youth around the world to conduct spontaneous acts of violence. Precious few new options have been put forth to defeat IS militarily. Any new strategy that fails to address the victimization and exploitation of children by IS, and does not embrace a long-term sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration strategy, will lead to instability continuing apace and regional allies finding themselves unable to contain a resurgent IS.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Sarah Rose
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: The US Department of Defense (DOD) is not a development agency, but it does manage millions of dollars of development assistance. In the early 2000s, DOD took on a significantly expanded development role, prompting a number of concerns and creating a lingering perception of intensive US military involvement in development activities. In fact, lessons learned from this era drove a reconceptualization of the Pentagon’s role in development. Today, the military controls only a tiny portion of US development funds, most of which go toward health (mainly PEPFAR) and disaster relief activities. This paper provides a brief landscape analysis of DOD’s recent development aid-funded efforts, breaking down its engagement into six key thematic areas. It concludes with five considerations related to DOD’s role in development assistance: (1) DOD has comparative advantages that make it an important actor in US development policy; (2) civilian-military coordination is hard but critical for development policy coherence; (3) adequate resourcing of civilian agencies is critical for effective civilian-military division of labor; (4) increasing the flexibility of civilian agencies’ staffing, programming, and funding could complement the military’s rapid response capabilities; and (5) incomplete transparency and limited focus on results reduces accountability around DOD’s aid investments.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Development, Military Strategy, Bureaucracy, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Matti Pesu, Ville Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The transatlantic relationship is undergoing a period of turmoil. President Trump’s unorthodox policies have exacerbated historical sources of mistrust between the U.S. and its European allies. This working paper approaches the transatlantic bond from the perspective of asymmetric trust, a perennial factor in transatlantic security and defence affairs. For Europe, the U.S. remains the ultimate guarantor of security, rendering allies dependent upon Washington’s decisions and goodwill. From the American perspective, the European allies are not crucial in ensuring U.S. national security, but remain a pool of reliable partners, whom Washington can periodically draw upon to pursue its global ambitions. This paper evaluates how mistrust has featured within the asymmetric alliance setting, and places the current friction between the U.S. and Europe within this broader context. Acknowledging the sources of mistrust and managing mutual suspicions are crucial for the sustainability of the alliance in an increasingly competitive international arena.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, North America, Atlantic Ocean
  • Author: Harri Mikkola
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The end of the Cold War meant that the Arctic region lost most of its geostrategic relevance. However, due to growing great power competition, the Arctic is back on the geopolitical map. Hard security dynamics in the region are defined by two key elements: the importance of conventional long-range missiles and nuclear weapons for Russia, and the importance of the North Atlantic sea line of communication for European defence. Russia has revitalized its Cold War-era bastion strategy, which aims to ensure the survival of its strategic ballistic missile submarines. In a crisis scenario, this strategy could pose serious challenges to the Nordic countries as well. Five Arctic states are members of NATO and the Alliance’s collective defence is operational in the Arctic. Even if the Arctic is still not a focus area for NATO, the North Atlantic maritime domain is increasingly back on the agenda. Given the divergent strategic interests and lack of common ground between Russia and other Arctic states on grand strategic issues, the Arctic will not be losing its geostrategic importance anytime soon.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Maritime
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Canada, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Arctic
  • Author: Ville Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The heightened tensions between the United States and Iran should be understood in the context of the Trump administration’s broader foreign policy approach. Even if neither side wants a military confrontation, the “maximum pressure” campaign by the US has raised the risk of a potential miscalculation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Ville Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: A newfound focus on great-power competition has brought geoeconomics to the forefront of strategic thinking in Washington D.C. The United States is well positioned to use coercive economic tools, particularly unilateral sanctions, in this game because of its structural advantages in the global economy and financial system. President Donald Trump and his administration have also signalled a preference for the unilateral use of sanctions to excel in the competitive international geostrategic environment and confront “rogue regimes”. Meanwhile, wrangling between Congress and the White House over sanctions policy has intensified since the 2016 presidential election. These systemic, policymaker-bounded and domestic-political factors have created a perfect storm in US sanctions policy. While the US may be able to pursue sanctions unilaterally in the short term, in the long run this may dissuade allies from cooperating and erode America’s structural advantages as other states resort to hedging.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Deborah A. McCarthy
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The US Department of Defense is playing a predominant role in US foreign policy due to expanded mandates, large budgets and the disparagement of diplomacy by the Trump Administration. Defense relations may be the steadier foundation for transatlantic cooperation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Budget, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, North America
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
  • Abstract: On 2 March 2019 Pugwash held a roundtable in Tel Aviv in cooperation with the Israeli Pugwash Group and the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, University of Tel Aviv. More than 25 participants including former officials, academics, and members of civil society attended, including a small number from Europe, the US and Russia. Discussion broadly focused on the situation in the Middle East and the role of the United States and Russia, as well as China, and with a particular focus on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Many Israelis continue to have serious concerns regarding the entrenchment of Iranian influence and the extent of their force projection toward the Levant. Equally, many Israelis were keen to understand the nature of the Russian-Iranian relationship, most acutely expressed through their cooperation in Syria in recent years, and how the direction of US policy appears to be evolving in the region. In general, it was observed that the prevailing tensions in the region – with ongoing conflict in Syria and Yemen, the isolation of Qatar amongst many Arab countries, and the deepening rivalry between Iran and other countries – should be viewed through the lens of the lack of communication between officials and non-officials across the spectrum of complex issues.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, North America
  • Author: George Fust
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Department of Social Sciences at West Point, United States Military Academy
  • Abstract: Today’s increasingly complex global operating environment can change at the speed of a tweet or viral video. It is therefore imperative for US forces to have the relationships that offer flexibility and options for any contingency—relationships established in advance of unforeseeable events. The world’s interconnectedness and US defense requirements demand partners and allies with whom we work effectively to bridge cultural gaps. Those relationships increase interoperability by creating realistic expectations and combating what can at times emerge as negative stereotypes. Further, shared experiences can help overcome misunderstandings and foster friendships that will be critical in times of crisis. Simply put, you cannot surge trust. It must be cultivated and given constant attention.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Diplomacy, Environment, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: George Fust
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Department of Social Sciences at West Point, United States Military Academy
  • Abstract: Russia docks a warship in Havana knowing it will provoke a response from the United States. How dare they. The US Navy dispatched a destroyer to shadow the vessel; after all, the United States has the Monroe doctrine to enforce. A few weeks prior, Russia sent around a hundred troops to Venezuela. This also provoked a response, albeit rhetorical. Despite these US reactions, Russia continues to play strategic games. Why did the United States respond to these actions in these ways? And what is the most appropriate response?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, South America, North America
  • Author: Jean De Ruyt
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: The decision by the United States to withdraw from the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and re-impose sanctions on Iran broke an international understanding, sanctioned by a UN Security Council Resolution. However, European and other non-US companies dealing with Iran must abide by US law in order to avoid its extra- territorial effects on their US operations. Efforts are being made to help the EU keep its “sovereignty” on sanction issues when there is disagreement with the US, but until now these have not accomplished much. Therefore a new Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) was launched at the end of January to ensure the continuation of some trade with Iran. But the only convincing way to allow the EU to increase its autonomy is to boost the role of the Euro in international transactions. Certainly, in today’s unpredictable world, we need more than ever to address the issue of the extraterritorial application of American sanctions – today it is Iran, what if tomorrow it is China?
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Sovereignty, Military Strategy, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This month last year, the Kuwaiti government hosted a ‘Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq’. It was attended by the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, along with dozens of foreign ministers and large numbers of other government and business representatives. The timing was perfect for Iraq. The country had recently announced the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) and was enjoying an unprecedented level of optimism and all-round international good will. Until then, Iraq had for a number of years been suffering from a severe economic crisis, precipitated largely by decades of poor management of state resources, never-ending wars and crises, and the drop in oil prices. Hence, the country needed help and, luckily for the Iraqis, its neighbours were willing to help because failure to address reconstruction needs would add to the country’s fragility and chronic instability.
  • Topic: United Nations, Military Strategy, Reconstruction, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The latest tension between Iran and the United States has created an unhealthy debate among local actors in Iraq and the wider Middle East, reflecting minimal insight into Washington or Tehran’s policy environment. This in itself can be extremely detrimental to their own national agenda as well as the overall dynamics. The question here is: where is this US-Iran escalation leading and what policy would be best for the local players in Iraq (and elsewhere) to pursue?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Imperialism, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Tehran, Washington, D.C.