The CSS Blog Network

The Nuclear Fallout of Trump’s Possible Détente with Putin

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This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 16 February 2017.

While the new US administration should be looking for areas of cooperation with Russia where possible, it should do so without compromising the United States’ principled stance on Ukraine. Any such compromise will have grave repercussions not only for security in Eastern Europe but also for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

“We can talk about the economy, we can talk about social security—the biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation.” Donald Trump, “Meet the Press,” October 1999.

Speaking on February 2, 2017, at the Security Council meeting called by Ukraine in the wake of the renewed escalation of fighting in the Donbas, newly-appointed US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “The United States stands with the people of Ukraine who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military interventions.” She also reassured the world that sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea will remain in place until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.

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Is Libya the New Stage for Putin’s Attempted Peacemaking?

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This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 2 March 2017.

Renewed efforts are now underway to overcome the gridlock in Libya’s peace process. The United Nations’ special representative to Libya, Martin Kobler, and neighboring states are in separate talks with the country’s various factions in an attempt to keep the peace process alive and prevent an escalation of tensions. The latest actor to enter the fray is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who could play a major role in getting key players to remain at the negotiating table.

The UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement, which aimed to unite rival factions, appeared to be on the verge of collapse late last year. Implementation of the agreement, which was signed in Shirkat, Morocco, in December 2015, had come to a virtual standstill. The Government of National Accord (GNA) established under the agreement and led by Fayez al-Serraj still lacks a legitimate mandate to govern.

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How Organization Theorists Help Explain Military Power

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This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 21 February 2017.

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, the United States began the same kind of reevaluation of military priorities and strategies that accompany all transitions of power. Crucial in such appraisals is updating assessments of the military power – and therefore threat – posed by a variety of states around the world. My research suggests that a factor rarely considered in estimates of military power – armed forces’ command and control systems – needs to be front and center in the minds of analysts.

To understand why command and control systems, or command structures, are so important to estimates of military power, it is helpful to turn back the clock to a very old conflict. In the late summer of 1904, Japanese and Russian forces fought a major battle outside the Manchurian town of Liaoyang and, to the shock and surprise of both observers and combatants, the Japanese won. This occurred despite the fact that the Japanese fielded fewer men and weapons, attacked well-prepared defensive positions with unimaginative tactics, and enjoyed no clear advantage in soldier quality or skill. The Japanese won because they could better discern what was happening on the battlefield and, as a consequence, use their men and materiel more efficiently and effectively than could the Russians.

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Empire by Other Means: Russia’s Strategy for the 21st Century

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This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 2 February 2017.

During the first phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on 28 January, both sides agreed on the need to improve the US-Russian relationship. While it’s still uncertain how this new relationship will evolve, the conclusion of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing that “we’re not likely to ever be friends” is telling. More importantly, Tillerson noted that the Kremlin has “a geographic plan” and that it is “taking actions to implement that plan.”

Russia has much more than a simple territorial plan. In fact, in recent decades Moscow has actively pursued Putin’s long-term vision of reestablishing Russian power and influence in the former states of the Soviet Union and not shied away from redrawing borders and launching military campaigns.

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Rekindled Sino-Indian Tensions Roil Geopolitics in Asia

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This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 12 January 2017.

Chinese-Indian relations are deteriorating, worsening the security environment in Asia. “New Delhi may have decided to take the Chinese challenge head-on,” explains Harsh V Pant. “To complicate matters for India, its erstwhile ally Russia, which has become a close friend of China, is showing interest in establishing closer ties with Pakistan.” The most recent slight for India: Refusal by China, alone among the 15 members of the UN Security Council, to designate a Pakistan man as terrorist. India responded by testing long-range missiles that could hit population centers in China, while China demonstrates willingness to boost Pakistan’s nuclear missile capability. China extended its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through contested territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir claimed by India. India has reinserted Tibet into bilateral affairs with more public prominence for the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. India is marginalized as China, Russia and Pakistan cooperate on regional issues, including Afghanistan. Adding to the volatility is a reversal in US foreign policy, as the president-elect issues accusations at China and expresses hope to improve ties with Russia.

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