The CSS Blog Network

Europe’s “Just Do It” Moment

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This article was originally published by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in October 2019.

It may strike as odd coming from this author, but this is no time for grand strategy. As the European Union enters a new cycle, it’s overarching priority in the world should be action.

The last five years have been formative as far as European foreign policy goes. They have set the foundations for a European defence union. Whereas the EU acronym soup of recent defence initiatives may appear obscure to outside observers, for a Union that has historically struggled to inch forward in this field, they are huge. Furthermore, the outgoing Commission and High Representative have triggered a fundamental change in the way the EU works in the world. While institutional silos still exist, joined-up foreign policy making and an integrated approach to conflicts are now part of the European foreign policy lexicon, and to an extent practice too.

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Make China Great Again: Xi’s Truly Grand Strategy

Image courtesy of Amber Smith/DVIDS

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 30 October 2019.

To the extent that any nation has a grand strategy, China surely does. The vision is no secret: Xi Jinping vows to make China great again. This resonates deeply: Since imperial decline in the First Opium War (1839 to 1842), every Chinese leader has sought the same, with broad popular support. Xi’s strategy for a modern China of unprecedented power and influence requires recapturing lost glories at home and abroad. It clearly entails reincorporating Taiwan, together with other unresolved island and maritime claims. China’s history and geography suggest that it now faces short-range opportunities and long-range challenges. China’s strategy thus has a broadly-defined arc that the United States should address with a strategy of “competitive coexistence” to safeguard American interests sustainably amid increasing Chinese assertiveness.

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American Credibility is Dangerously Low: Just Not for the Reasons You May Think

Image courtesy of Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash.

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 31 July 2019.

In the field of international relations, a nation’s credibility is often thought to be calculated by evaluating its historical record of following through on threats of punishment issued to adversaries. In contrast, today, the larger challenge to U.S. global credibility arises not from questions about its ability to inflict pain on rivals, but rather from the demonstrated failure of U.S. policymakers to make good on incentives promised to rivals in exchange for constructive changes in their behaviors.

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Russia´s Engagement in Libya: Mid-2014 to 2018

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This graphic highlights the uptick in Russia’s engagement in Libya from mid-2014 to the end of 2018. If you want to read more about Russia’s re-emergence as a power broker in the MENA region, see Lisa Watanabe’s chapter in Strategic Trends 2019 here.

Belt and Road Initiative 2.0: ‘Qualitatively’ Different?

Image courtesy of nali_wike/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the East-West Center (EWC) on 11 July 2019.

Following five years of periodic controversies and criticism – some factual, others contrived – President Xi Jinping used the Belt and Road (BRI) Forum in April to set the agenda for the next five years of his hallmark project. At the forum’s second edition, meant to promote a “stronger partnership network,” the Chinese leader pledged to “clean up,” stressed “zero tolerance” to corruption, and emphasized readiness to adopt “internationally acceptable” standards in the bidding process of BRI projects in the future. This language indicates Beijing’s openness to constructive criticism and willingness to objectively tweak some inherent weaknesses in the strategy and implementation mechanisms for the BRI during the 2013-2018 period. It also sets the stage for the start of “BRI 2.0,” where the stress is likely to be on the qualitative, rather than just quantitative, attributes. The following are some analytical pointers on how BRI 2.0 is likely to be different from version 1.0, especially keeping in mind what Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi referred to as a “high-quality” shift from “big freehand” to “fine brushwork” in planning BRI’s future projects.

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