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Asia RebalanceChinadiplomacyMonday, April 21, 2014

Continuing Strategic Rebalancing to Asia: The Do’s and Don’ts

President Obama at the welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace during his state visit to Tokyo, Japan on April 24, 2014 [State Department photo by William Ng, 4/24/14]With Vice President Biden in Kiev and President Obama arriving in Asia tomorrow, the need and capacity for the United States to manage multiple priority issues is on full display, including balancing long-term strategy with near-term crises. In Asia, the President will meet with leaders in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Malaysia to consolidate and deepen strategic rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific. As a long-term policy movement, rebalancing to Asia will require sustained attention at the whole-of-government level – particularly to ensure properly-scaled distribution of resources – and coordinated priorities. Of special concern going forward is investing the… Read More ›

diplomacyRussiasanctionsUkraineWednesday, April 16, 2014

Economic Statecraft and Near-Term Options to Impose Costs on Russia

Economic Statecraft and Near-Term Options to Impose Costs on Russia April 16, 2014 The United States and Europe are likely to wait until after their talks in Geneva tomorrow with Russia and Ukraine before imposing additional sanctions on Moscow for its apparent covert involvement in the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine. Nonetheless, a strong set of economic tools are available to impose costs on Russia as the West further adapts economic statecraft for disciplinary purposes towards Moscow. Because any such measures require joint U.S.-EU action to be successful – as with any other courses of action – the diplomatic challenges to sizably escalating economic costs on Russia are very real. Yet, recent comments by the British Foreign Minister indicate that Europe may be on track… Read More ›

RussiasanctionsUkraineMonday, April 14, 2014

U.S. Leading Ukraine Response as Russia Escalates

U.S. Leading Ukraine Response as Russia Escalates April 14, 2014 Over the weekend, pro-Russian militants took control of some key infrastructure in six cities in eastern Ukraine during a coordinated operation.  American officials have concluded that the operation was facilitated by Russia and the government in Kiev has alleged that Russian intelligence forces are in eastern Ukraine overseeing operations. These moves come as Russia has deployed tens of thousands of forces to its border with Ukraine. Kiev has deployed military forces to the areas experiencing unrest and is threatening what it is calling armed “anti-terrorism” operations. In response, the United States is coordinating with its European partners to expand the sanctions – last updated on Friday – that are already in place and having both… Read More ›

RussiaUkraineFriday, April 11, 2014

Separating Myths from Facts on Russia and Ukraine

As the crisis in Ukraine continues and the West begins to formulate a longer-term response, policymakers in Washington can ill afford anything less than a clear-eyed assessment. It is therefore troubling that politically motivated narratives continue to persist about the crisis in the Ukraine and broader issues surrounding American policy. Particularly troubling are the dangerously misguided notions that nuclear nonproliferation initiatives like New START have become a liability or should have never been pursued. That view ignores the facts and benefits of nuclear reductions, including a better understanding of Russian capabilities and the opportunity to invest resources in conventional capabilities in which the U.S. has a comparative advantage. Likewise, a narrative is developing that dramatically overestimates the effectiveness of the Russian armed forces which remain… Read More ›

North KoreaTuesday, April 8, 2014

North Korea Needs ‘Strategic Shaping’ | John Bradshaw

By John Bradshaw April 8, 2014 | Asia Times A launch by North Korea of two mid-range Rodong missiles last week was a political act that does not indicate any significant increase in the country’s missile capabilities. However, the launch, intended to show North Korea’s displeasure with current joint US-South Korea military exercises, does serve as a reminder that while nuclear talks remain stalled, North Korea continues to work on its missile and nuclear weapons technology. In fact, with little notice, the international community has drifted dangerously close to a de facto acquiescence to a nuclear North Korea. The international community ostensibly remains committed to a process of denuclearization in North Korea, but the diplomatic process that could lead toward that goal has been moribund… Read More ›

diplomacyIranMonday, April 7, 2014

What a Final Deal with Iran Might Look Like

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaking to the media at P5+1 Talks with Iran in Geneva, Switzerland on November 24, 2013. [U.S. Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers, 11/24/13]Today, the P5+1 are beginning another round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Progress over recent months has been slow but steady. Officials both in Tehran and Washington appear optimistic that while tough challenges remain, draft text of a potential agreement may be started on as early as next month. While it is by no means clear what can be realistically expected, a potential final deal will require compromise on both sides if Iran’s nuclear program is to be further rolled back. An acceptable final deal will have to significantly constrain Iran’s program and be part of… Read More ›

Friday, April 4, 2014

Releasing the Senate Report on CIA Torture: Making Sure History Isn’t Censored

Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify portions of its investigation into the practice of torture by the CIA in the period following 9/11. The CIA now is tasked with reviewing the report and determining what parts can be released to the public.  However, there are serious concerns that the CIA will excessively redact the released report and may not respect the distinction between protecting sources and methods and censoring the report for political purposes. This possibility may be heightened by the ongoing dispute regarding alleged CIA hacking into Senate computers to gain information about the Senate report that, if true, would be a serious violation. Behind these current events is a deeper dispute over the role of torture in intelligence gathering – a… Read More ›

AfghanistanWednesday, April 2, 2014

Elections in Afghanistan and U.S. Interests: What to Watch

Elections in Afghanistan and U.S. Interests: What to Watch April 2, 2014 On April 5, Afghanistan will hold a presidential election as President Hamid Karzai prepares to step down from office. If successful, the elections would be the first peaceful, democratic transition of power in Afghan history and help to cement a firm foundation for the political future of the country as other severe challenges loom. Although violence and fraud are all but guaranteed to accompany voting, judgments about the legitimacy of the elections must be made relative to previous elections in Afghanistan. Western observers in particular should focus on improved electoral conduct rather than unrealistic, stringent expectations. While the political will in Washington for sustained support for Afghanistan is in question, key U.S. national… Read More ›

ChinadiplomacyMonday, March 31, 2014

Opportunities and Challenges for U.S.-ASEAN Engagement

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting – Plus in Jerudong, Brunei in August 2013 [Official DoD photo by Sgt. Aaron Hostutler USMC, 8/29/13]This week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will host the defense ministers of ASEAN member states in Hawaii before travelling to the Western Pacific to meet with Chinese, Japanese and Mongolian officials. The meeting with ASEAN defense ministers in particular underscores the importance of continuing to increase the role of the United States in Southeast Asian security and economic life as part of the policy of strategic rebalancing. This role is especially vital given the maritime disputes in the South China Sea and the recurring need for disaster relief in the region, offering the United States the opportunity… Read More ›

Friday, March 28, 2014

Obama’s NSA Reform Proposal: A Step Forward but More is Needed

Yesterday, the White House announced its proposal for reforming NSA metadata collection programs. The proposal includes constructive elements, especially ceasing government collection and storage of citizens’ telephone metadata and requiring Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Courts to approve government access to citizen’s metadata stored by telecoms. However, it remained silent on critical issues that must be addressed in any serious reform efforts, such as reforming the FISA Courts themselves. The FISA Courts currently function as a rubber stamp for NSA requests, and require more robust oversight and transparency measures, including the creation of a privacy advocate to penetrate the Courts’ secrecy on behalf of the public. Fortunately, these imperatives appear to be reflected in legislation in Congress that would enact reform. In moving forward, Congress… Read More ›

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