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The Week In Strategy 19-23 February 24


 

 

THE WEEK IN STRATEGY

Summaries and Links to Important Strategy Articles

 

THE UNITED STATES

 

The Neurotic Fixations of U.S. Foreign Policy

A close look at several ruts that American policymakers are currently stuck in.

By Stephen Walt

Foreign Affairs - February 12, 2024


Summary:

Walt critiques repetitive strategies in U.S. foreign policy, highlighting four main issues: the overreliance on military force, particularly air power, which is shown to be ineffective in achieving political objectives; the frequent attempts to "restore deterrence" without reassessing the effectiveness of past actions; the unrealistic goal of denuclearizing North Korea despite evidence that Pyongyang will not surrender its nuclear capabilities; and the overuse of economic sanctions, which are often ineffective in changing state behavior. The analysis suggests these approaches are entrenched in U.S. policy despite their limited success, urging a reevaluation of foreign policy tools and objectives.

 

Link:


Bottom Line:

Walt has a point.  We are not good at measuring the effects of our deterrence efforts.  There is a fear of trying something new, and because we don’t understand what has worked and why in the past, we play it safe and keep doing the same things repeatedly.  This has not gone unnoticed by our rivals.  We need to bring a better, more dynamic game to foreign policy that measures effects and creates a better understanding of risks that reach but do not pass redlines.

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THE UNITED STATES.

 

A Geopolitical Hard Landing Is All Too Possible

The time for intervention is now.

By Jared Cohen

Foreign Policy – February 21, 2024

 

Summary:

Jared Cohen underscores the precariousness of global stability amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions. Cohen argues for proactive measures to mitigate the risk of a 'geopolitical hard landing,' which could result from escalating conflicts and crises. He highlights recent geopolitical events, including the war in Ukraine, tensions in the Indo-Pacific, and Middle Eastern conflicts, as indicators of a fragile international system. The analysis calls for balanced interventions, emphasizing the critical role of U.S. leadership and international cooperation in navigating these challenges to avoid exacerbating global insecurity and economic turmoil.

 

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

The document outlines the global geopolitical landscape, emphasizing the need for strategic deterrence and international cooperation to maintain stability. It highlights increased defense spending in Europe, challenges in the Middle East, particularly Iran's influence and the impact of social media on war. The Abraham Accords and economic projects in the Gulf are noted as positive developments. Cohen discusses tensions in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, urging the U.S. to enhance its economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. Cohen stresses the importance of a coherent strategy to support global peace and prosperity.

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 EUROPE

 

A War Putin Still Can’t Win

To Thwart Russia, America Needs a Long-Term Strategy—and Ukraine Needs Long-Range Weapons

By Lawrence D. Freedman

Foreign Affairs - February 23, 2024


Summary:

Freedman discusses the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He highlights Ukraine's surprising resilience and tactical successes despite significant challenges, such as shortages of munitions and manpower. The analysis suggests that Russia's advantage may not be as substantial as perceived, emphasizing the importance of Western support for Ukraine. The piece argues for reevaluating Western aid to Ukraine, suggesting a focus on long-range weapons and a long-term strategy to counter Russia effectively.

 

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

More than military outcomes will influence decisions to seek peace. Putin is unlikely to seek a diplomatic initiative anytime soon because he thinks he can wait and see what the outcome of the American Presidential election and if Congress will fund Ukraine. Putin might be overestimating Russia's position and underestimating Ukraine's resilience. Western support could maintain the conflict's deadlock, challenging Putin's ambitions for a decisive victory in 2024.

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  EUROPE

 

U.S. Warns Russia Not to Deploy Nuclear-Armed Space Weapon

U.S. lawmakers recently raised alarms about Russia’s development of new weapons program

By Vivian Salama Follow , Michael R. Gordon Follow , Gordon Lubold Follow , Dustin Volz Follow and Warren P. Strobel Follow

Wall Street Journal - Feb. 22, 2024

 

Summary:

The article from The Wall Street Journal discusses the United States' stern warning to Russia against deploying a nuclear-armed antisatellite weapon, citing violations of the Outer Space Treaty and risks to global security. This diplomatic effort, part of a broader strategy involving key global players, aims to deter Russia from advancing its space militarization ambitions. The situation underscores growing concerns over the militarization of space and the potential for new arenas of international conflict, highlighting the intricate balance of power and diplomacy in global security matters.

 

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

William Burns and Jake Sullivan discussed the nuclear issue with senior Kremlin officials.  Even China does not want Russia to move forward with a spaced-based nuclear capability. Rep. Mike Turner made this a headline story, revealing that the Administration has a plan and is acting on it.

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  ASIA PACIFIC

 

The Taiwan Catastrophe

What America—and the World—Would Lose If China Took the Island

By Andrew S. Erickson, Gabriel B. Collins, and Matt Pottinger

Foreign Affairs - February 16, 2024


Summary:

The article details a covert oil-trading network that has been funding Russia's war efforts by circumventing Western sanctions. This network, orchestrated by an Azerbaijani trader, utilizes a complex system of companies and aging tankers to sell Russian oil to markets like China and India, generating significant revenue. Despite international sanctions and efforts to block Russian oil sales, this operation has successfully maintained Russia's oil exports, illustrating the challenges of enforcing global sanctions and the intricate ways in which sanctioned states can exploit international systems to their advantage.


Link:

 

Bottom Line:

The White House has increasingly relied on sanctions to curb revisionist power’s less seemly behavior.  Sanctions are also a thing the “bad boy club” has learned to outmaneuver. Criminal activity is often the method of choice. If we want to pressure Russia to sue for peace, cut off this illegal workaround to sanctions. 

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SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA

 

How U.S. Pressure Helped Save Brazil’s Democracy

Mounting evidence suggests Biden kept pro-Bolsonaro generals from executing a coup.

By Oliver Stuenkel

Foreign Policy – February 20, 2024

 

Summary:

The article details how the U.S. intervened to prevent a potential coup in Brazil following Jair Bolsonaro's election loss. High-profile raids against Bolsonaro and his allies accused them of plotting a coup, revealing advanced plans. U.S. President Biden's commitment to democracy and pressure on Brazilian officials were crucial in thwarting these plans, emphasizing the importance of international support for democratic processes. The article showcases the complexity of political dynamics in Brazil and the significant impact of external influence on its democracy.

 

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

Despite changes in U.S.-Brazil relations since 2022, the U.S.'s diplomatic efforts to prevent a military coup in Brazil during its election year mark a significant achievement in foreign policy. A potential coup would have threatened global democracy, particularly in the Western hemisphere. The U.S.'s role under President Biden's administration in supporting Brazil's democracy contrasts with the hypothetical scenario had the previous administration been in power, suggesting a less supportive stance towards Brazil's democratic integrity during a critical period.

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