The past 70 years has been the era of “Pax Americana,” a period of relative stability thanks to the influence and ballast provided by the United States. But with Russian expansion and a rising China, how long can it last?
To his detractors, Putin is an autocrat, crushing any threat to his power, while renewing Soviet-style expansionism. To supporters, Putin represents Russia’s redemption as a global superpower – and an alternative to the liberal democracy espoused by the West. Great Decisions explores what drives Putin’s Foreign Policy.
China is the second largest economy in the world, and it’s expected to bump the U.S. out of the top rank in less than a decade. Beijing is increasingly looking beyond China’s borders, toward investment in Asia and across the world. What does China’s massive One Belt One Road initiative mean for America?
The US has thrived on its vibrant and free press since the Founding Fathers first put the concept into law in the Bill of Rights as an important, independent check on power. Now Foreign policy is tweeted from the White House and “fake news” has entered the zeitgeist, while social media is proving to be a double-edged sword. What’s next for media and the free press?
Once seen as a model of democracy, Turkey may be slipping toward autocracy. Critics charge that President Recip Tayyip Erdogan used a failed coup d’état in 2016 as a means of consolidating power – power he says is necessary to secure the state. Great Decisions producers traveled to Turkey to examine the relationship with this key U.S. ally.
The global power balance is rapidly evolving, leaving the United States at a turning point with respect to its level of engagement and the role of its military. How does the military function in today’s international order, and what role should Diplomacy play in U.S. defense strategy?
For decades, the U.S. has been a leader in promoting global health. But foreign assistance has fallen out of favor in some circles in Washington, they argue the U.S. should help America first. Is the golden age of global health coming to an end, or just getting started?
South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a democracy captivated the world in the early 1990’s. While it remains the most advanced country in Africa, allegations of state corruption and huge disparities in wealth threaten its revolutionary dream.
The European Union is under severe strain. British voters have chosen to leave the EU while the Eurozone debt crisis and the influx of migrants pose an existential threat to the political and economic bloc. Can the EU withstand the pressure?
International trade has transformed the way we live. Supporters of free trade say it creates the greatest amount of wealth for the highest number of people, fostering growth and lifting nations out of poverty. Opponents say free trade eliminates jobs at home and makes the country vulnerable.
China is building up its maritime presence, investing heavily in its Navy, and ambitiously advancing territorial claims in the South and East China seas. Does this maritime expansionism indicate a more aggressive foreign policy or is it simply the next logical step in China’s growth?
Saudi Arabia is a nation in transition, with increasing signs that the status quo it has enjoyed for decades is beginning to fray. Once known for having a “special relationship” with the U.S., growing concerns about human rights, terrorism and the Iran nuclear deal suggest the relationship between Riyadh and Washington is coming under strains.
After decades of relative stability, the U.S. energy revolution is beginning to shift the dynamics of the energy market. Once dependent on the Middle East for much of its energy, the U.S. is now producing more of its own—potentially freeing America to pursue a new foreign policy in the region.
Once known for economic and political turmoil, the majority of nations in Latin America are now constitutional democracies. Shifting away from the “revolutionary” leftist economic policies, Latin Americans are combining left-leaning social agendas with more pragmatic governance.
U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan for over 15 years—making it the longest war in American history. As Washington and NATO pivot away from Afghanistan by reducing troop numbers, the ability of the government and security forces to maintain stability will be tested.
The nuclear status quo is changing. Nine nations are declared nuclear powers—and non-state actors are upending cold war era strategy. How can leaders stop countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, keep nuclear materials out of the hands of non-state actors and protect nuclear facilities from potential terrorist attacks?
Middle East Alliances
From a proxy war in Yemen to an ongoing civil war in Syria, a number of ongoing conflicts have shaken the traditional alliances in the Middle East to their core. As alliances between state and non-state actors in the region are constantly shifting, the U.S. has found itself between a rock and a hard place. In a series of conflicts that are far from being black-and-white, what can the U.S. do to secure its interests in the region without causing further damage and disruption?
The Rise of ISIS
Born out of an umbrella organization of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) burst onto the international stage after it seized Fallujah in December 2013. Since then, the group has seized control of a number of critical strongholds in the country and declared itself a caliphate, known as the Islamic State. Still, the question remains: What is ISIS, and what danger does it pose to U.S. interests?
The Future of Kurdistan
Kurdistan, a mountainous area made up of parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, is home to one of the largest ethnic groups in region: the Kurds. Now, most in the West know them for their small, oil-rich autonomous region in northern Iraq called Iraqi Kurdistan — one of the U.S.’ closer allies in the Middle East and a bulwark against the expansion of the so-called Islamic State. What does the success of Iraqi Kurdistan mean for Kurds in the surrounding region?
As a record number of migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea to find refuge in Europe, the continent is struggling to come up with an adequate response. Although Europe’s refugees are largely fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa, their struggle is hardly unique. Today, with the number of displaced people at an all-time high, a number of world powers find themselves facing a difficult question: how can they balance border security with humanitarian concerns? More importantly, what can they do to resolve these crises so as to limit the number of displaced persons?
At the end of World War II, Korea was divided in two. The northern half of the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Soviet Union, the southern by the United States. Today, North and South Korea couldn’t be further apart. The North is underdeveloped, impoverished and ruled by a corrupt, authoritarian government, while the South advanced rapidly to become one of the most developed countries in the world. With such a wide gap, some are asking if unification is possible, even desirable, anymore?
The United Nations
On the eve of the international organization’s 70th birthday, the United Nations stands at a crossroads. This year marks a halfway point in the organization’s global effort to eradicate poverty, hunger and discrimination, as well as ensure justice and dignity for all peoples. But as the UN’s 193 member states look back at the success of the millennium development goals, they also must assess their needs for its sustainable development goals — a new series of benchmarks, which are set to expire in 2030. With the appointment of the ninth secretary-general in the near future as well, the next UN leader is bound to have quite a lot on his or her plate going into office.
In the past few years, the American public has become more aware of the damage wrought by climate change. From droughts in the west to extreme weather in the east, a rapidly changing climate has already made its footprint in the United States. Now, it’s expected that the presidential election in 2016 will be one of the first ever to place an emphasis on these environmental changes. What can the next president do to stymie this environmental crisis? And is it too late for these efforts to be effective?
Cuba and the U.S.
The U.S. announced in December 2014 that, after decades of isolation, it has begun taking major steps to normalize relations with Cuba. The announcement marks a dramatic shift away from a policy that has its roots in one of the darkest moments of the Cold War — the Cuban missile crisis. Although the U.S. trade embargo is unlikely to end any time soon, American and Cuban leaders today are trying to bring a relationship, once defined by antithetical ideologies, into the 21st century.
Putin’s pushback against European expansionism has the West wondering: If Putin’s Russia isn’t afraid to take an aggressive stance against Ukraine’s pivot to the West, what does that mean for the rest of Russia’s neighbors?
The idea of “privacy” has undergone significant changes in the digital age, as has the idea of privacy “harm.” Concerns about what some see as a U.S. “dragnet” and unwarranted privacy intrusions have compelled other countries to revamp their own privacy protections. Legislation, both at home and abroad, hasn’t kept pace with technological developments, leaving some wondering if privacy as we know it is long dead.
From the crisis in Iraq and Syria to the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the struggle between Sunni and Shi‘i groups for dominance is tearing apart the region and shows no signs of abating. How does sectarianism fit into a larger narrative of the Middle East? How have governments manipulated sectarian differences? And finally, what is the U.S. doing about it?
Inspired by its “top-down” model for growth, the world’s largest democracy has started taking its cues from China, one of America’s economic rivals. It’s a mindset that led to Modi’s election in 2014, and has signaled the developing economy’s desire for real change. Now, it’s up to the U.S. to determine how to best secure its interests as India asserts itself on the world stage.
Africa is in the midst of an unprecedented transformation. The continent is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it’s become a draw for foreign investors from across the globe. After the “Obamamania” of 2008 died down, though, the realization that Obama wasn’t going to overturn, or even prioritize, U.S. Africa policy kicked in. How can U.S. policy live up to its promise and values while securing its interests in the region?
Syrians have for a century welcomed over a million refugees from Armenia, Palestine, Iraq and other countries around the region. Now, thanks to a multiyear civil war, they are on track to become the source of the world’s largest refugee population in a matter of months. As Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other neighbors strive to accommodate the millions of Syrians, the risk of allowing Syrians to become dependent on emergency aid and forming a “lost generation” remains.
Human trafficking represents over $30 billion in international trade per annum and continues to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries. The U.S. and the international community have adopted various treaties and laws to prevent trafficking, but to truly understand and combat the issue, they must find the root causes enabling smugglers to commit millions into slavery.
Brazil — it’s the “B” in the acronym BRICS, five emerging economies once seen as soon-to-be superpowers. After economic troubles in the 1990s, Brazil has risen to new global prominence — it’s drawing in more investment, working on global issues ranging from climate change to peacekeeping, and even hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. But some of Brazil’s trickiest problems — staggering income inequality, weak civic institutions, poor regional leadership — have held it back.
For the first time in decades, the U.S. is tightening its belt on defense spending. While traditional threats like nuclear and great power conflicts do remain. The post 9/11 challenges of terrorism and counterinsurgency have led to a paradigm shift in the way we think about our national security. Emerging threats like cybersecurity and biowarfare also require new thinking. Do 21st century challenges now pose a greater threat to U.S. national security than traditional threats like nuclear war, naval supremacy and ability to fight ground wars? Defense in an age of economic uncertainty.
- David Ignatius, Columnist, The Washington Post
- General James Jones, Former National Security Advisor
- Donald Rumsfeld, Former Secretary of Defense
- Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe
- Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator
The U.S. has enjoyed 30 years of relatively stable relations with both Israel and Egypt, thanks in large part to the peace plan outlined by the historic Camp David Accords. The harmony between the two rivals has provided a key element of stability in an otherwise turbulent Middle East. But Egypt’s bumpy transition from the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak to its post Arab Spring reality – has put many on edge. What challenges does the new Egypt post for American policymakers and U.S. allies in the region?
- Jimmy Carter, Former U.S. President
- Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs
- Bruce Rutherford, Author, Egypt After Mubarak
- Thanassis Cambanis, The Atlantic
- Michael Wahid Hanna, The Century Foundation
African economies are booming like never before, thanks in large part to China. The global giant is investing in infrastructure projects to help it tap into the continent’s resources – oil, minerals, and its huge agricultural potential. Critics charge China with cozying up to dictators and ignoring issues of human rights and transparency. Others fear that U.S. is being left behind and its influence in Africa waning. China in Africa.
- Governor Jon Huntsman, Former U.S. Ambassador to China and Singapore
- Dambisa Moyo, Author, Winner Take All
- Rosa Whitaker, President and CEO, The Whitaker Group
- Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group
- John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations
After World War Two, the leaders of Europe established greater economic ties to help prevent future continental conflict. Now, more than half a century later, the EU faces the biggest financial crisis in its history – and the future of the Eurozone itself is under question. What’s preventing the world’s second largest economy — and America’s largest trading partner — from pulling itself out of recession?
- Nouriel Roubini, New York University
- Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief, The Economist
- Zvolt Darvis, Bruegel
- Matina Stevis, The Wall Street Journal, Brussels
- Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on European Affairs
For nearly a decade, Iran’s quest for nuclear capabilities has topped global security concerns in Washington, Brussels and Tel Aviv. Why is a nuclear armed Iran considered so dangerous to U.S. and Israeli interests, and what’s prevented Iran from reaching a deal year after year?
- Yukiya Amano, Director General, IAEA
- Trita Parsi, Founder and President, National Iranian American Council
- Cliff Kupchan, Eurasia Foundation
- Irshad Manji, New York University
- Robin Wright, Author, Rock the Casbah
The U.S., for better or worse, is often seen as the world’s policeman. But the question of when to intervene in other nations’ affairs with military force has long stymied American policymakers, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Syria. Why do we intervene in some conflicts and stand on the sidelines in others?
- Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University
- General James Jones, Former National Security Advisor
- Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard
- Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations
- General Richard Meyers, Former Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff
Controlled by a military junta, the nation of Burma, or Myanmar, has long been isolated as an international pariah state. But a flicker of hope for many Burmese has been Aung San Suu Kyi, who’s spent decades defying military leaders in her quest for democracy. Now, the generals have started to implement a series of democratic and economic reforms – which the U.S. and other Western powers have welcomed overwhelmingly. But are Myanmar’s military leaders serious about reform? And is Aung San Suu Kyi the one to lead Burma through what could be a rocky transition from international outcast to Asian “tiger?”
- Derek Mitchell, U.S. Ambassador to Burma
- Maureen Aung-Thwin, Open Society Foundations
- Suzanne DiMaggio, The Asia Society
- Louise Arbour, International Crisis Group
- David Steinberg, Georgetown University
NATO enjoyed a surge in popularity following the quick success of its air campaign in Libya. The much needed boost in morale comes as NATO moves into its twelfth year in Afghanistan, fighting a war that many see as destined to fail. Can the NATO alliance – forged during the Cold War – ensure global stability in the 21st Century? And should the U.S. continue to foot most of the bill?
- Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary-General, NATO
- Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator
- Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe
- Ivo Daalder, U.S. Ambassador to NATO
- Robert Kagan, The Brookings Institution