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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States, South Korea, Japan—and every other state affected by the stability and security of Northeast Asia—has a strong incentive to find a way to end North Korea's nuclear threat and its development and deployment of ICBMs. At the same time, no one can afford to forget that North Korea poses a much wider range of threats from its conventional forces and shorter-range missiles—particularly as it develops ballistic and cruise missiles with precision strike capabilities. U.S. diplomacy and strategy cannot afford to focus solely on nuclear weapons, particularly when North Korea has the option of developing biological weapons with the same lethality as nuclear weapons. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore the conventional threat that North Korea poses to South Korea—a threat that could inflict massive casualties on South Korean civilians as well as create a level of conventional war that could devastate the South Korean economy.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Political stability, Biological Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Lana Baydas, Shannon Green
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: To combat the global threat of terrorism, countries have passed and implemented numerous laws that inadvertently or intentionally diminished the space for civil society. States conflate terrorism with broader issues of national security, which is then used as a convenient justification to stifle dissent, including civil society actors that aim to hold governments accountable. As the global terror landscape becomes more complex and dire, attacks on the rights to the freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly only increase. This report analyzes the impact of counterterrorism efforts on civic space, examines its manifestations in various socioeconomic and political contexts, and explores various approaches to disentangle and reconcile security and civil society. It features case studies on Australia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Hungary, and India. This report was published under the sponsorship of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), a coalition of scholars and experts from around the world that is developing concrete, evidence-based recommendations on how best to address and push back on closing space around civil society.
  • Topic: Security, Civil Society, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: India, Hungary, Australia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso
  • Author: Moises Rendon, Mark L Schneider
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue Venezuela has been subjected to an unprecedented man-made humanitarian crisis, including extreme food and medicine shortages, thousands of children dying of malnutrition, and malnourished people contracting formerly eradicated diseases. While Venezuela’s dictatorial regime has repeatedly rejected humanitarian aid from the outside, the country’s humanitarian, economic, social, and institutional collapse, along with fierce political repression, have caused 1.2 million Venezuelans to flee the country over the past two years, with hundreds of thousands more and possibly millions expected to flee in the future. Our Recommendations Encourage the United States and other like-minded countries to provide leadership on the diplomatic and assistance fronts to help respond to this crisis. Work to build consensus within the international community on the urgency of the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and to agree on steps to address the crisis, including convening a high-level task force. Develop a comprehensive policy response that includes immediate relief efforts on Venezuela’s border with Colombia and within Venezuela using innovative mechanisms due to the current limited humanitarian access. Provide immediate technical assistance to help estimate the level of need and identify available resources. Support and engage civil society and local actors, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and entrepreneurs, as well as the Venezuelan diaspora community, to help limit the suffering of the Venezuelan people. Encourage host countries to grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans and create a broader burden-sharing arrangement in the region for processing those seeking refuge, following the recent guidelines by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Support the use of innovative technology tools, such as blockchain and digital currencies, to facilitate distribution of aid within and beyond Venezuela.
  • Topic: Health, Poverty, United Nations, Food, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, South America, Venezuela
  • Author: Jane Nakano, Sarah Ladislaw
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States, China, and India together constitute about 70 percent of global coal consumption and 64 percent of global coal production. Each country is an important contributor to the global coal supply and demand picture and yet each stands at a very different stage in its relationship with coal. The history of coal in the United States is predicated on a long-term decline in its share of the electricity fuel mix, but deep regional socioeconomic ties give the fuel an outsized role in national energy politics. Coal makes up 15 percent of the total U.S. energy mix and 30 percent of the electric power mix while the power sector accounts for about 90 percent of coal use in the United States. Over the years, electricity demand has flattened thanks to strong efficiency gains. Moreover, the abundance of inexpensive natural gas and rapid decline in renewable energy costs have significantly diminished the competitiveness of coal-fired power generation. Unlike in China and India, the U.S. coal fleet is in contraction as a wave of retirements is underway, with little evidence of reversal, indicating that the current downturn appears structural and not cyclical. After a recent period of decline and bankruptcy for the U.S. industry, a political movement to revitalize the coal sector has emerged from the current presidential administration. Notwithstanding the renewed political support, however, the regulatory uncertainty clouds a future pathway for a coal power resurgence. The notion of economic and energy security benefits long associated with the use of coal has effectively disappeared in one of the largest producer and consumer markets for coal in the world. China is far and away the largest coal consumer and has built coal-fired power generation capacity at an unprecedented rate over the past couple of decades. As it enters a new phase of development, China seeks to reduce the role of coal in its economy both to mitigate the environmental impacts of coal production and use but also to harness its domestic power consumption to drive its competitive advantage in things like solar, wind, and nuclear power generation. China has concrete targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ambitious plans, such as a nationwide emissions trading system, that can influence the pace and scope of shift in its power supply mix. Despite these government targets and the ongoing industrial structural reform that can reduce coal’s dominance in the electric power sector, the trajectory for coal use remains significantly subject to the future of state-owned enterprises and economic liberalization. In contrast to the United States and China, India is a fast-growing market for coal where economic development and universal energy access goals often override concerns about environmental pollution and climate change. India also sees enormous opportunity in renewable energy development—for the positive environmental attributes, the potential commercial opportunities, and the ability to lessen reliance on imported sources of energy like oil, gas, and coal. The Indian central and state governments have set up ambitious policies to foster a greater share of renewable energy in the electric power mix. The growth in renewable power-generation capacity shows early indications that renewables as an indigenous resource have the potential to challenge not only coal’s economic advantage but also its energy security value propositions as an indigenous resource, warranting close attention for some potentially valuable lessons for power-sector management in other developing economies where renewables increasingly beat out coal. How India will calibrate its desire to phase out coal imports despite the quantitative and qualitative issues its domestic supply has is another issue with major implications for both global coal markets and the future of its power supply mix, particularly solar and wind. Even as each market navigates a unique set of circumstances surrounding the role of coal-fired power generation, the availability of midstream infrastructure looms large as a universally important determinant of the competitiveness of coal resources, and thus the fuel hierarchy. Railways are the dominant mode for transporting coal in China and the capacity constraints continue to intensify, disadvantaging domestic resources to imports. Midstream is also a major topic in the United States, where a lack of west coast export terminals limits the U.S. ability to take advantage of continued demand growth in Asia. Low utilization rates also reflect the headwinds facing coal-fired power generation in all three countries. For example, U.S. coal-fired power generation experienced a 20 percent decrease in coal fleet utilization rates and a 12 percent decrease in the generation capacity from 2015 to 2016. Also, while China is expected to add another 200 GW of new coal-power capacity by 2020, the utilization rate of 47.5 percent for the thermal power fleet in 2016 indicates a complex nexus between capacity investment and power demand in the country, where the capacity growth does not give a solid indication of electric power output or fuel consumption. The local air pollution and climate implications of coal-fired power generation in each country also depend on the age of their fleet and capital stock turnover. The perceived future direction of coal in each country impacts the willingness of investors to upgrade or build new, more efficient plants. Whereas the ever-weakening coal-power demand in the United States is diminishing investor appetite for new coal plants with higher efficiency, lower emissions (HELE) technology, the capacity expansion in China is enabling the modernization of its fleet that includes more HELE plants. The pace and scope of modernization for India’s coal fleet, which is much younger yet remains low efficiency and high emissions today, will be an important indicator for its future emissions profile. Lastly, various noneconomic forces at play can generate a tension between the needs of a changing electricity market and the political-economic pressures of expanding coal-power capacity. The coal sector enjoys a powerful narrative on its socioeconomic benefits like jobs and tax revenues for coal-mining communities, but enabled by technology advancements, the emerging focus on values like flexibility in the power sector has elevated attributes of many alternative sources of electricity, including renewables and natural gas in the United States. Likewise, the Chinese expansion of coal capacity appears to be misaligned not only with the projected level of power demand growth but also with government efforts to expand alternative sources of electricity, thus raising the risk of stranded or severely underutilized coal plant assets.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, Coal
  • Political Geography: United States, China, India, Asia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Few recent American foreign policy decisions have been as divisive as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms control agreement with Iran. Advocates of the agreement have focused far too exclusively on its potential benefits. Opponents equally exclusively on its potential faults. Both sides tend to forget that any feasible arms control agreement between what are hostile sides tends to be a set of compromises that are an extension of arms races and potential conflicts by other means. As a result, imperfect agreements with uncertain results are the rule, not the exception. President Trump has made it clear that he opposes the agreement and would like to terminate it. His dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Security of State, and his replacement by Mike Pompeo – along with his dismissal of General H.R. McMaster and replacement with John Bolton – indicate that President Trump may well seek to terminate the agreement in the near future – action which might or might not have significant bipartisan support. He faces a May 5th to decide whether to again waive economic sanction against Iran, a decision which comes up for renewal every 120 days.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Zack Cooper
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The issue: China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean should not come as a surprise. China is following in the traditional path of other rising powers; it is expanding its military operations to match its interests abroad. The security implications of China’s push into the Indian Ocean region are mixed. In peacetime, these efforts will certainly expand Chinese regional influence. In wartime, however, China’s Indian Ocean presence will likely create more vulnerabilities than opportunities. China’s military forays into the Indian Ocean have triggered a series of warnings. The term “string of pearls” was first used to refer to Chinese basing access in the Indian Ocean by a 2004 report for the U.S. Department of Defense. That report suggested China’s growing regional presence could “deter the potential disruption of its energy supplies from potential threats, including the U.S. Navy, especially in the case of a conflict with Taiwan.” Other scholars have warned that Beijing seeks to “dominate” the Indian Ocean region. Others suggest that the Chinese government is simply following its expanding trading interests and seeking to secure its supply lines against disruption. Although China’s presence in the Indian Ocean may permit it to increase its regional influence, Chinese facilities and forces would be highly vulnerable in a major conflict. Thus, the security implications of China’s push into the Indian Ocean region are mixed. In peacetime, these efforts will certainly expand Chinese regional influence. In wartime, however, China’s Indian Ocean presence will likely create more vulnerabilities than opportunities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Imperialism, Military Strategy, Maritime
  • Political Geography: United States, China, India, Taiwan, Asia, Indian Ocean
  • Author: Matthew Funaiole, Jonathan Hillman
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The issue: China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) seeks to connect Beijing with trading hubs around the world. Beijing insists the MSRI is economically motivated , but some observers argue that China is primarily advancing its strategic objectives. This article examines several economic criteria that should be used when analyzing port projects associated with the MSRI. China’s leaders have mapped out an ambitious plan, the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), to establish three “blue economic passages” that will connect Beijing with economic hubs around the world.1 It is the maritime dimension of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which could include $1–4 trillion in new roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure. Within this broad and ever-expanding construct, Chinese investments have been especially active in the Indo-Pacific region, raising questions about whether it is China’s economic or strategic interests that are driving major port investments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Maritime, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Gurmeet Kanwai
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue The development of Gwadar Port is a key element of the greater China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It speaks to both the strength of the China-Pakistan relationship and the reach of China’s grand strategy. With Pakistan’s two other major ports operating near capacity with no room for expansion, projects in Gwadar promise to eventually handle one million tons of cargo annually, while also providing significant industrial, oil, and transportation infrastructure. Though a “monument of Pakistan-China friendship,” there are misgivings on both sides about CPEC, including the safety of Chinese workers, the resentment of Baloch nationalists, and the growing debt trap created by the project. The prospect of the PLA Navy in Gwadar poses greater security questions, as it forms another link in China’s efforts to expand its maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific region. The members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” comprised of India, Japan, Australia, and the United States, should counter China’s strategic outreach by networking with other like-minded countries on cooperative security frameworks to ensure a free, open, prosperous, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Regional Cooperation, Global Political Economy, Trade
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, Japan, China, Middle East, India, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: With President Donald Trump threatening to pull out of Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime ramping up its military campaign against rebels, and the Islamic State in decline, al Qaeda has attempted to resurge and reposition itself at the center of global Salafi-jihadist activity. Syria has been perhaps its most important prize. For some, al Qaeda’s cunning and concerted efforts in Syria and other countries highlight the group’s resilience and indicate its potential to resurge and rejuvenate. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that al Qaeda has largely failed to take advantage of the Syrian war. Confusion and finger-pointing have been rampant as individuals have clashed over ideology, territorial control, personalities, loyalty to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and command-and-control relationships. Al Qaeda’s struggles in Syria have also highlighted some weaknesses of al-Zawahiri. The al Qaeda leader has had difficulty communicating with local groups in Syria, been slow to respond to debates in the field, and discovered that some Salafi-jihadist fighters have brazenly disobeyed his guidance. As one Salafi-jihadist leader remarked, “The situation in Syria for the jihad is extremely dire.”
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Al Qaeda
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Nicholas Harrington
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Middle East has long been one of the most unstable regions in the world, and there are no present prospects for change in the near future. This instability is the result of ongoing conflicts and tensions, and a variety of political tensions and divisions. It also, however, is the result of a wide variety of long-term pressures growing out of poor governance, corruption, economic failures, demographic pressures and other forces within the civil sector.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Governance, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East