Top Picks of EWI Staffers and Fellows
With the New Year approaching, several EWI staff and fellows offered their lists of what they believed were the most significant events of 2013. EWI is global and so were their picks—the Snowden leaks, Syria’s deal, Afghanistan’s continued evolution, China’s new leadership and maritime disputes, the ousting of Egypt’s president and the Ukrainian drama are some of the top developments mentioned.
And in the spirit of holiday cheer, we’ve ended this “EWI Now” section with an ode to European retirement by Dragan Stojanovski, who designed our newly relaunched website.
James Creighton, Chief Operating Officer
Afghan National Security Forces assumed security responsibility in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan and its soldiers and police have accepted responsibility for their own fate. The hard work and sacrifices of NATO and Afghan security forces in Afghanistan made this possible. The success of coalition intervention in Afghanistan will be evident in the months ahead.
Syrian Chemical Weapons Agreement
U.S. and Russian-led agreement on Syrian chemical weapons combined with compromises on Iran’s nuclear program will have a lasting impact on historical relationships in the Middle East. The U.S. will have to rebuild many bridges to reframe a regional balance of power.
The Chinese moved to solidify their regional power by taking actions to control disputed islands while taking positive moves to modernize their economy. This presents a challenge for regional powers and global leaders seeking to maintain a positive relationship with China.
Oil Production Implications
The dramatic changes in oil supply and demand will have long-reaching implications for regional and global security concerns.
A Shrinking U.S. Army
The reduction of the U.S. Army to 422,000 active duty soldiers represents the lowest number since 1940 troop levels were at 269,000. This will have a dramatic impact on the U.S. ability to project a leadership role and fulfill its worldwide security commitments.
Andrew Nagorski, Vice President, Public Policy and Communications
By providing a financial rescue package to Ukraine’s beleaguered President Victor Yanukovich, Vladimir Putin scored a tactical victory, but the tug-of-war for Ukraine is far from over. As former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has repeatedly stressed, Ukraine’s fate will also determine Russia’s direction. A Ukraine that chooses to align itself with Europe could ultimately help Russia do the same. But right now the Ukraine-Russia snuggle signals an effort to maintain separation, which is a recipe for backsliding. This is a drama with many acts.
The Snowden Factor
It’s hard to overstate the impact of the Snowden revelations. Germany’s Angela Merkel, whose phone was monitored by the NSA, told Obama that this was comparable to what the Stasi did. According to The New York Times, she added pointedly that “the NSA clearly couldn’t be trusted with private information, because they let Snowden clean them out.” At home, Obama faces mounting demands to rein in the surveillance, including from his own supporters. Snowden, who is still ensconced in Moscow, demonstrated his ability to set in motion a snowball that just keeps growing.
Shaky on Syria
Yes, there’s a deal, however shaky, on chemical weapons, but this has only allowed Assad to focus on suppressing his opponents, no matter what the human cost. And that cost keeps escalating. Those who had once contemplated action are now left looking like largely helpless bystanders.
The Shrinking Presidency
In each of the cases above, the White House has exuded the air of a much-diminished institution, a symbol of how U.S. influence has been waning. No one doubts that the United States is still the biggest player in the global arena, but any number of global dramas are now playing themselves out with very little consideration of—or even acknowledgment of—the Obama administration’s views. That’s a problem.
Last Woman Standing
While the crisis of leadership is evident all across the globe, one leader has clearly stood out, bolstering her political base at home by winning yet another election and somehow defusing crisis after crisis in the EU. When Angela Merkel speaks, her countrymen and neighbors may not always agree—but they always listen. And they respect her. No other current leader can claim as much.