Syria: the mission and the alternatives

On Saturday 7 April came reports that chemical weapons (CW) were used in Douma, Syria. In the very early hours of Saturday 14 April the US, France and the UK launched 105 cruise and air-to-surface missiles against a CW research centre and two CW storage facilities. US President Donald J Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished!” But what was the mission? Continue reading

Impressions from Moscow – MCIS 2018

The seventh Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) was on Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 April. Listening to the speeches and chatting with various people during and after it, my first thoughts concern three related issues: the growing confidence of Russian policy; soft power; and shared concern about the increasing risks in global politics, together with deep differences about where those risks come from.  Continue reading

Sackings, summits and somersaults in US foreign policy

It’s not quite “All change!” at the top of US foreign policy but not very far from it. Three key positions have changed in the last two weeks: Rex Tillerson out at the State Department, with Mike Pompeo coming from the CIA, where his Deputy Gina Haspel replaces him, and HR McMaster is out as National Security Advisor, replaced by John Bolton. So, er, what’s going on?  Continue reading

Munich insecurities conference 2018

The 2018 edition of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), a top level meeting on peace and security issues, was held on 16-18 February. Among the participants were “more than 30 heads of state and government and over 100 cabinet ministers from across the globe”. There was not much sense of actual security to be found. Continue reading

2 minutes to midnight?

On 25 January, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced the current time on its long lasting Doomsday Clock: two minutes before midnight, the Editorial Board decided, with midnight, of course, equalling apocalypse. The following day, The Economist, a magazine, carried a cover story on ‘The Next War: the growing threat of a great power conflict’. Are things really that bad? And if so, what can be done about them? Continue reading

2017: looking back

2017: it’s been some year, eh? It was the first year of the Trump presidency. All UN members bar one were signed up to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was open for signature and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize. North Korea carried out more missile tests and one nuclear test and moved closer to having a nuclear ICBM capable of hitting targets in the continental US. The Iran nuclear deal came under severe pressure despite Iran implementing it fully. The people of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya continued to suffer the ravages of violent conflict. Elsewhere in the region and outside it, people faced the threat of random terrorist attacks. Arms spending and arms trading continued to rise. In SIPRI’s Peace Points series of short films, I set out some views on these events and trends as they unfolded.

Best wishes for a peaceful 2018!

The nuclear triptych of 2017

Nuclear weapons have come into the political limelight in 2017 as they have hardly done since the 1980s. North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons create a triptych – one panel for arming up and nuclear confrontation, one for arms control, and one for complete nuclear disarmament. Which way is the world headed? Continue reading