The arms control agendas of 2021: some reflections

The extension of the US-Russian New START agreement on strategic nuclear weapons was achieved through the exchange of two sets of diplomatic notes between the respective governments, on 26 January and 3 February. The process was super-straightforward. Both President Putin of Russia and Joe Biden while US President-elect made clear they would each favour extension. The day after inauguration President Biden officially confirmed the position. A few days later, it was done. This was the lowest of low-hanging fruit. Good to have gotten it out of the way (and stupid that the previous administration let it go down to the wire) but now the real work starts.

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SIPRI Yearbook 2019: Nuclear weapons and other key trends

The SIPRI Yearbook 2019 is now available on line. It registers key data in the world of peace and security in 2018 and establishes some of the basic indicators that let us track and assess the trends. It is not a comfortable picture.

You can get a quick take on it from my shorthand overview below and/or from the latest short film in our Peace Points series.

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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

Is the US preparing to engage on two fronts?

It has been a disturbing few days. On Tuesday 4 April, Syrian aircraft allegedly used nerve gas against civilians. On Thursday 6, the US responded by attacking Syrian forces for the first time. On Friday 7, there was a truck attack in central Stockholm, the city’s  first terror incident since December 2010. On Saturday 8, a US naval task force set out for northeast Asia to  strengthen US sea power near the Korean peninsula. A small bomb was discovered in Oslo. On Sunday 9, nearly 50 people died from bomb attacks at two churches in the Nile delta.

Amid the uncertainties of the time, it’s worth asking if the US is about to get engaged in armed conflict on two fronts. Continue reading

The international security conference tell

And so to Beijing, as I might write in the diary I don’t keep, for the Seventh Xiangshan Forum, a big day-and-a-half conference on international security affairs. It is the third such event I have been to this year – first Munich, then Moscow and now Beijing. In some ways quite similar yet also very different, what can be gleaned from each? Continue reading

European security. Crisis? What crisis?

The tone of this year’s Munich Security Conference – the Davos of global security – was captured by the Munich Security Report’s theme: ‘Boundless chaos, reckless spoilers, helpless guardians.’ The front page headline on The Security Times, a conference special edition from the stable of Die Zeit, featured a box of matches and urged an appropriate response: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff.’ Continue reading

Syria: Geneva III, the nettle of negotiation (again), and ISIS (again)

Two years ago, the Geneva II talks on Syria took place. As they began, their prospects could be optimistically viewed as “virtually zero“. On Friday 29 January, Geneva III talks are due to begin and prospects do not look much better. That doesn’t mean they are a waste of time. Continue reading