Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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In the War For Global Opinion, China Is Winning

September 20, 2022  •  Newsweek

These days, to say China isn't popular in Washington is something of an understatement. The past several years have seen our dominant view of that country change dramatically. More and more, U.S. officials and ordinary Americans are gravitating away from the notion that China can be a constructive actor on the world stage, and toward the idea that Beijing has become a serious strategic competitor (and perhaps even an adversary)—not just of the United States, but of the Western liberal order more broadly. That realization is dawning among key American partners, as well. Britons, Australians, and publics in numerous other developed nations now hold profoundly negative views of China, as a Pew Research Center poll released this summer recently highlighted. A great deal of this shift can be attributed to China's increasingly aggressive foreign policy maneuvers under the guidance of its current president (and Communist Party secretary), Xi Jinping. Its malfeasance and disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly, too. And more and more Western nations have become worried about the risks of extensive dependence on a country that has proven itself to be an intrusive, and manipulative, economic partner. But this new consensus is far from universal. Throughout what is collectively known as the "Global South" (encompassing developing parts of the world like Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia), China is now more popular than the United States.

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What Might Be Going On With Darya Dugina's Assassination?

September 14, 2022  •  Washington Examiner

A high-profile killing took place in Moscow last month — a killing with potentially massive implications, both for the war in Ukraine and for the stability of Russian President Vladimir Putin's government. On Aug. 20, a car bombing in Moscow took the life of Darya Dugina. The 29-year-old Dugina was an ultranationalist activist. Earlier this year, she had been sanctioned by both the U.S. and U.K. governments for her role in spreading Kremlin propaganda. Dugina's most distinguishing attribute, however, was that she was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, the far-right philosopher and "Eurasianist" ideologue whose views about Russian empire and the need for confrontation with the West have become popular within the Kremlin's corridors of power. Indeed, it was Dugin who had articulated the concept of "Novorossiya" (New Russia) that served as part of the justification for Russia's 2014 invasion and annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Dugin has been a prominent cheerleader for Putin's Ukraine campaign — and for the subsequent expansion of the conflict to other territories that Moscow covets. Not surprisingly, most of the coverage of Dugina's killing has depicted it as a failed attempt to eliminate her father. But by whom? A variety of theories have proliferated. 

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Six Months On, The Costs Of The Ukraine War Are Mounting... For Russia

August 30, 2022  •  Newsweek

How is Russia faring in its war of choice against Ukraine? With Moscow's military campaign against its western neighbor now at its six-month mark, the tally is both simple and stark: by virtually every metric, the past half-year has been nothing short of ruinous for the Kremlin.

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Anticipating Iran's Future

August 2022  •  The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

The Islamic Republic of Iran, now 43 years old, has proven itself to be remarkably resilient in weathering both geopolitical turbulence and domestic hardships. In doing so, it has defied the predictions of numerous scholars and pundits. This trend could very well continue. Iran's clerical elite has turned out to be extremely adept at changing its revolutionary rhetoric to accommodate shifting regional geopolitical currents, as it did during the political ferment that accompanied the "Arab Spring" more than a decade ago. Its regime has also deftly crafted both political and economic strategies (such as its idea of a "national resistance economy" in response to US sanctions) that have helped it to weather deeply adverse domestic conditions. But continued survival is not a given. History has shown that many authoritarian rulers and their regimes appear durable until the moment they are overthrown or collapse. This is precisely what happened to Romania's dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, and to Libya's strongman Muammar Qadhafi, who became a casualty of the Arab Spring in 2011. The Islamic Republic and its president, Ebrahim Raisi, could well follow the same trajectory because the country now faces a confluence of internal factors that could set it on a fundamentally different course in the years ahead.

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The Sources Of Russian Conduct

Vol. 2, Iss. 3, 2022  •  Journal of Policy & Strategy

In early 1946, writing from his perch at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the diplomat George F. Kennan laid out what would become the guiding principles for America's Cold War strategy toward the Soviet Union. His missive, which came to be known as the "long telegram," articulated what Kennan understood to be the prevailing thinking in the Kremlin about the USSR's place in the world, the permanence of its competition with the capitalist West, and the modes by which Moscow might advance its strategic position and erode that of the United States. Kennan's insights into Soviet thinking were published pseudonymously the following year in the pages of Foreign Affairs,[1] and were so influential that they helped lay the groundwork for NSC-68, the long war strategy that the United States erected—and subsequently prosecuted—against the Soviets across multiple administrations. Such a framework is sorely absent today. Some three-quarters of a century after Kennan's "long telegram," the United States—and the West more broadly—has little understanding of the ideological constructs and strategic principles animating contemporary Russian decision-making.[2] In the absence of such awareness, successive governments have fallen short in anticipating Russia's post-Cold War foreign policy maneuvers. They have likewise floundered in formulating a cogent response to them. It's an issue worth revisiting today, against the backdrop of Russia's new war in Ukraine. For, while the original reason given by the Kremlin for its "special military operation"— the need to "demilitarize" and "de-Nazify" a Ukraine in the thrall of revanchist forces—has proven patently false, the true causes behind Russia's prosecution of the conflict remain murky for most Western policymakers. Precisely what those motivations are, and how they are informed by Russia's strategic culture and internal stressors, will help determine what Moscow does next—and the challenge the West will collectively be forced to meet in the years ahead.

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Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

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