Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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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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Zawahiri Killing Exposes Biden's Foreign-Policy Contradictions

August 5, 2022  •  National Review

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's killing is timely proof that the U.S., though preoccupied with other foreign-policy priorities and plagued by domestic political divisions, is still committed to the counterterrorism mission. But it also serves to highlight the bankruptcy of the Biden administration's foreign-policy agenda on at least two other fronts.

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How the U.S.-Israel Partnership Is Tackling China

July 26, 2022  •  Newsweek

When President Joe Biden traveled to the Middle East earlier this month, among his top priorities was shoring up the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel, which has frayed on his watch as a result of disagreements over America's policy toward Iran and its seeming disengagement from the unfolding normalization taking place between Israel and the Muslim world. One issue that Biden didn't appear to discuss with Israeli officials, however, was China. Yet that topic is enormously consequential to the health of the long-standing strategic partnership between the two countries. That's because recent years have seen Jerusalem's ties to Beijing blossom—and in ways that have become a bone of contention in its relationship with Washington.

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Russia's African Inroads Bear Watching

July 18, 2022  •  Al Hurra Digital

Since this Spring, global attention has focused overwhelmingly on Eastern Europe, and Russia's war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine. Both the United States and European capitals have been escalating their pressure on the Kremlin in a bid to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to blink. But for many of Washington's foreign partners, the crisis remains a distant one. This is certainly true in Africa, as I learned on a recent research trip to the continent. Regional officials there are now preoccupied with the inevitable side effects of the Russia's new war, like looming food scarcity and cascading energy disruptions, that could destabilize their own vulnerable populations. Beyond that, however, they don't have much to say about Moscow's renewed aggression against its western neighbor. That doesn't mean that Africans are not concerned about the Kremlin, however. To the contrary, multiple officials and experts I spoke with were quick to stress something often overlooked in the West: that Russia is now pursuing a concerted strategy to build influence on the continent.

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NATO Gets A New Lease On Life – For Now
An Alliance, If We Can Keep It.

Summer 2022  •  inFocus Quarterly

Since its start in late February, Russia's "special military operation" against Ukraine has reshaped the prevailing security order in Europe. The conflict, and Moscow's glaring military missteps in its early stages, helped puncture the perception of Russian military invincibility that had prevailed in both Europe and the United States since the end of the Cold War. It galvanized international support for Ukraine, which for years had clamored for sustained global attention to – and backing for – its Euro-Atlantic trajectory. And it helped to unite a previously fragmented West behind an unprecedented raft of penalties and punitive measures that cumulatively have set Russia on a course of protracted decline, irrespective of the ultimate outcome of the current conflict. Perhaps the most profound impact of Russia's new war, however, has been to revitalize the West's oldest and most enduring alliance. Until recently thought by many to be on its deathbed, NATO has found renewed purpose in deterring a revanchist and neo-imperial Russia, and convinced skeptics of the indispensable role it should play in maintaining global security.

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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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