During a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart on June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that “within the next several months,” Russia intends to transfer Iskander-M missiles — which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads — to Belarus and begin upgrading Belarusian Su-25 fighters to carry nuclear weapons. Most of the details of the deal remain unknown or to be determined. But should Putin’s promise turn out to be more than nuclear bluster — something Putin and other Russian officials have resorted to since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine — the deployment could remake the nuclear balance in Europe and increase the risk of a potential NATO-Russia conflict occurring.
Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine has unleashed a wave of destruction and atrocities against its brave people. But the suffering and instability are not contained to Europe. Indeed, a continent away, Putin’s war has unleashed a “three-headed hydra” of food, energy and finance shortages in Africa, further threatening vulnerable Africans and putting dozens of countries at risk of default. Recognizing the need to tackle food insecurity, the Group of Seven (G-7) countries pledged billions more in assistance this week. But will it be enough given the severity of these challenges?
The recent Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles underscored that the Western Hemisphere faces several crises. Climate change threatens tens of millions of Americans throughout the hemisphere. Democracy, once the unquestioned standard of regional governance as recently as 1994 when it was celebrated at the inaugural Miami Summit of the Americas, is also in crisis. In fact, it became the unfortunate story of the summit: who was invited and who wasn’t. Regardless of which side of the democratic inclusion summit debate one adopts, democratic backsliding and the rise in autocratic governance like in Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil — to say nothing of the extinction of democracy in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — represents a worrisome reality that goes beyond the traditional left- versus right-wing paradigm.
NATO countries meet this week in Madrid, Spain amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, the biggest test the alliance has faced in decades. The summit is expected to focus heavily on demonstrating NATO’s unity, support for Ukraine and the bids of Finland and Sweden — propelled by Russia’s aggressive incursion — to join the alliance. But developments in the Asia-Pacific, chiefly the rise of China, will also be a top item on the agenda, with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea participating at the leader level for the first time at a NATO summit.
From 2015 to 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to nearly double, in part because migrants from rural areas devastated by climate change are being driven to cities in search of economic and social stability. However, many of the world’s fastest-growing cities are already struggling to handle their own climate issues. From rising seas to freshwater scarcity, the complex interplay of climate change, population growth and fragility in cities has made them hotbeds for social and economic inequalities — increasing the risk of violence and having a profound impact on human security in urban centers around the world.
In late June and early July, two global convenings will highlight challenges to international religious freedom and the search for solutions: the IRF Summit for nongovernmental organizations and the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These timely gatherings will bring together government representatives, activists and faith leaders from different religious, regional and political backgrounds to discuss a common goal of ending persecution. Two keys for their success will be creating diverse coalitions to advance international religious freedom (IRF) in a nonpartisan manner and linking the issue to broader concerns about peace and stability.
As Lebanon suffers from an historic economic crisis propelled by the venality of its political establishment, the May 15 elections have injected a glimmer of hope amid gloomy prospects for the future. Thirteen independent candidates — part of what is dubbed the “change opposition” — won seats in the 128-member Parliament. “The election of these 13 MPs [members of Parliament] is a very important, gradual first step toward more peaceful political change and reform in Lebanon,” said Mona Yacoubian, a Lebanon expert and senior advisor for the U.S. Institute of Peace. But the road ahead is fraught with internal challenges and external forces that could impede Lebanon’s much-needed reform.
The Taliban insurgency and U.S. troop withdrawal, and Russian incursions culminating in the February 24 invasion, constituted existential “stress tests” for Afghanistan and Ukraine, respectively. Ukraine and its international supporters have succeeded in preventing an outright Russian victory, imposing severe and continuing costs on Russia — ranging from high casualties to financial sanctions. Whatever happens next, the invasion has solidified Ukraine’s national will, status and orientation as an independent, Western-oriented sovereign country. In sharp contrast, Afghanistan’s government and security forces collapsed within a month after U.S. troops left the country, its president and many others fled, and the Taliban rapidly took over.
Over the last year, Mozambique has seen a marked improvement in security conditions in its troubled Cabo Delgado region. The military intervention of Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states and Rwanda has disrupted an Islamist insurgency that emerged in 2017 and has since inflicted an enormous toll on the region. Security in key areas of Cabo Delgado and neighboring provinces has stabilized, giving the Mozambican government — and its international backers — an opportunity to foster reconciliation leading to an enduring peace. The Mozambican government should immediately take advantage of this exceptional regional commitment, which won’t last forever.
Russia for years has warned that it would take military steps, among others, to counter any eventual decision by Finland or Sweden to join NATO. Yet since the Nordic countries declared that intention in mid-May, Russian officials’ changing rhetoric suggests that the Kremlin will seek to avoid any real confrontation over prospective NATO expansion.