Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Editor’s Corner Summer 2023
Editor’s Corner Summer 2023

Editor’s Corner Summer 2023

In the spring 1958 issue of Orbis, Robert Strausz-Hupé, Alvin J. Cottrell, James E. Dougherty and Virgil Ney grappled with the question of “protracted conflict” as a way to understand the “complex realities with which the statesman and the soldier must grapple.” Sixty-five years later, we again find ourselves amidst a “systemic breakdown and the ensuing quest for a new equilibrium” as we deal with the consequences of the ending of the post-Cold War era. We are more likely to use a newer term to describe this condition—“strategic competition”—which was the subject of an April 2023 discussion at the Foreign Policy Research Institute featuring two recent Orbis authors—Ali Wyne and Asha Castleberry-Hernandez.

Building on events that were held for the Harvard-Brown Club in Providence, RI, and at Princeton University’s Program in History and the Practice of Diplomacy, this summer volume opens with a symposium: We’ve asked a distinguished and diverse group of contributors to assess how the global system is continuing to evolve and change as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. From changes in the balance of power and how events in Europe impact developments in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, to implications for global energy markets and financial systems, to the use of newer tools of statecraft, from sanctions to private military companies, Michael Reynolds, Sharyl Cross, Dov Zakheim, Ronald J. Granieri, Kiron Skinner, Almaz Keshavarz, Jeff Colgan, Damjan Krnjevic Miskovic and Rachel Ziemba offer their thoughts and analysis.

The symposium’s themes are also explored in the full-length essays for this issue. Wayne Schroeder completes his overview of the dynamics of great power competition. Andris Banka gives us a more in-depth examination of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensifies the security dilemma for the Baltic States. Zhanna Malekos Smith picks up the question of technological change manifesting itself into new weapons systems by examining the “buzz” about electromagnetic pulse weapons.

While much of the focus of this volume is on the ramifications of the Russian decision to return to the military option in Ukraine, the other great turning point in world affairs defining this decade has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Valbona Zeneli and Federica Santoro offer a more detailed assessment of how the pandemic impacted relations between China and Italy—the latter being one of the first places outside China where COVID-19 had a major impact, driven in part by the economic interdependence between the two states—and what this holds for the future. The question of whether the West should “decouple” from China or focus on “derisking” the relationship is being debated, as Ali Wyne noted at the FPRI event.

Another point from that event is that the future of strategic competition will take place not between two rigidly defined blocs, but what Wyne called a “latticework” of different groups of partners coming together on various sets of issues. We’ve asked Jada Fraser and Mohammed Soliman to walk us through the emergence of new “minilateral” frameworks—notably the Australia-UK-US framework, the “Quad” (Japan-India-Australia-U.S.) and the I2U2 (India-Israel-UAE-US) group. And given the growing centrality of South Asia as a critical keystone region for the global economy and international security, Farhan Hanif Siddiqi offers a perspective on conflict transformation in pursuit of regional stability.

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