In the Tank: Why Putin Failed to Woo the American Public

This week’s best research and commentary on the latest in national security and foreign policy issues from top think tanks around the world. By Kedar Pavgi

Welcome to “In the Tank,” Defense One’s weekly think tank roundup. Every week, we’ll present the latest research and commentary published by think tanks from around the world on defense, national security, foreign policy, technology, and management. If you’d like to submit your latest research, email Kedar Pavgi at

Upcoming U.N. Meeting Revives Hopes for U.S.-Iran Dialogue
Barbara Slavin
Wilson Center

Will Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shake hands with President Obama at the annual luncheon for heads of state during next week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York? That’s the question posed by Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and Al-Monitor correspondent. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Rouhani said that “a constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.” Whether the new president will be able to that U.S.-Iranian relations remains to be seen. As Slavin points out: Ultimately, of course, the decision about whether the United States and Iran will restore some semblance of normalcy to their relations will be made by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

Offensive Charm: Why Vladimir Putin Tried -- and Failed -- to Woo the U.S. Public
Jeremy Suri
Foreign Affairs

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt at op-ed diplomacy in The New York Times failed to convince the administration and the American public, writes Jeremy Suri. “Although U.S. public opinion has a tendency to simplify policy debates, as [the late diplomat George] Kennan lamented, Americans are sophisticated enough to be conscious of their sources.” Suri said Putin’s op-ed “echoes a similar strategy and message as [former Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev’s article more than 50 years ago. Putin’s punch line is also a defense of noninterference in foreign societies, even those that use chemical weapons on their own people. Putin depicts Russia as a defender of the United Nations and international law, and he gloats about how Americans have suffered from their misguided interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries.” Suri takes a look at other attempts throughout history to use the opinion pages of major news publications for diplomatic effect.  

NATO at Sea: Trends in Allied Naval Power
Bryan McGrath
American Enterprise Institute

“With U.S. armed forces increasingly focused on the Asia-Pacific region, there are growing concerns as to whether the navies of America’s continental allies are up to meeting the challenges arising from the general unrest on Europe’s eastern and southern maritime flanks,” writes AEI’s Bryan McGrath. Pentagon leaders have long criticized NATO members for failing to meet the alliance’s necessary defense spending agreements – a point made clear by the 2011 NATO-led operation in Libya, when European nations were left begging the United States to fill shortfalls in naval capacity and intelligence. McGrath says shipbuilding capacity is a “capital intensive” endeavor and cannot be quickly rebuilt if it is allowed to erode away. Should another operation be necessary in the Middle East or North Africa, European nations could be hindered because of past failures to invest in key assets.

Ending the War in Afghanistan
Stephen Biddle
Foreign Affairs

The battle in Afghanistan between the Afghan National Security Forces and the Taliban won’t be decided through victory on the battlefield, but in the U.S. Congress, writes Stephen Biddle. “Should current trends continue, U.S. combat troops are likely to leave behind a grinding stalemate between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Afghan National Security Forces can probably sustain this deadlock, but only as long as the U.S. Congress pays the multibillion-dollar annual bills needed to keep them fighting. The war will thus become a contest in stamina between Congress and the Taliban.” Biddle argues that the Obama administration needs to get serious about negotiations with the Taliban or cut its losses and leave Afghanistan entirely. “Time is running out, however, and the administration should pick its poison,” Biddle writes.

Sustaining the U.S. Defense Industrial Base as a Strategic Asset
Barry Watts
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

“Just as there are fewer primes due to the industry consolidations of the 1990s, in many cases there are fewer suppliers in the lower tiers of the industrial base. Hence the growing urgency for the Defense Department to craft and implement a coherent industrial-base strategy that places priority on deciding what to protect and preserve over the long term rather than what to trim or eliminate in the short term,” writes Barry Watts. Pentagon planners should focus on the “core competencies” of the defense industrial bases; that is emphasize key areas in which companies excel in producing key systems for the military, like intelligence capabilities, drones and planes, Watts says. He also notes that the industry that supports and build’s DoD’s systems can be quickly taken down, but can’t be quickly resurrected in times of need. Planners should take heed now.