In The Tank: This Week’s Best Defense and National Security Think Tank Offerings

The latest in wonk reads on national security, tech, and more. By Kedar Pavgi

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

The United States, Russia, and Europe: Trilateral Security Dialogue in the Absence of Strategic Partnership
The Atlantic Council
Isabelle Francois

Chilly as the relations have been between the United States and Russia, the events of the past week may signal the beginning of a thaw between the two countries. A few days ago, Russia jumped on a stray comment by Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference and used it as the basis for proposing a diplomatic solution to secure Bashar Al-Assad’s chemical weapons. Many skeptics about the ultimate feasibility of this plan, including President Obama, say it only illustrates how much the U.S and Russia need each other to address a range of security challenges.

However, working with a former geopolitical rival and super power isn’t easy, as the past few years have shown. To circumvent past mistrust, The Atlantic Council’s Isabelle Francois proposes a “transactional partnership” to shore up relations between the U.S., Europe, and Russia in areas of common security and economic interests. Francois urges the countries to avoid seeking broad, often unwieldy strategic partnerships. Instead, she says that the countries will need to work on small, short-term goals that have more immediate outcomes. For starters, Francois suggests that they begin with working to stabilize Afghanistan after ISAF troops leave in 2014. U.S. and European policymakers should then include Russia in the discussions on other geopolitical bugaboos, including North Korea and Iran. Though it’s certainly a shift from the brusque manner in which relations with Russia have been conducted, it may be the only way for Moscow to become a responsible partner in the international system.

Iran Surprises Itself And The World
Brookings Institution
Suzanne Maloney

The U.S. and Iran have begun a series of carefully managed, behind the scenes discussions in the hopes of moving both countries towards direct talks over Tehran’s nuclear program, according to the Los Angeles Times. Timed with these talks was a quietly announced easing in Washington’s sanctions, which would allow good-will exchanges -- like humanitarian and athletic groups -- between the two countries.

However, even if direct negotiations do get off the ground, decades of history between the two countries casts a long shadow. The specter of everything from U.S support for the brutal rule of Iran’s Shah Reza Pahlavi to the 1979 revolution affects how the two countries approach each other and how they’ll look to move the relationship forward. The Brookings Institution’s Suzanne Maloney delves into the details of this complex history in a new multimedia essay, and explains how this affects the leadership of Iran’s newly elected president Hassan Rouhani. While Rouhani has been seen as a reformer in Western circles, Maloney says that he’s a president who’s been put forward by Iran’s religious leaders to help save the revolution from crumbling into obsolesence. His reforms, similar to those of his mentor and predecessor Ali Rafsanjani, are meant to stop the rot and restore the Tehran’s global standing.

Universal Data Fusion: Enabling Cost-effective US/Russia/NATO Cooperative Missile Defense
The Atlantic Council
Patrick O’Reilly

Policymakers will need to move past a series of major technical hurdles before a continent-wide missile defense system in Europe will ever function. Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, ret., the former Missile Defense Agency chief now with the Atlantic Council, says that countries building the system -- the United States, Russia and members of NATO -- need to focus on creating a set of data standards to share information from missile defense sensors if cooperative missile defense is to be achieved. The data ranges from early detection “cues,” like notification from military staff, to more sophisticated sensory information. This type of coordination would steeply reduce the cost of such a missile defense system, O’Reilly argues, while also increasing its effectiveness.

Guiding Principles of China’s New Foreign Policy
Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Zhao Kejin

As America pivots to Asia, U.S. policymakers are struggling to understand how China’s new president Xi Jinping wishes to approach relations with the rest of the world. Zhao Kejin of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy says that despite the Beijing’s reluctance to act on many issues, Xi’s leadership has demonstrated a noticeable shift in China’s approach on many issues. Until now, the U.S.-China relationship has been rife with significant friction and competition, owing mainly to flashpoints in the South China Sea and East Asia. Zhao says that China isn’t seeking war with the United States but is looking to establish a new type of great power relationship in which China pursues economic development without the alliances or hegemony. He insists that China’s aggressive military stance is a product of its rapid development, not new bellicosity.

“Although Beijing seeks peaceful development, it is China’s legitimate right to respond to any external provocation that it deems threatening to its national security,” Zhao wrote. 

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