Thomas R. Pickering

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Near the frontline in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 2023. Lisi Niesner / Reuters

Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine continues unabated. Seesawing military actions alternate with on-again, off-again interest in peace negotiations. But no clear end is in sight. Neither side has a realistic expectation of military victory or unconditional surrender.

All parties to the conflict have made clear that they believe it is too soon for diplomacy. But at some point, the time will come for negotiations, and it is essential that the United States plans carefully for that day. Failure to do so will condemn Washington to a hurried and poorly thought-through approach to ending the war—a mistake the United States has made in every serious conflict it has become embroiled in since 1945.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks past burning waste on a road between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, on 23 November 23 2020, after the intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the area. FADEL SENNA / AFP

The resumption of hostilities in Western Sahara exacerbates the plight of tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees and fuels conflict in North Africa, the Sahel and Europe. The UN Security Council, months after fighting has restarted, has yet to take a clear stance to address the crisis. It is time now for Washington to act and place a higher priority on resolving the conflict. Given its influence over both parties, the U.S. has a special responsibility ahead of an important Council meeting on the disputed territory this month.

Morocco and the Polisario Front have been locked in a conflict over Western Sahara since 1975.…  Seguir leyendo »

El conflicto de larga data en Yemen está más maduro que nunca para lograr una solución. Los distintos bandos yemeníes han quedado exhaustos por la lucha y aceptaron rápidamente el llamado en marzo de António Guterres, secretario general de las Naciones Unidas, a un alto el fuego mundial por la pandemia de la COVID-19. El mes siguiente, la coalición en Yemen liderada por los sauditas anunció un alto el fuego unilateral de dos semanas, que luego extendió.

Los bandos enfrentados ya lograron avances significativos hacia un acuerdo de alto el fuego en negociaciones coordinadas por el enviado especial para Yemen de la ONU, Martin Griffiths.…  Seguir leyendo »

Change and new opportunities rarely arrive on our doorstep. The new US administration will be challenged widely. Diplomacy, not war, is the only way to convert these challenges into opportunities.

Peace in the Middle East is among the most difficult issues facing President Trump and his administration. Israel and its vital relationship with the US sits at the center of that challenge.

The US cannot force peace on Israel or the Palestinians. It may be in their interest to help find that peace, but it is an issue of the same vital interest to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Trump faces a Middle East in turmoil.…  Seguir leyendo »

The crisis over Ukraine has all but frozen official communication between the United States and Russia. The Russian reaction to the political upheaval in Kiev — the absorption of Crimea, and the armed intervention in eastern Ukraine — and the American responses to those actions have brought about a near-complete breakdown in normal and regular dialogue between Washington and Moscow. Relations between the two capitals have descended into attempts by each side to pressure the other, tit-for-tat actions, shrill propaganda statements, and the steady diminution of engagement between the two governments and societies.

Reports from the NATO summit meeting that ended in Newport, Wales, on Friday indicate that the United States and its allies will respond to Russia’s intervention and violence in Ukraine with an escalation of their own — including further sanctions, enhanced military presence in front-line states, and possibly greater support for Ukraine’s armed forces.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Arab proverb advises, “A problem is solved when it gets tougher.”

Illustrating that point, the advance in Iraq and Syria of the Islamic State poses a threat to the United States while clarifying choices for U.S. policymakers. The question confronting the United States and Iran is no longer whether to work together but how to do so. And in light of decades of distrust and animosity, communications between the two countries can be greatly facilitated by reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement in talks underway in Vienna. Failure, however, would leave only bad options.

If the Islamic State is to be contained, the United States and other nations will have to reconsider past policies and manage enmities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iceland's long-isolated existence was broken by World War II and the Cold War when its strategic location at the gateway to the North Atlantic and the Arctic were key to the defense of NATO and the United States. But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union the island country seemed again to pass into irrelevance, and in 2006 the last American military aircraft were withdrawn from the Keflavik Air Base. Now the situation is changing again, as the melting north polar ice opens new ocean routes and access to vast natural resources.

According to a 2008 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey, 13 percent of all the unexploited oil, 30 percent of natural gas and 20 percent of the natural gas liquid resources are located under the seabed of the Arctic.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Group of 20, which brings together countries that account for more than 80 percent of world economic activity, was born in the global financial crisis of 2008. By reaching across the divide between developed and developing countries it created a forum more consistent with the pattern of international relations in the 21st century, and by limiting attendance to a smaller number than the other global multilateral bodies, it sought to escape from the unwieldy inertia of their decision-making processes.

At its early meetings the G-20 did good work. It helped to calm the panic that had swept financial markets following the collapse of Lehman Brothers; it identified some of the remedies needed to avoid repeating the mistakes that had led to the crisis; and it showed that the interdependence of the world could be matched by common purpose and effort.…  Seguir leyendo »

Adlai Stevenson once advised that "to act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the true test of a man — and also of a nation." In the face of Iran's potential for becoming a nuclear weapons state and a threat to Israel, U.S. leaders would be smart to follow Stevenson's advice and act prudently and intelligently.

There is little doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose dangerous challenges to U.S. interests and security, as well as to the security of Israel. There is no question of the seriousness of the problems presented by Iran's nuclear program or the need to consider the use of military force as a last resort.…  Seguir leyendo »

“If you deal in camels, make the doors high,” an Afghan proverb cautions. As the dangers mount in the confrontation between the United States and Iran, both sides will have to raise the doors high for diplomacy to work, and to avoid conflict.

A diplomatic strategy must begin with the United States’ setting its priorities and then defining a practical path to achieve them. To achieve its top priorities, it will have to learn what Iran needs. Since the United States will not get total surrender from Iran, it must decide what it can put on the table to assure that both sides can reach a deal that will be durable.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

— Archibald MacLeish, 1945,preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO

The American people hear from government officials and presidential candidates nearly every day about military action against Iran. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said that the United States and Israel would not allow Iran to get a bomb. Are these words standard fare for an election year? A strategy to restrain Israel from unilateral action? Or do these threats signify that war is in the “minds of men”?

Conservative ideologues taste the possibility that a leader whom they might influence may return to the White House.…  Seguir leyendo »

Despite the American-led counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, the Taliban resistance endures. It is not realistic to think it can be eradicated. Efforts by the Afghan government, the United States and their allies to win over insurgents and co-opt Taliban leaders into joining the Kabul regime are unlikely to end the conflict.

The current strategy of “reintegration” may peel away some fighters and small units, but it does not provide the political resolution that peace will require.

Neither side of the conflict can hope to vanquish the other through force. Meanwhile, public support in Western countries for keeping troops in Afghanistan has fallen.…  Seguir leyendo »

When we, former American ambassadors to Moscow and Russian or Soviet ambassadors to Washington, last came together in September 2008, the U.S.-Russia relationship had reached a post-Cold War low point. We urged immediate attention to setting a new course that would restore effective cooperation.

At a recent meeting, we concluded that the two-year reset of policy undertaken by the American and Russian governments has gone a great way toward a comprehensive revival of cooperation on security and economic issues and toward establishing a framework to manage working-level cooperation between the sides.

Our presidents have signed the New Start treaty, and the “123 agreement” on civilian nuclear cooperation has been resubmitted to the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Friday the United States will experience its first review by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The examination of its performance on human rights gives Americans an opportunity to assess their own country’s standing in promoting the liberties enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to find out what other U.N. members think of U.S. accomplishments in this arena.

Every U.N. member is subject to the review every four years whether the country is part of the Human Rights Council or not. Since the meeting is the first assessment for the United States, it will undoubtedly be watched with special interest.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every day that Gen. Pervez Musharraf refuses to reverse his imposition of martial law and restore Pakistan's constitution brings another round of disturbing reports -- lawyers beaten, journalists arrested, mass protests for democracy crushed -- and another day of embarrassment for the military government's foreign backers. The Bush administration's aims of securing support for the "war on terror" and stability for a nuclear power will continue to be right, but as a nation of 160 million people rapidly frays under repression, it will only become more obvious that military dictatorship is not the answer.

This realization is already settling in. Many in the Bush administration and Congress have been sending clear messages of disapproval to Musharraf.…  Seguir leyendo »

For more than 200 years, the courts have served as the ultimate safeguard for our civil liberties. A critical part of this role has been the judicial branch's ability to consider writs of habeas corpus, through which people who have been imprisoned can challenge the decision to hold them in government custody. In this way, habeas corpus has provided an important check on executive power. However, because of a provision of the Military Commissions Act passed last fall, this fundamental role of the courts has been seriously reduced.

Habeas corpus -- the Great Writ -- has been the preeminent safeguard of individual liberty for centuries by providing meaningful judicial review of executive action and ensuring that our government has complied with the Constitution and the laws of the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »