Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

Now Is the Time to Strengthen NATO’s Resolve

by Michael R. Fenzel and Aaron Picozzi Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) attend a meeting on Russian air force's activity in Syria at the national defence control center in Moscow, Russia, November 17, 2015.  (Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin/Courtesy Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) attend a meeting on Russian air force's activity in Syria at the national defence control center in Moscow, Russia, November 17, 2015. (Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin/Courtesy Reuters)

By Michael Fenzel and Aaron Picozzi

The November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and late October bombing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268 have not only crystallized the threat of the self-declared Islamic State to the world, but also created an unlikely opportunity to open a dialogue with Russia. However, these tragedies do not change the long-term threat Russia poses to stability in Europe. Russia’s encroachment in Eastern Europe is a threat to the security and stability of the continent and tests the resolve of NATO in an unprecedented way. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent military intervention in Syria is further evidence of his ambition to broaden Russian influence and capitalize on regional instability.

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With Naval Strikes into Syria, Russia Is Now Messaging with Missiles

by Sean R. Liedman Thursday, October 8, 2015
On October 7, Russian warships launched twenty-eight cruise missiles into Syria from the landlocked Caspian Sea. (Russian Ministry of Defense/YouTube) On October 7, Russian warships launched twenty-eight cruise missiles into Syria from the landlocked Caspian Sea. (Russian Ministry of Defense/YouTube)

By Sean Liedman

The Russian Navy’s initial firing of twenty-six cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea into Syria yesterday generated little effect on the Syrian battlefield—but that may not be the primary objective. Russian President Vladimir Putin capitalized on this opportunity to showcase this new sea-based, long range precision strike capability as a strategic messaging tool aimed at a variety of audiences: Read more »

Six Questions That Should Now Guide U.S. Defense Planning in Syria and Iraq

by Emerson Brooking Monday, October 5, 2015
Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform during the Aviadarts military aviation competition at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform during the Aviadarts military aviation competition at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking

Into one of the most complex conflicts in modern history, Russia has leapt seemingly overnight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has waded in like the Donald Trump of geopolitics: brash, disruptive, and unbowed by international criticism. This combination, fresh fuel for the Syrian tinderbox, will drastically raise the risk of military miscalculation.

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Vladimir Putin’s Naval Ambitions Have Only Begun

by Sean R. Liedman Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during celebrations for Navy Day as it rains in Baltiysk, Kaliningrad region, Russia, July 26, 2015. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin, Courtesy Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during celebrations for Navy Day as it rains in Baltiysk, Kaliningrad region, Russia, July 26, 2015. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin, Courtesy Reuters)

By Sean Liedman

Defense in Depth is proud to welcome Captain Sean R. Liedman, U.S. Navy, who will be serving as a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations for the 2015-2016 term. Today, he assesses recent shifts in Russian naval planning and deployment, and considers what might come next.

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The New Republican Congress (II): In Foreign Policy Debates Ahead, Look to Echoes of ’06

by Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking Thursday, November 6, 2014
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the start of the Army versus Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 6, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President George W. Bush (R) is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the start of the Army versus Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 6, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

As Democrats lick their wounds following Tuesday’s midterms, President Obama will no doubt be contemplating the messages the electorate was trying to send. Breaking gridlock and “getting stuff done” might be a good place to start. This seems to have been where President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush started eight years ago following a similar shellacking in the midterms during his second term.  Bush seized the moment for one of the most significant foreign policy shifts of his tenure. It’s worth the look back as we contemplate the Obama administration’s next steps.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS (II): Military Partnerships Will Be the Deciding Factor

by Clint Hinote Tuesday, October 14, 2014
F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters) F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He discusses the role of military partnerships in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, drawing on his own experience as an Air Force weapons and tactics instructor. According to Col. Hinote, international participation—particularly by Arab partner nations—will prove a critical component of the strategy to dismantle ISIS. This piece follows Col Hinote’s previous discussion of the utility of air strikes.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS: Understanding What Air Strikes Can Do—and What They Can’t

by Clint Hinote Tuesday, September 30, 2014
A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria in this September 26, 2014 photo released on September 29, 2014. These aircraft were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria. (Russ Scalf/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria in this September 26, 2014 photo released on September 29, 2014. These aircraft were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria. (Russ Scalf/Courtesy Reuters)

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He assesses the use and utility of targeted air strikes against ISIS, particularly against their Syrian base of operations, in the context of evolving air power targeting doctrine. He argues that the debate over whether or not U.S. air power will “destroy” ISIS largely misses the point as to the function and intent of these strikes. Disrupting the organization’s infrastructure and assets will refute its claim to “statehood,” blunting its momentum in the process.

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The Anti-ISIS Campaign Has Expanded Into Syria. What Comes Next?

by Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking Tuesday, September 23, 2014
isis-syria-cruise-missile A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched against ISIL targets from the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, in the Red Sea September 23, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez Ii/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

On September 22, the air campaign against ISIS expanded into Syria in a coordinated attack that included 47 Tomahawk missiles and nearly 50 coalition aircraft. This action had been all but inevitable since the commencement of overflight reconnaissance in Syria on August 26. Significantly, these strikes also included targets of the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate unrelated to ISIS. Also significantly, five Arab militaries—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qatar—participated in the operation. At this stage, there are three important questions to address: the targeting of the strikes, the implications of this action, and potential challenges that might await the operation moving forward.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS Is About To Get A Lot Bigger

by Janine Davidson Thursday, September 18, 2014
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey look at a map showing Islamic State ambition as they testify during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State on Capitol Hill in Washington September 16, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey look at a map showing Islamic State ambition as they testify during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State on Capitol Hill in Washington September 16, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

It has now become a question of when, not if, the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will expand into Syria.  As I wrote at the beginning of August, the Islamic State has enjoyed a strong and unmolested base of operations from which to coordinate its offensive in Iraq.  If not attacked on that turf, the terrorist organization will continue grow and strengthen. Effective military operations against ISIS—even those short term efforts to stop ISIS momentum—must include operations in Syria to eliminate ISIS sanctuaries.

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As Mission Against ISIS Widens, Three Points to Guide U.S. Operations

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, August 26, 2014
A U.S. F/A-18A+ Hornet prepares to launch off the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Gulf south of Iraq in this photo released March 6, 2005. The same aircraft has been employed with increasing frequency in operations against the Islamic State, begun August 7, 2014. (Airman Ryan O'Connor/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. F/A-18A+ Hornet prepares to launch off the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Gulf south of Iraq in this photo released March 6, 2005. The same aircraft has been employed with increasing frequency in operations against the Islamic State, begun August 7, 2014. (Airman Ryan O'Connor/Courtesy Reuters)

Last night, President Obama authorized both manned and unmanned surveillance flights over Syria as a potential precursor to air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). This action suggests that U.S. policymakers have come to the conclusion that the border between Iraq and Syria will no longer be a barrier to U.S. operations.

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