In this report, Matthew C. Waxman argues that an international legal regime that puts decisions about international intervention solely in the hands of the UN Security Council risks undermining the threat or use of intervention when it may be most potent in stopping mass atrocities. The features of the UN Charter that help resolve security crises peacefully make it difficult to generate the rapid action needed to deter or roll them back. Waxman urges the United States and other Security Council members to take steps to improve the responsiveness of the existing Security Council. He insists that they signal the willingness, if the UN fails to act in future mass atrocity crises, to take the necessary action to address them.
The Future of NATO argues that NATO members must recognize two features of the new security environment.First, threats are global, not local, and often are nonmilitary in nature; and second, NATO cannot manage many of these new threats on its own and must seek other partners, such as the European Union, to be effective. In addition, James M. Goldgeier maintains the alliance must come to a consensus on how to manage its relationship with an increasingly assertive Russia.
Yet while the perils of this institutional failure are obvious for domestic policy, their consequences for foreign policy are under-explored. The Constitution delegates to Congress considerable responsibility for foreign affairs, including the right to declare war, fund the military, regulate international commerce, and approve treaties. At least as important are such congressional authorities as the ability to convene hearings that provide oversight of foreign policy. A failure to perform these functions could have significant results, leaving the United States hobbled by indecision and unable to lead on critical global issues.
In this Council Special Report, Kay King, CFR's vice president for Washington initiatives, explores the political and institutional changes that have contributed to congressional gridlock and examines their consequences for foreign policy making. Some of these developments, she notes, are national trends that have developed over a number of decades. Successive redistricting efforts, for example, have all but eliminated interparty competition in some House districts, leaving the real competition to the primaries and the most ideologically driven voters. King further notes that the rising cost of elections has increased the time devoted to fundraising at the expense of substantive priorities, and the twenty-four-hour news cycle has decreased the time and incentive for reflective debate. More subtle—but equally important—institutional changes have likewise diminished Congress's effectiveness. A decline in committee chairmen's authority and expertise, tighter control over voting by party leaders, and the relaxation of traditional customs limiting the use of procedural tools to practical ends have all, she writes, led to a breakdown in comity. The consequences she highlights are both broad and significant, from delayed presidential appointments to a poorly coordinated budget process for critical foreign policy areas such as intelligence, diplomacy, and development.
Solving these well-entrenched problems will likely prove impossible, but King issues a number of recommendations that can make a difference. Congress, she writes, should restore traditional restraint in procedural maneuvering, rationalize the budget process, and revamp committee structure in both houses to better address the fast-moving, interrelated threats the United States faces today. The Executive Branch should improve its coordination and consultation with Congress, while, she concludes, the public should hold Congress accountable by becoming better informed on international issues.
As the 112th Congress takes shape during the coming months, Congress and National Security will provide sensible guidance to party leaders interested in establishing a more constructive foreign policymaking process. As the complexity and interconnectedness of the world's problems grow, there can be little doubt that such reforms are both timely and desirable.
Despite these signs of progress, it is unwise to be complacent. Even after the implementation of the New START Treaty, Obama's goal of a "world free of nuclear weapons" will remain elusive--the United States and Russia will still command enough nuclear weapons to annihilate each other several times over. In this Council Special Report, Fellow for Conflict Prevention Micah Zenko argues that reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles even further than New START treaty levels--to one thousand warheads, including tactical nuclear weapons--would be both strategically and politically advantageous. It would decrease the risk of nuclear weapons theft and nuclear attack and increase international political support for future U.S. initiatives to reduce or control nuclear warheads, all while maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.
To achieve such a significant reduction in a follow-on to the New START treaty, the United States and Russia would need to reach agreement on three long-standing and contentious issues. Tactical nuclear weapons deployments will be the most difficult of these challenges, Zenko writes, since Russia has a much larger arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons than does the United States and will therefore bear the brunt of the tactical nuclear weapons cuts. Missile defense is the second obstacle toward further significant nuclear reductions. Much work remains to secure Moscow's cooperation on--or acceptance of--the project. Finally, the United States and Russia must reach agreement on the use of nuclear vehicles for conventional weapons. It is difficult to overstate the potential danger if either country mistook a conventional missile for a nuclear one.
Toward Deeper Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons makes a thoughtful contribution to the discussion on how to build a stable future with far fewer nuclear weapons. With ongoing debate over the New START treaty in the Senate, this CSR serves as a reminder that there is more work to be done.