US military 'losing its competitive edge'

The USS Indiana, a nuclear-powered US Navy Virginia-class fast attack submarine, departs Port Canaveral in Florida on October 1, 2018 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The US Navy needs to expand its submarine fleet, the report recommends

A panel of experts has issued a hard-hitting and sober assessment of US President Donald Trump's National Defense Strategy.

"The global role the United States has played for many generations rests upon a foundation of unmatched military power," its report says.

"Today however, our margin of superiority is profoundly diminished in key areas."

"There are," the study insists, "urgent challenges that must be addressed if the United States is to avoid lasting damage to its national security."

The National Defense Strategy Commission was tasked by Congress to give an independent, non-partisan review of the Trump administration's defence strategy. It was chaired by Eric Edelman, a former Pentagon official in George W Bush's administration, and Admiral Gary Roughead, a former chief of naval operations. These are insiders who know their way around a defence budget, as well as the corridors of the Pentagon.

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Trump re-imposes Iran sanctions: Now what?

Donald Trump signs a document reinstanted sanctions Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Donald Trump has signed a document that reinstates sanctions against Iran

The re-imposition of the full panoply of sanctions against Iran that were waived under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement marks a high-point for President Donald Trump's foreign policy.

He had long objected to the agreement, which was seen by most analysts as one of the more significant foreign policy achievements of his predecessor Barack Obama.

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Why is Germany beefing up its military?

  • 18 October 2018
  • From the section Europe
Bundeswehr soldiers stand guard during a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin Image copyright Getty Images

In the face of new challenges, Germany is recommitting itself to the Nato alliance. But what will playing a more central military role mean to a country that has often been accused of reluctance about its armed forces?

It was an unseasonably mild morning as the Sun rose slowly over the training range at Pabrade in Lithuania. This is effectively Nato's eastern front. Belarus is just a few kilometres away, with Russia beyond.

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Is Russia taking control of Syria's air defences?

Russian defence ministry handout showing S-300 surface-to-air missile system taking part in Vostok 2018 (East 2018) military exercise in Russia (13 September 2018) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Russia said the S-300 system would "significantly increase the Syrian army's capabilities"

Russia has been talking about selling the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria for almost a decade.

But it was never delivered; a product of Israeli diplomatic efforts and a certain indifference from Moscow towards Israel's air campaign over Syria.

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Will Idlib spell the end of Syria's war?

A man rides a motorcycle along a street past the damaged former Carlton Hotel building that serves as a Syrian Red Crescent hospital, in the rebel-held northern Syrian city of Idlib Image copyright Getty Images

Syria's north-western province of Idlib is the last major area under rebel control. Over the course of the fighting it has become home to huge numbers of internally displaced people.

Around three million are now concentrated in this largely rural region. A series of deals have allowed rebel fighters from other areas to move there too, as the Syrian government has consolidated its hold over large swathes of the country.

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A Turkish headache for the West

  • 26 August 2018
  • From the section Europe
Donald Trump with Turkey's President Erdogan Image copyright EPA

Turkey matters to the West but the question now being asked in Washington and in several European capitals is "just how much?"

Some US commentators go even further, wondering if Turkey should rightly be described as a strategic ally of the United States at all.

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Can Nato survive US President Donald Trump?

  • 11 July 2018
  • From the section Europe
US soldiers stand by Abrams Battle Tanks bearing the US flag prior to the opening ceremony of the joint multinational military exercise "Noble Partner 2017" Image copyright Getty Images

This is a Nato summit like no other. The difference is in large part due to one man - Donald Trump. Under his watch, periodic tensions between the US and many of its allies have turned into fault-lines that could, if allowed to widen, place a question mark over the future of the alliance itself.

What is Nato for?

From its inception, Nato was a defensive military alliance intended to deter any attack by the then Soviet Union.

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Chemical weapons: New watchdog powers an important step

  • 27 June 2018
  • From the section Europe
A UN chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria in 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The findings of inspectors can now include who carried out the attacks

This is an important step forward for arms control.

It strengthens the unravelling consensus against the use of chemical weapons. It marks a victory for the rules-based international order, which itself is under increasing strain given the rise of populists and nationalism in many countries.

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Trump Kim summit: What did it actually achieve?

US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) walk toward one another at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on 12 June 2018. Image copyright AFP

Now that the dust has settled on the Trump-Kim summit, it is worth taking a moment to assess what, if anything, was achieved. President Trump certainly does diplomacy differently.

This was his event - in his view, his success - and as far as he is concerned, the North Korean nuclear problem is well on the way to resolution.

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Nato's painful homecoming

  • 7 June 2018
  • From the section Europe
Nato's new headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: May 2018 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Nato's new headquarters in Brussels looks like several giant launch ramps

Past civilisations erected great monuments to show their power and influence, and in a sense Nato's brand new glass and steel headquarters building in Brussels is similarly intended to send a signal of the alliance's potency and relevance as tensions with a resurgent Russia once again dominate its agenda.

The building's sweeping lines - it looks like several giant launch-ramps or ski-jumps fused together - sends out a clinical message of modernity and efficiency.

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