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Crimea, China, and the Challenges of Risk Management

A Global Perspective on Risk and Strategy

Introductory Speaker: Rita E. Hauser, President, The Hauser Foundation; Chair, International Peace Institute
Speakers: Lawrence D. Freedman, Professor of War Studies, King’s College London; Author, Strategy: A History
Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Walter Russell Mead, James Clark Chase Professor in Foreign Affairs and Humanities, Bard College; Editor-at-Large, American Interest
March 24, 2014

Event Description

In the first session of CFR's symposium on Risk and Strategy for the Changing World, CFR President Richard N. Haass and Lawrence Freedman of King's College London discuss the changing perceptions of strategic risk in the post-Cold War era with Walter Russell Mead of Bard College. The dissolution of the Soviet Union marked the end of a relatively stable international system characterized by a balance between two great powers. In its place, a new landscape populated by rising regional powers, weak states, failing states, and non-state actors has profoundly changed traditional understandings of vital sovereign interests and strategic risk. The panelists highlight the crisis in Ukraine and China's maritime claims as two potential hotspots where the risk of conflict is particularly high.

This session was part of a CFR symposium, Risk and Strategy for the Changing World, which was made possible by the generous support of Rita E. Hauser, and organized in cooperation with King's College London.

Event Highlights

Lawrence Freedman on the risks and complexities of intervening in the affairs of weak states:

"I think one of the things that happened after the Cold War was that we thought it was too great a risk to let these states fail, to let them have civil wars, and so on, and we got involved. And one of the questions that's moot at the moment, I think, is this question of whether we are as prepared to accept the risks of intervention as we were in the past."

Richard Haass on the risk of the crisis in Ukraine escalating further:

"And I think particularly with Mr. Putin, one of the things about the last few weeks that has been so—I guess you could say, in a detached way, interesting, but in an undetached way—really worrisome is how poor a sense we have of his calculations. And the fundamental debate about, is he satisfied with Crimea? Does he want more?"

Lawrence Freedman on how alliances can help to clarify foreign policy interests:

"[A]lliance is deterrence. That's why you form alliances. And we should be very grateful that we have alliances at the moment in place, because this would be the worst time to be trying to put them together. The great advantage of a peacetime alliance is it does produce a sort of clarity about what really matters and what doesn't matter. So you've established straight away your core—the core of your foreign policy."

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