Op-Eds

Published opinions and arguments by CFR fellows and experts.

Under Russia’s Shadow

Author: Max Boot
Weekly Standard

In the 20th century, few nations suffered as much as the Baltic republics—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Their brief taste of freedom, made possible by the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917-1918, was snuffed out in 1940 when Russian armies marched back in, this time under the banner of the commissars rather than the czars. When the German Army invaded the following year, many Balts saw them as liberators. But the cruel nature of Nazi rule soon became apparent. 

See more in Russia and Central Asia; Defense and Security

The Economic Shock of a ‘Brexit’

Author: Sebastian Mallaby
Washington Post

For the first time since the start of Britain’s referendum fight over Europe, the polls predict “Brexit.” The four most recent national surveys put the “Leave” side ahead with margins of between one and 10 percentage points. Most people, including many disaffected Britons who want to shake up the system by backing a Brexit, understand that this would mean a political and economic shock. But they underestimate its severity.

See more in United Kingdom; International Organizations and Alliances; Economics

Iran’s Holocaust Denial Is Part of a Malevolent Strategy

Authors: Ray Takeyh and Reuel Marc Gerecht
Washington Post

The Islamic Republic of Iran held another Holocaust cartoon festival this month, inviting the usual despicable cast of characters. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarifassured the New Yorker that although the event would proceed, Iran would ensure that the “people who have preached racial hatred and violence will not be invited.” Evidently, Zarif believes there are Holocaust deniers who do not harbor “racial hatred.”

See more in Iran; Politics and Strategy

The World Economy Is Running on Monetary Fumes

Authors: Benn Steil and Emma Smith
PBS NewsHour

Benn Steil’s May 20 op-ed on the PBS NewsHour Making$ense site, co-authored with Emma Smith, explains the practical and political barriers to further monetary or fiscal loosening in nations representing at least 60 percent of the global economy.  This spells trouble ahead if economic conditions worsen.

See more in Global; Monetary Policy

An Earful for Vladimir Putin in Latest ‘Direct Line’ Call-In Show

Author: Stephen Sestanovich
Wall Street Journal

It’s easy to snicker at Vladimir Putin’s annual televised call-in extravaganza, known as “Direct Line.” The show’s campy, “Dear Leader” deference would hardly be greater if Kim Jong Un were its star. Still, Mr. Putin’s performance is a valuable political barometer. The questions allowed and the answers they generate tell us how the Kremlin views the country’s mind and mood.

See more in Russian Federation; Presidents and Chiefs of State

Donald Trump vs. Barack Obama on Nuclear Weapons in East Asia

Author: Stephen Sestanovich
Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump broke a lot of foreign-policy crockery last week. President Barack Obama dressed him down for encouraging South Korea and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons. NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, has criticized him too. Academics trying to parse Mr. Trump’s statements can’t figure out which “school” of foreign-policy thinking he belongs to. (So far, my favorite scholarly comment has been: “There is no indication that Trump understands the workings of balance of power theory…” Of course, there is no indication that Mr. Trump cares about the workings of any theories—and no real danger that he subscribes to them.)

See more in United States; Elections; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Why Is Paul Krugman Still Calling for Fiscal Stimulus?

Author: Benn Steil
Weekly Standard

Benn Steil’s latest op-ed in The Weekly Standard examines Paul Krugman’s continuing calls for fiscal stimulus, as well as his defense of government wage intervention and mercantilism.  These have all been grounded in the assertion that the United States is in a “liquidity trap,” in which monetary policy is ineffective.  Steil explains why the theory of liquidity traps is logically inapplicable when the central bank’s policy rate is positive, as it has been in the United States since December, and concludes that it operates as a fig leaf behind which to advocate policies with less scientific rationales.

See more in United States; Monetary Policy

The Trump-Sanders China Syndrome

Authors: Benn Steil and Emma Smith
Wall Street Journal

Benn Steil’s op-ed in the March 30 edition of the Wall Street Journal, co-authored with Emma Smith, looks at presidential campaign charges that China is engaged in “currency manipulation” to boost net exports.  They show that the aims of China’s pegged exchange rate regime have varied over the past two decades, and have not always been mercantilist. In recent months, with capital flowing out of China at a prodigious rate, its interventions have been to keep its currency up—not down.  Launching a trade war with China over currency management, as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders intend, would therefore be nonsensical—as well as damaging to U.S. interests.

See more in China; United States; Monetary Policy; Elections

Preparing for Change

Author: Daniel S. Markey
The Cipher Brief

For over six decades, the United States and Pakistan have suffered through a tormented and often tumultuous relationship, one defined at its apex by wartime alliance and at its nadir by stiff U.S. sanctions. In many ways, the period since 9/11 has mirrored that longer history, with expectations inflated and dashed, overblown rhetoric, and in the end, more frustration than satisfaction.

See more in United States; Pakistan; Diplomacy and Statecraft