Council Special Reports

Council Special Reports (CSRs) are concise policy briefs that provide timely responses to developing crises or contributions to current policy dilemmas. The Studies Program commissions a CSR when events make a particular situation or conflict ripe for useful intervention and the window of opportunity is likely to close if action is not taken in a timely manner. Because a Special Report can be prepared quickly, it can have an impact when changing events create a space for useful involvement.

The Russian Economic Crisis

Author: Jeffrey Mankoff

Since 2008, Russia, like many other countries, has experienced a deep economic crisis. The question is how this crisis might affect Russia's domestic politics and foreign policy and, consequently, whether any change is warranted in U.S. policy toward Moscow. Jeffrey Mankoff argues that Russia's need to focus on repairing its economy during this global crisis gives the West an opportunity to deepen its economic engagement with Russia, which could bind Moscow more firmly to the liberal global economic order and encourage reform in both Russia and neighboring states.

See more in Financial Crises; Russian Federation


Author: Bronwyn E. Bruton

Failed states provide fertile ground for terrorism, drug trafficking, and a host of other ills that threaten to spill beyond their borders. Somalia is thus a problem not just for Somalis but for the United States and the world. Bronwyn E. Bruton takes on one of today's most vexing foreign policy challenges, offering concise analysis and thoughtful recommendations grounded in a realistic assessment of U.S. and international interests and capabilities in Somalia.

See more in Somalia; Fragile or Failed States

Intervention to Stop Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Author: Matthew C. Waxman

Recent events in Darfur raise the familiar question of whether international law facilitates the kind of early, decisive, and coherent action needed to effectively combat genocide. Matthew C. Waxman argues that putting 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.

See more in United States; Genocide; Humanitarian Intervention

The United States in the New Asia

Authors: Evan A. Feigenbaum and Robert A. Manning

For more than a decade, the United States has mostly watched from the sidelines as Asian countries organize themselves into an alphabet soup of new multilateral groups. In this report, the authors review the relationship between pan-Asian and trans-Pacific institutions and suggest policy guidelines for a new U.S. approach to this new Asian landscape. A purposeful multilateralism that pools the efforts of those with the greatest capacity, the authors argue, could make Asia a more prosperous and secure region.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Politics and Strategy; United States

Enhancing U.S. Preventive Action

Authors: Paul B. Stares and Micah Zenko

The United States can ill afford the burden of additional foreign policy challenges, making it imperative that the U.S. government find ways to identify, delay, and avert international crises that could harm U.S. interests or even lead to military engagement. In this report, the authors provide an actionable road map for how the U.S. government should revamp its existing U.S. prevention architecture to make it more effective in dealing with potential crises abroad.

See more in United States; Conflict Prevention

The Canadian Oil Sands

Author: Michael A. Levi

The Canadian oil sands present an important challenge to policymakers: they promise energy security benefits but present climate change problems. Michael A. Levi assesses the energy security and climate change effects of the oil sands and makes recommendations for U.S. policymakers within the context of broader bilateral relations with Canada.

See more in Canada; Climate Change; Oil

The National Interest and the Law of the Sea

Author: Scott G. Borgerson

Seaborne commerce remains the linchpin of the global economy. And beyond trade, a host of other issues, ranging from climate change and energy to defense and piracy, ensure that the oceans will hold considerable strategic interest well into the future. In this report, Scott G. Borgerson explores an important element of the maritime policy regime: the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. He examines the international negotiations that led to the convention, the history of debates in the United States over whether to join it, and the strategic importance of the oceans for U.S. foreign policy today.

See more in United States; Oceans; Treaties and Agreements

Eurasian Energy Security

Author: Jeffrey Mankoff

This report looks at Russia's rise as an energy power, analyzing its control of supplies and delivery systems and its investments in energy infrastructure across Europe, as well as questions about the potential of its production, recognizing that European dependence on Russian energy will be a reality well into the future and that Europe can increase its energy security only by working with--not against--Russia.

See more in Europe; Energy Policy; Russian Federation

Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea

Authors: Paul B. Stares and Joel S. Wit

North Korea has long been a serious concern to Washington. Now, with President Kim Jong-Il reportedly in bad health and possibly naming a successor, the United States must consider possible outcomes should the situation deteriorate and the current North Korean government collapse. This report examines the challenges that these scenarios would pose--ranging from securing Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal to providing humanitarian assistance--in the context of the interests of the United States and others in its valuable recommendations.

See more in North Korea; Conflict Prevention

Averting Crisis in Ukraine

Author: Steven Pifer

This report comprehensively analyzes Ukraine's difficulties, related to both domestic conditions and foreign policy, and recommends ways for the United States to encourage Ukraine on a path of stability and integration with the West.

See more in Conflict Prevention; Ukraine


Author: Anthony W. Gambino

This report lays out a thoughtful agenda for U.S. policy toward the Democratic Republic of Congo, arguing that what happens there should matter to the United States—for humanitarian reasons as well as economic and strategic ones.

See more in Congo, Democratic Republic of; Peacekeeping

Deterring State Sponsorship of Nuclear Terrorism

Author: Michael A. Levi

Unlike during the Cold War, the threat of nuclear attack now comes from rogue states that receive their weapons from sovereign nations. In this report, Michael A. Levi outlines how to discourage those nations from giving their nuclear technologies to terrorists, how to prevent accidental transfers, and the role that nuclear attribution plays in contemporary proliferation.

See more in United States; Proliferation; State Sponsors of Terrorism

China, Space Weapons, and U.S. Security

Author: Bruce W. MacDonald

In this report, Bruce W. MacDonald illuminates the strategic landscape of military space competition between the United States and China and highlights the dangers and opportunities the United States confronts in space.

See more in Space; China

Sovereign Wealth and Sovereign Power

Author: Brad W. Setser

The rise in China's trade surplus, the increase in oil prices, and a slowdown in demand for U.S. assets from private investors abroad has increased the United States' reliance on foreign governments for financing. This report examines whether the United States' ability to secure large quantities of external financing from foreign governments is a reflection of its political power, a constraint on its ability to exercise power, or a combination of the two.

See more in United States; Financial Crises

Avoiding Transfers to Torture

Author: Ashley S. Deeks

This report analyzes the debate over U.S. use of assurances against torture, explaining the contexts in which they are used, how they can be conveyed, and what they can contain, and recommends a number of ways to respond to criticism so that the United States can continue using assurances.

See more in Terrorism and the Law; United States

Global FDI Policy

Authors: David M. Marchick and Matthew J. Slaughter

In the past three years, many countries have adopted or expanded regimes to review inward foreign direct investment (FDI) for either national or economic security purposes, reducing the quantity and quality of global FDI flows. The policy recommendations in this report aim to correct this protectionist drift by proposing guidelines for how countries can better regulate FDI yet still reap its economic benefits.

See more in Global; Foreign Direct Investment

Planning for Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe

Author: Michelle D. Gavin

Since 2000, President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to tolerate challenges to his power has led him to systematically dismantle the workings of Zimbabwe’s economic and political systems, replacing them with structures of corruption, intimidation, and repression. Michelle D. Gavin surveys the current situation in Zimbabwe, identifying current structural and legal impediments to economic and political recovery.

See more in Zimbabwe; Nation Building

The Case for Wage Insurance

Author: Robert J. LaLonde

A flexible labor market and an open economy are crucial to economic competitiveness, but can sometimes cause prime-aged and older workers to suffer large, long-term income losses. This report explains why existing government programs, which emphasize retraining and insurance for short-term job loss, don't assuage workers' fears about globalization. It also proposes a shift of resources from existing programs to wage insurance.

See more in Business and Foreign Policy; Trade; United States; Labor