Task Force Reports

CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force reports offer analysis and policy prescriptions of major foreign policy issues facing the United States, developed through private deliberations among a diverse and distinguished group of experts.

To learn more about Independent Task Forces, click here.

U.S. Policy Toward Northeastern Europe

During the Cold War Northeastern Europe was a strategic backwater and received relatively little attention in U.S. policy. However, since the end of the Cold War, the region has become an important focal point of U.S. policy. The Clinton administration gave Northeastern Europe high priority and viewed the region as a laboratory for promoting closer regional cooperation and reknitting Europe, both East and West, into a more cohesive economic and political unit. Its policy was also designed to reach out to Russia and to include Russia in regional cooperation arrangements in Northeastern Europe.

See more in Europe; Politics and Strategy

The Future of Transatlantic Relations

Notable opportunities exist for the U.S.-European relationship to help mold the twenty-first century’s international system. Despite the absence of the Soviet threat, the two sides of the Atlantic continue to share enduring vital interests and face a common set of challenges both in Europe and beyond. These challenges are so many and diverse that neither the United States nor the allies can adequately address these regional and global concerns alone, especially in light of growing domestic constraints on the implementation of foreign policy. Thus, promoting shared interests and managing common threats to the West in the years ahead will necessitate not only continued cooperation, but a broader and more comprehensive transatlantic partnership than in the past.

See more in Europe; United States; Politics and Strategy

U.S.-Cuban Relations in the 21st Century

Having contained Cuban support for revolution in Latin America and perceiving signs of strong stirrings of a new civil society in Cuba, the United States should take steps to “contribute to rapid, peaceful, democratic transition in Cuba while safeguarding the vital interests of the United States.” This policy conclusion and a set of specific actions were recommended by an independent Task Force made up of both liberals and conservatives and chaired by Bernard W. Aronson and William D. Rogers.

See more in Cuba; Diplomacy and Statecraft

After the Tests

The spring 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests made South Asia and the world a more dangerous place, says this independent Task Force report. It recommends that the immediate objectives of U.S. foreign policy should be to encourage India and Pakistan to cap their nuclear capabilities at or near their current levels and to reinforce the global effort to stem the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems. At the same time, the Task Force emphasizes that the United States has important interests in South Asia in addition to those relating to proliferation. Those include preventing conflict, promoting democracy, expanding economic growth, trade, and investment, and cooperating with India and Pakistan on global challenges.

See more in India; Pakistan; Proliferation

Managing Change on the Korean Peninsula

The Korean peninsula remains one of the most heavily armed and dangerous places in the world. Despite its deteriorating economy, North Korea retains a standing army of over one million men and an enormous arsenal of artillery and missiles, most of them as close to Seoul, the South Korean capital, as Dulles Airport is to downtown Washington, DC. In 1994, the United States and North Korea almost went to war over the North’s nuclear program. Since then, Washington and Seoul have attempted to cap North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through the Agreed Framework, but the threat from the North remains.

See more in South Korea; North Korea; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Promoting U.S. Economic Relations with Africa

In 1997, Washington paid unprecedented attention to Africa and its continental rebirth. Both then-First Lady Hillary Clinton and then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright toured the continent. President Clinton unveiled the “Partnership for Growth and Opportunity in Africa” to promote greater trade and investment in the region.

See more in Trade; Foreign Aid; Africa (sub-Saharan)

U.S. Middle East Policy and the Peace Process

The collapse of confidence between Israelis and Palestinians over the past year and the ability of opponents of peace on both sides to exploit incremental measures to their advantage have brought the Middle East peace process to a dangerous impasse. The chief principles of U.S. policy are no longer effective: Incrementalism, far from building confidence, threatens to undermine it further; and an American role limited to facilitation will not enable the parties to resume successful negotiations. Therefore, intensive diplomatic efforts by the United States are needed to join the parties in the hopes of establishing a new Declaration of Principles, which would set the framework for final-status negotiations.

See more in Palestine; Israel; Africa (sub-Saharan); Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights

Differentiated Containment

The Persian Gulf is one of the few regions whose importance to the United States is obvious. The flow of Gulf oil will continue to be crucial to the economic well-being of the industrialized world for the foreseeable future; developments in the Gulf will have a critical impact on issues ranging from Arab-Israeli relations and religious extremism to terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. Every president since Richard Nixon has recognized that ensuring Persian Gulf security and stability is a vital U.S. interest.

See more in Iraq; Iran; Politics and Strategy

Russia, Its Neighbors, and an Enlarging NATO

NATO’s decision to enlarge comes at a time of historic opportunity. With this growth, NATO will issue invitations to additional European states, thereby extending and reinforcing the zone of stability that Western Europe has enjoyed for 50 years to some of the continent’s most fought-over territory. However, Russian leaders see the enlargement of NATO as a threat not only to Russian security but also to the success of Russia’s transformation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the face of continued Russian opposition to enlargement, it is imperative that the Unites States strive to improve NATO-Russian relations and to assure the country of its security and role in the face of a new Europe.

See more in Russian Federation; NATO

Rethinking International Drug Control

Despite the growing severity of the drug abuse problem in the United States and evidence that supply-control programs are ineffective, the supply-side approach to drug control has endured. This task force examined interdiction and source country programs in terms of their impact on the domestic availability of the targeted illicit drugs. The group's report, Rethinking International Drug Control, urged policymakers to reassess the effectiveness of interdiction and the certification process, and to consider adopting a strategy that focuses on strengthening democratic institutions at home and abroad, developing multilateral drug-control efforts, and reducing domestic demand.

See more in Drug Trafficking and Control; United States

Financing America's Leadership

An Independent Task Force convened by the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations was asked to assess the consequences of this trend and to make appropriate recommendations. In its Statement, the Task Force concludes that the cuts adversely affect the ability of the United States to protect and promote its economic, diplomatic, and strategic agendas abroad. Unless the trend is reversed, American vital interests will be jeapordized.

See more in Foreign Aid; United States

A New U.S. Policy Toward India and Pakistan

Author: Gideon Rose

The time has come to rethink the U.S. approach to the Indo-Pakistani nuclear rivalry, says a Council-sponsored independent Task Force. Instead of continuing the current oplicy of trying to roll back India's and Pakistan's de faco nuclear capabilities, the United States should work with both countries to pursue more limited but potentially achievable objectives, such as to discourage nuclear testing, nuclear weapons deployment, and the export of nuclear weapon or missile related material and technology.

See more in Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament; Pakistan; India

Arms Control and the U.S.-Russian Relationship

Five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and Russia stand at a crossroads on arms control. Many of the arms control regimes established by Republican and Democratic administrations are under serious challenge in both countries, with the potential to damage U.S. security. With these concerns in mind, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom joined together to sponsor an independent Task Force on U.S.-Russian arms control. The Task Force brief was to assess current and evolving political-military circumstances and the arms control regimes, and to recommend a U.S. policy for the next 12 months. In effect, the Task Force was asked how Americans in particular should think about arms control in the wake of the Cold War’s end and its importance, how to preserve what was worth preserving, and how to change what might need to be changed.

See more in Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament; Russian Federation

Lessons of the Mexican Peso Crisis

What the United States and the international community have done for Mexico is unique. No other country, with the exception of Canada, could muster such support from the U.S. government. The Mexican peso crisis, therefore, is not a bell weather of currency troubles in emerging economies or a model of how such problems are likely to be handled.

See more in Financial Crises

Making Intelligence Smarter

This report offers judgments and makes recommendations on some of the most important questions affecting the future of U.S. national security: priorities for intelligence collection, the role of economic intelligence, improving analysis and increasing its impact, the future of clandestine activities, reorganizing the intelligence community, intelligence ties with both the military and law enforcement, and congressional and public oversight.

See more in Intelligence

Managing the Taiwan Issue

This report considers a number of important trends that are shaping the Sino-American-Taiwan relationship, evaluates U.S. interests in this relationship, and arrives at a set of recommendations for the United States concerning how it should define its priorities and assert its interests with respect to this potentially volatile situation in the Taiwan Strait.

See more in China; Taiwan; Conflict Prevention

Non-Lethal Technologies

The U.S. approach to international conflicts in the post-Cold War period—how we think about them and what actions we take—is enormously affected by America's capabilities to quell them by diplomatic, economic, and military means. To date, the United States has been trapped between classic diplomatic table-thumping and indiscriminate economic sanctions on the one hand, and major military intervention on the other hand. But a new and effective middle option may emerge in the future, one that could lend weight to U.S. crisis diplomacy in situations such as the conflict in Kosovo and offer new capabilities for pressuring adversaries or fighting wars with minimal loss of life. This potential new option could come in the form of non-lethal warfare.

See more in Americas; Defense Technology

Should NATO Expand?

Americans and Europeans can fairly debate whether NATO should expand in the near term or proceed with formal expansion only if Russia again seems to pose a military threat to Central Europe. In much the same way as NATO helped the democracies of Western Europe recover from the devastation of World War II, it now should provide the sense of reassurance and community needed to help the democracies of Central Europe recover from the Cold War, while taking care not to antagonize Moscow in the hopes that the U.S. forges a cooperative relationship with Russia.

See more in NATO; Europe

Success or Sellout

This report—the result of an expert bipartisan task force—traces the history of the negotiations, explains what the accord contains, what it requires from the parties, and provides responses to commonly raised questions and criticisms. It also suggests some guidelines for the United States, South Korea, and Japan as they implement the agreement—or protect themselves against its failure.

See more in Americas; Weapons of Mass Destruction; North Korea