One of Russia’s largest military exercises begins today – and it’s targeted toward the West. Zapad, which literally means “West” in Russian, is a recurrent exercise held in Russia’s western and central districts. The last one was in 2013, just a year before Russia invaded Crimea. This year’s exercise could ...

Zapad 2017, the week-long joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise beginning September 14, has raised concerns in the West over its size and intent. Some say there will be more than 100,000 troops participating. Belarus has said only 12,700 will be involved – just under the 13,000 limit, at which point a ...

Defense and military experts from around the world have been anxiously watching the preparation phase for the mid-September Zapad 17 exercise in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia, and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, essentially a war rehearsal. Russia is expected to mobilize nearly 100,000 troops and showcase some newly ...

Beginning Thursday, as many as 100,000 Russian and Belarusian troops will launch major military exercises along the border of three NATO countries. Russia’s upcoming Zapad military exercise, which will simulate a response to an attempted overthrow of the Belarusian government by an insurgency unfriendly to Russia, has European countries and ...

As a close counterterrorism partner of Spain, the United States will be active in the ongoing investigation into the terrorist attack in Barcelona and any connected incidents. At least 13 people were killed and around 100 people injured in the deadly van attack in Las Ramblas district on Thursday. In ...

With Britain leaving the EU, concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's commitment to Europe, and an increasingly aggressive Russia, Europeans – especially the French and Germans – are bolstering their own defenses. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Jeffrey Rathke, Deputy Director of the Europe Program at the Center ...

  Relations between Turkey and the European Union – already fraught – have deteriorated swiftly over the last few months. In June, the refusal of Turkish officials to allow German parliamentarians to visit their troops stationed at the Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey, who are part of the fight ...

Turkey’s relations with the EU and place within NATO have come under increased scrutiny over the past year, especially during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign to win a constitutional referendum this April, which many saw as a power grab. Now, a row over the access of German parliamentarians to ...

In the run up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign to win a constitutional referendum this April, rhetorical vitriol between Turkey and EU countries reached historic highs, including accusations that Dutch and German politicians were “Nazi remnants.”. Now, a row over the access of German parliamentarians to Turkey's critical ...

President Donald Trump made it abundantly clear at the recent NATO heads of State meeting in Brussels that he wants to see members of the transatlantic alliance boost their military spending. Denmark, the only Nordic country that is a member of both NATO and the European Union, has been a ...

U.S. President Donald Trump shook the post-war foundation of German foreign policy: its integration into the European Union (EU) and NATO. By questioning Pax Americana and trying to divide and conquer Europe, Trump has been forcing European – and particularly German – leaders to stand up for their vital interests. ...

America’s commitment to European security is up in the air under the Trump Administration, raising the question, will Europeans have to take more responsibility for their own defense? Europe must “take our fate into our own hands,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel after President Donald Trump’s visit to Europe last ...

Donald Trump’s interactions with our European Allies and his renunciation of the Paris Climate Accords have left our Allies baffled and startled.  Faced with “America First” their reaction is to look after themselves.  Unfortunately for both President Trump and the Europeans, we’re stuck with each other.    More than anything ...

The meeting of NATO heads of state on May 25 in Brussels, dubbed the “little summit,” did not bring any breakthroughs. Still, it was far from just a routine gathering. Symbolically, it introduced the new NATO headquarters, as well as stressed the Alliance’s modernization. It was seen as a demonstration ...

Amidst the recent terror attack in Manchester, NATO’s announcement that it will formally join the fight against ISIS, and the ongoing wars in Syria and Afghanistan, outgoing Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James painted a sobering picture of the Trump Administration’s emergent policies at The Cipher Brief’s Georgetown ...

On the heels of President Donald Trump’s Middle East tour and the terror attack in Manchester outside of an Ariana Grande concert this week, Trump and his fellow European heads of state are gathering in Brussels for a NATO summit. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked former NATO Supreme Allied ...

There are many differences between the Balkans and the Middle East, but they have two things in common. Both regions are former pieces of the Ottoman Empire that have not found stability since that empire receded in the late 19th century. Both also have been objects of serial intrusion by ...

As NATO prepares to add another small Balkan country to its ranks – Montenegro is expected to join on June 5 – the region that has long been torn between the East and the West, and plagued with internal ethnic, socioeconomic, and political tensions is once again showing signs of ...

The U.S. Senate last month overwhelmingly voted for Montenegro’s accession into NATO. President Donald Trump signed off on this, writing in a letter to the Senate, “the inclusion of Montenegro in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will not have the effect of increasing the overall percentage share of the ...

French voters have a choice of two worlds May 7 between the internationalist, centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and the isolationist, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. The election could signal drastic changes to French defense and foreign policy or it could mean more of the same. Le Pen ...

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency Sunday in a landslide victory over far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen – capturing 66.1 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 33.9.  President Donald Trump tweeted, “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win... I look very much forward to working ...

French voters head to the polls Sunday to choose their next president: centrist Emmanuel Macron or far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. On the campaign trail, Le Pen has advocated closer relations with Russia and said she wants to pull France out of both the European Union and NATO. ...

Intelligence cooperation within Europe can get messy. There are national intelligence units, European Union (EU) intel structures, and ones within NATO. How all of these different institutions coordinate and share information is vital to securing the continent and has been of heightened focus with the wave of terror attacks in ...

There has been talk for decades of creating an overarching intelligence structure that works to keep the continent secure, but it has taken on new urgency with the recent increase in terror attacks in Europe.   However, doing so is easier said than done. In fact, there are legal impediments to ...

A spike in terrorist attacks in Europe over the past couple of years has reignited the debate over how to improve European intelligence collection and sharing. The ISIS-claimed terror shooting in Paris last week, which left one police officer dead and at least two others wounded, is just the latest ...

Estonia, both a European Union and NATO member, shares an entire eastern border with Russia but remains firmly embedded in the Western defense alliance. Mariin Ratnik, the head of security policy and transatlantic relations in Estonia’s Foreign Ministry, was recently in Washington for meetings with the Trump administration. The Cipher ...

Turkey has once again been very much on Europeans’ minds. This time, the issue has been about the Turkish referendum on April 16 over whether the country moves from its current parliamentary system to an executive presidency. The vote could be close, and the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, needs ...

Russia and NATO countries are going tit for tat in the Black Sea region. In 2014, Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, on the northern coast of the Black Sea. Over the past three years, Russia has militarized the area, modernizing its Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, ...

Black Sea security has become a top NATO concern since Russia’s incursion in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. A lot of Russia’s ships and aircraft being used in Syria come out of the Black Sea, Magnus Nordenman, a director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative with the Brent Scowcroft Center ...

The Romanian government has announced it will soon spend two percent of its GDP on defense, a goal set for all NATO members. Last year, NATO allies agreed to enhance defense in Romania and Bulgaria with a tailored forward presence. The Cipher Brief asked Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel-Beniamin Leş what ...

This year’s Munich Security Conference (February 17-19) brought together leaders from all over the world to discuss the current state of global affairs and the transatlantic defense partnership. Julianne Smith, Director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program at the Center for a New American Security, attended the conference. She spoke ...

Europe faced a wave of ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks last year, from Brussels to Nice to Berlin. As ISIS-occupied territories in Iraq and Syria continue to shrink under the bombardment of U.S. and coalition forces, former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin told The Cipher Brief, “I would anticipate the greatest post-caliphate ...

European-wide defense is based on two elements: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Understanding how each institution may develop in the coming years and coordinate together on defense is vital to assessing the future of European and transatlantic security. The Cipher Brief spoke with the United Kingdom’s ...

A proliferation of external threats, including terrorism and cyber attacks, combined with a fractious European Union places Europe in a vulnerable position at the start of the new year. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder sat down with former Deputy Secretary General of NATO (2012-2016) Ambassador Alexander Vershbow to discuss the ...

President Donald Trump sat down with British Prime Minister Theresa May today (Jan. 27), in his first meeting with a major world leader since taking office. Trade, a key concern for May following her nation’s vote to leave the European Union, the future of NATO, and Russia highlighted the agenda. ...

The Baltics are standing at attention when it comes to defense. By 2018, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are all set to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense – the NATO defense spending goal agreed to by all members as requisite for equal and sufficient contribution to the ...

The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are increasing their defense spending. Estonia already spends 2 percent of its GDP on defense – the NATO spending goal. Latvia and Lithuania plan to hit 2 percent in the coming years. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Lithuanian Ambassador ...

Latvia – like neighbors Estonia and Lithuania – is increasing defense spending and working to build a coordinated defense. This year, NATO member states, including the U.S., are deploying troops to be stationed in each of the Baltic nations, as a deterrence to Russia. Latvia’s State Secretary at the Ministry ...

Poland and other countries in the region – particularly NATO members located on Europe’s eastern flank – look to the new American administration with both anxiety and hope. During the election campaign, President-elect Donald Trump sent mixed messages about NATO and his willingness to maintain the same level of U.S. ...

The start of a new U.S. administration, elections across Europe in 2017 that could drastically alter politics on the continent, and an increase in the number and kinds of external threats facing the world over the past few years rattle the NATO transatlantic defense alliance. Add to that President-elect Donald ...

The future of the transatlantic defense alliance is in jeopardy, according to news reports from the past few months. It all started with then-candidate Donald Trump’s comments in March about NATO being “obsolete.” Then, in July, Trump seemed to throw into question Article 5 of the NATO treaty – the ...

Retired Gen. James Mattis called Russia the “principal threat” to the United States’ security and said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is “trying to break” the NATO alliance, starkly contrasting his views with that of President-elect Donald Trump during his Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense on Thursday. ...

From Constitutional Court reforms that make the judiciary less independent of political power to restrictions on journalists to suppressing of the opposition, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is causing a commotion within the European Union (EU). European authorities consistently make their displeasure with the Polish government actions known, ...

President-elect Donald Trump will inherit a close defense alliance with Poland when he enters the White House later this month. America is getting ready to deploy additional troops to Poland. An armored brigade combat team from Fort Carson, Colorado will be based in western Poland soon. By April, a U.S. ...

Poland’s democratic institutions are under pressure from the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS). PiS efforts to control the judiciary and media risk alienating its Western allies, which it relies on for defense and national security. The Cipher Brief spoke with Piotr Buras, Head of the European Council on ...

The attempted military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is perhaps the most important political event in Turkey of the past 16 years, and has fundamentally changed the country's internal politics and external priorities. Ambassador James Jeffrey's article, written for The Cipher Brief on July 19, explores some of ...

NATO envoys and Russia’s ambassador to the 28-nation military alliance met in Brussels on Monday, as relations between the two sides remain tense. It was their third meeting this year. In July, the Alliance announced plans to move up to 4,000 troops into Poland and the three Baltic states, to ...

In the recent past, every new U.S. administration has attempted to improve relations with Russia to address mutual security threats such as combating terrorism. Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama sought to repair damaged relations with Russia early in their administrations, but, unfortunately, their hopes were eventually ...

The Nordic countries – in particular Sweden, Finland, and Norway – are bolstering defense relations with the United States at a time when Russia had taken a more aggressive stance in Europe. In June, Sweden signed a defense agreement with the U.S., and four months later Finland and the U.S. ...

Sweden and Finland are moving closer to the western sphere of defense, while Norway has long held strong defense relations with the U.S. and NATO, as one of NATO’s founding members. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Olga Oliker, Senior Advisor and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program ...