We asked Carnegie’s directors to each select one piece published by their programs that they felt stood out or best represented the program’s work for the year. Their selections are below.

Africa

Africa’s Infrastructure-Led Growth Experiment Is Faltering. It Is Time to Focus on Agriculture.” by David Ndii

In recent years, many policy experts have focused on a lack of infrastructure across Africa as a key bottleneck to economic growth. Several domestic and international initiatives have risen in an attempt to alleviate this issue. But what if the problem is not infrastructure but rather agricultural productivity? Ndii, a prominent Kenyan economist, argues in this paper that the focus on infrastructure-led growth in Africa has been a mistaken attempt to replicate the success of the Asian Tigers and that African countries instead should look to Latin America for development models. The key argument centers around the relative abundance of land versus low-wage labor in Africa—the opposite of the Asian Tigers’ situation. Ndii emphasizes that a focus on agricultural productivity has far greater potential for inducing growth.

This is the first paper in our new Africa Investments Debates series that seeks to recenter the discourse on the perspectives and needs of African countries. Over the coming months, we will publish more essays from Africa’s leading intellectuals and policy experts on the continent’s specific investment needs to position it on a path of prosperity and to source the needed financing in a sustainable manner.

—Zainab Usman, Africa Program director

American Statecraft

The Ukraine War Shows How the Nature of Power Is Changing” by Jennifer Kavanagh

This piece explains how military and nonmilitary power are jointly shaping the course of the war in Ukraine. Kavanaugh uses a fresh theoretical perspective to explain in concrete terms how interdependence, forms of power that blur the lines between hard and soft power, and the autonomous actions of nonstate groups are all having an impact. This was one of the Statecraft program’s most widely read commentaries of the year on the website and boasted broad readership across America, Asia, and Europe.

—Christopher S. Chivvis, American Statecraft Program director

Asia

How We Would Know When China Is Preparing to Invade Taiwan” by John Culver

Moscow’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has refocused attention on whether and when Beijing might possibly invade Taiwan. Among policymakers in Washington and military planners in Hawaii, the sense of urgency has ratcheted up considerably, with several U.S. admirals warning darkly that an invasion could come in very short order. But in contrast to this gathering conventional wisdom, John Culver, the CIA’s former top analyst of the Chinese military, urges caution. In this essay, Culver traces the indicators and warning signs that would suggest Beijing is actually planning an invasion.

—Evan Feigenbaum, vice president for studies, Asia

Democracy, Conflict, and Governance

Five Strategies to Support U.S. Democracy” by Rachel Kleinfeld

While democracy is in decline in many parts of the world, the plight of the United States is particularly serious and anomalous. The rapidity and depth of its deterioration is unique among its high-income, long-consolidated democratic peers. Philanthropists and activists have been working to shore up the system. 

Yet as Kleinfeld argues in this paper, much of the current work is necessary but insufficient. Kleinfeld shows how today’s acute democratic decline in the United States rests atop deeper cracks in the foundation. While many pundits analyze a problem but offer few realistic options to fix it, Kleinfeld spends most of the paper on the strategies that would be needed to move the United States into what she terms “the next chapter of American democracy.” Her holistic, often novel suggestions embrace social and institutional renewal, as well as the need for a creative leap to imagine a shared future together. This is a must-read piece for understanding what is occurring within U.S. democracy, why it is happening, and what must be done to move the world’s oldest democracy back onto the right path.

—Frances Brown and Thomas Carothers, Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program co-directors

Europe

Political Change and Turkey’s Foreign Policy” by Alper Coşkun and Sinan Ülgen

For the first time in over a decade, there’s a real possibility that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party could lose their grip on power in Turkey. Coşkun and Ülgen take a deep dive into the opposition parties and their variegated views on foreign policy to dissect the implications of a potential political earthquake in Turkey for its foreign policy orientation and its relations with Europe and the United States.

—Dan Baer, senior vice president for studies and Europe Program director

Middle East

What the Russian War in Ukraine Means for the Middle East” by Carnegie Middle East scholars

The Russian war on Ukraine has given Middle Eastern and North African countries a slew of new challenges. In a region in which wheat is predominantly imported, the war has increased food insecurity and other socioeconomic vulnerabilities. Having developed their military and trade cooperation with Russia throughout the last years while sustaining their special ties with the United States and Europe, several MENA governments have searched for a balancing act to avoid alienating Russia or losing Western countries as strategic partners. This set of essays details the impacts of the war on MENA countries, domestically and regionally.

—Amr Hamzawy, Middle East Program director

Nuclear Policy

The Most Immediate Nuclear Danger in Ukraine Isn’t Chernobyl” by James M. Acton

In February, just hours into their invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops seized the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Memories of the events there in 1986 led to widespread concerns, amplified by Ukrainian officials, that Russian forces might cause a second major accident at the site. Acton understood that the chance of such an accident was very low because the used nuclear fuel on site was old and cool enough that it was not at serious risk of melting. He also recognized that the focus on Chernobyl was obscuring a much greater potential risk from Russian forces occupying Ukraine’s active nuclear power plants.

His warning, penned on the day the invasion started, was prescient. Little more than a week later, a fire at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant underscored the dangers of conflict to Ukraine’s reactors. The fighting that has raged around Zaporizhzhia ever since has ensured that, unfortunately, Acton’s essay is as timely now as it was on February 24.

—Toby Dalton, Nuclear Policy Program co-director

Russia and Eurasia

Putin’s Long War” by Eugene Rumer and “My Country, Right or Wrong: Russian Public Opinion on Ukraine” by Andrei Kolesnikov and Denis Volkov

Seismic shocks from the war in Ukraine will be felt for many years to come. The people of Ukraine have abundantly made clear that they will never submit to Moscow’s rule, and people from all walks of life have already sacrificed themselves to thwart the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion. Amid a flood of reports of war crimes, atrocities, and unwarranted suffering of Ukraine’s civilian population at the hands of the Russian military, the natural instinct is to hope for the speediest possible conclusion to the war. However, two works from Carnegie scholars shed light on why there is little prospect that the conflict will end anytime soon.

In Rumer’s fascinating article, it becomes crystal clear why Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of backing down. Instead of scaling back his maximalist war aims, Putin’s actions have shown the world that he is likely to continue fighting to return Ukraine to Russia’s orbit so long as he remains in power. And as Kolesnikov and Volkov explain in their very important article, any hopes harbored by Western observers of a possible domestic popular backlash against the war are likely to be disappointed.  At the same time, Kolesnikov and Volkov caution that a far larger segment of Russian public opinion is now staunchly against the regime than was the case eight years ago following the annexation of Crimea. Both articles are essential reading for anyone trying to answer the perennial question, “How does this end?”

—Andrew S. Weiss, vice president for studies, Russia and Eurasia Program

South Asia

Striking Asymmetries: Nuclear Transitions in Southern Asia” by Ashley J. Tellis

In the world of South Asia watchers, any publication with an Ashley J. Tellis byline is, by definition, a must read. But Tellis’ July report is a truly groundbreaking piece of work.

In 2000, Tellis published his landmark book on Indian nuclear forces, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Ready Arsenal. The idea was to follow this up with similar reviews of China’s and Pakistan’s nuclear programs. It took two decades, but Tellis has finally given us the follow-up we’ve been waiting for—a sprawling yet meticulous account of the evolution of nuclear programs across southern Asia. The book draws on published data as well as interviews and private conversations with policymakers, strategic planners, and military officials in all three countries (plus the United States and Europe) to paint a comprehensive picture of nuclear dynamics in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Tellis’s main takeaway is that the United States will have to pursue out-of-the-box policy options that enable New Delhi to counter China’s nuclear superiority but to do so in ways that promote both India’s own national security and American geopolitical aims.

—Milan Vaishnav, South Asia Program director

Sustainability, Climate, and Geopolitics

How Climate Change Helps Violent Nonstate Actors” by Noah Gordon

The climate emergency is spawning new threats to human prosperity and security—and reviving old ones. Gordon analyzes how climate change undermines governance in ways that create new openings and incentives for violent nonstate actors.

—Dan Baer, senior vice president, Sustainability, Climate, and Geopolitics

Technology and International Affairs

U.S.-China Technological ‘Decoupling’: A Strategy and Policy Framework” by Jon Bateman

The partial “decoupling” of U.S. and Chinese technology is rewiring international relations and the global economic order. Although Washington spurred this process, it lacks clear objectives, priorities, or plans, and it hasn’t acknowledged the risk of a costly overreach. Bateman’s major report is widely recognized as the definitive account of these challenges. In a foreword, Eric Schmidt—former Google CEO and chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence—called the report “an exceptional guidebook and blueprint for U.S. action” that “stands out for its ambition, clarity, and rigor” and “will remain a touchstone for years to come.” The report has earned praise from a U.S. Cabinet secretary, a high-level White House official, and senior leaders in export control policy. It has also been widely discussed in China and other Asian and European countries and was briefed to the World Trade Organization, international trade and finance associations, and leading global tech companies.

—George Perkovich, vice president for studies, Technology and International Affairs Program

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