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Commentaries by Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

Professor, Harvard University

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is a professor at Harvard and author most recently of "Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump".
  • Dec 04, 2022

    Could the United States and China go to war over Taiwan? China regards the island 90 miles (145 kilometers) off its coast as a renegade province, and President Xi Jinping raised the issue at the recent 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Though Xi said he prefers reunification by peaceful means, his objective was clear, and he did not rule out the use of force. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the share of the population identifying as solely Taiwanese continues to exceed the share that identifies as both Chinese and Taiwanese.

  • Oct 12, 2022

    Russia’s war in Ukraine is the most disruptive conflict that Europe has seen since 1945. While many in the West see a war of choice by Russian President Vladimir Putin, he says that NATO’s 2008 decision in favor of eventual Ukrainian membership brought an existential threat to Russia’s borders, and still others trace the conflict back to the Cold War’s end and the failure of the West to support Russia adequately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. How can we discern the origins of a war that may last for years?

  • Sep 13, 2022

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and nuclear saber rattling against the West have revived a debate about nuclear weapons. Last year, when a United Nations treaty to ban such weapons outright entered into force, none of the world’s nine nuclear-weapons states was among the 86 signatories. How can these states justify possessing weapons that put all of humanity at risk?

  • Aug 08, 2022

    At this year’s Aspen Security Forum (which I co-chair) in July, China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, appealed for better understanding of his country. But there was considerable debate among the assembled experts about China’s objectives. President Xi Jinping has announced China’s intention to outpace America in critical technologies such as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology by 2030, and many analysts predict that China’s GDP (measured at market exchange rates) will surpass that of the US early in the next decade. Is China seeking to displace the US as the world’s leading power by the centenary of communist rule in 2049?

  • Jun 17, 2022

    When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, he envisaged a quick seizure of Kyiv and a change of government analogous to Soviet interventions in Budapest in 1956 and Prague in 1968. But it wasn’t to be. The war is still raging, and no one knows when or how it will end.

  • Apr 05, 2022

    Russian President Vladimir Putin thought he could quickly capture Kyiv and replace Ukraine’s government. Whether he was misled by poor intelligence or by his own fantasies about history, his “smash and grab” failed in the face of effective Ukrainian resistance. He then turned to a brutal bombardment of cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv to terrorize the civilian population into submission – as he had previously done in Grozny and Aleppo. The tragic upshot is that Ukraine’s heroic resistance has been accompanied by increasing civilian suffering.

  • Oct 11, 2021

    As US President Joe Biden’s administration implements its strategy of great power competition with China, analysts seek historical metaphors to explain the deepening rivalry. But while many invoke the onset of the Cold War, a more worrisome historical metaphor is the start of World War I. In 1914, all the great powers expected a short third Balkan War. Instead, as the British historian Christopher Clark has shown, they sleepwalked into a conflagration that lasted four years, destroyed four empires, and killed millions.

  • Aug 09, 2021

    During the four decades of the Cold War, the United States had a grand strategy focused on containing the power of the Soviet Union. Yet by the 1990s, following the Soviet Union’s collapse, America had been deprived of that pole star. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, US President George W. Bush’s administration tried to fill the void with a strategy that it called a “global war on terror.” But that approach provided nebulous guidance and led to long US-led wars in marginal places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2017, the US has returned to “great-power competition,” this time with China.

  • Jun 10, 2021

    A century ago, an influenza pandemic killed more people than died in World War I. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more Americans than died in all US wars since 1945. A big difference, however, is that science did not have a vaccine for the influenza virus back then, but now several companies and countries have created vaccines for COVID-19.

  • May 12, 2021

    In his recent address to the US Congress, President Joe Biden warned that China is deadly serious about trying to become the world’s most significant power. But Biden also declared that autocrats will not win the future; America will. If mishandled, the US-China great-power competition could be dangerous. But if the United States plays it right, the rivalry with China could be healthy.

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