What will be new about 2021?

Wednesday 6th January, 6:30pm BST

2020 was a year like no other, consumed by a global pandemic, societies, cultures, workplaces, global relations were changed and the status quo shifted. As the new year approaches and the world starts to look beyond the coronavirus what will have changed, what will be new and what will 2021 look like? Our panel of experts discuss their predictions and hopes for the year ahead.

Speakers to include:

Christine Mikolajuk (Moderator) – Management consultant, freelance writer and media contributor

Frances Hudson – Former global thematic strategist at Standard Life

Ana Bozovic – Geopolitics and financial specialist & Founder of Analytics Miami

Nigel Inkster – Former deputy head of MI6, current Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the International Institute for Strategic Studies

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End of 2020 Virtual Networking Drinks

Tuesday 15th December, 6:30pm BST

2020 has been a strange year and as it draws to a close PS21 would like to do what it can to lift spirits and gather together some new faces in all global places!

Join us for an hour to toast the end of 2020 with zoom networking and ice breakers

Bring your own christmas jumpers, good cheer and drinks! Participants will be split into smaller groups, with icebreaking questions on what all have learnt from a very strange year, as well as your expectations, predictions, hopes and fears for 2021.

This event will be held online. Signup details will be sent to those who sign up on the link below.

Get your free ticket here.

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

What does “security” mean in 2020?

Thursday, October 29th, 6:30pm BST

As Covid-19 reshapes the world and Britain begins its Integrated Defence and Security Review, what does the word “security” really mean in 2020 – and what structures, skills and mindsets are necessary to achieve it. This PS21 virtual panel will examine those questions, as well as how the UK can balance geopolitics, human rights and fast changing technology to survive and thrive in an increasingly messy, complex century.

Speakers to include:

Aditi Gupta (Moderator) – All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, on the board for Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security UK

Abigail Watson – Conflict and Security Policy Coordinator at Saferworld

Josh Arnold-Forster – Defence consultant and former Special Adviser to UK Defence Secretary John Reid

Emma Salisbury – PhD candidate at Birbeck College specialising in emerging technology and the military-industrial complex.

Get your free ticket here.

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

The future of geopolitics in a COVID-19 world

Tuesday, October 6th, 6:30pm BST

Six months after Covid-19 shutdown the world and put PS21 on enforced hiatus, the Project for the Study of the 21st Century is back…

2020 has been a very strange year – but how much will it truly change the world? With multilateralism in doubt, rising tensions between multiple nations and strained domestic politics around the globe, PS21 examines the politics, geopolitics and dynamics of the post-Covid world – when that finally does come.

This discussion brings together a panel of experts to give us an update on what’s been happening these last few months and discuss what lies ahead for geopolitics. As the world teeters on the edge of a new lockdown, it marks the beginning of a new PS21 series of virtual events bringing together voices from around the globe to examine how our world is changing.

As always with PS21, discussion will be fast moving, sometimes irreverent, incisive, wide-ranging and thought-provoking…

Speakers to include:

Christine Mikolajuk (Moderator) – Management consultant, freelance writer and media contributor

Ari Ratner – Founder and CEO of Inside Revolution. Former US State Department official.

Ana Bozovic – Founder Analytics Miami

Ali Wyne – Nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute.

Get your free ticket here.

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

London Event January 15 – 2020: The Year Ahead

PS21 2020 the year ahead event

Wednesday, January 15th, from 06:30 p.m., Bush House(SE) room 1.05, King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS


PS21’s 2020 event program kicks off with a panel discussion looking at key themes that will define the first year of the new decade. Touching upon all topical issues such as international relations, technology, regional politics, conflict, economics and climate change.


Peter Apps (Moderator) – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Founder and Executive Director, PS21.

Nigel Inkster, Former MI6 Deputy Chief

Pepijn Bergsen, Research Fellow, Europe Programme, Chatham House

Alexandria Reid, Research Analyst at Royal United Services Institute

Lara Srivastava – Lawyer, media and technology adviser to governments and international organisations


Doors open at 06:00 p.m., with discussion beginning at 06:30 p.m.

Get your free ticket here.


GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

London Event November 19 – Ethics in the West: reality or fallacy?

Tuesday, November 19th, from 06:00 p.m., Ninety One, Brick Lane, London, E1 6QR.

Ethics, ethical policy making, and human rights standards are core pillars of the identities of states in the West, and also provide substantiation for a moral high ground often invoked. However today, discrepancies between those moral standards and the actual policies enacted are stark- compelling us to question the authenticity of the ‘Ethical West’. This panel aims to identify and discuss those disparities within policy sectors of migration, technology and privacy, foreign policy, and more—perhaps to come to a conclusion about what ethical price Western states are willing to pay in the execution of domestic and foreign affairs.


Dr Elspeth Guild – Professor at Queen Mary University and co-editor of the European Journal of Migration and Law

Areeq Chowdhury – Head of Think Tank at Future Advocacy

Beth Oppenheim – Researcher at the Centre for European Reform

Dr Theologia Iliadou – Founder of GenSoc


Dr Eleanor Beevor – Research Analyst at International Institute of Security Studies

Sign up here.


Doors open at 6pm, the event will begin at 6:30pm. Please bring photo ID.

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

London Event 30th October – Beijing, the US and the South China Sea

Tuesday, 30th October, from 5:15 pm, Whitehall, City of Westminster, (exact location TBC for attendees)

For over a decade the People’s Republic of China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea; laying claim to recognised international waters with the aim of exploiting the region’s economic and strategic value. Beijing’s actions have created outrage in its regional neighbours and alarm in the area’s main strategic actor, the United States.

Are these developments a sign that China is ready to challenge the US for regional dominance? Or, is Beijing within its right to ward off other powers with interests in the region? How are other regional players such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan likely to react?

Confirmed Panelists Include:

Peter Apps [moderator] – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist. PS21 Executive Director.

David Li – Asia Pacific analyst with the economics and risk team for IHS Markit.

Deepa Kumar – Analyst at IHS Markit country risk team and specialist on multiple Asia-Pacific countries.

Dr Chirs Weston – International business consultant on risk management.


Sign up here.

Attendees will be admitted to the venue in two groups, one at 5:15 pm and the other at 5:30 pm. This is to allow the reception staff at the Cabinet Office time to process all guests. If you have reserved a ticket, you will be informed which group have been allocated to via email on the 29th of October. Please remember to bring photo ID with you.

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com

London event September 14th : 9/11 fifteen years on

treasury discussion

WHEN Wednesday, September 14, 2016 from 18:00 to 19:30 

WHERE  War Studies Meeting Room (K6.07 ) King’s College London – Strand, London, WC2R 2LS 


Fifteen years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, PS21 looks back.  What was done right, what was done wrong and how might the 21st century have been different if the twin towers had never fallen.

Richard Barrett – former senior British counterterrorism official and ex-head of the UN Al Qaeda/Taleban monitoring team

Timothy Hoyt – professor, US Naval war College

This is also a joint event with the Sir Michael Howard Centre

Sign up here [corrected link]

The PS21 Team

South China Sea : The Saga continues

Portion of a Qing scroll on battling 19th Century piracy in the South China Sea (Wikipedia)


Berivan Dilan is a recent graduate from Maastricht University in International Relations, and is starting an MSc in International Political Economy at LSE.  


On 12th July 2016, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague ruled that Chinese claims to territorial rights in the South China Sea have no legal basis, after a case was brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013 by the Philippines. The tension in the South China Sea is at a fever pitch, with China vowing that it “will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,”[i] countered by the U.S. sending an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region. This ruling certainly does not mark the end of the South China Sea dispute. In fact, this ruling might just have opened up Pandora’s Box.


The South China Sea has been home to territorial disputes for many decades. The disputes involve claims among several states that all have an interest in the fishing areas, potential natural resources and strategic control of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. China asserts that its historical claim to these prized waters predate the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) however Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei beg to differ and believe the international law regulating the delimitation must be adhered to.


Why does China claim this area?

Money, money, money goes to explain much of China’s so-called “win win” approach to its contemporary foreign policy decisions. The area in question without doubt offers huge economic benefits to the PRC: from the potential for unique access to the immense fishing area, strategic control of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, and increased access to exploiting potential natural resources (i.e. oil) are to name a few examples. Geopolitically, its security would have been strengthened had the Court chosen to favour China in this dispute, given the current dominance of U.S. backed naval resources in the region. It would be naïve not to recognize the material realities of the dispute. However, in addition to the economic and geopolitical dimensions, there is a third dimension which is often neglected by the popular accounts of the dispute, namely the historical dimension. China is not only claiming the South China Sea because it has vested interests in the region, but also because China views the area claimed within the nine-dashed line as historically theirs. In order to understand Chinese foreign policy fully, particularly as it re-emerges as a superpower, it is necessary to understand the ancient Chinese conception of world order.


In order to understand the way the PRC is currently acting, first one needs to look at the concept of Tianxia, which can be broken down into three parts: the world (in a geographical sense), the will of the people, and the world institution[ii]. What is important to note is that Tianxia does not refer to a nation state as we interpret it, but to a world or society: “traditional China did not see itself as a nation-state or even as an empire with separate subject peoples, but rather as the centre of civilisation.” [iii] This led to the ancient Chinese idea of Sinocentrism, the idea that China is the undisputed centre of civilisation. In the Sinocentric world order China has a hegemonic position. In the past when China aimed to create a Sinocentric world order, it did so by socialising foreign rulers into accepting China’s centrality and superiority. In fact, in some periods, the Chinese rulers were able to accomplish this with some Western visitors as well as in the system of tributary and vassal states.


As China re-emerges as a superpower, it seems clear that this Sinocentric viewpoint is being taken on-board once more by its leaders. Gone are the days of Xiaoping’s “bide one’s time” philosophy, the nation is now taking a lead with assertive foreign policy choices, such as refusing the tribunal’s ruling in the South China Sea dispute, despite being a UNSC power. China will not easily give up its territorial claims in the South China Sea. The first Chinese interaction with Western international law in the 19th century was not easy. China experienced it as traumatic, leaving memories of humiliation, domination and oppression. The unequal treaties signed in this time period, such as the Treaty of Nanking, encroached upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and exemplified how foreign imperialism managed to reduce the Middle Kingdom to a society with semi-colonial status. The Chinese saw international law as one of the tools used by the west to restrain ‘wild foreign consuls’[iv]. Although today international law is part of China’s advancement strategy to catch up with the developed countries, “early Chinese experience with international law still remains a key to the understanding of the present Chinese attitude towards international law”[v]. The Chinese claim to the South China Sea is based on unverifiable historical claims and while this does not hold much power in international law, the Chinese government will not back down any time soon.


What happens next?

The tribunal has no powers to enforce its ruling. China has rejected the ruling and maintained its presence in the South China Sea claiming that it has the right to set up an air defence zone. The U.S. has framed the outcome of the case as a test of China’s respect of international law. China’s rejection could lead to reputational damage, as well as alienating its neighbours if it maintains the current course of action and language. However, it is playing well to its citizens at home who are increasingly seeking a more active role for China in international relations. Whether the tensions in the South China Sea will escalate to a military encounter between China and the U.S., is unclear. However, this ruling has created more uncertainty and unease for both sides. In any case, it is clear that the situation in the South China Sea goes much deeper than merely economic and geopolitical power. To understand contemporary foreign policy decisions made by the PRC, one must look further than simply realpolitik. It seems that China’s assertiveness is a reassertion of an age old worldview which has influenced Chinese governance and self-understanding for over two millennia.


Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own. Interested in contributing? Email us at E-mail us at PS21Central@gmail.com.


[i] Reuters. (2016). China vows to protect South China Sea sovereignty, Manila upbeat. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-ruling-stakes-idUSKCN0ZS02U

[ii] Zhao, T. (2006). Rethinking Empire from a Chinese Concept ‘All-under-Heaven’ (Tian-xia,). Social Identities, 12(1), 29-41.

[iii] Nathan, A. J., & Scobell, A. (2015). What Drives Chinese Foreign policy. In China’s search for security (pp. 1-37). Columbia University Press.

[iv] Zhaojie, L. (2001). Legacy of modern Chinese history: its relevance to the Chinese perspective of the contemporary international legal order. Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law, 5, 314-326.

[v] Zhaojie, L. (2001). Legacy of modern Chinese history: its relevance to the Chinese perspective of the contemporary international legal order. Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law, 319.

State of Emergency in Iraq: Will the next U.S. Administration be prepared?

Asha Castleberry is a U.S. National Security Expert and U.S. Army Veteran.  She is an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project (ASP) and a member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council. She tweets at @ashacastleberry.

Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

What is going on in Iraq?  The Iraqi government has declared a state of emergency and political turmoil in Iraq is on the rise, as seen from the recent meltdown in Baghdad. The political deadlock seen in the Iraqi parliament has ignited massive protests within the Green Zone, spearheaded by the Shia opposition groups led by Iraqi Shia Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. He has has launched a de-facto coup, attacking the political legitimacy of the Shia-led Baghdad government. He has done so by demanding Prime Minister Haider to present the new list of technocrat cabinet members.  In addition, the Iraqi government has deployed security forces, in conjunction with Shia militias, to further bolster security in Southern Baghdad.

Political instability in Baghdad poses a direct threat towards the current mission against ISIS and Iraqi national reconstruction.  During Vice President Biden’s recent trip to Baghdad, he underscored that political chaos there would negatively impact current operations in the war against ISIS.  ISIS will then take advantage of this opportunity to exacerbate sectarian tensions by targeting Shia communities, especially during the Shia pilgrimage.  The recent attacks in the Nahrwan area prove this point. ISIS has also claimed attacks against Shia communities in Imam Ali-Husseiniyah in Southern Baghdad. They will also step up more attacks during the commemoration of Imam al-Kadhim, a major Shia holiday.  The timing is just perfect for ISIS, as this has occurred right after another major, violent sectarian incident in Iraq.  The recent clashes between the Peshmerga Forces and al-Hashad al-Turkmani militias in Tuz Khurmatu, Salahuddin Province has shown the country’s inability to successfully prevent such sectarian violence.

Despite political turmoil and ongoing sectarian strife, the Anti-ISIS coalition has made considerable progress during the month of April.  The Iraqi security forces liberated the Hit District in Al-Anbar province and successfully completed clearing operations in key areas in Diyala Province.  According to a recent Institute of Study of the War (ISW) situation report,  the Peshmerga Forces along with Sunni Arab forces liberated key villages in the north of Mosul, with coalition airstrike support. In preparation for the Mosul counteroffensive, the U.S. has authorized an additional 217 troops to be deployed to Iraq and provide additional air assets.  Furthermore, the U.S. has issued a 30 day extension for the U.S. air carrier, USS Harry S. Truman in the Gulf Region to support President Obama’s acceleration of the fight against ISIS. The USS Harry S. Truman provides robust maritime security, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISRs), and counterterrorism capabilities.

Nevertheless, there has been no major economic impact resulting from the political climate in Baghdad.  The Iraqi Minister of Oil has confirmed that the political turmoil in Baghdad did not impact oil exports for the month of April. Indeed, Bloomberg has reported that oil exports reached a record high of 4.3 million barrels a day that month.  However, projections still forecast that it may drop, and the country will continue to struggle to be able to afford this expensive war against ISIS.

The current political instability in Iraq is reminding us just how critical it is for the next U.S. administration to prescribe a viable strategy in such a complex and volatile country.  The U.S. needs competent leadership, similar to the Obama Administration, that knows how to carry out a comprehensive forward plan.  Based on the recent Iraqi political crisis, the American people should be questioning presidential candidates about the U.S.’s future role in Iraq.  Here are some major questions that a U.S. presidential candidate should seriously consider.  First, are Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s political reforms promising to achieve an inclusive and decentralized government?  If not, what then, is the next course of action to help build political cohesion in Baghdad?  Second, the next U.S. administration will inherit a commitment of just over 4,000 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq, with the authorization to continue using airpower.  Therefore, will the next U.S. administration maintain the same number of boots on ground? Third, if the Iraqis are fortunate enough to win back Mosul and terminate ISIS presence there before the end of the year, will the next administration then assist with peacebuilding in a post-ISIS war? Fourth, will the next administration support a three-state solution for Iraq, or continue the policy of national reconciliation with our regional partners?

Moving forward, I believe that Secretary Hillary Clinton is the best U.S. presidential candidate to deliver the best policy strategy for our future role in Iraq.  Secretary Clinton could implement a well thought out position that supports a decisive political strategy in Iraq.  She will not be incoherent and inconsistent about her position. Secretary Clinton has already conveyed her strong understanding and knowledge about countering ISIS in Iraq.  A comprehensive strategy of support, by providing more airpower, as well as Training, Advising, and Assist (TAA) for the Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga Forces, and Sunni Tribal Groups.

What would a future US-Cuba security cooperation agreement look like?

Asha Castleberry is a U.S. National Security Expert and U.S. Army Veteran.  She is an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project (ASP) and a member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council. She tweets at @ashacastleberry.


The purpose of the article is to discuss how U.S.-Cuban ties will help better enhance U.S. National Security in Latin America.  The landmark relationship will bolster the U.S. to counter emerging security threats, reshape detainee operations in Guantanamo Bay, strengthen future contingency response missions and building partner nation capacity.  

The establishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba is the beginning of a new era for U.S. Foreign Policy & National Security.  What comes along with this relationship is a new bilateral security agreement.  This phenomenon reminds me of a scene from the movie Bad Boys II, where Will Smith and Martin Lawrence accidently ended up on Cuban soil chasing a big time criminal.  They chased the villain all the way to the fence of Guantanamo Bay.  However, the U.S. Navy could not help them as long as the convict was on Cuban soil.  This movie illustrated the importance of a working relationship with Cuba in order to pursue, for example, search warrants, rescue missions or any other criminal activities within Cuba.

Hollywood has helped us realize that there is a clear need to have a security cooperation with Cuba in the 21st century.  In the next 10-15 years, this relationship will lead to a strong security agreement with Havana, but only if the momentum continues beyond the current administration.  In the final inning, the Obama administration is doing everything they can to secure long term partnership.  This new partnership is also going to positively impact our military operations in the broader region.

Overtime, the U.S. has learned that it is in our national security interest to invest in a bilateral security cooperation with Cuba. A closed relationship has been nothing but counterproductive for U.S. national security and regional stability.  The old approach of isolating Cuba has hurt our ability to address a gamut of regional security challenges.  U.S. combatant command in the region (USSOUTHCOM) has therefore experienced operational limitations, which often leads to complications for maritime security, navigation services, countering human trafficking, search & rescue missions, and counter narcotics. So, it is rather difficult to implement critical mission priorities without cooperation from all regional partners.

Since the start of opening talks with Havana, both countries have already launched new bilateral security initiatives.  In May 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry signed off on rescinding Cuba from the “state sponsor of terrorism” list.  These two countries have also signed several statements pledging cooperation in law enforcement, counter narcotics, counterterrorism, transnational crime and cybercrime.  The U.S. and Cuba also pledged to cooperate with joint contingency operations for bilateral coastal security, disaster risk reduction and oil spill prevention and responses.

In the near future, the security agreement will expand significantly.  USSOUTHCOM is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.  This new partnership will strengthen intelligence assets, logistical support, communications, interagency relationships and additional assets from the open relationship.  Based on USSOUTHCOM priorities, here are several ways in which new diplomatic ties will change USSOUTHCOM role.


Detainee Operations & Guantanamo Bay.

The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba will make it easier to facilitate the closure of Guantanamo Bay. The current administration believes that keeping Guantanamo Bay open is cost inefficient.  Despite Congressional opposition, the current administration remains persistent in wanting to close the base. Joint Task Force Guantanamo currently has marching orders from Washington to continue reducing the detainee population. This is good news for Havana.  Since 1959, the Cuban government has been against U.S. use of the base.  Nevertheless, at the same time, the U.S. Naval Station at Gitmo has been a strategic location for contingency operations and humanitarian and natural disaster relief missions in the region.  Instead of completely removing our presence, it is in our vital interest to secure some sort of posture.  Open diplomatic relations will be able to assist in negotiating these issues from the Ambassadorial level consistently.

Counter Terrorism & Transnational Organized Crime.

An open relationship with Cuba will enhance the ability for the U.S. to enforce a regional counterterrorism and counter transnational organized crime strategy.  U.S.-Cuba relations have already entered phase one by pledging to work on cooperative measures together.  The expectation is to enhance joint intelligence sharing and interagency collaboration with the Cuban government.  For example, both countries have launched preliminary discussions about cybercrime.  This will, in turn, help better address the transfer of information from global terrorist networks in Latin America.  In fact, terrorist groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and ISIS also have supporters and sympathizers in Latin America. This has been seen in the significant number of foreign fighters and returnees that come back to Latin America.  On the internet, ISIS has also called for the capture of key areas in Latin America.

Also, stronger diplomatic ties will enable USSOUTHCOM to carry out stronger law enforcement measures against the flow of illicit trafficking.  Prior to the reestablishment of relations, for many years Cuba and U.S. law maritime enforcement covertly collaborated on countering narcotics and other illicit activities. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Cuban Border Security maintained productive exchanges, but these were limited. The restoration of diplomatic ties will expand the U.S.’s ability to jointly address the drug trade issues involving Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean.  The U.S. and Cuba can further pursue joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) work that they are conducting with other regional partners.  USSOUTHCOM is currently assisting Guatemala and Honduras in enhancing their ISR capabilities that helps drug tracking seizures.


Contingency Response. 

U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties will provide us more access and insight with Cuba into contingency response operations, such as natural disasters, mass migration and the spread of epidemics.  In preparation for unexpected future contingency missions, an open relationship with Cuba will enable USSOUTHCOM to work effectively on joint missions and prevent a situation similar to the effects from 2008 Hurricane Katrina.  Because there were no formal communications with Cuba, the Bush Administration could only decline Cuban medical assistance.  Now, both countries will continue working together like they did, side by side, against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  Also, Cuba will be interested in USSOUTHCOM multinational disaster preparedness.  The multinational disaster preparedness provides technical aid and assistance to build disaster relief institutions.


Security Cooperation and Building Partner Nation Capacity.

A strong building partner nation capacity (BPNC) agreement with Cuba will help USSOUTHCOM meet expectations for all mission priorities.  Former USSOUTHCOM commander, John F. Kelly explained that a strategy of engagement with Cuba will help mitigate the threats and risks.  Through military to military engagements, the U.S. and Cuba will be able to develop a 21st century security partnership through theater security cooperation activities. The purpose of the theater security cooperation is to engage mil-to-mil activities with Cuban partners involving planning, training, and equipment.  In exchange, Cuba’s interest in taking part in U.S. theater security cooperation will continue to grow.  After the historic subsidies cuts from the Soviet Union, the Cuban Ministry shifted to European states and regional allies for financial support and additional training.  Facing economic cuts from Venezuela, the Cuban defense budget heavily relies on financial support from Caracas, may cause Havana to seek military assistance from the U.S.

The Cuban Ministry of Defense of the Revolutionary Armed Forces would have to authorize a theater security cooperation program that consists of a comprehensive engagement plan.  The plan will include key leadership engagements and an exercise program. The purpose of this is to establish relationships, meet partnership expectations, and address any future issues. The Ministry of Defense will have to figure out at what level they would like to engage with this.    Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense will have to decide how they will participate in USSOUTHCOM multilateral exercises.   The Cuban government would probably take part in major multilateral exercises like PANAMAX 2014, in which seventeen partners from Latin America focused on the defense of Panama.  This future exercise will provide experiences for the Cuban Armed Forces to participate in more multilateral exercises with the United States.  Since the Cuban defense budget allocates their expenditures for peacekeeping operations – this will allow Cubans to participate in US-led peacekeeping exercises, like Peacekeeping Operation North.

Also, USSOUTHCOM and Cuba can develop their own bilateral or multilateral exercises, like the Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias (FAHUM), an annual exercise designed to respond to major natural disasters.  Furthermore, the Cuban Ministry of Defense may consider signing up for a State Partnership Program with the U.S. National Guard.  Already, twenty-two countries in the SOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility maintain a state partnership program.  Cuba can also send a Cuban Liaison Officer to USSOUTHCOM Headquarters like many regional partners have done, that can help facilitate building partnership nation capacity.

The historic move to reopen relations with Havana gives the US both the ability and credibility to show their commitment for regional security in Latin America. It is essential that the next administration should continue normalizing relations with Cuba which has proven to be beneficial for our national security.  There are challenges that may slow down this progress. First, USSOUTHCOM has experienced continuous reductions in their budget. These cuts will disable USSOUTHCOM’s ability to provide the necessary resources for future security projects with Cuba.  Second, Congress must repeal the trade embargo.  The trade embargo is a huge burden to our relationship with Cuba.  In addition, many Latin American countries have viewed the embargo unfavorably.  Third, the U.S. military must restore U.S. leadership with the Cuban government, alongside savvy diplomacy, as they are both competing against other countries.  The Monroe Doctrine has already been defeated by both Chinese and Russian influences in the region.  General John F. Kelly reported during a Senate hearing that Chinese military engagement is expanding, with limitations in the Caribbean.  China also plays a major role in Cuba’s Foreign Military Sales program. Due to China’s growing participation in UN peacekeeping operations, there is a possibility that the Chinese may expand their security cooperation program with Cuba as well.

The same can be said for Russia. Moscow still seeks ways to expand their influence through security cooperation.  Hopefully, this will not lead to a smaller-scale theater security cooperation program with the U.S, the setting up of which is supported by Venezuela.  The U.S. should try to prevent Cuba from heading down the same trajectory as Venezuela – to where a security cooperation program is somewhat inefficient.


Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

We need the 45th president to continue normalizing relations with Cuba

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Asha C. Castleberry is a U.S. National Security expert & U.S. Army Veteran.  She is a global fellow at the Project on the Study of the 21st Century and defense council member at the Truman National Security Project.


We witnessed history last week when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Cuba- the first time a sitting president had visited in 90 years.   This trip marked a new era in U.S. relations with not only Cuba, but the region. Despite resistance from Republicans,  the current administration has proved that through effective diplomacy, our country can reach a better future in Latin America.

The American people must not underestimate how this historic move has strengthened our foreign policy.  The U.S. needs to continue normalizing relations in order to best represent our American values abroad.  As a combat veteran, I witnessed first hand how diplomacy works in the Middle East.  Effective diplomacy helped build a coalition with more than fifty countries against ISIS and reached a historic Nuclear Deal with Iran that prevented further destabilization.  Therefore, it is absolutely essential for the next President to continue U.S. engagement with Cuba.

Outdated foreign policy approaches are no longer securing our national security interests nor do they reflect our values as a country. We must realize that continuing a closed relationship with Cuba is counterproductive and contradictory to our foreign policy.  If we can be allied with so many countries around the world, we can definitely invest our time in normalizing relations with our neighbor, Cuba.

An open relationship with Cuba will economically help both Americans and Cubans. It will help Havana participate in free markets, boost tourism, expand small businesses and encourage Cuba to modernize its technology.  In order to keep up the momentum with Cuba, the next administration must continue to support the lifting of the economic embargo and prove to Congress that removing the embargo will expand better opportunities in trade, tourism, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications.  Also, this will increase people to people contact, which will enhance the flow of information and will lead to better relationships between Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States.

In terms of U.S. national security, a better relationship between both countries only makes the American people safer.  The current administration is not looking to Americanize Cuba, but rather coexist peacefully and work together to cohesively address regional threats.  Cuba, already under review to be taken off of the state sponsored list can help facilitate our fight against global threats like ISIS.  More engagement with Cubans will help prevent potential recruitment of foreign fighters and sympathizers.

A relationship with Cuba could also better assist our country with public health in post natural disasters zones. Cuba has one of the best public health care systems in the region. Our medical research can now be improved through the possibility of medical exchanges with Cuban health practitioners.  Additionally, a normalized relationship between our two countries can prevent issues like what happened after Hurricane Katrina when Cuba offered medical assistance free of charge, but the Bush administration rejected the assistance due to the lack of diplomatic relations.

Our choice during the 2016 U.S Presidential election is vital to continuing this relationship.  Our country needs a candidate that deeply understands the importance of a policy of engagement with Cuba and stands firm for a strong forward thinking policy with our neighbor. We cannot continue a failed disengagement policy with Cuba that has achieved nothing overtime.

I believe Secretary Hillary Clinton is the best suited to do the job. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton supported the restoration of relations with Cuba and mentioned to President Obama that the 54 year old old trade embargo had achieved nothing.  On the campaign trail, Secretary Clinton has laid out a thorough plan to move forward with Cuba.  During her speech at the 2015 National Urban League Conference in Florida, Secretary Clinton was the first Presidential candidate to express her support for lifting the trade embargo. She also said that if Congress failed to act, she would use her executive authority to lift the embargo if she became President.  Our country needs a 45th President who will continue advocating for open relations with Cuba and Hillary Clinton is the person to do that. This why she has my vote for U.S. President.

Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.