As President Donald Trump’s administration begins, relations between the United States and Russia make the headlines almost every day. No one seems able to agree on what Russian President Vladimir Putin did or did not do to try to influence the 2016 U.S. elections, much less on what his ultimate aims are. Trump’s own cabinet picks, not to mention the U.S. Congress and Senate, are split on whether the U.S. should try yet another ‘reset’ with Russia, or instead punish Putin further for his actions. Meanwhile European countries allied with the U.S. in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are undergoing their own wrenching debates about Russia, with some leading politicians believing that Russia intends to break NATO or perhaps even invade the Baltics, while other European political parties openly cooperate with Putin. Business interests in both North America and Europe seek an end to the Western sanctions imposed on Russia after its seizure of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014, but human rights groups argue to the contrary that even stronger sanctions are warranted.
With Cyber War Will Not Take Place, Thomas Rid has written an important volume at a critical juncture of the cyber-conflict debate. In a rush to articulate a new threat after the end of the Cold War, the demise of regional powers in the Middle East and North Africa (such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya, making Israel more secure), and the near total rejection of the Global War on Terror, the next threat to materialize appears to be cyber war. This is the impression one might get if engaging the current security discourse. Both the United Nations and United States have argued that the threat of cyber warfare is greater than the danger of terrorism, a striking reversal barely ten years after 9/11. Yet, as Rid notes (along with others in this developing literature), the threat of cyber warfare often is overstated and near nonexistent. Building on an article in Journal of Strategic Studies (2012), Rid argues, very forcibly, that cyber war will not take place.
How can we understand the important phenomenon of modern-day warlords, often associated with state failure and transborder criminality even as state leaders frequently rely upon them as a source of order or peace in the most difficult of conditions? Kimberly Marten’s Warlords: Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States blazes a new trail in answering this question, adopting an explicitly inductive approach to theory-building through the study of four important cases of warlordism: Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Georgia’s strongmen in Ajara and the Kodori Gorge, the Sons of Iraq, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s creation in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.