What to Make of the ISIS-K Attack on Moscow | China’s Pursuit of Copper Is Changing Latin America | America Has Pressured Israel Before—and Can Do It Again, and more

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to point the finger at Ukraine for the attack. But not only has the Islamic State claimed responsibility for it—the targeting of a concert hall also fits with the Islamic State’s past practices, as they conducted similar attacks in France and the United Kingdom. Russia’s own history dealing with jihadist threats from Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus also suggests a jihadist link: Chechen jihadists in 2002 attacked a theater in Moscow. Ukraine has killed Russian commanders, ​​politicians in occupied territory who collaborated with Moscow, and even the daughter of one of Russia’s leading nationalists, but it has never conducted a mass attack on civilians. 
As disturbing as the slaughter of innocents in Russia is, there are ominous signs that this attack is part of a new wave of ISIS-K attacks. ISIS-K formally emerged in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area in 2015, bringing together a group of disgruntled jihadists who opposed the Taliban and pledged loyalty to the then-ascendant Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. They embrace a far more radical version of jihadism than even the Taliban, opposing any accommodation with states or entities they see as Islam’s enemies and embracing sectarianism, among other beliefs. These legitimate concerns, however, must be seen in the context of significant progress against the broader jihadist movement, including the Islamic State itself.

China’s Pursuit of Copper Is Changing Latin America  (Scott B. MacDonald and Alejandro Trenchi, National Interest)
opper is one of the world’s most useful industrial metals. If you tear open any mobile phone, laptop, solar panel, wind turbine, or electric vehicle (EV), you will find it. Without copper, there can be no green revolution. While demand for the reddish metal is set to rise, potential disruptions could also put upward pressure on prices, favoring the world’s leading producers, Chile and Peru. However, China is looking to play a more significant role in the production and refining of copper, which will change the economic landscape for the two South American countries and the United States. The geopolitical implications are also significant as China gains greater weight in critical materials, casting a long shadow over American plans to transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy.
China’s motivation to broaden and deepen its footprint in copper markets is motivated by several factors. The Asian country’s economic development, including the latest emphasis on green technology, requires much more copper than it produces domestically. In 2022, it is estimated that China accounted for 58 percent of the world’s copper imports. Anyone seeking where ongoing demand comes from should only look at China’s surge in EV production, as it accounts for 59 percent of global electric vehicle (EV) sales. According to Statista, in 2022, China produced around 5.47 million battery EVs, an increase of 85.8 percent compared to 2020. With this in mind, China launched a multi-agency government work plan in 2023 to target the promotion and steady expansion of the non-ferrous metal industry, which includes copper.
China is also concerned about the increasing vulnerability of its supply chains, making its production capabilities essential. Issues in the South China Sea, Taiwan, and the East China Sea could complicate access to source countries, which will also see a more significant push from the West to secure its own supply chains. Consequently, China wants to develop its copper resources more fully to de-risk its vulnerability to extended supply chains as much as possible. That is happening.

How the United States Lost Niger  (Cameron Hudson, Foreign Policy)
When senior U.S. officials descended on Niger’s capital city, Niamey, recently, they had little idea that the sands of the Sahara were shifting under their feet. The trip—the highest-level visit to the country since Niger’s military leaders overthrew Washington’s preferred ally in the region last July—was intended as a last-ditch attempt to salvage a security relationship that would allow Washington to continue operating a drone base in the country despite suspending military aid to Niger’s new coup government.
But after three days of waiting, the delegation left without having met the country’s military commander, Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani. A day later, a junta spokesperson announced the termination of the military partnership that Washington had come to secure.
Over the last decade, the United States has spent nearly $1 billion in Niger, helping to provide a vast range of assistance to deliver clean water and health care; counter the pernicious effects of climate change; and train and equip a beleaguered army against the highest concentration of jihadi attacks in the world.
However, it turns out, in a world of rapidly changing power dynamics, Washington’s development aid counted for little. In this new multipolar world, it seems that the United States, still arguably the richest and most powerful country in the world, needs Niger, one of the world’s poorest and weakest countries, more than Niger needs it.

The False Promise of Nuclear Deterrence for Postwar Ukrainian Security  (Matthew Evangelista, Lawfare)
However and whenever Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine ends, Ukrainians will need a postwar security policy. Their choice holds implications for European security more broadly. Some observers, and many Ukrainians, anticipate Ukraine’s eventual membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As a NATO member, Ukraine would benefit from the ostensible protection afforded by “extended nuclear deterrence”—the prospect that the United States might respond to an attack against a NATO ally, even carried out with only conventional forces, by a retaliatory strike with nuclear weapons against the attacker. Others find the proposal for Ukraine to join NATO dubious or undesirable, and some question the credibility of the extended-deterrent threat or worry that it increases the risk of unintended escalation to global nuclear war. The best thing for postwar Ukraine, however, would be to avoid tying its security to nuclear weapons—its own or NATO’s. Instead, it should focus on ensuring its conventional forces are robust and defensively oriented, adequate to deter but not to provoke another Russian attack.
One might have expected Russia’s February 2022 invasion to have shaken confidence in the view that nuclear weapons foster an overall peace. Granted, Ukraine received no extended-deterrent promise from the United States (even though the Budapest Memorandum, signed when Ukraine agreed to relinquish the Soviet nuclear weapons held on its territory after the dissolution of the USSR, offered “security assurances”). Still the proponents of nuclear weapons had touted their contribution to maintaining the peace, beyond the countries explicitly sheltered under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In 1987, for example, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher criticized Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev’s advocacy of nuclear disarmament—a view he shared with the nuclear abolitionist Ronald Reagan. Thatcher asserted, by contrast, that “we do not believe that it is possible to ensure peace for any considerable amount of time without nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the most powerful and most terrible guarantee of peace that was invented in the 20th century. There is no other guarantee.” Thirty years later, in July 2017, 122 countries meeting at UN headquarters in New York City voted in favor of a legally binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The nuclear-armed members of NATO—the United States, the United Kingdom, and France—vowed never to sign or ratify the treaty, which entered into force in January 2021. “Accession to the ban treaty,” they argued, “is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.” In making this claim, they were echoing not only Thatcher but also Vladimir Putin, who had stated in October 2016 that “nuclear weapons constitute a factor of deterrence and a factor guaranteeing peace and security throughout the whole world.” On the contrary, it is possible that Russia’s nuclear arsenal enabled the attacks of both 2014 and 2022, with Putin confident that it would deter NATO from coming to Ukraine’s defense.
Yet confidence in nuclear deterrence persists, based on the understanding that it prevented Soviet aggression against Europe during the Cold War. In fact, however, this claim is incorrect. Nuclear deterrence was never put to the test in Europe, because there was nothing to deter. What Robert Jervis wrote more than 20 years ago remains true today: “The Soviet archives have yet to reveal any serious plans for unprovoked aggression against Western Europe, not to mention a first strike against the United States.” Instead, the archival documents showed that Soviet military plans immediately following World War II were defensively oriented—with forces arrayed in belts at 50, 100, and 150 kilometers from the inter-German border. Only with the deployment to NATO Europe of tactical nuclear weapons in the early 1950s did the Soviet Army adopt an offensive orientation. The introduction of U.S. nuclear weapons into Europe did not enhance security but, rather, fostered instability and raised the risk of war.

America Has Pressured Israel Before—and Can Do It Again  (Alia Brahimi, Foreign Policy)
Despite representing the world’s preeminent military power, on whom Israel depends for weaponsfunds, and diplomatic cover, U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have resorted to performative workarounds, airdropping aid and building a floating pier off the shores of Gaza.
But there is an alternative. Rather than undertaking symbolic half-measures, the Biden administration could draw upon vast U.S. leverage and take its cue from a Republican Party predecessor: former President George H.W. Bush. In 1991, Bush Sr. and his secretary of state, James A. Baker IIImade it clear that if Israel wanted to receive an aid package of $10 billion in loan guarantees, it had to stop using U.S. money to build Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
The ensuing faceoff between the White House and the Israeli government, involving presidential veto threats and furious congressional lobbying from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was one of the most fraught periods in U.S.-Israeli relations.
Of course, the starting points of the two cases are different, in that Israel was not engaged in a full-scale war in 1991. However, political courage in Washington is arguably more necessary in wartime—particularly as charges of war crimes, including genocide, are taken seriously by the International Court of Justice and even in U.S. courts.
But unlike Biden and Blinken, Bush Sr. and Baker were firm in conditioning aid to Israel on respect for international law. The president told journalists in 1992 he would “not give one inch.” Washington should summon similar resolve today.