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  • Writer's pictureThe Aspen Strategy Group

The ASG Weekly Leaf: 4/16/21

This week, President Joe Biden announced that U.S. forces would leave Afghanistan by September 11, Russia continued amassing forces near the Ukrainian border, and Iran announced it would enrich uranium up to 60 percent following a blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility. Read more below.


This Week's Content Highlights

Features from Aspen Strategy Group Members

Madeleine Albright in an Atlantic Council discussion: “Celebrating 160 Years of U.S.-Italian Diplomatic Relations”

Nicholas Burns’ interview with President Bill Clinton featured in the Harvard Gazette: Clinton Reflects on Foreign Policy Triumphs and Challenges”

James Cartwright in an Atlantic Council discussion: “The Future of U.S. Security in Space”

Tom Donilon in a Council on Foreign Relations interview: “Lessons Learned With Thomas Donilon”

Michèle Flournoy on the Financial Times’ Rachman Review podcast: “Are the U.S. and China Entering a Cold War?”

Joseph Nye featured in the Global Times: “Reflecting on 50th anniversary of ping-pong diplomacy on both sides of the Pacific amid stalemate in ties”

David Sanger for The New York Times: “With Afghan Decision, Biden Seeks to Focus U.S. on New Challenges”

James Steinberg gives the Georgetown Journal of National Security Law & Policy symposium keynote address

Philip Zelikow on the Texas National Security Review’s Horns of a Dilemma podcast: “The Greatest Unknown Tragedy of World War I”


Tweet of the Week


Upcoming Events

The Biden Administration's First 100 Days in Review

Friday, April 30th

9:30 AM - 12:30 PM ET


Jake Sullivan

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kathleen H. Hicks

Deputy Secretary of Defense

Stephen Beigun

Former Deputy Secretary of State

Thomas E. Donilon

Chairman, BlackRock Investment Institute and Former National Security Advisor

Jennifer Griffin

National Security Correspondent, Fox News

Helene Cooper

Pentagon Correspondent, The New York Times

Gerald F. Seib

Executive Washington Editor, The Wall Street Journal


Christine Lagarde

President of the European Central Bank

In Conversation With

David Rubenstein

Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, The Carlyle Group

Introduced By

Nicholas Burns

Executive Director, Aspen Strategy Group & Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

With Closing Remarks By

Melissa S. Kearney

Director, Aspen Economic Strategy Group & Neil Moskowitz Professor of Economics, The University of Maryland

Presented in partnership with the Aspen Economic Strategy Group


Things to Know

Stay Informed with Important Analysis Relevant to Aspen Security Forum Discussions

Karen DeYoung, Shira Rubin, and Kareem Fahim in The Washington Post: “U.S. Prepares for Further Talks with Iran as Tehran Blames Israel for Attack on Nuclear Facility”

Niall Ferguson in the Times Literary Supplement: “All the Difference: The Peacemaking Initiative That Failed, at Vast Cost”

Michael R. Gordon, Dustin Volz, and Vivian Salama in The Wall Street Journal: "U.S. Puts Fresh Sanctions on Russia Over Hacking, Election Interference"

Matthew Lee in The Washington Post: "NATO to Match U.S. Troop Pullout from Afghanistan"

John McLaughlin on Ozy: "First Comes Iran, Then Comes North Korea"

Alexander Smith and Matthew Bodner for NBC News: “Russia Amasses Troops Near U.S. Ally Ukraine. But What Is Putin's Goal?” Dov Zakheim in The National Interest: “Why Abandoning King Abdullah Would Be Bad for America”


Book of the Week

By Graham Allison

“China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: ‘It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.’ Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries ‘great again,’ the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate into all-out war.

In Destined for War, the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides’s Trap is the best lens for understanding U.S.-China relations in the twenty-first century. Through uncanny historical parallels and war scenarios, he shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past — and what painful steps the United States and China must take to avoid disaster today.


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