CIGI: What do you think was the biggest event in 2013 for global security?
Fen Hampson: The biggest event was the continuation of Syria’s brutal civil war, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions more within the country. As we look to events in the Middle East, the US-Russian agreement on chemical weapons with the Assad regime and the P5+1 negotiation with Iran to essentially push the pause button on its nuclear program are also ranked highly.
Certainly, the revelation of classified documents by former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden has transformed the cyber landscape. Not only has it embarrassed the US government, but it has also driven a political wedge into the country’s relations with many of its allies, especially on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The future of Internet governance and the multi-stakeholder model will certainly be impacted by these events, the extent of which are currently unknown and are certainly an area to explore.
CIGI: What will be the biggest event in 2014 for global security?
Hampson: With the increasingly erratic and unpredictable behaviour of North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un, there is a real and growing risk of military conflict on the Korean peninsula. Also, in the Asia-Pacific, China’s sabre-rattling and its creation of an Air Defence Identification Zone over the contested territories in the China Sea are raising tensions more generally in the region.
We should also be concerned about unfolding situations in the Middle East, not only in Syria. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are very worried about the direction Western countries are moving, particularly the United States, in their relations with Iran — developments that they see are not stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Unless there is a comprehensive agreement that rolls back Iran's nuclear ambitions, the region will see a nuclear arms race.
With regard to Canada and the 2014 withdraw from Afghanistan, I would say that we have already left Afghanistan — there is just some residual training capacity that will leave in March. I think there is a sense that Afghanistan was a failure in terms of what we spent in both lives and treasure to try to help the country. There is very much a “never again” mentality in the Canadian public and political leaders when it comes to this kind of military intervention.