October 9, 2008

HARRISONBURG—Today in a commentary for the New Atlanticist, the online public policy forum of the Atlantic Council of the United States, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, discusses the ongoing stand-off in the Gulf of Aden between Somali pirates, who seized a Ukrainian-owned freighter and its cargo of armaments two weeks ago, and the United States Navy warships which have the hijacked vessel surrounded as the Russian fleet’s most modern frigate, the Neustrashimy, heads to the scene.

According to Dr. Pham, who outlines the confluence of interests at work in the situation, “there may be an upside to the crisis:  an opportunity for Russia and the West to work together.” The essay concludes:

In short, whether or not developments off the Somali coast in the coming days will signal the beginnings of the type of international maritime peacekeeping which [U.S. Naval War College professor] Derek Reveron [has suggested], the emerging consensus between the United States, the European Union, and Russia that the threat of piracy can no longer be ignored presents a unique opportunity for some confidence-building exercises after recent rifts. Indeed it is a salutary reminder that, whatever ongoing tensions persist between members of NATO and the Kremlin…, there are also other areas where international security cooperation is not only needed, but possible. In that sense, the spectacular heist of the Faina could not have come at a more opportune moment for everyone, except perhaps the pirates .

Founded in 1961 by former Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Christian Herter and others, the Atlantic Council is the American branch of the Atlantic Treaty Association, an international network of organizations in the member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charged with promoting public understanding and support for the policies and institutions which are the bulwark of collective security and peace. The Atlantic Council—currently chaired by General James L. Jones, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, with Lieutenant General Brent Scowcoft, former National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, as head of its International Advisory Board—has as its mission to advance “constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in me­eting the international challenges of the 21 st century.” Launched a month ago, the New Atlanticist aims to “provide expert analysis on the most pressing issues facing the transatlantic community from the Council's staff, board, affiliated scholars, and friends.”


To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s contribution, “Piracy’s Silver Lining?” click here.