America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan sent an unfortunate signal to our friends and foes alike that U.S. leadership is receding on the world stage. From the Taiwan Strait to the Persian Gulf to Central and Eastern Europe, America’s friends watch our actions with growing concern and our adversaries seek advantage.
In the midst of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, President Vladimir Putin put on a significant show of force with the “Zapad-2021” military exercise with Belarus. The U.S. and its NATO allies must watch their eastern flank. As the exercise demonstrated, Russia has steadily modernized and increased its capabilities over the past decade. While it is unlikely that Putin would risk invading a European neighbor at this time, it cannot be ruled out given the debacle he witnessed in Afghanistan.