Robert Farley

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and TAPPED.

Recent Articles


Now this is fascinating: In a sign of growing concern in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government over US President Barack Obama 's Middle East policies, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled proposed Israeli sanctions on the US in a letter to cabinet ministers on Sunday... In the interim, the minister suggests reconsidering military and civilian purchases from the US, selling sensitive equipment that the Washington opposes distributing internationally, and allowing other countries that compete with the US to get involved with the peace process and be given a foothold for their military forces and intelligence agencies. Peled said that shifting military acquisition to America's competition would make Israel less dependent on the US. For instance, he suggested buying planes from the France-based Airbus firm instead of the American Boeing. This puts to test the notion that Israel is a major strategic asset for the United States, rather than a strategic liability. I have never...


Last week, an interview at a Brazilian defense website revealed that China and Brazil had come to an agreement regarding the training of Chinese naval personnel on board the Sao Paulo , Brazil's only aircraft carrier. Brazil is one of the only four countries in the world to possess an aircraft carrier capable of launching and recovering conventional aircraft; the others are France, Russia, and the United States. The United States has little interest in training Chinese pilots and crew, France is prohibited from doing so under EU law, and Russia is currently engulfed in an intellectual property-related spat over Chinese fighter aircraft. China currently has no operational aircraft carriers, but is widely believed to be planning a fleet. This left Brazil as China's only option for a preview of big deck carrier operations. These operations are quite complicated , and take a long time to master. Cooperation with Brazil, both in terms of generating familiarity with the carrier and in terms...


North Korea announced that it had tested a second nuclear device yesterday, a move which immediately earned the condemnation of the international community. Initial reports indicated that the explosion was in the 15-20 kiloton range (roughly the size of the Hiroshima bomb) but those reports appear to have been mistaken; the bomb was probably fewer than 10 kilotons, and perhaps less than four. This suggests either that the test was not completely successful, or that the North Koreans are trying to skip several levels of nuclear design by creating minaturized , low-yield nuclear devices that might fit on the end of a missile. I'd bet pretty heavily on the former possibility, as it took the United States and other nuclear powers a very long time to figure out the dynamics of small nuclear weapons. Response options are limited. North Korea is already so isolated that additional sanctions (and additional condemnation) has only marginal effect. The success of any action against North Korea...


Last week I spoke with Vanda Felbab-Brown of Brookings about gangsters, pirates, insurgents, and weak states. Here we talk a bit about the violence of the Mexican drug cartels: Ms. Felbab-Brown also has a paper on the Mexican drug cartels from Brookings that's worth your valuable time. --Robert Farley


Via David Axe and the United States Naval Institute blog , Fairplay Shipping News reports that a retired Soviet admiral has claimed that many of the chief Somali pirates were trained in Soviet naval schools. Sergey Bliznyuk told the Ukrainian newspaper Gazeta Po-Kievskiy that he had personally come across some men he now believes are behind many hijackings. “There are many former military men among the Somalis who have perfected the tactics of sea combat,” he said. “The majority of these 40-50-year-olds were trained in the former Soviet Union. “I myself taught at one point at a school in Baku [Azerbaijan], where we had 70-80 Somalis a year studying.” Bliznyuk told the newspaper that Soviet officers had trained naval personnel from the government of President Siad Barre , who ruled Somalia in 1969-91 after a military coup. Further, Bliznyuk told the newspaper: “The USSR taught not only Somali natives but also those of Yemen, Ethiopia and others. Who...