March 27, 2020

Sharper: Global Coronavirus Response

Analysis from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy.

By Chris Estep and Cole Stevens

As regions across the United States enforce states of emergency and a growing list of countries restrict travel, close schools, and quarantine citizens, the economic and human costs of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continue to mount. With no clear end in sight to the crisis, America's national security and public health institutions face a daunting challenge.

CNAS experts sharpen the focus on America's coronavirus response. Continue reading the first edition of the Sharper series to explore their analysis regarding how the United States can improve local resilience, advocate for improvements in the global public health infrastructure, and best utilize every tool at its disposal to respond to the outbreak.


Experts from across the Center have offered timely analysis on the U.S. response to the global spread of the coronavirus.

  • CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine warned in Foreign Policy that "where the need to fight the coronavirus might once have brought the United States and China closer together, today it is driving them further apart."
  • Ilan Goldenberg, Director of the CNAS Middle East Security Program, argued in a piece for The Washington Post, "Today’s crisis will inevitably force a reassessment. But we should not overreact to the coronavirus crisis nor allow it to be used as an opportunity for ideologues to pursue a narrow agenda."
Asia-Pacific Security

Virus Competition Is Wrecking China-U.S. Cooperation Hopes

As Washington shifted its worldview over the last several years to a sharp focus on China competition, even the most claw-bearing hawks generally left open the possibility of ...

Asia-Pacific Security

9/11 swallowed U.S. foreign policy. Don’t let the coronavirus do the same thing.

For two decades, American foreign policy has been shaped by the 9/11 attacks. The catastrophic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our failure to see the full threat posed by Russia...

  • Kurt Campbell, Chairman of the CNAS Board of Directors, and Rush Doshi, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security, wrote in Foreign Affairs that, while the U.S. falters in its initial response to the coronavirus crisis, China is attempting to reshape itself as an international leader.
  • Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Carrie Cordero and Joshua A. Geltzer argued in The Washington Post that Americans must adjust to the new challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak. "At a pivotal moment for slowing the spread of coronavirus on U.S. soil," they wrote, "Americans need to learn a new kind of resilience that’s the opposite of what they’ve spent 20 years cultivating — and fast."
  • In an article for The Hill, Kayla M. Williams, Director of the CNAS Military, Veterans, and Society Program, argued that the coronavirus outbreak "drives home the need to maintain a strong system of VA medical facilities nationwide."
Asia-Pacific Security

The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order

With hundreds of millions of people now isolating themselves around the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event. And while its geopolitical impli...

Asia-Pacific Security

We learned resilience after 9/11. But it’s the wrong kind for combatting a virus.

Ever since the attacks of 9/11 shocked the nation, Americans have been urged by political leaders to learn resilience in the face of terrorism. That’s been critical to improvi...

Military, Veterans, & Society

Coronavirus pandemic illustrates the need to maintain a strong VA

Schools, offices, and other businesses are shutting down nationwide as the United States ramps up its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we read about the extreme strain pl...

  • Martijn Rasser, Senior Fellow in the CNAS Technology and National Security Program, wrote in The National Interest how the coronavirus crisis has exposed fragility in global supply chain network, especially for essential items like pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, which has profound consequences for U.S. national security.
  • Experts Kristine Lee and Ashley Feng warned in The Hill about China's efforts to erode critical global public health institutions. "After its early mismanagement of the outbreak," they wrote, "China is brazenly leveraging what is now a global crisis to advance its narrow aims."
  • In an article for Task and Purpose, Military, Veterans, and Society research associate Emma Moore expressed concern that the U.S. military's reserve components have "fallen between the cracks" in the U.S. response to the outbreak.
Asia-Pacific Security

Pandemic Problem: America's Supply Chains are Dangerously Brittle

With all the uncertainty swirling around the Covid-19 outbreak, one thing is crystal clear: the methods needed to prevent or contain an epidemic have exposed the vulnerability...

Asia-Pacific Security

How China set forth the global coronavirus crisis into motion

As the shroud of crisis began to lift at the center of the coronavirus epidemic in China, Beijing launched a campaign to project an image of global leadership while the United...

Asia-Pacific Security

How the US military's coronavirus response may screw over the reserves

The endless pursuit of lethality combined with perverse incentives for commanders means the U.S. military’s reserve component risks being left in the lurch by the government’s...

  • CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine and Gary Edson argued in The National Interest that G20 leaders "should adopt a broad agenda consistent with a wartime footing, and the G7 should follow with closer cooperation and greater specificity."
  • In an article for Business Insider, authors Megan Lamberth and Chris Estep called for members of the public to respond to the coronavirus outbreak with "an attitude of 'digital citizenship,' treating online communications with the same level of scrutiny as in-person interactions."
  • In a new CNAS commentary, Sam Dorshimer and Ashley Feng shared top takeaways from a March 19 discussion on Twitter featuring experts from the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security Program.
Asia-Pacific Security

Can the G7 Stop the Coronavirus?

The world’s leading governments are throwing all they have into the coronavirus fight. Recent days have seen dramatic social distancing requirements, novel border controls, ma...

Technology & National Security

As the coronavirus spreads, Americans have to flatten the misinformation curve too

Overnight, Americans have become all too familiar with the call to "flatten the curve" by taking precautionary measures to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19)...

Energy, Economics, & Security

The Economic Impacts of Covid-19

On March 19, the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security (EES) program held a Twitter conversation on the impact of Covid-19 on economic and financial markets. EES Program Direct...


China is increasingly using its economic, political, and institutional power to change the global governance system from within. In a May 2019 report, experts Kristine Lee and Alexander Sullivan investigated China’s approach to seven organs and functions of the United Nations (U.N.). Their report raised additional concerns about Chinese-led efforts to exclude Taiwan from the World Health Organization (WHO). Their examination yielded several critical insights into Beijing’s emerging strategy, which seeks to advance China’s interests in the context of international organizations.

In January 2020, experts from across the Center offered nearly 100 specific, actionable policy recommendations for renewing American competitiveness, including increases in federal R&D spending to 1.2 percent of America's gross domestic product (GDP). Existing organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive this increased funding, which would match levels reached by the United States in the 1970s.

Asia-Pacific Security

People’s Republic of the United Nations

China is increasingly using its economic, political, and institutional power to change the global governance system from within....


Rising to the China Challenge

The United States and China are locked in strategic competition over the future of the Indo-Pacific—the most populous, dynamic, and consequential region in the world....

In the News

Featuring commentary and analysis by Kristine Lee, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Ilan Goldenberg, Richard Fontaine, Ely Ratner, Daniel Kliman, Peter Harrell, John Hughes, Ashley Feng, Megan Lamberth, and Rachel Ziemba.

Asia-Pacific Security

U.S. and China Turn Coronavirus Into a Geopolitical Football

In a bid to restore its reputation globally, China claims to have fundamentally contained the spread of coronavirus in its hardest-hit areas and has pledged $20 million to hel...

Energy, Economics, & Security

Iran Sanctions Aggravate Coronavirus Crisis

Have years of U.S. sanctions and efforts to isolate Iran affected the ability to get information about –- or aid to help control –- the coronavirus, as it continues to spread?...

Middle East Security

Coronavirus Can’t Quarantine The Proxy War Between U.S. and Iran

A pandemic is spreading around the world, challenging global health systems and national preparedness. About the only thing the novel coronavirus is not disrupting is conflict...

Asia-Pacific Security

CNAS Responds: Coronavirus Outbreak Tests Every Aspect of U.S. and International Security

As regions across the U.S. announce states of emergency and a growing list of countries restrict travel, close schools, and quarantine citizens, the economic costs of the coro...

About the Sharper Series

The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.


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  • Commentary
    • April 9, 2020
    Sharper: America's National Security Workforce

    The greatest source of strength in American national security is the people who lead and serve within its institutions. The ongoing U.S. response to the global coronavirus out...

    By Emma Moore, Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

  • Commentary
    • April 8, 2020
    China’s Economy and COVID-19

    On April 2, the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security (EES) program held a Twitter conversation on the impact of COVID-19 on China’s economic performance, priorities, leverage,...

    By Sam Dorshimer & Ashley Feng

  • Commentary
    • POLITICO Magazine
    • April 8, 2020
    Now’s Not the Time for Isolationism

    The coronavirus is a public health tragedy. If the United States isn’t careful, it could turn into a geopolitical one, too. How the U.S. manages—or mismanages—the coronavirus...

    By Michèle Flournoy & Lisa Monaco

  • Commentary
    • April 7, 2020
    Legal and Advocacy Services for Veterans

    In the post-9/11 era, a “sea of goodwill” made up of organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors has formed to support veterans, servicemembers, their families...

    By Carole House

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