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While the phrase “non-lethal arms” has existed for decades, its current use appears to undercut U.S. controls on arms with significant military value, with potentially damaging consequences in Ukraine and beyond.

Released in early February, the Obama Administration’s new National Security Strategy for 2015 reaffirms U.S. foreign security assistance as a key part of U.S. efforts to address counterterrorism and prevent conflict abroad. Compared to the last U.S. National Security Strategy from 2010, however, there are some notable differences, some of which may indicate a narrower U.S. security assistance focus.

As part of the State Department’s budget request for FY 2016 released on February 2, the Obama Administration is requesting a significant jump in security and one type of development aid to the Maghreb and Sahel countries of Africa to “address challenges to U.S. national security emanating” from the two sub-regions.

As the Obama Administration continues to loosen its arms export control policies, the United States may end up helping China modernize its military, according to a recent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report. The study titled “Western Arms Exports to China,” which looked at the export policies and practices of Germany, France, United Kingdom and the United States towards China, encourages the international community to develop a more unified approach on the export of arms and military-relevant goods to China to improve control efforts.

In highly and extremely fragile countries such as Chad, Nigeria and Yemen, U.S. security assistance may have little to no effect on reducing fragility in these countries, according to a RAND Corporation study from late last year.  The report, which is titled “Assessing U.S. Security Cooperation as Preventative Tool,” will likely spark renewed discussion and debate about the proper use of U.S. foreign security aid in volatile countries as well as about the specific types of military and police aid given.

As the Obama Administration looks to engage with the winner of the upcoming presidential run-off election in Tunisia, which is between the current interim President Moncef Marzouki, a former dissident, and Beji Caid Essebsi, a former foreign minister, security sector reform in Tunisia will likely be a key future issue.

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