Ban Ki-moon hugs his successor as U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, at Guterres’ swearing-in ceremony, Dec. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

The festive season may be over, but if you still have any leftover champagne lying about, pop the cork. This column, Diplomatic Fallout, is five years old today. Or, to be more precise, five years and a day: The first edition appeared on Jan. 7, 2013. Since then, occasionally pausing for bouts of paternity leave and public holidays, I have churned out just over 200 pieces—very roughly 200,000 words—for World Politics Review. That’s about the same as Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” in terms of the quantity of words involved, if not necessarily the quality. The column has at times strayed […]

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a photo ahead of the G-20 summit, Hangzhou, China, Sept. 4, 2016 (Pool photo by Wang Zhao via AP).

Over the past six months, debates have grown in Australia and New Zealand about whether China is wielding more political influence within their borders than at any time in recent memory. In September, a New Zealand academic, Anne-Marie Brady, released an exhaustive report detailing Beijing’s efforts to influence the country’s politics. Tactics included trying to control organizations representing the ethnic Chinese community in New Zealand and channeling money to politicians and educational institutions. In late 2017, New Zealand’s deputy prime minister called for an investigation into the vetting process for national security clearances, after Brady and several reporters revealed that […]

An Afghan vendor of lapis lazuli waits for customers, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 28, 2016 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Afghanistan has some of the richest mineral deposits in the world, but extracting them has proven difficult amid years of instability and war. There were modest signs of improvement in 2017, most notably the Afghan government’s ability to manage and report its earnings from mining royalties and taxes, which it couldn’t do much at all a few years ago. But challenges remain to attract more meaningful foreign investment and capitalize on the country’s resources. The Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum reported earning approximately $86 million in revenues in 2017, $19 million more than it reported earning in 2016. Yet […]

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photographers at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, May 16, 2017 (Pool photo by Damir Sagolj via AP).

HONG KONG—There are few winners from the crisis in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, where thousands of ethnic Rohingyas have lost their lives in an ongoing military crackdown and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. But one exception is China, whose diplomats have skillfully exploited the turmoil to advance Beijing’s interests. In August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an insurgent group claiming to represent Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, attacked a series of security installations, provoking a murderous reaction from the military. Doctors Without Borders reported that at least 6,700 Rohingyas were killed in the first month of violence, while over […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban President Raul Castro embrace during a meeting in Moscow, May 7, 2015 (Pool photo by Anatoly Maltsev via AP).

In 2017, as the Trump administration turned its back on U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, the island deepened its relations with Russia, its longtime backer during the Cold War. Russian exports to Cuba were up 81 percent in the first nine months of 2017, and a possible agreement with Russian oil giant Rosneft may pave the way for Russia to supplant Venezuela as Cuba’s biggest energy supplier. In an email interview, William M. LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington D.C. and an expert on Latin American affairs, discusses renewed Cuba-Russia ties and the opportunities and obstacles ahead […]

President Donald Trump delivers his National Security Strategy in Washington, Dec. 18, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

A quick survey of the security landscape for 2018 leaves little doubt that the North Korean crisis will continue to be a U.S. national security priority. Some are hoping to dial back the momentum toward a showdown, urging the Trump administration to take a deep breath before making more rhetorical pronouncements. But there are ample signs that the big machine of the U.S. government is preparing for all contingencies, including military action. What about other threats? President Donald Trump’s new National Security Strategy, released last month, takes the longer view, and is helpful mainly in determining what is on his […]