Supporters of Belarus’ opposition from Lithuania wave historical Belarusian flags near Medininkai, east of Vilnius, Lithuania, Aug. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Last month, China recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded that Vilnius do the same in response to Lithuania’s plans to establish reciprocal diplomatic offices with Taiwan. Despite the pressure from Beijing, the Lithuanian government has refused to back down in its plans to deepen relations with Taipei. This week on the Trend Lines podcast this week, Edward Lucas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a former senior editor at The Economist, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to discuss the history and context behind the strong anti-authoritarian streak in Lithuania’s foreign policy. Listen to the […]

Tunisian demonstrators gather outside the Municipal Theater of Tunis during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

It’s a bitter irony that the last embers of the Arab Spring may be snuffed out in the same place, Tunisia, where a spark first ignited massive pro-democracy fires across a region filled with dictatorships. Tunisians, at least some of them, seem to be stirring from their jaded acceptance of a presidential coup. Still, the one country that emerged from the Arab uprisings with a semblance of democracy looks like it’s returning to what was the norm before the revolutions it unleashed in 2010. Last Sunday, thousands of people turned out to protest in the Tunisian capital, where President Kais Saied, […]

Guinea’s Junta President Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, after a meeting with an ECOWAS delegation in Conakry, Guinea, Sept. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

For the past decade and more, the U.S. and other international actors have prioritized a narrowly defined form of stability over democratic accountability in their diplomatic, development and security engagement in West Africa. The only problem is that this approach is not working. West African countries enjoy neither the stability their international partners seek, nor the democracy their citizens desire.  Why, then, is the United States and the rest of the “international community” unwilling or unable to make a course correction in their West Africa engagement? To begin to answer that question, a bit of historical background is necessary. Beginning […]

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, right, at a press conference with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, in Vilnius, Lithuania, Aug. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

The government of Lithuania caused a stir this summer when it announced that it would allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in the capital, Vilnius, with plans to open a reciprocal Lithuanian representative office in Taipei. China responded by withdrawing its ambassador to Vilnius and demanding that Lithuania do the same. And in May, the Lithuanian parliament passed a resolution labeling China’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang as a “genocide.” China is not the only authoritarian power that Lithuania is facing off with. Vilnius hosts the Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled her home country last […]

Shoes are placed outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honor the 215 children whose unmarked graves were discovered near the facility, in Kamloops, British Columbia, June 4, 2021 (Photo by Darryl Dyck for the Canadian Press via AP).

Four months ago, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in Canada made international headlines when it announced it had discovered 215 unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The next month, the Cowessess First Nation announced a similar finding of 751 unmarked graves near Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. A further 160 were soon found at the site of Kuper Island Residential School, near Vancouver, with many more Indigenous communities taking up their own searches for similar sites.  Secwepemc community members, as well as others from communities mounting their own searches, were quick to […]

John Ruggie when he was special representative for economy and human rights of the U.N. secretary-general, Berlin, Germany, June 20, 2007 (DPA photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert via AP Images).

On Sept. 16, on the eve of the opening of this year’s United Nations General Assembly, John Ruggie passed away. A giant in the study and practice of world politics, Ruggie’s writings left a lasting impression on a generation of colleagues and students, and his contributions to multilateral cooperation as a U.N. official will reverberate for many more. In a half-century career straddling academia and policymaking, Ruggie enriched our collective understanding of the normative sinews of world order and the endless possibilities of international cooperation.  It is rare for academics to have a direct policy impact, but Ruggie certainly did. […]

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand protest against the military coup in front of the United Nations building in Bangkok, Thailand, March 7, 2021 (AP photo by Nava Sangthong).

In the run-up to this year’s high-level meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, there were almost too many issues to address: a global pandemic, climate change, renewed and continuing conflicts and great power competition, to name a few. But when it came to the crisis in Myanmar, attention focused on a single question: Who should represent the country in New York? The answer would determine how much the international community can do to help Myanmar, a country now teetering on the edge of civil war, in the months ahead. The turmoil began on Feb. 1, when Myanmar’s military, known […]

Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attend a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Sept. 16, 2021 (AP photo

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The aftershocks from last week’s bombshell announcement by the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that they would be forming a new security partnership whose pilot project would be to assist Australia in building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines continued to be felt well into this week. The deal signaled a major shift in the strategic landscape of […]

Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of Mali’s military junta, and retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw, right, as N’Daw is sworn into the office of transitional president, Bamako, Mali, Sept. 25, 2020 (AP file photo).

With rising communal and interethnic violence gripping swaths of the country, two coups in less than a year and a deadlocked transition to civilian rule, Mali is arguably facing its most uncertain moment since the 1991 March Revolution, which paved the way for the country’s return to civilian government nearly 30 years ago. Throw in a peace accord with northern insurgent groups on life support, a drawdown of Operation Barkhane—France’s massive counterinsurgency mission across the Sahel—and a rumored deal to deploy Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group to the country, and it’s fair to say Mali’s immediate and […]

Victor Ruiz Valencia removes his hat during the burial of his cousin, Yaqui Indigenous rights leader Tomas Rojo, who was found dead amid local opposition to construction in the area, in Vicam, Sonora state, Mexico, July 10, 2021 (AP photo/Luis Gutierrez).

According to a report released last week, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for environmental and land rights activists around the world. The human rights organization Global Witness recorded 227 killings of such activists, a tally that it said was almost certainly an undercount.  As the report makes clear, the victims were most often killed while resisting the activities of extractive industries on their land: logging, mining, the clearing of forests for agribusiness and other environmentally destructive activities that fuel the climate crisis. Of the confirmed lethal attacks, the highest number was recorded in Colombia, and nearly three-fourths of […]

A Wikipedia landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, Jan. 18, 2012 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Last week, Maggie Dennis, Wikimedia’s vice president of community resilience & sustainability, announced that it had removed seven Chinese nationals as editors on Wikipedia, following a year-long investigation into “the unrecognized group Wikimedians of Mainland China.” The internal investigation by Wikipedia’s parent organization uncovered evidence of “infiltration” resulting in members of the platform’s editorial community facing the risk of physical harm and other threats to their safety. Though Wikipedia is banned in mainland China, there have been press reports of hotly contested “edit wars” relating to political content on the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the status of Taiwan.  The episode reignites […]

Turkish security forces apprehend a group of migrants in an operation aimed at stemming the recent influx of migration, in Van, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In July, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the U.K. had agreed to pay France roughly $72 million to fund border personnel and equipment that would be used to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the English Channel. The deal came amid a dramatic rise in the number of channel crossings. In the first half of 2021, more than 8,000 asylum-seekers completed the voyage to land on England’s southern shore. The deal with France was controversial, including within Patel’s own Conservative Party. Noting that this was the second such payment to France in the past year, Tim Loughton, a leading Conservative […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2021 (AP pool photo by Maxim Shemetov).

Last September, the United Nations marked its 75th anniversary in somber style, against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century pandemic, a deepening climate crisis, geopolitical tensions and antipathy from its most powerful member. A year on, the United States has returned—for the most part—to the multilateral fold. Otherwise, much remains the same. COVID-19 continues its rampage; global warming and biodiversity loss proceed apace; and great power competition stymies international cooperation. Into this maelstrom steps U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. As world leaders gather in person and virtually for this week’s annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Guterres will seek their support […]

A user holds a smartphone with an opened Facebook page in Moscow, Russia, June 10, 2021 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

While Congress debates new online privacy rules and the European Union slaps ever more fines on tech giants, another government has been increasing the pressure on Silicon Valley: Russia. Over the past year or so, Moscow has employed ever more punitive measures against Western technology companies in order to force them to bend to its wide-ranging demands on issues like content censorship, local data storage and market practices. The latest development came last Friday when, in response to pressure from the Russian government, Apple and Google removed an app from its online stores that was meant to encourage users to […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani upon his arrival at the Red Sea city of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, May 10, 2021 (AP photo by Bandar Aljaloud).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Talking is good, but how much should expectations and hopes be raised now that Middle East rivals are talking without necessarily putting a pause on their disputes?  Friday saw the unveiling of a new “public display of diplomacy” in the broader region when an aide to […]

A militiaman loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, stands guard in Panjshir province, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Jalaluddin Sekandar).

After a military retreat by Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front last week in the Panjshir Valley, the group’s head of foreign relations, Ali Nazary, appeared in Washington last Friday to vow that it would continue holding out against the Taliban and to seek military assistance for doing so. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the NRF has hired lobbyist Robert Stryk to seek military and financial support for their ongoing fight against the Taliban.  The NRF has made similar entreaties to the U.K. and France, as well as other countries closer to Afghanistan. They are one of only several militant groups with the potential to muster an […]

A man watches a televised national address by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Managua, Nicaragua, June 23, 2021 (AP photo by Miguel Andres).

The Nicaraguan regime appears to be extending its intensifying wave of repression beyond the country’s borders. Last Saturday, the exiled Nicaraguan pro-democracy activist Joao Maldonado, 34, was nearly killed when a man on a motorcycle fired multiple rounds into the car he was riding in Costa Rica, striking him in the chest and other parts of his body. Maldonado remains in critical condition in a San Jose hospital. And although no perpetrator has been identified, suspicions have fallen on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose transformation from independence hero to brutal dictator shows no sign of abating. Maldonado is a well-known leader of the opposition […]

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