Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera delivers his speech during his inaugural ceremony in Bangui, March 30, 2021 (AP photo by Adrienne Surprenant).

Once considered a marginal country in regional affairs, the Central African Republic has become a frequent topic of discussion in African security circles. The CAR is frequently cited as the jumping-off point on the continent for the Russian private military contractor the Wagner Group and the touchstone for the group’s involvement in other African countries. But with the group’s activities having now expanded to Mali, Sudan and Libya, the fixation on its flashy entrances into the region’s conflict zones has diverted international attention from a far more alarming development in Bangui: CAR’s increasingly precarious future. For a brief moment in […]

People wait in queues to receive cash at a money distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

International attention has been trained this week on Ukraine, where fears of an imminent outbreak of conflict have many observers worrying about the future of multilateralism in a period of strategic competition between the U.S., Russia and China. Yet an equally troubling bellwether for the future of multilateralism lies in the world’s collective failure to address the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.   Five months after the Taliban’s takeover, the international community appears no closer to an answer on how to manage its strategic interests in Afghanistan, from dealing with the Taliban to addressing the needs of millions of suffering Afghans. […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are seen on the screen during an online opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 25, 2021 (photo by An Khoun Sam Aun for the Ministry of

Early last December, the European Union unveiled its Global Gateway, a plan to spend up to 300 billion euros, or $340 billion, over the next six years financing major infrastructure projects around the world, particularly those to develop clean energy and combat climate change. Although the Global Gateway does not have an explicit focus in terms of specific countries, it prioritizes developing regions such as Southeast Asia.   The investment plan is just the latest expression of Europe’s heightened interest in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region more generally. In the past year, several European countries have released Indo-Pacific strategy […]

A woman holds a photograph during a protest to raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan, outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Aug. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

There was long a truism in political science that democratic states don’t go to war with one another, based on a century of statistical data. This prompted decades of U.S. foreign policy aimed at democracy promotion, culminating in the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem was that the prevalence of the term “democratic peace” led policymakers to overlook three key facts.  First, while stable democracies do tend to enjoy pacific relations with one another, emergent democracies often face great risk of civil or interstate war. Second, stable democracies are actually more likely to go to war against nondemocracies, meaning that the drive […]

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani speaks with the United Arab Emirates’ top national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

A series of deadly explosions in Abu Dhabi, the normally placid capital of the United Arab Emirates, has created a strategic quandary for the UAE government. Its leaders are in the midst of a major diplomatic reinvention, seeking to develop good relations with all of their regional neighbors, including, notably, Iran. The recent attacks, which were carried out by Houthi rebels in Yemen, may cause the UAE to reconsider its rapprochement with Tehran, the Houthis’ chief sponsor. The Houthis’ weapons, reportedly advanced missiles and drones, killed three people­—two Indian nationals and one Pakistani—and injured six others. The strikes targeted an area near the […]

People demonstrate after the Polish parliament approved a bill that is widely viewed as an attack on media freedom, Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In September 2021, the Polish government declared a state of emergency along its border with Belarus, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in response to a large influx of migrants from countries including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The route and timing of the migrants’ journey into Europe was not random: They were assisted by the Belarusian authorities, led by the country’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994. Warsaw went on to accuse Minsk of engaging in “hybrid warfare” backed by Russia. Both the humanitarian crisis on Poland’s border, where migrants were left stranded in […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Rwanda wait to escort members of the U.N. Security Council as they arrive at the airport in Juba, South Sudan, Sept. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Justin Lynch).

The United Nations has no standing army, despite its initial plans to create one. Instead, when it launches a peace operation—the best established tool the international community has to address security threats—it relies on member states to voluntarily contribute personnel and troops. These U.N. deployments have grown in number and size throughout the 21st century, reaching a peak around 2014, when more than 100,000 military peacekeepers were stationed around the world. Today, four of the U.N.’s 12 peace operations—in South Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic—are staffed with more than 10,000 troops each. Along the […]

Attendees walk past an electronic display showing recent cyberattacks in China at the China Internet Security Conference in Beijing, Sept. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Davos Man has seen the future, and it is bleak. Last week, the sponsors of the World Economic Forum released their 17th annual “Global Risks” report on the most worrisome threats confronting humanity in 2022 and beyond. Sadly, this latest crystal ball-reading exercise suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be the least of our worries. Over the next decade, the most pressing task confronting humanity will be ensuring the survival of life on planet Earth—and at the same time, the world’s governments will need to navigate surging economic inequality, rising barriers to migration and growing vulnerabilities in both cyberspace and outer […]

From left, Syrian women Samaa Mahmoud, Mariam Alhallak and Yasmen Almashan hold pictures of relatives who died in Syria, before the verdict in front of the court in Koblenz, Germany, Jan. 13, 2022 (AP photo by Martin Meissner).

The conviction by a German court last week of Anwar Raslan, a Syrian intelligence officer who oversaw the torture and murder of detainees in that country during the early years of its civil war, represents a high-water mark in the ongoing quest for accountability against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the difficulty of securing a war crimes conviction for even a mid-level bureaucrat like Raslan also underscores the difficulty of pursuing accountability for Assad himself. If it’s a long shot to prosecute a low-level perpetrator like Raslan, then how likely is it that Assad will ever be brought to […]

Demonstrators gather during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

On Wednesday, Tunisia announced that it had restored its pandemic-era restrictions, imposing a 10 p.m. curfew and banning all gatherings for two weeks. According to President Kais Saied’s government, the decision was made in order to combat the recent, rapid spread of the coronavirus’s omicron variant. Yet the timing was suspect. It came merely two days before rival political parties were scheduled to lead a massive demonstration against Saied’s concentration of power in his own hands. The main opposition party, Ennahda, immediately promised to defy the ban and called for its supporters to demonstrate anyway.  Tunisia is not an isolated case. Since the beginning […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet with President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

There’s much that remains unknown about the violent turmoil that has engulfed Kazakhstan in recent days. But one clear fact has emerged from the mayhem: Vladimir Putin’s political doctrine has a new, now openly displayed centerpiece. On Monday, as the Russian president declared Kazakhstan’s crisis essentially resolved following a military intervention by Kremlin-led troops, he also announced the new policy. It amounts to a vow by Russia to protect autocratic rulers in former Soviet Republics when they face popular unrest. According to Putin, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization—a security alliance formed by a subset of post-Soviet states in 1992—had […]

A teacher checks the temperature of a student at Maestro Padilla school, in Madrid, Spain, Sept. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Manu Fernandez).

With the world hitting a record number of new COVID-19 cases in a single week in December, it is unsurprising that the coronavirus pandemic is once again dominating headlines. But one story in particular seems to have captured attention: that of Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked tennis player, whose visa was cancelled last week when he arrived in Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open.  Djokovic was initially granted a medical exemption to enter Australia without proof of vaccination against COVID-19, which is normally required to obtain a visa. The Serbian tennis player now appears to have won an appeal against his […]

From left, prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Eduard Heger of Slovakia and Andrej Babis, former prime minister of the Czech Republic, in Budapest, Hungary, Nov. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Laszlo Balogh).

Germany’s new coalition government began winning glowing reviews even before it took office in early December. Its coalition agreement, released in November, satisfied many observers on a range of policy areas, both domestic and international. But one European leader wasn’t impressed.  “The gloves are off!” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared as Olaf Scholz took over as Germany’s new chancellor.  Orban has spent the past decade or so stirring up a series of confrontations with his European Union counterparts, as well as the European Commission in Brussels, over rule of law issues and judicial independence. He did so confident that, […]

People take part in a demonstration to ban killer robots in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, March 21, 2019 (dpa photo by Wolfgang Kumm via AP Images).

By some media accounts, the recent Convention on Conventional Weapons Review Conference was a colossal disappointment for advocates of a treaty ban on autonomous weapons systems. After 10 years of calls for a ban on so-called killer robots—including powerful arguments against their use from scientists, scholars, engineers, Nobel laureates and a wide-ranging network of civil society organizations—governments at the RevCon, as the conference is known to participants, could come up with little more than an agreement to keep talking. Fortune magazine reported that “the world just blew a major opportunity.” In reality, however, the outcome at the RevCon is neither surprising nor troubling. […]

A Senegalese soccer fan holds up a scarf during the African Cup of Nations final match between Algeria and Senegal in Cairo International stadium in Cairo, Egypt, July 19, 2019 (AP Photo by Hassan Ammar).

Fear not, for this isn’t about to be yet another piece forecasting or making “predictions” about the new year. Rather, the intention of this newsletter is to follow up on my final edition of 2021, which took stock not only of lessons learned from having written this newsletter weekly for six months, but also of some of the key developments shaping African affairs last year. Those included the geopolitics of vaccines, military coups on the continent and Africa’s international relations with the world, particularly the great powers.  To that end, here is a rundown of four major trends, developments and events […]

Candles are placed on the steps of the Capitol to mark the one year anniversary of the violent insurrection by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Washington, Jan. 6, 2022 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, in an effort to disrupt the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.   The events of that day seemed to epitomize the difficulty in characterizing what, if any threat Trump posed to U.S. democracy. Was it a well-planned attempted coup? A spontaneous insurrection? An angry riot? A protest joyride? That followed four years of endless debates during Trump’s presidency over whether he was a determined but incompetent authoritarian, or simply a pathological narcissist. And as for the […]

Seeking information flyers produced by the FBI to identify alleged Capitol rioters, photographed on Dec. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

In the months after the storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, law enforcement agencies received an avalanche of tips and witness statements claiming to have evidence that might help identify those allegedly involved in the insurrection. Many of these tips from the public were the result of online crowdsourcing and amateur detective e-sleuthing, and with their help, the FBI has arrested over 700 suspects in the year since then. The use of crowdsourced, open-source intelligence, or OSINT, to hold the Capitol rioters accountable highlights the ways in which this technique has rapidly spread in recent […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 231 2 Last