Argentina’s National Security Ministry displays a seizure of fake World Cup trophies that were used to smuggle cocaine, Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 21, 2018 (photo by Argentina’s National Security Ministry via AP Images).

It probably comes as no surprise that most of the world’s cocaine is produced in just three countries: Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. It is also probably no surprise that the biggest consumer markets for cocaine are in the United States and Europe. But after decades of media coverage of the violent turf wars over northward cocaine-trafficking routes through Central America and Mexico, it may spark interest to learn that South America’s Southern Cone countries have become the region’s new battleground for organized crime.  Ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, in particular, have become prized turf for drug-trafficking criminal gangs for […]

A Ukrainian soldier in the trench, on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Andriy Dubchak).

Beyond its immediate implications for European security, the current crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border highlights the enduring importance of state sovereignty as an ordering principle in world politics, notwithstanding frequent claims that globalization has rendered it obsolete. It also exposes the tendency of governments to invoke, dismiss or reinterpret this bedrock principle to suit their situational needs. In fact, global stability now depends on whether the United States and European Union are able to reaffirm and defend the centrality of state sovereignty against a Russian attempt to dismiss it. On one level, the Ukraine situation would seem to have turned […]

U.S. soldiers stand guard in Hasaka, northeast Syria, Jan. 27, 2022 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

At its height half a decade ago, the Islamic State was among the most feared armed organizations in the world. The infamously brutal group had at one point captured and established governance of more than a third of Iraq and large swaths of Syria. But that shocking, sudden rise to infamy was followed by a steep, if slower, downfall. By January 2019, the Islamic State had lost nearly all of its territory in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. declared it defeated and media organizations began to pay only sporadic attention to its isolated attacks. By 2021, Google searches for the Islamic State, a […]

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony for a French soldier killed in action in Mali, at the Invalides monument in Paris, Sept. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Thibalt Camus).

When historians look back and try to explain how France lost its historical position as the dominant outside actor in West Africa, the oft-repeated line that Ernest Hemingway used to describe how one of his fictional characters went bankrupt will undoubtedly come to mind: gradually, then suddenly. The signs of a gradual deterioration of France's ties in the region have been apparent for some time. But if the past 12 months are any indication, 2022 might very well be the year that process comes to a head suddenly. Since May, military coups in Mali, Guinea and most recently Burkina Faso […]

A man holds a portait of Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba who has taken the reins of the country in Ouagadougou, Jan. 25, 2022 (AP photo by Sophie Garcia).

In the latest in a series of military coups in West Africa, a group of army officers in Burkina Faso has overthrown the government of President Roch Kabore. In a televised address on Burkina Faso’s state broadcaster on Monday, the group—which has dubbed itself “the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration,” or MPSR—said that it had deposed Kabore, suspended the constitution, closed the country’s borders and dissolved the government and the legislature. The group affirmed that Kabore remains safe and in good condition.  The announcement came after two days of confusion and pandemonium in the capital, Ouagadougou, amid reports of […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at his watch at the end of his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The United States and NATO have delivered written responses to  Russian demands for security guarantees, rejecting Moscow’s insistence on a withdrawal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe and an assurance that Ukraine will never be granted membership in the alliance. That firmly puts the ball back in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s court, while doing nothing to reduce the prospects of a Russian military invasion. Now European governments must consider the practical realities of what a war in Ukraine would mean, particularly in neighboring EU member states. Following a meeting of the NATO security council on Tuesday, Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav […]

People inspect the wreckage of buildings after they were damaged by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 18, 2022 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

A ballistic missile attack on a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates yesterday, the second attack on Emirati soil in a week carried out by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, marks a dangerous escalation in regional tensions. It also underscores the difficulty of achieving a diplomatic settlement to bring an end to years of violent conflict between Iran, Saudi Arabia and their many partners and proxies across the Middle East.  According to statements from U.S. and UAE officials, two missiles were intercepted Monday near Abu Dhabi. A spokesman for the Houthis claimed that the attack targeted U.S. airmen stationed […]

Demonstrators in a government-sponsored rally hold up signs reading, “France Out,” “Mali is proud of its sons” and “Thank you Colonel Assimi Goita,” Bamako, Mali, Jan. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Harandane Dicko).

On Jan. 14, Malians across the country took to the streets en masse, after the country’s interim military government called for protests against tough sanctions imposed the previous weekend by the Economic Community of West African States. Leaders from the West African bloc had acted after the ruling junta reneged on a 2020 agreement to hold national elections by February 2022, with measures that included shutting regional borders with Mali, imposing a trade embargo and freezing Malian assets at the Central Bank of West African States. The West African Economic and Monetary Union, or UEMOA, also moved to restrict Mali’s […]

A man lifts a tarp to show a flood inside his covered farm in Zhaoguo village in central China’s Henan province, Oct. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

For the past 60 years, a series of agricultural innovations have helped feed the world. New varieties of staple crops produced high yields. New fertilizers encouraged crop health. And improved agronomic methods helped farmers make the most of their resources. These new tools and practices became foundational to the production of agriculture in the U.S. and around the world, enabling marked increases in output and important reductions in rural poverty. But that productivity-centric model is no longer meeting global needs. Over the past decade, hunger has once again started to rise, bringing with it doubts about our long-term ability to […]

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 […]

Matty Nev Luby holds up her phone in front of a ring light she uses to lip-sync with the smartphone app Musical.ly, in Wethersfield, Conn., Feb. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Jessica Hill).

Last week, in a speech outlining his priorities for the year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm on five pressing global challenges that will require “the full mobilization of every country” to address—namely, COVID-19, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyberspace and peace and security.  It is the fourth of these, lawlessness in cyberspace, that most stands out. As Guterres noted, while “outdated … multilateral frameworks” and ineffective global governance are hindering progress on almost all of the international community’s shared goals, in cyberspace, “global governance barely exists at all.” There, structures and norms are not in need of refurbishment, […]

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. […]

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 […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson steps out of 10 Downing Street to welcome the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tarik al-Said, in London, Dec. 16, 2021 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

Novak Djokovic, Boris Johnson and Prince Andrew are in the spotlight this week, an unholy trinity dominating headlines around the world. Their stories are discrete and in many ways dissimilar, but all three have, in one way or another, let down the millions of people who looked to them for inspiration and guidance.  As I mentioned in my column last week, top-ranked tennis player and anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic caused a ruckus after he was allowed into Australia to compete in the Australian Open tennis tournament, despite not being double vaccinated, as is required for entry by the government. He then faced deportation after it […]

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 […]

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