Ukrainian soldiers take positions in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2022 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

Much of what we do at WPR from week to week and year to year is to keep tabs on the many mundane stories around the world so that we can inform you about the trends and developments that gradually and in combination shape history. But on occasion, we find ourselves face to face with moments that make history, suddenly and singly. The war in Ukraine is one of those moments. As I wrote Thursday as the first Russian attacks began, we will look back on it as a “before and after” event, one that will have enormous implications for […]

The Brandenburg Gate is illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to show solidarity with the country, Berlin, Germany, Feb. 23, 2022 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

The Russian invasion of Ukraine this morning ends several months of doubt and debate over the purpose of Moscow’s military buildup at the two countries’ border. Washington’s repeated warnings of an imminent military operation proved not to be the hysteria that Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed them as. In the end, Putin’s manufactured crisis was not an attempt at coercive diplomacy, or if it was, it was a failed one. War and conflict have rarely been absent from the European continent, even during the past 30 years of ostensible peace and prosperity. But a war of choice and aggression by […]

Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga arrives at a rally of his supporters to declare his 2022 presidential bid, Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 10, 2021 (Sipa photo by Donwilson Odhiambo via AP Images).

Over the course of the next two and a half years, voters in several of Africa’s largest and most populous countries will be going to the polls, with a lot riding on the outcomes. This year, Kenya and Angola will both elect a president and national legislature to five-year terms. In 2023, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, two of Africa’s four most-populous countries, are scheduled to hold general elections that include keenly anticipated presidential races, as are Zimbabwe and Madagascar. The following year, Egyptians, Rwandans and South Africans will cast ballots in elections that will ostensibly determine the […]

Ukrainian armed forces conduct exercises in the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine, Feb.4, 2022 (AP photo by Mykola Tymche).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bellicose speech yesterday, in which he announced that Russia had recognized the independence of two separatist regions of Ukraine and would deploy military forces there as “peacekeepers,” suggests that after months of military posturing and diplomacy, a full-scale invasion may well be at hand. But while it is still impossible to know for sure how the crisis will play out, one consequence of it is already certain: There is no more use in dancing around reality using terms like “strategic competition” or “great power tensions” to describe relations between the West and Russia. We are in […]

A police officer walks by the wreckage of a car bomb that exploded near a police station in Padilla, Cauca, Colombia, Feb.6 2022 (AP photo by Andres Gonzalez).

SARAVENA, Colombia—On Jan. 19, Sonia Lopez was working late in the office of the Joel Sierra Foundation, a human rights group based in the city Saravena, Colombia, just south of the Venezuelan border. It was hot and muggy, and she was exhausted. Normally, she wouldn’t have been working so late, but intense conflict between armed groups in the department of Arauca, where Saravena is located, had left 83 dead and more than 2,000 displaced since early January, putting a premium on her organization’s work. At 10:45 p.m., shots rang out. Armed men had fired pistols from two cars approaching the […]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for an EU-AU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Feb. 17, 2022 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Seventy presidents and prime ministers from Europe and Africa are gathered today in Brussels for a long-awaited European Union-African Union summit, the sixth such summit between the two blocs. But ahead of that gathering, Europe’s 27 leaders huddled together for an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The emergency meeting was called by European Council President Charles Michel to brief the bloc’s leaders on the latest developments in the crisis, including a reported shelling of a kindergarten in eastern Ukraine, which occurred as the meeting of EU leaders was taking place. The EU leaders also heard a presentation […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in a joint press conference with Fiji’s acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Nadi, Fiji, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Kevin Lamarque).

With the first visit in four decades by a U.S. secretary of state to Fiji and plans to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands reportedly in the works, Washington officially announced its “return” to the Pacific Islands this past weekend. “It is about building a free and open Indo-Pacific, defending it with democratic institutions, with transparency, with commitment to a rules-based order that we share,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a joint press conference with Acting Fijian Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on Feb. 12. Blinken spoke after a virtual meeting with 18 Pacific Island leaders meant to […]

Child activists join a march through Westminster during a “climate strike” demonstration, part of the global Fridays for Future movement led by Swedish teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg, in London, Sept. 24, 2021 (AP photo by David Cliff).

At the heart of the international system lies a seemingly intractable tension between sovereignty and cooperation. The United Nations is a collection of states that, while recognizing the need for collaboration in global governance, still seek to retain their independence. This tension haunts the international community as a whole, but it is the people of the future who will pay the heaviest price. The major challenges facing humanity in the 21st century are borderless and intergenerational. Climate change will wreak havoc in every corner of the world and will only grow worse if we fail to act now. Similarly, lawlessness in […]

Anthony Shadid during a talk at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum in Oklahoma City, April 7, 2011 (AP photo by Sue Ogrocki).

The nature of Anthony Shadid’s work is sometimes misunderstood. After his death 10 years ago this week, he was celebrated as one of the greatest journalists of his era, which he most certainly was. On multiple occasions he was recognized as one of the best at his craft, but he was so much more. Better understanding what Anthony did in his lifetime can help those of us who are still endeavoring to make narrative sense of a world in constant flux. Anthony was a brilliant thinker, reporter, writer and storyteller who, during a critical decade of history from 9/11 to […]

A woman holds a weapon during a basic combat training for civilians organized by a special forces unit of Ukraine’s National Guard, in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 13, 2022 (AP photo by Vadim Ghirda).

KYIV—Oleksandr Biletskyi is standing in a lecture hall on the outskirts of Kyiv laying out the items he considers most necessary to have on hand for emergencies. On the table in front of him, he’s placed a bag containing a compass, a pocketknife, a carabiner and a roll of tape. Gently, he adds three more bags: one with a Kalashnikov, one with a shotgun and one with a pistol. “We have to prepare for anything,” he tells me. Normally, this lecture hall, which belongs to Taras Shevchenko National University, offers continuing education courses in law, economics and psychology. Today, it’s […]

A zodiac carrying a team of international scientists heads to Chile’s station Bernardo O’Higgins, Antarctica, Jan. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

It is tempting to think of climate change as a gradual, linear process that follows the steady accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The truth may be scarier. Evidence is mounting that critical components of the Earth system could be approaching tipping points that, when crossed, will bring about massive, nonlinear shifts that will themselves accelerate climate change, with disastrous and potentially irreversible consequences for nature and humanity. Faced with this prospect, national governments must cooperate to identify, prepare for and, where possible, head off or mitigate these abrupt and calamitous shifts. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear in its recent […]

An image from a video provided by the U.S. Department of Defense shows the compound where Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died during a U.S. raid, in Idlib province, Syria, Feb. 3, 2022 (Department of Defense via AP Images).

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a team of U.S. special operations forces to carry out a raid in northern Syria that is now stoking legal controversy. The mission targeted a residential compound where Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi had been holed up with his family and civilian neighbors. By the end, al-Qurayshi and a disputed number of civilians were dead. As Washington Post reporter Miriam Berger has explained, since Syria did not consent for U.S. forces to carry out the raid, Biden’s order arguably violated the charter of the United Nations, which limits a state’s ability […]

African heads of state gather for a group photograph at the 35th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Feb. 5, 2022 (AP photo).

The African Union leaders’ summit took place last weekend at the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The two-day gathering, which kicked off Feb. 5, was held against the backdrop of the continent’s ongoing struggles with the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic—including its persistently low vaccination rates—as well as growing fears of democratic erosion amid a spate of military coups. The summit also marked the passing of the AU’s rotating leadership baton, with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi handing over the ceremonial chair to his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall. Setting out his priorities for the coming year in his inaugural […]

Iran’s then-President-elect Ebrahim Raisi during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2021 (AP file photo by Vahid Salemi).

Since last April, the U.S. has been engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran on restoring the 2015 deal limiting Tehran's nuclear program known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. If these talks succeed, or should they fail, the impact will reverberate across a range of issues beyond the nonproliferation file over which Washington and Tehran are at odds. When the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, it laid out 12 demands addressing various aspects of Iranian policy it wanted Tehran to change. Of the concerns it identified, three directly dealt with the nuclear program, and […]

People chant slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 30, 2021 (AP photo by Marwan Ali).

When Myanmar’s anti-coup uprising kicked off in February 2021, it had three demands that look quite simple in retrospect. First, the protesters said, the military and its leader, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, must end their takeover of power. Second, they must restore the democratically elected government they had unseated. And third, they must release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National Democratic Union party, which had come out on top in the country’s competitive, albeit flawed election in November 2020. By the time I spoke to Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a leading Myanmar activist, in late September […]

A U.S. soldier directs armored vehicles and tanks as they are unloaded at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

Although the response in Western capitals to Russia’s aggressive military posturing on its border with Ukraine has been couched in clear diplomacy-first terms, military contingency planning has stepped up a notch in recent weeks. The intent of these moves, at least judging from the rhetoric of U.S. and NATO leaders as well as respected commentators, is to strengthen deterrence.  Deterrence, as Nobel Prize-winning U.S. scholar, Thomas Schelling, elaborated in his seminal 1966 book, “Arms and Influence,” is meant to prevent an adversary from taking future actions. Schelling distinguished it from a second strategy of coercion, compellence, which is meant to change an adversary’s existing behavior. Neither is […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange documents during a signing ceremony following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP file photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

With the Winter Olympics now underway, all eyes are fixed on the competing athletes as they take to the ice and snow. But amid the dazzling displays of athletic prowess, significant developments have simultaneously taken place on the diplomatic sidelines of the Games. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Beijing last Friday ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, marking their first in-person encounter in two years, ostensibly due to Xi’s self-imposed travel restriction amid the coronavirus pandemic. The talks, described by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng as “very successful,” ended […]

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