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 […]

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 As Guterres noted, while “outdated … multilateral frameworks” and ineffective global governance are hindering progress on almost all of the international community’s shared goals, in cyberspace,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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

A supporter of the Polisario Front and Western Sahara waves a flag reading “Free Sahara,” Logrono, Spain, June 8, 2021 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

Maps have long played a crucial, symbolic role in the dispute over the Western Sahara. For years, because most world maps available elsewhere show the international border that separates Morocco from its coveted territory to the south, those that were sold in Morocco had to be separately manufactured for the domestic market, affecting everything from globes and atlases to toy puzzles and address books. It was no surprise, then, that shortly after the outgoing Trump administration recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory in December 2020, Moroccan newspapers and officials happily praised the United States’ new official map of Morocco when it was […]

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. […]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens to a question during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Antonio Guterres starts his second five-year term as United Nations secretary-general this week. He spent much of his first term navigating very difficult relations with the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump. He would like to spend the coming years overhauling the U.N. system to respond to challenges like climate change and inequality. Geopolitics may get in the way. Diplomats in New York rate Guterres as an extremely intelligent but instinctively cautious politician. He has had good reasons for caution. In addition to dealing with the mercurial Trump, Guterres has had to accommodate an increasingly influential China in the […]