Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, center, and Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre, second left, tour a new Turkish-Somali military training center in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sept. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsame).

For centuries, outside powers have clashed in Africa, often exploiting weaknesses or divisions across the continent to grasp at power and resources. The second half of the 19th century, for instance, saw the “scramble for Africa” as European nations divided nearly all of the continent into colonies. Several times competition between colonial powers nearly led to war in Europe. In the second half of the 20th century, during the Cold War, Africa was torn as Western nations—first the outgoing European colonizers and later the United States—supported friendly governments and political movements against allies of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba. […]

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a signing ceremony after their talks at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Oct. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

When U.S. President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia last May, making it the first stop in his first foreign trip as president, he unleashed a wave of euphoria in the kingdom. The Saudis viewed Trump as a like-minded leader, whose ascent augured a future of closely coordinated foreign policy and firm advances for a U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian agenda in the Middle East. But five months later, in a twist few could have anticipated, Saudi King Salman landed in Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, signaling that Trump’s embrace of the kingdom has proved less fruitful than the Saudis […]

Civil rights activists march at the start of the 21st World Aids Conference, Durban, South Africa, July 18, 2016 (AP photo).

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is sometimes described as George W. Bush’s signature policy achievement—a rare bright spot on a decidedly fraught record, especially overseas. Active in more than 50 countries, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, the program has been essential in the effort to bring the continent’s HIV/AIDS epidemic under control. Yet the program’s future seemed to be in jeopardy following Donald Trump’s election last November. In January, a list of questions formulated by his transition team sparked concern among those working on foreign assistance in sub-Saharan Africa—and HIV/AIDS programming in particular. “Is PEPFAR […]

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir casts his ballot for presidential and legislative elections, Khartoum, Sudan, April 27, 2015 (AP photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy).

After several false starts over the past decade, the United States finally lifted sanctions it first levied against Sudan nearly two decades ago. The decision came late last week, after the Trump administration had extended its deadline over the summer on whether to make the Obama administration’s easing of sanctions permanent. The sanctions relief for Sudan was one of former President Barack Obama’s final, surprising foreign policy moves in office. The U.S. has imposed the financial restrictions since the 1990s in response to the Sudanese regime’s penchant for harboring terrorists and for the atrocities it has committed, including the genocide […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman listen to national anthems during their meeting at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Oct. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Nikolas Gvosdev is filling in for Steven Metz, who will return next week. “You can’t surge trust.” That was the constant refrain of Gen. James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014, whenever he offered advice for U.S. policymakers about the Middle East. Unfortunately, the people who took his advice closest to heart have been the Russians. It is reflected in President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Ankara to confer with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the historic arrival of King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Moscow for talks this week. […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend the Belt and Road Forum, Beijing, May 15, 2017 (AP photo by Lintao Zhang).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss Saudi King Salman’s landmark trip to Moscow and what the visit—the first by a Saudi monarch—says about Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East. For the Report, Salvatore Babones talks with Andrew Green about how geoeconomics is replacing geopolitics as the driver of international power politics, and why that is ultimately good for the United States. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work […]

A quality control manager at a Suntech Power Holdings Co., a Chinese-owned solar panel manufacturer, examines a solar panel with a co-worker at a company facility in Goodyear, Ariz., Sept. 4, 2012 (AP photo by Ross D. Franklin).

In late September, the U.S. International Trade Commission declared that growing imports of solar panels had significantly hurt U.S. manufacturers. The decision could provide the cover for President Donald Trump to make good on his threats to put up trade barriers with China, whose companies are the leading suppliers of solar cells and panels in the United States. In an email interview, Dieter Ernst, a senior fellow at the East-West Center and former adviser to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, discusses the impact of the commission’s ruling, what it means for the U.S. solar industry, and why a […]

South Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Cho Tae-yul, meets with Ambassadors Matthew John Rycroft of the U.K. and Nikki Haley of the U.S. after the Security Council’s nonproliferation meeting on North Korea, Sept. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

The North Korean crisis is turning into a laboratory experiment about how to avoid war: with words, or with more demonstrations of force? While many in Washington would like to believe that diplomacy works hand in hand with deterrence and other instruments of American power, President Donald Trump seems to see diplomacy as working at cross purposes with his strategy. U.S. diplomacy has been on the defensive lately, unable to move some new crises—such as the ongoing dispute between Qatar and other Gulf Arab states, or the contentious referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan—toward a peaceful resolution. It seemed like […]

A specialist and traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, New York City, Sept. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

As Myanmar’s long-simmering Rohingya crisis boils over into ethnic cleansing, refugee exodus and possible civil war, there are inevitable calls for economic sanctions to be reimposed on Myanmar’s military-dominated government. The outgoing Obama administration lifted U.S. economic sanctions on Myanmar, also known as Burma, in late 2016 in recognition of its partial transition to democracy under de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Now the Nobel Peace Prize laureate finds herself the subject of international condemnation for her failure to act toward, or even to speak in favor of, a peaceful resolution to the crisis. There is no hint of […]

President Donald Trump greets Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House, Washington, Sept. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak met U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House last month, they tried to forge more common ground on key issues and manage some of their differences. Although Najib and Trump made some progress as they commemorated the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties between Malaysia and the U.S., bigger tests will come in their bid to surmount deeper obstacles that stand in the way of really broadening the relationship. Throughout the past 60 years, the United States and Malaysia have had to find ways to cooperate despite often stark disagreements on matters such as […]

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