President Donald Trump arrives for his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Washington, Jan. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

U.S. President Donald Trump struck an unsurprisingly triumphal tone in his first State of the Union address last night, although the speech’s national security passages focused mainly on the threats from North Korea and Iran more than any particular successes. It’s tempting to say that Trump’s first year in office has been a wash when it comes to foreign policy. Despite the alarm and uncertainty that greeted his election, it has not resulted in the catastrophe many feared. Due to the interventions of his Cabinet and advisers, there has been more continuity than disruption in the day-to-day conduct of U.S. […]

President Donald Trump listens during a dinner with European business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

To surprise, relief or disappointment in various quarters, U.S. President Donald Trump managed to comport himself mainly with dignity and appropriate remarks when he encountered the global elite in Davos last week. At least he did during his formal speech, which was teleprompter Trump, not Twitter Trump, as he promoted investment in the United States and touted America’s economic growth. In a brief question-and-answer sessions after his speech, Trump quickly went off script, complaining about “how fake the press can be.” Many in the audience booed. But he still came away from Davos with generally high marks. Trump’s attendance at […]

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman meets with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Pyongyang, North Korea, Dec. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

Great-power war is back on the global agenda. What can international peacemakers do about it? The Pentagon’s recently released National Defense Strategy declares that the U.S. should concentrate more on strategic competition with China and Russia than on terrorism. The latest edition of The Economist, a bellwether of liberal internationalist thought, focuses on the risk of a major-power war. False nuclear alerts sparked panic in Hawaii and Japan earlier this month. Western military types fear that they are out of sync with these threats. U.S. commanders are telling their troops to get ready for a big war. Their European allies […]

Vietnam’s defense minister, Ngo Xuan Lich, left, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, second from right, view a photo exhibition on Vietnam-U.S. military cooperation, Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 25, 2018 (Pool photo via AP).

Over the past five years, no country in Southeast Asia has challenged China’s regional strategic ambitions more assertively than Vietnam. Repeatedly standing up to Beijing’s aims in the South China Sea, Vietnam has attempted to allow foreign oil exploration in disputed maritime areas and, like China, built up the submerged reefs, small islets and banks it occupies and added installations, though on a much smaller scale. It has, at times, tried to work with its neighbors, such as the Philippines under former President Benigno Aquino III, to highlight what it sees as China’s illegal behavior in the South China Sea. […]

Visitors hang ribbons and unification flags on a fence near the border with North Korea, Paju, South Korea, Jan. 18, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

At some point, the brutal and parasitic Kim family dictatorship in North Korea must end, but it is impossible to tell whether it will happen sooner or later. Many predictions that the regime would fall have proven false, but it simply cannot last forever. Whether by internal conflict or by provoking a war with South Korea and the United States, the Kim regime eventually will go. Stressing that “Korean unification is a Korean affair,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in is convinced that whenever reunification comes, it should be under the leadership of the democratic and economically vigorous south, rather than […]

Pakistani police officers stand guard to stop Shiite Muslims from advancing toward the presidency to protest twin bombings in Parachinar, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Islamabad, June 28, 2017 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

Earlier this month, the United States suspended security assistance to Pakistan, following through on a threat from President Donald Trump. The move was meant to signify Washington’s frustration with what it describes as Islamabad’s refusal to crack down on sanctuaries used by terrorists that target American soldiers across the border in Afghanistan. Current tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations—which flow from the aid freeze and from the Trump administration’s new Afghanistan strategy, and which have spawned increasingly angry rhetoric on both sides—all boil down to a fundamental dispute over this sanctuary issue. It’s a dispute unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. That’s […]

Armed Swiss police officers stand guard on the roof of a hotel near the facility where the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

It’s not often that we’re treated to the spectacle of two worlds colliding, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned visit to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum this week promises to be just that. As if to add to the drama, a string of obstacles has sprung up complicating Trump’s trip. The U.S. government shutdown briefly threatened to derail it. Now a winter storm has dumped six feet of snow on the Swiss mountain retreat, making access difficult and raising the risk of an avalanche. If Trump’s visit does come off as planned, it will set the stage for […]

People embrace during a vigil to honor those killed during anti-government protests, Caracas, Venezuela, July 13, 2017 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Until recently, the hyperinflations that inflicted staggering economic costs in South America in the 1980s and 1990s seemed like a thing of the past. But that was before Venezuela, where inflation hit triple digits last year, at 652 percent. Without policy changes from the government, the International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation rates accelerating to 2,349 percent this year and 3,474 percent in 2019. Even these forecasts may be conservative, with the price of selected items already increasing by 80 percent in the first week of January. While normal hyperinflations take place through excessive monetary creation—the government printing more and more […]

The Trump Administration Is Breaking the U.N.’s Rules of Anger Management

Editor’s note: This is a special Friday edition of Diplomatic Fallout. Steven Metz will return with Strategic Horizons next week. If you want to understand United Nations diplomacy, it helps to think of the institution as a sort of high-level anger management class. The U.N. may be a place for states to work together on common problems, but it is also a venue for governments to get cross with one another without causing too much damage. There are few easier ways for diplomats to postpone serious discussions of a contentious issue than passing a U.N. General Assembly resolution about it. […]

People watch a TV news program showing the Twitter post in which U.S. President Donald Trump boasted about the size of his  “nuclear button,” Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

In the coming weeks, President Donald Trump is expected to unveil the latest Nuclear Posture Review, outlining his administration’s thinking about U.S. nuclear policy and detailing plans for the future of the American arsenal. According to a draft leaked to The Huffington Post last week, the review, which reportedly has been sent to Trump for his approval, will mark a considerable shift in policy, overturning much of the thinking that has underpinned American nuclear strategy since the end of the Cold War. The Trump administration may well be ushering in a more dangerous, more expensive and more worrying nuclear era. […]

President Donald Trump speaks at the Conversations with the Women of America event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, Jan. 16, 2018 (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Coming up on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, a number of weighty international issues loom on the near horizon. Asia is on edge over signs the United States might initiate a nuclear war with North Korea and a trade war with China. The Middle East risks going completely off the rails after Trump’s reversal of decades-long U.S. policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict and his threatened reversal of the nuclear deal with Iran. Alarms are sounding in Europe over a paradigmatic shift in relations with Washington that poses an existential threat to the idea of a […]

U.S. President Donald Trump reaches out to shake hands with British Prime Minister Theresa May during the U.N. General Assembly, New York, Sept. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

When U.S President Donald Trump announced that he was canceling his trip to the United Kingdom, the public explanation was his disinterest in presiding over the opening of the mammoth new American Embassy, one of the ceremonial events planned for the visit. But it could also be seen as an unexpected gesture of consideration for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had extended the official invitation from the queen to visit before a series of awkward incidents in the bilateral relationship. Ever since the two leaders held hands outside the Oval Office barely a week after Trump’s inauguration a year […]

Pakistani religious students protest against U.S. President Donald Trump after the U.S. decision to suspend military aid to Islamabad, Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 5, 2018 (AP photo by K.M. Chaudary).

Soon after 9/11, President George W. Bush recognized that the United States needed Pakistan’s cooperation to eradicate the training camps in Afghanistan where al-Qaida planned the attacks. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared that his nation was a full partner in the new “war on terror.” A few years later, Bush designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally. Since 2002, Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in economic and security assistance from the United States, while the American military greatly expanded cooperation with its Pakistani counterpart. But this was always a deeply troubled partnership. Pakistan, especially the politically dominant Pakistani military, […]

Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili addresses servicemen participating in the Noble Partner 2017 joint multinational military exercises outside Tbilisi, Georgia, Aug. 1, 2017 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

In late November, the U.S. State Department gave its seal of approval for the sale of advanced Javelin anti-tank missiles to Georgia. Long coveted by the aspiring NATO member, the weapons appear to offer a boon to Tbilisi’s defense capabilities. Yet any added military value is still modest compared to the overwhelming military superiority of Russia, Georgia’s chief external threat. Since fighting a brief war with Russia in 2008, Georgia has faced a security dilemma in how it should deal with Moscow, balancing diplomacy and talks with military reforms and defense spending. How Georgia deploys the new weapons—and how that […]

Salvadoran immigrants Diana Paredes, left, and Isabel Barrera react at a news conference following an announcement on Temporary Protected Status for nationals of El Salvador, Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 2018 (AP photo by Damian Dovarganes).

The Trump administration’s decision to end immigration protections for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States will have a crushing impact on the lives of people who have called America their home for more than a decade, if not longer. But the reverberations of the move to end the program, known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will also have a devastating effect on El Salvador, the tiny Central American country that has struggled to stay afloat in relentlessly stormy socioeconomic and geopolitical conditions. The end of TPS could even gradually turn El Salvador into a failed […]

A demonstrator shouts slogans near the flag of the former Imperial State of Iran as he gathers with opposition supporters outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, Jan. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The popular demonstrations that erupted in Iran in late December, the largest since the Green Movement protests in 2009, have created a pretext for the Trump administration to renege on the nuclear deal, which it has tried to nix throughout its first year in office. But breaking the 2015 agreement by piling on sanctions pressure would likely have only a minor economic effect on Tehran, especially in the short term, while undermining the very protesters the administration has vocally supported. The threat of new U.S. sanctions would also limit American leverage in pursuing regional stability and nonproliferation. Media coverage has […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron review a Chinese honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Jan. 9, 2018 (AP photo Mark Schiefelbein).

Much has been made of French President Emmanuel Macron’s flair for public diplomacy, from his handling of U.S. President Donald Trump to his efforts to take the lead in global diplomacy on climate change. The latest illustration is his visit this week to China, where he lived up to expectations: In a French version of China’s celebrated “panda diplomacy,” Macron offered Chinese President Xi Jinping a prized horse from France’s Republican Guard as a gift. In his speech in Xian upon his arrival, Macron offered China shared leadership on climate change diplomacy and requested Beijing’s help in efforts to stabilize […]

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