Members of the House of Representatives bow their heads in prayer during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Sept. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Molly Riley).

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that John Bolton was replacing U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as assistant to the president for national security affairs, otherwise known as the national security adviser. While Bolton is a longtime government official, having served every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, his appointment was immediately condemned across the political spectrum, given his well-documented views as a war hawk. Colin Kahl and Jon Wolfsthal, two veterans of the Obama administration, labeled him a “national security threat,” arguing that his “ascendance increases the risk of not one but two wars—with North Korea and Iran.” Writing […]

A cutout board of Uncle Sam is posted outside an information center for tourists near Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 1, 2012 (AP photo by Junji Kurokawa).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss the collective expulsion of Russian diplomats from Europe and the United States, as well as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s secret visit to China. For the Report, Daniel Hurst talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s mixed success in translating a personal rapport with U.S. President Donald Trump into tangible gains for Japan. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up […]

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, arrive at the commission’s offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 9, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In early March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov embarked on a five-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa. During his trip, Lavrov signed new trade agreements with Russia’s two long-standing partners in southern Africa, Angola and Mozambique. He also strengthened Moscow’s diplomatic ties to Zimbabwe’s new government and highlighted the role Russia could play providing security to several countries facing political unrest at home. Even though Russia’s power projection capabilities on the continent remain limited, the broad range of deals signed by Lavrov suggests that Russia is actively seeking to expand its economic and security influence in Africa, and perhaps reassert some […]

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet on the sidelines of an EU summit, Brussels, March 22, 2018 (Pool photo via AP by Francois Lenoir).

On Monday, over 20 European countries collectively expelled almost 60 Russian diplomats suspected of being intelligence operatives. The move signaled a significant escalation in Europe’s collective response to Moscow’s alleged role in a nerve agent attack in southern England in early March that left a former Russian spy and his daughter in a coma, and the British police officer who responded to the scene hospitalized. That the United States joined the European response, by expelling another 60 Russian operatives and closing the Russian consulate in Seattle, underscored Western solidarity against the latest of repeated Russian provocations. Until last week, British […]

U.S. President Donald Trump pours the remainder of his fish food into a koi pond at the Akasaka Palace as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks on, Tokyo, Nov. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

TOKYO, Japan—Just when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believed he had put the relationship with his unpredictable American counterpart on a solid footing, U.S. President Donald Trump threw two curveballs into the mix. The first was Trump’s snap decision to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, after months of holding to a hard-line approach backed by Japan. The second was the administration’s announcement that it would impose steep tariffs on metal imports, a measure that was notionally targeted at China but could also harm several allies, including Japan, unless they are able to win exemptions. So far, Japan […]

Ban Ki-moon listens as John Bolton, then the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., speaks after Ban’s nomination to become secretary-general was approved, New York, Oct. 13, 2006 (AP photo by Stephen Chernin).

Is Ban Ki-moon the emblematic international figure of our times? This is probably not a proposition you have considered before. Although it is only 15 months since Ban ended his 10-year tenure as secretary-general of the United Nations, he feels like a distant memory. Ban was a cautious and often marginal figure in a world of mounting crises. While he played a significant role in ensuring the ratification of the Paris climate change agreement in his last year in office, he could only do so because the United States, China and other major states were on his side. A little […]

U.S. Army soldiers conduct a mortar exercise at a small coalition outpost in western Iraq near the border with Syria, Jan. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Susannah George).

This week marked the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was ostensibly launched to make the Middle East more secure. By any measure, it failed to do that. The region is significantly more unstable now than it was then and shows every sign of remaining that way. A few thousand miles from Iraq, American troops continue fighting and dying in Afghanistan. Victory there—at least as it was envisioned when U.S. forces first arrived in 2001—remains elusive. So is the global defeat of the Islamist extremist movements that caused the United States to get involved in Iraq and […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a working dinner during a NATO summit, Brussels, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lengthy visit to the United States and Washington’s relationship with Riyadh under President Donald Trump. For the Report, Salvatore Babones talks with Peter Dörrie about how U.S. alliances in Northeast Asia could serve as a useful model for reconfiguring the NATO alliance in Europe. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered […]

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman, who was Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince at the time, at the White House, Washington, March 14, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This week, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince and the presumed real leader of the kingdom, arrives in the United States for a lengthy visit. On his trip, the 32-year-old prince, the architect of a newly bullish Saudi foreign policy, will likely address a wide range of bilateral and regional issues that have, on balance, strengthened U.S.-Saudi ties since Donald Trump became president. The visit is unlikely to herald any breakthrough in the nearly 10-month-long rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council, which pits Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—plus Egypt—against Qatar. Trump’s pro-Saudi instincts have made […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for the 2018 Winter Olympics at Yangyang International Airport, Yangyang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has defied the usual short-term trajectory of Japanese administrations. Indeed, if Abe is able to serve out a third term as leader of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with leadership elections slated for September, and maintain power in Japan’s parliament, the Diet, he would become Japan’s longest-serving modern-day leader. But before he has a chance to get there, he’ll have to weather the kind of unexpected political instability that he has largely avoided in Tokyo. The largest point of contention right now for Abe is a re-emergent scandal over potential graft in the sale of […]

Gen. Joseph Dunford, right, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean counterpart, salute during an honor guard ceremony, Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

It is the world’s most successful, most powerful and most popular security alliance. Considering the number of countries waiting to get in, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seems to have even more admirers than it can handle. But it also has an unexpectedly prominent and powerful critic: the president of the United States. As he has scolded NATO members over their defense spending and cast the alliance as a protection racket, Donald Trump has seemingly undermined an organization whose purpose and unity have rarely been questioned—and never before by an American president—since it was founded in 1949 as a bulwark […]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, Jared Kushner, left, and Jason Greenblatt listen as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the U.N. Security Council, New York, Feb. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

The United Nations has weathered the first phase of the Trump era, starting out 2018 in better shape than seemed possible a year ago. But U.S. relations with the U.N. could take a sharp and sudden turn for the worse quite soon. President Donald Trump took office promising to slash the U.N.’s budget and rip up international agreements. But he has often shied away from delivering on his direst threats. His ambassador in New York, Nikki Haley, has shaved significant sums off U.N. budgets but avoided more severe cuts that would halt the organization’s operations. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has […]

A demonstrator checks his smart phone in front of pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

More than a year into the Trump administration, it is obvious that the White House has little interest in using the bully pulpit or U.S. economic clout to promote democracy and human rights around the world. With a few exceptions, such as Venezuela, Iran, Cambodia and Cuba, the administration rarely speaks about human rights abuses in other countries. As president, Donald Trump has held meetings with autocratic leaders whom the Obama administration refused to invite to the White House, like Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. Trump has also praised some foreign leaders’ abuses of the […]

President Donald Trump and other U.S. leaders walk down the steps of the Capitol building after a luncheon with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, second from right, Washington, March 15, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

For more than 70 years after World War II, U.S. foreign and national security policy followed a distinctive pattern. Despite many policy differences between Republicans and Democrats, there was also deep agreement about the overall goal and logic of U.S. strategy. Across the political spectrum, most political leaders and opinion-shapers believed that preserving the global order by cultivating and working with allies and partners was the best way to advance U.S. national interests. And they agreed that this should be done by a cadre of foreign and national security policy experts who moved in and out of government service, guided […]

Holding a banner with a Turkish and a Palestinian flag, protesters chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration near the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 6, 2017 (AP photo).

Jordan announced this week that it was suspending its free trade agreement with Turkey, in order to protect Jordanian companies from what it called “unequal competition” from industries supported by the Turkish government. It looks like a setback in ties between Amman and Ankara, yet the geopolitical picture is more complicated. Two weeks ago, over consecutive days in late February, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and its highest-ranking military officer, Gen. Hulusi Akar, visited Jordan for meetings meant to signal both countries’ desire to upgrade their bilateral relationship in light of regional developments. A major impetus is undoubtedly the Trump […]

Recently fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani before a meeting at the State Department, Washington, Nov. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

For the past nine months, the tiny but very wealthy Arab state of Qatar has been subjected to a blockade by its three immediate neighbors—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—as well as Egypt, which accuse it of supporting terrorism and aligning itself with their regional rival, Iran. But the blockade has hardly achieved its aim of isolating Qatar and forcing it to abandon its independent foreign policy. Instead, Qatar’s economy remains mostly unaffected and its external relations are largely intact. On Tuesday, however, Qatar lost an important partner when President Donald Trump abruptly sacked his secretary of state, […]

Workers at a project site that forms part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” Haripur, Pakistan, Dec. 22, 2017 (AP photo by Aqeel Ahmed).

It is revealing of current American political obsessions that a recent book about the Marshall Plan’s relationship to the Cold War might be seen first and foremost as having lessons for today’s troubled ties between the United States and Russia. In that book, Benn Steil, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that with the Marshall Plan’s launch in 1947, the U.S. and the Soviet Union “became irrevocably committed to securing their respective spheres of influence.” Yet despite widespread concern about Russia, the most consequential great power struggle today is the one between the U.S. and China. […]

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