U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to participate in a group photo at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

A key arms control treaty that limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can deploy is set to expire in February 2021. Without it, the two countries could be locked into a nuclear arms race not seen since the height of the Cold War. Fortunately, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, is popular in both Washington and Moscow, and it can be extended for an additional five years with just the signatures of Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Renewing it should be the easiest foreign policy decision Trump can make. […]

Smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin in central China’s Shanxi Province, Nov. 28, 2019 (AP photo by Sam McNeil).

2020 dawns with the multilateral system in crisis. The next 12 months will determine whether the world is capable of controlling nuclear proliferation, arresting runaway climate change and restoring faith in the United Nations. Some pivotal events will shape success or failure in the coming year. Preserving the Nuclear Regime. Of the several potential catastrophic risks confronting humanity, the specter of nuclear war remains the most terrifying. Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world has escaped the horror of nuclear weapons. Much of the credit, beyond deterrence and plain dumb luck, goes to the Treaty on […]

A protester flashes the victory sign overlooking a huge anti-government rally in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Just like in 2017 and 2018, many of the most important stories around the world in 2019 were drowned out by the latest tweet, tirade or tantrum from U.S. President Donald Trump. In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Freddy Deknatel and Elliot Waldman talk about some of the big under-covered trends of the year, from the deterioration of U.S. alliances in East Asia to the fate of protest movements that rocked the Middle East. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter […]

U.S. Army soldiers hike past burning rubbish in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 10, 2011 (AP photo by David Goldman).

If there is one big takeaway from The Washington Post’s publication of thousands of pages of documents detailing the extent of policy failures in Afghanistan, it is the great lengths that it takes to wake the American public up to the costs of pursuing a war without a strategy. As The Post’s examination of interviews produced as part of a wide-ranging and years-long review of U.S. policy by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, clearly shows, few officials charged with leading the war effort were willing to openly admit that most of what […]

Sudanese people celebrate in the streets of Khartoum after ruling generals and protest leaders announced they have reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body, July 5, 2019 (AP photo).

Is there any current world leader who faces a more imposing set of challenges than Sudan’s prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok? Four months after taking charge of a transitional government that was formed in the wake of Sudan’s popular revolution, Hamdok—a veteran diplomat with a doctorate in economics—has the unenviable task of repairing a divided, unstable and economically ravaged country with both hands tied behind his back. He is constrained by everyone from partners in the security forces who are resistant to change, to former regime hard-liners, to an expectant Sudanese public, as well as an international community that has offered […]

A worker loads imported goods on a truck at a distribution company outside the container port in Qingdao, China, Oct. 14, 2019 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

President Donald Trump’s trade policy made a lot of headlines in 2019, particularly his trade war with China and his constant threats to impose tariffs on close U.S. partners and allies. But while America under Trump heads in a protectionist direction, 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific are putting the finishing touches on the world’s largest free trade area, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. RCEP, as the deal is known, is just one sign that the U.S. is increasingly “on the outside looking in” when it comes to multilateral trade agreements, according to former U.S. trade negotiator Wendy Cutler. […]

A computer screen shows images of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. The U.S. and China agreed to a long-anticipated “phase one” trade deal last Friday, pausing for now a trade war that has weighed down the global economy for more than a year. The agreement offers relief to both sides, but solutions to the deeper economic grievances that U.S. officials and businesses have long harbored toward China seem as far off as ever. Under the deal, which won’t be signed until January, the U.S. will reduce its tariffs on Chinese […]

Trucks load containers at the automated container dockyard in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, Nov. 28, 2019 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

It was another roller coaster ride in Washington last week—and that was before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives voted Friday morning to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Despite impeachment getting closer to a full vote on the House floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced early in the week that the House would also vote on Trump’s top trade priority: replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement with the renegotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. By the end of the week, Washington and Beijing had filled in enough details on the “phase-one” deal to avoid Sunday’s […]

A man walks past a poster showing a U.S. dollar outside an exchange office in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

It didn’t come as much of a surprise to most observers when, at a press conference on the sidelines of a BRICS summit in July 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a moment to criticize the United States’ decision a few months before to further tighten financial sanctions on Moscow. Putin explained that the move, which came in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, was “a big strategic mistake,” because it “undermines confidence in the dollar.” Later that summer, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed his boss, insinuating that Washington’s increasing use of financial sanctions would […]

From left, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference in Paris, Dec. 9, 2019 (pool photo by Charles Platiau of Reuters via AP).

More than five years after Russia annexed Crimea, with the war in eastern Ukraine grinding on, is a détente between Moscow and Kyiv finally within reach? It might have been tempting to think so with the summit this week in Paris between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was only a few months ago, after all, that Putin and Zelensky had their first phone call, which led to Russia and Ukraine swapping dozens of prisoners and agreeing to consider reopening talks over the political future of the breakaway Donbas region. Yet despite some progress in Paris, […]

A man uses his smartphone as he stands near a billboard for Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. The Financial Times reported this week that China has ordered “all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years.” The move, part of China’s broader push to reduce its reliance on U.S. technology, is a significant step toward the decoupling of the world’s two largest economies. The Communist Party directive was issued earlier this year. It is “the first publicly known instruction with specific targets given to Chinese buyers to switch to […]

U.S. President Donald Trump at a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a NATO leaders' summit outside London, Dec. 3, 2019 (The Canadian Press photo by Sean Kilpatrick via AP).

It came in a predawn tweet, like so many things from President Donald Trump: The announcement of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina. It was just the start of another wild week in Trump’s trade wars. He then threatened to retaliate against France for its new tax on American technology companies with tariffs on French exports of wine, cheese and handbags. Later in the week, Trump said he might prefer to wait until after the election to reach the “phase-one” trade deal with China he announced as all-but done back in October. The comments raised […]

President Donald Trump at a luncheon with members of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room at the White House, Washington, Dec. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

While all eyes seemed to be on the impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee in Washington this week, another judicial drama was unfolding at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. On Thursday, Helen Brady, a lawyer for the ICC’s chief prosecutor, argued that the court overstepped its mandate in April when it rejected the prosecutor’s request to open a formal investigation into alleged atrocities and abuses committed by U.S., Afghan and Taliban forces in the war in Afghanistan. It is a case that could have profound implications not only for President Donald Trump’s promise to negotiate an end […]

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting at the NATO summit, London, Dec. 3, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Frederick Deknatel talk about the diplomatic and political takeaways from U.S. President Donald Trump’s two-day visit to the U.K. for a NATO leaders’ meeting. Over the course of his stay, Trump was publicly rebutted and privately mocked by America’s European allies, signaling what appears to be a new phase in global leaders’ reaction to his presidency. 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 straight to your […]

A display for 5G services from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

In 2003, just as I was arriving in China as a correspondent for The New York Times, tectonic changes were coming to the worlds of internet commerce, search and social media. But their rumblings were so deep beneath the surface that few could have predicted their long-term consequences. That year, Alibaba, a four-year-old web company that had started out of an apartment in Hangzhou, fended off an ambitious push by eBay into China’s e-commerce market by eliminating merchant fees for Taobao, Alibaba’s own e-commerce platform, even as it was losing money. The move helped put Alibaba on the road to […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Vice Premier Liu He attend a meeting with delegates from the 2019 New Economy Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 22, 2019 (pool photo by Jason Lee of Reuters via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. As U.S. and Chinese negotiators scramble to finalize a “phase one” trade agreement, uncertainty is rising over whether a deal can actually be reached. Beijing has responded angrily to recently passed legislation in the U.S. that targets China for human rights violations, and President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that he could wait until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election to complete a trade deal with China. Some observers on both sides of the Pacific see these developments as impediments […]

President Donald Trump at a signing ceremony for a trade agreement with Japan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Washington, Oct. 7, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Since his first day in office, President Donald Trump has made clear his general discomfort with multilateralism and particular dislike for the World Trade Organization. It was little surprise that he appointed Robert Lighthizer, a long-standing skeptic of the WTO and its legally binding dispute settlement system, as the U.S. trade representative. Over the past two years, as it has unilaterally imposed tariffs on trading partners and launched a major trade war with China, the Trump administration has taken steps to steadily weaken that system by blocking appointments to the body overseeing appeals. Now, the White House is reportedly threatening […]

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