Then-Vice President Joe Biden and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a press conference in Singapore, July 26, 2013 (AP photo by Bryan van der Beek).

Although President Donald Trump has not conceded the United States presidential election and is mounting multiple dubious legal challenges to the results, President-elect Joe Biden is moving ahead with the transition. While Biden did not focus on Southeast Asia during his time as vice president from 2009 until 2017, he probably has more extensive foreign policy experience than any incoming president in decades, save perhaps George H. W. Bush. In addition, his policy team includes a deep bench of experts on the Asia-Pacific region. When it comes to Biden’s approach to Southeast Asia, persistent tensions in the U.S. relationship with […]

President-elect Joe Biden’s climate envoy nominee, former Secretary of State John Kerry, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Joe Biden’s appointment of John Kerry as his special envoy for climate change signals the U.S. president-elect’s determination to place the fight against global warming, at long last, at the center of U.S. foreign and national security policy. His efforts to save the global environment should not stop there, however. Beyond climate change, the planet is experiencing a historically unprecedented collapse in biodiversity, undermining the countless benefits humanity gets from nature. To slow this disastrous loss of species and ecosystems, the incoming administration should spearhead a multilateral effort to reverse the multiple drivers of global ecological degradation, which go well […]

President Donald Trump, center, with various Middle East advisers and U.S. officials in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, Aug. 12, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Managing Editor Frederick Deknatel highlights a major unfolding story in the Middle East, while curating some of the best news and analysis from the region. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week. The usual rush by an outgoing administration in Washington to tie up loose ends at the end of its term is, not surprisingly, taking on a different tone with President Donald Trump. In the Middle East, the Trump administration is racing to seal last-minute diplomatic deals and lock in its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran, […]

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa applaud after the signing of agreements between the two countries, in Queluz, Portugal, Dec. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Armando Franca).

Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean 65 miles south of Lisbon, Portugal’s Sines peninsula has long been recognized by foreign powers for its geostrategic importance. The Romans, Visigoths and Moors all established settlements alongside the natural deepwater port. Today, however, plans to redevelop the port have become the latest source of friction between the U.S. and China, suggesting that Portugal’s diplomatic strategy of courting both rivals is running out of runway. Sines is the closest port in mainland Europe to America’s eastern shale basins. U.S. firms want to expand the port’s liquid natural gas terminal in order to increase gas exports […]

President-elect Joe Biden introduces his nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

During a long campaign that was, for both tactical and public health purposes, deliberately subdued, Joe Biden frequently offered a pithy, two-word answer to the question of how he would change America’s message to the world: “We’re back.” Biden’s first major Cabinet choices were also intended to reinforce this theme, as literal returnees. People like Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, and other members of his national security team are all veterans of the Obama administration. Despite Biden’s evident comfort with the familiar, though, as I argued in one of my earliest columns for WPR, there will be […]

President Donald Trump departs the White House to visit St. John’s Church with then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, middle, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, right, in Washington, June 1, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

The U.S. military has played a prominent role in Donald Trump’s presidency, at times serving as a prop to flatter his ego, at others as a tool for political gain, but also often as a punching bag to deflect blame. In the early days of his administration, Trump filled his Cabinet and White House staff with retired generals, only to successively fire them or watch them resign over policy differences. Later, his repeated pardons of U.S. soldiers convicted by military courts of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan drove a wedge between himself and a military leadership committed to upholding […]

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, right, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 25, 2020 (Photo by Masanori Genko for The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. When the huge Pacific Rim trade deal formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership was first proposed, many Chinese observers saw it as a U.S. attempt to economically contain and exclude China. They worried that, with a new, American-led trade bloc surrounding China, Chinese exports would become less attractive throughout Asia. Because of the TPP’s rigorous terms as a high-standard trade deal, […]

Thousands attend a rally for the 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Oct. 12, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

When President-elect Joe Biden enters the Oval Office on Jan. 20, he is unlikely to have North Korea at the front of his mind, given the many other urgent crises he will confront. But the Korean Peninsula has a way of forcing American presidents to pay attention. Crucial decisions about how to approach negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear program, as well as how to manage the U.S. alliance with South Korea, are now overdue. If Biden chooses wisely, his administration could prove transformational for the Korean Peninsula. If he errs or defers meaningful decisions to his successor, he risks […]

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire attends a press conference in Paris, June 10, 2020 (AFP Pool photo by Ludovic Marin via AP).

President-elect Joe Biden is about to inherit a trade dispute that gives him an early chance to show whether he is prepared to break not just with Donald Trump, but with the corporate-friendly trade policies championed by his Democratic predecessors. The outgoing administration is set to impose new tariffs over France’s recent decision to tax the revenue of U.S. digital giants like Facebook, Apple and Google, charging that the move discriminates against U.S. companies. For Trump, the fight is a simple matter of protecting the profits of rich American companies against what he sees as a European cash grab. Barack […]

An F-35 arriving back at the British Royal Air Force's Akrotiri base in Cyprus, after flying in operational missions against the Islamic State, June 24, 2019 (Press Association photo by Jacob King via AP).

In a long-anticipated move, the White House recently notified Congress of its intent to sell advanced F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. The Trump administration was able to overcome Israel’s initial objections to the move, which followed the normalization agreement that the U.S. brokered between the UAE and Israel. If the deal goes through, it will make the UAE only the second Middle Eastern country after Israel to fly the F-35, though Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also expressed interest. Turkey had been a partner in developing the F-35 but was kicked out of the program by the […]

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden arrives to speak at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., July 9, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Slocum).

Joe Biden’s election as president offers the United States an opportunity to recast its relationship with the United Nations after four years of “America First” disengagement under Donald Trump. The president-elect is already declaring that “America is back.” But to make good on his promise, Biden needs to reinvigorate American leadership within the U.N. itself, while tempering expectations about what the world body can deliver at a time of intense geopolitical rivalry. Beyond reversing Trump’s misguided assaults on the U.N., Biden must strengthen U.S. capabilities to conduct multilateral diplomacy, promote institutional reforms to bring the U.N. into the 21st century, […]

President Donald Trump meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, April 9, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Managing Editor Frederick Deknatel highlights a major unfolding story in the Middle East, while curating some of the best news and analysis from the region. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week. Plainclothes security agents showed up at a beach resort in the Sinai last week, looking for Karim Ennarah, the director of the criminal justice unit at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based NGO. Egyptian state security officers had apparently looked for Ennarah at his home in Cairo the day before, only to learn he […]

The aftermath of a suicide car bombing that killed and wounded several Afghan troops, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2020 (AP photo by Ahmad Seir Nassiri).

If American policy in Afghanistan was a Hollywood thriller, acting Pentagon chief Christopher Miller’s announcement Tuesday that President Donald Trump plans to reduce the number of American troops in the country from 4,500 to 2,500 by the time he leaves office in January might have made for a riveting plot twist. The trouble for White House script writers is that we’ve all seen this movie before, and it never seems to end with a better outcome for the Afghan people. The one hidden benefit of Trump’s drawdown announcement is that it could free up Joe Biden to write an alternative […]

Members of the United Nations Security Council convene a meeting on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, at U.N. headquarters, Feb. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

With support from nearly half the world’s nations, a new United Nations treaty banning the possession and use of nuclear weapons will take effect early next year. The U.N. confirmed last month that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or TPNW, had been ratified by the required 50 countries. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty.” Many non-nuclear-armed states, as well as pro-disarmament activists and organizations like the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, have celebrated the agreement, which they […]

President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Now that world leaders and the D.C. foreign policy establishment have breathed a collective sigh of relief over Joe Biden’s election as U.S. president, things can get back to normal when it comes to preparing for a new administration in Washington. For world leaders, that means scrambling for access and favor, while readying offer sheets of how their governments can be of help to Biden’s team. For the D.C. establishment, that means angling to be part of that team, or else writing lengthy policy proposals that, unlike in 2016, might actually be read by the people who do end up […]

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the United Auto Workers Region 1 headquarters in Warren, Mich., Sept. 9, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

Editor’s Note: This will be Kimberly Ann Elliott’s final weekly column for World Politics Review. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Kim for all of her insights into economic policy over the past two and a half years, in which she has made sense of tumultuous trade news and offered readers a sharp, lively guide to Donald Trump’s trade wars. The World Trade Organization had plenty of problems before the United States elected an isolationist president determined to put “America first” and go it alone in 2016. Four years ago, the WTO could point to only a few […]

People wait to enter a wholesale market in Havana, Cuba, July 31, 2020 (AP photo by Ismael Francisco).

Cuba’s economy was already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic, due to persistently poor domestic productivity, declining oil shipments from Venezuela and the ratcheting up of U.S. sanctions. But now, the closure of the tourist sector due to COVID-19 has thrown Cuba into a full-fledged recession, deeper than anything since the economic crisis of the 1990s that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union—what Cubans know as the “Special Period.” Perhaps paradoxically, the downturn also appears to have broken a logjam of disagreement among Cuba’s senior leaders and accelerated the implementation of economic reforms. Reforms entail risks, President Miguel Diaz-Canel told […]

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