A man takes pictures at sunset in Sarajevo, Bosnia, May 6, 2020 (AP photo by Kemal Softic).

Perhaps no activity is more inherently human than the attempt to find meaning, whether in the circumstances of our lives or the broad sweep of history. As Viktor Frankl taught us in his seminal book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” with meaning comes purpose; understanding the “why” often helps us find the “how.” This seemingly hard-wired effort to discern the meaning of the events taking place around us begins with identifying important signposts and determining their significance. For us at WPR, the most obvious one we look for is crisis—whether political, economic or humanitarian; whether caused by social processes, natural phenomena […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, in Ankara, Turkey, May 6, 2019 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP Images).

In response to strong bipartisan pressure from Congress, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Turkey earlier this month to punish it for purchasing a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system from Russia in 2019. The narrowly targeted sanctions include a ban on export licenses for Turkey’s main military procurement agency, as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on senior officials at the organization. Not surprisingly, Turkey, a major NATO ally, called the move a “grave mistake” and threatened to retaliate. The yearslong fracas over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, reportedly for around $2.5 billion, will go down […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

At the end of a tumultuous and disorienting year for the international community, it seems only fair to take stock of where we stand. The answer is clear: We are between storms. COVID-19 and climate change—the first a dramatic gale whipping the globe, the second a far deadlier gathering hurricane—have brought fresh urgency to international cooperation. The first injections of coronavirus vaccines have brought hope that the pandemic can be defeated soon, though we are far from out of the woods. Meanwhile, with the United Nations gearing up to take a bolder leadership role, a new U.S. president pledging a […]

President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

As the world watches the chaotic countdown to a new president in Washington, one anticipated policy shift after Joe Biden’s inauguration is causing anxiety in some quarters and optimism in others: the return of human rights to the global agenda. Donald Trump’s open disdain for human rights was one of the earliest signs that his presidency would look like no other in the White House. Defending human rights around the world has always required a complicated balancing act, often—though not always—with a tradeoff between American interests and values. Under Trump, values consistently took a back seat. The only time he […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The waning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency must feel like victory laps in the Kremlin. As Trump keeps trying to subvert the results of November’s election, with wild calls to impose martial law now coming up in paranoid White House meetings, he is also downplaying a huge cyberattack on America’s most critical computer networks, widely attributed to Russia. Moscow’s greatest nemesis and former arch-rival is laying coat after coat of fresh muck on the once-shiny patina of its international reputation and prestige. They were built on notions that once seemed almost unshakable: universal-seeming values of democracy and the rule of […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sign “phase one” of a U.S.-China trade agreement, in the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

One of the great traditions in U.S. trade policy circles is the semiannual gathering of former U.S. trade representatives. Started two decades ago by Sherman Katz at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and carried on by William Reinsch, who holds the Scholl Chair in International Business at CSIS, the meetings bring together many of the former top U.S. trade officials to share insights on current economic issues. It is a unique event that pools the accumulated wisdom of several decades; there are no similar gatherings of former U.S. secretaries of state or defense. This year’s version—held online, of […]

Taliban prisoners peer through a door after an ISIS-claimed attack on a prison in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

On a Tuesday in late October, an Afghan cleric, Sheikh Raheemullah Nangahari, was giving a speech in his madrassa in Peshawar, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, when a blast ripped through the prayer hall, injuring him and killing eight others. It was the latest attack in a deadly rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State’s faction in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which calls itself the Khorasan Province. Raheemullah, a senior Taliban official, is believed to have been targeted by the Islamic State because of his work spreading propaganda against the extremist group. In written tracts and speeches, the sheikh has […]

A protester waves the Sahrawi flag during a demonstration in front of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Madrid, Dec. 10, 2020 (Photo by Diego Radames for Sipa via AP Images).

U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise move last week to recognize Morocco’s claim to the disputed region of Western Sahara, in exchange for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel, ushered a long-frozen conflict into a new and more volatile phase. In one sense, it is formal acknowledgement of the reality that Morocco has cemented its de facto control over most of Western Sahara. With U.S. backing, Morocco now has even less incentive to cooperate with the United Nations in its decades-long effort to determine the fate of the coastal desert territory through a referendum on self-determination, promised after the U.N. brokered a […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via video call during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

To call the revelations about Russia’s devastating cyberattack on U.S. government agencies and thousands of American businesses chilling would be a gross understatement. What is even scarier, though, is that despite wave after wave of Russian-sponsored cyberattacks on the United States and its allies for more than a decade now, Washington still apparently lacks the political will to defend against this Russian aggression. It is possible and even probable that this latest attack will provoke a strong response from the U.S. and its allies, as some have suggested. As well it should. After all, the breach of the network monitoring […]

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Washington, Oct. 10, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

President Donald Trump’s presidency has in many ways undermined America’s global standing and its ability to work together with other countries. But on some issues, “His willingness to question long-running common wisdom about U.S. foreign policy has actually been a benefit and an asset to America,” says Emma Ashford, a senior fellow at the New American Engagement Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to look back on four years of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives and pick out aspects of his legacy that are […]

President Donald Trump during a roundtable on Venezuela in Doral, Florida, July 10, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

When President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, he will inherit two types of problems from his predecessor. The first will involve repairing the damage President Donald Trump created through neglect: the alliances, partnerships, multilateral organizations and U.S. government institutions to which Trump paid too little attention the past four years. Though not negligible, these problems will in most cases be relatively straightforward to address through methodical diplomacy—the simple art of showing up. The second category of problems has to do with the damage Trump created by paying too much attention to an issue: most of all, his campaigns […]

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One, Washington, Dec. 12, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

During his four years in office, President Donald Trump has worked methodically to tear up just about any foreign policy initiative or multilateral treaty that had Barack Obama’s fingerprints on it, from the Paris climate accord to the Iran nuclear deal to the policy of so-called “Strategic Patience” with North Korea. While President-elect Joe Biden is understandably promising a completely different approach in some areas, there are some aspects of his presidency that are worth preserving and building on. This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Emma Ashford for a conversation about what to keep and […]

A man watches TV screens showing North Korean weapons systems, top right, in Seoul, South Korea, May 10, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

After more than two years at the forefront of the international agenda, North Korea denuclearization efforts have faded from view, leaving little progress to show for it. Critics say the Trump administration took a flawed approach to the negotiations—and the U.S. trade war with China didn’t help. Meanwhile, North Koreans continue to suffer. Ending North Korea’s nuclearization efforts moved to the forefront of the international agenda soon after U.S. President Donald Trump took office in 2017, and stayed there for more than two years. But despite a period of improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face […]

President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

SAO PAULO—When Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, went to New York in 2019 to address the United Nations General Assembly, he crossed paths in a hallway with one of his favorite politicians, President Donald Trump. Visibly anxious, the Brazilian leader exclaimed, “I love you,” in heavily accented English. Trump shook his counterpart’s hand, murmured “nice to see you again,” and walked away. While the episode showcases Bolsonaro’s deep personal admiration for Trump, it is also a vivid example of how Brazil’s foreign policy toward the United States over the past two years has been predicated on the Brazilian leader’s efforts […]

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listen as Katherine Tai, the Biden administration's nominee for U.S. trade representative, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

“Trade is like any other tool in our domestic or foreign policy,” Katherine Tai, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be the next U.S. trade representative, said last Friday when her nomination was announced. “It is not an end in itself. It is a means to create more hope and opportunity for people.” Those remarks from the 46-year-old career trade official may seem self-evident. But they hint at what could become a significant change in the direction of trade policy under the new president. Since the era of bilateral and regional trade negotiations began in the mid-1980s, the mission of the […]

The rocket carrying NASA’s new Mars rover lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, July 30, 2020 (AP photo by John Raoux).

President-elect Joe Biden is a down-to-earth guy, but the fate of the heavens may end up being one of his main foreign policy challenges. The United States has long sought to maintain outer space as an open, stable and rules-bound domain. Unfortunately, this cooperative vision is under stress. The emergence of new space-faring nations, an explosion of private commercial activity and a brewing arms race, among other issues, are all leaving outdated international institutions in the space dust. Biden has made a “return to multilateralism” the core theme of his proposed foreign policy. Closing glaring gaps in outer space governance […]

A young girl waves a Moroccan and a Palestinian flag during a protest against normalizing relations with Israel, in Rabat, Morocco, Sept. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

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 United Arab Emirates got armed Reaper drones and the coveted F-35, becoming the first Arab county to fly the most advanced U.S. fighter jet, despite Israel’s initial objections. Sudan got much-needed economic aid and the promise of being removed from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, freeing up billions of dollars in more international […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 321 2 Last