U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets virtually with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, seen on screen at left, in Washington, April 26, 2021 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

President Joe Biden’s administration is ramping up its diplomatic efforts to address what it calls the “root causes” of Central America’s migration crisis. Early next month, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Guatemala—part of a two-country trip that also includes a stop in Mexico—in hopes of making progress on efforts to address the poverty, violence and corruption that force Central Americans to flee the region. But while the administration’s approach to Central America has some promising elements overall, it faces stiff headwinds in the region. Last week, Congress released a list of 16 current and former Central American […]

A U.S. soldier walks past parked armored vehicles and tanks of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st Calvary Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, as they are unloaded in Antwerp, Belgium, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

In late September 2020, the long-simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan boiled over into full-blown war. As Azerbaijani tanks and drones advanced into territory held by Armenian forces, commentators around the world warned of the possibility of regional instability or even a wider conflict between Turkey and Russia, which supported opposite sides in the fighting. The heart of the conflict was the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an obscure province in the South Caucasus that most Americans have never heard of—even fewer can muster an opinion as to which former Soviet republic it should belong to. Its relationship to U.S. security […]

President Joe Biden listens during a tour of the Ford Rouge EV Center in Dearborn, Mich., May 18, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In last week’s episode of “America Competing with a Rising China,” the geopolitical equivalent of a TV series, Joe Biden took the wheel of a Ford truck and all but burned rubber as he pulled away from reporters who had come to witness the stunt. Biden’s visit came on the eve of Ford’s announcement of a new, all-electric version of its model F-150, the most popular motor vehicle in the United States, and he used it to enlist the automaker’s innovations in his ongoing campaign to prove not just that “America is Back,” whatever that means, but that the country […]

A TV news program showing an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Joe Biden, at the Suseo Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 26, 2021 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

The Biden administration is using an outdated script to justify doing very little about North Korea. As a consequence, it’s blowing a unique opportunity to avoid a future crisis, stabilize the Korean Peninsula for the long term and rectify one of America’s longest-running foreign policy mistakes. On April 30, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the White House had concluded its months-long policy review on North Korea. There was no official rollout or fanfare, no glossy document with a government logo—just a brief verbal statement to reporters aboard Air Force One. In this case, the low-key reveal was […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

As U.S. troops begin what may be their final withdrawal from Afghanistan, no third country will be affected by their departure as much as Pakistan, which shares a long, porous border with Afghanistan, hosts much of the Taliban leadership as well as millions of Afghan refugees, and faces threats from Pakistani militants based there. For Pakistan, America has been both a partner and a strategic competitor in Afghanistan. Notionally, the U.S. exit presents Islamabad with an opportunity to proactively shape Kabul’s political future in its favor. But in reality, a post-withdrawal Afghanistan without an internationally backed, intra-Afghan accord offers far […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, sits with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio at the start of a G-7 foreign ministers meeting in London, May 4, 2021 (pool photo by Ben Stansall via AP).

The travails of the rules-based international system have set off a vigorous debate within U.S. foreign policy circles over the most promising institutional foundations for world order in the 21st century. The Washington establishment is united in its repudiation of Donald Trump’s “America First” orientation. But it remains divided on what form of U.S. internationalism is best suited to a historical moment defined by two powerful, countervailing trends: the rise of transnational challenges that can only be resolved through collective action and the resurgence of geopolitical competition that hinders international cooperation. The four distinct models of multilateralism currently vying for […]

Demonstrators at a Stop Asian Hate rally in Chicago, March 20, 2021 (AP photo by Nam Y. Huh).

On March 16, a 21-year-old white man allegedly went on a violent rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area, fatally shooting eight people—six of them Asian women. Law enforcement officials and some news outlets initially said the motive was “uncertain,” but the Asian American community in Georgia immediately recognized the vicious crime as part of a disturbing spike in violence against people of Asian heritage across the country. Prosecutors confirmed as much when they announced earlier this month that they would bring hate crime charges against the suspected shooter. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April, one-third […]

Joe Biden arrives to participate in a town hall during the 2020 presidential election campaign, Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

At a virtual panel discussion last week, Thomas Carothers, an expert on democratization at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed to a global trend that he said should inform democracy assistance programs going forward: the “equalization of the political terrain.” “The old idea that there’s a set of countries called ‘established democracies’ that largely have solved their democratic problems and are working on the details, and then a set of countries, ‘new or struggling democracies,’ that are grappling with fundamental challenges—that old division is gone,” Carothers explained at the event, hosted by the Parliamentary Centre, a think tank in […]

A demonstrator takes part in a protest in support of Palestinians, in Los Angeles, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu).

As an American, watching the violence explode between Israel and Palestinians over the past two weeks has felt like awakening from a heavy narcotic sleep. The drug, in this instance, has been the willful and persistent denial embraced by American politicians and media alike about the grave crisis that, though less visible recently, has been ticking like a time bomb in this part of the Middle East for years. As the situation between Israel and Palestinians has grown steadily more dangerous, the doses of denial needed to ignore it, too, have like a narcotic become constantly bigger. It is easy […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the United Nations Security Council, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Under fire for staying silent on the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, U.S. President Joe Biden finally expressed support for a cease-fire in a statement Tuesday. He followed that up today by telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “he expected a significant […]

Delegates applaud as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the closing session of China’s National People's Congress in Beijing, May 28, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

In the current age of extreme political polarization, it has become a cliché to observe that the only remaining bipartisan initiatives in Congress concern the naming of post offices. But in mid-April, a major bill sailed out of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up with near-unanimous support. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, cast the lone dissenting vote against the Strategic Competition Act, which would ramp up pressure on China on a variety of fronts, including military deterrence, economic competition and human rights. Another draft law targeting China, the Endless Frontier Act, passed the Senate Commerce Committee this week […]

Exhausted workers who carried the dead for cremation sit on the rear step of an ambulance in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2021 (AP photo by Altaf Qadri).

When the Biden administration made its surprise announcement last week that it would seek to waive American patent protections on coronavirus vaccines, many were quick to cheer this as evidence that the president’s much-beloved slogan about global leadership, “America’s back,” was already becoming something more than mere rhetoric. Here was Washington appearing to put self-interest aside for the benefit of global public health, and in doing so, it would not only be taking on the American pharmaceutical giants that had pioneered the most important vaccine technologies in the first phase of this crisis, but also those of America’s European allies, […]

Armed Afghan policemen sit with confiscated poppy bulbs during a poppy eradication sweep of a farmer’s field in the village of Karezaq, Afghanistan, April 11, 2004 (AP photo by David Guttenfelder).

Corruption and criminality have long bedeviled both conflict and post-conflict settings. As illicit economies that predated or emerged from the years of conflict persist and grow, they often undermine apparent battlefield victories and aspirational regime transitions to the point of eviscerating stability and liberalization. From Somalia to Afghanistan to Myanmar to South Sudan to Haiti, the stabilization efforts of international and local actors have often been held hostage to the unsavory behavior of elites, both old and new. One reason why anti-corruption and anti-crime efforts have struggled is that they have been understood as technical, institution-building efforts rather than as […]

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president for a Europe fit for the digital age, speaks on Europe's Digital Future at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

It may be some years before your AI-powered assistant can sit at your kitchen table, finishing off a haiku while debating the nuances of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” as imagined by Ian McEwan in his 2019 novel, “Machines Like Me.” Even if that always remains the stuff of fiction, AI, short for artificial intelligence, has already crept into daily life. It is now helping heart surgeons spot minor problems that go undetected in routine scans. It is similarly more accurate than human experts at interpreting mammograms to detect early stage breast cancer. And it is starting to solve the complexities of […]

U.N. peacekeepers observe Israeli excavators working near Mays al-Jabal, Lebanon, Dec. 13, 2018 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

For better or worse, the United States military is leaving Afghanistan. Proponents for withdrawal argue the U.S. has done all it can militarily in the country, has more pressing security interests elsewhere and may do more harm than good by staying. Critics say the power vacuum the U.S. is leaving behind will reignite a civil war and open the door to ethnic cleansing, gender apartheid and state failure. Both views have merit, but the choice is not between these options alone. Yes, the U.S. record of nation-building in Afghanistan is poor. And yes, power vacuums and state fragility breed insurgencies, […]

A car flying a Cuban flag drives past the American embassy during a rally calling for the end of the U.S. blockade against the island nation, Havana, Cuba, March 28, 2021 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

At the eighth congress of the Communist Party of Cuba last month, Raul Castro stepped down as head of the party, passing the reins to President Miguel Diaz-Canel in a choreographed transition of power. This changing of the guard took place amid rising dissent on the island, as well as a severe economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and strict U.S. sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration. Despite expectations he would return to a policy of engagement, President Joe Biden has so far chosen to keep Trump’s aggressive policies toward Cuba largely in place. This week on […]

People take part in a protest of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Santa Clara, Cuba, April 25, 2021 (AP photo by Ismael Francisco).

During his campaign for the presidency last year, Joe Biden pledged to reverse what he called “the failed Trump policies” toward Cuba. But now, Biden’s White House is signaling that it is in no hurry to lift the severe sanctions and other measures imposed on Cuba by former President Donald Trump, much less return to the historic detente with Cuba that was pioneered by Biden’s old boss, former President Barack Obama. As the Biden administration bides its time, Cuba’s aging leaders have passed the baton to a new generation. At the Communist Party’s eighth congress last month, Raul Castro stepped […]

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