The head of Sudan’s military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, speaks during a press conference, Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Marwan Ali).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Across Sudan, people have taken to the streets to protest a military coup that threatens to derail their aspirations for a democratic future. On Oct. 25, just weeks after a previous failed coup attempt, Sudan’s military leadership detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, several key civilian government officials […]

EU leaders pose for a group photo at an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your inbox. European leaders are preparing for two big global summits taking place in Europe in the coming days: the G-20 Summit in Rome, Italy, and the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. As the European Union strives to step up as a global power, this is […]

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-17 missiles take part in a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Beijing, Oct. 1, 2019 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The recent report in the Financial Times that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon has pundits, members of Congress, and even Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley worried about a “Sputnik moment.” Given the failure of the United States’ own test of a hypersonic missile last week, it seems to many that a hypersonic missile gap has opened, harming U.S. security. But even if China’s test means it has perfected a new way to deliver a nuclear warhead—a big if—it’s no cause for alarm. A new nuclear delivery system will not meaningfully shift the balance of […]

Shawan Jabarin, director of the al-Haq human rights group, at the organization’s offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Oct. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Majdi Mohammed).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Tuesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Last week, Israel placed “terrorism” designations on six Palestinian human rights groups, escalating an ongoing legal and political campaign against Palestinian civil society. The move drew condemnations from the international human rights community, while initially attracting a muted response from the United States. Israeli officials reportedly plan to travel to […]

French Defense Minister Florence Parly, center left, speaks with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, center right, during a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

The NATO defense ministers who met yesterday and today in Brussels had a long list of issues to discuss, from the alliance’s role in confronting a rising China to its plans for countering a resurgent Russia. But NATO is also confronting more fundamental questions about its identity that have taken on greater resonance in recent months. Prominent among those questions is what Europe can and should do for itself to provide for its security and defense. The idea of European strategic autonomy, or reduced dependence on the United States for security, is currently associated with French President Emmanuel Macron, one of its most […]

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-17 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Oct. 1, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Last month, the surprise announcement by the U.S., U.K. and Australia of their trilateral AUKUS security partnership sent shockwaves across the Indo-Pacific and put China on notice that Washington was adding some bite to its “pivot to Asia.” This week, the shoe was on the other foot, as news broke that China reportedly […]

Ships from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Indian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy sail in formation during the MALABAR 2021 joint exercises, Aug. 27, 2021 (DVIDS U.S. Navy photo by Justin Stack via AP).

In remarks earlier this month that laid out her approach to negotiations with Beijing, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said she intended to have “frank conversations” with her Chinese counterpart, but that “our objective is not to inflame trade tensions with China.” Tai went on to outline how the U.S. can sustain what she called “durable coexistence” with Beijing. This week on the Trend Lines podcast, Ali Wyne, a senior analyst at the Eurasia Group, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to unpack the Biden administration’s approach to trade talks with Beijing, and what it says about the broader state of play […]

A TV screen at the Seoul Railway Station shows a news report about North Korea’s SLBM missiles displayed at a military parade, Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

North Korea has announced that it successfully tested a new, smaller submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, on Tuesday. State media claimed the missile—launched from the same submarine from which Pyongyang tested its first Pukguksong-1 SLBM in August 2016—has “advanced control guidance technologies, including flank mobility and gliding skip mobility,” designed to make it harder to track and intercept. The name of the submarine used for the launch—the “8.24 Yongung”—also seems noteworthy, as a reflection of the importance Pyongyang puts on this vessel: It means “hero” and apparently signifies the Aug. 24 date of the 2016 SLBM launch. The test is […]

People watch a TV screen showing a news program about North Korea’s reported launch of a hypersonic missile, Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

In July, an obscure but important body called the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology announced the 77th launch of the Long March 2C orbital launch vehicle, a workhorse of China’s ballistic missile and space programs. Then, in late August, a little more than a month later, the academy announced the Long March’s 79th launch. At a minimum, for the specialists who monitor such things, the omission of a 78th launch seemed to portend something odd and potentially momentous. Now, nearly two months later, following a scoop by the Financial Times, the world found out that China has begun testing a […]

Military vehicles carrying DF-17 missiles participate in the parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Beijing, Oct. 1, 2019 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

In a move that many observers have likened to the opening scene of a techno-thriller or science fiction novel, China reportedly tested an advanced hypersonic missile in August. Technically known as a Gliding Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, or G-FOBS, the weapon is said to have missed its target by about two dozen miles, according to the Financial Times. It nonetheless represents a significant advance in China’s capabilities and could negatively affect regional stability by spurring an arms race in the Asia-Pacific.  The purpose of FOBS is to place a large payload—usually a nuclear warhead—into a low-Earth orbit, allowing it to […]

U.S. and Chinese officials at the opening session of their talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, March 18, 2021 (AFP pool photo by Frederic J. Brown via AP).

Earlier this month, senior U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators held a virtual round of talks to discuss concerns over the state of bilateral commercial ties. The meeting came after U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in public remarks that she would seek “frank conversations” with her Chinese counterpart “that will include discussion over China’s performance under the phase-one agreement,” which was negotiated under former President Donald Trump. The Chinese side said it pressed Tai to cancel the tariffs that were imposed by Trump and which so far remain in effect under President Joe Biden. The dynamic around these talks says a […]

A digital version of the Chinese yuan, the e-CNY, on display during a trade fair in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Much of the recent policy debate over virtual currencies has been alarmist, with commentators going so far as to call for banning all cryptocurrencies or warning that U.S. efforts to develop digital dollars would wreck the banking system. The conversation around central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, illustrates the point.  Whereas cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are decentralized, CBDCs are issued and managed by a nation’s monetary authority. The idea has taken off around the world in recent years, largely in response to the rapid pace of digital innovation and to frictions within the existing financial system. Over 80 countries are in some […]

Pakistani troops observe the area from a hilltop post on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Khyber district, Pakistan, Aug. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

The anger directed by Americans at Pakistan in the wake of the disorderly end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is understandable. After all, Pakistan really did give shelter to the Afghan Taliban, something that played a vital role in the Taliban’s eventual victory. However, the reaction in Washington is also a way of avoiding an honest analysis of the comprehensive failures of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Moreover, it misses key aspects of what motivated Pakistan’s behavior, with very important implications for how the United States itself understands and acts in the world. To begin with, Islamabad’s support for the […]

The military honor guard performs during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

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 Wedenesday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Speaking Sunday at the celebrations of Taiwan’s National Day, President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to resist annexation by China. “We hope for an easing of cross-strait relations and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure,” said […]

Vice President Kamala Harris is greeted as she exits Air Force Two on arrival in Guatemala City, June 6, 2021 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

While the Biden administration tries to navigate the domestic political obstacles to implementing the president’s so-called Build Back Better plan, it has quietly started laying the groundwork for a parallel program with major geopolitical implications. Just getting off the ground, Build Back Better World, or B3W, is a plan to improve global infrastructure, widely defined, with an eye to not only raise living standards but, just as importantly, to counter China’s growing influence. The idea was formally announced by the Group of Seven leaders during the G-7 summit last June. It aims to take on China’s high-profile Belt and Road Initiative, or […]

Then-Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko at a press conference a week before relinquishing power, Libreville, Gabon, May 8, 1997 (AP Photo by Enric Marti).

In 1997, after his longtime Western backers, Belgium and the United States, had abandoned him, Mobutu Sese Seko, the ruler of the country then known as Zaire, turned to mercenaries from Serbia and Ukraine in a desperate bid to beat back an accelerating insurgency. In the middle of that war, I flew to Kisangani—the famous, centrally located river-port city that is a gateway to the vast country’s west—to watch the mercenaries drill Zairian troops and take up positions to repel an impending attack on the town. The mercenaries looked fearsome and seemed to have everything they needed to defend the […]

President Joe Biden attends a meeting with business leaders in the South Court Auditorium of the White House campus, Oct. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the United States and its allies enjoyed a near monopoly on economic, military and ideological power in a suddenly unipolar world. Over the decade and a half that followed, the U.S. emerged as the dominant power atop a liberal international order in large part shaped by its preferences.  But the rise of China and resurgence of Russia as great power competitors has challenged Washington’s global leadership role, while offering new options to countries seeking alternatives to the U.S.-led order. That coincides with the emergence within the […]