People wait holding flags for a welcome ceremony with President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Employing an adversarial tone that surprised many observers, the White House’s newly unveiled National Security Strategy described China as a “revisionist power” that “actively competes” against the United States and its allies and partners. It accused China of trying to “shift the regional balance in its favor” and “displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.” The strategy, the first released by President Donald Trump since taking office, also declared that China seeks to shape a world “antithetical” to U.S. values and interests, and painted China’s expanding economic and diplomatic influence in a decidedly negative light, deploying terms like “extractive” […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad watch troops marching at the Hemeimeem air base, Syria, Dec. 11, 2017 (Kremlin pool photo via AP).

One year ago, the United Nations appeared to be poised between a moment of renewal and a total meltdown. An energetic new secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, promised to revitalize the organization after a decade of drift under Ban Ki-moon. The former Portuguese prime minister talked about a “surge of diplomacy” and the need to prevent looming conflicts. Listen to Richard Gowan discuss this article on WPR’s Trend Lines Podcast. His audio starts at 29:32: Yet he seemed doomed to run headlong into opposition from the administration of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump. The president-elect had repeatedly belittled and dismissed the U.N., […]

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The rise of populist leaders and parties in Europe and the United States over the past two years has reshaped the political landscape from Budapest to Washington. Challenging elites as corrupt and disconnected from common concerns, these populists claim to derive their legitimacy from the supposed will of the people and usually use their influence to blame some “other” for the country’s ills. They have tried to upend post-Cold War norms on everything from free trade to the integration of Europe, raising fears in the West about the strength of the rule of law and even democracy itself. But this […]

A man takes a picture of an artwork depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as boxing legend Muhammad Ali during the “Putin Universe” exhibition, Moscow, Russia,  Oct. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

You can punch above your weight in statecraft as in boxing, and in today’s global security system, Russia is like an aggressive bantamweight. For the United States and the rest of the West, containing or moderating Russia’s sometimes damaging actions depends on understanding why Moscow can punch above its weight, and how that shapes its behavior. Until the late 1940s, Americans had never thought much about Russia and thus were deeply perplexed when the World War II alliance between Washington and Moscow devolved into the Cold War. In a famous Foreign Affairs article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” career diplomat […]

Police stand guard inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal following an explosion near Times Square in New York, Dec. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Andres Kudacki).

The aftermath of Monday’s terrorist attack in New York was a case of both good news and bad news. That the city essentially shrugged off an attempted suicide bombing in the subway that only seriously injured the bomber himself demonstrated a salutary resilience and sangfroid, as defeating terrorism requires in part a refusal to be terrorized. That the attack was so rudimentary and amateurish is a testament to the broad success of American and European approaches to counterterrorism that make more sophisticated attacks prohibitively difficult to mount. But the fact that such attacks don’t generate much surprise anymore—whether in New […]

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron before a lunch at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Dec. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Mali is set to hold presidential elections in July 2018. Pre-campaign maneuvering recently accelerated, with candidates declaring and likely candidates readying themselves to run. Although President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita enjoys the structural advantages of incumbency, events since last summer suggest he may be vulnerable next year. Keita, known in Mali as IBK, will likely seek re-election after winning his first term in 2013. He is a veteran politician, having served as prime minister in the 1990s and president of the National Assembly in the mid-2000s. Like much of Mali’s political class, he has been on the political scene since the […]

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour and U. S. Ambassador Nikki Haley confer before a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Dec. 8, 2017 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

The United Nations is a slow, imperfect and often unsuccessful peacemaker. We should celebrate that. Last week, U.N. officials were grappling with three crises that have each been on the organization’s agenda for over half a century. On Tuesday, Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman flew to North Korea to call for “open channels” of diplomatic communication with Pyongyang to avoid a nuclear confrontation. His visit came just over 70 years after the U.N. General Assembly first set up an international commission to facilitate the reunification of the northern and southern halves of the country, a dream that remains as […]

Sri Lankan Tamil activists observe a moment of silence near a makeshift monument where thousands were killed in fighting between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels, Mullivaikkal, Sri Lanka, May 18, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—For an outsider trying to unravel the complexities of Sri Lanka’s postwar challenges, the country presents countless tangled and unexpected threads. Among the surprises is that the most unlikely of countries, a nation half a world away—one that on the surface has very little in common with Sri Lanka—is playing an important role in guiding Sri Lanka forward. Colombia, the South American nation that just a year ago signed a peace agreement with rebels to end its own lengthy war, is lending its knowledge and expertise to help Sri Lanka tread a path toward peace and stability. The […]

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed Dec. 4, speaks during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of his General People’s Congress party, Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 3, 2012 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Five years ago, on a hazy summer afternoon in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, a security guard at the presidential palace led me around its mosque, which had been the site of a 2011 assassination attempt against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh during the height of the Arab Spring protests. The shoes of the men who were killed in the bombing—a who’s who of Yemen’s ruling party—were still piled outside the mosque’s entrance. Saleh was very lucky that day. He had been standing near the mosque’s doorway, away from the center of the room that had taken the brunt of the explosion, the […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel steps off the podium with other EU and African leaders after a group photo at the latest EU-Africa summit, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Is Germany about to retreat from the world? Berlin has become an essential advocate for liberal internationalism in recent years. But it may turn inward again. Germany has long been a payer rather than a player at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions. While disbursing large quantities in foreign aid, and cautiously experimenting with stabilization missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan, Berlin generally avoided taking a real leadership role in global affairs. The priority for Berlin was always Europe, and that remains the case. But as Germany has become more powerful within the European Union, it has discovered that […]