A young boy walks past a mural depicting the U.S. peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 5, 2020 (AP Photo by Rahmat Gul).

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal in March for a global cease-fire amid the coronavirus pandemic made no impression on the Taliban. Through April, the militant group’s commanders seemed generally dismissive of the risks posed by COVID-19 as they ramped up their annual spring offensive. The disease had yet to make much inroads into Afghanistan and Pakistan at the time. Many Taliban members happily promoted the idea that true believers had nothing to fear, and that the pandemic was only a problem for the decadent West. Accordingly, Taliban officials continued meeting each other normally and, during Ramadan in May, many […]

A youth waits to enter the San Nicolas Tolentino cemetery in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, April 30, 2020 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

While the health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have been primarily endured by elderly populations, there is increasing recognition that young people will disproportionately absorb the economic and social impacts. One study, conducted in April and released last month by the International Labor Organization, found that the pandemic had caused one in six young people to lose their jobs, as well as a 23 percent average reduction in working hours for those still employed. Within this “lockdown generation,” as the ILO calls them, the situation is especially dire for women, ethnic minorities and migrant workers. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general […]

Security officers keep guard during lockdown in Jammu, India, March 27, 2020 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting global politics at a time when democracy was already “under assault” around the world, according to the watchdog organization Freedom House. From the United States to Hungary to the Philippines, governments have used the pandemic to consolidate power, curb individual liberties and restrict the space for civil society organizations and freedom of expression. Democratic and authoritarian societies alike are ramping up surveillance of their citizens as part of their attempts to stop the spread of the virus. The state of human rights and freedom in the world’s largest democracy has worsened as well. As the […]

A sign for Zoom in New York, April 18, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. American video-conferencing company Zoom recently admitted that it crossed a line by temporarily closing the account of a group of U.S.-based Chinese activists last month after they held a virtual event to commemorate the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Zoom insisted that it did so in order to “comply with local law,” but without stating which law it had violated. Zoom has since pledged that censorship requests from the Chinese government will no longer affect users […]

President Donald Trump speaks to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during an event to sign a new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, at the White House, Washington, Jan. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

For weeks, trade has taken a back seat to Black Lives Matter protests and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, however, trade was back on the front page with stunning charges from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, about an alleged attempt by President Donald Trump to manipulate U.S.-China trade negotiations for his personal political gain. This past week also saw U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifying before Congress about the Trump administration’s trade agenda, while both U.S. and European officials threatened an escalation in their dispute over digital services taxes. The overall message from all this was clear: […]

European Council President Charles Michel, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a media conference following an EU-China summit, in video conference format, in Brussels, June 22, 2020 (pool photo by Yves Herman via AP).

Earlier this month, Germany announced that a landmark summit between the European Union and China, planned for September in Leipzig, would be postponed. It was initially slated to be the first-ever meeting between China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and all 27 of his counterparts from EU member states. Officials had hoped to make progress at the meeting on a key investment treaty, but have now decided to delay it, ostensibly due to travel difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many analysts aren’t buying that excuse, though. Relations between Europe and China have deteriorated of late in part because of a disinformation […]

The demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea, June 16, 2020 (Korean Central News Agency photo via AP Images).

What a difference two years makes. The spring and summer of 2018 saw an extraordinary rapprochement between the two Koreas, as their leaders held successive face-to-face meetings, culminating in a landmark visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang. The flurry of diplomacy produced a number of joint declarations, agreements, hotlines and other confidence-building measures, including an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, just 6 miles into North Korean territory from the Demilitarized Zone. It was the first full-time communication channel and served as a de facto embassy between the two sides, which are technically still at war having not […]

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai displays the flag of India to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United Arab Emirates, Feb. 10, 2018 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

One of India’s foreign policy success stories under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the country’s deepening relations with Gulf Arab states. Building on previous Indian governments’ engagement with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council—namely Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—Modi has zeroed in on common economic and security interests to cement strong ties with GCC countries during his time in office. The coronavirus pandemic has been the biggest disruption in years to these partnerships. For starters, prominent voices in the Gulf have spoken out against rising Islamophobia in India and among some members of the […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, after signing a power-sharing agreement in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2020 (Photo by Afghan Presidential Palace via AP Images).

Afghanistan is still a long way from reaching a political settlement, but news this week that Afghan government negotiators will soon meet directly with Taliban leaders in Qatar is evidence that peace is possible. Or, at the very least, it may be one small step closer. The question now is whether a myopic focus on military issues will blind negotiators and stakeholders to the various pitfalls ahead on the long road to reconciliation. Getting this far this fast only a few months after the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban is evidence that confidence-building measures are working. […]

An Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, India, June 17, 2020 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the deadly border clash between Indian and Chinese troops in a remote Himalayan mountain pass. With India and China seemingly torn between competition and cooperation, what factors will shape their choice to escalate or resolve this border dispute? Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:Can India and China Stand Down After Their Worst Border Clash in 45 Years?Xi and Modi Trade Confrontation for Comity at Another Informal SummitWhy Modi and Xi Made Nice at Asia’s Other […]

United Nations Security Council members, except Russia and China, raise hands in a vote supporting Yemen-related sanctions, at U.N. headquarters, Feb. 25, 2020 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Kenya won a surprisingly contentious race for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council, defeating Djibouti in a run-off vote Thursday. Djibouti’s loss was an unlikely blow to China, which appeared to have encouraged Djibouti’s unprecedented candidacy in order to increase its influence on the Security Council. Africa is guaranteed three of the council’s 10 elected seats, which rotate every two years and supplement the five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. African countries […]

Protesters hold a photo of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a rally near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, June 12, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Amid a storm of domestic crises, and with less than five months until Election Day, President Donald Trump suddenly faces the prospect of having his signature foreign policy initiative, once quietly stalled, unravel spectacularly. Trump took personal charge of the daunting North Korea file early on, all but proclaiming victory after a groundbreaking, made-for-TV meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore two years ago, immediately after which he announced on Twitter: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Back then, that sounded preposterously premature. Today, it brings faint echoes of Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 declaration […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to a NATO leaders meeting in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

President Donald Trump has never been a fan of alliances. He has complained repeatedly in the past that U.S. allies in Europe and East Asia “don’t pay enough for their defense,” and has demanded that Japan and South Korea quadruple the amount of money they pay as a share of the cost of hosting U.S. military bases in their territory. More recently, Trump announced he was pulling 10,000 troops out of Germany, more than a quarter of its military presence in the country. The political scientist Mira Rapp-Hooper has just published a timely new book, “Shields of the Republic: The […]

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses military personnel and their families at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, South Korea, June 30, 2019 (pool photo by Ed Jones of AFP via AP Images).

The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to pull nearly 10,000 American troops from Germany, more than a quarter of the U.S. military presence in the country. For anyone who’s been paying attention to Donald Trump’s rhetoric since he first ran for president, the news of the withdrawal is very much of a piece with his disdain for America’s overseas alliances. The president and his supporters often rail against close U.S. allies like South Korea, Japan and certain NATO countries for supposedly free-riding on Washington’s largesse. Today’s guest on Trend Lines has a new book out that investigates those claims and […]

An Indian soldier atop a military vehicle as an army convoy moves on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, India, June 17, 2020 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. A deadly clash Monday between hundreds of Chinese and Indian soldiers dramatically escalated a weeks-long standoff along the two countries’ disputed border in the Himalayas. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the fight with Chinese troops in the treacherous mountains of Ladakh—the first combat deaths along India’s border with China since 1975. New Delhi and Beijing both appear to want to avoid a war like the one they fought near this remote frontier in 1962, but the […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He before signing a U.S. China trade agreement, in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The global, rules-based trading system that the United States helped to create after World War II is in deep trouble. President Donald Trump had already spent the past three years sparking trade wars and undermining the World Trade Organization. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, hammering economies and sharply reducing trade flows worldwide. Panicked governments, including in Washington, have imposed export restrictions on critical medical supplies and, in some cases, food. To make things even worse, the White House has blocked the normal process for settling trade disputes, just when it is needed most. Because of the concerns about hosting large […]

A fighter from a militia funded by the United Arab Emirates, stands on the frontline of conflict in Yemen’s Dhale province, Aug. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty). Internationalized civil conflicts increase the chances of war between states.

It is too soon to tell how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect international security. Whether it will provide opportunities for prolonged peace or create conditions for new rivalries and disputes depends on how long the pandemic lasts, how the world moves forward from bungled initial responses and how quickly countries recover from the virus’s societal and economic fallout. But already, the pandemic is exposing and accelerating trends that have made the world more vulnerable to international conflict. That may be surprising, since before the outbreak, most statistics indicated that, on the whole, the world had never been better. People were […]

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