A Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles group formation marches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing, Oct. 1 2019 (Imaginechina photo via AP Images).

Satellite photos recently obtained by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the Federation of American Scientists, and others appear to show that China is building vast fields of new missile silos in its sparsely populated western region. That has prompted fears that Beijing may be well on its way to possessing a much larger nuclear arsenal than anyone had expected and aspiring to rival the United States and Russia, the two countries that have traditionally dominated the global nuclear order. If this comes to pass, tripolarity will for the first time become the primary feature of that order, with […]

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and others watch as the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, are returned to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Aug. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

At first glance, the tenacity of vaccine nationalism and the shambolic U.S. departure from Afghanistan appear to be completely unrelated. And yet they both expose the moral costs of a world dominated by sovereign states that consistently place narrow national interest above the ethical imperative of alleviating the suffering of strangers.  This is hardly a news flash. The question of how governments should square their duties to their own citizens with their obligations to those in other countries is an inherent and recurrent ethical quandary in international relations. It is at the heart of debates over humanitarian intervention, foreign aid, […]

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 26, 2021 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Debacle. That is the only right and proper way to describe President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden lost every point he’s dropped in national polling this week entirely of his own accord, and history will not be any kinder to his foreign policy legacy. Most Americans might agree with the White House decision to exit Afghanistan. Regardless, August 2021 will remain an indelible stain on the United States’ reputation.  That was already the case before yesterday’s horrific suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport, which left at least 100 dead, including 13 U.S. servicemembers, and 150 injured, according to the latest […]

Protesters hold a rally to mark the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule by a statue symbolizing a wartime “comfort woman” near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2021 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

For East Asia analysts, writing about the long-tortured relationship between Japan and South Korea presents a certain descriptive challenge. How often can stock phrases like “all-time low” or “worst-ever” be re-used? Is it possible to be “at a nadir” more than once? And how, given the protracted downward spiral in ties between the two U.S. allies over the past three years, are we to know when things have truly “hit rock bottom”? If a recent South Korean court ruling is any indication, we may be about to find out. Last week, lawyers representing a group of South Koreans who say […]

President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 U.S. service members, Washington, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

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. By now, the shock of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has begun to wear off. But the outrage over the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation of Western civilians and Afghan nationals at risk of Taliban retaliation seems to have only risen this week, even as the airlift gathered pace. That outrage turned to horror Thursday, when […]

A woman holds a poster demanding the evacuation of people out of Afghanistan during a demonstration in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 17, 2021 (photo by Markus Schreiber).

The abrupt collapse of Afghanistan’s NATO-backed government in the wake of the departure of U.S. forces cast a sharp, critical spotlight on U.S. President Joe Biden. But the American president was not the only Western leader who came under enormous political pressure as the scenes of mayhem outside of Kabul’s international airport played out live on television around the world. The fall of Kabul has already riled the waters across Europe, where multiple governments are struggling to defend themselves against waves of criticism. In the Netherlands, currently still governed by a caretaker coalition months after the most recent elections, there […]

Sunbathers on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, July 9, 2021 (AP photo by Joan Mateu).

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 and best reads 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 email inbox.  The island of Malta is known as a tourist destination for its scenic views. Perhaps less recognized is that it now has the world’s highest coronavirus vaccination rate, with 80 percent of the total population, including children, and 90 percent of people over the age of 12 fully vaccinated. It […]

A passenger wearing a facemask exiting the arrival hall at the Hong Kong International Airport terminal, Hong Kong, Oct. 24, 2020 (Sipa photo by Miguel Candela via AP Images).

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.  A quarantine waiver granted by authorities in Hong Kong to Hollywood star Nicole Kidman has drawn outrage and charges of double standards by local residents. But a bigger problem underlies the saga: The city is caught between two different COVID-19 strategies, with no way out.  Kidman, who arrived in […]

Older residents watching children play with bubbles at a residential compound in Beijing, Oct. 14, 2016 (AP file photo by Andy Wong).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the world’s population, two of the world’s most powerful countries, China and the United States, have released troubling new census data. Both countries, it seems, are facing national demographic declines that may soon threaten their economic prosperity—though the former will be much more affected than the latter. In April, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the slowest population growth—7.7 percent in a decade—since the 1930s. The nosedive was due to a combination of a declining birth rate, decreased immigration flows and significant mortality amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the […]

Farmers in a drought-stricken field in Changfeng county, Hefei city, Anhui province, China, Oct. 20, 2019 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

This month’s harrowing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has particularly disquieting implications for the world’s poor. Global warming and associated biodiversity loss will hinder progress toward each of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a set of 17 internationally agreed objectives for advancing global prosperity, social welfare and environmental conservation through the end of the decade. COVID-19 has already dealt these aspirations a massive blow. But these pandemic setbacks pale in comparison to the long-term challenges that climate change presents for meeting and exceeding basic human needs, and placing developing countries on the path toward sustained—and sustainable—growth. United Nations member states unanimously endorsed the […]

Indian soldiers patrol along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan  in Poonch, about 156 miles from Jammu, India, Dec. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

Two years ago this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government repealed the special autonomous status of India-administered Kashmir, stripping the region of its statehood and incorporating it into the country as a union territory. The move was denounced by Pakistan, which also claims the disputed region. Bilateral relations—already tense from an escalation of military tensions earlier in 2019—plunged into deep crisis. India-Pakistan ties remained deeply strained until February 2021, when the two rivals signed a cease-fire that pledged to end violence along the de facto border that divides India- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The truce, which came as a major surprise to many observers, […]

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of an explosion targeting a United Nations vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The images of humanitarian chaos and the deteriorating situation for women after the swift Taliban takeover of Kabul have left the international community grasping for options. In the face of Afghan women’s desperate pleas for support, women’s rights NGOs in the United States recently called for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. There is no question that such an operation, if mounted earlier, would have been beneficial to Afghan civilians and particularly to women. As David Cortright and I have written before, and as much scholarly research shows, U.N. peacekeeping operations work better than Western counterinsurgencies at maintaining durable peace, […]

The first plane with returnees from Afghanistan arrives in Spain with 53 people, five of them Spanish and the rest Afghans who have collaborated with the Spanish government and their families, Madrid, Spain, Aug. 19, 2021 (Photo by Juan Carlos Rojas for A

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. International attention has remained focused on Afghanistan this week, where the U.S. along with its NATO allies continued efforts to evacuate their nationals as well as Afghan civilians at risk of retribution from the Taliban. Although the situation remains chaotic and volatile, it has so far not deteriorated in the week since the Taliban […]

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days. Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, […]

Life jackets at the waste disposal site near Molivos, Lesbos, Greece, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Grigoris Siamidis).

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 and best reads 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 email inbox. Six years after the peak of the 2015 migrant crisis, which upended European politics, the European Union is faced with the prospect of another wave of refugees and asylum-seekers, as the continent braces itself for the fallout from the rapid departure of the U.S. and its NATO allies from […]

A group of elderly people play gate ball at a park in Goyang, South Korea, Nov. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Data released earlier this year showed that South Korea’s fertility rate is now the world’s lowest, at 0.84 births per woman in 2020, contributing to the country’s first-ever population decline. Other major powers in the region—including China and Japan, the world’s No. 2 and No. 3 economies, respectively—also have rapidly graying populations.  On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Ronald D. Lee, a demographer and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to discuss the implications of East Asia’s demographic transition, and what policies can be implemented to address it.  Listen to the full conversation here: […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a military parade, in Nicosia, Cyprus, July 20, 2021 (Turkish Presidency pool photo via AP Images).

Like other foreign powers, Turkey was caught off-guard by the speed of the Taliban’s recent blitz across the country, which has greatly complicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans. While most NATO countries were happy to wash their hands of the conflict after a grueling 20-year counterinsurgency and nation-building effort, Erdogan was proposing that Turkey continue to provide security for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.  Erdogan had discussed this idea with U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting on the margins of the NATO Summit last month, and negotiations with Washington were reportedly ongoing until last week, despite the Taliban’s fervent […]

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