Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via video call during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Over the past several weeks, there has been nearly as much speculation about the nature and objectives of the Biden administration’s highly vocal approach to warning about the imminence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as there has been about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in the current crisis. The most prominent strain of analysis, by now distilled into broadly held, conventional wisdom, is that by providing detailed, near-daily updates about Russian troop deployments around Ukraine’s borders, including highly specific intelligence and tactical analysis, the Biden administration has been seeking to “get inside Putin’s head,” thereby giving him pause or […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk to each other during their meeting in Beijing, China, Feb. 4, 2022 (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin for Sputnik via AP).

Countries around the world are watching intensely to see if Russia will further escalate its ongoing standoff with Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday recognizing the independence of the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and subsequently deployed Russian troops to both to carry out what he referred to as a “peacekeeping mission.” At the same time, however, there is considerable attention on China’s response to the crisis, amid fears that Beijing could lend diplomatic support to Moscow, in light of their warming ties and converging interests. But even though Beijing has stopped short of condemning Russia […]

Ukrainian armed forces conduct exercises in the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine, Feb.4, 2022 (AP photo by Mykola Tymche).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bellicose speech yesterday, in which he announced that Russia had recognized the independence of two separatist regions of Ukraine and would deploy military forces there as “peacekeepers,” suggests that after months of military posturing and diplomacy, a full-scale invasion may well be at hand. But while it is still impossible to know for sure how the crisis will play out, one consequence of it is already certain: There is no more use in dancing around reality using terms like “strategic competition” or “great power tensions” to describe relations between the West and Russia. We are in […]

Barbados’ new President Sandra Mason awards Prince Charles with the Order of Freedom of Barbados during the presidential inauguration ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, Nov. 30, 2021 (AP photo by David McD Crichlow).

To the casual observer, Barbados appears to be the latest country to fall prey to increasing Chinese influence. Two years after signing up for China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2019, the Commonwealth nation declared itself a republic, replacing Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Connecting these dots, the prestigious Sunday Times of London ran an article titled, “How Barbados went from Little England to Little China.” The piece noted that Barbados was flush with cash from China and implied that dropping the queen as head of state was the condition Beijing had set for further financing. A pharmaceutical salesman in Bridgetown, the […]

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand attend a candlelight vigil for those who died in protests against Myanmar’s military coup, in front of the United Nations building in Bangkok, Thailand, March 4, 2021 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

On the first day of February last year, the world woke up to the news that the generals in Myanmar, also known as Burma, had seen enough of the country’s fledgling experiment in democracy. Military forces had arrested the country’s iconic pro-democracy figure and de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with more than a hundred other elected officials. Outraged, the people took to the streets, catching the Tatmadaw, as the military is called, by surprise. Unfortunately for the people of Myanmar—and perhaps by the generals’ design—the timing of the coup made it difficult for international attention to focus […]

President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 15, 2022 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

On Christmas Eve in 2002, I was suddenly dispatched from my base in Tokyo, where I was the New York Times bureau chief at the time, to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, to cover reports that North Korea was about to reactivate a nuclear reactor that had previously been taken out of service as a result of painstaking negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. The United States suspected that if operations resumed at the reactor, which had supposedly been built for research purposes, the North Korean government would soon begin reprocessing its spent nuclear fuel to build up a supply […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in a joint press conference with Fiji’s acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Nadi, Fiji, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Kevin Lamarque).

With the first visit in four decades by a U.S. secretary of state to Fiji and plans to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands reportedly in the works, Washington officially announced its “return” to the Pacific Islands this past weekend. “It is about building a free and open Indo-Pacific, defending it with democratic institutions, with transparency, with commitment to a rules-based order that we share,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a joint press conference with Acting Fijian Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on Feb. 12. Blinken spoke after a virtual meeting with 18 Pacific Island leaders meant to […]

People chant slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 30, 2021 (AP photo by Marwan Ali).

When Myanmar’s anti-coup uprising kicked off in February 2021, it had three demands that look quite simple in retrospect. First, the protesters said, the military and its leader, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, must end their takeover of power. Second, they must restore the democratically elected government they had unseated. And third, they must release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National Democratic Union party, which had come out on top in the country’s competitive, albeit flawed election in November 2020. By the time I spoke to Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a leading Myanmar activist, in late September […]

China People’s Liberation Army Navy troops stand on the deck of a guided missile frigate in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Under the leadership of President Xi Jingping, China has been pouring resources into its military arsenal in pursuit of a technologically advanced, integrated force. Its accomplishments to date have weakened U.S. military deterrence in the region, leading some smaller states to question Washington’s ability and willingness to intervene in the case of a conflict involving China. But Beijing’s strategy has also come with some political costs. Earlier this week, on Trend Lines, WPR’s Peter Dörrie sat down with Timothy Heath, RAND’s senior intelligence and defense expert, to discuss China’s growing military capacity and what it means for the United States and its allies.  […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange documents during a signing ceremony following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP file photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

With the Winter Olympics now underway, all eyes are fixed on the competing athletes as they take to the ice and snow. But amid the dazzling displays of athletic prowess, significant developments have simultaneously taken place on the diplomatic sidelines of the Games. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Beijing last Friday ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, marking their first in-person encounter in two years, ostensibly due to Xi’s self-imposed travel restriction amid the coronavirus pandemic. The talks, described by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng as “very successful,” ended […]

Olympic workers in protective gear walk through the Beijing Capital International Airport as they work to assist passengers ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing, Jan. 31, 2022 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

On Aug. 7, 2008, I boarded a flight from Shanghai, leaving China for the last time as bureau chief for The New York Times there, on the very eve of the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Rather than cover it in person, I watched the grandiose show, or at least some of it, from the remoteness of Virginia. Given the scale of China’s investment in hosting the Games for the first time, I thought the Olympics were an especially good bookend for my six years living in the country, but I didn’t need to be there myself. […]

Tibetan Buddhist lamas stand outside Mongolia's largest monastery, Gandantegchinlen, where the Dalai Lama is expected to visit, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Aug. 21, 2006 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Last summer, a fake news article went viral on a popular Mongolian website, under an alarming headline: “His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama has passed away.” The story was quickly denied by the Dalai Lama’s office-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, and by Gandantegchinlen, the main Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. Just a few weeks later, the Mongolian monastery found itself denying another rumor, this one falsely claiming that the third-highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism—the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu—was about to assume his throne. Had either of these rumors been true, they would have brought the worst fears of many Mongolians to life. The Jebtsundamba Khutuktu is Mongolia’s […]

A new type 094A Jin-class nuclear submarine of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy, in the sea near Qingdao, Shandong province, April 23, 2019 (AP

Mock amphibious assaults, regular intrusions into Taiwan’s air defense zone and the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea are just some of the headlines that China’s military buildup has generated in recent years. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has combined advances in electronic warfare with state-of-the-art military hardware like ballistic anti-ship missiles, stealth aircraft and aircraft carriers, with the ambitious goal of militarily dominating the South and East China Seas. This strategy is squarely aimed at undermining the U.S. military’s preeminence in the region, which until now has served as a counterweight to China’s […]

President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Jan. 31, 2022 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Just before U.S. President Joe Biden met with Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in the Oval Office on Tuesday, the White House shared a post on Twitter listing the visit’s agenda, which included “security and prosperity in the Middle East, global energy supplies, Afghanistan and more.” It was clear Sheikh Tamim’s visit was not just symbolic. Sheikh Tamim is the first regional leader to meet with Biden since he became president, a sign that Washington views Doha as an important element in confronting urgent U.S. priorities. And as if to underscore that point, Biden announced this week that he had designated […]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen talks during an online press conference at the European Council building in Brussels, Sept. 14, 2020 (AP photo by Yves Herman).

The European Union has launched a case at the World Trade Organization against China over what Brussels describes as Beijing’s “discriminatory trade practices” toward Lithuania. By doing so, the bloc joins a growing list of countries, including Australia and the United States, seeking to hold China accountable via the multilateral trading system. But with the WTO’s dispute settlement system in disarray due to longstanding procedural obstacles put in place by the Trump administration, the WTO currently lacks the ability to resolve commercial disputes in the absence of a spirit of compromise among the parties involved. So the EU’s move in some ways resembles […]