A Ukrainian soldier in the trench, on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Andriy Dubchak).

Beyond its immediate implications for European security, the current crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border highlights the enduring importance of state sovereignty as an ordering principle in world politics, notwithstanding frequent claims that globalization has rendered it obsolete. It also exposes the tendency of governments to invoke, dismiss or reinterpret this bedrock principle to suit their situational needs. In fact, global stability now depends on whether the United States and European Union are able to reaffirm and defend the centrality of state sovereignty against a Russian attempt to dismiss it. On one level, the Ukraine situation would seem to have turned […]

Environmental activists protest against the European Union’s “greenwashing” of nuclear energy under the Euro sculpture in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 11, 2022 (AP photo by Michael Probst).

A brewing dispute within the European Union over which energy sources will be classified as “sustainable” in terms of member states’ investment toward the European Green Deal is putting Germany’s domestic energy politics in the spotlight. The issue is already creating tensions within the newly formed Ampelkoalition, or “traffic light coalition,” between the Social Democrats, the Greens and Free Democrats, and those internal fights are influencing Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s positioning vis-à-vis Russia in the current crisis over Ukraine.  Berlin’s approach to transitioning to renewable energy sources has often set the tone across the continent. Now its Energiewende, or energy revolution, has […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at his watch at the end of his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The United States and NATO have delivered written responses to  Russian demands for security guarantees, rejecting Moscow’s insistence on a withdrawal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe and an assurance that Ukraine will never be granted membership in the alliance. That firmly puts the ball back in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s court, while doing nothing to reduce the prospects of a Russian military invasion. Now European governments must consider the practical realities of what a war in Ukraine would mean, particularly in neighboring EU member states. Following a meeting of the NATO security council on Tuesday, Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Jan. 21, 2022, Geneva, Switzerland (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

If Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of invading Ukraine, he sure has a funny way of showing it. Roughly 100,000 Russian troops remain massed on the two countries’ border, with units continuing to be deployed. And a joint Russian-Belarus military exercise scheduled for February is set to position even more still to Ukraine’s north, adding a potential vector of attack. Russian officials continue to deny that an invasion is imminent, but there is a palpable sense of foreboding across Europe and in Washington that the continent stands on the brink of what would be its first major interstate […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are seen on the screen during an online opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 25, 2021 (photo by An Khoun Sam Aun for the Ministry of

Early last December, the European Union unveiled its Global Gateway, a plan to spend up to 300 billion euros, or $340 billion, over the next six years financing major infrastructure projects around the world, particularly those to develop clean energy and combat climate change. Although the Global Gateway does not have an explicit focus in terms of specific countries, it prioritizes developing regions such as Southeast Asia.   The investment plan is just the latest expression of Europe’s heightened interest in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region more generally. In the past year, several European countries have released Indo-Pacific strategy […]

People demonstrate after the Polish parliament approved a bill that is widely viewed as an attack on media freedom, Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In September 2021, the Polish government declared a state of emergency along its border with Belarus, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in response to a large influx of migrants from countries including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The route and timing of the migrants’ journey into Europe was not random: They were assisted by the Belarusian authorities, led by the country’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994. Warsaw went on to accuse Minsk of engaging in “hybrid warfare” backed by Russia. Both the humanitarian crisis on Poland’s border, where migrants were left stranded in […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Amid the looming threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western nations continue to use a wide-ranging toolkit of policy options, including diplomacy and security assistance, to avert the risk of a full-blown war in Eastern Europe. The U.K. is supplying short-range anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Canada is deploying a unit of special operations forces. And a delegation of U.S. senators met Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, followed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken today.  But while Western countries have reacted vocally to the buildup of 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, China has mostly kept silent. Speaking in […]

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in front of the Soviet U.N. delegation headquarters, New York City, Sept. 22, 1960 (AP photo).

In 1956, then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev executed a sharp but largely forgotten reorientation in his country’s foreign policy. During the long decades under Josef Stalin, with the exception of its support for communist China, Moscow had focused almost all of its energy abroad in buttressing client states in Eastern Europe. But with one major speech, Khrushchev announced that the era of investing only in Russia’s “near abroad” was finished.  Taking his cues from the 1955 Asian-African Bandung Conference in Indonesia that launched the Non-Aligned Movement, and anticipating the huge wave of newly sovereign countries that would commence with Ghana’s independence […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson steps out of 10 Downing Street to welcome the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tarik al-Said, in London, Dec. 16, 2021 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

Novak Djokovic, Boris Johnson and Prince Andrew are in the spotlight this week, an unholy trinity dominating headlines around the world. Their stories are discrete and in many ways dissimilar, but all three have, in one way or another, let down the millions of people who looked to them for inspiration and guidance.  As I mentioned in my column last week, top-ranked tennis player and anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic caused a ruckus after he was allowed into Australia to compete in the Australian Open tennis tournament, despite not being double vaccinated, as is required for entry by the government. He then faced deportation after it […]

A supporter of the Polisario Front and Western Sahara waves a flag reading “Free Sahara,” Logrono, Spain, June 8, 2021 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

Maps have long played a crucial, symbolic role in the dispute over the Western Sahara. For years, because most world maps available elsewhere show the international border that separates Morocco from its coveted territory to the south, those that were sold in Morocco had to be separately manufactured for the domestic market, affecting everything from globes and atlases to toy puzzles and address books. It was no surprise, then, that shortly after the outgoing Trump administration recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory in December 2020, Moroccan newspapers and officials happily praised the United States’ new official map of Morocco when it was […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet with President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

There’s much that remains unknown about the violent turmoil that has engulfed Kazakhstan in recent days. But one clear fact has emerged from the mayhem: Vladimir Putin’s political doctrine has a new, now openly displayed centerpiece. On Monday, as the Russian president declared Kazakhstan’s crisis essentially resolved following a military intervention by Kremlin-led troops, he also announced the new policy. It amounts to a vow by Russia to protect autocratic rulers in former Soviet Republics when they face popular unrest. According to Putin, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization—a security alliance formed by a subset of post-Soviet states in 1992—had […]

From left, prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Eduard Heger of Slovakia and Andrej Babis, former prime minister of the Czech Republic, in Budapest, Hungary, Nov. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Laszlo Balogh).

Germany’s new coalition government began winning glowing reviews even before it took office in early December. Its coalition agreement, released in November, satisfied many observers on a range of policy areas, both domestic and international. But one European leader wasn’t impressed.  “The gloves are off!” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared as Olaf Scholz took over as Germany’s new chancellor.  Orban has spent the past decade or so stirring up a series of confrontations with his European Union counterparts, as well as the European Commission in Brussels, over rule of law issues and judicial independence. He did so confident that, […]

President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

There is something clarifying about the fact that the opening of high-level U.S.-Russian talks this week to discuss the crisis Moscow has provoked over Ukraine comes just days after the one-year anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The two events are not directly related, but they both make up parts of a difficult challenge facing U.S. policymakers: how to preserve Washington’s global leadership role at a time when its model of governance, both domestically and internationally, is increasingly called into question. That dual-pronged challenge has come into sharper focus in the past five years, as the U.S. foreign […]

A Russian soldier looks through a binocular during drills in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 14, 2021 (AP photo).

When the Soviet Union collapsed three decades ago, the European security architecture suddenly became uncertain, its future put in play. After all, much of the postwar balance of power in Europe—and the world—had rested on the icy pillars of the Cold War, pillars that in 1991 abruptly melted. It didn’t take long, however, before the euphoria of freedom in the former Soviet bloc was translated into a series of diplomatic agreements enshrining a vision of cooperation, democracy and respect for independent states.  Those same agreements now lie in ruins, trampled by Russia’s anti-democratic turn and President Vladimir Putin’s determination to […]

Russian servicemen take part in military drills at Molkino training ground in the Krasnodar region, Russia, Dec. 14, 2021 (AP photo).

The “Christmas surprise” invasion of Ukraine that some in Europe were expecting from Moscow did not eventually materialize, but Russian troops amassed near the two countries’ border have still not dispersed. This week, European capitals are trying to figure out what Russia’s intentions are.  Senior officials from Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia are today discussing the continued military buildup. Tomorrow, NATO foreign ministers will meet by video ahead of a summit between U.S. and Russian officials in Geneva next week. Given the continued standoff, the biggest question for Brussels remains whether to use a carrot or stick approach to convince […]

Villagers attend a campaign meeting for the Spanish far-right party Vox at a bar in Brazatortas, on the edge of the Alcudia valley, central Spain, April 10, 2019 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Regional political parties are springing up across rural Spain and banding together under the platform “Emptied Spain,” in an effort to push the big-city elites who dominate Spanish politics to address the challenges facing rural inhabitants. As rural populations have dwindled in recent decades, so have public services in those regions, causing a vicious cycle of depopulation and decline. Inspired by the success of the tiny political party “Teruel Exists,” which has leveraged a single swing vote in parliament to advocate for rural issues, these parties are preparing to run in the next general election to establish a stronger voice […]