In this undated file photo, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq from Raqqa, Syria (Militant website via AP).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to intervene militarily in Syria and work with Iran and Iraq to defeat the Islamic State has been met with a rather predictable response among Washington pundits: Putin is strong, and Barack Obama is weak. “Like Iran, Putin is willing to back up his pursuit of his interests with force,” writes Eliot Abrams in the National Review. “U.S. deterrence is dead,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka. The Washington Post editorial page bemoans Obama’s lack of a strategy for Syria and noted that while “shortsighted and cynical . . . at least Mr. Putin […]

Thousands of Lebanese of Armenian descent, holding banners and a giant Armenian flag, march to mark the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, Antelias, Lebanon, April 24, 2015 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

By a fortuitous coincidence I found myself in Japan the week of the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which preceded the Japanese surrender in World War II. A special panel advising the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was divided over the wording of the government’s official statement, which is issued on major anniversaries of the war’s end. Should the words “aggression” and “apology” be used, or was “remorse”—the oft-employed substitute for a stronger expression—enough? Abe’s refusal to apologize for Japan’s colonial past, including its treatment of Koreans and other wartime atrocities, has divided Japanese political elites and […]

A convoy of Azerbaijani army tanks moves in the direction of Agdam, Azerbaijan, Aug. 2, 2014. (AP photo by Abbas Atilay).

Azerbaijan reported that three of its troops and nine Armenian soldiers were killed during clashes Sunday in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia denies the losses and says more than 10 Azerbaijani troops were killed. This is only the latest incident in a year marked by a dramatic increase in hostilities between the two neighbors. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began in 1988 when the Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was then an autonomous province of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, started a movement calling for unification with Armenia. Regional violence became a full-fledged war after Armenia and Azerbaijan became […]

Peacekeepers serving with the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrol the town of Pinga, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 4, 2013 (U.N. photo by Sylvain Liechti).

There are a lot of smug policy wonks in New York right now. As this year’s high-level General Assembly session kicks off at the United Nations, the media is focused on what the meeting could mean for Syria. It may achieve very little on that front. But analysts who take a longer view of multilateral affairs still see some reasons for optimism elsewhere. The most obvious is the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a sprawling but impressively ambitious list of global targets for 2030. Academics and activists have been celebrating this success all weekend. A special summit […]

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, left, and Moroccan Minister of Religious Affairs Ahmed Toufik, right, sign documents as part of a bilateral agreement on the training of French imams, Tangier, Morocco, Sept. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Alain

Last weekend, French President Francois Hollande met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI and signed an initiative to send French imams to the Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat, a center opened in March with the stated mission of promoting religious moderation and tolerance to combat radical Islam. The visit was an attempt to mend relations, which Morocco suspended last February for nearly a year following French allegations of human rights abuses. Although the France-Morocco initiative on imams is new, international religious training exchanges are part of an established phenomenon that Jonathan Laurence, a professor of political science at Boston College, calls […]

A rubber boat carrying around 50 migrants and refugees arrives from Bodrum in Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, Sept. 2, 2015 (International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent photo by Christopher Jahn).

There is still much that is unknown about how the refugee crisis in Europe will unfold and the impact it will have. But one thing is certain: The massive wave of immigration onto European shores will usher in a powerful backlash that will benefit right-wing anti-immigrant parties. The phenomenon is already becoming visible, but it will continue to build, creating new friction and challenges for moderate and leftist parties. The intensity of the backlash will depend on how many more refugees ultimately enter Europe and how the process of integrating them into existing social structures proceeds. In addition, the political […]

Russian T-14 Armata tanks make their way during the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, Red Square Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

America, it seems, has a new foreign threat: Russia. “For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” read the lede in a Foreign Policy article last week, “the Pentagon is reviewing and updating its contingency plans for armed conflict with Russia.” Even worse, in recent war games that imagined a NATO conflict with Russia, “we are unable to defend the Baltics,” concluded one former Pentagon official. If this sounds familiar, it’s because you might have read it in the Daily Beast a month ago. “A series of classified exercises over the summer,” two unnamed sources told the […]

Activists of the nationalist Svoboda party hold Ukrainian flags during a rally outside a police station, Kiev, Ukraine, Sept. 14, 2015 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

While Ukraine continues to fight Russian-sponsored separatists in its eastern Donbass region, it is also facing an internal challenge equally threatening to its sovereignty: a small but powerful right-wing nationalist movement prepared to use violence to achieve its goals. If Ukraine’s pro-democracy supporters from the Maidan movement and in President Petro Poroshenko’s government don’t aggressively confront Ukraine’s ultranationalists, the far right could destroy Ukraine’s nascent democracy. This threat became clear Sept. 1 when nationalist protesters, many from the Svoboda (Freedom) party, attacked police guarding the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. Protesters threw bricks, Molotov cocktails and even grenades, killing three officers from […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a news conference, Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 14, 2013 (State Department photo).

American and Russian diplomats have proved to be congenitally unable to end the Syrian war. Could their military counterparts do any better? Last week, the Obama administration accepted a Russian offer of military talks over Syria. This is not necessarily a reason for much optimism. Moscow has sent aircraft, air-defense systems and significant amounts of new equipment to reinforce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered regime. Some analysts believe that Russian troops will be fighting on the ground soon. This could make the war even more dangerous. The goal of the new Russian-American talks, which kicked off with a phone call […]

Around 300 migrants walk north on a highway escorted by police in southern Denmark, Sept. 9, 2015 (Rune Aarestrup Pedersen/Polfoto via AP).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the European refugee crisis and European Union member states’ approaches to addressing it. Earlier this month, Denmark announced that it would not take part in a proposed European Union refugee-quota scheme. In an email interview, Hans Lucht, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute of International Studies, discusses Denmark’s refugee and asylum policies. WPR: How has Denmark’s migrant and asylum policy changed since the center-right Venstre party came to power in June, and what influence has the success of the far-right Danish People’s party had on government policy […]

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moscow, Russia, June 29, 2015 (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti via AP).

After World War II, the United States reluctantly assumed global power. But most Americans considered this temporary, assuming the United States would disengage once Europe was back on its feet and the world’s war-torn regions were on the way to recovery. But by the time the Soviet Union finally collapsed and the Cold War ended 45 years later, Americans had become so accustomed to global power that there was little serious pressure for disengagement. Global power had become comforting and normal. Yet this, too, proved temporary. Now, weary after decades of containing the Soviet Union and 14 years of fighting […]

Republican presidential candidates appear during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, Calif., Sept. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Chris Carlson).

When this year’s slate of GOP presidential candidates took the stage for a televised debate a couple of months ago, with the flamboyant Donald Trump capturing most of the attention, a number of writers started referring to the group as the Republican “clown car.” The term was obviously meant to be a humorous putdown, dismissing the seriousness and political viability of the large and histrionic collection of would-be presidents. More recently, as the possibility that Trump could emerge victorious started becoming less inconceivable to the establishment, the term fell into disuse. And yet, there is a grain of truth in […]

A man carries a child as migrants and refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 8, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

The wave of refugees washing over Europe today is the latest distress call from the remnants of what we still, for simplicity’s sake, refer to as Syria. The immediate reaction has been one of panic, with the European Union’s vaunted open borders—symbol of a generation’s worth of hard-won European integration—now at risk. There is much to criticize in the official and popular reactions in Europe. The flow of migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan has been building over a long enough time for the EU to have formulated a more effective response. But the shift in routes […]

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attends a government session in Belgrade, Serbia, July 11, 2015 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

In early September, Serbia, an aspiring European Union member, conducted a military drill with two people on the EU’s bad list: Russia and Belarus. In Novorossiysk, Russia, in an exercise known as “Slavic Brotherhood,” paratroopers from the three countries played war games and practiced crushing a Maidan-style revolt. “Who can lecture us?” said Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, responding to questions about what impact the drill would have on his country’s image in Brussels. “The European Union is not a military bloc. Let them mind their own business.” The EU was not impressed, given the diplomatic energy it has expended […]

Alexis Tsipras, leader of radical left Syriza party and former prime minister, waves to supporters during a pre-election rally, Athens, Greece, Sept. 13, 2015 (AP photo by Yorgos Karahalis).

Greeks head to the polls this Sunday after a split in the ruling far-left Syriza party over Greece’s bailout prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to resign and call snap elections. A poll released Tuesday shows Syriza neck and neck with the center-right New Democracy party—27.0 percent support to 27.5, respectively—putting into doubt Tsipras’ ability to return as prime minister. Syriza came to power in January on a staunch anti-austerity platform. However, Tsipras was unable to negotiate an end to austerity with Greece’s creditors—the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Throughout the spring Greece faced the […]

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, United Nations, New York, Sept. 27, 2015 (U.N. Kim Haughton).

Germany has never been an entirely comfortable power at the United Nations. The Security Council is, as Russian diplomats like to note, still run by the countries that defeated Hitler in 1945. East and West Germany did not even join the U.N. until 1973. Nevertheless, Berlin now pays over 7 percent of the U.N. budget, while Britain and France cover less than 6 percent each. At regular intervals, the Germans launch quixotic campaigns to win a permanent seat on the Security Council. Time and again, these plow into the sand. Despite these bids for a bigger role, German diplomats often […]

View of Tórshavn, Faeroe Islands, June 23, 2008 (photo by Flickr user stignygaard, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, left-leaning opposition parties in the Faeroe Islands announced they would form a coalition after the Javnadarflokkurin party won 8 out of 33 seats in the parliamentary elections, upsetting the ruling Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannesen’s right-leaning Sambandsflokkurin party, which has been in power since 2008. In an email interview, Maria Ackrén, an associate professor at the University of Greenland, discussed politics in the Faeroe Islands. WPR: What are the main factors that led to the defeat of the right-wing Sambandsflokkurin party in the Faeroe Islands? Maria Ackrén: It is impossible to identify any particular factor or factors […]

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