German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a meeting of the German Bundestag, Berlin, Germany, Feb. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

Could Angela Merkel become the next secretary-general of the United Nations? The notion that the German chancellor, now at the epicenter of Europe’s refugee crisis, could replace Ban Ki-moon at the helm of the U.N. is suddenly curiously widespread. “No candidate could magically restore the United Nations’ prestige,” Mark Seddon, a former adviser to Ban, noted in The New York Times earlier this month, “but there is a compelling logic in favor of a Merkel candidacy.” Or, as Gideon Rachman observed less charitably in the Financial Times, Merkel’s critics in Berlin could use this as “a graceful way to ease […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the COP21 U.N. climate talks, Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP).

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has canceled a March trip to Australia in order to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow instead. In an email interview, Michael Koplow, a policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, discussed Israel-Russia relations and the impact of the Syrian conflict. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of Israel-Russia political, economic and security ties? Michael Koplow: The recent trajectory of Israel-Russia ties has been on the upswing. Vladimir Putin was the first Russian president to visit Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated ties with Russia for a number of reasons. Israel […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Moscow, Russia, Feb. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Russia’s bold military interventions in both Ukraine and Syria have put Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions back at the center of analysis and debate. Despite last year’s confident claims in Western capitals that Moscow would be unable to sustain its efforts in both countries, there is no indication that the Kremlin plans to alter its policies in 2016. To the contrary, Russian President Vladimir Putin, having decided that core national interests are at stake, has made it clear that he will stay the course. At the same time, however, Russia continues to pay a heavy economic price exacted by international sanctions and […]

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny addressing the staff of Paypal at Xerox Technology Park, Dundalk, Ireland, Feb. 16, 2016 (Press Association photo by Niall Carson via AP).

Facing a March deadline for new elections, Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, leader of the center-right Fine Gael party, dissolved parliament earlier this month and called a general election for Feb. 26. Opinion polls deem it unlikely that the current government will be returned to office. But the fragmentation of Ireland’s post-recovery political landscape, in particular the working-class vote, and the losses likely to be sustained by the left-wing Labour Party, which is in a coalition with Fine Gael, make it difficult to predict the complexion of the government that will emerge from Friday’s general election. Five years ago, in […]

Popular Party supporters outside the party's headquarters following the national elections, Madrid, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Paul White).

When Spain went to the polls last December, the outcome sent the country into a state of political limbo. Neither the incumbent conservative Popular Party (PP) nor the main opposition party, the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), captured the majority of seats necessary to form a new government in the Congress of Deputies, Spain’s parliament. The PP won 28.7 percent of votes; the PSOE won 22 percent. At the same time, two political newcomers, bolstered by the economic crisis that has gripped Spain since 2011, managed to capture a third of all votes cast. The resulting 20 percent for […]

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at a press conference, Tokyo, Jan. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

In January, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond visited Japan to meet with their Japanese counterparts. Following the meeting, both sides agreed to explore ways to deepen and expand their security cooperation. In an email interview, Edward Schwarck, a research fellow in Asia studies and manager of the Asia Program at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, discusses the U.K.’s security ties with Asia. WPR: Who are the U.K.’s main security partners in Asia, and how extensive are their security ties? Edward Schwarck: As has been stated on many occasions by British ministers, the […]

Protesters hold posters of Edward Snowden in front of the German parliament, Berlin, Germany, Nov. 18, 2013 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

This week on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein talks to host Peter Dörrie about the future of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers, President Barack Obama’s nuclear nonproliferation legacy, what declining oil prices mean for Equatorial Guinea’s stability, and other stories from around the world. For the Report, Abraham Newman joins us to explain the politics that led to the nullification of the Safe Harbor agreement between the United States and the European Union and how a new regime to protect digital privacy could be structured. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: What Does […]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials at the International Syria Support Group meeting, Munich, Germany, Feb. 11, 2016 (AP photo by Michael Dalder).

The Syrian catastrophe has not reached bottom but continues to spiral into an ever-greater disaster. Every week brings new horrors and deeper damage to Syria itself and its entire region. This week a United Nations report on the conflict abandoned any attempt at diplomatic phrasing and accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of “inhuman actions” and “extermination.” As former U.S. officials Nicholas Burns and James Jeffrey wrote, “The cancer of this war has metastasized into neighboring countries and the heart of Europe. It could destabilize the Middle East for a generation.” Only extremists gain from that. But tragically, […]

Syrian army troops inside the Kweiras air base, east of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 11, 2015 (SANA photo via AP).

Thanks in large part to Russia’s intervention, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has registered a series of important victories against its armed opposition and now seems to be encircling Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city. While the civil war is far from over, the conflict’s current trajectory suggests a regime military victory in the western half of the country. But the United States and other so-called Friends of Syria would do well to consider the implications of what it means to watch from the sidelines while the Russian air force obliterates the Syrian rebels. Set aside the moral stain of […]

European Council President Donald Tusk welcomes British Prime Minister David Cameron at the EU Council building in Brussels, Sept. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

British Prime Minister David Cameron has been on an offensive since the Paris attacks in November to counter any perception that the United Kingdom is shrinking in its international ambitions. Central to his position is an unambiguous commitment to maintain a U.K. defense budget of 2 percent of GDP and direct new spending to counter the threat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. However, uncertainty over the U.K.’s relations with the European Union, with a British vote on whether or not to stay in the union expected this June, could derail his campaign. Cameron committed an additional 12 billion pounds (about […]

Judges preside over a case at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg, Oct. 6, 2015 (AP Photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Depending on whom you talk to and what month it is, the United States and the European Union are either on the brink of a digital trade war or reaching a historic e-commerce deal. EU-U.S. cooperation over the trans-Atlantic digital economy seemed to first fall apart in October 2015, when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) struck down a critical data-sharing deal known as the Safe Harbor Agreement. In doing so, Europe’s highest court put major companies such as Facebook and IBM at risk of breaching EU privacy law by simply conducting their day-to-day business operations. National data-privacy authorities have […]

A biometric kiosk at the Otay Mesa port of entry from Mexico into the United States, San Diego, Calif., Dec. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Denis Poroy).

Since November, the U.S. government, with a big assist from Congress, has been narrowing the eligibility for citizens of 38 countries to enter the U.S. without visas. The constant adjustments to the rules say a lot about the U.S. government’s preoccupation with terrorism over other policy interests, its inability to anticipate secondary effects of new policies, and America’s deep ambivalence about dual citizenship. In a rare instance of executive and congressional cooperation, both branches of the U.S. government have been working to prevent any misuse of the established visa-waiver program by terrorists. Congress created the program nearly 30 years ago, […]

Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai and European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen at the 5th China-EU High Level Economic and Trade dialogue, Beijing, Sept. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

After the collapse of multilateral trade talks at the World Trade Organization in Geneva in 2008, governments around the world went back to the drawing board to devise new trade strategies. As a second-best solution, trade officials increasingly looked to bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations to generate commercial opportunities for domestic businesses and strengthen their economic and geopolitical positions in regions of strategic importance. In anticipation of the failure of the WTO’s Doha Round, European Union leaders had already ended, in 2006, the EU moratorium on bilateral trade talks and made concluding comprehensive trade and investment agreements with emerging and […]

French and Iranian energy officials at a bilateral agreements session, Paris, Jan. 28, 2016 (AP photo by Stephane de Sakutin).

Would anyone like to save Europe from itself? The continent is presently enduring economic weakness, an influx of refugees, rising nationalism and a general sense of insecurity. All too often, its leaders’ collective response to these multiple threats is not to take decisive action but to look around for someone else to do so, echoing the motto of Charles Dickens’ eternal optimist, Mr. Micawber: “Something will turn up.” The range of “somethings” that might dig Europe out of its strategic hole is broad. Russia could become more moderate, easing security fears. Turkey and African states might adopt robust policies to […]