The Porta Nuova business center, Milan, Italy, March 11, 2016 (AP photo by Luca Bruno).

Pity Matteo Renzi. Italy’s prime minister knows that his country’s troubled banking system has put its nascent economic recovery at risk. Yet Italy’s own financial weakness and European Union rules severely constrain his options. Not all the news is bad, though. Renzi’s financial team has come up with an imaginative response to the country’s bank problem with what they call the Atlante Fund, a rescue package to buy up risky loans. But the fund has its own limits, given the precariousness of Italy’s finances, and by implication Europe’s. Past regulatory oversight or maybe just negligent private management have left Italian […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, New York, Sept. 28, 2015 (U.N. photo by Eskinder Debebe).

Editor’s note: Ellen Laipson’s Measured Response column will return next week. For how long will Vladimir Putin be a decisive figure at the United Nations? The Russian president has rarely visited Turtle Bay. But his unique mix of diplomatic aggression and agility has profoundly affected the institution over the past five years. Putin has used Russia’s veto in the Security Council to set the terms of debate over Syria and Ukraine. Moscow has also pointedly complicated Western initiatives to deal with crises in places where Russia has few deep interests, like Sudan and Burundi. Yet Russia has also been adept […]

1

By now, the European Union has been struggling for over half a decade to sustainably resolve the euro crisis. And as the latest round of brinkmanship over the next bailout tranche for Greece shows, the crisis is far from resolved. It’s still too early to tell what kind of EU will eventually emerge from the crisis, but it is not too early to take stock of the political changes the past five years have already brought about. Conventional wisdom has it that both left- and right-wing populism have been on the rise across the continent. Yet this lazy equation of […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a signing ceremony, Sochi, Russia, May 18, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss rolling back Cuba sanctions, counterterrorism in Africa, and the hybrid information era. For the Report, Nikolas Gvosdev joins us to talk about Russia’s outreach to Southeast Asia. What is motivating it, and has it succeeded? Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: Despite Loosened Embargo, Bankers’ Fears Block U.S. Commerce With Cuba Africa’s Counterterrorism Growth Industry May Backfire Rhodes Profile: Citizens, Spin and Truth in the Hybrid Information Era With Putin’s ASEAN Outreach, Russia Sets Sights on Southeast Asia Trend Lines is […]

Porcelain photos decorated with the images of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a shop in Damascus, April 18, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Although they are on opposite sides of Syria’s civil war, Russia and Saudi Arabia find themselves in similar positions. Both are presenting themselves as trying in earnest to rein in their proxies. Russia, wanting to again be considered a great power, has forced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to come to the negotiating table and perhaps can force him to make important compromises. The Saudis, wanting to be seen as reliable and essential U.S. allies in the region, claim to have organized the fragmented Syrian opposition into a moderate, cohesive body. Moscow and Riyadh may indeed have enough leverage to rein […]

Former Georgian President and now governor of Odessa Mikhail Saakashvili, center, at the opening ceremony of a new port facility in Illichivsk, Ukraine, Jan. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Sergei Poliakov).

ODESSA, Ukraine—When controversial former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was tapped as governor of Odessa, the strategic region on the Black Sea, last year, he hired a young team to build a showcase for reform in post-revolutionary Ukraine. Though largely shunned backed home in his native Georgia, Saakashvili was welcomed here by those fed up with the slow pace of change after the 2014 street revolution. But today the prospects for success seem to be growing dimmer by the day. Many locals in politically divided Odessa remain resistant to radical change. Saakashvili himself has fallen out with top Ukrainian officials in […]

1

The third ASEAN-Russia summit, held in the Russian city of Sochi, concluded on May 20. In a beehive of diplomatic activity, Russian President Vladimir Putin held bilateral meetings with the leader of every member-state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over two days. The conclave has been heralded for setting in motion a roadmap to accelerate economic and security cooperation between the states of Southeast Asia and Russia—a new level of interaction that will allow Moscow to move beyond its stalled relationships with the United States and Europe to take advantage of new opportunities in Asia. Even before […]

The leaders of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark at the White House's Nordic Summit, Washington, May 13, 2016 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

Earlier this month, the leaders of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were in Washington to attend a summit at the White House. Together with President Barack Obama, the five Nordic leaders discussed tensions with Russia, security, climate change and trade. Obama didn’t hesitate to heap praise on the Nordics. “So I really do believe that the world would be more secure and more prosperous if we just had more partners like the Nordic countries,” he said. “They consistently punch above their weight.” Obama speaking so highly of the Nordic countries is nothing new. He has lauded them for years, […]

Newly elected Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, left, with President Michael D. Higgins at the presidential residence, Dublin, May 6, 2016 (Press Association photo by Brian Lawless via AP).

The results of Ireland’s general election in late February were as indecisive as anyone could have imagined, leaving a hung parliament. After unsuccessful talks about forming a grand coalition, few are confident of the stability of the new minority government, led by Fine Gael and backed, at least for now, by its longtime rival, Fianna Fail. The breaking point will most likely come on economic policy issues. For decades Ireland’s traditional party of government, Fianna Fail had been severely punished in the previous general election in 2011 for the economic collapse over which it presided. It made a strong recovery […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Paris Climate Conference, Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Given global headlines, you might think the world is terribly off course. Geopolitical rivalry threatens stability from Eastern Europe to the South China Sea. Jihadi terrorists sow mayhem throughout the Middle East. A scary virus emerges in Latin America, spreading across borders. A Brazilian president is brought down, as the Panama Papers expose corruption in other lands. Publics everywhere, alienated by yawning inequality and anemic growth, vent their frustration at a system rigged for moneyed elites. Populist politicians, sensing the sour mood, promise to reverse globalization by building walls to keep out foreigners and abandoning trade agreements. This noisy, negative […]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet at NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, May 19, 2016 (NATO photo).

Decision-makers rarely solve international tensions once and for all. They cobble together temporary fixes and leave future generations to iron out all the glitches later. Europe’s leaders are currently paying the price for their forebears’ failure to establish a durable order in Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the U.S. and its allies appeared to have a unique opening to forge a lasting settlement to the continent’s security problems. There was no lack of ideas about to how to do this. Some argued that NATO should expand to cover the old Warsaw Pact, perhaps including […]

Cuban dissident Miguel Alberto Ulloa holding his prison release document, Havana, Cuba, Jan. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the challenges facing NATO, South Sudan’s unstable peace, and Kim Jong Un cementing his power at North Korea’s party congress. For the Report, Ted Henken, joins us to explain what normalization with the U.S. and reforms mean for Cuba’s economy and political opposition. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: From Russia to Refugee Crisis, NATO Faces Biggest Test Since the Cold War Machar’s Return Only the First Step in Bringing South Sudan Back Together North Korea Party Congress Shows Kim’s Power—and […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a Victory Day parade, Red Square, Moscow, May 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his campaign to prevent Ukraine from drawing closer to the European Union in 2014, his strategic objectives went beyond that Eastern European country’s borders. To be sure, Russia was concerned about Ukraine’s political and economic drift toward the West. But Moscow’s warnings to Kiev, which were followed by military action, were also meant as a signal to other countries that might have contemplated following in Ukraine’s steps. The message was aimed at what used to be a clearly demarcated sphere of influence, serving as a threat to any country that was once part of […]

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets on the tarmac at the Siauliai airbase, Lithuania, April 27, 2016 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

The next NATO summit, set for July in Warsaw, is arguably one of the most important meetings of the alliance’s heads of state in the post-Cold War era. European security is at its worst since the end of the Cold War, while Europe finds itself facing a range of serious internal challenges, including continued slow economic growth, the influx of migrants and refugees and the rise of extremist parties. The United States, on the other hand, is distracted by its own poisoned domestic politics and must contend with security challenges in not only Europe, but also the Middle East and […]

Spain's acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, after meeting with King Felipe IV, Madrid, April 26, 2016 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

In late April, Spain’s King Felipe announced that new elections would be held June 26, six months after Spaniards went to the polls. No party won a majority in December’s elections, however, and months of negotiations failed to produce a viable ruling coalition. The incumbent, conservative People’s Party (PP), led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, won the most votes—nearly 29 percent—but lost its governing majority and over one-third of its deputies in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. The social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) took 22 percent of the vote, followed by the upstart left-wing Podemos with 21 percent. Another […]

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's Labour Party, during a speech, London, April 14, 2016 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am decidedly on the dovish side of the fence. I am a strong supporter of the two-state solution. I have written that Israel is on the path to becoming an apartheid state. I have called for the United States government to more forcefully condemn Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state. And yet, I find myself increasingly alienated from the political left when it comes to discussions of Israel and Palestine. The reason is simple: I am a Zionist. I believe that the Jewish people, […]