Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin after talks in the Konstantin palace outside St. Petersburg, Aug. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Turkey and Russia are patching up their troubled relationship. In early August, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in St. Petersburg, in the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders in 10 bitter months since Turkey shot down a Russian jet that was briefly in its airspace last November. But after some symbolic handshakes and photo-ops, what can be expected in concrete terms moving forward between Ankara and Moscow? Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. It’s a safe bet that state-controlled media in Russia will no longer portray Erdogan and his close entourage with […]

An image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken when the ESA's Rosetta space probe was 88 miles from its nucleus, Nov. 17, 2015 (ESA photo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on a range of countries’ space priorities and programs. The European Space Agency (ESA) expects that its Schiaparelli module will land on Mars on Oct. 19 for a brief mission to study what causes dust storms on the planet. In an email interview, Thomas Hoerber, a professor at the ESSCA School of Management, discusses the ESA’s mission and its relationship to the European Union. WPR: What are the European Space Agency’s space capabilities and who are its major international partners, in terms of space diplomacy and commercial ties? Thomas […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefs the media after a visit to Germany's Joint Terrorism Defense Center GATZ, Berlin, April 26, 2016 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

Terrorist attacks and other violence this summer have put Germany on edge and worsened political tensions over Berlin’s handling of the refugee crisis. One week in July saw four attacks in multiple German cities, killing a total of 10 people; three were committed by men who had entered the country as asylum-seekers. Even before this violence, public sentiment toward refugees and migrants had soured after reports of widespread sexual assaults and other crimes that took place on New Year’s Eve in the German city of Cologne, perceived as being linked to the influx of refugees. In early August, the government […]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally, Everett, Tuesday, Wash., Aug. 30, 2016 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Is the world going crazy? Or alternatively, are insane people at the helm, driving major global events? Whether discussing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or so-called lone-wolf terrorists, the question of mental sanity has increasingly crept into public discourse on global affairs. Besides the obvious impossibility of diagnosing a stranger’s psychiatric health from a distance, this trend of leveling charges of mental illness against political or ideological adversaries has another disadvantage: It labels them and anything they say as not worth listening to, essentially cutting off any possible line of communication. And in the case of Trump and his supporters, […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a rally of his supporters after the country’s abortive July 15 coup, Istanbul, Aug. 7, 2016 (Presidential Press Service photo by Kayhan Ozer via AP).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today. Just 25 years after winning the Cold War, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the United States is facing a very different world than the one many had expected. Instead of a world of relative peace, with no proxy wars in developing countries and no major global geostrategic opponents, there is violence and terrorism around the globe, much of it […]

A group of women take part in a demonstration to protest violence against women, Milan, Italy, Nov. 23, 2009 (AP photo Antonio Calanni).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the status of women’s rights and gender equality in various countries around the globe. An economic downturn might unexpectedly be improving gender equality in Italy, though many key issues are still not being addressed. After several women were murdered earlier this month in Italy, the government has allocated $13 million for a plan to combat violence against women and an additional $14 million to fight human trafficking. In an email interview, Annalisa Rosselli, a professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, discusses women’s rights in Italy. [marketing]blockbuster[/marketing] […]

A Russian long-range Tu-22M3 bomber during an airstrike over Aleppo, in frame grab provided by Russian Defence Ministry, Aug. 16, 2016 (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service photo via AP).

When the Russian Defense Ministry announced last week that it had started launching bombing raids into Syria from a base inside Iran, the news produced a remarkable reaction, simultaneously angering both the United States and much of Iran. U.S. officials were caught unprepared and were deeply displeased by the news that Tehran and Moscow had decided to intensify their military cooperation. But it wasn’t just the Americans who were angered by the developments. In Iran, many members of parliament were furious to learn that the Russian military machine had positioned some war assets on Iranian soil. It took less than […]

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaving 10 Downing Street, London, July 20, 2016 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

It may be the shortest “golden era” on record. Barely nine months after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s extended visit to the United Kingdom seemed to cement a “very special relationship” between London and Beijing, China’s ambassador to the U.K. is warning that relations are now at a “crucial historical juncture.” The issue nominally at hand is the British government’s decision over whether to proceed with the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, in which China General Nuclear Power Company (CGN) has a stake. But the real question is whether the new British prime minister, Theresa May, intends to walk away from […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and former chief of staff Sergei Ivanov during a meeting in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2014 (Presidential Press Service photo by Alexei Nikolsky via AP).

The Moscow Kremlin, a UNESCO world heritage site, has been the seat of Russian tsars, commissars and presidents for the greater part of nine centuries. Its glittering palaces and churches, soaring towers and immense fortress walls have witnessed dramatic turning points in the history of Russia and the world. But if tourists now stream through daily to peruse ancient icons, Romanov family jewels and relics of martial glory, the Kremlin, in its political sense, remains an almost complete mystery to the outside world. That is why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dismissal last week of his chief of staff and longtime […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in the Konstantin palace, outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

If Vladimir Putin ever loses interest in running Russia, he should set up a diplomatic academy. The British journalist and wit David Frost once defined diplomacy as “the art of letting somebody else have your way.” Through a mix of hard bargaining, guile and simple force, the Russian president has often shown that he knows how to do just that. His skills were on ample display last week. Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to St. Petersburg to bury their tensions over Syria. He then ignited a new crisis with Kiev over an alleged shoot-out between Ukrainian and […]

A Russian spacecraft docks at the International Space Station, July 20, 2016 (Roscosmos photo by Oleg Skirpochka via Flickr).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on a range of countries’ space priorities and programs. The Russian state space corporation Roscosmos announced that it plans to reduce the number of cosmonauts at the International Space Station from three to two in a bid to improve efficiency and reduce costs. In an email interview, Asif Siddiqi, a professor at Fordham University, discussed Russia’s space program. WPR: What are Russia’s space capabilities, in terms of its space-industrial complex, and who are its major international partners, in terms of space diplomacy and commercial ties? Asif Siddiqi: The Russian […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their economic summit, Baku, Aug. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Geo-economics dominated the agenda of two critical meetings this week: a trilateral economic summit in Baku between Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, followed by a bilateral summit in St. Petersburg between Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While matters of war and peace were also on the agenda—the stalemated conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the ongoing fighting in Syria—both summits’ main focus was on ensuring connectivity to the global economy. Let’s start with Iran. In the year since Iran acceded to the terms of the nuclear agreement it signed with the group of world […]

A portrait of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, outside a police station seized by gunmen in Yerevan, July 23, 2016 (PAN photo by Vahan Stepanyan via AP).

An armed standoff and the eruption of protests in July may be Armenia’s most serious political crisis since 2008, when thousands took to the streets against alleged voter fraud in the presidential election that year. Last month’s unrest, which marked the country’s fourth summer in a row of turmoil, has exposed the cross-cutting, often contradictory fissures within Armenian politics and society. But this time, it also potentially represents a turning point for Armenia’s frustrated population. With internal crises looming over both state legitimacy and settlement talks with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia is as divided as ever […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses lawmakers during a parliamentary session, Athens, May 22, 2016 (AP photo by Yorgos Karahalis).

Last month, Greek lawmakers approved significant changes to the country’s electoral system that were proposed by the ruling, left-wing Syriza party, in what it called an attempt to make the electoral system more democratic. The law gets rid of a 50-seat bonus that is given to the party that receives the most votes, reduces the voting age from 18 to 17, and reduces the electoral threshold for a political party to enter parliament. The law passed by a majority in the 300-seat parliament, but because it received less than the 200 votes needed for the reforms to go into effect […]

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks at a news conference confirming a compromise has been reached on the judiciary reform package, Tirana, Albania, July 20, 2016 (AP photo by Hektor Pustina).

Last month, Albania’s parliament approved a judicial reform package meant to curb corruption and patronage that was prepared with the assistance of experts from the United States and the European Union. In an email interview, Agron Alibali, a special counsel for Frost and Fire Consulting in Tirana, discusses the judicial reforms. WPR: What are the problems facing Albania’s judiciary? Agron Alibali: Albania’s judicial system today is inefficient and corrupt. The belief is that cases, especially property disputes, are decided in favor of the highest bidder. A lot of judges have amassed wealth that cannot be justified by their salaries alone. […]

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet landing at Siauliai airbase, east of Vilnius, Lithuania, April 27, 2016 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

BELGRADE, Serbia—July’s NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, brought the alliance’s leaders to a country where the perceived threat of Russian aggression is particularly acute. It was appropriate, then, that they agreed to beef up NATO’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe, something that Poland and some of its regional partners have been calling for since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Four battalion-sized battlegroups—fully armed and equipped, with troops from leading NATO members, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and, most importantly, the United States—will deploy on a rotational basis to Poland and the three Baltic […]