Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint press conference at Abe's official residence, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 16, 2016 (AP photo by Franck Robichon).

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched down in Yamaguchi, the home prefecture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to begin a much-anticipated summit. Abe arranged a personal venue for their meeting: a famous hot spring bath in his hometown of Nagato. Abe has met with Putin more than 15 times since taking office in late 2012, even after high-level diplomatic engagement with Russia came under scrutiny from the international community, especially Tokyo’s ally in Washington, over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and destabilizing activities in eastern Ukraine. Abe had hoped that his dogged approach to appeal to Moscow, along […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Russian President Vladimir Putin at the World Energy Congress, Istanbul, Oct. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

For a few hours after a Turkish policeman walked into an art gallery in Ankara and shot dead Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, it was unclear how the event would affect ties between the two countries. Ambassador Andrey Karlov had come to the gallery to celebrate the opening of an exhibit of Turkish photographers, “Russia Through Turks’ Eyes,” that was intended to highlight Turkey and Russia’s strengthening relationship. The assassination turned the exhibit into a scene of carnage, but there was no immediate sign that it would harm bilateral ties. In fact, all signs suggest that it will do the opposite, […]

European Council President Donald Tusk during a media conference, Brussels, Nov. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

The European Union voted Monday to renew economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea for an additional six months. Sanctions were first put in place in July 2014 and have been extended ever since. Despite token opposition among some member states, the renewal of sanctions has been relatively routine up to this point. But there are signs that Europe’s united front against Russia is beginning to crack. Germany, the U.K., Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been the strongest advocates of a hard line on Russia, while Italy, Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been vocal […]

Workers shout slogans during a protest against privatization outside the Greek Parliament, Athens, Sept. 27, 2016 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

In late November, Greece announced that it was pulling out of plans to sell a 66 percent stake in the Greek national gas operator Desfa to Azerbaijan’s state energy company, SOCAR, complicating Greek efforts to meet its privatization targets set out by the terms of its bailout agreement. In an email interview, John N. Kallianiotis, a professor at the University of Scranton, discusses Greece’s privatization program. WPR: What are Greece’s privatization obligations under its bailout agreement, and how much progress has been made on the privatization program? John N. Kallianiotis: The administrator of the Greek privatization plan is the Hellenic […]

European Union foregin policy chief Federica Mogherini with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez after signing a cooperation agreement, Brussels, Dec. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Francois Lenoir).

The European Union formally signed an agreement normalizing ties with Cuba on Monday. The so-called Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement covers issues such as trade, human rights and migration, and allows for greater cooperation on climate change, culture and tourism. Talks on expanded political ties began in 2014, and after seven rounds of talks, a final agreement was reached in March. Previous attempts at a cooperation agreement failed in large part because of the EU’s “common position” on Cuba, which set out the objectives for EU policy in Cuba, namely the transition to a pluralist democracy with respect for human […]

Supporters of the Right Wing Movement protest against events, groups and profiles blocked by Facebook, Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 5, 2016 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

On Dec. 4, a man with an assault rifle entered a Washington, D.C., pizza shop, planning to “self-investigate” a conspiracy theory purporting that Hillary Clinton was at the center of a “pedophilia ring” being run out of the restaurant. The rumor—which has, needless to say, been emphatically debunked—can be traced to Twitter posts with the hashtag #pizzagate, which started trending on Twitter in early November and were subsequently tweeted and retweeted thousands of times over the next several weeks. The incident is one of many that have drawn attention to social media’s changing role in a tense political and social […]

Tim Brown, the owner of the the Melton Cheeseboard, weighs out cheese in his shop in Melton Mowbray, England, Aug. 2, 2016  (AP photo by Jonathan Shenfield).

Over four months on from Britain’s referendum on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union, what exactly Brexit will look like is still not any clearer. There has been no shortage of claims and counter-claims, posturing and rhetoric. The debate, if an exercise in guessing can be called that, has focused on the degree to which the United Kingdom will be able to have access to the single market. This will depend on its acceptance of the four freedoms—movement of people, capital, goods and services—as consistently emphasized by EU and member state officials, yet dismissed as […]

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi speaks at a press conference, Rome, Italy, Dec. 5, 2016 (AP photo by Gregorio Borgia).

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned Wednesday after nearly 60 percent of voters rejected a referendum Sunday on a series of changes to the constitution that Renzi had staked his premiership on. The referendum’s failure and the resignation of the brash prime minister have plunged Italy into political and economic uncertainty, leading many to speculate about Italy’s future in the eurozone and the strength of populist movements across Europe. Renzi said the constitutional reforms would make Italy a more governable country by reducing the size and power of the Italian Senate, the upper house of parliament, and empowering the lower […]

Italin Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President Francois Hollande and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Mediterranean Leader's Summit, Athens, Sept. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

The next time they meet, Matteo Renzi, the soon-to-be former Italian premier, and Francois Hollande, the lame duck French president, will probably take a moment to console each other for their recent misfortunes. Afterward, they might spend some time trying to figure out where things all went wrong. Both entered office with the intention of bolstering the European Union’s fraying solidarity in the aftermath of the sovereign debt crisis that threatened to sink the euro and the union itself in 2009. Both were vocal advocates for a stimulus-driven response to the EU-wide economic stagnation that followed. Both are now political […]

Posters by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats hang in a subway station, Stockholm, Sweden, Aug. 3, 2015 (AP photo by Bertil Ericson).

Editor’s note: This article is the first in an ongoing WPR series on income inequality and poverty reduction in various countries across the globe. Though Sweden has one of the lowest rates of income inequality in the world, it is experiencing a wave of anti-establishment nationalism similar to what has struck much of Europe and the United States, fueled in large part by a backlash against immigration. In an email interview, Daniel Waldenström, a visiting professor at the Paris School of Economics, discusses income inequality in Sweden. WPR: What is the rate of income inequality in Sweden, what are the […]

British Prime Minster Theresa May arrives in Bahrain, Dec. 5, 2016 (Photo by Stefan Rousseau via AP Images).

British Prime Minister Theresa May is in Bahrain to meet with the leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states on the sidelines of the annual GCC Summit on Dec. 6-7. May, who took office in July in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and Prime Minister David Cameron’s subsequent resignation, is the first British prime minister to attend the GCC summit—and only the second Western leader to be invited to do so, after France’s Francois Hollande. Nearly six months on from Brexit, the mechanics and timeframe for Britain’s formal process of withdrawal from the European Union remain unresolved and, […]

Syrian refugee boys await approval to enter Jordan at the Hadalat reception area, Syrian-Jordanian border, May 4, 2016 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

The Syrian war has laid bare the inadequacy of current international responses to refugees and the global system in place to protect them. While the number of refugees arriving in Europe from Syria and elsewhere has slowed in recent months and the topic has largely faded from the front pages of newspapers, this lull is likely to be temporary. The slowdown is largely the result of the European Union’s controversial agreement with Turkey, which requires Ankara to improve conditions for refugees and crack down on illicit departures to Europe in exchange for economic aid and visa-free travel within the Schengen […]

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo at a press conference, Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2016 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo was in London last week to meet with her British counterpart, Theresa May, and the status of U.K.-based Polish workers in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum was high on the agenda. Over 900,000 Polish citizens live in the U.K., and their fate once the U.K. leaves the European Union is still unknown. Speaking before their meeting, May said, “I am determined that Brexit will not weaken our relationship with Poland, rather it will serve as a catalyst to strengthen it.” It is not surprising that the U.K. is publicly trying to shore up Polish […]

Romanian Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis arrives at the EU summit, Brussels, Oct. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Wedged between Central Europe, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, Romania’s strategic importance is too often overlooked, given its legacy of poverty, corruption and government incompetence. A staunch U.S. ally with a relatively large population of 20 million, a diversified manufacturing economy, and a competent military and intelligence apparatus, some see Romania as the “new Poland”—at least before Poland’s rightward turn and falling-out with Brussels. Romania’s parliamentary election on Dec. 11 should not change its pro-U.S. alignment, but there are fears that the likely triumph of a party with communist roots, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), could erode the […]

Right-wing demonstrators protest against Muslim refugees, Cologne, Germany, Jan. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Juergen Schwarz).

Since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, white nationalists have gained new visibility, galvanized by the president-elect’s campaign rhetoric and his appointment as chief adviser of Steve Bannon, the former head of the far-right Breitbart News who is infamous for his ties to the so-called alt-right movement. In response, many Americans are bracing themselves for a long fight against the potential normalization of racist rhetoric, as hate crimes against minorities and women have already multiplied across the country. This trend is hardly a uniquely American phenomenon. Right-wing parties have also made gains in Europe, capitalizing on fear and insecurity […]