President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House, Washington, Jan. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

It is hard to believe the degree of shock most of us felt this time last year at the outcome of the Brexit referendum, given everything that has transpired since then. The resentment many Britons felt toward the European Union was no secret, nor was the fact that London’s relationship to Brussels had historically been lukewarm at best. But for all its flaws, the EU was a known commodity. Brexit, in contrast, represented a deep tangle of unknowns, both economic and political, with most of the debate being over the extent of the damage and devastation it would wreak on […]

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang greets Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Beijing, May 13, 2017 (AP photo by Thomas Peter).

Earlier this month, Greece blocked a European Union statement at the United Nations that would have criticized China’s human rights record, with Athens saying it was opposed to “unconstructive criticism.” The move prompted a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman to publicly thank Greece “for upholding the correct position.” EU diplomats and rights groups, however, were less than pleased. Human Rights Watch and nine other groups issued a statement saying the EU’s credibility was being battered by its inability to adopt a coherent position on China’s human rights record. In an email interview, Rem Korteweg, head of the Europe in the World […]

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former FBI Director James Comey attend Comey’s installation ceremony at the FBI’s headquarters, Washington, Oct. 28, 2013 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

A Washington Post exposé published Friday revealed new insights into the Obama administration’s real-time reaction to mounting evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The administration’s agonizing efforts to find a commensurate response, while avoiding escalation and the perception it was seeking to influence the election, will be interpreted through a mean-spirited partisan prism. That’s too bad, because there are sober lessons about politics and policymaking that should be considered across the partisan divide. The Obama administration struggled to find appropriate countermeasures to Russian meddling in the final weeks of its time in office, according to the […]

South Sudanese refugee children catch water overflowing from a reservoir being filled at the Imvepi reception center, northern Uganda, June 9, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Last Tuesday, which was World Refugee Day, the United Nations refugee agency reported three new shipwrecks off the coast of Libya involving vessels carrying refugees and migrants. One of them, a rubber dinghy, “began taking on water just hours into its journey,” and 129 people were missing after it capsized. Another boat, which was carrying 85 people, including many families with children, broke in two before sinking. The U.N. reports that more than 77,000 people have tried to make the sea crossing to Europe so far this year. The U.N. refugee agency’s Global Trends study for 2016, released to coincide […]

Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 military fighter jets and German Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets participate in NATO’s Baltic air policing mission, Lithuania, April 25, 2017 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about NATO members’ contributions to and relationships with the alliance. This year, troops from the Netherlands arrived in Lithuania to participate in a German-led battalion that is part of a broader NATO effort to bolster defenses near Russia; similar battalions are deploying in Poland, Latvia and Estonia. The deployment coincides with rising support within the Netherlands to increase defense spending, which was scaled back during the first half of this decade. Both developments reflect the realization, in the Netherlands and across Europe, that European militaries need to ramp up efforts […]

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila and German Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a meeting, Berlin, June 21, 2017 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

Finland’s government, led by Prime Minister Juha Sipila, survived a no-confidence vote this week. The government’s future seemed in doubt last week following a leadership change within the Finns Party, but it was saved when over half of the Euroskeptic party’s lawmakers formed a breakaway faction that will serve in the ruling coalition. In an email interview, Ilkka Ruostetsaari, professor of political science at Finland’s University of Tampere, describes the dynamics at work and how Finnish populists’ are struggling against being coopted by the political establishment. WPR: What were the factors that led to the resignation of Foreign Minister Timo […]

European Council President Donald Tusk walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the EU-China summit, Brussels, June 2, 2017 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

After the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, many analysts expected that relations between the European Union and China would enter a honeymoon phase. Facing a protectionist and potentially destabilizing period in U.S. foreign policy, Europe and China would necessarily have to cooperate more closely on issues ranging from climate change to trade, in order to head off threats to the very future of globalization. The recent EU-China summit, taking place the day after Trump’s announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, would have been the natural occasion to showcase this new alignment, which would represent […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias arrive for the NATO summit, Brussels, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about NATO members’ contributions to and relationships with the alliance. While Greece continues to be one of only five NATO countries meeting the alliance goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, economic contractions in recent years have meant that the amount of real investment has decreased considerably. However, because of long-running security concerns such as the perceived threat posed by Turkey and new challenges like the migration crisis, the portion of the budget going to defense is expected to remain relatively high. In an email interview, Dr. Thanos […]

A French soldier stands alongside troops who helped France take back Mali’s north as they participate in a ceremony formally transforming the force into a United Nations peacekeeping mission, Bamako, Mali, July 1, 2013 (AP photo by Harouna Traore).

There is a lot of talk at the United Nations about tailoring peace operations to address the specific needs of the countries and communities that they serve. But from the vantage of the Security Council, there are really only two types of peacekeeping missions: the ones the French like, and the ones the Americans and British like. The entire edifice of U.N. operations rests on a delicate network of bargains among Paris, London and Washington about how to balance these two groups of missions. France has pushed for peacekeepers in a series of its former colonies including Cote d’Ivoire, Mali […]

A protest by supporters of Albania’s main opposition party demanding a caretaker Cabinet to take the country to parliamentary elections, May 13, 2017 (AP photo by Hektor Pustina).

Albania’s “on again, off again” election is back on after the opposition ended its threat of a boycott last month. But allegations of a spiraling drug-trafficking problem, and claims and counterclaims of criminal links to politics, are still an unedifying sight in a European Union candidate state. Prolonged political deadlock over recent months is a sign not only of Albania’s deep political divisions and dysfunctions, but also of the EU’s limited ability to use its leverage in the increasingly restive Western Balkans. On May 22, Albania’s government confirmed a deal that put opposition figures into government positions, a compromise that […]

A woman lights candles at a memorial in a seaside park, Nice, France, July 18, 2016 (AP photo by Claude Paris).

Buoyed by his party’s resounding success in last weekend’s parliamentary elections, France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, is off to a strong start. While some were skeptical of his youth and inexperience—not to mention his brief participation in the unpopular government of his predecessor, Francois Hollande—Macron’s party, La Republique En Marche, is poised to become a dominant force in French politics. As one of its candidates told the Financial Times, “I’m again proud to be French.” That enthusiasm is no surprise: The French were tired of Hollande, who left office with dismal approval ratings and 10 percent national unemployment—a rate that […]

The expanded meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Astana, Kazakhstan, June 9, 2017 (Sputnik photo by Vladimir Astapkovich via AP).

For much of its 16 years of existence, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, has carried perhaps the greatest promise of any multilateral organization in Eurasia. Made up of Russia, China and four of the five Central Asian states—Turkmenistan, characteristically, kept the organization at arm’s-length—the SCO hasn’t just provided a high-level forum for discussing regional counterterrorism efforts. It has offered an outlet for Moscow and Beijing to coordinate their security and, increasingly, economic policies without concerns of Western input. The SCO was never quite a “counterweight to NATO” as some asserted, but it provided the groundwork for cohesion to come. […]

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron leave a joint press conference at the Elysee palace, Paris, June 13, 2017 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

The meeting yesterday between British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron was rich in symbolism and irony. A year ago, neither could have reasonably entertained the notion that they would be leading their countries today. As recently as April, their respective positions regarding the European Union would have led a reasonable observer to assume May would enjoy the upper hand in Tuesday’s meeting. Back then, May had just triggered the EU’s Article 50 to begin the U.K.’s withdrawal from what seemed like a deeply divided—if not mortally wounded—union. Macron was still a virtual unknown, campaigning for the […]

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic inspects the Guard of Honor during an inauguration ceremony, Belgrade, May 31, 2017 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

In late April and into May, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, Hoyt Yee, made several visits and high-level phone calls to the countries of the Western Balkans. These states have been wracked by corruption scandals and governing standoffs that have raised questions about the effectiveness of American assistance. Yee’s efforts have yielded some positive outcomes. But they also made clear that American diplomacy alone cannot provide the longer-term solutions to the region’s nagging political and economic problems. After Yee’s visit to Skopje on April 29, Gjorge Ivanov, Macedonia’s president, finally gave the opposition party […]

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic leaving his party headquarters, Zagreb, Croatia, April 27, 2017 (AP photo by Darko Bandic).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about education policy in various countries around the world. On June 1, thousands of people attended rallies throughout Croatia calling for education reform. The mobilization came one year after similar rallies drew tens of thousands into the streets. Yet little has been accomplished during that time, and pro-reform activists accuse the government of contravening the will of the people by undermining the reform effort. In an email interview, Marko Kovacic, project manager at the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb who has previously served as research manager for the […]

Protesters demand the immediate release of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj  from French custody, Pristina, Kosovo, Jan 21, 2017 (AP photo by Visar Kryeziu).

Kosovo is planning to hold snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, one month after Prime Minister Isa Mustafa lost a no-confidence motion. As Reuters notes, Kosovo has experienced considerable political turbulence in the past 18 months, with parliament being targeted by riots, tear gas and even a rocket-propelled grenade. In an email interview, Florian Bieber, professor of Southeast European history and politics at the University of Graz in Austria and coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, explains what the vote is expected to bring and how it might affect diplomatic initiatives such as ongoing talks with Serbia. WPR: […]

The head of Russia’s space agency, Igor Komarov, center, attends the launch of Russia’s Glonass monitoring station in Managua, Nicaragua (Roscosmos via AP).

On April 7, an unusual ceremony took place on the edge of a dormant volcano not far from the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. Nicaraguan officials joined Russian representatives for the formal opening of a new Russian satellite-tracking station, located barely 1,000 miles from the United States. Presiding over the ceremony was Laureano Ortega Murillo, a man grown powerful by virtue of his parentage. He is the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the president’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The satellite facility, part of Russia’s Glonass network, a global navigation system in the mold of GPS, was given a name […]

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