A daughter of Christian Medves kisses her father’s coffin during a ceremony for three victims of last week’s extremist gun rampage in Trebes, southern France, March 29, 2018 (AP photo by Fred Lancelot).

PARIS—Last Friday, a gunman hijacked a car near the city of Carcassonne, in southwestern France, before shooting at national police officers finishing up a morning run. He then headed to the nearby town of Trebes, where he opened fire in a supermarket and held shoppers and employees hostage for several hours. By the time police arrived at the scene, three had died: two supermarket hostages and a passenger in the hijacked car. The following day, Arnaud Beltrame, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the French police who used his body as a shield to protect one of the hostages, died of […]

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, arrive at the commission’s offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 9, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In early March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov embarked on a five-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa. During his trip, Lavrov signed new trade agreements with Russia’s two long-standing partners in southern Africa, Angola and Mozambique. He also strengthened Moscow’s diplomatic ties to Zimbabwe’s new government and highlighted the role Russia could play providing security to several countries facing political unrest at home. Even though Russia’s power projection capabilities on the continent remain limited, the broad range of deals signed by Lavrov suggests that Russia is actively seeking to expand its economic and security influence in Africa, and perhaps reassert some […]

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet on the sidelines of an EU summit, Brussels, March 22, 2018 (Pool photo via AP by Francois Lenoir).

On Monday, over 20 European countries collectively expelled almost 60 Russian diplomats suspected of being intelligence operatives. The move signaled a significant escalation in Europe’s collective response to Moscow’s alleged role in a nerve agent attack in southern England in early March that left a former Russian spy and his daughter in a coma, and the British police officer who responded to the scene hospitalized. That the United States joined the European response, by expelling another 60 Russian operatives and closing the Russian consulate in Seattle, underscored Western solidarity against the latest of repeated Russian provocations. Until last week, British […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a working dinner during a NATO summit, Brussels, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lengthy visit to the United States and Washington’s relationship with Riyadh under President Donald Trump. For the Report, Salvatore Babones talks with Peter Dörrie about how U.S. alliances in Northeast Asia could serve as a useful model for reconfiguring the NATO alliance in Europe. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an election rally near the Kremlin, Moscow, March 18, 2018 (AP photo by Denis Tyrin).

When Vladimir Putin won a landslide victory to a fourth term as Russia’s president on Sunday, it came as a surprise to no one. Still, his re-election was noteworthy for many reasons, including how apparent it is that as democracy loses ground around the world, Putin embodies the model for the 21st-century descent into authoritarianism—a model that is being emulated by other aspiring autocrats. That Putin’s re-election has repercussions far beyond Russia was evident in the headlines that dominated the news in the days leading up to the vote. A former Russian spy and his daughter were found slumped on […]

Outgoing Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, left, hands over his resignation to Slovakian President Andrej Kiska at the presidential palace, Bratislava, March 15, 2018 (TASR photo by Martin Baumann via AP).

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico stepped down from the post he has held for 10 of the past 12 years on March 15, amid the biggest protests to have rocked Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution that toppled the Czechoslovak communist regime in 1989. A political deal has been thrashed out to keep the three-party governing coalition, led by Fico’s center-left Smer party, in power. But few expect it to survive long, leaving nationalist and populist parties in prime position to take advantage of a potential early election. The threat to Fico’s long domination of Slovak politics is a direct consequence […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks during a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Athens, Greece, Dec. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Thanassis Stavrakis).

On March 16, a Greek appeals court denied an extradition request by Turkey for eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in July 2016, following the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was the third such rejection by Greek courts, which say the men could face an unfair trial in Turkey. The fate of the servicemen, whom Turkey accuses of being involved in the attempted coup, has been a source of escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies. In an email interview, Simon Waldman, a visiting research fellow in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to supporters during a rally near the Kremlin, Moscow, March 18, 2018 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Ksenia Sobchak, the highest-profile candidate to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia’s presidential election Sunday, already knew before the voting that she had no chance of winning. “In a casino, the house always wins,” she told an American audience on a recent visit to Washington. “In Russia, Putin always wins.” Surprising no one, Putin easily won re-election to another six years in office in a ballot that few would call free and fair. Putin has heavy-handedly restricted freedom of dissent through control of the media and constrained Russia’s political opposition through intimidation and legal harassment. The election may have paid little […]

Gen. Joseph Dunford, right, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean counterpart, salute during an honor guard ceremony, Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

It is the world’s most successful, most powerful and most popular security alliance. Considering the number of countries waiting to get in, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seems to have even more admirers than it can handle. But it also has an unexpectedly prominent and powerful critic: the president of the United States. As he has scolded NATO members over their defense spending and cast the alliance as a protection racket, Donald Trump has seemingly undermined an organization whose purpose and unity have rarely been questioned—and never before by an American president—since it was founded in 1949 as a bulwark […]

Opposition leaders Sergey Parkhomenko, Alexey Navalny, Ilya Yashin and Ksenia Sobchak take part in a televised debate, Moscow, Oct. 22, 2012 (AP photo by Sergey Ponomarev).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss the week’s big news, including the firing of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the escalating tensions between London and Moscow after a former Russian spy was poisoned with a lethal nerve agent in the United Kingdom. For the Report, Natalie Rouland talks with Peter Dörrie about Ksenia Sobchak, the celebrity-turned-politician challenging Vladimir Putin in Russia’s presidential election. Is Sobchak an opportunistic stalking horse for the Kremlin, or a rising force for Russia’s beleaguered opposition? If you like […]

A drug user who identified himself as "Joao" exchanges used needles for new ones, Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 10, 2010 (AP photo by Armando Franca).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about national drug policies in various countries around the world. On Feb. 17, Portugal’s main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, formally endorsed the legalization and regulation of cannabis at its national conference. Although Portugal decriminalized the use and personal possession of all drugs in 2001, from cannabis to heroin, the government has not legalized any illicit drugs. The Social Democratic Party’s endorsement is a step toward changing that. If translated into law, it would make Portugal the first country in Europe to legalize and regulate cannabis. In an email […]

Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak attends a demonstration against sexual harassment, holding a placard reading “Deputies, we don’t want you!”, Moscow, March 8, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Like most figures who have undergone significant transformations in the public eye, Ksenia Sobchak, the most prominent candidate running against Vladimir Putin in Russia’s presidential election Sunday, means different things to different people. Her detractors see a campy celebrity-turned-politician—a puppet who is merely playing the role of substantive challenger. Her supporters, on the other hand, see a skillful operator capable of effectively manipulating the media—a new kind of political personality putting forth an alternative vision for the country. Just a decade ago, she was known exclusively as a socialite and entertainer. Despite coming from a political family, she had launched […]

Gabor Vona, chairman of the opposition Jobbik party, delivers a speech during a protest, Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 15, 2017 (MTI photo by Zoltan Balogh via AP).

In late February, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, suffered a shock defeat in one of its rural strongholds, losing a by-election to an independent candidate backed by the opposition. The result seemed to give new life to the opposition ahead of national elections scheduled for April 8. In an email interview, András Bozóki, a professor of political science at Central European University in Budapest, discusses how the opposition has fared during eight years under Orban and what its prospects are for the upcoming vote. WPR: What is the state of the political opposition in Hungary […]

The new secretary-general of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, waits for the start of a meeting at EU headquarters, Brussels, March 7, 2018 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Italy’s elections on Sunday refocused global attention on the challenges facing the European Union, as populist, euroskeptic parties combined to win a majority of votes. But a less-noticed scandal over a bureaucratic appointment in Brussels might offer a better explanation of just what is driving the voter backlash against the union. So far the scandal has barely registered a blip on the radar for anyone besides close EU-watchers, but it is in many ways emblematic of everything Brussels’ critics say is wrong with the bloc. It revolves around Martin Selmayr, the former chief of staff to European Commission President Jean-Claude […]

Russia’s new Sarmat intercontinental missile as shown on Russian television at an undisclosed location in Russia, March 1, 2018 (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP).

Late last week, during his annual speech to the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a raft of new and exotic military weapons systems that were in development, and in some cases ready to be deployed. Putin’s inventory included an enormous, new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile known as “Sarmat”; new maneuverable re-entry vehicles that will, in theory, be fitted onto Russian ballistic missiles to help them overwhelm American missile defenses; a nuclear-powered cruise missile apparently able to fly for thousands of miles just feet above the surface of the earth; and a nuclear-armed underwater drone potentially able to lay dormant […]

Soldiers in the German Army attend a military parade ceremony marking the 99th anniversary of the Lithuanian military on Armed Forces Day, Vilnius, Lithuania, Nov. 24, 2017 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

A report released on Feb. 20 by the parliamentary commissioner for Germany’s armed forces revealed serious deficiencies in the military’s readiness, with many weapons systems nonoperational and 21,000 officer positions vacant. The state of the German military raises concerns for NATO and its response force, the effectiveness of which has gained new urgency since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. In an email interview, Patrick Keller, coordinator for foreign and security policy at Konrad-Adenaur-Stiftung in Berlin, explains how Germany’s military got to this state, and what it will take to get its house in order. WPR: How concerning for Germany […]

Members of the nationalist organization National Radical Camp march through downtown Warsaw, Poland, April 29, 2017 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

With nationalist sentiment simmering across the continent, Europe has become the site of an ideological divide the likes of which has not been seen since the Cold War. The enlargement of the European Union was a driving force behind the spread of democracy into the former communist-bloc countries in the two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the emergence of illiberalism in the east combined with a surging far right in the west has threatened to reverse that momentum. WPR has compiled 10 articles to outline the current state of democracy in Europe. Purchase this special report […]