U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to participate in a group photo at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

A key arms control treaty that limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can deploy is set to expire in February 2021. Without it, the two countries could be locked into a nuclear arms race not seen since the height of the Cold War. Fortunately, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, is popular in both Washington and Moscow, and it can be extended for an additional five years with just the signatures of Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Renewing it should be the easiest foreign policy decision Trump can make. […]

A protester flashes the victory sign overlooking a huge anti-government rally in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Just like in 2017 and 2018, many of the most important stories around the world in 2019 were drowned out by the latest tweet, tirade or tantrum from U.S. President Donald Trump. In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Freddy Deknatel and Elliot Waldman talk about some of the big under-covered trends of the year, from the deterioration of U.S. alliances in East Asia to the fate of protest movements that rocked the Middle East. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter […]

Women and children related to fighters of the Islamic State group wait to board buses and trucks to leave the al-Hol detention camp, Hasakeh province, Syria, June 3, 2019 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

ISTANBUL—A German woman suspected of supporting the Islamic State was repatriated from Syria along with her three children last month, in the first case of an adult European ISIS member brought home through official channels. On Nov. 22, the family was released from the overcrowded detention camp in northern Syria where they’d lived for almost a year and transferred to the Iraqi city of Erbil, where they boarded a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. The mother, known only as Laura H., had her passport confiscated upon arrival. She cannot leave Germany, as she is being investigated for belonging to a terrorist […]

Russian tanks, among 5,000 sent in to crush the Hungarian uprising, stand in a street in Budapest, November 1956 (AP photo).

Like many classic mystery stories, the Povl Bang-Jensen affair involved an agitated dog. The name and breed of the animal are not recorded. But we know that at roughly 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1959, Paul Carahalios of Bayside, Queens, took his dog for its regular morning walk. Temperature records suggest that it was chilly but tolerable as they made their way as usual through Alley Pond Park, a stretch of reclaimed marshland on the north shore of Long Island where New York City meets the suburbs. Yet it soon became clear that something was amiss. The dog, […]

Forensic officers at the scene of the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian asylum-seeker believed killed by Russian agents, Berlin, Germany, Aug. 23, 2019 (Photo by Christoph Soeder for dpa via AP Images).

The German government announced earlier this month that it believed Russian agents were responsible for the killing of a Georgian asylum-seeker who was murdered in Berlin last summer in broad daylight. The incident had all the hallmarks of a Russian state-orchestrated assassination: The target was a known anti-Kremlin rebel, and the prime suspect, who was taken into custody just hours after the murder, was a Russian man with a criminal record who had traveled to Germany on a fake passport less than a week before the killing. Yet despite ample evidence, the German government for months was cautious in publicly […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, June 10, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Trade wars, territorial disputes, Donald Trump—those are just a few of the topics that attracted the interests of WPR readers in 2019. Many other stories overshadowed by the biggest international news were also on our radar, as always, and they found a dedicated audience online. In original reporting and analysis, we looked for the trend lines behind the headlines, from palace intrigue in Thailand to political reconciliation in the Horn of Africa. The list below of our most-read articles of the year is based on unique page views. What’s in store for 2020? Keep following and subscribing to WPR. 1. […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the COP25 conference in Madrid, Spain, Dec. 12, 2019 (AP photo by Manu Fernandez).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the state of climate change diplomacy after the disappointing COP25 conference in Madrid, and why progress is so difficult to achieve despite widespread popular mobilizations calling for urgent action on climate change. They also discuss reactions to Greta Thunberg and what they reveal about the debate over climate change. 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 straight to your inbox. The newsletter […]

COP25 party members talk ahead of the closing plenary in Madrid, Dec. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up Sunday in Madrid, after nearly two weeks of wrangling. Despite a two-day extension that made this the longest round of U.N. climate talks ever, the meeting was a massive failure. Instead of setting more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, negotiators went home mostly empty-handed, having punted the most difficult climate-related questions to next year’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared in a tweet Sunday. The […]

The mayors of Prague, Budapest, Bratislava and Warsaw pose after signing the Pact of Free Cities at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 16, 2019 (MTI photo by Szilard Koszticsak via AP Images).

One region of the world embodies the global drift toward autocracy more than any other: Eastern Europe. The erosion of liberal democracy in countries that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain 30 years ago has seemed nearly unstoppable, and particularly disheartening given the heartfelt enthusiasm with which populations embraced the collapse of communist dictatorships. But now, after watching demagogues rise to power, liberal democrats are joining forces, ready to counterattack. In the process, they are offering a way for their frustrated backers in the European Union to support them. Earlier this week, the mayors of Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump at the NATO summit in London, Dec. 4, 2019 (Photo by Michael Kappeler for dpa via AP Images).

The recent NATO summit in London underscored how Turkey’s relations with its allies are becoming increasingly confrontational. In the run-up to the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to veto the alliance’s defense plan for Poland and the Baltic states unless key Western powers became more attentive to Turkish interests in Syria. Although Erdogan eventually signed on to the summit’s final communique, the Turks are continuing to stonewall approval of the plan until the West agrees to designate the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia, as a terrorist group. Turkey has been vocally complaining about Western support for the YPG […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit at the Itamaraty palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Natural gas started flowing from Russia to China for the first time on Dec. 2 when Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, officially launched the initial phase of a huge new pipeline known as the Power of Siberia. Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, claims it is expected to generate $400 billion in revenue—its largest export contract ever. The potentially lucrative pipeline also has clear geopolitical undertones, accelerating the strategic entente between the world’s second-largest gas producer and Asia’s biggest economy at a time when both Russia and China are pushing back against the global influence of the […]

A man walks past a poster showing a U.S. dollar outside an exchange office in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

It didn’t come as much of a surprise to most observers when, at a press conference on the sidelines of a BRICS summit in July 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a moment to criticize the United States’ decision a few months before to further tighten financial sanctions on Moscow. Putin explained that the move, which came in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, was “a big strategic mistake,” because it “undermines confidence in the dollar.” Later that summer, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed his boss, insinuating that Washington’s increasing use of financial sanctions would […]

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street after his Conservative Party won a commanding majority in parliamentary elections, London, Dec. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

LONDON—In the weeks leading up to the British general election last Thursday, all the opinion polls suggested that the Conservative Party was on course for a large parliamentary majority, with the Tories enjoying an average lead of 10 points over the opposition Labour Party. Yet despite the polls having pointed in that direction all along, few observers expected such a crushing victory. In the end, the Conservatives took 365 seats, handing them an 80-seat majority and dealing Labour its most brutal defeat since 1935. But it isn’t simply the scale of the Tories’ victory that provoked disbelief. It was the […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, left, and his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, arrive at a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 19, 2019 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

The rules-based multilateral order is on the ropes, pummeled by absent leaders, dissatisfied powers, clashing values, novel challenges, skeptical publics and sclerotic institutions. To combat these trends, France and Germany have proposed an “Alliance for Multilateralism.” This flexible network would be open in principle to all independent nations committed to responding collectively to the world’s most daunting problems. Realizing this ambitious vision will require persuading prospective members that the proposed alliance poses no threat to their national sovereignty, that it can contribute to pragmatic problem-solving and that it is not directed against any particular state or states. The alliance’s architects […]

From left, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference in Paris, Dec. 9, 2019 (pool photo by Charles Platiau of Reuters via AP).

More than five years after Russia annexed Crimea, with the war in eastern Ukraine grinding on, is a détente between Moscow and Kyiv finally within reach? It might have been tempting to think so with the summit this week in Paris between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was only a few months ago, after all, that Putin and Zelensky had their first phone call, which led to Russia and Ukraine swapping dozens of prisoners and agreeing to consider reopening talks over the political future of the breakaway Donbas region. Yet despite some progress in Paris, […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street after meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London, Dec. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Elliot Waldman talk about the reasons behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise victory in this week’s elections in the U.K. They also discuss the implications of the results for the United Kingdom’s future cohesion, its Brexit negotiations with the European Union and the 2020 presidential election in the United States. 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 straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free […]

A protester holds a poster showing French President Emmanuel Macron that reads “retreat,” during a demonstration in Paris, Dec. 10, 2019 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The transportation strikes and labor protests that have paralyzed France for the past week are proof once again of the gap between President Emmanuel Macron’s lofty international reputation and his domestic fall from grace. Lionized abroad as a young, dynamic outsider, courageous reformer and liberal champion, Macron is decried at home for his tone-deaf arrogance, illiberal imperiousness and seeming disregard for France’s less fortunate and most vulnerable citizens. The strikes and demonstrations are just the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy fight over Macron’s plans to reform France’s pension system. Two years ago, Macron faced down the unions […]

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