U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks to American soldiers based in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 7, 2019 (AP photo by Jens Meyer).

According to Washington’s punditocracy, there are only two ways to interpret the Pentagon’s announcement Wednesday that it plans to move ahead with withdrawing nearly 12,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Germany. One view is that President Donald Trump is capitulating yet again to pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin and handing Putin a gift in the form of a weakened NATO. The other take is that the White House decision to pull troops out of Germany, as Trump has long wanted, is a foolish escalation in his standoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance. […]

Protesters call for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist, in Oxford, England, June 9, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

Black Lives Matter protests have erupted in cities across Europe in recent weeks, in solidarity with the uprisings in the United States following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May. Some European demonstrators have called on their governments to more formally acknowledge the connections between the slave trade and colonialism and racism in their countries today. In Europe’s two largest former colonial powers, France and the United Kingdom, there are signs that protests are eroding the popular indifference toward their history. While France and the U.K. have never apologized for their colonial past, they have […]

People protest outside Parliament after a court ruling deciding Chagossians were not allowed to return to their homeland, London, Oct. 22, 2008 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

The British government has been vocal about the issue of human rights in China in recent weeks. It recently delivered a joint statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, on behalf of 27 countries, on abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. And Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has strongly criticized Beijing for imposing sweeping national security legislation that severely undermines the autonomy of Hong Kong, which the Chinese government promised to respect in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Raab specifically called out Beijing for violating its international legal obligations, while announcing that the U.K. would not shirk from its “historic […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron walk to their press conference room at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (AFP pool photo by John Thys via AP Images).

If the European Union were a cartoon, it would resemble an episode of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The EU would be Wile E. Coyote, furiously paving a road with the help of some mail-order Rube Goldberg machine, patch by patch, just ahead of the car he is driving. The Road Runner would be the course of history speeding up alongside him, then zooming off into the distance. This half-finished structure constantly driven forward by the urgent necessity of events is no accident. It was one of the implicit assumptions of the EU’s early architects and builders, who […]

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray holds up a sign showing Vladimir Putin’s face outside Parliament in London, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott, who will return next week. Two developments last week, in the United Kingdom and the United States, highlighted how their common adversaries are still exploiting the global financial system, using long-known loopholes to raise and move illicit money in order to undermine international security and the rule of law. While American and British authorities have often been slow to realize the full magnitude of this threat, their recent actions suggest they may finally be taking it more seriously. First, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released […]

A nearly empty beach in the usually crowded resort town of Ayia Napa, Cyprus, July 20, 2020 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

Earlier this year, as the effects of a deadly new virus rippled across the world, international travel was thrown into a frenzy. Images of frantic business travelers, passengers on cruise ships and study abroad students all scrambling to return home filled the news. But these were soon followed by images of quite a different nature: silent streets in Barcelona, deserted piazzas in Rome, empty beaches in Greece and Thailand, vacant airport terminals in Boston and Singapore. Eventually, international travel ground to a halt. Reservations for hotels, resorts and Airbnb stays evaporated. International flights were canceled, borders were closed, and museums, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, left, next to Chinese leader Xi Jinping right, during a summit in Qingdao, China, June 10, 2018 (AP photo by Dake Kang).

At the opening of the World Health Assembly in mid-May, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced his country would spend $2 billion over two years to help other countries fight the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, had already announced the U.S. would halt funding to the World Health Organization. His administration began the process of withdrawing from the WHO in early July. A week after Xi’s announcement, a 14-person medical team from China arrived in Tajikistan, which has had over 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 56 deaths. The Chinese squad brought 9 tons of medical equipment, bringing its total […]

The floor of the main lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va., Jan. 21, 2017 (AP file photo by Andrew Harnik).

News reports last week that U.S. President Donald Trump granted the CIA broad authority in 2018 to conduct offensive cyberattacks against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have rightfully raised alarm among some in Washington’s national security set. Recent history indicates that when the White House has greenlighted items at the top of the CIA’s wish list, things haven’t always turned out well. See the Senate “Torture Report” and leaked documents on lethal drone attacks in South Asia for more details. In light of these past CIA transgressions, the current handwringing is not unwarranted. Yet, as often happens with sensational […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron prepare to address the media at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (AFP pool photo by John Thys via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Prachi Vidwans talk about the implications of the European Union’s new seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, which were agreed after four days and nights of contentious negotiations in Brussels. They also discuss the Trump administration’s sudden decision to shut down China’s consulate in Houston, and what that could mean for the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:Is the EU’s COVID-19 Response Losing Central and Eastern Europe to China?The U.S. Can No Longer Ignore […]

President Andrzej Duda and his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, wave to supporters in Pultusk, Poland, July 12, 2020 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

Polish President Andrzej Duda narrowly won a second term in a hotly contested runoff election earlier this month, opening the door for the ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice party, known as PiS for its Polish initials, to continue cementing its power. But the vote, which was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, also illustrated the depth of the political divide in Polish society. On one side, a largely rural and older cohort of conservative voters handed Duda a narrow victory with 51 percent. His challenger, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, took the remaining 49 percent, mostly from metropolitan […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a conference on Libya at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

With Egypt reportedly on the brink of invading neighboring Libya, and troops from Chad said to be on their way north to join Gen. Khalifa Haftar in his fight to topple the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, what was already a complicated proxy war could soon become Africa’s first full-on intracontinental war in decades. That may not be all that is at risk, however. If Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers on his promise to come to Haftar’s aid, it could also result in a serious setback for two key American and European security priorities: securing the volatile Eastern Mediterranean […]

A worker speaks on the phone in a Huawei store in Beijing, July 15, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. The “tech war” between the United States and China has shifted to Europe, where the United Kingdom this week announced, in an abrupt reversal, that it would ban the use of equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in its high-speed wireless network. The British government’s decision is a major victory for the Trump administration, which has been campaigning to steer countries away from China as they develop their 5G infrastructure. Europe has been one of Huawei’s key markets as […]

A cargo ship prepares to dock in Oakland, California, April 16, 2020 (AP photo by Ben Margot).

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration’s trade policy has been shifting from an inclination to punish to a yearning for retreat. After imposing tariffs on trading partners that cost U.S. consumers $12 billion last year, the White House has been looking for ways to repatriate industrial activity from China and launch a new state-led industrial policy. But cutting the economic cord with China will not magically halt its geopolitical rise, and imitating its state-led approach to the economy would make America both less secure and less prosperous. Instead, the next U.S. administration should launch a “Safe […]

Campaign posters for two contenders in Poland’s presidential election runoff, the conservative incumbent, Andrzej Duda, and his liberal rival, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, in Raciaz, Poland, July 9, 2020 (AP Photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

During a recent online debate hosted by the Warsaw-based publication Visegrad Insight, a Polish opposition figure commented that in the country’s presidential election, “Poles will have a choice to make between two models of society”—“a European Poland and a Poland that looks at the United States.” This remark encapsulates an increasingly common understanding of the dynamics at play in the election, which goes to a second and final round this Sunday. The conservative incumbent, Andrzej Duda of the ruling Law and Justice party, or PiS, will face off against his liberal challenger, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who came in second […]

American forces and Afghan commandos patrol Pandola village, near the site of a U.S. bombing, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 2014 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

With public pressure growing on the Trump administration to take action in response to the reported Russian scheme to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan, a natural question to ask is, “What is to be done?” Much of the congressional attention for now will inevitably focus on who in the White House knew what and when about intelligence on the Russian plot. But the reality is that Washington has a limited range of policy options to manage an escalation of tensions with Moscow, and this Congress isn’t likely to do much months before an election. […]

Workers prepare an area for reservoirs for contaminated soil after a fuel spill outside Norilsk, northern Russia, June 18, 2020 (Russian Emergency Situations Ministry photo via AP Images).

Russia’s Arctic region is experiencing one of the hottest summers on record, and it is only early July. The mercury hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of northern Russia last week, more than 30 degrees above the average for this time of year, and meteorologists are forecasting more blistering heat in the days and weeks ahead. At first glance, the heat wave might look like great news for Russia’s giant oil and natural gas companies. The higher temperatures will accelerate the melting of permafrost in the Arctic, making it easier to extract the rich deposits of natural resources buried underneath […]

Police special forces stand next to illegal mining machinery in Peru’s Tambopata province, April 1, 2019 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott this week. Last week, the presidency of the Financial Action Task Force, the global intergovernmental standard-setter for combatting illicit financial threats, passed from China to Germany. The presidency of the FATF is an important platform for countries to highlight critical threats to the global financial system. Among Germany’s incoming priorities for its two-year term is a focus on the illicit financial flows behind many crimes related to the environment. Such a campaign is an overdue step to combat a lucrative but not widely understood criminal enterprise, one […]

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