Protesters carry Bulgarian flags during a demonstration in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 29, 2020 (AP photo by Valentina Petrova).

Karate coach, firefighter, bodyguard, Interior Ministry chief and now prime minister. Boyko Borissov has had an eclectic career, and if the protesters on the streets of Bulgarian cities have their way, he’ll soon leave the prime minister’s office for the third time. The burly, pugnacious politician is accused of presiding over a state that has been captured by a cabal of oligarchs and corrupt officials. Antigovernment demonstrators say the situation should shame the European Union, which Bulgaria has been a member of for over a decade and which provides billions of euros in development funds each year. Borissov’s time as […]

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center left, and his wife Yulia, during a march in Moscow, Russia, March 29, 2020 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

From the moment Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny abruptly fell ill last week, the top suspect in what immediately looked like a case of poisoning was President Vladimir Putin and his regime in Moscow. That suspicions quickly centered on a possible assassination attempt by the Kremlin is another damning indictment for a president who has sought to earn international respect. A government whose critics routinely die mysterious deaths, or survive attempts on their lives, reveals itself to be outside the bounds of legitimate democratic behavior. That people suspect Putin orders the assassination of his domestic foes shows the grotesque image […]

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).

“From our vantage point, the transition from empire to nation in the 20th century appears inevitable,” writes the political theorist Adom Getachew. In the 30 years after World War II, membership in the United Nations expanded from 51 to 144 countries, an astounding transformation. But in her recently published book, “Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination,” Getachew argues “against the standard view of decolonization as a moment of nation-building,” painting a picture of anti-colonial nationalist movements that sought not only to build independent states, but also to undo global structures of hierarchy and subjugation that had become […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (Pool photo by Stephanie Lecocq via AP Images).

Something about the idea of Europe becoming a strategic actor in global affairs brings to mind the old Irish saying: May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead. Strategic autonomy has long been a recurring refrain for advocates of a more forceful Europe, one that is a rule-maker, rather than a rule-taker, in the shifting world order. But the European Union never seems to get any closer to realizing that goal, mainly due to internal divisions between member states over what interests to defend and advance, and wariness over the loss of sovereignty in […]

Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and prime minister of Ghana, during a press conference at the White House, in Washington, March 8, 1961 (AP photo).

In a recent article for The New York Times, the political theorist Adom Getachew observes that in “the past few years, decolonization has gained new political currency—inside the borders of the old colonial powers.” In many European capitals, statues of former imperialists have been defaced, toppled by protesters or removed by authorities, contributing to a resurgence of discussions about what “decolonization” means and how it can be put into action today. This week on Trend Lines, Getachew joins WPR’s Elliot Waldman to talk about the history of anti-colonial nationalist movements that tried to remake the world in an egalitarian mold, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump give a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Justin Sherman is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. The long-awaited fifth and final report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on its investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, which was released earlier this week, is full of disturbing details. The heavily redacted, 966-page report includes revelations about even closer links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian intelligence operatives than Robert Mueller found in his special counsel investigation. It also concludes that Russia’s interference operations are still active today, less than three months before Election Day. But it didn’t take long before […]

Opposition supporters light phones and wave an old Belarusian national flag during a protest against President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

Belarus’ long-ruling dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, is resisting calls to step down amid a historic wave of antigovernment demonstrations and strikes. Throughout the momentous period of unrest, one of the big questions is how far Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to go to support his ally. Belarus is a strategically vital country for Russia, and is also a key concern for NATO, as it shares borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, all members of the trans-Atlantic alliance. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, WPR columnist Candace Rondeaux joined Elliot Waldman to discuss some of the scenarios that could […]

Belarusian opposition supporters rally in the center of Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Sergei Grits).

For many Belarusians, Alexander Lukashenko is the only leader they’ve ever known. He has maintained a tight grip on the country since first becoming president in 1994, but Lukashenko now faces the greatest challenge yet to his rule. He claimed victory in a presidential election earlier this month that was widely decried as fraudulent, and took place amid a wave of pro-democracy protests across the country. The unrest has only grown after official election results showed Lukashenko winning around 80 percent of the vote. A bloody crackdown on protesters by security forces last week left at least two people dead […]

Employees at work in the Honda car plant in Celaya, Mexico, Feb. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Eduardo Verdugo).

The special protection that investors based in the United States have long enjoyed when they do business abroad seems to be on its way out, and it’s about time. Unlike other private parties, including workers and consumers, foreign investors have access to special arbitration arrangements to protect their businesses in partner countries that sign bilateral investment treaties or preferential trade agreements with the U.S. This mechanism, known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, has attracted increased scrutiny since the U.S. insisted on including an expanded version of it in the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s. Now, both […]

U.S. President Donald Trump after attending a joint press conference with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The global economic map is reshuffling, and predictions abound on where the pieces will land. As companies scramble to protect themselves from U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade wars, the growing technology rivalry between the United States and China, and the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, will the long-promised “reshoring” of manufacturing back to higher-wage countries finally take place? Will the U.S. and China “decouple” their economies, particularly for the technologies of the future? If so, how will Europe, Japan and others respond? For the moment, the big winner is uncertainty. We have moved from a world in which companies […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Refugee Summit, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2020 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart M. Patrick, who will return next week. What books should admirers of the United Nations and international cooperation dive into this summer? Tomes about international institutions rarely make great beach reads. But with pandemic staycations still keeping the beach out of reach for many of us, they are not as heavy a lift this year as they were in summers past. And with foreign policy pundits sounding the alarm over a “crisis of multilateralism,” it can even be refreshing to dig into books that explain how the organizations involved […]

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 30, 2020 (AP photo by John Raoux).

The splashdown of two American astronauts, Robert L. Benken and Douglas G. Hurley, in the Gulf of Mexico last Sunday was historic in many ways. It was the first water landing by NASA since 1975, and marked the completion of the first manned trip into outer space by a private company. Perhaps most importantly, it showed that the United States has officially regained the ability to send astronauts into space. For the better part of a decade, since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011, the United States depended on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to get its astronauts to […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a ceremony in the village of Khoroshevo, Russia, June 30, 2020 (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev for Sputnik via AP Images).

Which dictator is more trustworthy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus? In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because the governments of both Russia and Belarus are probably lying about the arrest last week in Minsk of 33 Russian men identified by Belarusian authorities as mercenaries affiliated with the so-called Wagner Group, a network of private military security contractors linked to U.S.-sanctioned Kremlin insider Yevgeny Prigozhin. For more than a week, speculation has run rife about the arrests and their possible connection to alleged Russian interference in Belarus’ upcoming presidential election on Aug. 9. The mystery surrounding the […]

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes attends a news conference following a meeting of the National Security Council, in Brussels, July 27, 2020 (pool photo by Francois Lenoir via AP).

BRUSSELS—In their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, some countries have channeled greater powers to their central governments in order to curb the virus’s spread, while others have left their states or regions to fend for themselves. The divergent responses have sparked debates in many countries about federalism and the appropriate role of the state. Here in Belgium, a highly federalized nation whose main political parties have been unable to form a working coalition for more than a year, Parliament approved temporary expanded powers to the caretaker government to manage the coronavirus crisis. On the surface, this seemed like a surprisingly […]

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, at an EU summit in Brussels, July 18, 2020 (pool photo by Francois Lenoir via AP Images).

Authoritarian leaders have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, intensifying their efforts to undercut the democratic norms that restrain their power. Some of those leveraging COVID-19 for their autocratic agenda are in the European Union, where they have created dilemmas for the bloc for years. And yet, this crisis has also created opportunities. If managed skillfully, the EU can convert the upheaval of the pandemic into a turning point, at long last exerting meaningful pressure to start reversing Eastern Europe’s undemocratic, illiberal tide. Last month, EU leaders managed to craft a muscular economic rescue package to deal with the pandemic’s […]

The former secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Thomas Greminger, arrives for the 25th OSCE ministerial council meeting, in Milan, Italy, Dec. 6, 2018 (AP photo/Antonio Calanni).

VIENNA—Just before breaking for their summer recess, in early June, ambassadors to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had one major item on their agenda. The terms of the organization’s four top leaders were set to expire in mid-July, so the OSCE planned to reappoint each of them for another three-year stint. The extensions were widely seen as mere formalities—nothing out of the ordinary. But then, on June 11, a letter of protest from Azerbaijan changed everything, turning an otherwise routine decision into a political power struggle that culminated in the toppling of the OSCE’s entire senior leadership […]

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate for president, greets people waving old Belarus flags at a rally in Brest, Belarus, Aug. 2, 2020 (AP photo by Sergei Grits)

KYIV, Ukraine—For nearly three decades, President Alexander Lukashenko has relied on a mix of vote-rigging, obedient state media and pure coercion to retain power in Belarus through “a series of unfair contests,” according to democracy watchdog Freedom House. This week’s presidential election will be no different. Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994, is virtually guaranteed to sweep the polls. But the mustachioed strongman will have few opportunities to rest on his laurels, experts say. A deteriorating economic situation and his mishandling of the coronavirus crisis have fueled discontent in recent months, while a newly unified opposition […]

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