A plenary session at the NATO summit in Watford, England, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The future of European security over the next decade could hinge on the outcome of two separate elections taking place outside the continent in the next few days. One poll, the parliamentary elections in Georgia on Oct. 31, could very well shape whether and when NATO next goes to war. The other, the presidential election in the United States on Nov. 3, will likely determine if NATO’s trans-Atlantic alliance even survives. Whatever the outcome in both cases, it’s a foregone conclusion that come 2021, NATO’s European members are going to have to make some very hard decisions about their collective […]

A collection of posts that were removed from Instagram after Facebook, the owner of Instagram, concluded that they originated from Russia and had links to the Internet Research Agency, photographed in Washington, March 4, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

Foreign interference in this year’s U.S. election may not be as rampant as it was in 2016, but various Russian actors are adopting more sophisticated tactics, says Shelby Grossman, a research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory. One new method, which the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency workshopped with a series of operations in African countries last year, is to outsource its content creation to local journalists and organizations. Grossman joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to talk about how these tactics are being used to polarize electorates in the U.S. and around the world. Listen […]

A security guard stands outside a voting center in San Francisco, Oct. 20, 2020 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

This year’s election season in the U.S. has been unusual in many ways, unfolding against the backdrop of a raging global pandemic, a historic economic recession and an incumbent president who is willing to discard America’s democratic norms. But there is one thing that has become predictable about recent U.S. elections, and sadly, other polls around the world: the torrent of misinformation that inevitably seems to accompany them. At the same time, the modalities of how misinformation spreads aren’t necessarily consistent across elections. According to Shelby Grossman, a political scientist and research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory, foreign influence […]

LGBTQ rights supporters protest in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

A thousand miles separate the quaint French commune of Saint-Jean-de-Braye, in the central Loiret region, from the rural Polish town of Tuchow, east of Krakow. But for 20 years, they could have easily been next-door neighbors. Educational exchanges first brought the municipalities together in the mid-1990s, followed by the signing of a formal twin town agreement in 2000. The next two decades were filled with signs of their close relations: Local officials regularly traveled back and forth to see each other, while residents took sightseeing visits and pupils were offered apprenticeships. The small, tight-knit nature of the two communities—their combined […]

A worker burns cables and other parts of old electrical devices at the Agbogbloshie scrap yard in Accra, Ghana, June 12, 2018 (Photo by Gioia Forster for dpa via AP Images).

In Agbogbloshie, a commercial district in Accra, Ghana, around 10,000 of the poorest people in the country sort through much of the world’s electronic waste. With no other way of making a living, they use crude methods to dismantle electronic devices—burning them or dousing them in acid—which expose them to toxic emissions and substances that often lead to acute and long-term health problems. In 2014, Agbogbloshie was deemed one of the 10 most polluted places on Earth, with lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium found in the air, water and soil at concentrations 100 times higher than safe levels. Agbogbloshie has […]

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Oct. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Should Joe Biden win the American presidency on Nov. 3, the world will experience whiplash, as the United States performs a second about-face in its posture toward multilateralism in only four years. Although the U.S. has oscillated through cycles of internationalism and isolationism before, it has never executed such a swift and dramatic double-reverse. A Biden triumph would repudiate the “America First” platform on which Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and the hyper-nationalist, unilateralist and sovereigntist mindset that undergirds it. Such a stunning shift in America’s global orientation would have major implications for global cooperation on everything […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, in Moscow, June 24, 2020 (pool photo by Sergey Pyatakov via AP).

From mass protests in Belarus to political chaos in Kyrgyzstan to the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia is surrounded by mounting instability. According to Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Institute for Scholars, President Vladimir Putin and his top advisers only have themselves to blame for these crises on Russia’s periphery, given their active assertion of “veto rights” over political outcomes that they find unfavorable, including any signs that a country is realigning away from Russia and toward the West. In many cases, this has meant staunch […]

French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint news conference with Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Oct. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken an activist approach recently to a range of thorny and persistent challenges in and around Europe. As part of that agenda, he has been at the forefront of efforts to confront Russia and Turkey over their neo-imperialist policies. In both cases, Macron has taken a hands-on role, putting himself in the spotlight with high-profile initiatives and tough rhetoric. But that is the only common feature of his highly personalized diplomacy. France has different goals with Russia and Turkey. It has therefore played its hand differently in the two cases, with differing results. France’s relations […]

People with old Belarusian national flags march during a rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Oct. 18, 2020 (AP photo).

Despite President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project the image that Russia is a productive and internationally engaged great power, recent developments on the country’s periphery suggest, if anything, a decline in the Kremlin’s influence. In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko is clinging to power despite the regular chants from thousands of protesters demanding he resign. Intense fighting has erupted again between Armenia and Azerbaijan, over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. And Kyrgyzstan is in chaos after protests forced the country’s Russia-friendly leader, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, to resign last week. This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Matthew Rojansky, […]

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Donald Trump likes tariffs, regardless of their target. While China gets most of the attention, he hasn’t hesitated to attack America’s friends and allies as well. His Democratic rival for the presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden, has his own concerns about Chinese trade practices and has been vague about whether he would roll back Trump’s tariffs on China, so trade tensions between Washington and Beijing are likely to remain high no matter who wins in November. The situation is different for European policymakers, since the election could determine whether an escalation in trade tensions is coming, or a […]

A soldier walks among debris from destroyed houses in Ganja, Azerbaijan, Oct. 17, 2020 (AP photo).

Until late last month, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh had been mostly frozen, with occasional skirmishes, for over a quarter of a century. One notable exception was the April 2016 “four-day war,” a brief but intense period of fighting that left over 200 people dead and was followed by claims of victory from both sides. The recent fighting that erupted on Sept. 27 has been much more intense; over 600 soldiers have been killed on the Armenian side alone, along with scores of civilians and an undisclosed number of Azerbaijani personnel. While the […]

Pro-Brexit demonstrators fly flags outside Parliament in London, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Over the past four years, as the United Kingdom has wrestled with the consequences of its narrow vote to leave the European Union, there has been little to no broader foreign policy debate in the country. Instead, Britons seem to have become caught between three temperaments. There are the catastrophists, who argue the U.K. has become completely irrelevant on the international stage as a result of Brexit; the nostalgics, who see a powerful Britain through the lens of a great colonial power; and the denialists, who refuse to accept that Britain must adapt to a changing global context. All are […]

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Carson City, Nevada, Oct. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

When Viktor Orban became prime minister of Hungary in 2010 following a landslide election victory by his Fidesz party, most observers considered Hungary’s democracy to be “consolidated” and secure since the fall of communism. In the years that followed, however, Orban used his position to slowly chip away at Hungary’s democratic institutions. First to fall was the judiciary. In 2011, the government pushed through a constitutional change that allowed parliament to directly select justices of the Constitutional Court, and lowered the retirement age for all judges from 70 to 62. Then, the government made changes to the electoral system that […]

Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar joins a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Thanassis Stavrakis).

Nearly a decade into Libya’s grinding civil war, it seems next to impossible to imagine stability, let alone a political settlement. The country is as torn as ever between the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli, which is backed militarily by Turkey, and the rival forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s breakaway Libyan National Army, backed by a motley crew of Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France. Libya, which before the war was among the world’s top oil-exporting countries, with billions in hydrocarbon reserves, is today oil-rich, revenue-poor and teetering on the brink of irretrievable collapse. The […]

Anti-lockdown demonstrators in Huntington Beach, California, June 27, 2020 (AP photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez).

The wave of anti-government protests that roiled global politics over the past decade initially seemed to be an early casualty of COVID-19. Lockdown measures, especially stay-at-home orders and restrictions on mass gatherings, halted protests almost everywhere. Yet as the pandemic has dragged on, the increasingly strained relationship between governments and citizens in many countries has brought demonstrators back into the streets. While many renewed protests reflect anger over familiar issues like corruption, political repression and economic hardship, a striking new trend is afoot: citizens openly challenging the public health measures governments have taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. […]

Marian Kocner, center right, is escorted by armed police officers to a courtroom for his trial, in Pezinok, Slovakia, Sept. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

PRAGUE—Last month, a Slovakian tycoon accused of masterminding the assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in 2018—a murder that profoundly transformed Slovakian politics—was acquitted by a special criminal court in Bratislava, the capital. The surprising verdict in what Michal Vasecka, a sociologist at the Bratislava Policy Institute, calls “the most followed trial in the history of Slovakia,” has been met with “anger and disbelief,” he says. Many Slovaks see the acquittal of Marian Kocner as a major setback in the government’s campaign to rid the small Central European nation of its endemic corruption. “It seems that the apparent plotters of […]

Sweden’s then-foreign minister, Carl Bildt, at a press briefing in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 8, 2014 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

“On foreign and defense policy, absolutely, there is an ambition to be more united, and that vision is shared by all of the member countries,” says Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, about the European Union. “Then in practice, as you’ve seen, there are divergences, and they are more or less clear in different areas.” Those divergences have frustrated advocates of a more forceful EU that operates on the world stage with “strategic autonomy,” a phrase Mr. Bildt finds “confuses more than it clarifies.” But he adds, as someone who has “been watching these things for a […]

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