British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with performers dressed as lions as he welcomes members of the British Chinese community for Lunar New Year celebrations in London, Jan. 24, 2020 (AP Photo by Matt Dunham).

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, delivered a speech in Parliament setting out measures to ensure that British businesses do not profit from what he called the “industrial scale” forced labor of minority Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. However, Raab’s remarks made no mention of imposing widely expected sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses. The omission generated confusion among journalists and some lawmakers, as the government’s prior press guidance had indicated the speech would include an announcement of sanctions under a law modeled on the Global Magnitsky Act in […]

Trucks line up on the approach to the port of Dover, England, Dec. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

The United Kingdom’s delayed departure from the European Union and the implementation of a hard-fought, post-Brexit trade agreement on Jan. 1 have led to the most significant rise in barriers between any major trading partners in recent memory. With trade volumes between the U.K. and the rest of the EU having grown significantly since the 1990s, particularly through the establishment of regional or global value chains, there is no meaningful precedent to draw on when projecting what comes next, other than the general experience that higher trade barriers mean less trade and more economic loss. It is early days, but […]

A police officer sweeps up glass from a bus stop that was smashed during protests against a nationwide curfew in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Jan. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

When riots erupted across the Netherlands last weekend against a new coronavirus lockdown, the scenes of mayhem triggered a cascade of emotions. “My city is crying, and so am I,” said John Jorritsma, the mayor of Eindhoven, the country’s fifth-largest city, contemplating the damage from all the violence. But the sentiment was not just sadness. Furious, and perhaps a bit frightened, Jorritsma called the rioters “the scum of the Earth” and warned that the country could be “on our way to civil war.” The protests in nearly a dozen Dutch cities erupted under the banner of rejecting stricter measures to […]

China’s Xi Jinping, top left, and European leaders during a video conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 30, 2020 (Pool photo by Johanna Geron via AP Images).

If “European strategic autonomy” were a hashtag, it would be trending. But it’s a phrase that has as many different meanings as there are people using it. At the most basic level, it refers to Europe’s ability to defend and advance its interests in a global arena increasingly characterized by strategic competition among great powers. How and in what areas it should do so, though, and to what ends, are the subject of a high-stakes debate still taking shape. The recently concluded investment agreement between the European Union and China highlights how the concept of European strategic autonomy has moved […]

Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, in Duesseldorf, Germany, Aug. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Martin Meissner).

BERLIN—German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s preferred successor, Armin Laschet, might have won the leadership of her center-right Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, but he still faces an uphill battle to lead the country’s most powerful political force into a general election in September—the first of the post-Merkel era. Though it was billed as a tight race, Laschet comfortably won Saturday’s intra-party election to succeed fellow Merkel ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as leader of the CDU. After a close first round earlier in the day eliminated reformist candidate Norbert Rottgen, Laschet rallied to win a runoff against Friedrich Merz, a right-leaning businessman and […]

Masks depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left of Putin, at a street souvenir shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 17, 2021 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

U.S. President Joe Biden’s first opportunity to pivot away from Donald Trump’s often cozy approach to Russia came just days before he took office. The Kremlin’s swift detention of President Vladimir Putin’s chief critic, Alexei Navalny, when he returned to Moscow on Sunday—five months after surviving a failed assassination attempt—presents Biden with perhaps unwelcome pressure to respond quickly. But it also gives his administration the chance to accelerate its goal of reversing four years of silence on Russia from the White House and simultaneously restarting diplomatic coordination with much-neglected European allies. Navalny’s decision to return to Russia was either foolish […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-Vice President Joe Biden at the chancellery in Berlin, Feb. 1, 2013 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

Joe Biden’s election as U.S. president was greeted with deep relief in Berlin, as it was in most other European capitals. After Donald Trump’s presidency—which was characterized by animosity toward Germany and repeated attempts to sow division among European countries—German policymakers hope that some immediate sources of tension can now be resolved, such as Trump’s tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports or the long-running trans-Atlantic dispute over aerospace subsidies. There are also multiple opportunities for Germany to collaborate on key strategic challenges with Biden, a committed multilateralist and Atlanticist, who has repeatedly underlined the value of a strong and […]

French President Emmanuel Macron looks up at a statue of Gen. Charles de Gaulle during a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, in Paris, May 8, 2020 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Emmanuel Macron’s election as French president in May 2017 was celebrated by observers in France and around the world as a victory for pro-European liberalism over the wave of nationalist populism that had been sweeping across the continent in the decade following the global financial crisis. As if to underscore that theme, at his post-election victory celebration in the courtyard of the Louvre, Macron’s campaign team distributed European Union flags to the young candidate’s supporters as the Ode to Joy, the EU’s anthem, played. In the early months and years of his presidency, Macron made clear that he planned to […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, center left, enter a hall for talks, in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The last time China’s most famous billionaire, Jack Ma, was seen in public was October. It was an appearance that did not please the regime in Beijing. The founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba—something of a Chinese Jeff Bezos—may have grown too confident and too powerful for the Chinese Communist Party, which may have decided it was time to not just silence him and limit his power, but to send a message to other potential critics with wealth and influence. It would not be the first time that China has used repressive tactics to put elites in their place. And it […]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Dec. 10, 2020 (AFP pool photo by John Thys via AP Images).

Despite prevailing early sentiment that the coronavirus pandemic and the anxieties associated with it could further fracture the European Union as a tumultuous Brexit process wound to a close, the bloc now finds itself more integrated and united than it has been in years. As COVID-19 spread across the continent last year, mainstream EU leaders overcame their differences and found compromises on politically sensitive issues, ranging from pandemic recovery to climate change to the rule of law—and even a last-minute post-Brexit trade agreement with the United Kingdom. The many populist and euroskeptic parties that enjoyed surging support in the aftermath […]

Nathalie Tocci at the Munich Security Conference, February 2019 (Photo by Mueller/MSC).

The trans-Atlantic relationship has suffered during the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, largely due to Trump’s hostility toward the European Union, which he saw as a trade competitor, and toward the NATO alliance, which he saw as a costly liability. The tensions that have arisen under Trump have made the debate in Brussels and across the EU over European strategic autonomy all the more urgent, especially in the past year. With the arrival in the White House of President-elect Joe Biden, many observers expect the return of smoother relations between the U.S. and its European allies. But what will […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden, right, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the 51st Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Matthias Schrader).

International expectations are high for Joe Biden’s presidency, but perhaps nowhere more than in Europe, where political leaders and observers see an opportunity to revitalize the trans-Atlantic relationship after years of drift and then downright antagonism under Donald Trump. They have reason to be optimistic. Biden and his pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, are confirmed Atlanticists. They recognize that, despite Asia’s rise, the United States and Europe are still the load-bearing pillars of any open and stable international system. The president-elect has pleased Europeans so far by pledging to return to the Paris Agreement on climate change, remain […]

President Faustin-Archange Touadera, center, speaks to the media after casting his vote in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 27, 2020 (AP photo).

BANGUI, Central African Republic—On the evening of Dec. 27, poll workers here in the capital of the Central African Republic were busy tabulating votes from presidential and legislative elections that were held that day. Many worked in dark classrooms without electricity, using their cellphone lights to check ballots. Then, an explosion rang out, forcing them to briefly stop their work. Was it artillery fire? A grenade? In a city traumatized by seven years of violent conflict, and more recently by a surging rebel coalition threatening to advance on Bangui, many residents were not immediately sure what to expect. The cause […]

European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

If the European Union were a country, it would have the second-largest GDP in the world, ahead of China and just behind the United States. But it has consistently struggled to leverage its economic heft into geopolitical clout, at times due to internal divisions among member states over strategic priorities, but also because of their reluctance to relinquish control over sensitive questions of foreign and defense policy to Brussels. The debate over whether the EU should embrace a global role, how it can do so and what role it should play if it does has taken on greater urgency in […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Aug. 25, 2016 (pool photo by Kayhan Ozer for Presidential Press Service, via AP).

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office later this month, many U.S. allies and partners are eyeing an opportunity for better relations with Washington. But Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will face an uphill battle to settle its ongoing disputes with the United States, not to mention its other NATO allies. There are three major impediments to a reset in Turkey’s ties with the West. First, the U.S. remains at loggerheads with Turkey over Erdogan’s decision to purchase an advanced missile defense system from Russia. Second, the European Union is considering tough sanctions against Ankara […]

President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

VIENNA—As the clock ticks down to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration this month, hopes are high that he will rejoin and preserve key arms control agreements that were abandoned or neglected by the outgoing president, Donald Trump. If Biden can successfully reverse course, it will go a long way to restoring America’s credibility, given that Trump has “bankrupted the United States’ word in the world,” as Biden put it in Foreign Affairs last March. “On nonproliferation and nuclear security, the United States cannot be a credible voice while it is abandoning the deals it negotiated,” he wrote. But how straightforward […]

An area of the U.N. headquarters that houses the Security Council is closed off to members of the media during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart M. Patrick, who will return next week. What lies in store for the United Nations Security Council in 2021? People unfamiliar with the council’s inner workings might be surprised to learn how much of it is routine, as diplomats update mandates for ongoing peace operations and sanctions regimes on a pre-set schedule. But unforeseen wars and crises always force their way onto the agenda. Addressing incoming diplomats of the council’s temporary members at an event in Brussels in December 2019, I warned that they must expect to address at […]