Pensioners attend an opposition rally in Minsk, Belarus, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo).

KYIV, Ukraine—After Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on the mass protests that erupted last August in opposition to his clumsily rigged reelection victory, many Western countries spoke up in dismay at the level of repression he unleashed. More than 30,000 people have been arrested, according to human rights groups, and brutal beatings of detainees are common. In response, the United States and the European Union imposed several rounds of sanctions, targeting scores of Belarusian officials with asset freezes and travel bans, while issuing statements emphasizing the Belarusian people’s right to a fair vote. But more than six months later, […]

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, attends a videoconference meeting as U.S. President Joe Biden appears on a screen, Paris, Feb. 19, 2021 (pool photo by Benoit Tessier via AP Images).

“First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking,” candidate Joe Biden said last September in a campaign interview about America’s European allies. “If elected I’m going to … get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back, you can count on us.” In the end, he delivered his franchise tag line not by phone, but in a video address to a “special edition” of the Munich Security Conference during his first round of trans-Atlantic diplomacy last week. And he added a slight twist: “America is back. The trans-Atlantic alliance is back.” The […]

Martin Helme, head of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, or EKRE, makes a hand gesture that is often associated with white supremacy at an event in Tallinn, Estonia, May 2, 2019 (Aripaev photo by Liis Treimann via AP Images).

On Jan. 13, the government of Estonia fell, after then-Prime Minister Juri Ratas resigned over allegations of corruption and influence-peddling that implicated his Centre Party. The party did not remain out of government for long, however. A few days later, it joined a “grand coalition” government dominated by moderates and headed by Estonia’s first woman prime minister, Kaja Kallas of the center-right Reform Party. The change in government was perhaps more significant for what it means for the far-right Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, which prior to entering Ratas’ government had been treated as a pariah in Estonian politics. Known […]

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, is greeted by European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnists Kate Jones and Emily Taylor are filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. It’s been an astounding start to 2021 for Big Tech. Not only does the power of companies like Twitter and Facebook now extend to denying a platform to a sitting American president, but the market value of the top 30 U.S. tech companies is now the same as the annual GDP of Europe’s five largest economies. It all raises a familiar question: How long will tech giants be allowed to grow like this, seemingly unchecked and unaccountable? Fortunately, moves are already afoot on […]

Police respond at the scene of a shooting attack in Vienna, Nov. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

Six separate terrorist attacks took place in Europe between late September and late November of last year—three in France, and one each in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. All six attacks were inspired by Salafi-jihadist ideology, which is, and will remain, a persistent terrorism threat to Europe and elsewhere in the West for the foreseeable future. Listen to this article:[soundcloud]989395033[/soundcloud] Among the incidents in France was a stabbing attack outside the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which has published caricatures of religious figures, including the prophet Muhammad, and where al-Qaida-affiliated gunmen killed 12 staff members in 2015. […]

Police set up a roadblock during a rally protesting the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Oct. 18, 2020 (AP photo).

After Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term last August in an election that was widely decried as rigged, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand his resignation. Rather than capitulate or compromise, Lukashenko unleashed a reign of terror that has included arbitrary arrests, torture, psychological abuse and other ill-treatment of protesters. That is one of the main factors that has allowed the aging dictator to remain in power despite the unrest, says Dan Peleschuk, a freelance journalist who himself was imprisoned for two days in Minsk last summer while attempting to cover the protests. […]

From left, Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian President Janos Ader and Czech President Milos Zeman, during a summit in the Hel Peninsula, Poland, Feb. 9, 2021 (Photo by Jakub Szymczuk for KPRP via AP Images).

Today, the United States’ relations with Central Europe are at an inflection point. Much of the recent media coverage in the region has focused on how Washington’s influence might wane if President Joe Biden picks a fight with the governments of Hungary and Poland, whose leaders had cultivated close ties with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, Biden bemoaned the recent trajectory of democratic decline and the erosion of checks and balances on executive power in those countries. Meanwhile, illiberal leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski are suspicious of Biden’s pledges to make human rights […]

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

Just over six months ago, Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, was declared the winner of a presidential election. Like others before it, the outcome of the Aug. 9 vote was not in question—official results showed Lukashenko winning just over 80 percent of the ballots despite widespread reports of voter fraud and the violent suppression of opposition supporters. What happened next, though, was unprecedented. In the weeks and months after the rigged election, huge masses of people took to the streets of Minsk and other cities across Belarus to demand Lukashenko’s resignation, as well as the release of all […]

President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in support of Republican Senate candidates in Dalton, Georgia, Jan. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Brynn Anderson).

Over the past decade, illiberal populist leaders from across the political spectrum have won elections and taken power in many of the world’s biggest democracies, from the United States to India, the Philippines, Turkey and Brazil. Once in office, they have often undermined democratic norms and institutions, including the media, the judiciary, the civil service, and, in many cases, free and fair elections themselves. The rise of illiberal populism is a major reason why the annual “Freedom in the World” reports, published by the global watchdog organization Freedom House, have charted 14 straight years of global democratic regression. (I serve […]

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on foreign policy at the State Department, in Washington, Feb. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In his first foreign policy address as president, delivered last week at the State Department, Joe Biden drew the curtain on the disastrous Trump era, rededicating the United States to repairing its tattered alliances, reengaging the world and defending freedom. “We are ready to take up the mantle of global leadership yet again,” he declared. “America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.” The most novel aspect of Biden’s plainspoken speech was how he erased any clear distinction between foreign and domestic policy. The nation’s strength at home determines its success abroad—and vice versa. But […]

A man holds a poster in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny that reads, “One for all and all for one,” during a protest against the Navalny’s arrest, St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

During his 21 years in power, President Vladimir Putin has made a number of strategic missteps, but few will prove more consequential for him, his inner circle or indeed Russia itself than the jailing this week of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny. As evidenced by wave after wave of protests across Russia since Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Moscow last month, the Kremlin’s harsh response has only provoked more Russians to take to the streets. It has also united the United States and its NATO allies after years of policy disarray on dealing with Moscow. Yet even now that minds […]

Migrants from Morocco arrive on a beach at the southeastern coast of the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, Jan. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Javier Bauluz).

GRANADA, Spain—In the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only crisis that 2020 will be known for. Over the course of the year, more than 23,000 migrants arrived in the Spanish archipelago by boat from Africa—8,000 of them in November alone—while some 500 died attempting the journey. The images of thousands of migrants stranded on beaches with no place to go evoked inevitable comparisons to another crisis, in 2006, when a total of 34,000 people landed on the archipelago in small wooden boats known as cayucos. African migrants are being pushed toward this dangerous […]