A girl wearing Kurdish colors waits with her mother in a queue at a polling station during a vote for Kurdish independence, in Kirkuk, Sept. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

On Nov. 22, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the Confederation of British Industry, a local business organization, in a speech that was intended to focus on the U.K.’s role in the “green industrial revolution”—the global shift to environmentally friendly energies and technologies. Instead, the talk quickly collapsed into incoherent rambling. At one point, Johnson, having lost his place in his notes, even went on a tangent about his love of Peppa Pig World­, a family theme park based on the well-known children’s cartoon.  This was undoubtedly comedic, but as the country reveled in the prime minister’s latest embarrassment, I couldn’t help […]

The United Nations Security Council meets, New York, Nov. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Editor’s note: Guest columnists Richard Gowan and Pyotr Kurzin are filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. The United Nations Security Council may be about to pass its first-ever resolution on the implications of climate change for peace and security. The council has talked about climate security since 2007, and it has acknowledged that environmental challenges such as droughts and degradation of farming land can fuel conflicts in regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. But it has not laid out a systematic approach to assessing these risks or responding to them. This could be about to change, as Niger […]

Women march while holding a banner calling for the abolition of prostitution at the Plaza Fuente Dorada in Valladolid, Spain, Oct. 17, 2021 (Europa Press photo by Claudia Alba via AP Images).

MADRID—Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is vowing to outlaw prostitution, arguing that it “enslaves” women. While Spain decriminalized the practice in 1995, Sanchez’s Socialist Party now wants to go the way of Sweden, where it is illegal to buy sex but not to sell it.  The Spanish government’s about-face illustrates how in the past few decades, Europe has become a laboratory for policies to address not only prostitution itself, but also the ways in which it goes hand-in-hand with human trafficking. Whereas countries like Norway and France have followed Sweden’s lead in trying to ban the practice on the demand […]

Milorad Dodik, the president of the Republika Srpska, inspects an honor guard during a parade marking the 26th anniversary of the Republika Srpska in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, Jan. 9, 2018 (AP photo by Amel Emric).

Bosnia-Herzegovina could be on the brink of a political collapse that triggers a new conflagration in the Balkans. There is a growing consensus among experts that this is the country’s most dangerous moment since the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended a war that cost 100,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people. Analysts also say stability in the Balkans has been eroded recently by the disengagement of the European Union and United States. “The prospects for further division and conflict are very real,” the international community’s chief representative in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, wrote in a report to the United Nations that was […]

John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, speaks with Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit, during a stock-taking plenary session at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 13, 2021 (AP photo Alberto Pezzali).

As former U.S. President Barack Obama once mused, there are times in global diplomacy, as in baseball, when “hitting singles” is adequate. This month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow was not one of those moments. With the fate of the planet on the line, world leaders should have been swinging for the fences. Instead, they played small ball, chalking up only incremental gains rather than the historic breakthrough the occasion demanded.  Going into the Glasgow summit, the United Nations Environment Program had delivered some blunt news: The world’s emissions reduction pledges before COP26 accounted for only one-seventh of the reduction actually needed to […]

Polish soldiers sit on an army vehicle as they drive past a checkpoint close to the border with Belarus in Kuznica, Poland, Nov. 16, 2021 (AP photo by Matthias Schrader).

There is cautious optimism in Brussels that the temperature seems to be dialing down on the crises with Belarus and Russia on the EU’s eastern border, as Minsk takes a step back in its long-running border standoff with Warsaw and Moscow has not yet made any military incursion into Ukraine, despite once again massing troops on the border. But there is also a feeling in Brussels and across the continent that the events of the past few weeks are a harbinger of dark days ahead. EU defense ministers met Tuesday to discuss both the “hybrid warfare” by Belarus at the […]

A military band performs during the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival in Red Square, Moscow, Aug. 31, 2021 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Russian President Vladimir Putin is often said to be “playing a weak hand well.” But according to Kathryn Stoner, a Russia expert at Stanford University, this conventional analysis is incomplete. She argues that not only does Moscow hold better cards than many Western observers might think, it is also more willing to play them, even the risky ones. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Stoner sat down with WPR’s Elliot Waldman to discuss her recently published book, “Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order.” Listen to the full conversation here: If you like what you […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit via videoconference in Moscow, Nov. 12, 2021 (Sputnik pool photo by Mikhail Metzel via AP).

Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has reestablished itself as a force to be reckoned with on the global stage, intervening forcefully not only in former Soviet republics on its periphery, but also in global hotspots like Syria and Libya. Despite Russia’s resurgence, some Western leaders have a noticeable tendency to dismiss it as an overrated, overhyped power. John McCain, the late U.S. senator, famously quipped that Russia is a “gas station masquerading as a country.” U.S. President Joe Biden may have been channeling McCain when he said in July that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “sitting on […]

Conservative independent candidate Peter Marki-Zay celebrates his victory in the opposition primary race, in Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 17, 2021 (AP photo by Laszlo Balogh).

In 2018, opposition candidate Peter Marki-Zay’s surprise victory in a mayoral by-election in the small town of Hodmezovasarhely pushed Hungary’s opposition into a half-hearted bid to cooperate in that year’s parliamentary vote. However, the effort never got off the ground, leaving Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to stroll to yet another two-thirds supermajority. Now, with months to go before the next elections, a diverse slate of six opposition parties insist that this time, they’re determined to unite in a bid to finally defeat Orban’s illiberal regime, which has ruled the country since 2010. Last month, the United Opposition selected […]

Polish border guards stand near barbed wire as migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere gather at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Nov. 10, 2021 (BelTA pool photo by Ramil Nasibulin, via AP).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your inbox. There is growing frustration across Europe with the European Union’s slow reaction to what the bloc’s leaders are calling “hybrid warfare” at its eastern border with Belarus. But fraught relations with Poland, the member country most affected by the crisis, are complicating a collective response, with growing concerns that a further round of sanctions […]

Climate protesters demonstrate outside the local government legislature’s offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The standard, “flirting with apocalypse” narrative that dominates U.S. media coverage and political debates regarding climate change goes something like this: China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, and India, which is lightly industrialized and still quite substantially poor, currently represent the biggest threats to saving the environment. The supposedly more altruistic West, by contrast, is prepared to make huge investments to forestall disaster. People who cling to this all-too-easy framing correctly say that if the world’s two most-populous countries do not radically constrain their carbon output, nothing the United States or Europe can do, including rapidly attaining net-zero […]

Students protest outside the National Assembly to demand a larger budget for university education, Quito, Ecuador, Sept. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

On Oct. 27, Rishi Sunak, the U.K.’s chancellor of the exchequer, announced the government’s education budget, including additional spending earmarked to help students overcome the disruptions introduced by the coronavirus pandemic. Though billed as a boost to education expenditures, as Sunak himself admitted, the government’s current plans would only return per pupil spending—which was cut drastically as part of broader budgetary austerity imposed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis—to 2010 levels by 2024. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson told the Financial Times, Sunak’s spending plan reflects the “remarkable lack of priority” given to education […]

U.S. President Joe Biden, center, speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Tensions within NATO over the past two decades have led some to assert that the old military alliances of the 20th century are a thing of the past. Soon, the argument goes, they will give way to looser, ad hoc groupings like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States; the AUKUS security pact among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States; or other “coalitions of the willing” formed to address specific concerns, like those that intervened in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. To be sure, the past 30 years have punched some […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, attend an official welcome ceremony in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

In a little more than a month, on Dec. 24, Libyan voters will go to the polls to elect a new president, and after a decadelong civil war it is probably stating the obvious to say that they face tough choices. Among the candidates they can vote for are Gen. Khalifa Haftar, an accused war criminal backed by Russia and the United Arab Emirates, and Saif Gadhafi, the son of a murdered dictator and an accused war criminal himself, who has also been courted by Russia and the UAE.  The other three presidential candidates all have foreign backers of their own, including the U.S., […]

Young climate campaigners take part in a protest to coincide with the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, in central London, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

There is still a week to go before the scheduled conclusion of COP26, but that has not stopped climate change activist Greta Thunberg from declaring this year’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, “a failure.” Thunberg castigated the world’s wealthy countries for “giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets,” while refusing to take the kind of drastic action that scientists agree is necessary to avert a global catastrophe. Earlier this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman sat down with Stewart Patrick, a WPR columnist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, to discuss some of this week’s developments from Glasgow, […]

People protesting against Italy’s COVID-19 Green Pass walk past customers sitting at a cafe in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping arcade, Milan, Italy, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Antonio Calanni).

Half a decade ago, Europe’s far-right politicians and their parties found themselves enjoying a promising set of circumstances. Just as the continent was struggling to recover from a deep recession, huge numbers of refugees started crossing its borders. It was an ideal combination for nationalist populists, who used the ensuing rise in xenophobic sentiment to boost their political fortunes. But then the refugee flows eased, and economies started to recover. As the far-right parties’ influence waned, they began to ask: Could they find new controversies to continue fueling their ascent? Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. Across Europe, the far right has […]

Activists from Extinction Rebellion take part in a demonstration near the site of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

World leaders are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for what many consider the most important climate change talks in global history. COP26, as this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference is known, is the largest diplomatic gathering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The negotiations are meant to be based on scientific findings and policy proposals—not entirely apolitical, but less politically tinged than, say, discussions concerning transnational migration or human rights violations. That’s because, when it comes to climate change, countries are judged on the merits of their plans, not their political systems or their respect for civil liberties. While […]

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