A Ukrainian soldier in the trench, on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Andriy Dubchak).

Beyond its immediate implications for European security, the current crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border highlights the enduring importance of state sovereignty as an ordering principle in world politics, notwithstanding frequent claims that globalization has rendered it obsolete. It also exposes the tendency of governments to invoke, dismiss or reinterpret this bedrock principle to suit their situational needs. In fact, global stability now depends on whether the United States and European Union are able to reaffirm and defend the centrality of state sovereignty against a Russian attempt to dismiss it. On one level, the Ukraine situation would seem to have turned […]

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony for a French soldier killed in action in Mali, at the Invalides monument in Paris, Sept. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Thibalt Camus).

When historians look back and try to explain how France lost its historical position as the dominant outside actor in West Africa, the oft-repeated line that Ernest Hemingway used to describe how one of his fictional characters went bankrupt will undoubtedly come to mind: gradually, then suddenly. The signs of a gradual deterioration of France's ties in the region have been apparent for some time. But if the past 12 months are any indication, 2022 might very well be the year that process comes to a head suddenly. Since May, military coups in Mali, Guinea and most recently Burkina Faso […]

Environmental activists protest against the European Union’s “greenwashing” of nuclear energy under the Euro sculpture in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 11, 2022 (AP photo by Michael Probst).

A brewing dispute within the European Union over which energy sources will be classified as “sustainable” in terms of member states’ investment toward the European Green Deal is putting Germany’s domestic energy politics in the spotlight. The issue is already creating tensions within the newly formed Ampelkoalition, or “traffic light coalition,” between the Social Democrats, the Greens and Free Democrats, and those internal fights are influencing Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s positioning vis-à-vis Russia in the current crisis over Ukraine.  Berlin’s approach to transitioning to renewable energy sources has often set the tone across the continent. Now its Energiewende, or energy revolution, has […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at his watch at the end of his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The United States and NATO have delivered written responses to  Russian demands for security guarantees, rejecting Moscow’s insistence on a withdrawal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe and an assurance that Ukraine will never be granted membership in the alliance. That firmly puts the ball back in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s court, while doing nothing to reduce the prospects of a Russian military invasion. Now European governments must consider the practical realities of what a war in Ukraine would mean, particularly in neighboring EU member states. Following a meeting of the NATO security council on Tuesday, Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav […]

U.S. President John F. Kennedy and President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana talk as they sit in a limousine at Washington National Airport on March 8, 1961 (AP photo).

Anyone with even a sketchy understanding of the Cold War knows that it was a time not only of intense direct competition between the reigning superpowers, but also of grand schemes by both the U.S. and USSR for integrating their allies and clients into adversarial blocs, as well as for poaching the partners of the rival power—especially in the developing world—into their own camp. Throughout much of this era, the West regarded professions of neutrality among poorer countries with skepticism or even outright hostility. Beginning with the Eisenhower administration, the view took hold in Washington that non-alignment was just a […]

Andre Ventura, leader of the populist, far-right Chega! party reacts to someone shouting “Fascist!” as he leaves the lectern in the Portuguese Parliament, Lisbon, Oct. 27, 2021 (AP photo by Armando Franca).

Holding elections under the pressure of a pandemic has become old hat for Portugal. When Portuguese citizens go to the polls for legislative elections on Jan. 30, it will be the third time they’ve done so since COVID-19 hit, after a presidential election in January 2021 and municipal elections in September 2021.  And yet, balancing democratic processes with pandemic control measures this time around will be more difficult than those previous exercises, with a record 1 million people—or 10 percent of the population—currently quarantining due to having tested positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with someone who has. In […]

Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera delivers his speech during his inaugural ceremony in Bangui, March 30, 2021 (AP photo by Adrienne Surprenant).

Once considered a marginal country in regional affairs, the Central African Republic has become a frequent topic of discussion in African security circles. The CAR is frequently cited as the jumping-off point on the continent for the Russian private military contractor the Wagner Group and the touchstone for the group’s involvement in other African countries. But with the group’s activities having now expanded to Mali, Sudan and Libya, the fixation on its flashy entrances into the region’s conflict zones has diverted international attention from a far more alarming development in Bangui: CAR’s increasingly precarious future. For a brief moment in […]

People wait in queues to receive cash at a money distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

International attention has been trained this week on Ukraine, where fears of an imminent outbreak of conflict have many observers worrying about the future of multilateralism in a period of strategic competition between the U.S., Russia and China. Yet an equally troubling bellwether for the future of multilateralism lies in the world’s collective failure to address the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.   Five months after the Taliban’s takeover, the international community appears no closer to an answer on how to manage its strategic interests in Afghanistan, from dealing with the Taliban to addressing the needs of millions of suffering Afghans. […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Jan. 21, 2022, Geneva, Switzerland (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

If Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of invading Ukraine, he sure has a funny way of showing it. Roughly 100,000 Russian troops remain massed on the two countries’ border, with units continuing to be deployed. And a joint Russian-Belarus military exercise scheduled for February is set to position even more still to Ukraine’s north, adding a potential vector of attack. Russian officials continue to deny that an invasion is imminent, but there is a palpable sense of foreboding across Europe and in Washington that the continent stands on the brink of what would be its first major interstate […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are seen on the screen during an online opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 25, 2021 (photo by An Khoun Sam Aun for the Ministry of

Early last December, the European Union unveiled its Global Gateway, a plan to spend up to 300 billion euros, or $340 billion, over the next six years financing major infrastructure projects around the world, particularly those to develop clean energy and combat climate change. Although the Global Gateway does not have an explicit focus in terms of specific countries, it prioritizes developing regions such as Southeast Asia.   The investment plan is just the latest expression of Europe’s heightened interest in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region more generally. In the past year, several European countries have released Indo-Pacific strategy […]

People demonstrate after the Polish parliament approved a bill that is widely viewed as an attack on media freedom, Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In September 2021, the Polish government declared a state of emergency along its border with Belarus, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in response to a large influx of migrants from countries including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The route and timing of the migrants’ journey into Europe was not random: They were assisted by the Belarusian authorities, led by the country’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994. Warsaw went on to accuse Minsk of engaging in “hybrid warfare” backed by Russia. Both the humanitarian crisis on Poland’s border, where migrants were left stranded in […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, in London, Jan. 19, 2022 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Over the past few weeks, a steady stream of revelations about parties held at No. 10 Downing Street during periods of government-mandated lockdown has British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fighting for his political life. The most damaging revelation yet came this week when the public learned that Johnson attended a “bring your own bottle,” or BYOB, party in the garden of No. 10, which doubles as the prime minister’s office and official residence, on May 20, 2020, during the U.K.’s most intense wave of coronavirus infections at the onset of the pandemic. The gathering almost certainly violated his own government’s lockdown rules, […]

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in front of the Soviet U.N. delegation headquarters, New York City, Sept. 22, 1960 (AP photo).

In 1956, then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev executed a sharp but largely forgotten reorientation in his country’s foreign policy. During the long decades under Josef Stalin, with the exception of its support for communist China, Moscow had focused almost all of its energy abroad in buttressing client states in Eastern Europe. But with one major speech, Khrushchev announced that the era of investing only in Russia’s “near abroad” was finished.  Taking his cues from the 1955 Asian-African Bandung Conference in Indonesia that launched the Non-Aligned Movement, and anticipating the huge wave of newly sovereign countries that would commence with Ghana’s independence […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Amid the looming threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western nations continue to use a wide-ranging toolkit of policy options, including diplomacy and security assistance, to avert the risk of a full-blown war in Eastern Europe. The U.K. is supplying short-range anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Canada is deploying a unit of special operations forces. And a delegation of U.S. senators met Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, followed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken today.  But while Western countries have reacted vocally to the buildup of 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, China has mostly kept silent. Speaking in […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson steps out of 10 Downing Street to welcome the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tarik al-Said, in London, Dec. 16, 2021 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

Novak Djokovic, Boris Johnson and Prince Andrew are in the spotlight this week, an unholy trinity dominating headlines around the world. Their stories are discrete and in many ways dissimilar, but all three have, in one way or another, let down the millions of people who looked to them for inspiration and guidance.  As I mentioned in my column last week, top-ranked tennis player and anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic caused a ruckus after he was allowed into Australia to compete in the Australian Open tennis tournament, despite not being double vaccinated, as is required for entry by the government. He then faced deportation after it […]

From left, Syrian women Samaa Mahmoud, Mariam Alhallak and Yasmen Almashan hold pictures of relatives who died in Syria, before the verdict in front of the court in Koblenz, Germany, Jan. 13, 2022 (AP photo by Martin Meissner).

The conviction by a German court last week of Anwar Raslan, a Syrian intelligence officer who oversaw the torture and murder of detainees in that country during the early years of its civil war, represents a high-water mark in the ongoing quest for accountability against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the difficulty of securing a war crimes conviction for even a mid-level bureaucrat like Raslan also underscores the difficulty of pursuing accountability for Assad himself. If it’s a long shot to prosecute a low-level perpetrator like Raslan, then how likely is it that Assad will ever be brought to […]

A supporter of the Polisario Front and Western Sahara waves a flag reading “Free Sahara,” Logrono, Spain, June 8, 2021 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

Maps have long played a crucial, symbolic role in the dispute over the Western Sahara. For years, because most world maps available elsewhere show the international border that separates Morocco from its coveted territory to the south, those that were sold in Morocco had to be separately manufactured for the domestic market, affecting everything from globes and atlases to toy puzzles and address books. It was no surprise, then, that shortly after the outgoing Trump administration recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory in December 2020, Moroccan newspapers and officials happily praised the United States’ new official map of Morocco when it was […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 281 2 Last