NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. President Joe Biden pose with other leaders for a group photo during the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, June 29, 2022 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

NATO leaders gathered this week at a summit in Madrid to adopt a New Strategic Concept, a framework that sets out the alliance’s core priorities for the next decade. But the Madrid gathering was in other ways historic, ushering in further expansion of the alliance after Turkey lifted its veto of Sweden’s and Finland’s membership bids. The U.S. also pledged to deploy more troops, warplanes and naval vessels as part of the alliance’s largest military buildup since the Cold War, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ramifications of the summit will be most obvious on NATO’s eastern flank, with […]

Students standing behind a banner reading “Enraged Youth” hung on the facade of the Sorbonne, Paris, April 14, 2022 (Sipa photo via AP Images).

Three days after the first round of the French presidential elections in April, students occupied the Sorbonne University building in Paris. Their banners and posters displayed a recurrent slogan: “Neither Macron nor Le Pen,” referring to center-right President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who passed through to the second-round vote in a rematch of their 2017 contest. As police cleared the building after 30 hours of occupation, both presidential candidates vehemently criticized the demonstration. But the protests quickly spread, with students across France expressing their dissatisfaction at having to once again choose between candidates from the center-right and […]

Families of victims of the Ballymurphy massacre react after an inquest ruled that 10 people killed during a military operation in west Belfast 50 years ago were “entirely innocent,” Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 11, 2021 (AP photo by Peter Morrison).

BELFAST, Northern Ireland—For the past 15 years, Northern Ireland has held a special “Day of Reflection” on June 21, when people stop to remember the 3,500 people killed during “The Troubles.” That understated shorthand refers to the four decades of conflict pitting British soldiers, police and pro-British loyalist gunmen against the Irish nationalist Provisional Irish Republican Army, or PIRA—a conflict that finally ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. This year, the Day of Reflection was particularly poignant, as it marked the 50th anniversary of the Troubles’ most bloody year, 1972, when 479 people were killed in the U.K. […]

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).

On June 8, Algeria suspended its Friendship and Neighborliness Treaty with Spain, in response to Madrid’s recent alignment with Morocco on the Western Sahara conflict. While the suspension of the treaty so far excludes contracts for gas, of which Algeria is Spain’s biggest supplier, it could jeopardize relations with the European Union. But with the change in Madrid’s position, Algeria felt it had to act to send a message, even if it comes at considerable cost. At first glance, the tensions might come as a surprise. Algeria should be riding high from the recent increase in global gas prices that […]

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greet each other at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Kigali, Rwanda, June 24, 2022 (AP photo by Muhizi Olivier).

After having been twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, or CHOGM, opened today in Kigali, Rwanda. The gathering will feature high-level meetings of government leaders from the Commonwealth of Nations, a 54-member association of countries, most of which are former territories of the British Empire. In addition to more than 35 heads of state and government from Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Americas and the Caribbean, this year’s meeting—the first in Africa since 2007—will be attended by an estimated 8,000 guests, including official delegations and top business executives. The leaders’ summit was also preceded by […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy receives a questionnaire to begin the process for his country’s application for EU membership from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Kyiv, Ukraine, April 8, 2022 (AP photo by Adam Schreck).

The European Union’s 27 leaders have formally approved candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova to join the union, marking the first step toward full EU membership for the two countries. The move has renewed a contentious debate within the EU over expansion, given the longstanding assumption that there would be no movement toward any EU enlargement until at least 2024. “Even a month or so ago the idea that Ukraine might get candidate status seemed quite far-fetched to many,” noted one EU diplomat. EU members from the bloc’s east have pushed for Ukraine’s candidate status to be expedited since Russian […]

Fabrice Leggeri, the then-head of Frontex, arrives at a press conference at Frontex offices in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2016 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

If there were a contest for leaving office in the most undignified way possible, Fabrice Leggeri would surely be an odds-on favorite to win. After a long battle to hold onto his position as director of Frontex, the European Union’s border and coast guard agency, Leggeri was forced to resign on April 29 under murky circumstances. Faced with accusations that he had covered up attempts by Greek coast guard units assisted by Frontex to “push back” rather than rescue refugees at sea, Leggeri had spent months engaged in desperate career maneuvers that had more than a passing resemblance to episodes […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, listens to Chinese President Xi Jinping during press statements at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 5, 2017 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a once-hesitant Germany was shocked into reorienting its national security posture. In response to Moscow’s aggression, Chancellor Olaf Scholz proceeded to announce the creation of a 100-billion-euro supplemental fund for the German military, halt the approval of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and support international sanctions and energy embargoes against Russia. This same sensibility, in which crisis and opportunity converge, has also reinvigorated the long-standing debate in Germany over the country’s dependence on trade with China. Various factions within the Ampelkoalition, or the “traffic light coalition” government made up of […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a press conference at the Mariyinsky palace, Kyiv, Ukraine, June 16, 2022 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

French President Emmanuel Macron came under heavy criticism recently for suggesting that Europe must find a way to broker a settlement to the war in Ukraine that avoids “humiliating” Russia. Macron subsequently clarified that he staunchly supports Ukraine’s war efforts, which France has been actively assisting, including by providing weapons shipments. But Macron’s comments, which draw on bad historical analogies to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and its treatment of Germany following World War I, still raised concerns. And the fact that it is not the first time he has had to clarify his remarks on the conflict revived questions […]

Demonstrators protest outside Hillsborough Castle ahead of a visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland, May 16, 2022 (AP photo by Peter Morrison).

The European Commission yesterday launched legal action against the U.K. after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government tabled a bill that would undo major agreements the U.K. committed to as part of the Brexit divorce deal it signed with the European Union. The latest escalation in the dispute between London and Brussels could lead to a full cancelation of the EU-U.K. free trade deal, opening the door to the dreaded “no-deal Brexit” that the trade agreement was intended to avoid. The EU’s legal challenge comes in response to unilateral moves by the U.K to rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland protocol […]

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum for a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Feb. 16, 2022.

Back in February, when French President Emmanuel Macron announced that troops from France’s Barkhane mission as well as the European Union’s Takuba task force  would be withdrawn from Mali, Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum raised eyebrows by declaring that Niger would welcome the French and European troops on its territory. Since then, legislators in Niger passed a bill that authorizes the government to host more European troops in the country as part of the French-led regional counterterrorism operations. But the move has drawn considerable opposition from a wide array of Nigeriens, including figures from the political opposition, civil society groups and […]

Syrian refugees sit in a train and read a local newspaper with special pages in Arabic for refugees, Berlin, Sept. 9, 2015.

They were noticeable for seeming slightly lost at the train stations where they arrived and were greeted by volunteers providing assistance. A call from friends trying to find a place to stay for a recently arrived family would lead to a collective scramble to contact local welfare agencies. In the months that followed, chance meetings at a bar, football match or the workplace would lead a circle of friends to extend invitations to some of the newcomers, who in time would become familiar faces. Germany in the summer and autumn of 2015? Yes, but not only. And when traveling around […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the U.S. Congress by video to plead for support, March 16, 2022.

On the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, amid the cacophony of war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he heard the “sound of a new Iron Curtain” falling across Europe. That message resounded loudly in Washington and across Europe, where ever since the West has framed the war in ideological terms: Autocratic Russia, they explain, is waging a brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, because the latter aspired to follow the Western model of liberal democracy. As such, the world must help Ukraine to defend itself—or risk imperiling the entire “free world.” This strategic narrative has been very effective in mobilizing the United […]

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump upended what was once a relatively staid global economic and trade system. For all of the upheaval he created, though, Trump left office with only one clear-cut accomplishment: an updated NAFTA deal. And even as Trump sowed chaos in America’s trade relationships, most of the world reinforced its commitment to trade liberalization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attend a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 16, 2022.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, don’t agree on much when it comes to foreign policy, even if they sometimes exhibit similar populist styles. Bolsonaro is a right-wing firebrand who rails against “socialism” and was a close regional ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump. As for AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is known, despite his fiscal and social conservatism domestically, he tends to lean left internationally. He is friends with Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and he provided asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019 when Morales fled […]

A Ukrainian soldier looks at a drone screen showing Russian troop positions during heavy fighting at the front line in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, June 8, 2022 (AP photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak).

The war in Ukraine has led to a fundamental shift in public perceptions of the military utility of drones. Until now, most people saw drones either as a more or less harmless toy with certain implications for privacy on one hand, and as a complex military system that roams the skies searching for terrorists on the other. The proliferation of drones and the accompanying high-resolution videos of their exploits in Ukraine has blurred these borders. Modified commercial drones easily available in most electronics store across the world are dropping grenades on tanks and dismounted troops, while acting as accurate spotters […]

Nadia Calvino, Spain’s minister for economic affairs and digital transformation, speaks at the presentation of the Spain Audiovisual Hub Plan, at the Cine Dore, in Madrid, Spain, March 24, 2021 (Europa Press photo via AP).

In early May, the government of Spain wined and dined 40 Hollywood executives during a week of conferences, meetings and visits as part of the country’s aim to become the audiovisual hub of Europe. (In the interests of transparency, I was the master of ceremonies for the first two days of conferences, which took place in Madrid.) Making it easier for U.S. filmmakers to shoot in Spain is good for business and jobs, but it is also a smart public diplomacy move. Rather than simply running a PR campaign to remind Hollywood of all the reasons why film productions should […]

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