A plenary session at the NATO summit in Watford, England, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The future of European security over the next decade could hinge on the outcome of two separate elections taking place outside the continent in the next few days. One poll, the parliamentary elections in Georgia on Oct. 31, could very well shape whether and when NATO next goes to war. The other, the presidential election in the United States on Nov. 3, will likely determine if NATO’s trans-Atlantic alliance even survives. Whatever the outcome in both cases, it’s a foregone conclusion that come 2021, NATO’s European members are going to have to make some very hard decisions about their collective […]

A collection of posts that were removed from Instagram after Facebook, the owner of Instagram, concluded that they originated from Russia and had links to the Internet Research Agency, photographed in Washington, March 4, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

Foreign interference in this year’s U.S. election may not be as rampant as it was in 2016, but various Russian actors are adopting more sophisticated tactics, says Shelby Grossman, a research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory. One new method, which the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency workshopped with a series of operations in African countries last year, is to outsource its content creation to local journalists and organizations. Grossman joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to talk about how these tactics are being used to polarize electorates in the U.S. and around the world. Listen […]

A security guard stands outside a voting center in San Francisco, Oct. 20, 2020 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

This year’s election season in the U.S. has been unusual in many ways, unfolding against the backdrop of a raging global pandemic, a historic economic recession and an incumbent president who is willing to discard America’s democratic norms. But there is one thing that has become predictable about recent U.S. elections, and sadly, other polls around the world: the torrent of misinformation that inevitably seems to accompany them. At the same time, the modalities of how misinformation spreads aren’t necessarily consistent across elections. According to Shelby Grossman, a political scientist and research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory, foreign influence […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, in Moscow, June 24, 2020 (pool photo by Sergey Pyatakov via AP).

From mass protests in Belarus to political chaos in Kyrgyzstan to the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia is surrounded by mounting instability. According to Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Institute for Scholars, President Vladimir Putin and his top advisers only have themselves to blame for these crises on Russia’s periphery, given their active assertion of “veto rights” over political outcomes that they find unfavorable, including any signs that a country is realigning away from Russia and toward the West. In many cases, this has meant staunch […]

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

Despite President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project the image that Russia is a productive and internationally engaged great power, recent developments on the country’s periphery suggest, if anything, a decline in the Kremlin’s influence. In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko is clinging to power despite the regular chants from thousands of protesters demanding he resign. Intense fighting has erupted again between Armenia and Azerbaijan, over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. And Kyrgyzstan is in chaos after protests forced the country’s Russia-friendly leader, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, to resign last week. This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Matthew Rojansky, […]

French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint news conference with Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Oct. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken an activist approach recently to a range of thorny and persistent challenges in and around Europe. As part of that agenda, he has been at the forefront of efforts to confront Russia and Turkey over their neo-imperialist policies. In both cases, Macron has taken a hands-on role, putting himself in the spotlight with high-profile initiatives and tough rhetoric. But that is the only common feature of his highly personalized diplomacy. France has different goals with Russia and Turkey. It has therefore played its hand differently in the two cases, with differing results. France’s relations […]

A soldier walks among debris from destroyed houses in Ganja, Azerbaijan, Oct. 17, 2020 (AP photo).

Until late last month, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh had been mostly frozen, with occasional skirmishes, for over a quarter of a century. One notable exception was the April 2016 “four-day war,” a brief but intense period of fighting that left over 200 people dead and was followed by claims of victory from both sides. The recent fighting that erupted on Sept. 27 has been much more intense; over 600 soldiers have been killed on the Armenian side alone, along with scores of civilians and an undisclosed number of Azerbaijani personnel. While the […]

Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar joins a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Thanassis Stavrakis).

Nearly a decade into Libya’s grinding civil war, it seems next to impossible to imagine stability, let alone a political settlement. The country is as torn as ever between the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli, which is backed militarily by Turkey, and the rival forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s breakaway Libyan National Army, backed by a motley crew of Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France. Libya, which before the war was among the world’s top oil-exporting countries, with billions in hydrocarbon reserves, is today oil-rich, revenue-poor and teetering on the brink of irretrievable collapse. The […]

Sweden’s then-foreign minister, Carl Bildt, at a press briefing in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 8, 2014 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

“On foreign and defense policy, absolutely, there is an ambition to be more united, and that vision is shared by all of the member countries,” says Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, about the European Union. “Then in practice, as you’ve seen, there are divergences, and they are more or less clear in different areas.” Those divergences have frustrated advocates of a more forceful EU that operates on the world stage with “strategic autonomy,” a phrase Mr. Bildt finds “confuses more than it clarifies.” But he adds, as someone who has “been watching these things for a […]

Sweden's then-foreign minister, Carl Bildt, during a press conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 5, 2014 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

Strategic autonomy has long been a recurring refrain for advocates of a more forceful European Union on the global stage. Upon taking office in December 2019, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that hers would be a “geopolitical commission.” The sense of urgency has only grown since then. Ongoing tensions with Russia over its role in Eastern Europe and new ones with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean have called attention to the threats the EU faces in its own neighborhood. Managing strained ties with the United States and defining the new terms of relations with the post-Brexit United […]

A woman walks past American, United Arab Emirates, Israeli and Bahraini flags on the Peace Bridge in Netanya, Israel, Sept. 14, 2020 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

The Middle East is “a place that is both remarkably impervious to change…and at the same time always sort of on the verge of an explosion, where you always think that something quite catastrophic could happen,” says Robert Malley, president and CEO of International Crisis Group and a former special adviser on the region to former President Barack Obama. This volatility grows out of the tension between popular demands for greater responsiveness and accountability from governments, especially since the 2011 uprisings, and the “sclerotic nature…of the Middle East system,” Malley explains. “On the one hand, it’s the stagnation that leads […]