Ban Ki-moon listens as John Bolton, then the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., speaks after Ban’s nomination to become secretary-general was approved, New York, Oct. 13, 2006 (AP photo by Stephen Chernin).

Is Ban Ki-moon the emblematic international figure of our times? This is probably not a proposition you have considered before. Although it is only 15 months since Ban ended his 10-year tenure as secretary-general of the United Nations, he feels like a distant memory. Ban was a cautious and often marginal figure in a world of mounting crises. While he played a significant role in ensuring the ratification of the Paris climate change agreement in his last year in office, he could only do so because the United States, China and other major states were on his side. A little […]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, Jared Kushner, left, and Jason Greenblatt listen as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the U.N. Security Council, New York, Feb. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

The United Nations has weathered the first phase of the Trump era, starting out 2018 in better shape than seemed possible a year ago. But U.S. relations with the U.N. could take a sharp and sudden turn for the worse quite soon. President Donald Trump took office promising to slash the U.N.’s budget and rip up international agreements. But he has often shied away from delivering on his direst threats. His ambassador in New York, Nikki Haley, has shaved significant sums off U.N. budgets but avoided more severe cuts that would halt the organization’s operations. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has […]

South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong speaks to reporters at the White House regarding an offer of a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Washington, March 8, 2018 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

This is an era of diplomatic bluster, bluff and buffering. The blusterers and bluffers get most of the attention. U.S. President Donald Trump is a master of the crude threat, encapsulated in his promise to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea. Yet such rhetoric is now the common currency of international affairs. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lambasted Trump as a “dotard.” Russian President Vladimir Putin boasts about his country’s unstoppable nuclear missiles. Foreign policy analysts, once accustomed to parsing the careful phrases of former U.S. President Barack Obama, now spend days trying to distinguish between meaningless […]