An ICBM launch control facility in the countryside outside Minot, North Dakota, June 24, 2014 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

The surprising election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has created countless new questions and concerns about the future of U.S. foreign policy. But perhaps nowhere are these concerns more acute than in Trump’s thoughts about nuclear weapons. While often inchoate and contradictory, Trump’s recent comments about strengthening and expanding U.S. nuclear capabilities, apparently welcoming an arms race with Russia, and possibly encouraging allies to develop their own nuclear deterrent have all caused great concern among defense analysts and foreign policy professionals, not to mention many within the U.S. government. Given the enormous stakes involved, it is […]

A crane rises next to the main tower of the Centenario deepwater drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico, Nov. 22, 2013 (AP photo by Dario Lopez-Mills).

On Dec. 5, Mexico held its first-ever auction for deepwater oil blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. A total of eight out of 10 blocks were awarded to various consortiums of leading international oil companies, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Total and Statoil. The Mexican government estimates that the offshore fields hold as much as 11 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. The tender brought some much-needed economic relief for Mexico. As 2016 comes to a close, the country faces the most severe crisis originating north of the border in the United States since the 2008 financial meltdown, in […]

President-elect Donald Trump at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Dec. 1, 2016 (AP photo by Darron Cummings).

When speculating about President-elect Donald Trump’s likely economic agenda, one must return to the popular view among many American voters that to create jobs and repair an ailing economy, turn to successful businessmen. Only they, not the professional political class, have the practical experience, instincts and strength needed to muster up better economic performance and job creation in areas like manufacturing. Why? Their business successes, according to this view, are easily transferable to solving a wide range of problems in the public sphere. There is an element of truth here. Businessmen like Trump instinctively see the economy from a microeconomic […]

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Palm Beach, Florida, Dec. 21, 2016. (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In last week’s column, I noted that some of the positions taken by President-elect Donald Trump during his bid for the White House, along with those of his key advisers like retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Stephen Bannon, reflect what has been called a “clash of civilizations” perspective. For those who subscribe to this framework, the U.S.-led and predominantly Christian West is under assault from Islam. The terrorism, violence and barbarity of organizations like the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida are not simply malignancies within Islam but signs of the religion’s inherent incompatibility with Western culture. Many advocates of […]

Security officials at the scene of a car bombing in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, Turkey, Dec. 17, 2016. (IHA via AP).

Last week, Turkey was hit by yet another terrorist attack, a car bombing that killed 13 soldiers and wounded 55 others in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri. Although quickly overshadowed days later by the assassination in Ankara of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, the bombing came just a week after a twin suicide bombing killed 44 policemen and wounded another 150 outside the Besiktas football stadium in Istanbul. While no immediate claim of responsibility has been issued for the Kayseri bombing, solid evidence points to the same perpetrators as the earlier Dec. 10 attack: the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a […]

President Barack Obama at a news conference at the White House in Washington, Dec. 16, 2016 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Yesterday China returned the U.S. Navy underwater drone it had seized last Friday in international waters in the South China Sea. The incident has been portrayed by critics of President Barack Obama as the latest illustration of how his purported weakness has emboldened America’s rivals and adversaries. But the seizure of the drone and the prompt resolution of the standoff through diplomatic channels actually illustrated the complexity of escalation when the costs of conflict are great and the threshold for acts of war murky. The narrative of Obama’s weakness has its roots in the early days of his presidency. His […]

Incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks while serving as CEO of ExxonMobil, Washington D.C., March 27, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Decoding the national security consequences of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed Cabinet is tricky. There’s a tendency to look for substantive connective tissue among the names, beyond loyalty to Trump. On climate change, skepticism dominates, with deeply disturbing implications. But on Russia, China, Iran and other major national security issues, expect policy battles within the Trump camp. Such diversity does not seem to trouble the president-elect, who thrives on keeping others guessing. With most of the Trump Cabinet and other senior national security positions now filled, some patterns of a new national security agenda can be discerned. The loyalists named […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Lima, Peru, Nov. 20, 2016 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today. Despite all the noise and attention on the threats of cyberwar, cybersecurity in the United States has gotten worse, not better. As the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and interference in the U.S. election showed, leaks and other disruptions online have become new tools of state power, reflecting larger conflicts between the U.S. and its rivals. Current U.S. strategies are inadequate to respond to, much less […]

Israelis wave flags and hold signs reading "Trump, the Israeli interest" during a rally, Jerusalem, Oct. 26, 2016 (AP photo by Tsafrir Abayov).

U.S. policy on Israel almost always manages to divide and stoke controversy, and President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel is no exception. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with no diplomatic experience and a strong supporter of expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has generated outrage on the left and exaltation on the right—in both the United States and Israel. Friedman has overtly rejected any prospects for a two-state solution and demonized American Jews critical of Israeli policy. He once called members of J Street—a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” progressive lobbying group—“worse than kapos,” the term […]

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center, Hershey, Pa., Dec. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Matt Rourke).

The presidency of Donald Trump promises to shake up American politics and break with the past in many ways. In foreign and security policy, one big change that seems likely is a transformation of U.S. policy toward Russia, since President-elect Trump has indicated he will shift the currently adversarial relationship toward one of greater cooperation. At first glance this seems perplexing given that Republicans have always led the opposition to Russia, whether in containing Soviet communism during the Cold War or attempting to block Russian President Vladimir Putin’s more recent efforts to regain control over the independent nations that were […]

President-elect Donald Trump at a rally in West Allis, Wis., Dec. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Morry Gash).

Is Donald Trump crazy, or is he crazy like a fox? Is he singularly ill-suited for the presidency, or a deftly intuitive negotiator adept at throwing his adversaries off-balance? Is he genuinely clueless about the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy and the international order in which it operates, with no curiosity to learn about them? Or is he cleverly manipulating the widespread perception of his ignorance to his advantage? As with most things having to do with the U.S. president-elect’s foreign policy, these questions remain unanswerable. But in trying to answer them, we are left not only with uncertainty, but […]

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks at the Manama Dialogue Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 10, 2016 (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley).

When the Gulf Cooperation Council states and their Western defense partners meet, the demand for changes in regional security cooperation and threat management has long come from the outsiders. The Western partners, the U.S. in particular, continue to call for more defense modernization and more integration of effort among these rich oil states. But the Gulf states are clearly not ready to take ownership of regional security, nor do they take the initiative for improving it. The mood on the Arab side of the Gulf is one of worry. The six GCC countries—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, […]

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally, Fayetteville, N.C., Dec. 6, 2016 (AP photo by Gerry Broome).

During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, it was hard to get a firm grasp on Donald Trump’s intended national security policy. His own lack of experience and his campaign’s scarcity of advisers steeped in defense issues led candidate Trump to rely on broad themes and searing criticism of the policies of the Obama administration—and by extension Hillary Clinton’s likely approach to the world. Now, with only weeks until Trump takes office, he has much of the senior echelon of his national security team in place and is beginning to flesh out his policy. As the Trump strategy emerges, the tensions […]

Supporters of the Right Wing Movement protest against events, groups and profiles blocked by Facebook, Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 5, 2016 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

On Dec. 4, a man with an assault rifle entered a Washington, D.C., pizza shop, planning to “self-investigate” a conspiracy theory purporting that Hillary Clinton was at the center of a “pedophilia ring” being run out of the restaurant. The rumor—which has, needless to say, been emphatically debunked—can be traced to Twitter posts with the hashtag #pizzagate, which started trending on Twitter in early November and were subsequently tweeted and retweeted thousands of times over the next several weeks. The incident is one of many that have drawn attention to social media’s changing role in a tense political and social […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a press conference after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, New York, Nov. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Kathy Willens).

Donald Trump’s surprising election victory has been met with caution around the world as America’s friends and rivals try to gauge the future direction of U.S. foreign policy under the new administration. In Japan, whose cornerstone relationship with Washington helps guide U.S. strategy in Asia, Trump’s win has elicited pause and an intense effort to shore up Japanese interests. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quick to send a congratulatory cable to the president-elect, lauding his victory and indulging him by complimenting his acumen as a successful businessman. Abe followed up with a shrewd move to arrange a face-to-face meeting with […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Mediterranean Dialogues Summit, Rome, Dec. 2, 2016 (AP Photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The buzz in foreign policy circles this week has been over President-elect Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which overturned decades of protocol governing official U.S. contact with the government of Taiwan. It seems that the conversation was not a casual faux pas, but a purposeful decision by the Trump transition team. Now diplomats in Beijing and Washington have to cope with the fallout. But if the essential function of diplomacy has lost some of its sheen in Washington, it is not only the result of Trump’s iconoclastic approach. Traditional diplomacy has also been weakened by competition […]

President-elect Donald Trump arrives for a party at the home of a campaign donor, Head of the Harbor, N.Y., Dec. 3, 2016 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Donald Trump has a striking knack for simplifying complex international problems. For years, for example, scholars have debated whether China will be a constructive or disruptive global power. Many have argued that it could take decades to find out. Thanks to Trump, we could know the answer in just a few months. In recent days, Trump has managed to antagonize Beijing by speaking with Taiwan’s president, and doubled down on his provocation by calling out China’s economic policy and military posture on Twitter. This should not come as an utter surprise: The president-elect was frequently critical of China on the […]

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