Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, British Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a meeting at NATO’s headquarters, Brussels, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

What would the United States lose if it lost Europe as a friend, partner and ally? The question is an abstract one for now. But if his inaugural presidential trip abroad last week is any indication, U.S. President Donald Trump seems hell-bent on finding out what the real-life answer would be. Any European leaders watching the first two legs of Trump’s trip would have been understandably encouraged and even optimistic about the prospects for their first meeting with the new American president. Four months in office had already served to soften the iconoclastic declarations he made as a candidate into […]

Zbigniew Brzezinski, left, walks with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance toward a helicopter to fly to Andrews Air Force Base, Feb. 14, 1979 (AP photo by Bob Daugherty).

The death this past week of former National Security Adviser and foreign policy intellectual Zbigniew Brzezinski calls to mind two thoughts: how rare the gift of strategic thinking, which Brzezinski possessed, truly is; and how great a contribution foreign-born intellectuals have made to U.S. foreign policy in the post-World War II era. The foreign policy community lost one of the rare big thinkers with the death of Brzezinski at age 89 this past week. He was a commanding figure, always assessing the crises of the day with a long-term view of strategic interests. He served a Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, […]

President Donald Trump delivers a speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, May 21, 2017, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump railed at the ineffectiveness of Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, promising that if he was elected there would be dramatic change. Yet candidate Trump offered few details on precisely what he would do differently. This week his first foreign trip as president began in the Middle East. While there, Trump provided signs of exactly what he intends to do in the region. In terms of broad strategic objectives there is some continuity between the two presidential administrations. Like Obama, Trump seeks to preserve the Middle East’s regional order and help protect Israel and […]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during an arrival honor at Manila's international airport, Philippines, May 24, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

This past week, Southeast Asia observers have been buzzing over a leaked transcript of a phone call, made in April, between U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. In the call, the two men spoke of each other warmly, with Trump praising Duterte’s brutal drug war in the Philippines. Trump told Duterte he was “doing an unbelievable job on the drug problem,” and invited him to the White House. Trump also seemed to ask Duterte, hardly a specialist on Northeast Asia, for advice on how to deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his nuclear and […]

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House, Washington, May 12, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the Manchester bombing and U.S. President Donald Trump’s tensions with NATO. For the Report, Jason Dempsey and Amy Schafer talk with Peter Dörrie about a new chapter for civil-military relations in the United States under President Donald Trump. If you’d like to support our free podcast through patron pledges, Patreon is an online service that will allow you to do so. To find out about the benefits you can get through pledging as little as $1 per month, click through to WPR’s Trend Lines […]

President Donald Trump reaches to shake hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, May 16, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

When U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his speech on Islam to a gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Riyadh last weekend, one head of state was notably absent among the dozens of kings, sultans, emirs, presidents and prime ministers in the audience. Turkey, one of the Muslim world’s most powerful states, chose to send its minister of foreign affairs, a much lower-ranking official than the top-level representatives in the lavish hall. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had recently visited Saudi Arabia and had met with Trump in Washington only days earlier, with the two men declaring the meeting a […]

Members of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division prepare to unload Abrams tanks after arriving at the Gaiziunai railway station, west of the capital, Vilnius, Lithuania, Feb. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are no strangers to dealing with authoritarian figures. Bordering Russia, they have invested heavily in building up their defenses against sophisticated techniques from Moscow that seek to undermine their social cohesion and security. But how do you manage relations with your closest ally across the Atlantic when its president is detached from democratic norms? During their first face-to-face encounter with U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels today, Baltic politicians have to reconcile a hard-nosed assessment of their national interest—the fact that the United States remains the crucial guarantor of the security of […]

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih walks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during the Asia Oil and Gas Conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 8, 2017 (AP photo by Daniel Chan).

Oil markets are expecting the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies to extend their supply quotas when they meet in Vienna on Thursday. The current production cuts have failed to drain bloated oil inventories due to a remarkable resurgence in U.S. shale production. Keeping production down will not be easy for the coalition of 24 oil producers, 11 of which are not in OPEC. Even if fully implemented, an extension of the deal will likely just prevent oil prices from falling, while giving more market share to U.S. shale. It seems that OPEC has lost the […]

Soldiers look at the destroyed houses amid the wreckage of a car bombing in Somalia, one of the world's most fragile states, Mogadishu, May 17, 2017 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

The annual Fragile States Index was released last week, and no one will be surprised by the presence of South Sudan and Somalia, which remain the most fragile states in the world. By contrast, the indicators that middle powers, and even the United States and the United Kingdom, show some troubling signs of governance weakness might raise some eyebrows. Diplomats, military officials and development economists have yet to crack the code on what to do about weak and failing states. State fragility is a chronic reality of international politics, and the responses to it have only rarely produced success stories. […]

An Army Cadet displays a sign for then President-elect Donald Trump during the Army-Navy NCAA college football game, Baltimore, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

As U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration navigates the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, along with ongoing tensions with North Korea, China and Russia, it is doing so with a Cabinet largely composed of active and retired military generals. While the presence of an active-duty general at the helm of the National Security Council is not unprecedented, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, isn’t the sole appointee with a military background; two recently retired Marines, James Mattis and John Kelly, are serving as secretary of defense and director of the Department of Homeland Security, respectively. That Kelly and Mattis […]

Workers hang Israeli and U.S. flags ahead of President Donald Trump's visit, Jerusalem, May 18, 2017 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

Four months into his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign and national security policy is still a work in progress, a shifting, improvisational blend of diverse, sometimes conflicting themes and attitudes. It has elements of the traditional American approach to the world but also much that is unorthodox. When it comes to the Trump strategy, the traditional and the nontraditional seem locked in a daily struggle for dominance. Now Trump is leaving on his first major international trip. In a best-case scenario, the results may indicate the direction he will take during the rest of his administration and demonstrate Trump’s […]

People walk past a caricature picture of U.S. President Donald Trump on sale in a shopping mall in Moscow, Russia, May 17, 2017 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

If there is a prayer on the lips of international affairs columnists these days, it goes something like this: Please let there be something to write about other than Donald Trump this week, and if it has to be Trump, please let me publish it before the next news cycle makes whatever I’ve written irrelevant or obsolete. Having already settled on a Trump topic before the latest self-created crises to buffet the White House broke, suffice it to say I’m typing as fast as I can. As we now know because he himself admitted it, during his Oval Office meeting […]

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives to speak to State Department employees, Washington, May 3, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally met with the State Department’s workforce to outline how President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda applies to foreign policy. In his remarks, Tillerson focused on the core mission of national security. He insisted that American values still matter, but was clear that the U.S. is no longer in the business of promoting those values as universal aspirations. It’s a big loss for American influence in the world. When the State Department employees gathered last week to hear from their boss, they were braced for more details about budget cuts and downsizing. […]

Security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 3, 2017 (AP photo by Massoud Hossaini).

U.S. President Donald Trump probably does not relish taking on a problem like the conflict in Afghanistan. It is a “wicked” problem, intricate and almost incomprehensibly complex, with a large and growing cast of participants playing a role or at least having a stake. Inside Afghanistan there is a mesh of actors with clashing, often incompatible goals. Outside the country a solution depends on Pakistan, which deeply fears India and has its own growing jihadi problem. Russia and the self-styled Islamic State, while late to the conflict, are now involved and muddling things even further. But despite all this, Trump […]

A protester shouts while displaying an anti-Donald Trump placard during a rally at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines to coincide with Trump's inauguration, Manila, Jan. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Observers around the world have found many of the statements coming out of the White House in recent days deeply unsettling. That is nothing new in the era of President Donald Trump. But within the overall stream of Trump’s controversial pronouncements, there is one current that contains important clues about what lies ahead in his presidency. Since taking office little more than 100 days ago, Trump has reversed course on countless issues, including major matters of foreign policy. But he has remained remarkably consistent in his praise of authoritarian leaders. It has become indisputable that respect for strongmen is a […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Fla., April 7, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

More than 100 days into Donald Trump’s term in office, a good deal of uncertainty still surrounds the new president’s approach to foreign policy, mainly due to his unpredictable temperament. Other things have become clearer, though. Trump might be able to change the U.S. presidency; in some ways he already has. By contrast, the world and the international order that governs it have proven more stubborn in their resistance to being refashioned, as has the architecture of alliances, partnerships and rivalries that structure U.S. foreign policy. Gravity, it seems, still exists, and it exercises its pull on everyone, even those […]

A TV screen at Seoul Station shows images of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2017 (AP Photo by Ahn Young-joon).

U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest comments on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un suggest a new tactic: Rather than asserting primacy and disparaging other countries’ policies, Trump has tried to convey empathy for Kim’s predicament. Perhaps Trump is following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s advice on how to keep Kim from stepping over the brink into conflict. But it could say more about Trump’s evolving understanding of the burdens of leadership. In recent days, as tensions with North Korea have risen, Trump has used some unexpected language to describe Kim. He’s called the 33-year-old Kim “a pretty smart cookie,” conveying some […]