A man walks past burned-out houses following an attack by Boko Haram in Dalori village, near Maiduguri, Jan. 31, 2016 (AP photo Jossy Ola).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss what the consolidation of power by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 19th Communist Party Congress means for China and the world. For the Report, Hilary Matfess talks with Peter Dörrie about why the U.S. should reconsider its growing security partnership with Nigeria’s military, which has been accused of human rights abuses and counterproductive tactics in its battle against Boko Haram. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work […]

A woman walks past a TV screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump giving his maiden address at the U.N. General Assembly, Tokyo, Japan,  Sept. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

During the past few weeks, the standoff between North Korea and the United States has cooled a bit. Pyongyang has not tested more ballistic missiles or nuclear devices, and U.S. President Donald Trump has not launched more insulting tweets at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. That is good, but the crisis is no closer to resolution than it was months or years ago; there is not even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. It remains the world’s most dangerous threat. It is hard to see a path to resolution at this point. In a recent […]

Specialist Michael O'Mara and trader Gregory Rowe work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, New York City, Aug. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

The revolution in shale oil production in the United States has had a major impact on global energy markets, leading to the collapse of energy prices but also limiting their vulnerability to geopolitical instability. In an email interview, Meghan L. O’Sullivan, the Jeane Kirkpatrick professor of the practice of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, where she directs the Geopolitics of Energy Project, and the recent author of “Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power,” discusses what a rebalancing of supply and demand will mean for geopolitics going forward, if a supply gap […]

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in New Delhi, India, Oct. 25, 2017 (AP photo Manish Swarup).

Five months after Donald Trump became U.S. president, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Washington, hoping to redirect Trump’s attention to the Indian subcontinent. He wanted to remind Trump, who had appeared rather enthralled with China’s leader, of Washington’s pledge to have a deeper relationship with New Delhi, not with India’s rivals or enemies. Since then, though, Trump has praised Pakistan, India’s primary foe, and is now preparing to undertake a major foreign trip, with visits to five Asian countries, including China—but not India. So the job has fallen to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to soothe India’s worries […]

Nicole Castillo, 7, of East Boston, holds a sign while standing with her brother Diego, 4, and mother Elsa, who is originally from El Salvador, during a “Here to Stay” rally, Boston, July 6, 2017 (AP photo by Charles Krupa).

On Oct. 12, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that America’s asylum process was “subject to rampant abuse and fraud,” that migrants were taking advantage of the system and that “genuinely meritorious” asylum claims were down. He offered no evidence for these sweeping statements beyond the fact that asylum petitions had increased in recent years and his claim that “many”—he didn’t say how many—asylum-seekers who pass “credible fear” interviews, the initial screening process for those seeking asylum at the U.S. border, then “simply disappear and never show up at their immigration hearings” once they are in the country. Sessions’ comments […]

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit, days before a U.S.-Russia-Jordan-brokered truce for southern Syria came into effect, Hamburg, Germany,  July 7, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The United States has been the pre-eminent external actor in the Middle East since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat expelled his Soviet advisers and benefactors and turned to Washington in the 1970s. But America’s role is contracting, by design and by default. Russia and China insist they do not want to replace the U.S. in the Middle East, but they are still intent on expanding their regional influence. The shifting fortunes among the three global greats—the U.S., Russia and China—are playing out in the Middle East today. The U.S. has indisputably dominated the scene, from its military presence in the Gulf […]

Iraqi security forces and volunteers celebrate in front of the Governorate Council Building in Kirkuk, Iraq, Oct. 16, 2017 (AP photo by Emad Matti).

Three months after defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the horrific battle for Mosul, Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias and Iranian special forces attacked Iraqi Kurds, retaking control of the vital city of Kirkuk and nearby oil fields from the semiautonomous Kurdish Regional Government. While the offensive was sparked by a Kurdish independence referendum three weeks ago, it may signal a new, dangerous phase in Iraq’s interminable internal conflict. The United States so far has failed to head this off, despite its efforts. Washington opposed the Kurdish independence vote but could not prevent it. Nor could it halt […]

Myeshia Johnson cries over the casket of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an assault in Niger, Miami, Oct. 17, 2017 (WPLG via AP).

The most common reaction to the deaths of four United States Army Special Forces in Niger earlier this month seems to have been surprise that the U.S. had any kind of military presence in the country in the first place. In the wake of the ambush, which has been blamed on yet-to-be-identified Islamist militants, various media outlets placed it in the context of a broader American “shadow war” carried out in “one of the most remote and chaotic war zones on the planet” despite “little public debate” back home. But for those who track the various military efforts to combat […]

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit, Hangzhou, China, Sept. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

With talks to renegotiate NAFTA deadlocked this week over the hard-line positions of the Trump administration, Mexico was again left pondering the fate of its biggest trade relationship. Negotiations over the trade deal will now extend into next year, heightening both the economic uncertainty and Mexico’s desire to branch out, as countries like China look to expand their stake in the Mexican economy. In an email interview, Carin Zissis, editor-in-chief of AS/COA Online, the website of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, discusses the evolving nature of Mexico’s ties with China, how a change in NAFTA could affect them, and […]

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 19, 2017 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

One of the major concerns among critics of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has always been that, in addition to potentially destabilizing the global order, it might end up being a shortcut to an “America alone” world. Trump’s decision last week not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal represented a step in that direction. To reach his decision, Trump disregarded the International Atomic Energy Agency’s repeated declarations that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the agreement. He also ignored the entreaties of France, the U.K. and Germany, America’s allies who are also signatories to the […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak about Iran from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, Washington, Oct. 13, 2017 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

When it comes to the destruction of international institutions and agreements, Donald Trump is more a tease than a terminator. The U.S. president often aims to undercut international cooperation, but dodges taking decisive action against his multilateral targets. Last week, for example, he announced two steps to weaken the United Nations system that were not quite what they first seemed. On Thursday, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), arguing that it is endemically biased against Israel. But this was a largely symbolic move. The Obama administration cut off funding to UNESCO in […]

Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman greets U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, New Delhi, India, Sept. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

When U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his new strategy for the Afghan war in August, he called on India to become more involved in Afghanistan’s security. Secretary of Defense James Mattis followed up with a visit to India in September to discuss deepening economic and defense ties, raising the possibility of a greater partnership between Washington and New Delhi. In an email interview, Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, explains why closer cooperation between the U.S. and India has failed to fully materialize despite obvious advantages, and what the Trump administration can do to overcome […]

Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, center, and Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre, second left, tour a new Turkish-Somali military training center in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sept. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsame).

For centuries, outside powers have clashed in Africa, often exploiting weaknesses or divisions across the continent to grasp at power and resources. The second half of the 19th century, for instance, saw the “scramble for Africa” as European nations divided nearly all of the continent into colonies. Several times competition between colonial powers nearly led to war in Europe. In the second half of the 20th century, during the Cold War, Africa was torn as Western nations—first the outgoing European colonizers and later the United States—supported friendly governments and political movements against allies of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba. […]

Civil rights activists march at the start of the 21st World Aids Conference, Durban, South Africa, July 18, 2016 (AP photo).

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is sometimes described as George W. Bush’s signature policy achievement—a rare bright spot on a decidedly fraught record, especially overseas. Active in more than 50 countries, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, the program has been essential in the effort to bring the continent’s HIV/AIDS epidemic under control. Yet the program’s future seemed to be in jeopardy following Donald Trump’s election last November. In January, a list of questions formulated by his transition team sparked concern among those working on foreign assistance in sub-Saharan Africa—and HIV/AIDS programming in particular. “Is PEPFAR […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman listen to national anthems during their meeting at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Oct. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Nikolas Gvosdev is filling in for Steven Metz, who will return next week. “You can’t surge trust.” That was the constant refrain of Gen. James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014, whenever he offered advice for U.S. policymakers about the Middle East. Unfortunately, the people who took his advice closest to heart have been the Russians. It is reflected in President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Ankara to confer with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the historic arrival of King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Moscow for talks this week. […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend the Belt and Road Forum, Beijing, May 15, 2017 (AP photo by Lintao Zhang).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss Saudi King Salman’s landmark trip to Moscow and what the visit—the first by a Saudi monarch—says about Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East. For the Report, Salvatore Babones talks with Andrew Green about how geoeconomics is replacing geopolitics as the driver of international power politics, and why that is ultimately good for the United States. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work […]

A quality control manager at a Suntech Power Holdings Co., a Chinese-owned solar panel manufacturer, examines a solar panel with a co-worker at a company facility in Goodyear, Ariz., Sept. 4, 2012 (AP photo by Ross D. Franklin).

In late September, the U.S. International Trade Commission declared that growing imports of solar panels had significantly hurt U.S. manufacturers. The decision could provide the cover for President Donald Trump to make good on his threats to put up trade barriers with China, whose companies are the leading suppliers of solar cells and panels in the United States. In an email interview, Dieter Ernst, a senior fellow at the East-West Center and former adviser to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, discusses the impact of the commission’s ruling, what it means for the U.S. solar industry, and why a […]

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