The Capitol building at sunset in Washington, Jan. 24, 2019 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Election Day is more than a year away, but foreign interference is already a daily headline, amid the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Many observers see Trump’s actions as an abuse of power and a blatant request for foreign election interference. But as this all plays out in Washington, undeterred foreign actors are planning more of their own disinformation campaigns on social media ahead of November 2020, again looking to divide the American electorate […]

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, with Democratic lawmakers and supporters, speaks about their opposition to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 25, 2019 (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

A quarter of a century after labor standards first became a bone of contention in trade talks to conclude the North American Free Trade Agreement, weak enforcement of labor standards in Mexico is one of the key issues holding up a vote on President Donald Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA, now rebranded the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Every U.S. trade agreement since NAFTA has included language nominally aimed at protecting workers. Yet despite significant strengthening over the years, the labor provisions in those trade agreements remain controversial and largely ineffective for foreign and American workers alike. NAFTA was only the third free trade […]

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, in the village of Panmunjom, June 30, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Earlier this month, American and North Korean officials gathered in Stockholm for a closely watched round of talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. The State Department’s official readout was upbeat: Over more than eight hours of “good discussions,” negotiators “discussed the importance of more intensive engagement.” The U.S. delegation “previewed a number of new initiatives” and accepted an invitation from Sweden to reconvene in two weeks. By contrast, North Korea’s interpretation of the meeting sounded like it came from a parallel universe. Kim Myong Gil, Pyongyang’s chief nuclear negotiator, said in remarks after the meeting that he was “very displeased” […]

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN, in Detroit, Michigan, July 30, 2019 (AP photo by Paul Sancya).

The eventual victor in the chaotic and crowded contest for the Democratic presidential nomination remains to be seen. But one thing seems clear: The political energy in this election cycle is on the left. Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts and would-be trust buster, has displaced faltering former Vice President Joe Biden as putative frontrunner. If any evidence of her rise were required, her competitors for the nomination provided it when they trained fire on her in the most recent presidential debate. But meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s independent socialist senator, is still a fundraising juggernaut, hauling in more than $25 […]

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, May 6, 2011 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

It’s not every day that one gets a chance to assess a Trump administration decision made on what looks like solid foreign policy principles. But unexpectedly last week, the State Department announced that it had established new rules governing the activities of Chinese diplomats posted to the United States. The changes require Chinese envoys to notify the State Department in advance of “official meetings with representatives of states, local and municipal governments; official visits to educational institutions and official visits to research institutions” in the U.S. Since the rationale given for this measure was reciprocity, meaning that Washington claims to […]

American flags are displayed together with Chinese flags in Beijing, Sept. 16, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would begin requiring Chinese diplomats in the United States to notify the State Department in advance of any meetings with American officials at the state or local level, as well as with educational and research institutions in the country. The move was a response to Beijing’s own rules requiring American diplomats in China to seek permission from the Chinese government before visiting institutions or meeting with local officials in an official capacity. […]

Demonstrators during a rally to support political prisoners in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 29, 2019 (AP Photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

Despite the much-lamented global democratic recession, recent protests in Hong Kong, Russia and elsewhere testify to the innate human desire for freedom and dignity. The question of when and how to support such movements can create excruciating dilemmas for external actors, state and nonstate alike. In a provocative new report, “Preventing Mass Atrocities: From a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) to a Right to Assist (RtoA) Campaigns of Civil Resistance,” Peter Ackerman and Hardy Merriman of the Washington-based International Center on Non-Violent Conflict, or ICNC, set out the dos and don’ts for those who would assist local struggles against authoritarian rule. […]

Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace for talks on the Kurds and Syria, in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

After eight years of chaos, it is hard to know which moment in the history of Syria’s brutal civil war-turned-proxy-conflict will ultimately stand out as the most egregious. There can be little doubt, though, that President Donald Trump’s sudden decision last week to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and abandon America’s Kurdish allies in the militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces—their most reliable partners on the ground in the campaign against the Islamic State—will rank as one of the most spectacular failures in the history of American foreign policy. The White House’s turnabout by tweet in Syria has […]

President Trump walks away after speaking about Turkey at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Frederick Deknatel and Laura Weiss talk about whether the Syria withdrawal represents U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Hurricane Katrina moment,” when the disconnect between Trump’s messaging and the reality on the ground becomes unsustainable. They also discuss the damage Trump’s presidency has done to U.S. diplomacy and interests, and whether it is reparable. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Oct. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

There are any number of defensible arguments in support of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. It is safe to assume that Trump didn’t consider any of them. Instead, Trump seems to have acted as ever on impulse, out of a misguided sense that his instinct is a better guide than strategic planning and historical literacy. His decision reveals not an infallible instinct but a failure to understand three core elements of American power: assurance, deterrence and leverage. To begin with the theoretical arguments in support of withdrawing from northeastern Syria, first and foremost, the […]

An Apple Store in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai, China, Dec. 21, 2017 (Photo by Wang Gang for Imaginechina via AP Images).

If California were an independent country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy—just behind Germany and just ahead of India. The Golden State has plenty of social problems, but there’s no denying the dynamism and creativity of its entrepreneurs, filmmakers, artists and scientists. Not long after California emerged as one of the main engines of the U.S. economy, China was taking its place as a huge driver of global growth. Increasingly, underneath the geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing, California and China are forming deep and interdependent connections. To discuss the implications of this complicated relationship, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, Oct. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump hailed a preliminary trade agreement reached in principle with China, calling it “the greatest and biggest deal ever.” But there was no public mention of the deal in Beijing over the weekend, and Chinese state media warned against being “overly optimistic” about trade talks, leading to speculation that the deal would fall apart before even being signed. On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang finally confirmed the tentative deal and said China was […]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reads a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Politics was always going to play an outsized role in congressional deliberations on the revised NAFTA deal—now known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA—as it does with most trade agreements. Assuming that President Donald Trump addresses their concerns about labor standards in Mexico and other issues, House Democrats will have to decide whether to give the president a “big win” that he can trumpet in next year’s election. Trump will have to decide whether he’d rather have that or, by refusing to accommodate their demands, a stick with which to beat up the Democrats as do-nothing partisans. The impeachment inquiry […]

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft addresses the Security Council at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 19, 2019 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. How is Kelly Knight Craft doing as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations? It is almost exactly one month since Craft presented her credentials to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sept. 12. It has been an eventful period, including the annual General Assembly jamboree and Security Council crisis talks on North Korea and Syria. To top it off, Guterres warned this week that the U.N. is about to run out of operating funds because over 60 members have not paid their annual dues. The U.S. has […]

People watch smoke billowing from targets inside Syria during bombardment by Turkish forces, in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Oct. 10, 2019 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Laura Weiss talk about U.S. sanctions targeting Chinese government entities and businesses involved in human rights abuses against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang. They also discuss what is driving protests in Ecuador, and why U.S. President Donald Trump’s greenlighting of a Turkish incursion into Syria could end up being a catastrophic error. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The […]

A worker tears down a poster promoting a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai, China, Oct. 9, 2019 (Photo by Yu Zhongyue for Imaginechina via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Last Friday, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, provoked a fierce backlash from China when he tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The since-deleted tweet led to a number of Chinese companies pausing their ties with the NBA, which initially expressed regret for the statement but has since offered a stronger defense of Morey’s statement. China is the NBA’s largest overseas market, so NBA officials have scrambled to contain the fallout. But the situation […]

President Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

With every day, a new thread seems to emerge in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, which centers on Trump’s efforts to pressure the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the former vice president and now Democratic presidential candidate. According to multiple whistleblowers and a released rough transcript of a July 25 phone call, Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Biden. The request put Zelensky in a tough position, caught between his need for American support to fight a war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists, and his desire to avoid […]

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