An election official works during an exercise to simulate different scenarios for the 2020 elections, in Springfield, Va., Dec. 16, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

If recent history is any guide, the United States is less than a year away from a paralyzing national security crisis. Whether President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger wins in November, revelations that Russia is once again interfering in the 2020 presidential election all but guarantee that the legitimacy of the electoral results will be called into question, potentially undermining the country’s very political stability. One way to guard against that looming threat is for media outlets, which frame how most Americans understand foreign meddling, to make a major course correction in how they cover and respond to Russia’s […]

President Donald Trump, with members of his coronavirus task force, speaks during a news conference at the White House, Washington, Feb. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about global efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. They also discuss the ways in which governments’ responses—whether in China, Iran or the U.S.—have highlighted the tensions between political narratives and medical expertise in addressing the crisis. 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 free preview article every day of the week, plus three more […]

President Donald Trump speaks to former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a session at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

After the United States and China signed their “phase one” trade deal in mid-January, it seemed that the European Union might be the next target in President Donald Trump’s trade wars. At the time, the White House was threatening to increase tariffs amid the ongoing dispute over EU subsidies to Airbus and impose new tariffs over France’s proposed tax on digital service providers, while still holding out the possibility of tariffs on more than $40 billion in automobile imports from Europe. Since then, the Trump administration has held its fire in those disputes, and the prospects for a bilateral trade […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

In what has been called a “protection racket” and a “blatant shakedown,” President Donald Trump is again pressuring South Korea to increase its contribution to the costs of maintaining U.S. military bases in the country. The mafia-esque terminology employed by commentators seems apt given Trump’s shocking initial demand for a fivefold increase in Seoul’s share of American basing costs, from around $900 million per year to nearly $5 billion. While U.S. negotiators have reportedly climbed down from that position, the two sides have yet to find common ground after six rounds of negotiations, heightening fears of a lasting standoff that […]

An amphibious assault vehicle carries American and Philippine troops during a joint military exercise in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, the Philippines, April 11, 2019 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Last week, after hinting at it for some time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would terminate a key military pact with the United States. The Visiting Forces Agreement, in place for two decades, allows Washington to keep rotations of American soldiers in the Philippines. As Richard Heydarian has noted, the deal also provides a legal basis for the numerous annual joint military exercises between U.S. and Philippines forces. Tearing it up is the biggest break in bilateral relations at least since Manila forced Washington to give up its Philippine bases in 1991 and 1992. Some analysts, like Heydarian, go […]

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a joint press conference with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 18, 2020 (Pool AFP photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds via AP).

If there is one good foreign policy decision Congress has made over any other in the past 20 years, it is arguably its investment in building up the U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM. All but shutting down AFRICOM, which the Trump administration is considering, would be one of the worst decisions it could make this year, although it’s a crowded field. Which is why it was heartening when reports surfaced this week that those mooted Pentagon plans are meeting with strong headwinds in Congress. As always with the Trump White House, it’s anyone’s guess whether logic will ultimately prevail or […]

A monkey sits on a billboard welcoming President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to Ahmedabad, India, Feb. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Ajit Solanki).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to India, and why his camaraderie with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been enough to overcome tensions between the world’s two biggest democracies. They also discuss the historical roots of India’s reluctance to join a U.S.-led coalition to contain China, even as defense cooperation between New Delhi and Washington has expanded over the past decade. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our […]

Helicopters with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo aboard take off at Camp Alvarado in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 9, 2018 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Is Washington ready to embrace restraint as the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy? Several recent developments suggest that at least when it comes to some prominent debates over national security, the answer is a guarded yes. Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan war powers resolution prohibiting the White House from going to war with Iran without congressional approval. The White House also reportedly signed off on a tentative deal with the Taliban last week to begin ending U.S. military involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Advocates of restraint should still hold off on any victory laps just yet. […]

The American flag flies near the national emblem of China outside the Bayi Building in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017 (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. When China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters from the country this week, it justified the move as a response to an op-ed in the Journal that Beijing deemed racist. But the day before the journalists’ press credentials were revoked, the State Department placed new restrictions on the activities of Chinese state media outlets in the United States. Under the surface of this apparent tit-for-tat is a growing unease in Washington over the lack of reciprocity in the U.S.-China […]

President Donald Trump and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House, Feb. 6, 2020, in Washington (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Across Africa and beyond it, there is widespread agreement among governments and policymakers that economic integration would give a critical boost to growth and development on the continent. Yet when he visited Washington earlier this month, Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, pledged alongside President Donald Trump to launch negotiations toward a bilateral trade deal. The two leaders’ motivations are likely quite different, and the odds of a successful negotiation are uncertain at best. But, like the European Union’s own ad hoc trade deals throughout Africa, a U.S.-Kenya free trade pact would create new barriers to intra-African trade, rather than reducing them, […]

A U.S. Air Force Reaper drone at the Singapore Airshow, Singapore, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Danial Hakim).

Decades of technological advances have made drones readily available not only to governments, but to non-state groups, commercial actors and hobbyists as well, for everything from military strikes to package deliveries. The United States last month used an MQ-9 Reaper drone to assassinate Iran’s top military commander, Qassem Soleimani. In September, an attack on Saudi oil facilities utilizing drones and cruise missiles temporarily cut Saudi oil production in half. Even smaller, unarmed drones can cause massive disruptions. In December 2018, London’s Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest in Britain, shut down for 36 hours after a drone was spotted nearby, causing hundreds […]

Afghan Army commandos attend their graduation ceremony at a training center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2020 (AP Photo by Rahmat Gul).

By all accounts, the U.S. and the Taliban are poised to sign the initial stage of a peace deal in Afghanistan, and it may only be a matter of weeks before President Donald Trump takes the first serious step toward ending America’s longest war. But can a White House this mercurial really usher in a sustainable political settlement in Afghanistan? The short answer is no. Under the right circumstances, however, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his administration may be able to get the job done. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that Trump has signaled his approval for […]

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for a trip to Vietnam to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Feb. 25, 2019 (AP Photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about debates over U.S. foreign policy in the context of the 2020 presidential election, particularly the emerging consensus in favor of a strategy of restraint. But how closely does the political embrace of ending America’s “forever wars” and avoiding costly new ones resemble the vision of restraint promoted by its policy-minded advocates? And how easy will it be for the next president to follow through on promises of restraint once in office? If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read […]

Visitors look at a display from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Sept. 26, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

One of the most contentious elements of the U.S.-China relationship today is over the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and its outsized role in the development of next-generation 5G telecommunications infrastructure around the world. The Trump administration argues that Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government make it a national security risk. Last summer, the Commerce Department added Huawei to a blacklist that prevents American companies from doing business with it, although it has subsequently granted some limited reprieves. U.S. officials have urged other countries to avoid Huawei as well, but in a blow to those efforts, the United Kingdom recently […]

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama speaks next to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

The Trump administration provoked another international outcry when it announced late last month that it was adding six new countries to its list of nations that face broad travel restrictions to the United States: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. The expansion of the travel ban, which President Donald Trump first issued as an executive order just days after his inauguration in January 2017, will take effect on Feb. 22. The inclusion of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, generated immediate outrage among many observers. But the reaction from the Nigerian government was more muted than […]

President Donald Trump walks toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, Feb. 7, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

A robust economy, the turmoil of the Iowa caucuses and President Donald Trump’s strong poll numbers in the wake of his acquittal in his impeachment trial have lengthened the odds than any Democratic rival will beat him at the ballot box in November. Yet should one of them pull off this audacious feat, the new president will face another colossal challenge: reviving the liberal international order that Trump has done so much to disparage and dismantle. How will he or she do that? Start by reconsolidating the West, giving globalization a human face and bolstering support for democracy and human […]

United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar shakes hands with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street, London, July 14, 1982 (Press Association photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. When former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar turned 100 last month, his current successor, Antonio Guterres, sent a congratulatory message stating that “I have often reflected on your example and experience for inspiration and guidance.” This sounds like a standard diplomatic pleasantry, but there may have been a more to it than that. As U.N. chief from 1982 to 1991, Perez de Cuellar, a former Peruvian diplomat, was intimately involved in ending Cold War conflicts from Afghanistan to Central America. Guterres, since his appointment […]

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