U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks to American soldiers based in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 7, 2019 (AP photo by Jens Meyer).

According to Washington’s punditocracy, there are only two ways to interpret the Pentagon’s announcement Wednesday that it plans to move ahead with withdrawing nearly 12,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Germany. One view is that President Donald Trump is capitulating yet again to pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin and handing Putin a gift in the form of a weakened NATO. The other take is that the White House decision to pull troops out of Germany, as Trump has long wanted, is a foolish escalation in his standoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance. […]

A worker tries to remove the plaque next to a Chinese paramilitary policeman from outside the United States Consulate in Chengdu, China, July 26, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Plummeting relations between the United States and China hit a new low after the tit-for-tat closures of consulates in Houston and Chengdu last week. Though the closures are mostly symbolic, any détente between Washington and Beijing looks even more unrealistic now. With the U.S. presidential election just months away and President Donald Trump suffering in the polls, it has become increasingly difficult to guess what comes next. When the Trump administration ordered China to shut its consulate in Houston […]

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray holds up a sign showing Vladimir Putin’s face outside Parliament in London, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott, who will return next week. Two developments last week, in the United Kingdom and the United States, highlighted how their common adversaries are still exploiting the global financial system, using long-known loopholes to raise and move illicit money in order to undermine international security and the rule of law. While American and British authorities have often been slow to realize the full magnitude of this threat, their recent actions suggest they may finally be taking it more seriously. First, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released […]

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, July 15, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

How can you square the doctrine of “America First” with the promotion of human rights? It’s a question that has bedeviled the Trump administration since it first took office. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided his own answer on July 16, when he unveiled the much-anticipated draft report of the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights. In a strident and tendentious speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pompeo attacked the “proliferation” of “new rights” claims to cover an ever-expanding set of groups and issues, saying it was time to get back to basics. Henceforth, U.S. human rights policy should […]

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sits under a portrait of the late revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, during a meeting in Tehran, June 31, 2020 (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader photo via AP Images).

Will the next U.S. president have any incentive to revive the Iran nuclear deal? The status of the agreement has steadily eroded since the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of it in May 2018 and subsequently reimposed punishing economic sanctions on Iran and any entities that do business with it. And Iran’s gradual and escalating breaches of the limits the deal imposed on its uranium enrichment program have led many to conclude that the clock is running out on the value of the deal. Skeptics of the deal’s chances clearly have the stronger argument at present, whether they ascribe the original […]

The floor of the main lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va., Jan. 21, 2017 (AP file photo by Andrew Harnik).

News reports last week that U.S. President Donald Trump granted the CIA broad authority in 2018 to conduct offensive cyberattacks against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have rightfully raised alarm among some in Washington’s national security set. Recent history indicates that when the White House has greenlighted items at the top of the CIA’s wish list, things haven’t always turned out well. See the Senate “Torture Report” and leaked documents on lethal drone attacks in South Asia for more details. In light of these past CIA transgressions, the current handwringing is not unwarranted. Yet, as often happens with sensational […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron prepare to address the media at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (AFP pool photo by John Thys via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Prachi Vidwans talk about the implications of the European Union’s new seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, which were agreed after four days and nights of contentious negotiations in Brussels. They also discuss the Trump administration’s sudden decision to shut down China’s consulate in Houston, and what that could mean for the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:Is the EU’s COVID-19 Response Losing Central and Eastern Europe to China?The U.S. Can No Longer Ignore […]

Black Lives Matter protesters face off with police officers in front of City Hall in Seattle, Washington, July 15, 2020 (AP photo by Ted S. Warren).

“J’étouffe!”—I’m suffocating! Cedric Chouviat’s plea was repeated seven times as four French police officers sought to subdue him with a chokehold in early January, near the Quai Branly, which runs along the Seine River in central Paris. Chouviat, a 42-year-old father of five who worked as a deliveryman, went into cardiac arrest and died two days later. An autopsy revealed that his larynx had been crushed. His cry echoed that of Eric Garner, who also died after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer in 2014. A variation of the haunting refrain was heard in […]

A man opens the social media app TikTok on his cell phone, in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

When the Trump administration began publicly bandying about the idea of barring the popular Chinese social media app TikTok from the American market a couple of weeks ago, the mere possibility of it happening sent shock waves through Chinese society. One might have expected that most of the attention, including lots of predictable fury, would have centered on nationalist sentiments—which are easily aroused in China nowadays—about the alleged unfairness with which the country is being treated by Western competitors, none more so than the United States. Unbeknownst to Americans, who mostly see it as an almost addictive platform for distracting […]

President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, July 11, 2020 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Editor’s Note: WPR editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott this week. Should the four-year-long polar night of Donald Trump’s presidency come to a definitive end this November, most observers of his catastrophic handling of U.S. foreign policy will rejoice. After all, Trump has done significant damage to America’s national interests—and has done so in a uniquely corrosive way. He has undermined America’s alliances and partnerships while emboldening its adversaries, all in pursuit of an ad hoc, incoherent and personalized foreign policy devoid of strategic planning. Meanwhile, he has overseen domestic shifts that leave the U.S. more […]

Icebergs float in a fjord after calving off from glaciers on the Greenland ice sheet in southeastern Greenland, Aug. 3, 2017 (AP file photo by David Goldman).

The global environmental crisis, encompassing runaway climate change, collapsing biodiversity and the slow death of the world’s oceans, has exposed the limitations of traditional political realism as a guide to statecraft in the 21st century. The time has come for the nations of the world to embrace a new approach to world politics that treats the preservation of the biosphere as a core national interest and a central objective of national security policy. Call this new mindset ecological realism. Political realism, which has long dominated the teaching and practice of foreign policy, including in the United States, is a venerable […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a conference on Libya at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

With Egypt reportedly on the brink of invading neighboring Libya, and troops from Chad said to be on their way north to join Gen. Khalifa Haftar in his fight to topple the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, what was already a complicated proxy war could soon become Africa’s first full-on intracontinental war in decades. That may not be all that is at risk, however. If Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers on his promise to come to Haftar’s aid, it could also result in a serious setback for two key American and European security priorities: securing the volatile Eastern Mediterranean […]

A Rohingya Muslim refugee at a camp in Bangladesh shows a mobile video of a massacre in the village of Gu Dar Pyin in Myanmar, Jan. 14, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

As Americans have risen up in protest against police brutality, attention has understandably focused on the racist incidents of police killing Black Americans and their implications. How these outrages have come to light, however, remains underappreciated. They might never have been exposed without new technologies like smart phones and social media, whose use for accountability is transforming human rights. Until recently, documenting human rights abuses was a time-consuming and often imprecise activity. As a law student in the early 1990s, I worked on a United Nations project, led by the international legal scholar M. Cherif Bassiouni, to document war crimes […]

A building damaged by a fire at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, some 200 miles south of Tehran, Iran, July 2, 2020 (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran photo via AP).

This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the mysterious series of explosions that have rattled Iran, and their implications if they do turn out to be a campaign of sabotage by the U.S. and/or Israel. They also discuss reports that the Trump administration granted the CIA sweeping authorization in 2018 to conduct offensive cyber operations against Iran, Russia, China and North Korea, among other targets. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:RIP JCPOA: Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Won’t Be RevivedCan New Norms of Behavior Extend […]

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, Feb. 10, 2020 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled his country’s updated defense strategy earlier this month, his remarks mentioned China only in passing. But according to Sam Roggeveen, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, Beijing’s mounting military prowess is becoming an increasingly serious concern for Australia’s national security community. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Roggeveen joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman from Canberra to discuss the Morrison government’s recent strategic reset in the context of China’s rise and the relative decline in the United States’ influence in the Asia-Pacific. Listen to the full conversation here: And if […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks behind a screen showing portraits of the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran, Iran, May, 27, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

A series of mysterious explosions have rocked Iran over the past several weeks, including in two locations known to be military and nuclear sites. Although it remains unclear what—or who—is causing the blasts, it is becoming increasingly reasonable to assume they are not mere coincidences. Meanwhile, a leaked document this week purportedly revealed the outlines of a 25-year strategic partnership agreement being negotiated by Iran and China, by which Beijing would provide Tehran with much-needed investment and great-power patronage in return for heavily discounted oil. Both developments highlight the wisdom of the now-teetering Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the […]

A lab technician puts labels on test tubes during research on COVID-19 at Janssen Pharmaceutical, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, in Beerse, Belgium, June 17, 2020 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a great deal of scientific research into developing a vaccine for COVID-19. The process is moving much faster than normal, with more than 155 vaccine candidates currently being developed, 23 of which are already in human trials. Vaccines can take years or even decades to develop and distribute, but the Trump administration is pushing to have one ready by early next year. Developing a vaccine is one thing, but making it available to people is another issue altogether—one that involves thorny questions of ethics, intellectual property rights, global trade and recouping research costs. This is […]

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