A plenary session at the NATO summit in Watford, England, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The future of European security over the next decade could hinge on the outcome of two separate elections taking place outside the continent in the next few days. One poll, the parliamentary elections in Georgia on Oct. 31, could very well shape whether and when NATO next goes to war. The other, the presidential election in the United States on Nov. 3, will likely determine if NATO’s trans-Atlantic alliance even survives. Whatever the outcome in both cases, it’s a foregone conclusion that come 2021, NATO’s European members are going to have to make some very hard decisions about their collective […]

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wave banners near the White House, in Washington, Aug. 27, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

As the U.S. presidential election campaign comes down to its frenetic closing days, the divisions that have wracked the country for the past four years of Donald Trump’s presidency have come into even sharper contrast. The resulting atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion has only magnified what’s at stake in the election, for the U.S. and the world. Whether Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins, they will face a global landscape characterized by great power competition, says Edward Luce, columnist and U.S. national editor for the Financial Times, in which America’s relative power is declining and the appeal of its […]

Supporters of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign rally outside of an early voting location in Hialeah, Fla., Oct. 27, 2020 (AP photo by Lynne Sladky).

Which candidate in America’s presidential race would be better for Latin America? The question is being asked across the hemisphere, further abroad and in the United States, where Washington’s relations with Latin America are a major domestic issue for many voters, with the power to tilt election results. The answer, of course, depends on your personal views. There’s hardly unanimity, but when a Colombian student asked me recently whether President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden would be better for her country, it wasn’t difficult for me to reach a conclusion. Biden has the political philosophy, the background […]

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate, Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 22, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

Over the past four years, American politics have been consumed and subsumed by one man: Donald Trump. Since his election in 2016, Trump’s disregard for convention has upended the norms of the U.S. presidency and undermined the separation of powers on which America’s constitutional system depends. His iconoclastic approach to foreign policy has further frayed the global order the U.S. has historically used to advance its interests, while raising questions about America’s commitment and dependability as an ally. Long-standing political partisanship and divisions within the U.S. have become particularly acute in the runup to next week’s election, amid heightened anxiety […]

A collection of posts that were removed from Instagram after Facebook, the owner of Instagram, concluded that they originated from Russia and had links to the Internet Research Agency, photographed in Washington, March 4, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

Foreign interference in this year’s U.S. election may not be as rampant as it was in 2016, but various Russian actors are adopting more sophisticated tactics, says Shelby Grossman, a research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory. One new method, which the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency workshopped with a series of operations in African countries last year, is to outsource its content creation to local journalists and organizations. Grossman joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to talk about how these tactics are being used to polarize electorates in the U.S. and around the world. Listen […]

A security guard stands outside a voting center in San Francisco, Oct. 20, 2020 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

This year’s election season in the U.S. has been unusual in many ways, unfolding against the backdrop of a raging global pandemic, a historic economic recession and an incumbent president who is willing to discard America’s democratic norms. But there is one thing that has become predictable about recent U.S. elections, and sadly, other polls around the world: the torrent of misinformation that inevitably seems to accompany them. At the same time, the modalities of how misinformation spreads aren’t necessarily consistent across elections. According to Shelby Grossman, a political scientist and research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory, foreign influence […]

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U.S. foreign policy under Trump does not appear to have a consistent logic. Trump has promised to put “America First,” and pursued that end in a variety of ways. At the same time, he has stocked his Cabinet with hawkish interventionists. While adopting a more unilateralist approach, Trump has neglected the institutions that help formulate and execute U.S. foreign policy. As he nears the end of his first term in office, President Donald Trump’s administration still does not appear to have seized on a consistent approach to dealing with the world. Instead, U.S. foreign policy under Trump has become erratic […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, at Flavor First Growers and Packers in Mills River, N.C., Aug. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Nell Redmond).

President Donald Trump still just doesn’t get tariffs. On the campaign trail in Wisconsin recently, Trump again bragged—wrongly—about how China is paying for the higher taxes he slapped on imports over the past two years. He then touted the $28 billion in ad hoc payments that the federal government has doled out to farmers in that time to compensate for the hit they took when China retaliated against U.S. exports. What Trump doesn’t say is that it is American consumers and taxpayers who are footing the bill for his failed trade wars. Analysts project that American farmers will receive a […]

An excavator works on a road construction project in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 10, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

As the United States prepares for a full withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, potentially as soon as next spring, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over its efforts to promote infrastructure development in Central and South Asia. Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, China has become a major player in the region, especially through the 2013 announcement of its Belt and Road Initiative, a major infrastructure program involving hundreds of billions of dollars in investments throughout Asia and beyond. The rise of Chinese spending and influence has overshadowed America’s efforts, inducing a kind of collective amnesia among many […]

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Oct. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Should Joe Biden win the American presidency on Nov. 3, the world will experience whiplash, as the United States performs a second about-face in its posture toward multilateralism in only four years. Although the U.S. has oscillated through cycles of internationalism and isolationism before, it has never executed such a swift and dramatic double-reverse. A Biden triumph would repudiate the “America First” platform on which Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and the hyper-nationalist, unilateralist and sovereigntist mindset that undergirds it. Such a stunning shift in America’s global orientation would have major implications for global cooperation on everything […]

President Donald Trump on a phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, announcing their normalization deal, in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, Oct. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Editor’s Note: Welcome to WPR’s new weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo. Managing Editor Frederick Deknatel highlights a major unfolding story in the Middle East, while curating some of the best local news and analysis from the region. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week. When is a peace deal not all it’s chalked up to be, even if it ends a formal state of hostility? The Trump administration’s race to pressure Arab countries to normalize their ties with Israel, goaded by promises of American financial assistance and weapons, isn’t really changing the […]

Google CEO Sundar Pichai at the Google I/O conference, in Mountain View, Calif., May 17, 2017 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

It’s too early to say how the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit filed against Google this week will ultimately play out. It will undoubtedly go down in history as the opening salvo in a grinding, yearslong war of attrition between government regulators and Silicon Valley. Yet, as extraordinary as the antitrust case against the search engine giant is, it may do little to answer one of the most urgent questions roiling the global economy today. Can capitalism and democracy survive the lie that a product is free when consumers are compelled to surrender their privacy rights, and sometimes even […]

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Donald Trump likes tariffs, regardless of their target. While China gets most of the attention, he hasn’t hesitated to attack America’s friends and allies as well. His Democratic rival for the presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden, has his own concerns about Chinese trade practices and has been vague about whether he would roll back Trump’s tariffs on China, so trade tensions between Washington and Beijing are likely to remain high no matter who wins in November. The situation is different for European policymakers, since the election could determine whether an escalation in trade tensions is coming, or a […]

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Carson City, Nevada, Oct. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

When Viktor Orban became prime minister of Hungary in 2010 following a landslide election victory by his Fidesz party, most observers considered Hungary’s democracy to be “consolidated” and secure since the fall of communism. In the years that followed, however, Orban used his position to slowly chip away at Hungary’s democratic institutions. First to fall was the judiciary. In 2011, the government pushed through a constitutional change that allowed parliament to directly select justices of the Constitutional Court, and lowered the retirement age for all judges from 70 to 62. Then, the government made changes to the electoral system that […]

A firefighter watches the LNU Lightning Complex fires spread through the Berryessa Estates neighborhood of unincorporated Napa County, Calif., Aug. 21, 2020 (AP photo by Noah Berger).

As if COVID-19 were not enough to worry about, the global climate crisis is driving a “staggering rise” in natural disasters, the United Nations detailed last week in a new report, “The Human Cost of Disasters.” According to the U.N.’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, known as UNDRR, the number of natural disasters was 75 percent higher between 2000 and 2019 than in the previous 20 years. Unless humanity takes prompt, dramatic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet risks becoming “an uninhabitable hell for millions of people,” the report’s authors warn. Unfortunately, the world is not doing nearly […]

A TV screen shows a news program with an image of North Korea’s new ballistic missile, at the Seoul Railway Station, South Korea, Oct. 10, 2020 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

A massive military parade in North Korea last weekend was arguably the most hotly anticipated event in the country this year, but its organizers still managed to take viewers and analysts by surprise. In a departure from previous daytime processions, the parade was conducted in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 10, while most of the country slept, with an edited version broadcast on state TV in the evening. In typically dramatic fashion, North Korea’s young dictator, Kim Jong Un, kicked things off with an emotional 25-minute speech, as onlookers cheered and wept. The meticulously choreographed affair then featured fireworks, a […]

Honduran migrants wait for water being distributed by the Red Cross after hours of walking north in hopes of reaching the United States, in Quezaltepeque, Guatemala, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

Refugee advocates have condemned President Donald Trump’s notice to Congress last month that it plans to set a ceiling of 15,000 refugee admissions for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to raise the limit to at least 125,000 slots if he is elected. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman was joined by Meredith Owen, interim director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service, to discuss the Trump administration’s cruel and misguided policies toward refugees and how easy it would be for Biden to change them if he […]

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