Students and migrant workers walk near a construction site at Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications, in Chongqing, China (AP photo by Alexander F. Yuan).

In July 1971, one month after the publication of the Pentagon Papers and a year before the Watergate break-in that would eventually cause his downfall, Richard Nixon gave one of the most interesting, and in retrospect, important, speeches of his political career. Still relatively unblemished by scandal, Nixon was cruising toward what would become a gigantic reelection win. He had his eyes fixed firmly on the future and on his long-standing penchant, if not obsession, with international affairs. In a speech to Midwestern media executives that even now remains underappreciated, Nixon said that because of the all-consuming effect of the […]

A banner showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping with a group of Uyghur elders at the Unity New Village in Hotan, in western China’s Xinjiang region, Sept. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. If the Chinese leadership hoped this week’s grandiose celebrations marking the Chinese Communist Party’s centennial would deflect international attention from China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, they’ll be sorely disappointed. To begin with, the United States introduced fresh sanctions on Chinese silicon over allegations of […]

President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Villa La Grange, in Geneva, Switzerland (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

After 18 months of the pandemic disrupting routines and upending our lives, things finally seem to be getting back to normal in some corners of the world. Elton John, for one, has just released extra dates on his latest “final” Farewell Tour. Meanwhile, another septuagenarian, Joe Biden, recently completed his first overseas visit as U.S. president. It is hard to imagine Biden carrying off the feathered headdresses or diamante-encrusted catsuits that make up John’s onstage wardrobe. But his European tour—comprising summits with the leaders of the G-7, NATO and European Union, and culminating in a meeting with his Russian counterpart, […]

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivers a speech at Methodist Central Hall in London, Tuesday Jan. 31, 2006 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart Patrick, who will return July 12. Some years ago, I wrote a column about the Trump administration’s hapless diplomacy at the United Nations that noted that the U.S. faced “a brace of flash points from Iran to South Sudan.” I did not pause to think what “a brace” was. I must have assumed it meant “a lot.” A few days later, I received a wry email from a gentleman in Oxford pointing out that a brace is in fact a synonym for “a pair.” Trump, he thought, was facing […]

A U.S. soldier stands guard at the K1 Air Base near Kirkuk in northern Iraq, March 29, 2020 (Photo by Ameer Al Mohammedaw for dpa via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Sunday’s overnight air strikes by the U.S. on militia targets in Iraq and Syria immediately rekindled an important debate about deterrence and sovereignty, but also the frustrating persistence of America’s “forever wars.” How should America handle militia attacks on its forces in Iraq, a country where […]

Smoke billows from the chimneys at Lethabo Power Station, a coal fired power station, in Vereeniging, South Africa, Dec. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

Summer is the time of year when climate change dominates the public conversation, and it came earlier this year than ever before. Hurricanes are battering the Caribbean, and record heat waves—exacerbated by climate change—are scorching Europe and Western North America, with wildfires increasingly encroaching on population centers. This year, over 100,000 more acres have already burned than at the same time last year, though last year’s fire damage was record-breaking as well. Smaller, island nations are in a fight for their very survival. In this context, global efforts to gradually reduce carbon emissions seem paltry at best. The Paris Agreement […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the Heliopolis Presidential Palace, in Cairo, May 26, 2021 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

During his first four months in office, U.S. President Joe Biden did not speak with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi—a notable departure from precedent given the history of close security ties between the two countries. But after months of silence, Biden spoke with Sisi twice over the course of five days in May, extending his “sincere gratitude” to Egypt “for its successful diplomacy” in securing a cease-fire that ended 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that runs the Gaza Strip. Two days later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Egypt and Jordan as […]

Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate in Iran’s presidential elections, waves to the media after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

As the regime-anointed candidate in Iran’s presidential election charade last Friday, Ebrahim Raisi’s victory was thoroughly expected. Even so, it managed to be jarring. It’s not every day a country chooses a man accused of crimes against humanity for such a powerful post, with all signs pointing to Raisi acquiring even greater, unrivaled power in the near future. For the Iranian people, Raisi’s presidency, followed by his projected ascension to the post of supreme leader once the ailing 83-year-old Ali Khamenei dies, promises to bring even more repression. For Iran’s neighbors, Western powers—particularly the United States—and the rest of the […]

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, right, and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd during a meeting in Taipei, April 15, 2021 (Taiwan Presidential Office photo via AP Images).

Ever since Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996, American and Taiwanese presidential terms have neatly overlapped. The first democratically elected Taiwanese leader, Lee Teng-hui, shared his term with Bill Clinton. Lee’s successor, Chen Shui-bian, served concurrently with George W. Bush, while Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency coincided with Barack Obama’s. Relations in the Lee/Clinton and Chen/Bush years were bumpy, but both sides were content with a low-key relationship. The pattern broke when American voters rejected Donald Trump’s bid for a second term, making Tsai Ing-wen the first elected Taiwanese president to overlap with two different U.S. presidents, Trump and Joe Biden. […]

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, right, and former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attend the inauguration ceremony of the Patriotic Front's Edgar Lungu, in Lusaka, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Moses Mwape).

When Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s former president and founding father, died last week at the age of 97, what followed in the Western media was a series of entirely predictable and desultory summations of an African leader’s long career in politics and public life. There was mention of his upbringing in the church in a part of Africa then known as Northern Rhodesia, and its lasting effects on Kaunda’s moderating humanism. There were the unfailing descriptions of his affectations, like carrying a white pocket square, which he pulled out to daub his eyes when occasionally shedding tears in public, or his […]

A police officer stands guard outside Guatemala’s Supreme Court, standing between photos of persons who were forcibly disappeared, during a genocide case hearing in Guatemala City, Nov. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

Earlier this month, Guatemala’s movement for transitional justice received a major boost when a judge charged six retired military officers for their alleged participation in the deaths and forced disappearance of at least 183 civilians during the country’s bloody, 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Six others remain in custody over the same allegations but were not yet charged. But the progress coincided with an almost immediate backlash from Guatemala’s political elites. Soon after the retired officers were initially arrested last month, conservative lawmakers presented a bill that would free convicted war criminals and prevent prosecution of crimes related […]

A Girls Who Code class at Adobe Systems in San Jose, California, June 18, 2014 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Speaking at a session I moderated last month at CyberUK, the British government’s flagship annual cybersecurity event, Anne Neuberger spoke about her extraordinary path, which led her from attending gender-segregated night classes to becoming U.S. President Joe Biden’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology. “I grew up in a community where women are discouraged from going to college, as part of a focus and a belief that women’s roles are in the home,” said Neuberger, who was raised speaking Yiddish in a traditional Hasidic community in New York. “So to be true to the community and the […]

A new border wall stretches along the landscape near Sasabe, Arizona, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Ross D. Franklin).

Back in 1990, when the Soviet bloc was crumbling into new nations, Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, had the audacity to suggest that humankind was on the cusp of a new “borderless world,” in a book of the same name. Ohmae’s goal was mainly to sketch out new ways for businesses to adapt and take advantage of a world that he argued would be increasingly globalized, where nation-states and the borders that help define them would become less and less relevant. For more than two decades, the world seemed to be moving in the direction of […]

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Jan. 21, 2018 (AP photo by J. David Ake).

Do Americans want the U.S. government to spend more or spend less on foreign aid? The correct—if perhaps surprising—answer is more, by a lot. Most Americans say aid should be 10 percent of the entire federal budget, almost 10 times more than the roughly 1 percent of the budget that currently goes to foreign aid. But here’s a paradox: When asked whether the U.S. should increase or decrease aid spending, most Americans also say that the government should spend less on aid, not more. What explains this consistently inconsistent polling result? The problem, as NPR explains, is that Americans massively […]

An Iranian woman casts her vote at a polling station inside the Iranian consulate in Karbala, Iraq, June 18, 2021 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which uses relevant WPR coverage to provide background and context to the week’s top stories. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. I gave a preview of U.S. President Joe Biden’s European tour in last week’s newsletter. It’s worth following up briefly, as there were some notable outcomes from his whistle-stop summitry. To begin with, he very clearly succeeded in resetting relations with America’s European allies and putting the […]

U.S. President Joe Biden, right, speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a NATO summit in Brussels, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Erdogan vowed that the meeting would be transformative. In a virtual gathering with American investors last month, he predicted that the encounter would “herald a new era.” It was no surprise, then, that after the Monday meeting in Brussels concluded, Erdogan took pains to stretch the truth and describe it as a major success. Whatever happened to the provocateur, the pugnacious politician whose words and actions so frequently put him at odds with his neighbors and his allies? Where did […]

President Joe Biden speaks at the United States-European Union Summit at the European Council in Brussels, June 15, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

What does President Joe Biden’s first foray into international summitry reveal to us about the quality of his vision for America’s place in the world? As might be expected, some of the priorities he pursued in meetings this week with the leaders of the G-7, NATO and the European Union are timely and well-founded. Think reassuring America’s oldest allies after the persistent disruption of the Trump years. Think building consensus around a collective response to increasingly aggressive Russian behavior, whether via cyberattacks emanating from that country or the menace Moscow poses to Ukraine or the Baltic states. In the more […]

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