Guinea’s Junta President Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, after a meeting with an ECOWAS delegation in Conakry, Guinea, Sept. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

For the past decade and more, the U.S. and other international actors have prioritized a narrowly defined form of stability over democratic accountability in their diplomatic, development and security engagement in West Africa. The only problem is that this approach is not working. West African countries enjoy neither the stability their international partners seek, nor the democracy their citizens desire.  Why, then, is the United States and the rest of the “international community” unwilling or unable to make a course correction in their West Africa engagement? To begin to answer that question, a bit of historical background is necessary. Beginning […]

Russian troops line up before the start of joint military drills with Tajik and Uzbek forces at the Harb-Maidon firing range, in Tajikistan near the Afghan border, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Didor Sadulloev).

On Feb. 15, 1989, Col. Gen. Boris Gromov became the last Soviet commander to leave Afghanistan, crossing the Friendship Bridge into what was then the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Gromov’s departure ended the USSR’s decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan, characterized by some as the country’s version of the Vietnam War. Moscow left behind capable local security forces, infrastructure projects and a pipeline of assistance to support its client, the socialist government led by then-President Mohammad Najibullah. Although Najibullah’s government would hold out for another three years, Moscow’s Afghanistan debacle helped bring about the implosion of the Soviet empire between 1989 to […]

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, smiles as she leaves her home in Vancouver, Canada, Sept. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Darryl Dyck).

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 Wedenesday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. More than 100 million viewers tuned in Saturday to a live state television broadcast of the moment Meng Wanzhou touched down in Shenzhen, where the Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s headquarters is located. After having spent the past three years under house arrest in Canada, Meng—the company’s chief […]

U.S. President Joe Biden with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the G-7 summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, June 12, 2021 (pool photo by Leon Neal via AP).

Joe Biden began his presidency with a great deal of goodwill from the international community. His foreign policy platform promised to undo the tense relationships former President Donald Trump’s administration often had with its allies and partners, including those in Africa. However, Biden’s approach toward the continent thus far shows that a willingness to reset relations does not presage a fundamental shift in U.S. Africa policy. Given the rising challenges of Chinese and Russian influence across the continent and the metastasizing threat of terrorism, simply restoring the cordial yet detached Africa policy of pre-Trump administrations may not be enough. The […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping conducts a press conference at the Belt and Road Forum, at Yanqi Lake on the outskirts of Beijing, April 27, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The prevailing foreign assistance architecture of today’s world, which prioritizes transparency, inclusion and accountability, was developed and codified in a unipolar system—with significant U.S. leadership and influence. Since the end of the Cold War, Western donors have supported this framework, further developing and codifying it in the Millennium Development Goals of 2000; the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness; the 2008 Accra Agenda, which built on the Paris Declaration; and the 2011 Busan Agreement to standardize good development practice, norms and standards. This architecture is now coming under pressure, largely due to China’s growing interest in and influence over today’s […]

Protesters burn representations of Israeli flags during a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza, Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

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.  Iraqis will vote on Oct. 10 for a new parliament at a time when the country faces uncertainties about a host of crises, from the resurgence of the Islamic State terror group and the looting of the country’s treasury by corrupt militias to the future of […]

President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit in Carbis Bay, England, June 12, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

As evidenced by the wall-to-wall coverage this week in this publication and countless others, French President Emmanuel Macron’s recall of France’s ambassadors from Washington and Canberra over the trilateral security pact between the U.S., Australia and the U.K. has naturally raised anew worries about the stability of the trans-Atlantic partnership and the cohesiveness of NATO. U.S. President Joe Biden’s hard pivot to the Indo-Pacific is clearly giving France specifically, and the EU and the world more generally, a bad case of whiplash.  But perhaps overshadowed by Paris’ fit of pique over Australia’s cancellation of its multibillion-dollar deal with France to build attack-class submarines in favor of […]

Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attend a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Sept. 16, 2021 (AP photo

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. 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. The aftershocks from last week’s bombshell announcement by the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that they would be forming a new security partnership whose pilot project would be to assist Australia in building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines continued to be felt well into this week. The deal signaled a major shift in the strategic landscape of […]

President Joe Biden speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-7 summit, Cornwall, U.K., June 11, 2021 (AP Photo by Patrick Semansky).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Despite yesterday’s conciliatory phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, the trans-Atlantic tensions over the nuclear-powered submarine deal between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia show little sign of abating. Last week’s announcement of the so-called AUKUS security partnership completely blindsided European […]

Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of Mali’s military junta, and retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw, right, as N’Daw is sworn into the office of transitional president, Bamako, Mali, Sept. 25, 2020 (AP file photo).

With rising communal and interethnic violence gripping swaths of the country, two coups in less than a year and a deadlocked transition to civilian rule, Mali is arguably facing its most uncertain moment since the 1991 March Revolution, which paved the way for the country’s return to civilian government nearly 30 years ago. Throw in a peace accord with northern insurgent groups on life support, a drawdown of Operation Barkhane—France’s massive counterinsurgency mission across the Sahel—and a rumored deal to deploy Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group to the country, and it’s fair to say Mali’s immediate and […]

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Missouri departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sept. 1, 2021 (U.S. Navy photo by Spc. Amanda R. Gray via AP).

In the space of a single news cycle last week, the substance behind the news that the United States and Britain had joined forces to sell nuclear submarine technology to Australia came to be overshadowed by the emotions aroused by this development—namely, France’s theatrically indignant response to having its preexisting deal to sell submarines to Canberra canceled without notice. Paris has invoked “treason” and spoken of being stabbed in the back, comparing U.S. President Joe Biden unfavorably to his predecessor, Donald Trump, all while taking the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors from the United States and Australia, something seldom done even […]

President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

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 Wedenesday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Last Wednesday, the Biden administration unveiled a historic security partnership in the Indo-Pacific region between the U.S., Australia and the U.K., known as AUKUS. As part of the deal’s terms and conditions, the United States and the United Kingdom will help Australia build and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, as […]

President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announces the AUKUS agreement from the East Room of the White House, Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

The newly announced nuclear-powered submarine deal and trilateral security partnership between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia is remarkable for the sheer range of regional and subject matter experts needed to make sense of it. Like the proverbial three blind men and the elephant, it means something very different depending on where you grab hold of it. Some of issues raised by the sub deal, particularly over the technical specifications and proliferation concerns, remain open questions that will only be answered 18 months from now, when the framework agreement is due to be finalized in an actual contract, although that […]

Turkish security forces apprehend a group of migrants in an operation aimed at stemming the recent influx of migration, in Van, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In July, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the U.K. had agreed to pay France roughly $72 million to fund border personnel and equipment that would be used to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the English Channel. The deal came amid a dramatic rise in the number of channel crossings. In the first half of 2021, more than 8,000 asylum-seekers completed the voyage to land on England’s southern shore. The deal with France was controversial, including within Patel’s own Conservative Party. Noting that this was the second such payment to France in the past year, Tim Loughton, a leading Conservative […]

A Wikipedia landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, Jan. 18, 2012 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Last week, Maggie Dennis, Wikimedia’s vice president of community resilience & sustainability, announced that it had removed seven Chinese nationals as editors on Wikipedia, following a year-long investigation into “the unrecognized group Wikimedians of Mainland China.” The internal investigation by Wikipedia’s parent organization uncovered evidence of “infiltration” resulting in members of the platform’s editorial community facing the risk of physical harm and other threats to their safety. Though Wikipedia is banned in mainland China, there have been press reports of hotly contested “edit wars” relating to political content on the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the status of Taiwan.  The episode reignites […]

The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Oklahoma City returns to the U.S. Naval Base in Guam, Aug. 19, 2021 (U.S. Navy photo by Naomi Johnson via AP).

The newly minted Australia-U.K.-U.S. security pact, known by its acronym AUKUS, was announced just days after the 70th anniversary of another regional trilateral defense arrangement, the ANZUS treaty, which comprises Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The genesis of both deals was deeply informed by history and geography.  Signed in 1951, ANZUS built on its signatories’ close cooperation in the Pacific theater of World War II and reflected a common sense of identity between the three signatories—all Pacific Ocean-facing, English-speaking democratic societies of the New World. But ANZUS was always a precarious alliance, never including a NATO-like Article 5 […]

A militiaman loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, stands guard in Panjshir province, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Jalaluddin Sekandar).

After a military retreat by Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front last week in the Panjshir Valley, the group’s head of foreign relations, Ali Nazary, appeared in Washington last Friday to vow that it would continue holding out against the Taliban and to seek military assistance for doing so. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the NRF has hired lobbyist Robert Stryk to seek military and financial support for their ongoing fight against the Taliban.  The NRF has made similar entreaties to the U.K. and France, as well as other countries closer to Afghanistan. They are one of only several militant groups with the potential to muster an […]

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