A Ukrainian soldier in the trench, on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Andriy Dubchak).

Beyond its immediate implications for European security, the current crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border highlights the enduring importance of state sovereignty as an ordering principle in world politics, notwithstanding frequent claims that globalization has rendered it obsolete. It also exposes the tendency of governments to invoke, dismiss or reinterpret this bedrock principle to suit their situational needs. In fact, global stability now depends on whether the United States and European Union are able to reaffirm and defend the centrality of state sovereignty against a Russian attempt to dismiss it. On one level, the Ukraine situation would seem to have turned […]

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Assessing the Biden administration’s performance in the Middle East at the one-year mark requires some careful metrics. Should the benchmark be a comparison to the turbulent Trump years, or to earlier times when U.S. diplomacy was defining the regional agenda and, on occasion, making a meaningful contribution to achieving peace? Should it prioritize the possibility that people in the region, who once resented the effects of too much U.S. power, now fear its absence, or the emerging consensus in Washington that the U.S. has more urgent strategic challenges to attend to elsewhere? Biden administration officials talk in pragmatic terms about […]

U.S. President John F. Kennedy and President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana talk as they sit in a limousine at Washington National Airport on March 8, 1961 (AP photo).

Anyone with even a sketchy understanding of the Cold War knows that it was a time not only of intense direct competition between the reigning superpowers, but also of grand schemes by both the U.S. and USSR for integrating their allies and clients into adversarial blocs, as well as for poaching the partners of the rival power—especially in the developing world—into their own camp. Throughout much of this era, the West regarded professions of neutrality among poorer countries with skepticism or even outright hostility. Beginning with the Eisenhower administration, the view took hold in Washington that non-alignment was just a […]

Matty Nev Luby holds up her phone in front of a ring light she uses to lip-sync with the smartphone app Musical.ly, in Wethersfield, Conn., Feb. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Jessica Hill).

Last week, in a speech outlining his priorities for the year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm on five pressing global challenges that will require “the full mobilization of every country” to address—namely, COVID-19, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyberspace and peace and security.  It is the fourth of these, lawlessness in cyberspace, that most stands out. As Guterres noted, while “outdated … multilateral frameworks” and ineffective global governance are hindering progress on almost all of the international community’s shared goals, in cyberspace, “global governance barely exists at all.” There, structures and norms are not in need of refurbishment, […]

A man lifts a tarp to show a flood inside his covered farm in Zhaoguo village in central China’s Henan province, Oct. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

For the past 60 years, a series of agricultural innovations have helped feed the world. New varieties of staple crops produced high yields. New fertilizers encouraged crop health. And improved agronomic methods helped farmers make the most of their resources. These new tools and practices became foundational to the production of agriculture in the U.S. and around the world, enabling marked increases in output and important reductions in rural poverty. But that productivity-centric model is no longer meeting global needs. Over the past decade, hunger has once again started to rise, bringing with it doubts about our long-term ability to […]

People wait in queues to receive cash at a money distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

International attention has been trained this week on Ukraine, where fears of an imminent outbreak of conflict have many observers worrying about the future of multilateralism in a period of strategic competition between the U.S., Russia and China. Yet an equally troubling bellwether for the future of multilateralism lies in the world’s collective failure to address the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.   Five months after the Taliban’s takeover, the international community appears no closer to an answer on how to manage its strategic interests in Afghanistan, from dealing with the Taliban to addressing the needs of millions of suffering Afghans. […]

A Federal Electricity Commission, or CFE, electric meter is attached to a pole in San Jeronimo Xayacatlan, Mexico, June 24, 2020 (AP file photo by Fernando Llano).

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s proposed energy reform bill is still awaiting legislative action since being sent to Congress last October. But it is already generating sparks in Mexico—and Washington. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm traveled to Mexico City on Jan. 20 to meet with AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is known, and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard. The main issue on the agenda: How to prevent Mexico from approving the bill, which Washington argues would violate several clauses of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada, or USMCA, free trade agreement.  This isn’t the first time U.S. government officials have signaled their reservations about […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Jan. 21, 2022, Geneva, Switzerland (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

If Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of invading Ukraine, he sure has a funny way of showing it. Roughly 100,000 Russian troops remain massed on the two countries’ border, with units continuing to be deployed. And a joint Russian-Belarus military exercise scheduled for February is set to position even more still to Ukraine’s north, adding a potential vector of attack. Russian officials continue to deny that an invasion is imminent, but there is a palpable sense of foreboding across Europe and in Washington that the continent stands on the brink of what would be its first major interstate […]

A woman holds a photograph during a protest to raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan, outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Aug. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

There was long a truism in political science that democratic states don’t go to war with one another, based on a century of statistical data. This prompted decades of U.S. foreign policy aimed at democracy promotion, culminating in the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem was that the prevalence of the term “democratic peace” led policymakers to overlook three key facts.  First, while stable democracies do tend to enjoy pacific relations with one another, emergent democracies often face great risk of civil or interstate war. Second, stable democracies are actually more likely to go to war against nondemocracies, meaning that the drive […]

People demonstrate after the Polish parliament approved a bill that is widely viewed as an attack on media freedom, Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In September 2021, the Polish government declared a state of emergency along its border with Belarus, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in response to a large influx of migrants from countries including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The route and timing of the migrants’ journey into Europe was not random: They were assisted by the Belarusian authorities, led by the country’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994. Warsaw went on to accuse Minsk of engaging in “hybrid warfare” backed by Russia. Both the humanitarian crisis on Poland’s border, where migrants were left stranded in […]

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in front of the Soviet U.N. delegation headquarters, New York City, Sept. 22, 1960 (AP photo).

In 1956, then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev executed a sharp but largely forgotten reorientation in his country’s foreign policy. During the long decades under Josef Stalin, with the exception of its support for communist China, Moscow had focused almost all of its energy abroad in buttressing client states in Eastern Europe. But with one major speech, Khrushchev announced that the era of investing only in Russia’s “near abroad” was finished.  Taking his cues from the 1955 Asian-African Bandung Conference in Indonesia that launched the Non-Aligned Movement, and anticipating the huge wave of newly sovereign countries that would commence with Ghana’s independence […]

An old and corroded Soviet tank on the beach of Socotra Island, Yemen, Oct. 22, 2021 (CTK photo by Ondrej Zaruba, via AP Images).

Ravaged by over seven years of war, Yemen continues to witness escalating violence as 2022 begins. Last week, pro-government forces fighting on behalf of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seized the energy-rich Shabwah province. After successfully pushing out fighters loyal to the Houthi movement from Shabwah, the loose coalition of pro-government forces continues its campaign in neighboring Marib province. Largely overshadowed by these rapid developments on the ground were reports of Houthi fighters seizing a UAE vessel traveling through the Red Sea. The pro-government coalition stated that the vessel […]

Attendees walk past an electronic display showing recent cyberattacks in China at the China Internet Security Conference in Beijing, Sept. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Davos Man has seen the future, and it is bleak. Last week, the sponsors of the World Economic Forum released their 17th annual “Global Risks” report on the most worrisome threats confronting humanity in 2022 and beyond. Sadly, this latest crystal ball-reading exercise suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be the least of our worries. Over the next decade, the most pressing task confronting humanity will be ensuring the survival of life on planet Earth—and at the same time, the world’s governments will need to navigate surging economic inequality, rising barriers to migration and growing vulnerabilities in both cyberspace and outer […]

Demonstrators gather during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

On Wednesday, Tunisia announced that it had restored its pandemic-era restrictions, imposing a 10 p.m. curfew and banning all gatherings for two weeks. According to President Kais Saied’s government, the decision was made in order to combat the recent, rapid spread of the coronavirus’s omicron variant. Yet the timing was suspect. It came merely two days before rival political parties were scheduled to lead a massive demonstration against Saied’s concentration of power in his own hands. The main opposition party, Ennahda, immediately promised to defy the ban and called for its supporters to demonstrate anyway.  Tunisia is not an isolated case. Since the beginning […]

The New Year’s Eve Ball in Times Square, New York, Dec. 30, 2021 (AP photo by Yuki Iwamura).

Around the world in recent years, the enthusiastic embrace of globalization has given way to a backlash against liberalized trade. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, that shift toward a generalized closure, both between and within nations, has become almost a default setting, on display in everything from governments’ rush to close borders in response to new variants to hyperpartisan politics that turns policy debates into trench warfare.  Meanwhile, the pandemic, combined with climate change, has only created added urgency among younger generations to ensure that questions of intergenerational equity are made central to how we address both crises. […]

A teacher checks the temperature of a student at Maestro Padilla school, in Madrid, Spain, Sept. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Manu Fernandez).

With the world hitting a record number of new COVID-19 cases in a single week in December, it is unsurprising that the coronavirus pandemic is once again dominating headlines. But one story in particular seems to have captured attention: that of Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked tennis player, whose visa was cancelled last week when he arrived in Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open.  Djokovic was initially granted a medical exemption to enter Australia without proof of vaccination against COVID-19, which is normally required to obtain a visa. The Serbian tennis player now appears to have won an appeal against his […]

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Much has already been said about the recent heightening of U.S.-China tensions and its potential fallout. What gets less attention is how the U.S. and China themselves perceive the status of their relationship, and how that affects their plans for the future. An analysis of prevailing elite opinion in the U.S. and China—starting with reactions to the Nov. 16 virtual summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping—can shed light on how each side understands the root causes of the current competition, and why they believe they can overcome them. For the United States, the rivalry is […]

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