Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani, in Moscow, Feb. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

In his speech to the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev described the war in Afghanistan as the USSR’s “bleeding wound.” Gorbachev would order Soviet forces out of Afghanistan two years later. During the subsequent three decades, Soviet and subsequently Russian leaders sought to steer clear of the country that many likened to Moscow’s Vietnam. This history makes Russia’s re-engagement in Afghanistan in recent months all the more striking. A generation after its army invaded, occupied and then withdrew from the country, Moscow has again emerged as an important power broker […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the unveiling ceremony of a monument to Vladimir the Great outside the Kremlin, Moscow, Nov. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

There is a new landmark in Moscow, opposite the towering ramparts of the Kremlin’s Borovitskaya Gate. That imposing fortified passage, through which presidential motorcades traditionally enter and exit, now shares its position on the Kremlin’s southern flank with an enormous statue of Vladimir, which was unveiled late last year. This Vladimir is not Putin, but the sainted Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev, whose baptism signaled the conversion of the Rus’ to Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century, and the alignment of their vast Eastern European empire with Constantinople and the heirs of Rome. Notably, the baptism of Vladimir—the first step […]

The former head of the Movement for a Society of Peace, Abou Djara Soltani, center, during a press conference with other Islamist politicians after legislative elections, May 11, 2012, Algiers (AP photo by Paul Schemm).

Ahead of parliamentary elections in May, Algeria’s fractious Islamist parties have announced unlikely new sets of electoral blocs. The confusing new coalitions are not just the latest iteration of the alphabet soup of Algeria’s Islamists. They also reflect the enduring limitations of Islamist party politics, which present an incomplete picture of political Islam in Algeria. The Movement for a Society of Peace, or MSP, Algeria’s largest Islamist party, declared a new alliance with the Front for Change, a splinter group that broke away from the MSP in 2008. Three other prominent Islamist parties—al-Bina al-Watani, al-Adala and al-Nahda—said earlier that they […]

A fighter from the Libyan forces affiliated with the Tripoli government runs for cover while fighting against Islamic State positions, Sirte, Sept. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Manu Brabo).

The liberation of the Libyan city of Sirte from the self-proclaimed Islamic State late last year seemed like a major step in stabilizing Libya and combating terrorism in North Africa. But Libya’s still-stalled political dialogue and internal rifts have tempered any gains. Despite—or perhaps because of—the terms of the U.N.-backed peace deal signed in Morocco in December 2015 to form a unity government, Libya remains plagued by strife between two main rival blocs in eastern and western Libya, which are unable to find common ground. The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, or GNA, that was set up 14 months ago […]

Demontrators hold a placard reading "Cop rapist go to jail" during a protest against alleged police abuse, Paris, Feb. 18, 2017 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Earlier this month, protests broke out in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a northern suburb of Paris, after police allegedly raped a 22-year-old black man, known only as “Theo L.,” with a baton during an I.D. check. One police officer was charged with rape, and two with assault. Despite a visit by French President Francois Hollande to Theo’s hospital bedside in an effort to calm the situation, rallies and riots, some violent, spread across the suburbs of Paris where immigrant and immigrant-origin communities are concentrated. The protests soon made their way to central Paris, drawing thousands to Place de la Republique by the end […]

Russia's former U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin returns to his seat after making a statement, New York, Oct. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

In the past two months, three of the most influential individuals at the United Nations have made their exits. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon bade farewell in December. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power quit as the Obama administration wrapped up in January. And this week, Russian representative Vitaly Churkin died unexpectedly at his office at the Russian mission in New York. His departure may be the most significant of all three. Ban was a stodgy bureaucrat. Power was a fiery but often frustrated advocate for serious U.N. interventions in trouble spots like the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Churkin was an old-school […]

A Papuan protester with a poster of a map of Papua province during a demonstration outside the office of Freeport-McMoRan's Indonesian subsidiary, Jakarta, March 1, 2006 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

Indonesia has one of the world’s greatest stores of natural resources, but it can sometimes be tricky getting them out of the ground. Over 20 percent of the world’s tin comes from this archipelagic nation. In West Papua province, the Grasberg mine contains the world’s largest store of gold and the world’s third-largest store of copper. Majority-owned and operated by American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, the mine is home to an estimated $100 billion in reserves. But at the moment, Freeport is exporting very little ore and has begun laying off its workforce at the mine amid a standoff with the […]

Heads of state at the V Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Jan. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Tatiana Fernandez).

In the past four years, Latin America’s so-called pink tide—the much-reported electoral shift to the left—has receded, after populist governments came under siege amid corruption scandals and economic disasters wrought by extravagant spending. The result has been a new wave of either more conservative governments hewing to an agenda of free trade, as in Argentina or Brazil, or the possibly imminent rejection of governments carrying on the legacy of their forebears, as in Bolivia, Ecuador and—should elections and other democratic conditions ever return—Venezuela. But just when Latin America’s populists had exhausted themselves, Donald Trump came along, appearing to embrace many […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands with children at the Presidential Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 21, 2016 (Egyptian Presidency photo via AP).

As the Chinese government has worked to raise its profile in the Middle East, it has sometimes struggled to promote Chinese culture in the region. Despite its emphasis on cultural engagement since then-President Hu Jintao called for China to increase its global soft power in 2007, Beijing has found it difficult even to eclipse its Asian rivals. A young Arab man or woman might buy Chinese-made goods or even study abroad at a Chinese university, but he or she would be more likely to watch a Japanese film or listen to a Korean pop song than to consume China’s cultural […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a joint press conference with the Swedish prime minister at the Saadabad Palace, Tehran, Feb. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Ebrahim Norooz).

On May 19, Iranians will go to the polls to choose their president for the 12th time since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979. The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, will almost certainly be one of the contenders, once Iran’s powerful Guardian Council confirms his candidacy. The upcoming elections will inevitably be a referendum, in part, on Rouhani’s track record, especially his promise to open up Iran’s economy after the nuclear agreement that lifted international sanctions. Unlike the American system, with its excruciatingly long election seasons, the official Iranian election calendar is deliberately short. The week-long official registration of candidates […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint news conference, Washington D.C., Feb. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took their budding “bromance” to the next level in a chummy press conference Wednesday, reaffirming not just U.S.-Israel ties but their own personal friendship as well. For those concerned that U.S. policy toward Israel under the Trump administration will shift rightward, the meeting offered a lot of confirmation. But one moment in particular stood out: Trump’s perceived abandonment of the two-state solution, a cornerstone of Washington’s stance on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process since the Clinton administration. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties […]

A worker loads rolls of sheet metal at LMS International, a distribution company in Laredo, Texas, Nov. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

When then-President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in a White House ceremony in December 1993, he called it “a defining moment” for the United States and praised Mexico and Canada as “our partners in the future that we are trying to make together.” All three countries had made what then seemed like an irreversible decision to marry their economic futures. Yet today, less than a quarter-century later, those bonds are badly fraying. The new U.S. president, Donald Trump, wants to renegotiate NAFTA, which he has called “the worst trade deal in history.” Mexican President Enrique Pena […]

Angolans on a beach during the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, Benguela, Angola, Jan. 17, 2010 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

After sending signals of his plans to retire from politics for nearly a year, Angola’s president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos—the second-longest-ruling leader in Africa—announced earlier this month that he will step down at the end of his current mandate and not run in August elections. That will bring an end to a presidency that began in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. The transition from dos Santos’ rule is the most significant political event in Angola since its independence from Portugal in 1974, and comes at a time of deep economic and social crisis in the oil-rich […]

A neighborhood destroyed by wildfires in the village of Santa Olga, Chile, Jan. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Esteban Felix.)

For the past three weeks, much of Chile was burning. The country is prone to seasonal wildfires, but this year, the worst fires in Chilean history raged out of control. By the time they receded, 11 people were dead, nearly 1.5 million acres of land were burnt, and 1,644 homes were destroyed. Smog choked the air in the capital, Santiago, and major cities narrowly escaped devastation. One village in central Chile, Santa Olga, was burnt completely to the ground. For many observers, these devastating fires are a reminder of the advancing perils of climate change. But in Chile, they also […]

Argentine President Mauricio Macri during a welcoming ceremony at the Planalto Presidential Palace, Brasilia, Brazil, Feb. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

In a decree late last month, Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, announced new immigration rules that risk repudiating the country’s history and could presage a painful break with its neighbors. The policy changes themselves are relatively minor, explicitly prohibiting the entry of any foreign national with past involvement in drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking and several other activities associated with organized crime. The new measures also expedite the deportation of all foreign-born residents implicated in similar crimes, whether these were committed in Argentina or in other countries. While the threshold for implication necessary for deportation remains uncertain, it can be […]

Central American migrants attend a Mass at the Basilica de Guadalupe, Mexico City, April 18, 2015 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

TAPACHULA, Mexico—David Gramajo was working as a bricklayer in Atlanta in 2012 when he was stopped by police for driving without a license, turned over to immigration authorities, and deported to his native Guatemala. But once he returned to Guatemala City, he and his wife Alejandra struggled to maintain their business and protect their three children. They received constant threats from gang members who extorted and threatened their family for the little money they had. Eventually, they were forced to leave behind their business and again head north, but this time with a different aim: Mexico. I met David and […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, review an honor guard, Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec. 20, 2016 (AP photo by Tran Van Minh).

For over three decades, Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, has ruled his country without any sign of ever wanting to give up power, despite growing indications that Cambodians want him to. As the country prepares for elections, he has begun his most ruthless campaign yet to consolidate his position as a strongman and undermine his opponents to ensure his own political survival. The resignation of the country’s longtime opposition leader is just the latest indication of the heavy price that Hun Sen is exacting on Cambodia’s domestic politics and foreign policy. Since coming to power in 1985 with Vietnamese support […]

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