A Norwegian artillery observer takes part in NATO’s “Wettiner Heide” joint military exercise, Munster, Germany, May 10, 2022 (DPA photo by Philipp Schulze via AP).

One of the biggest geopolitical questions raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is whether it will transform European defense. At first glance, the answer is obviously, yes. After all, Germany declared a zeitenwende, or turning point, announcing it would invest at least 100 billion euros in its military, while also pledging to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of GDP annually on defense. Other countries around Europe are similarly upping their defense budgets to meet or surpass the NATO goal. And the EU itself has allocated 2 billion euros to support the provision of security assistance to Ukraine. Europe is suddenly taking defense very seriously and […]

A university student attends a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017 (AP photo).

Since early May, Iran has been rocked by protests over a precipitous rise in food prices, triggered by the government’s decision to cut existing subsidies on food products. Since then, prices have gone up dramatically, with staples such as imported wheat increasing by up to 300 percent and cooking oil by close to 400 percent. Within a matter of days, protests that sprang up almost simultaneously in the north, east and center of Iran had spread across the country, eventually reaching the capital, Tehran, where bus drivers went on strike. The rising price of food products are yet another blow […]

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese celebrates with his partner, Jodie Haydon, right, and Sen. Penny Wong after winning Australia’s federal elections, Sydney, Australia, May 22, 2022 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

As Australia welcomes in a Labor Party government for the first time in nearly a decade, the question arises as to whether there will be more change than continuity in Australia’s international and security policy, as well as its domestic affairs. When it comes to national security, there appears little to differentiate the incoming center-left Labor government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese from the outgoing conservative Liberal-National Coalition government led by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison. But several issues featuring prominently during the campaign, including climate change and issues of identity, can be expected to shape foreign and defense […]

People hold a banner showing Col. Assimi Goita, leader of the junta running Mali, as they demonstrate to show support for the junta in the capital Bamako, Mali, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo).

In May 2021, Mali suffered its second coup in the space of a year, both of which were perpetrated by the same group of colonels. While the first coup, in August 2020, followed a recognizable script of quickly standing up a civilian-led transitional government with the task of guiding the country to democratic elections, the second has upended that “business-as-usual” approach to post-coup transitions. As such, for Mali and for West African democracy in general, it represents a real turning point, revealing the coup-makers’ combination of shrewdness and ambition—a combination that is already being replicated by military juntas that have […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leads a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 17, 2022 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service photo via AP).

Reliable and accurate data are supposed to be the bedrock of the global health governance system. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is demonstrating just how difficult it is to collect such information, and why this failure has so many consequences for national and international responses to infectious disease outbreaks. Let’s use North Korea as an example. How many cases of COVID-19 have there been in the so-called Hermit Kingdom? If you ask North Korean government officials, the answer prior to the middle of May 2022 was zero—despite reports in the South Korean press that nearly 200 North Korean soldiers had died of the disease as early […]

Afghans chant slogans against Iran during a demonstration in Massoud Square, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 12, 2022 (AP photo by Mohammed Shoaib Amin).

Over the past month, a series of violent episodes on Afghanistan’s borders have put the country’s relations with its neighbors in the spotlight. Some incidents involved Taliban fighters, such as clashes on the border with Iran. Others, like the Islamic State’s rocket attacks on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, highlighted the Taliban’s inability to control Afghanistan’s borderlands. And a wave of violence in Pakistan by militants based in Afghanistan has grown so intense that in mid-April Pakistan conducted reprisal airstrikes on Afghan territory, killing dozens of civilians and turning up the diplomatic heat between Islamabad and Kabul. Inflamed tensions between the struggling […]

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As of last week, NATO seemed well on its way to expanding, when Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications for membership. When they officially join, becoming the 31st and 32nd member of the alliance, it could potentially mark the fastest accession process in the alliance’s history. This is reflective of the sudden about-face in the two countries’ foreign policies in the months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both went quickly from countries content with a posture of non-alignment marked by occasional cooperation with NATO, to expressing increasing support for the alliance, to applying for full membership. It is not […]

Migrants arrive in Lesbos, Greece, in a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel, February 28, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Varaklas).

Earlier this month, Journalists Without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index placed Greece last among European Union countries for press freedom, citing a number of challenges faced by journalists in the country. The index suggests that Greece is a country in which democratic norms are in serious crisis. Journalists covering refugee pushbacks—in which Greek security forces illegally expel refugees and migrants that have reached Greek territory and waters—have had their phones tapped without explanation; others were monitored with spyware by the Greek authorities without any justification from the government. Meanwhile, a new law, which according to the government was passed to combat COVID-19 disinformation, makes it an offense for citizens […]

A man waving a Cuban flag in a rally outside the White House in Washington, July 13, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

President Joe Biden has finally learned the lesson that each of his 11 predecessors had to grudgingly accept when it comes to Cuba: Some U.S. interests can only be advanced by engaging with Havana. After a policy review that lasted 15 months, during which former President Donald Trump’s draconian economic sanctions remained in place, the State Department recently announced it will relax the measures that have had the greatest direct impact on the Cuban people. The change comes at a moment when irregular migration from Cuba is aggravating the crisis on the U.S. southern border and Latin American heads of […]

Police stand guard over seized cocaine that is displayed to the press at the Special Forces Police headquarters in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 28, 2021 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

The assassination of a top Paraguayan prosecutor while on vacation in Colombia last week has raised major concerns about the strength and influence of organized criminal groups in the country, one of the world’s top marijuana producers and a key transit point for Andean cocaine. Marcelo Pecci, an organized crime specialist, was shot dead on May 10 on the island of Baru, south of the Colombian city of Cartagena. Pecci was on honeymoon with his pregnant wife when two assailants arrived on jet skis and gunned him down. He died on the spot from three wounds to his face and torso. […]

Migrants cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, near the border of Morocco and Spain, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Nearly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the crisis continues to dominate, if not quite monopolize, the attention of policymakers and pundits in Europe and the U.S. It is the cause of weekly and even daily debates and ructions over everything from how much aid to Ukraine is enough and how much is too much, to which European leader has done the most to support Kyiv in its hour of need and which the least. In addition to upending Europe’s security landscape, the war has also transformed Europe as an economic and political space. Finland and Sweden are clamoring to […]

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni attends the state funeral of former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by John Muchucha).

Last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, celebrated his 48th birthday with a series of public parties. The events were widely viewed as the thinly veiled launch of a political project that would see Muhoozi succeed his father. The move follows years of similar, albeit more subtle, maneuvers—particularly Muhoozi’s rapid rise through the ranks of the country’s military; the apparent purge of potential contenders within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party; increased public appearances; and, more recently, his flurry of meetings with various diplomats and heads of state. It is not yet clear what is prompting the apparent acceleration of the […]

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, right, marks his election win with incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, left, in Mogadishu, Somalia, May 15, 2022 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somali lawmakers elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s next president yesterday in a vote broadcast live on national television, bringing a conclusion to a dramatic, long-delayed presidential election that threatened to exacerbate socio-political tensions in the country. Mohamud, who previously served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017, beat out 36 candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Farmaajo, as Mohamed is known, conceded defeat, paving the way for Mohamud to be sworn in immediately. The poll was conducted in a tent on the premises of Mogadishu’s heavily guarded airport complex, amid a lockdown and curfew imposed on the city by […]

Robert Golob, the leader of the Freedom Movement party, arrives for a meeting with President Borut Pahor, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, April 26, 2022 (AP photo).

Pledging to “take our country back to freedom,” businessman and political insurgent Robert Golob reveled in his victory over populist, conservative Prime Minister Janez Jansa in Slovenia’s parliamentary election on April 24. Jansa, a close ally of Hungary’s authoritarian premier, Viktor Orban, is a controversial figure who has previously been embroiled in corruption scandals and more recently accused of attacks on the free media and independent institutions. Golob’s victory may give hope to liberals across Central and Eastern Europe that right-wing strongmen can be defeated, and many EU leaders will be relieved that Jansa is out. But Golob is just the […]

A man holds a placard mocking Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the May Day rally in Sydney, May 1, 2022 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

Australians will head to the polls next week to elect a new government, with the prospects looking dire for the coalition of the Liberal and National parties that has been in power since 2013. During this time, internal divisions within the Liberal Party has led to Australia having had three different prime ministers. Although Prime Minister Scott Morrison has managed to make it through a full three-year term since winning the last elections in 2019, it would be a mistake to conclude that the party has overcome its constant in-fighting. In fact, this election represents the biggest existential threat the Liberal Party […]

Chad’s interim president, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron for a meeting on the Sahel crisis at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Nov. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

The spate of military takeovers and attempted coups across Africa over the past two years has led to speculation in some quarters about a generalized “return to military rule” or “coup contagion” on the continent. In August 2020, a group of Malian officers led by Col. Assimi Goita overthrew the government of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. A little over nine months later, Goita also deposed the transitional government the interim junta had selected to steer the country back toward a democratically elected civilian government. In Guinea and Sudan, the army toppled civilian leaders last year, while Chad’s armed forces […]

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, right, greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Algiers, Algeria, May 10, 2022 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service photo via AP).

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated Europe’s energy crisis, leaving the European Union desperately seeking alternative sources of supply to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Among the states in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia the EU has turned to in efforts to diversify its energy supplies Algeria has been identified as a promising source of additional supplies of natural gas. But diplomatic obstacles and production limitations, as well as Algiers’ commercial links to Moscow, mean that expectations management are in order when it comes to Algeria being a cure for Europe’s energy woes. Among the […]

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