PM Kishida addressing the military after announcing that the defense budget will be doubled amid rising china tensions. The country will maintain its pacifism

Japan recently announced a series of changes to its defense policy, drawing criticism from rivals and praise from partners. A clearer understanding of the situation requires more balance and less hyperbole. As important as what changed in Tokyo’s defense posture is what did not change—namely, the pacifist stance at the heart of it.

In Cuba, protests amid a political and economic crisis spurred on by sanctions

The twin blows of U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated by runaway inflation triggered by an economic reform gone awry, have plunged Cuba into its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most poignant and costly manifestation of the public’s exhaustion is the sharp increase in emigration.

In Benin, elections were considered a test of democracy and a bellwether for West Africa

Benin was once regarded as one of West Africa’s “beacons of democracy.” But the authoritarian drift on display during Patrice Talon’s presidency has caused observers to worry about the country’s trajectory. That unease formed the backdrop to recent legislative elections, seen as a test of Benin’s democratic credentials.

The foreign policy of Brazil is being shaken up by Lula

“Brazil is back,” Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said shortly before being sworn in for a third term as president. His foreign policy agenda marks a clean break from that of his predecessor with a focus on reengagement with the world. But that may be harder to achieve now than it was when Lula first took office 20 years ago.

Germany's Chancellor averted an energy crisis while weaning off of russia's gas supply and switching to other sources of LNG

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany has been weening itself off of its dependence on Russian energy, despite grave predictions about the potential fallout, including fears of a financial meltdown. But as the winter cold has descended on Europe, these concerns of rationing and shortages have not been borne out.

China-Taiwan tensions have gotten worse under Taiwanese President Tsai (DPP), but are not expected to get better under a KMT president

Instead of repairing cross-strait relations, Beijing seems content to maintain its uncompromising approach toward the government of President Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan. Beijing is hoping that a more amenable government will be elected in 2024, when Taiwan holds its next presidential election. But that might be a losing bet.

Uruguay's President, Lacalle Pou, amid a corruption scandal that has shaken the country's politics and economy

Uruguay is known for boasting a squeaky-clean democracy that tops indices measuring government transparency in South America. Now a corruption scandal with mafia-esque overtones has severely damaged President Luis Lacalle Pou, potentially hampering his reform agenda and sidelining him ahead of elections in October 2024.

In Mongolia, a difficult political and economic situation is made even more challenging by shifting relations with China and Russia

Mongolia ended 2022 with a bang when protesters stormed the seat of government in the capital in December. The demonstrations fizzled out, but the corruption allegations that triggered them continue to rankle. Combined with other problems at home and complex relations with China and Russia, 2023 is shaping up to be a challenge.

Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) politics are still reeling from the Second Ivorian Civil War a decade ago

Charles Ble Goude, a close associate of Cote d’Ivoire’s former President Laurent Gbagbo, formally announced his return to politics last week. His homecoming and reentry into politics recalls that of Gbagbo, who returned to the country in June 2021, and is sparking intrigue ahead of the 2025 presidential contest.

in Jammu and Kashmir, India is cracking down on human rights after revoking Article 370

New Delhi’s latest effort to establish “peace and normalcy” in the Jammu and Kashmir region has muzzled even the most vocal of Kashmiris. So if silence is the goal of the campaign, it has worked. Yet the false sense of peace created by improvements in the economy and security landscape belies the stark reality on the ground.

After a decade of isolation, many countries in the middle east are warming back up to Syria and the Assad regime

In early January, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. And a once unthinkable meeting between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Assad is now also in the works. Clearly, 2023 has begun with the momentum for normalizing ties with the Assad regime growing.

Japan's PM decided to take a tough line on Russia relations after the invasion of Ukraine

Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio warned before the outbreak of war in Ukraine that a full-scale invasion would force Japan’s hand on supporting economic and political efforts to isolate Moscow. Since then, Japan’s opposition to the war in Ukraine has only sharpened, with a lasting impact on bilateral relations.

A Bayraktar TB2 drone from Turkey on display at a defense industry showcase

Turkish arms exports surged past $4 billion in 2022, up nearly 36 percent from 2021, with exports accounting for 98 percent of the arms contractor Bayraktar’s sales. Clearly, Turkey has arrived as a major arms exporter, but what are the implications of these exports in terms of its choice of partners?

China's Xi Jinping visits Eastern Europe in an effort to gain soft power there

Over the past decade, China has targeted Central and Eastern Europe with its influence operations, cultivating leaders, building ties with regional media and developing telecom infrastructure. Yet despite these efforts, and as the war in Ukraine rages on, Beijing has seen its soft power and popularity in the region wane.

The fishing industry in Senegal is taking a hit as Oil and Gas Reserves were found there

When major energy reserves were discovered off Senegal’s northern coastline in 2015, many hailed it as great news for a country where more than half the population lives below the poverty line. But with the reserves due to come online this year, the situation is more complicated than when celebrations broke out almost eight years ago.

Police in Bolivia during a protest in support of Camacho, who was arrested for his role in an alleged coup amid a political and democratic crisis

The arrest of Luis Camacho, a prominent opposition leader, for his role in the alleged coup following Bolivia’s contested 2019 presidential election has aggravated political polarization. Government supporters view it as belated justice, while the opposition says it is a sign of the country’s slide toward authoritarianism.

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