President Donald Trump arrives for his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Washington, Jan. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

U.S. President Donald Trump struck an unsurprisingly triumphal tone in his first State of the Union address last night, although the speech’s national security passages focused mainly on the threats from North Korea and Iran more than any particular successes. It’s tempting to say that Trump’s first year in office has been a wash when it comes to foreign policy. Despite the alarm and uncertainty that greeted his election, it has not resulted in the catastrophe many feared. Due to the interventions of his Cabinet and advisers, there has been more continuity than disruption in the day-to-day conduct of U.S. […]

President Donald Trump listens during a dinner with European business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

To surprise, relief or disappointment in various quarters, U.S. President Donald Trump managed to comport himself mainly with dignity and appropriate remarks when he encountered the global elite in Davos last week. At least he did during his formal speech, which was teleprompter Trump, not Twitter Trump, as he promoted investment in the United States and touted America’s economic growth. In a brief question-and-answer sessions after his speech, Trump quickly went off script, complaining about “how fake the press can be.” Many in the audience booed. But he still came away from Davos with generally high marks. Trump’s attendance at […]

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman meets with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Pyongyang, North Korea, Dec. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

Great-power war is back on the global agenda. What can international peacemakers do about it? The Pentagon’s recently released National Defense Strategy declares that the U.S. should concentrate more on strategic competition with China and Russia than on terrorism. The latest edition of The Economist, a bellwether of liberal internationalist thought, focuses on the risk of a major-power war. False nuclear alerts sparked panic in Hawaii and Japan earlier this month. Western military types fear that they are out of sync with these threats. U.S. commanders are telling their troops to get ready for a big war. Their European allies […]

Visitors hang ribbons and unification flags on a fence near the border with North Korea, Paju, South Korea, Jan. 18, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

At some point, the brutal and parasitic Kim family dictatorship in North Korea must end, but it is impossible to tell whether it will happen sooner or later. Many predictions that the regime would fall have proven false, but it simply cannot last forever. Whether by internal conflict or by provoking a war with South Korea and the United States, the Kim regime eventually will go. Stressing that “Korean unification is a Korean affair,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in is convinced that whenever reunification comes, it should be under the leadership of the democratic and economically vigorous south, rather than […]

Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler, an online news agency, addresses a rally of journalists and supporters during a protest against the recent revocation of its registration, northeast of Manila, Philippines, Jan. 19, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has gained international notoriety for his crass language and ruthless anti-drug campaign, which has resulted in thousands of Filipinos being assassinated by police and vigilantes, their bodies dumped in the streets without the benefit of a trial or any semblance of due process. But the populist, and very popular, leader is quickly becoming known for another frontal assault on the practices of a free and open democracy by relentlessly attacking his critics in the media. Until Duterte came to power in 2016, the media environment in the Philippines was relatively free and diverse. Duterte has steadily […]

Armed Swiss police officers stand guard on the roof of a hotel near the facility where the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

It’s not often that we’re treated to the spectacle of two worlds colliding, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned visit to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum this week promises to be just that. As if to add to the drama, a string of obstacles has sprung up complicating Trump’s trip. The U.S. government shutdown briefly threatened to derail it. Now a winter storm has dumped six feet of snow on the Swiss mountain retreat, making access difficult and raising the risk of an avalanche. If Trump’s visit does come off as planned, it will set the stage for […]

A dead camel decomposes in a region hit by persistent drought, Ben Guardane, Tunisia, March 12, 2011 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

With new outbreaks of political protests in Iran and Tunisia, there are questions again about the role played by environmental issues, including human-caused climate change, in stoking unrest and discontent in the Middle East. In Iran, where protests have been underway since late December, observers are making explicit linkages, drawing the connection between water scarcity that displaces farmers and government corruption and incompetence. Many protesters do not believe their government has any credible policy responses to the environmental stress and, instead, encourages water usage policies that make the problem worse. In Tunisia, where demands for political and economic reforms are […]

French President Emmanuel Macron and the heads of state of the G5 Sahel countries attend a summit launching the regional force, Bamako, Mali, July 2, 2017 (AP photo by Baba Ahmed).

It seems that everyone wants to send soldiers to the Sahel these days. Last week, the Italian Parliament approved plans to send nearly 500 troops to fight migrant-traffickers in Niger. British Prime Minister Theresa May offered to send transport helicopters to support French forces fighting terrorists in Mali. While the Italian and British deployments may be limited, they will add to an increasingly complex patchwork of peacekeeping and counterinsurgency operations across the Sahel. Once a geopolitical backwater where France called the shots, the region has become an unwieldy mash-up of crisis-management missions. United Nations peacekeepers patrol Mali, where French troops […]

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Editor’s note: This is a special Friday edition of Diplomatic Fallout. Steven Metz will return with Strategic Horizons next week. If you want to understand United Nations diplomacy, it helps to think of the institution as a sort of high-level anger management class. The U.N. may be a place for states to work together on common problems, but it is also a venue for governments to get cross with one another without causing too much damage. There are few easier ways for diplomats to postpone serious discussions of a contentious issue than passing a U.N. General Assembly resolution about it. […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos shake hands as they pose for photos at the presidential palace, Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 13, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Last weekend, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to Colombia to try to invigorate the 2016 peace agreement ending a relentless guerrilla insurgency that had become a painful relic of the Cold War. The longest-running armed conflict in the Western hemisphere pitted the state against the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the largest of two Marxist guerrilla groups that battled Colombian forces for more than half a century. But in contrast to the international acclaim and optimism that greeted the peace deal, which culminated in Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos receiving the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, Guterres’ […]

President Donald Trump speaks at the Conversations with the Women of America event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, Jan. 16, 2018 (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Coming up on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, a number of weighty international issues loom on the near horizon. Asia is on edge over signs the United States might initiate a nuclear war with North Korea and a trade war with China. The Middle East risks going completely off the rails after Trump’s reversal of decades-long U.S. policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict and his threatened reversal of the nuclear deal with Iran. Alarms are sounding in Europe over a paradigmatic shift in relations with Washington that poses an existential threat to the idea of a […]

U.S. President Donald Trump reaches out to shake hands with British Prime Minister Theresa May during the U.N. General Assembly, New York, Sept. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

When U.S President Donald Trump announced that he was canceling his trip to the United Kingdom, the public explanation was his disinterest in presiding over the opening of the mammoth new American Embassy, one of the ceremonial events planned for the visit. But it could also be seen as an unexpected gesture of consideration for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had extended the official invitation from the queen to visit before a series of awkward incidents in the bilateral relationship. Ever since the two leaders held hands outside the Oval Office barely a week after Trump’s inauguration a year […]

Pakistani religious students protest against U.S. President Donald Trump after the U.S. decision to suspend military aid to Islamabad, Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 5, 2018 (AP photo by K.M. Chaudary).

Soon after 9/11, President George W. Bush recognized that the United States needed Pakistan’s cooperation to eradicate the training camps in Afghanistan where al-Qaida planned the attacks. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared that his nation was a full partner in the new “war on terror.” A few years later, Bush designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally. Since 2002, Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in economic and security assistance from the United States, while the American military greatly expanded cooperation with its Pakistani counterpart. But this was always a deeply troubled partnership. Pakistan, especially the politically dominant Pakistani military, […]

Salvadoran immigrants Diana Paredes, left, and Isabel Barrera react at a news conference following an announcement on Temporary Protected Status for nationals of El Salvador, Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 2018 (AP photo by Damian Dovarganes).

The Trump administration’s decision to end immigration protections for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States will have a crushing impact on the lives of people who have called America their home for more than a decade, if not longer. But the reverberations of the move to end the program, known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will also have a devastating effect on El Salvador, the tiny Central American country that has struggled to stay afloat in relentlessly stormy socioeconomic and geopolitical conditions. The end of TPS could even gradually turn El Salvador into a failed […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron review a Chinese honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Jan. 9, 2018 (AP photo Mark Schiefelbein).

Much has been made of French President Emmanuel Macron’s flair for public diplomacy, from his handling of U.S. President Donald Trump to his efforts to take the lead in global diplomacy on climate change. The latest illustration is his visit this week to China, where he lived up to expectations: In a French version of China’s celebrated “panda diplomacy,” Macron offered Chinese President Xi Jinping a prized horse from France’s Republican Guard as a gift. In his speech in Xian upon his arrival, Macron offered China shared leadership on climate change diplomacy and requested Beijing’s help in efforts to stabilize […]

The Organization of Iranian American Communities holds a demonstration across from the White House in solidarity with protesters in Iran, Washington, Jan. 6, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

The momentum has tapered off in the remarkable weeklong protests across Iran. But if it seems that the regime has prevailed, despite its legitimacy eroding a bit, do the demonstrations have a deeper meaning and long-term foreign policy consequences? Will policies in Tehran and Washington change? Most outside observers, even those at opposite sides of the ideological spectrum on Iran, agree on the basic facts. These protests, which broke out in the northeastern city of Mashad on Dec. 28, were triggered by economic distress. But as they spread to dozens of locales across the country, they took on a direct […]

Ban Ki-moon hugs his successor as U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, at Guterres’ swearing-in ceremony, Dec. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

The festive season may be over, but if you still have any leftover champagne lying about, pop the cork. This column, Diplomatic Fallout, is five years old today. Or, to be more precise, five years and a day: The first edition appeared on Jan. 7, 2013. Since then, occasionally pausing for bouts of paternity leave and public holidays, I have churned out just over 200 pieces—very roughly 200,000 words—for World Politics Review. That’s about the same as Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” in terms of the quantity of words involved, if not necessarily the quality. The column has at times strayed […]

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