The Porta Nuova business center, Milan, Italy, March 11, 2016 (AP photo by Luca Bruno).

Pity Matteo Renzi. Italy’s prime minister knows that his country’s troubled banking system has put its nascent economic recovery at risk. Yet Italy’s own financial weakness and European Union rules severely constrain his options. Not all the news is bad, though. Renzi’s financial team has come up with an imaginative response to the country’s bank problem with what they call the Atlante Fund, a rescue package to buy up risky loans. But the fund has its own limits, given the precariousness of Italy’s finances, and by implication Europe’s. Past regulatory oversight or maybe just negligent private management have left Italian […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, New York, Sept. 28, 2015 (U.N. photo by Eskinder Debebe).

Editor’s note: Ellen Laipson’s Measured Response column will return next week. For how long will Vladimir Putin be a decisive figure at the United Nations? The Russian president has rarely visited Turtle Bay. But his unique mix of diplomatic aggression and agility has profoundly affected the institution over the past five years. Putin has used Russia’s veto in the Security Council to set the terms of debate over Syria and Ukraine. Moscow has also pointedly complicated Western initiatives to deal with crises in places where Russia has few deep interests, like Sudan and Burundi. Yet Russia has also been adept […]

Supporters of the left-wing Syriza party react after the election results at the party’s main electoral center, Athens, Sept. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

By now, the European Union has been struggling for over half a decade to sustainably resolve the euro crisis. And as the latest round of brinkmanship over the next bailout tranche for Greece shows, the crisis is far from resolved. It’s still too early to tell what kind of EU will eventually emerge from the crisis, but it is not too early to take stock of the political changes the past five years have already brought about. Conventional wisdom has it that both left- and right-wing populism have been on the rise across the continent. Yet this lazy equation of […]

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz during a state visit to China, Sept. 14, 2015, Beijing (AP photo by Lintao Zhang).

Earlier this month, thousands in Mauritania took to the streets to protest President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s proposed constitutional referendum that many believe is designed to allow him to seek a third term in office.* In an email interview, Noel Foster, a doctoral student at Princeton University, discussed politics in Mauritania and the reaction to the proposed reforms. WPR: What constitutional reforms has President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz proposed, and what is driving the move? Noel Foster: Abdel Aziz recently proposed a constitutional referendum, ostensibly to amend the constitution so as to abolish the Senate and pursue decentralization. Granted, the […]

This photo purports to show volunteers standing near the wreckage of the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Akhtar Mansour was allegedly traveling, Baluchistan, Pakistan, May 21, 2016 (AP photo by Abdul Malik).

Last weekend, a U.S. military drone killed Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, as he drove home from Iran to Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. This was a bold action, marking the first time an American drone strike had been ordered in the Taliban’s home base, rather than in Pakistan’s tribal areas that border Afghanistan. It may not signal yet another new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan, but it is a significant tactical and political shift, recognition that as the Obama administration winds down, trends in the country are not good. As Dan De Luce and John […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, Japan, today, the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the site of the U.S. atomic bombing at the end of World War II. He remembered those lost in that devastating conflict and joined with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in calling for renewed attention to the task of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. The leaders of the U.S. and Japan—the only nation to have used these terrible weapons and the nation against which they were used—stood together to call for an end to nuclear proliferation. The symbolism of Obama’s visit aside, for many, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a signing ceremony, Sochi, Russia, May 18, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss rolling back Cuba sanctions, counterterrorism in Africa, and the hybrid information era. For the Report, Nikolas Gvosdev joins us to talk about Russia’s outreach to Southeast Asia. What is motivating it, and has it succeeded? Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: Despite Loosened Embargo, Bankers’ Fears Block U.S. Commerce With Cuba Africa’s Counterterrorism Growth Industry May Backfire Rhodes Profile: Citizens, Spin and Truth in the Hybrid Information Era With Putin’s ASEAN Outreach, Russia Sets Sights on Southeast Asia Trend Lines is […]

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaking to his supporters before entering Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone, March, 27, 2016 (AP photo by Karim Kadim).

A key character from the Iraqi insurgency is back center stage in Baghdad, but what does it mean? The re-emergence of Muqtada al-Sadr, the 42-year-old Shiite cleric notorious for his firebrand rhetoric and command of a feared militia, the Mahdi Army, has sparked all kinds of coverage. Sadr has been compared to an “Iraqi Gandhi”—an evolution, in the same headline, from “rabid warlord.” His apparent reinvention from militia leader to “shrewd political operator” has people asking, again, whether he is the most powerful man in Iraqi politics. The return of this “old provocateur” in February amid streets protests outside Baghdad’s […]

Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil women hold photographs of their missing family members, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka—The scars of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war remain plainly visible in the country’s north, where ethnic Tamils make up the vast majority of the population. Abandoned colonial mansions riddled with bullets stand as testament to the long war and the devastation it wrought on the region. More than half a decade after the fighting ended, despite a noticeable influx of investment from exiled Tamils, much needs to be done before the conflict between the Sinhalese-dominated state and the Tamil minority can finally be relegated to the pages of history, allowing Sri Lanka to work toward a prosperous […]

Porcelain photos decorated with the images of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a shop in Damascus, April 18, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Although they are on opposite sides of Syria’s civil war, Russia and Saudi Arabia find themselves in similar positions. Both are presenting themselves as trying in earnest to rein in their proxies. Russia, wanting to again be considered a great power, has forced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to come to the negotiating table and perhaps can force him to make important compromises. The Saudis, wanting to be seen as reliable and essential U.S. allies in the region, claim to have organized the fragmented Syrian opposition into a moderate, cohesive body. Moscow and Riyadh may indeed have enough leverage to rein […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a speech, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 28, 2016 (AP photo by Joshua Paul).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the potential impact on members’ economies. Last week, the Malaysian government announced that it had established a national committee to oversee the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In an email interview, Shankaran Nambiar, a senior research fellow at the Malaysian Institute for Economic Research, discussed the potential impact of TPP membership on Malaysia’s economy. WPR: What are the expected economic benefits and potential downsides for Malaysia from the TPP, and who are the expected “winners” and “losers”? Shankaran Nambiar: Malaysia’s export-oriented firms will […]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a Likud-Yisrael Beitenu campaign rally, Ashdod, Israel, Jan. 16, 2013 (AP photo by Tsafrir Abayov).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again. It seemed like only yesterday that he was claiming Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews until he was convinced to do so by the grand mufti of Jerusalem; that he was race-baiting Israeli Arabs to win re-election; that he was sticking his finger in the eye of the U.S. president—the leader of Israel’s closest ally—over the Iran nuclear deal. But with Netanyahu, there’s always some new provocation. This month, he struck at the very heart of the civilian-military relationship in Israel, in the process showing once again that there is […]

Former Georgian President and now governor of Odessa Mikhail Saakashvili, center, at the opening ceremony of a new port facility in Illichivsk, Ukraine, Jan. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Sergei Poliakov).

ODESSA, Ukraine—When controversial former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was tapped as governor of Odessa, the strategic region on the Black Sea, last year, he hired a young team to build a showcase for reform in post-revolutionary Ukraine. Though largely shunned backed home in his native Georgia, Saakashvili was welcomed here by those fed up with the slow pace of change after the 2014 street revolution. But today the prospects for success seem to be growing dimmer by the day. Many locals in politically divided Odessa remain resistant to radical change. Saakashvili himself has fallen out with top Ukrainian officials in […]

A banana seller walks past election posters, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Nov. 19, 2012 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

In late April, on Sierra Leone’s independence day, police raided the headquarters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, firing shots and arresting supporters. In an email interview, Jimmy Kandeh, a professor at the University of Richmond, discussed the state of the opposition and domestic politics in Sierra Leone. WPR: What are the opposition parties in Sierra Leone, and how broad is their support across the country? Jimmy Kandeh: The main opposition party in Sierra Leone is the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which, like the incumbent All People’s Congress (APC), is a blatantly corrupt patronage outfit. Founded in 1951, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith at the ASEAN-Russia summit, Sochi, Russia, May 20, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The third ASEAN-Russia summit, held in the Russian city of Sochi, concluded on May 20. In a beehive of diplomatic activity, Russian President Vladimir Putin held bilateral meetings with the leader of every member-state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over two days. The conclave has been heralded for setting in motion a roadmap to accelerate economic and security cooperation between the states of Southeast Asia and Russia—a new level of interaction that will allow Moscow to move beyond its stalled relationships with the United States and Europe to take advantage of new opportunities in Asia. Even before […]

The leaders of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark at the White House's Nordic Summit, Washington, May 13, 2016 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

Earlier this month, the leaders of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were in Washington to attend a summit at the White House. Together with President Barack Obama, the five Nordic leaders discussed tensions with Russia, security, climate change and trade. Obama didn’t hesitate to heap praise on the Nordics. “So I really do believe that the world would be more secure and more prosperous if we just had more partners like the Nordic countries,” he said. “They consistently punch above their weight.” Obama speaking so highly of the Nordic countries is nothing new. He has lauded them for years, […]

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes at the White House, Washington, April 7, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

One of the latest mini-dramas in Washington’s overheated political scene is centered on whether the Obama administration manipulated the truth about the Iran nuclear negotiations in order to sell the resulting deal to Congress and the American public. The larger story is about how the earnest citizen can navigate in a world where officials, experts and journalists are engaged in a complicated exchange of information, spin and advocacy. It’s not necessarily a new problem, nor a fixable one, but it only deepens the mistrust between government and the governed. The controversy was kicked off by a recent New York Times […]

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