Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony in Beijing, June 27, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Over the past few decades, the U.S. military has had to shift its focus several times as the security environment and American national interests evolved. Until the end of the Cold War, it concentrated on preparing to fight the Soviet Union, potentially with nuclear weapons. In the 1990s, most of the military’s attention was on conventional wars against what were called “rogue states,” particularly Iran, Iraq and North Korea. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military retooled for counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. Now that era, too, is ending. Today, as the United States disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Russia and […]

Workers at a trading facility for charcoal from Somalia, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 5, 2013 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

The bitter Arab rivalry in the Persian Gulf is reshaping traditional spheres of influence and exacerbating fault lines farther south, in the Horn of Africa, the continent’s most volatile region. The spat between fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which began a year ago when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led an embargo of neighboring Qatar that shows no sign of ending, has sparked frantic diplomatic and economic activity across the Red Sea, with serious security consequences. Thrust center-stage into these changing political geographies is Somalia, among the world’s poorest and most conflict-prone countries. The fragile nation, […]

Protesters stage a “die-in” near the Presidential Palace to protest extrajudicial killings occurring  as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, Manila, Philippines, May 8, 2017 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s just-announced summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the implications for U.S.-Russia and trans-Atlantic relations. For the Report, Ana Santos talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about efforts to hold Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accountable for abuses committed in his bloody crackdown on drugs and petty crime. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your […]

A demonstration in support of anti-government protests in the northern Rif region, Rabat, Morocco, May 29, 2017 (AP photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. In October 2016, a 31-year-old Moroccan fishmonger named Mohsen Fikri got into an altercation with police in the northern town of al-Hoceima. The police had confiscated Fikri’s swordfish, and when he tried to retrieve it from the back of a garbage truck, he was crushed to death. The incident sparked a wave of protests known as al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or the Popular Movement, that was intended to draw attention to the lack of development and general marginalization of Morocco’s northern […]

A Venezuelan raises a sign denouncing the separation of families during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Santa Catarina migrant shelter, Manaus, Brazil, June 27, 2018 (AP photo by Marcio Melo).

In the midst of a raging political battle in the United States over President Donald Trump’s unprecedented measures against migrants and asylum-seekers along the southern border, Vice President Mike Pence set out on a tour of Latin America this week. The trip was planned and announced before Trump’s so-called zero tolerance policy against illegal immigration, including forcibly separating children from their parents, turned into a major international news story. Trump has since moved to rescind the family separation policy with an executive order, although his administration, characteristically, is still sending out mixed messages about whether the policy is still in […]

Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is greeted by former Haitian President Michel Martelly at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 13, 2013 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

They may be far from East Asia, but Central America and the Caribbean have become important battlegrounds as Taiwan tries to stave off further international isolation. The regions occupy a disproportionately large place in Taiwan’s foreign relations, home to 13 of its 32 technical missions, and 10 of its 18 embassies—more than Asia and Africa combined. Yet in the past year, China has pulled away two of Taiwan’s oldest allies there, Panama and most recently the Dominican Republic, which severed its diplomatic ties to Taiwan this spring, enticed by some $3 billion in Chinese incentives, according to Taipei. Panama’s decision […]

Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, at a news conference during the U.S.-Africa Summit at the Institute of Peace in Washington, Aug. 6, 2014 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Malawi’s next presidential election is still nearly a year away, yet the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, is already facing potential challenges from unlikely corners. Recent indications that former President Joyce Banda as well as Saulos Chilima, Mutharika’s own vice president, may mount bids for the country’s top office, combined with a spate of protests against persistent corruption and economic stagnation, underscore widespread disappointment with Mutharika’s record so far. But any opposition candidates will have a tough time defeating the incumbent at the ballot box, which means Malawian voters have every reason to be skeptical that genuine reforms addressing their country’s most […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, review an honor guard, Moscow, Russia, June 21, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

South Korean President Moon Jae-in returned from a three-day visit to Russia on Sunday, the first South Korean leader to make a state trip there since 1999. In Moscow, Moon addressed the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, held talks with President Vladimir Putin, and signed agreements to expand economic cooperation. He capped off the visit with a World Cup match between South Korea and Mexico in the southern port city of Rostov-on-Don. Putin’s aims in hosting Moon seem straightforward enough. He wants to mitigate the hostility he faces from the West by reaching out in the other […]

A rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in Duluth, Minn., June 20, 2018 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The events of the past month have some political observers wondering if the United States has begun, or is in the midst of, a slide toward authoritarianism under President Donald Trump. The worry is that, with the Republican Party apparently cowed by Trump and his political base, the constitutional system of checks and balances is no longer fit for purpose. Against this backdrop, the administration’s coarsened political rhetoric and policies against immigrants and asylum-seekers at the border are seen as precursors for broader restrictions of liberties moving forward. At the same time, there is a backlash—from Trump supporters, but also […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands after a news conference at Putin’s residence in Sochi, Russia, May 18, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

European leaders are widely expected to maintain Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia at this week’s European Council summit in Brussels, despite disagreement among some member states. With Italy’s newly formed populist government looking at improving ties with Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly preparing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month, the key player holding together an EU-wide consensus on sanctions policy is Germany. In an email interview, Susan Stewart, a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, or SWP, in Berlin, discusses the impact of sanctions on German-Russian relations and how they are […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G-7 summit, Charlevoix, June 8, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The new president that Mexico elects this weekend will not take office until Dec. 1, which means there will be little progress for the rest of the year in the negotiations between Mexico, Canada and the United States on a new and “improved” North American Free Trade Agreement. By December, American voters will have elected a new Congress that might have at least one house under Democratic Party control when it convenes next January. And later in 2019, Canadians will hold their parliamentary elections. The electoral calendar often poses challenges for trade negotiators because politicians are loath to make concessions […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister at the time, during a meeting in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Aug. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

BRATISLAVA—Slovakia, a NATO member that has called itself part of the “core of the European Union,” may talk positively about its Western orientation, but its actions recently suggest an increasingly closer alignment to Russia and its interests in Europe. Many observers point to the junior partner in its coalition government, the Slovak National Party, or SNS, as the reason why. The party’s nationalist, euroskeptic leader, Andrej Danko, the speaker of the Slovak parliament, has visited Moscow twice in the past eight months. Earlier this month, Slovakia’s Defense Ministry, which is headed by a member of the SNS, postponed a long-awaited […]

A protester displays a mock target with an image of an alleged victim of extrajudicial killings during a rally in Manila, Philippines, Dec. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

CALOOCAN, Philippines—The battlefield of this war looks like any other bustling urban district in the Philippines. The sidewalks are crammed with street vendors selling everything from food to underwear. Pedestrians zigzag through the roads, avoiding motorized rickshaws known as tricycles and careening jeepneys, the colorful converted jeeps that are the country’s most common form of public transportation. The air is thick with smog and heavy with the sound of blaring horns and screeching tires. Set back from the streets are rows of makeshift homes stitched together by pieces of wood, corrugated steel and tarpaulin. This is Bagong Silang, an informal […]

Women watch on a big screen lawmakers vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 14, 2018 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

On June 13, members of the lower house of Argentina’s Congress held an all-night debate on a decisive bill that would legalize voluntary abortion through the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy. Over 11 hours into the debate, lawmaker Fernando Iglesias held up a world map color-coded with each country’s stance on abortion. It showed the United States, Australia and most of Europe and Asia in green, signifying pro-choice legislation. South America and Africa were mostly in red, or orange, representing a complete ban or tight restrictions on abortion. “Think about just one other country you want Argentina to look […]

Oxfam activists wearing masks of the leaders of the Group of Seven participate in a demonstration in Giardini Naxos, Italy, May 26, 2017 (AP photo by Paolo Santalucia).

When Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, nervous commentators warned that he would pursue transactional relations with foreign powers, eschewing America’s traditional values and alliances. To the extent that he has disdained many of the principles that guided U.S. engagement with the world after 1945, they were correct. But the Trump administration has also proved strikingly averse to genuinely transactional diplomacy, if you define that term as making and delivering concrete bargains that all sides can afford. Foreign diplomats, not least among U.S. allies, have made strenuous efforts to satisfy the president’s widely publicized love of deal-making. Rather than simply […]

Pakistani journalists gather for a rally to mark World Press Freedom Day, Karachi, Pakistan, May 3, 2018 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. Last week, the Pakistani daily Dawn reported that its distributors and vendors were experiencing harassment and intimidation in several cities to prevent them from delivering the paper to subscribers. That followed an incident in April, in which the country’s largest television channel, Geo, was blocked by its cable operators across 80 percent of the country. Many in Pakistan saw the hand of the military behind the incidents. In an email interview, Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program […]

The empty U.S. seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, one day after Washington announced its withdrawal, Geneva, Switzerland, June 20, 2018 (Keystone photo by Martial Trezzini via AP).

For months, the Trump administration has threatened to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Finally, on June 19, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, jointly announced that the United States was leaving the body, charging that it was a “protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias” against Israel. On one level, it should not come as a surprise that President Donald Trump chose to exit yet another U.N. organization—last year, he ditched UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural body, over what his administration also called its “anti-Israel bias.” […]

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