President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting at the G-20 summit, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 1, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

2019 has not begun, but it is already getting bad reviews. Economists fret about a recession. American commentators worry that President Donald J. Trump is increasingly erratic and unconstrained. Their European counterparts are bracing for a very hard Brexit indeed. Is the outlook for multilateral institutions equally bleak, or even worse? The United Nations and other international organizations face two major strategic challenges, plus multiple subsidiary crises, over the next year. The main challenges are an intensification of competition between the U.S. and China in multilateral forums, and a rapid deterioration of the once-sturdy nuclear arms control framework. These twin […]

A Syrian national flag with the picture of the President Bashar al-Assad hangs at an army checkpoint in the town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus, July 15, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

2018 ends in many ways as it began: with chaos emanating from Donald Trump’s White House, populism and resurgent nationalism continuing to upend politics-as-usual from Europe to Asia, and more questions about how resilient the liberal international order really is. While those trend lines were a big part of our coverage at WPR, looking over our most-read articles of the year is a reminder that other stories were also important drivers of global affairs, even if they didn’t always draw the biggest headlines. These include the ongoing war in Syria, wider geopolitical rivalries in the Middle East and political reform […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe, at a meeting in New Delhi before Wickremesinghe was ousted from his post, Oct. 20, 2018 (AP photo).

Sri Lanka recently emerged from a dangerous political crisis with its democracy and constitution miraculously intact. President Maithripala Sirisena’s attempted coup, in which he violated the constitution by replacing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with his bitter rival and presidential predecessor, Mahinda Rajapjaksa, was overturned thanks to Sri Lanka’s defiant Parliament, steadfast judiciary, a vigilant international community and a resilient civil society. The failed coup revealed Sri Lanka’s institutions to be sneakily strong, but as it barreled along, international and domestic watchers speculated about the nefarious role foreign actors may have played—especially India and China, which have long projected power in […]

Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Allauddin Khan).

In a special year-end episode of Trend Lines, we look back on 2018 through three of our most popular Report interviews. They take us from the frontlines of the war against Boko Haram in West Africa, to life under a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, to Facebook, the new hub for the black-market trade in antiquities from the Middle East. 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 inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article every […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 30, 2018 (DPA photo via AP Images).

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi rules with brutal authority, but Egypt's political and economic future look anything but secure. CAIRO—To the many Egyptians who took to the streets in January 2011 to bring down former President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo is full of reminders of the country's post-revolution failures. Tahrir Square is once again a bleak traffic-laden roundabout; just next to it, the Egyptian Museum is associated with torture by the military after activists were detained and interrogated there following a protest in March 2011. Nearby, the downtown area of Maspero is notorious for the massacre of Coptic Christians. To the east, Rabaa […]

Large video displays in the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 22, 2018 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

2018 was in many ways a watershed year for the United States in cyberspace. Washington revamped its cyber strategy. It loosened authorities for military cyber operators. It responded to large-scale global cyberattacks. And it dealt with chilling intrusions on its critical infrastructure. Looking back, though, what did all these changes mean, and how well did U.S. cyber policy fare? Let’s start with the good news. In two particular areas—attribution and indictments—the United States has shown clear improvements in responding to inappropriate behavior in cyberspace. Over the past year, the Department of Justice significantly increased the pace of indictments against Chinese, […]

An asylum-seeker at the Hermanos en el Camino shelter studies a map of Mexico, Ixtepec, Oaxaca, June 17, 2016 (Photo by Joseph Sorrentino).

Mexico, once viewed mainly as a country of transit for Central Americans fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has increasingly become a destination, according to the United Nations. The number of Central Americans applying for asylum in Mexico increased from 3,400 in 2015 to 14,600 in 2017. Francesca Fontanini, the regional spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said that there were 14,000 applications in the first six months of 2018 alone. But for most Central Americans, Mexico really isn’t a country of destination. It’s a country of last resort. Between 400,000 and 500,000 Central Americans enter […]

NATO soldiers of Lithuania take part in the Saber Strike 2018 military exercise in Pabrade, Lithuania, June 11, 2018 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Among the security threats the United States is currently grappling with, potential Russian aggression against its neighbors in Eastern Europe draws the most attention, especially after last month’s standoff between Russia and Ukraine. This is unsurprising given Moscow’s continued improvements to its military and its 2007 cyberattack on Estonia, 2008 invasion of Georgia, 2014 seizure of Crimea, and its ongoing “gray zone” aggression against Ukraine, which the recent incident in the Sea of Azov was just the latest example of. As a result of all of this, Washington is concerned, perhaps even fixated on finding ways to deter possible Russian […]

A new $360 million terminal under construction at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, built by the state-owned China-Jianxi Corporation, with loans from China Exim Bank, Nov. 4, 2018 (Photo by Jonathan W. Rosen).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, look back on the biggest stories of 2018 and discuss what the new year might have in store. For the Report, Jonathan Rosen talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about his reporting from Zambia, where a backlash to Chinese investment and loans is growing as the country inches toward a debt crisis. 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 […]

Supporters of India’s opposition Congress party hold a cut-out of party leader Rahul Gandhi as they celebrate outside the party headquarters in New Delhi, India, Dec. 11, 2018 (AP photo).

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was ousted from power in three key state elections last week in a rebuke of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. The results in the heartland rural states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will likely force Modi to make adjustments in his economic policy priorities as the BJP gears up for general elections set to take place this coming spring. The recent vote also provided a much-needed boost to the opposition Indian National Congress, which captured outright majorities in the state legislatures of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while falling just short of a majority in Madhya […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, greets Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Dec. 5, 2018 (pool photo by Maxim Shemetov via AP Images).

Last week, the Maiquetia airport outside Caracas was the site of a remarkable event. On Monday, one after another, a series of Russian military aircraft landed in Venezuela. Most notably, the flock included two nuclear-capable, supersonic Tu-160 “White Swan” bombers, along with a passenger plane reportedly bringing about 100 Russian military personnel, and a large cargo plane possibly delivering military equipment. Just a few days earlier, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and received promises of a $6 billion aid package. Now, Putin was using Venezuela to send a powerful message to Washington. […]

A gas production facility at Ras Laffan, Qatar, April 4, 2009 (AP photo by Maneesh Bakshi).

The tiny Persian Gulf monarchy of Qatar announced its intention to withdraw from OPEC earlier this month, after 57 years as a member of the cartel of major oil-producing nations. The move, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, is expected to have little impact on energy markets, as Qatar, which is rich in natural gas, exports a very small amount of oil. But it risks worsening Doha’s ongoing diplomatic row with some other Gulf Arab monarchies. In an email interview with WPR, Jim Krane, an energy studies research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in […]

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, with Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Singapore, Nov. 14, 2018 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

During the first two years of the Trump administration, Washington has dramatically reduced its rhetorical focus on democracy promotion in Asia. For instance, President Donald Trump has mostly ignored issues of human rights and democracy when meeting with leaders of abusive regimes, like the Thai prime minister and junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha. This approach is consistent with Trump’s overall realpolitik; he usually does not raise rights issues in meetings with other authoritarian leaders, and he often seems to have more contempt for democratically elected leaders around the globe than for autocrats. More recently, despite extensive evidence suggesting that the armed […]

Staff operate at the NATO Computer Incident Response Capability technical center, at NATO’s military headquarters, SHAPE, in Mons, southwestern Belgium, Dec. 10, 2013 (AP photo by Yves Logghe).

As NATO’s relations with Russia seem to be hitting a post-Cold War low, numerous experts argue that the West is already in a state of conflict with Moscow in three domains: intelligence, information warfare and cyber. In particular, Russia’s increasingly hostile actions in the cyber domain have lent new urgency to the debate over cybersecurity in the West, including within NATO. The recent Russian plot to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, discovered and thwarted by the Netherlands, is yet more proof that complacency over Russian cyber operations will prove costly. Russia has decided to adopt a […]

A man makes his way through tear gas as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Paris, Dec. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Kamil Zihnioglu).

Two and a half years ago, when I began writing this column, it was originally titled, Balance of Power. The idea was to analyze international affairs with an eye toward the hard edge of competition and rivalry—in short, the balance of power—that has increasingly characterized global politics in the past five years. Of course, no one can deny that values and human rights concerns can and often do play a role in limiting or redirecting power, with the backlash over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi being the latest stark example. Still, as a cold-hearted idealist, I consider that […]

A demonstration in memory of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, who was abducted, tortured and murdered in Cairo, in Rome, Jan. 25, 2018 (Photo by Riccardo Antimianu for ANSA via AP Images).

Italian prosecutors earlier this month named five Egyptian security officials as suspects in the murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student whose mutilated body was found in a roadside ditch outside Cairo in February 2016, nine days after he disappeared. Regeni had been conducting research on labor unions in Egypt for a doctorate at Cambridge University. For nearly three years, investigators in Rome have been frustrated by the lack of cooperation from their Egyptian counterparts, which led to the extraordinary decision to publicly identify Egyptian government agents as suspects. In an email interview with WPR, Timothy Kaldas, a nonresident […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, bottom row center, speaks during a conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening Up policy at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Dec. 18, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech on Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing marked the 40th anniversary of a watershed moment in modern Chinese history. At a meeting in December 1978, Deng Xiaoping and other reformist Communist Party leaders, who had fallen from grace during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, laid the groundwork for the program of economic liberalization that later became officially known as “reform and opening up.” Four decades later, amid slowing economic growth and […]

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