Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Emirati National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan before a meeting in Ankara, Aug. 18, 2021 (Turkish Presidency photo via AP).

This time last year, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey appeared to be on opposing sides of a range of issues spanning the broader Middle East and North Africa region. But recently, leaders from the two countries have started to talk again. Concerns in 2019 and 2020 that a regional “cold war” pitting Emirati and Turkish interests against each other in Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Horn of Africa and even the Caucasus have given way to a thawing of relations. The shift in approach by Abu Dhabi toward deescalating regional points of tension is part of a broader effort […]

Tunisian demonstrators gather outside the Municipal Theater of Tunis during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

It’s a bitter irony that the last embers of the Arab Spring may be snuffed out in the same place, Tunisia, where a spark first ignited massive pro-democracy fires across a region filled with dictatorships. Tunisians, at least some of them, seem to be stirring from their jaded acceptance of a presidential coup. Still, the one country that emerged from the Arab uprisings with a semblance of democracy looks like it’s returning to what was the norm before the revolutions it unleashed in 2010. Last Sunday, thousands of people turned out to protest in the Tunisian capital, where President Kais Saied, […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a press conference at an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 2, 2020 (AP photo by Johanna Geron).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. In Brussels, where Germany’s heavy influence in the European Union looms large, people are still processing the Social Democrats’ narrow “win” in Sunday’s general election, wondering what the next potential steps look like.  The immediate takeaway from Sunday night was that the underperformance of the far-left Die […]

Guinea’s Junta President Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, after a meeting with an ECOWAS delegation in Conakry, Guinea, Sept. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

For the past decade and more, the U.S. and other international actors have prioritized a narrowly defined form of stability over democratic accountability in their diplomatic, development and security engagement in West Africa. The only problem is that this approach is not working. West African countries enjoy neither the stability their international partners seek, nor the democracy their citizens desire.  Why, then, is the United States and the rest of the “international community” unwilling or unable to make a course correction in their West Africa engagement? To begin to answer that question, a bit of historical background is necessary. Beginning […]

Supporters of Belarus’ opposition from Lithuania wave historical Belarusian flags near Medininkai, east of Vilnius, Lithuania, Aug. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Last month, China recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded that Vilnius do the same in response to Lithuania’s plans to establish reciprocal diplomatic offices with Taiwan. Despite the pressure from Beijing, the Lithuanian government has refused to back down in its plans to deepen relations with Taipei. This week on the Trend Lines podcast this week, Edward Lucas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a former senior editor at The Economist, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to discuss the history and context behind the strong anti-authoritarian streak in Lithuania’s foreign policy. Listen to the […]

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, right, at a press conference with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, in Vilnius, Lithuania, Aug. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

The government of Lithuania caused a stir this summer when it announced that it would allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in the capital, Vilnius, with plans to open a reciprocal Lithuanian representative office in Taipei. China responded by withdrawing its ambassador to Vilnius and demanding that Lithuania do the same. And in May, the Lithuanian parliament passed a resolution labeling China’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang as a “genocide.” China is not the only authoritarian power that Lithuania is facing off with. Vilnius hosts the Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled her home country last […]

Russian troops line up before the start of joint military drills with Tajik and Uzbek forces at the Harb-Maidon firing range, in Tajikistan near the Afghan border, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Didor Sadulloev).

On Feb. 15, 1989, Col. Gen. Boris Gromov became the last Soviet commander to leave Afghanistan, crossing the Friendship Bridge into what was then the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Gromov’s departure ended the USSR’s decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan, characterized by some as the country’s version of the Vietnam War. Moscow left behind capable local security forces, infrastructure projects and a pipeline of assistance to support its client, the socialist government led by then-President Mohammad Najibullah. Although Najibullah’s government would hold out for another three years, Moscow’s Afghanistan debacle helped bring about the implosion of the Soviet empire between 1989 to […]

A police officer patrols alongside a steel wall at Evros river, near the village of Poros, at the Greek-Turkish border, Greece, May 21, 2021 (AP photo by Giannis Papanikos).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Howard French, who will return next week. Has the center held in Europe? The obvious answer would seem to be yes. As has been widely noted, parties on the extremes lost ground in Germany’s election this weekend compared to 2017. And across Europe, far-right and anti-establishment parties similarly seem to be receding in electoral and political relevance. But in other ways, the picture is less heartening, as the impact those parties have had on political discourse has mainstreamed a brand of anti-immigrant, identity-based closure that calls into question […]

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, smiles as she leaves her home in Vancouver, Canada, Sept. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Darryl Dyck).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wedenesday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. More than 100 million viewers tuned in Saturday to a live state television broadcast of the moment Meng Wanzhou touched down in Shenzhen, where the Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s headquarters is located. After having spent the past three years under house arrest in Canada, Meng—the company’s chief […]

U.S. President Joe Biden with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the G-7 summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, June 12, 2021 (pool photo by Leon Neal via AP).

Joe Biden began his presidency with a great deal of goodwill from the international community. His foreign policy platform promised to undo the tense relationships former President Donald Trump’s administration often had with its allies and partners, including those in Africa. However, Biden’s approach toward the continent thus far shows that a willingness to reset relations does not presage a fundamental shift in U.S. Africa policy. Given the rising challenges of Chinese and Russian influence across the continent and the metastasizing threat of terrorism, simply restoring the cordial yet detached Africa policy of pre-Trump administrations may not be enough. The […]

A smartphone records Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as she speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Sept. 1, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

In the pantheon of state-led cyber operations, Russia has historically led when it comes to disinformation and sowing the seeds of social discord, while China was traditionally associated with intellectual property theft. There are signs that is changing, though, with China reportedly stepping up its disinformation campaigns on social media.  Earlier this month, Mandiant Threat Intelligence reported two significant advances in online influence campaigns in support of the People’s Republic of China—one involving the use of accounts in multiple languages across many different social media platforms, and the other involving attempts to physically mobilize protests on the ground, on topics ranging from […]

Shoes are placed outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honor the 215 children whose unmarked graves were discovered near the facility, in Kamloops, British Columbia, June 4, 2021 (Photo by Darryl Dyck for the Canadian Press via AP).

Four months ago, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in Canada made international headlines when it announced it had discovered 215 unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The next month, the Cowessess First Nation announced a similar finding of 751 unmarked graves near Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. A further 160 were soon found at the site of Kuper Island Residential School, near Vancouver, with many more Indigenous communities taking up their own searches for similar sites.  Secwepemc community members, as well as others from communities mounting their own searches, were quick to […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping conducts a press conference at the Belt and Road Forum, at Yanqi Lake on the outskirts of Beijing, April 27, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The prevailing foreign assistance architecture of today’s world, which prioritizes transparency, inclusion and accountability, was developed and codified in a unipolar system—with significant U.S. leadership and influence. Since the end of the Cold War, Western donors have supported this framework, further developing and codifying it in the Millennium Development Goals of 2000; the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness; the 2008 Accra Agenda, which built on the Paris Declaration; and the 2011 Busan Agreement to standardize good development practice, norms and standards. This architecture is now coming under pressure, largely due to China’s growing interest in and influence over today’s […]

John Ruggie when he was special representative for economy and human rights of the U.N. secretary-general, Berlin, Germany, June 20, 2007 (DPA photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert via AP Images).

On Sept. 16, on the eve of the opening of this year’s United Nations General Assembly, John Ruggie passed away. A giant in the study and practice of world politics, Ruggie’s writings left a lasting impression on a generation of colleagues and students, and his contributions to multilateral cooperation as a U.N. official will reverberate for many more. In a half-century career straddling academia and policymaking, Ruggie enriched our collective understanding of the normative sinews of world order and the endless possibilities of international cooperation.  It is rare for academics to have a direct policy impact, but Ruggie certainly did. […]

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand protest against the military coup in front of the United Nations building in Bangkok, Thailand, March 7, 2021 (AP photo by Nava Sangthong).

In the run-up to this year’s high-level meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, there were almost too many issues to address: a global pandemic, climate change, renewed and continuing conflicts and great power competition, to name a few. But when it came to the crisis in Myanmar, attention focused on a single question: Who should represent the country in New York? The answer would determine how much the international community can do to help Myanmar, a country now teetering on the edge of civil war, in the months ahead. The turmoil began on Feb. 1, when Myanmar’s military, known […]

Protesters burn representations of Israeli flags during a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza, Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it.  Iraqis will vote on Oct. 10 for a new parliament at a time when the country faces uncertainties about a host of crises, from the resurgence of the Islamic State terror group and the looting of the country’s treasury by corrupt militias to the future of […]

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks duringing a parliamentary session to confirm the new government, in Beirut, Sept. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

BEIRUT—After 13 months of political paralysis, Lebanon finally has a new government, the first since former Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned along with his entire Cabinet after the Beirut port explosion of August 2020, which killed over 200 and devastated the capital city.  The new administration is led by Lebanon’s richest man, billionaire Najib Mikati, who previously served as prime minister from 2011 to 2014, and for several months on an interim basis in 2005. He was sworn in earlier this month, and his government received a vote of confidence in Parliament on Monday.  His government is technocratic, its ministers […]

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