A U.S. nuclear missileer crew checks systems in the underground control room where they work a 24-hour shift at an ICBM launch control facility near Minot, N.D., June 24, 2014 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

To say that the world is closer to the brink of nuclear war today than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 feels less controversial by the day. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently told media representatives that the “prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.” Certainly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been signaling a willingness to at least consider the nuclear option. In late February, he raised the readiness level of Russia’s nuclear response force, stating that Western interference in the ongoing war in Ukraine will result in “consequences greater than any you have faced […]

Former Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves to supporters during a party convention held to announce the presidential candidacy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Populist politicians, who have been sweeping to power in countries across the globe, build their appeal partly on claims that they will base their policies on the needs and interests of the people. But once in power, their decisions, often ill-conceived, can create grave problems for the very voters they purport to champion. For proof, look no further than what has befallen the people of Sri Lanka. In recent months, life in the island nation has turned into a grinding, ever-worsening ordeal. What started as a government debt crisis has devolved into broader economic turmoil, marked by critical shortages of […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban waves after his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall, Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Many observers in Brussels will be keeping a close eye on this Sunday’s general election in Hungary for an early indication of how much European far right leaders’ ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin could affect their domestic political fortunes. But they are under no illusion about the seemingly united opposition’s slim odds of wresting power from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has manipulated the political landscape and electoral process to his benefit. After 12 years of playing themselves off against each other, Hungary’s six opposition parties have united behind a single candidate in this election for the first […]

People wave Polisario Front flags while taking part in a demonstration in support of the Polisario Front and a free Western Sahara, Pamplona, Spain, March 23, 2022 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

In mid-March, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent a letter to Moroccan King Mohamed VI, supporting Rabat’s plan to grant Western Sahara autonomy over its internal affairs, while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty. The move appeared to be an abrupt departure for Spain, which has maintained a position of careful neutrality over its former colony’s efforts to gain independence from Morocco for nearly 47 years. When the Moroccan Foreign Ministry eventually made Sanchez’s support public, it provoked an uproar in Spain centered around two primary questions. First, Does this really constitute a major policy change for Spain, given that it has never explicitly ruled out the Moroccan autonomy […]

International newspapers on sale at a newsstand in Paris, Oct. 15, 2013 (AP photo by Remy de la Mauviniere).

Editor’s note: This will be Howard French’s final weekly column for World Politics Review. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Howard for the keen insights—born of his rich experience, creative intelligence and interdisciplinary thinking—that he has shared with WPR’s readers for the past three years. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. When I began writing a weekly global affairs column for World Politics Review nearly three years ago, things settled into an almost organic rhythm surprisingly quickly. Some of what goes into writing columns, in fact, I didn’t need to change at all. […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a gathering of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 22, 2022 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

China’s positioning with regard to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, and it is likely to be a central topic of discussion at the China-European Union Summit scheduled to be held this Friday. But for Beijing, which is seeking to mend fences and shore up ties with countries in South Asia, diplomacy closer to home remains a priority as well. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi completed a six-day tour of the region, including unannounced stops in Afghanistan, India and Nepal. Wang began his trip in Islamabad, where he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses for a photograph with the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates at the Negev Summit, Sde Boker, Israel, March 28, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

DOHA, Qatar—Washington’s partners in the Gulf believe that the United States has fundamentally altered the terms of the deal that has historically governed their relationship. From the period beginning with the end of the Cold War until recently, governments in the Gulf Arab countries considered themselves protected by an ironclad security guarantee provided by the U.S. In exchange, those countries tacitly agreed to leverage their dominance of global oil markets in support of Washington’s policies, particularly at moments of strategic urgency. There is no mutual defense pact requiring the U.S. military to come to the defense of the Arab oil […]

A woman holds a sign with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the word “Genocida,” or committer of genocide, during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 6, 2022 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Lately, elections in Latin America are making people squirm in Washington. For foreign policy old-timers, victories by leftist candidates have conjured images of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Others are haunted by memories of more recent bogeymen, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine deepened these anxieties, fueling fears that the region’s ideological pendulum is swinging in President Vladimir Putin’s direction. But more than a month into the war, those fears have proven to be unfounded. Indeed, if anything, Latin America’s response to Putin’s brutality reinforced shared hemispheric values with the United States, suggesting that […]

Timothee Chalamet, left, and director Denis Villeneuve pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film “Dune” in London, Oct. 18, 2021 (Invision photo by Joel C Ryan via AP).

This weekend, “Dune,” the highly acclaimed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic of the same name, capped off a successful box-office run by bagging an impressive six Oscars at the Academy Awards. The movie, directed by French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, has received particular praise for its stunning cinematography and soundtrack, and for breaking from prior adaptation attempts by “sensibly” tackling only the first part of the 412-page novel. This is why, critics have argued, this version of Dune has been so well-received compared to previous versions. But an alternative—or perhaps complementary—explanation could be that today, there is simply more demand for stories […]

A Russian officer stands near a landed Il-76 military cargo plane on Alexandra Land, an island near Nagurskoye, Russia, May 17, 2021 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Since Feb. 24, the eyes of the world have been fixed on Eastern Europe. But the events unfolding in and around Ukraine portend great changes for another region: the Arctic. Commonly viewed as a “territory of dialogue,” the Arctic has over the past three decades won a reputation as a “zone of peace” marked by exceptionally calm and collaborative security dynamics. Indeed, this is what former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev envisioned back in October 1987, when he launched a series of policy initiatives aimed at lowering the level of military confrontation in the Arctic by facilitating cooperation among the eight […]

Customers watch Lt. Col. Henri Sandaogo Damiba address the nation on national television in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 27, 2022 (AP photo by Sophie Garcia).

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—In 2014, Arouna Loure, a Burkinabe activist, anesthesiologist and leader of the grassroots political group Les Revoltes, took to the streets, risking his life in a popular uprising against the government of then-President Blaise Compaore. Having seized power in a military coup in 1987, Compaore ruled the country in a semi-authoritarian manner for 27 years, before being subsequently driven from power by the popular mobilization in which Loure participated. After a transitional period, Roch Marc Christian Kabore was elected president, becoming the first person to hold the office who did not have ties to the military. He later won […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Nov. 21, 2020 (Sputnik photo by Alexei Nikolsky via AP).

Western outrage over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine has prompted calls to eject Russia from apex institutions of global cooperation, most notably the Group of 20 and the United Nations Security Council. While this impulse is tempting, efforts to exclude Russia from both institutions would be imprudent and likely futile, given the diverse membership of the former and U.N. Charter provisions regarding the latter. Rather than tilt at windmills, the United States and its allies should use both forums to shame Moscow for its criminal actions, while sharpening the already punishing sanctions they have deployed […]

Nigerian youths protest in front of the state television station during nationwide strikes against the removal of a fuel subsidy by the government of then-President Goodluck Jonathan, Lagos, Nigeria, Jan. 12, 2012 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed the price of crude oil above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014, global oil prices had been on the rise for several months. After the pandemic-induced slump, the spike in prices is expected to create a boon for oil-producing countries. But for Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and the holder of the 10th-largest proven oil reserves in the world, higher prices will be a mixed blessing at best. In fact, they might not provide a financial windfall at all, due to the country’s diminished oil production capacity, large-scale corruption in […]

Then-President Ronald Reagan shakes hands with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the two leaders signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the White House East Room in Washington, Dec. 8, 1987 (AP photo by Bob Daugherty).

The Cold War was bookended by two signal developments—one scientific and technical, the other political and diplomatic—that opened and seemingly closed a terrible parenthesis in the history of the 20th century, but also of humankind. The first was the invention of nuclear weapons. The second was the process by which the U.S. and Russia gradually but methodically rolled back the threat of nuclear war in Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the U.S. reduced Hiroshima and then Nagasaki to rubble with just one atomic bomb apiece in the final days of World War II, military strategists and […]

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher while taking cover after a tank blast in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012 (AP photo by Manu Brabo.)

For the community of analysts that have focused on Syria’s civil war over the past decade, the images of bombed out Ukrainian cities, civilian casualties and refugees flooding across the border over the past month are bitterly familiar. As a policy problem, too, the war in Ukraine invites obvious comparisons to the Syrian conflict. Both raise questions about the costs and benefits of U.S. intervention. Both, of course, involve Russia. And in both cases, “realism” has somehow become synonymous with non-interventionism in the U.S. policy discourse.  In fact, those that make a career out of non-interventionism while casting themselves as […]

Volunteers provide refugees from Ukraine with relief goods after they arrive at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2022 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

AMSTERDAM—Back in February, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, a meme went viral on Facebook: “Just booked a Kiev AirBnB for 1 week, simply as a means of getting cash into the hands of Kiev residents. It’s really cheap and can make a small difference right now.” The phenomenon, known as “ghost-bookings,” became a simple, personalized, grassroots method to provide resources to and demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine’s civilian population, while assisting Airbnb hosts in Kyiv who were housing internally displaced persons, or IDPs, fleeing from the invasion further east. This sort of grassroots effort has become not only common […]

Col. Assimi Goita meets with a high-level delegation from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS at the Ministry of Defense in Bamako, Mali, Aug. 22, 2020 (AP photo).

The court of the West African Economic and Monetary Union yesterday ordered that sanctions imposed on Mali by West African leaders should be lifted. Along with the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, the eight-nation grouping known by its French-language acronym UEMOA had imposed economic and financial restrictions on Mali in January, after the country’s interim military government reneged on a pledge to hold elections by February 2022 as part of Mali’s return to civilian rule.  UEMOA had instructed all financial institutions under its jurisdiction to suspend Mali immediately and cut off its access to regional financial markets. […]

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