Kazakhstan: Russia’s staunchest ally wavers
Could the linchpin in Russia’s plan to reassert its control over former Soviet states be in danger of slipping away? Moscow fears it might. Kazakhstan has been making overtures to the U.S. and China, and chipping away at key cultural ties. For now, Astana cannot afford to break away from Russia’s orbit, especially in security matters, but an overreaction by the Kremlin could tip the balance.
The U.S. and Mexico go from pugilism to partnership
Despite confrontational rhetoric from the leaders of both countries, the U.S. and Mexico have plenty of reason to work together. Certainly, U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have some contrasting views on bilateral issues, but both have signaled a willingness to collaborate on priorities from trade to drug trafficking. Appearances aside, cooperation may even flourish over the next two years.
Ukraine’s revolution nears a test
This may have been independent Ukraine’s last calm summer for a while. There will soon be a reckoning with what succeeded and what did not after the revolution of 2013-2014, during which the eyes of the world were on Kiev. Ukrainians will elect a president early next year, with parliamentary elections to follow in the fall. There are plentiful indications that their verdict on the post-Maidan political elites will be harsh.
A new leader in Colombia
Ivan Duque, Colombia’s newly elected president, takes office with a clear mandate from his supporters. President Duque will likely try to slow the controversial peace accord reached with FARC guerrillas and address widespread public concerns over crime and corruption. But a factional political balance, and major challenges both at home and abroad, is already giving Colombia’s new leader a full plate of problems.
The burgeoning India-Japan partnership
Japan and India are fast becoming close partners. Small wonder: the two countries both want to counteract China's rise, especially in the Indian Ocean. The countries have strengthened economic and military ties, and together could challenge China at sea. As Beijing attempts to project its power ever further, the Indo-Japanese partnership will only grow.
Asia-Pacific countries look for signs of hope in Trump trade policy
Over the past two years, protectionism has dominated U.S. trade policy decisions, unsettling American trade partners in the Asia-Pacific region. These countries are unlikely to simply buckle to U.S. demands, instead expanding trade relationships with other states. However, there are signs that the administration could soften its stance and return to more pro-free trade policies. If it does, that could lay the groundwork for a return to bigger economic engagement in the region.
Iran and the U.S. play nuclear poker in the Middle East
After President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, tensions between Tehran and Washington have ratcheted up significantly. A tangled web of conflicts in the region complicates the issue, while the dispute will weigh heavily on Iran’s domestic politics, which are already under their greatest strain in nearly 30 years. Military action would lead to an unpredictable chain reaction throughout the region, but negotiations could end up defusing several conflicts at once.
Next steps in the North Korea talks
As nuclear disarmament talks proceed between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the two sides are pursuing incompatible negotiating strategies. The U.S. wants tangible, verifiable progress fast, while North Korea is convinced that President Donald Trump is winging it. These opposed courses could soon lead to an impasse. Even so, the prospects for an escalation of conflict remain low.