Friday 26 Feb 2021 | 06:17 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

United States

Afghanistan: To leave or not to leave

The peace agreement between the United States and Taliban signed in Doha last February is likely to be scrapped if the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation unilaterally decide to stay in Afghanistan beyond 1 May, the withdrawal deadline set in the agreement.  With a presence of around 10

What Biden means for Australia’s aid policy

Joe Biden has taken the mantle of US president at a critical time for international development – amid a resurgence in poverty, increasing geopolitical contestation, rapid technological and environmental change, and of course Covid-19.  The immediate priorities of the new administration will

What does America think the rules-based order is for?

This week we launched the latest project to emerge from the Lowy’s Institute’s Australia’s Security and the Rules-Based Order project, a debate feature on America and the Rules-Based Order. It’s a textbook example of constructive public debate. Each of the six expert participants

Syrian stasis

Of all the Middle East challenges facing the new Biden administration, Syria is unlikely to be at the top of the list. With the territorial defeat of Islamic State, it appears that a sort of benign neglect has marked Washington’s approach to the country. Some have argued that the continued

Making America govern again

Shortly after (now former) President Donald Trump incited a mob of supporters to attack the US Capitol, there was a moment in which it appeared possible that 17 Republican Senators would join their Democratic colleagues in a vote to convict Trump in an impeachment trial and bar him from holding

The US and the next leader of the OECD

Although it may not regularly make headlines, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an important multilateral institution. With its standard-setting capability, the organisation’s 300 committees and 3300-member secretariat have carved unique policy niches on trade,

Iran nuclear deal: Revenge of the diplomats

Joe Biden has so many competing priorities to address after four years of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. Biden will naturally have an immediate focus on domestic issues but some foreign policy challenges will demand his attention earlier than others. One of the most urgent is

Why Twitter was right to dump Trump

President Donald Trump’s social media ban (aka de-platforming) has had some free speech advocates in conniptions, not just in America but across the world. In an ironic twist, China’s censored netizens have, with official support, also fancifully railed against the ban, suggesting that Weibo is

Australia’s Pacific Step-up and the Quad

The growing synergy among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue powers of Australia, Japan, the United States and India has provided a crucial impetus to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Bilateral ties between these four states have also seen positive growth, largely a result of “like-

America’s troubles ahead in the Asia-Pacific

Donald Trump has now become the first US president in history to be impeached twice, this time for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s violence in Washington. Yet as the US reels from the storming of the US Capitol building – civil strife which some analysts had warned

America’s fantasy hero

While the supporters of democracy around the world watched in disbelief at the Capitol Hill “insurrection”, movie fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films – particularly The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises – would have recognised the underlying theme of chaos versus order. In

Interpreting the 2020 US presidential election

A decade ago – in other words, in 2019 – a massive, world-shaping event of global consequences loomed on the horizon: the US presidential election. That was before Covid-19 came knocking. Against the backdrop of an unchecked pandemic, rage on American streets and uncertainty about the

Washington’s warped Asia policy debate

US President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to select retired Army General Lloyd Austin to be his Secretary of Defense triggered a somewhat predictable set of hot takes among US academics and commentators. Aside from questions about what his appointment would mean for civil-military relations, a major

Favourites of 2020: Evil Geniuses

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. Long before a certain New York real estate developer

When China lashed out

On the wintry night of 27 November 1950, Chinese troops suddenly descended upon the US 1st Marine Division and the 31st Regimental Combat Team around the frozen Chosin Reservoir, less than 100 kilometres away from the China-Korea border. Having failed to dissuade the United States with words from

Joe Biden’s Pentagon pick sends a message

When President-elect Joe Biden announced retired General Lloyd Austin as his pick for Secretary of Defense this week, US experts were perplexed and decidedly unenthusiastic. Austin’s nomination will require a waiver from Congress, because he has only been separated from the military for four years

Where America finds itself

“Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily,” said the 17th-century French aphorist François de La Rochefoucauld. He might have added, had it existed at the time, the United States of America. No country, with the possible exception of China, has played as large a role as a symbol

Favourites of 2020: The politics of Tiger King

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. It seems like an eternity ago now, but it was only eight months ago that Tiger

The surprise of Biden

Now that the dust has settled on the 2020 election, with President Donald Trump talking about leaving the White House and Republican Senators engaging President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees, it’s worth reflecting on the improbable rise of Biden, a man who has spent four decades in public

Donald Trump vs the democratic tradition

Last week, US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he had authorised his staff to begin “initial protocols” for the transition process. In the same breath, he vowed to continue what is a fruitless campaign against alleged voter fraud. In subsequent tweets throughout the week,

A Biden presidency and US-Russia relations

Moscow’s muted reaction to Joe Biden’s election victory is unsurprising, and speaks volumes. The Kremlin is likely bracing itself for more confrontation with Washington, as US policy towards Russia hardens. That’s saying something. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and revelations

The Democrats’ voter problem

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have, thankfully, won the 2020 election. Despite President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede, the results are clear. Yet of over 152 million people voting, the largest US election turnout in over 100 years, some 48%, more than 73 million people, voted for Trump. Such

America’s divisions are real, and not going away

Over the course of the Trump presidency, it has been possible to isolate political moments and assess their meaning. But it has been difficult to tell a coherent story about the state of American politics since 2016. Noise, acrimony and emotion are constants in modern America, but living with Donald

Leading by example: Two different responses to China’s rise

Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) stand as critical security partners with the United States, and have supported the open, rules-based international order for well over half a century. Both have shed blood in this mission, standing with the US in every war since the Korean war

What does a Biden administration herald for New Zealand?

Joe Biden’s election victory will be greeted in Wellington, as in many other world capitals, with a collective sigh of relief. That’s understandable. But what will the Biden presidency actually mean for New Zealand? The government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will welcome a Biden

A chance for the US to change its tune on justice

On Monday last week, 72 countries at the United Nations offered their “unwavering support” for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Among them were Australia, Canada, the UK, France and others that have signed the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. In doing so, these states expressed

Joe Biden: Big questions and great expectations

Scott Morrison wasted no time. He wants Joe Biden to visit Australia next year to mark 70 years since the ANZUS Treaty was signed. That’d be 1 September 2021, were the trip to fall on the anniversary date. Let’s hope there’s no mandatory 14 days quarantine for international travellers by

Can Trumpism live without Trump?

Donald Trump has lost the presidency, but the 2020 election has confirmed the extraordinary mobilising power of his movement. He still won close to half of an unusually high turnout. Republicans are likely to keep their majority in the Senate (depending on the outcome of a runoff in Georgia in

A Trump legacy?

The “who won” question isn’t quite resolved. Bleary-eyed pundits fossicking over every county result are making about as much sense – and as much noise — as a flock of seagulls scrabbling for chips on the beach. Joe Biden might just have the numbers. But Donald Trump hasn’t been blown