Foreign affairs

Nato claims to be the world’s strongest military alliance and it may soon add a new title: the world’s most terrifying singing ensemble. Read more

The last members of “Occupy Wall Street” were pushed out of Zuccotti Park in New York in November, 2011. But the original event continues to spawn a host of imitators that use the tactics, vocabulary and brand of the “Occupy movement”. In recent months, “Occupy” has been busy on a number of UK university campuses, including the LSE, Kings College London, Warwick, Goldsmiths and Sheffield. These glimmerings of student discontent are interesting, set against the background of the election on Thursday and the controversy surrounding the Cameron-Clegg coalition’s decision to raise student fees to £9,000 a year. The Labour Party led by Ed Miliband has promised to cut fees in England back to £6,000 a year (there are no fees in Scotland) – and is targeting university towns in an effort to capitalise on the student vote. Some even argue that the student vote could tip the balance in the election. Read more

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (Getty)

Over the past few weeks I’ve asked several western officials whether Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen signalled a fundamental change in Riyadh’s behaviour. Should we expect a far more aggressive kingdom under recently installed King Salman, or is Yemen a one-off war to blow off steam? Are we facing a new Saudi Arabia?

The answer has been consistent: we don’t know yet.

Early this morning, at the curious hour of 4 am Riyadh time, King Salman went some way towards providing an answer. In a bombshell announcement, he sacked crown prince Muqrin, who had been close to the late King Abdullah, and elevated Muqrin’s deputy, the security-minded interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef, to crown prince. More importantly – and controversially – he appointed his favourite son, the young Mohammed bin Salman, as next in line for the throne after bin Nayef. Read more

The city of Baltimore is in lock-down after a night of riots and violent clashes between police and protesters that followed the funeral of a black man who died in custody.

In scenes that marked the latest episode of unrest over the treatment of African Americans by police, shops were looted, cars torched and 15 officers injured by youths who threw bottles and rocks.

While the convulsions reignited the debate about police behaviour towards ethnic minorities in the US, some commentators have pointed to the city’s high levels of deprivation and inequality as underlying causes of the outbursts.

These charts show the ethnic composition of Baltimore and shed light on some of its socio-economic problems. Read more

Two Israeli men carry their babies after they were repatriated from Nepal. (Getty)

When a jumbo jet from Kathmandu landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport just after noon on Tuesday, the Israelis evacuated from the stricken city included 18 Israeli infants in the care of medical staff.

The tiny evacuees were among 26 babies Israel has airlifted out since Sunday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal – including two prematurely born infants still attached to equipment needed to keep them alive. The infants were born to surrogate mothers in Nepal and claimed by relieved gay and single parents unable to arrange surrogate births in Israel because of a restrictive local surrogacy law. Read more

Poland’s prime minister called them a “provocation” that could disturb Poland’s security. Civil groups have called them “criminals”. But to the 100 or so Polish petrolheads that came to welcome Russia’s nationalist Night Wolves biker gang to the country, they were just fellow motorcycle fans. Read more

By Richard McGregor

Shinzo Abe’s visit to the US this week is by any measure a significant moment. Japan’s prime minister will with President Barack Obama consecrate revised guidelines for the US-Japan security treaty, described by one close observer of Japan as the longest surviving alliance between great powers “since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia”.

The pair will also oversee the final negotiations of one of the largest trade pacts in two decades that will bring together 12 Asia-Pacific countries. Finally, Mr Abe will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress.

In a week of landmarks, then, it may be surprising that much of the focus ahead of Mr Abe’s visit is whether he will “apologise” for Japan’s role in the second world war, which ended in Tokyo’s crushing defeat nearly 70 years ago. Read more

Ed Miliband outlines his foreign policy plans at Chatham House in London

If Ed Miliband becomes Britain’s prime minister next month what will this mean for the country’s foreign policy? The question is one that the UK’s allies should start considering because the prospect of him winning power is growing. Betting companies believe there is now a greater chance of Mr Miliband entering Number 10 after the May 7 election than of David Cameron returning to office.

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Just like the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the violence in eastern Ukraine is attracting foreign fighters – some with the pro-Russian separatists, and some with the Ukrainian government forces.

Many of these fighters are from European countries. This makes it curious that we don’t hear much about this phenomenon from European governments – which are, of course, clamping down on citizens who go to fight in the Middle EastRead more

EU officials have come under renewed pressure to take action against flotillas of migrants from Africa following the deaths of more than 1,000 people during attempted Mediterranean crossings over the past week alone.

A massive search and rescue operation remains underway to find survivors among the wreckage of a ship thought to be loaded with more than 800 migrants which capsized over the weekend off the coast of Libya, potentially representing the worst maritime disaster of its type in the Med. Only 27 of those on board have been rescued.

The migrant deaths have shone a spotlight on Libya’s lucrative people smuggling industry. While the human cargo consists mainly of young men from Africa and the Middle East, more than 900 children also embarked on the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2015.

In the aftermath of Libya’s bloody civil war, business is booming for the people traffickers. These figures illustrate why. Read more

Predictions that the war in Ukraine might be past its worst point can only be advanced with caution and caveats. Over the past 18 months, the western world has been consistently surprised by unexpected escalations and brutal events – from the annexation of Crimea to the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Even now, fighting continues. Last week, saw an escalation of conflict around Donetsk, with six killed in one day.

And yet, for all that, a cautious optimism is growing in the west that the fighting may be past its worst. There are still armed militias on the ground and intermittent fighting continues. But, against expectations, the Minsk peace accords negotiated last February, seem to have succeeded in damping down the conflict. One well-placed EU diplomat calls the new situation, a “hybrid peace” – a play on the well-known idea that Russia is fighting a hybrid war. Read more

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Immersed in thoughts about whether Greece will strike a last-minute deal with its foreign creditors to avoid a debt default, I found myself on Tuesday evening outside an Athens souvenir shop selling a T-shirt with this slogan:

To be is to do – Plato
To do is to be – Aristotle
Do be do be do – Sinatra Read more

Listen to the International Monetary Fund and you are liable to think it is giving out two contradictory messages. Last week Christine Lagarde, head of the fund, said the world was at risk of falling into a “new mediocre” and global growth was “not good enough”. Today her chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, is keen to stress medium term growth rates are “not the end of the world” and “there is no reason for doom and gloom”.

Bizarrely, these messages are not the contradiction they seem. How so – and what are the other four things to note in the IMF’s April 2015 World Economic Outlook. Read more

In the lead-up to Hillary Clinton’s long-awaited announcement that she is running for president, potential Republican rivals for the presidency and GOP party leaders have had plenty of time to formulate an opposition strategy that has quickly coalesced around a single meme: “Stop Hillary”.

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By Gideon Rachman
Is military and ‘soft power’ enough to make up for relative US economic decline? Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Amid all the talk of a new cold war, it is easy to forget that there are parts of the world where the cold war never ended. A couple of weeks ago I visited one of them. On the south side of the demilitarised zone that divides the Koreas, tourists use telescopes to stare into the North . A giant flag from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as it styles itself, flutters in the breeze. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Rome fell. Babylon fell. Hindhead’s turn will come.” George Bernard Shaw’s bon mot in Misalliance was a reminder to British theatre audiences in 1910 that all empires eventually decline and fall. The fact that Hindhead is an English village was a light-hearted cloak for a serious point.

The publication of “The Second Machine Age” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson last year sparked a debate over the impact of technological change on the workplace. The spread of computers, alongside the high unemployment rates experienced by many rich countries during the Great Recession, have raised fears that advanced economies may be heading for an age of mass joblessness. Capital is set to replace labour on an unprecedented scale – so the argument goes – squeezing wages while entrepreneurs and shareholders enjoy ever fatter profits. Read more

  • As the US moves closer to a nuclear deal with Tehran that could end decades of estrangement, it simultaneously finds itself scrambling to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East
  • The contours of Russia’s new national ideology have become clear in the Ukraine crisis; its foundations are nostalgia for a glorious past, resentment of oligarchs, materialism and xenophobia
  • Despite being engulfed in news about corruption, Latin America is showing advances in strengthening institutions and holding the powerful to account
  • Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov has upgraded his country from pawn to rook as central Asia’s chess master uses the rivalry between China, Russia and the US to its advantage (Foreign Policy)
  • The provision of an hallucinogenic drug to inmates in the middle of the rain forest reflects a continuing quest for ways to ease pressure on Brazil’s prison system (New York Times)

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