Hans Kundnani

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Ursula Von Der Leyen, president Of The European Commission, speaking at a press conference after a special EU summit in Brussels, Belgium on 1 February 2024. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images).

Enlargement is back. For the last decade or so, the European Union had made it clear that, while accession negotiations with several countries would continue, it did not expect any of them to actually join the bloc any time soon.

After becoming European Commission president in 2014, Jean-Claude Juncker said that no further enlargement would take place during his five-year term. Although his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, promised a ‘geopolitical’ Commission when she took over in 2019, she did not immediately signal a greater openness to enlargement.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 changed all that. Enlargement is now not just back on the EU’s agenda but has become its highest priority.…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe May Be Headed for Something Unthinkable

As 2023 comes to an end, there is a growing sense of panic in Europe. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the European Union has been preoccupied with integrating the country — widely seen as a geopolitical necessity — and with the internal reform required to make that possible. But over the course of this year, as the much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive stalled, tensions among member states have increased.

As members have disagreed on issues such as climate policy and the war in Gaza, the unity around supporting Ukraine has shown signs of cracking, too. With no end to the war in sight, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has stepped up efforts to limit the bloc’s backing of Ukraine; the election of Robert Fico in Slovakia has given him another ally in the cause.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK prime minister Boris Johnson (L) with French president Emmanuel Macron ahead of the 2022 G7 summit in Brussels. Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images.

The war in Ukraine has dramatically refocused attention on Euro-Atlantic security. As European nations – alongside the US – have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia and increased military support to Ukraine, this war will further complicate the already limited ability of Europeans to play a meaningful security role elsewhere.

It could be tempting to conclude that the renewed threat from Russia spells the end of Europe’s embryonic involvement in the Indo-Pacific. For example, the UK’s Integrated Review in 2021 had identified Euro-Atlantic security and Russia itself as the priority for London – and the outbreak of war in Europe seems only to further confirm this.…  Seguir leyendo »

Emmanuel Macron blows a kiss to the crowd on a campaign visit to Le Havre, on 14 April 2022. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Although Emmanuel Macron did a little better than expected in the first round of the French presidential election last Sunday, the results were not a huge surprise. The second round next Sunday will be between Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, exactly as it was five years ago. But the results confirmed two worrying trends in French politics that were already apparent – and which are also evident to some extent across much of the rest of continental Europe.

The first is the realignment of politics away from a fault line between left and right, to one between “radical” centrism and populism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Workers arrange material as they prepare for the first session of Germany's newly-elected parliament in the Reichstag building housing the Bundestag in Berlin on 25 October 2021. Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images.

Across the major countries of Europe, there are plenty of ongoing debates about to how to reform democracy, but these national-level debates are often disconnected from each other and there is little attempt to learn from another’s system. Instead, the tendency is to think the grass is greener on the other side, with other countries’ systems being seen as better without a proper examination, and the focus being on their advantages rather than disadvantages.

But a proper comparison of democratic institutions and processes across Europe – as a Chatham House research project has been doing – helps foster a better understanding of the dilemmas and tensions in liberal democracy as a concept, and identifies the true challenges of reform.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK prime minister Boris Johnson at a military briefing with Colonel James HF Thurstan, Commander of Operation Orbital in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

The concept of ‘European strategic autonomy’ has taken a hit as Europeans have been sidelined and the European Union (EU) has struggled to make itself relevant in the current standoff with Russia over Ukraine.

With NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the EU’s first Strategic Compass, 2022 was meant to be the year of European security strategies. But the conflict at the Ukrainian border has been a reality check about what role the EU can today play in European security.

Conversely, the Ukraine crisis has amplified the UK’s role as a security provider for Europe through NATO as well as bilateral and minilateral arrangements such as the new Ukraine-Poland-UK trilateral format or, beyond the current crisis, London’s leadership of the ten-nation Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).…  Seguir leyendo »

A security guard uses a handheld thermometer to take the temperature of customers, wearing face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they wait to enter a bar in Liverpool, UK on 2 October 2020. Photo by Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Since the end of the Cold War, debates about security among both academics and policymakers have shifted away from traditional military or state security towards a broader conception of what security is – including, for example, ideas like ‘human security’.

More recently, there has been a widespread perception of a ‘return of great power competition’ and even renewed fears about great power war – in other words, a resurgence of traditional security debates that many hoped and believed were a thing of the past. At the same time, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the concept of ‘security’ has also been increasingly applied to other areas like economic and health policies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thousands of Poles at a rally in Krakow to support Poland's membership of the EU after the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled on the primacy of the constitution over EU law. Photo by Filip Radwanski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling that several articles of the European treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution is prompting much debate, especially in terms of both the similarities and differences between it and rulings by the German constitutional court which have also challenged the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Pro-Europeans are keen to draw a sharp distinction between the reasoning deployed by the two courts. They see the Polish court’s challenge as an exceptional case which the European Union (EU) cannot ‘tolerate’ because it would lead to the ‘demolition of the EU’s legal order from within’ and argue the EU must take a tough approach to Poland by re-asserting the supremacy of EU law.…  Seguir leyendo »

Climate placard during a protest by Extinction Rebellion outside the House of Representatives in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently said the 70-year-old NATO alliance had to be part of the response to the climate crisis as ‘the defining challenge for our generation and a crisis multiplier’. This statement came in the middle of an alarming build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border – so just as Europeans were being given a reminder of the security threat for which NATO was originally designed.

The coincidence of Stoltenberg’s statement about the security implications of the climate crisis and fears about a Russian invasion of Ukraine illustrates the increasingly complex and diverse set of challenges Europeans face.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the German navy stand on deck of the frigate Bayern. Photo by MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP via Getty Images.

When it recently emerged that Germany was planning to deploy the Bayern frigate to the South China Sea, it was widely interpreted as a move towards taking a tougher stand against China’s territorial claims in Asia. Defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer framed the deployment as a demonstration of solidarity with allies and ‘like-minded’ partners in the region.

Despite Germany’s dependence on China as an export market and the close political relationship between Beijing and Berlin over the past decade, it seemed Germany was prepared to go beyond a rhetorical commitment to the international rule of law and take concrete steps to uphold it alongside France and the UK, both of which have carried out ‘presence operations’ in the Indo-Pacific recently.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel likes to say there is no alternative to her policies; and when she does make U-turns, she tends not to admit to them. So it was highly unusual when last week, amid growing anger about her government’s response to the pandemic, the chancellor apologised to the German people. The government had planned to put the country in a tight lockdown for five days over Easter in an attempt to curb the sharp rise in infections, but abandoned the idea after it was widely criticised.

In the early phase of the pandemic, Germany seemed to stand out as one of the few western democracies that had handled it relatively successfully.…  Seguir leyendo »

HMS Queen Elizabeth departs from the Naval base on September 21, 2020 in Portsmouth, England. Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images.

All European countries – many of them NATO allies – see European and Euro-Atlantic security as the top strategic priority, though the ‘threat perception’ of central and eastern Europe tends to focus on Russia, and southern Europe on the Mediterranean and southern neighbourhood.

But Europe’s attention is now also increasingly turning to Asian security as developments in that region – above all, the rise of China – begin to heavily impact European interests. Even NATO is assessing links between Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific security. But the resources Europeans can devote to Asian security are limited. If they are to play an increasing role in Asian security – given the wide range of challenges in that region – it is time to think in a more structured way about how it can be done.…  Seguir leyendo »

Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council on climate and security at the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London. Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

When Joe Biden was elected as US president, many observers thought the UK would struggle to establish a close relationship with him, and that British diplomats feared being sidelined by the new administration – especially as Biden had referred to British prime minister Boris Johnson as a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of Donald Trump.

The UK’s main priority was to secure a free trade deal with the United States, but the Biden team had made it clear this would not be a priority for them. However, just over one month into the Biden administration, there has been a remarkable alignment between the UK and US.…  Seguir leyendo »

US tanks at Mockava railway station in Lithuania near the border with Belarus, as several hundred US troops arrive due to mounting tension over the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. Photo by PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images.

During the Donald Trump presidency, Europeans were forced to do some soul searching resulting in the conclusion that, as German chancellor Angela Merkel famously put it, Europe must ‘take its destiny into its own hands’. In other words, become more independent of the United States.

But how exactly could Europe achieve this and in which aspects of their destiny? The debate has centred on two concepts: ‘strategic autonomy’ and ‘European sovereignty’. Both are vague and, while they have been used interchangeably, they are distinct and emerged in response to two different aspects of the Trump administration’s policies.

The concept of strategic autonomy emerged in response to uncertainty created by the election of Trump about the long-held US security guarantee to Europe, focusing largely on defence policy and the future of NATO.…  Seguir leyendo »

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are briefed by expert members of their national security and foreign policy agency review teams in December 2020. Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images.

Democracy Must Work at Home First

Dr Leslie Vinjamuri

US democracy has been vividly on display and scrutinized by the world for the entirety of Trump’s presidency. In the years ahead, the global balance of democratic and authoritarian values will be shaped not only by US leadership abroad but especially by the ability of the Biden administration to fix America’s democracy.

Today, the US is wracked by internal division and the distribution of economic opportunities and benefits across society is radically unequal. Confidence in the leadership, the electoral system, and the capacity of the state to deliver has taken a serious hit.…  Seguir leyendo »

A couple showing off their 'I Voted' sticker after casting their ballot in the 2016 US presidential election. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images.

‘Democracy is on the ballot’ was a common refrain by supporters of Joe Biden during the US presidential campaign, supporting the claim Donald Trump posed a grave threat to American democracy as well as promising to discard his affinity for autocrats and to restore democracy as a guiding light for America’s approach to the world.

Joe Biden will hardly be the first president to emphasize democracy in US foreign policy but he has the chance to do so in a fundamentally new way – by bringing together major democratic powers to focus on fixing problems in their own societies.

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, policy experts have explored ideas for making cooperation among democracies a more integral part of US foreign policy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris addresses the media on November 10, 2020 at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

1. Resistance to Biden is likely

Hans Kundnani

The result of the election made it clear America has not rejected ‘Trumpism’ and remains deeply polarized. Donald Trump remains an important figure within the Republican Party, and perhaps even its leader.

Some senior figures in the party support his efforts to convey the impression the election was ‘stolen’ from them, and analysts such as Max Boot and Timothy Snyder are even comparing this to the Dolchstosslegende (myth of a stab in the back) in Germany after World War I.

Assuming Joe Biden does take over as president on 20 January, the question is what form any ‘resistance’ to his administration takes.…  Seguir leyendo »

The authors of this collection consider the most pressing foreign policy challenges for the next US president, and examine how the outcome of the 2020 election will affect these.

The president will determine how the US’s diplomatic, economic and military resources are invested, and what value the administration will attach to existing alliances and multilateral institutions.

Whoever sits in the White House will shape the trajectory of the US–China relationship and the global economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as international cooperation on climate action, international trade and technology policy, and health.


  • The last four years have confirmed that the choices the US makes are highly consequential for international politics.
…  Seguir leyendo »
Police officers wearing protective face masks patrol during coronavirus lockdown enforcement in Wroclaw, Poland. Photo by Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

It is less than a month since we published our research paper on the future of democracy in Europe. But it feels like we now live in a different world. The coronavirus has already killed thousands of people in Europe, led to an unprecedented economic crisis and transformed daily life – and in the process raised difficult new questions about democracy.

The essence of our argument in the paper was that democracy in Europe should be deepened. But now there is a much more basic question about whether democracies can protect their citizens from the pandemic.

There has already been much discussion about whether authoritarian states will emerge stronger from this crisis than democracies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Boris Johnson speaks at the Old Naval College in Greenwich on 3 February. Photo: Getty Images.

This week the UK will start negotiating its future relationship with the European Union. The government is trying to convince the EU that it is serious about its red lines and is prepared to walk away from negotiations if the UK’s ‘regulatory freedom’ is not accepted – a no-deal scenario that would result in tariffs between the EU and the UK. Yet at the same time the story is telling the world is that Britain is ‘re-emerging after decades of hibernation as a campaigner for global free trade’, as Boris Johnson put it in his speech in Greenwich a few weeks ago.…  Seguir leyendo »