Amid central Tunisia’s dry farmlands, the city of Sidi Bouzid bustled one recent day under warm autumn sunshine. Street vendors and shoppers jostled under the roof of a new, open-air market, selling and buying produce or cheap clothes. Seven years after an impoverished street vendor in this city immolated himself and ignited the Arab Spring revolutions, his homeland has achieved a precarious stability. By many measures the Arab world’s only democracy, Tunisia remains hobbled by corruption, unemployment and violent extremism.
The White House account of President Donald Trump’s first phone call with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi is a good sign that the U.S. might continue to work cooperatively with moderate Muslim political leaders who can contribute to global stability and aid in reducing violent extremism.
The Obama administration’s announcement this week that it plans to quadruple military resources devoted to deterring Russia in Europe highlights how seriously U.S. and NATO leaders view the threat posed by Russia. Ukraine is struggling to save its young democracy and stave off public disaffection with the new government’s valiant but halting reforms, even as Russia continues its campaign of military and economic goading.
Ukraine must not remain a country of great but unrealized potential. The International Monetary Fund package and other foreign assistance are helping stabilize Ukraine’s economy, but only an attractive business climate can result in the level of investment that will truly transform the country for the long term.
As the world this year saw its highest tide ever of people displaced by war, violence or persecution, the U.S. Institute of Peace has reinforced its work in the field to help reduce violence and its threat to U.S. and global security. “Our mission has never been more urgent,” says USIP President Nancy Lindborg in a video that highlights USIP’s work worldwide.
When 5,000 people flooded into a city of 500,000 in one night with little more than the pajamas on their backs, they were greeted by the mayor and an assemblage of churches and civic groups ready to embrace them with shelter, food, clothing and moral support. The scene might sound like something from Europe’s west, where refugees are flooding in from the Middle East and Africa. But this is Ukraine in the midst of a war and an economic crisis, and two years into upheaval, the strain is beginning to show.
America’s new diplomatic and foreign-aid blueprint places top priority on the need to prevent and resolve violent conflict and strengthen governance in an effort to restore a measure of global stability. But to accomplish those objectives, the plan’s authors also stressed that U.S. government agencies, together with Congress, must directly accept and address the inherent risks to the civilian workers who carry out those missions.
Last year’s unexpected Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea and its hybrid war in eastern Ukraine raise profound questions about the future of European security and the U.S. role in maintaining peace, says USIP Acting Executive Vice President Bill Taylor.
Bill Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who currently serves as USIP’s acting president, just returned from a visit to Kyiv and discusses the prospects for the country’s new reform-oriented government.
Tunisia’s prospects for retaining its title as the only transition of the Arab Spring that hasn’t failed or collapsed into violence faces further tests this month and next, with important parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct. 26 and a presidential election on Nov. 23. USIP Acting President William B. Taylor, a former special coordinator for Middle East transitions in the State Department, considers what’s at stake.