Here you can find a collection of my most recent Reuters columns. Click here for a complete selection.
Black Sea grain battle could define Ukraine war – 26 May 2022
In late April, trucks with number plates from Russian-occupied Crimea descended on the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, emblazoned with the letter “Z”. According to local mayor Ivan Fedorov, the convoy – filmed and shown on social media platform Telegram – carried grain seized by Russian forces from silos around the town.
If Western leaders were surprised to see Turkey throw a diplomatic wrench into plans to admit Finland and Sweden into NATO, they should not have been. Throughout the last decade, President Tayyip Erdogan has been relentlessly consistent in attempting to take almost any international crisis or dynamic and make it more about Turkey than any of the other players wanted or expected.
Ukraine war brings crisis to Sri Lanka, opportunity for India – 12 April 2022
More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic started, Sri Lankans this week found themselves again barred from going out in public places including roads, railways, public recreation grounds and seashores, without written government permission.
As Ukraine fought a bloody battle to prevent Russian forces seizing its capital Kyiv in the first two weeks of the war, the Taiwan International Strategic Study Society was polling residents of the island to see if they too would be willing to fight in the event of a Chinese assault.
Some 10 miles inside Russia at a military base near the village of Golovchino, dozens of damaged, burnt and blasted Russian armored vehicles have been dragged into scattergun positions as workers attempt to repair and salvage spares.
As Russia’s war in Ukraine entered its second month in the final week of March, Malian troops and their newly arrived white mercenary backers were rounding up dozens of civilians around the town of Moura and ushering them to their deaths.
Ukraine war unleashes battle for Global South hearts and minds – 11 April 2022
As Russian troops fought in Ukraine last month and the West sought global support for sanctions against the Kremlin, South African left-wing firebrand Julius Malema told a crowd he and his supporters would never turn on Russia after its support in the fight against apartheid.
Mixed messages as China faces tough Ukraine choices – 31 March 2022
On March 21, Chinese Ambassador to Moscow Zhang Hanhui told a dozen Chinese business chiefs to waste no time and “fill the void” in Russian markets left by Western sanctions. But in Beijing, the Foreign Ministry this week summoned officials from China’s three largest energy companies and instructed them to review their business ties with Russian partners, Reuters quoted two sources with knowledge of the meeting as saying.
As world watches Ukraine, Mideast charts a new path – 24 March 2022
As Russia faced Western outrage over its invasion of Ukraine, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was quietly being welcomed back to the club of Middle East leaders in the UAE last week, his first foreign trip in more than a decade of war aside from forays to key backers Russia and Iran.
As Britain teetered on the edge of Nazi invasion in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly waylaid legendary American war reporter Edward Murrow in a corridor in Downing Street and ushered him into an anteroom with the words: “Do you have time for several whiskeys?”
Unsettling effects of Russian’s actions in Ukraine felt around the world – 24 February 2022
As Russia prepared this week to invade Ukraine, chanting crowds celebrating France’s decision to withdraw from Mali held placards thanking the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group and newspapers in Kenya worried about the impact a conflict would have on the local cost of fuel and food.
With Ukraine standoff, Putin takes Europe into the unknown – 18 February 2022
Last Sunday, Russia’s three most watched weekly news shows – on state-owned Rossiya 1 and Channel One and Gazprom-run NTV – instead looked back to a “prescient” speech made by President Vladimir Putin at the annual Munich Security Conference in February 2007. In that address – long regarded in Russia as a defining moment for Putin’s foreign policy but barely remembered in the West – the Russian leader ripped into what he called the “monopolistic dominance” of the United States in global affairs and its “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international affairs”.
As the world reopens, China faces tough COVID choices – 11 February 2022
As Australia and New Zealand pressed ahead week with plans to ease border restrictions, Hong Kong was this week introducing its toughest measures yet against COVID-19 and authorities in China were locking down the aluminium-producing city of Baise, pushing the price of the metal to its highest levels in 14 years.
Ukraine, Taiwan, Olympics drive Xi and Putin together – 3 February 2022
When Russian President Vladimir Putin meets counterpart Xi Xinping on Friday for lunch as arguably China’s most important Winter Olympics guest, the Kremlin says the two will sign at least 15 agreements, including several on natural gas and others on bolstering the two economies to resist financial sanctions.
Ukraine-Russia crisis is now a complex global confrontation – 27 January 2022
As the United States and European countries struggled to find a unified approach to Russia and Ukraine this week, the Russian navy announced a multitude of new exercises, from deploying its Black Sea Fleet to missile drills off Ireland, and Belarus opposition hackers said they were behind a cyber attack disrupting Russian troop moves as more fighter jets arrived.
Will Europe see its biggest military offensive since World War Two? – 20 January 2022
In June 1914, European stock and bond markets scarcely reacted to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria. It was only in late July, with the great powers in their final days of mobilisation for World War One, that investors realised the danger and showed panic.
As death toll rises in Ethiopia, Middle East powers fuel drone race – 5 January 2022
In the week before Christmas, Ethiopia suffered its worst air strikes since October, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported. Dozens of people were killed and many more were wounded in a particularly bloody week of a largely hidden conflict that says much about the changing face of war.
Three decades after fall of USSR, Russia makes its new demand – 21 December 2021
On Dec. 25, 1991, the hammer and sickle flag came down at the Kremlin for the last time. A week later, on Dec. 31, the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist. Exactly 30 years later, Russian President Vladimir Putin is using every tool at his disposal to reverse what he sees as the humiliations that followed.
‘Better than alliance’, Russia and China inch closer against U.S. – 16 December 2021
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden opened the 100-nation “Summit for Democracy” by describing the authoritarian models of Russia and China as “the defining challenge of our time”. On Wednesday, the leaders of those two nations held their own video conference to show a united front in response.
Drones, gas, sanctions and missiles shape Putin’s Ukraine choices – 10 December 2021
As Russia moved troops and vehicles to its border with Ukraine last month, videos posted on social media and Russian television showed often crude canopies over the turrets of some tanks — offering rudimentary protection against Turkish-built drones and U.S.-supplied missiles in the event of war.
As Olympics loom, China faces COVID-19 and other challenges – 2 December 2021
As countries around the world imposed new COVID-19 restrictions this week following a rise in concern over the Omicron variant of the virus, China announced it would aim to deliver another 1 billion vaccines to Africa and push ahead with hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.
Once-medieval Taliban face challenges of modern banking – 25 November 2021
As Afghanistan’s Taliban celebrated 100 days in control of the country this week, they paraded dozens of U.S.-built armored vehicles through its cities. Unless it can end its international isolation, however, the country looks set to face its toughest winter in recent history.
From space to migrants, hybrid confrontation grows with Russia – 17 November 2021
For all the moving parts in Russia’s current confrontation with the West – from migrants on the Poland-Belarus border to Russian troop moves towards Ukraine and the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – its escalation into low Earth orbit this week still managed to deliver a degree of shock.
As Western interest waivers, Balkans turn dangerous again – 4 November 2021
A quarter of a century after the Dayton Peace Agreement brought an end to Bosnia’s civil war, the top international official in the country warned this week that it might be on the brink of breaking up once again.
Climate deals tougher in age of international distrust – 29 October 2021
As world leaders gather in Glasgow from this weekend for the COP26 climate summit, there will be plenty of platitudes and talk of the need for urgent action. The truth, however, is that the world’s major nations have rarely found it so difficult to talk to each other or even make their own domestic policy, particularly on climate.
Escalating Taiwan face-off could define the decade – 14 October 2021
Last week, China’s nationalist Global Times changed its rhetoric on Taiwan. A military offensive by Beijing to retake the island, it suggested, might now be a matter of “when” rather than “if”. The small number of U.S. troops reported to be there, it said, would be immediate targets.
Europe’s gas crisis comes at perfect moment for Moscow – 7 October 2021
As European gas prices soar and governments worry about their effect on a spiralling cost of living, Russia on Wednesday offered what it said could be a swift solution: rapid certification of its recently completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will pump Russian gas directly across the Baltic Sea to consumers in Germany and beyond.
In global vaccine race, every player has its failures – September 30 2021
Last week, President Joe Biden pledged to make the United States the world’s “arsenal of vaccines”, promising half a billion Pfizer doses to the developing world. It was an impressive offer – but of 560 million vaccines the United States had already promised, it has delivered only 160 million.
Could Russian mercenaries hasten French departure from Mali? – September 17 2021
The Wagner Group of private military contractors operates in the shadows; its existence, operations and ownership the subject of rumour, disinformation and denial. But it may be about to achieve something militants and rebels could not over the course of decades – hasten the end of a French military intervention in Mali once seen as unending.
The next “Forever War” will be for control of space – September 7 2021
ast month, astronauts from Japan, Russia, the United States and Europe held a pizza party in orbit aboard the International Space Station, celebrating the birthday of one of their number.
West races to evacuate Afghans – but also builds new walls – August 26 2021
As G7 leaders discussed ways to get as many people as possible out of Afghanistan this week, the EU and NATO nations most likely to receive Afghans – Greece and Turkey – were building border walls to keep them out.
Amid U.S. Afghan debacle, Russia and China know what they are doing – August 19 2021
As U.S. President Joe Biden defended his actions in Afghanistan on Tuesday, Russian and Chinese state media were using chaotic scenes in Kabul to argue that the United States would one day similarly abandon its allies in Ukraine and Taiwan.
On Wednesday, Aug. 4, as news broke that a prominent dissident from Belarus had been found hanged in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, authorities in Belarus accused Lithuanian border guards of beating to death an Iraqi migrant whose body they claimed to have found.
As nuclear negotiations stall, Iran and Israel wage secret war – August 4 2021
On April 24, a suspected unmanned drone struck an Iranian oil tanker off the Syrian port of Baniyas, reportedly killing at least three people and sparking a blaze that took firefighters several hours to extinguish. It was the latest sign of an escalating shadow war between Iran and its enemies, principally Israel but also the Gulf states, the United States and European allies.
As America’s second most senior diplomat met her Chinese counterpart this week to reassure Beijing that the United States did not seek confrontation, the People’s Liberation Army Navy was preparing one of its most realistic beach landing drills in recent history.
Russia and China: ‘Not allies, but better than allies – July 15 2021
When the foreign ministers of Russia and China met in March this year, they described their two countries as standing “back to back” in what many commentators painted as a growing alliance against the West. This weekend, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Li used a rather different phrase to describe their partnership: “Not an alliance, but better than allies.”
As U.S. troops quietly quit their last key bases in Afghanistan last weekend, Russian-backed Syrian forces were stepping up their bombardment and siege of Idlib and preparing for a possible closure of the last humanitarian crossing from Syria to Turkey.
Vaccines, ‘Delta strain’ bring new pandemic challenge – July 1 2021
In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, engineers are building a 5,000-person quarantine facility, central to Beijing’s strategy for reopening itself to the outside world while COVID-19 continues.
For Russia, aggression seen central to great power status – June 23, 2021
When U.S. President Joe Biden visited Europe last week, only one world leader received his undivided attention for an entire day: Vladimir Putin.
For Taiwan, China, vaccines and geopolitics spark perfect storm – June 18, 2021
As NATO and G7 leaders met to discuss a tougher line on China this week, Taiwan – swiftly emerging as the most serious likely flashpoint – was entering a new phase of its perfect storm with the mainland.
New era of robot war may be underway unnoticed – June 10, 2021
In March 2020, as COVID-19 locked down the world, what may have been the first autonomous drone attacks in history were taking place on a largely unwatched battlefield in Libya.
Gaza conflict points to new era of ‘forever wars’ – May 19, 2021
Last weekend, Israel massed troops and tanks on its border with Gaza. As the noise of their engines echoed across the strip, an Israeli military spokesman appeared to confirm to international media that a ground operation was underway.
In early March, U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of India, Japan and Australia – the so-called Quad group – chose to put COVID-19 vaccines at the centre of their strategy to limit China’s growing influence in Asia
With Taiwan and Ukraine, Biden administration faces global test – April 15, 2021
With warship moves, equipment sales and diplomatic rhetoric, the United States has rarely been more emphatic that it stands with its allies in Ukraine and Taiwan. For all those declarations, however what that truly means remains unclear.
China, others aim to make the best of coronavirus geopolitical – March 20, 2020
As Serbia’s European Union neighbours closed their borders and halted many medical exports, President Aleksandar Vucic made an appeal here “Serbia now turns its eyes to China,” he said. “All my personal hopes are focused and directed toward China and its president.”
Amid virus outbreak, disinformation and international strains – March 16, 2020
As the coronavirus outbreak ravaged Iran on March 5, the new commander of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that the country was “engaged in a biological battle”.
The week started with coronavirus prompting Saudi Arabia and Russia to tear up the rule book on oil exports to start a savage price war.
With oil price slump, coronavirus unleashes economic warfare– March 9, 2020
A new week of the coronavirus crisis is beginning with another unexpected consequence – an oil price crash driven by the outbreak of relatively unrestricted economic warfare between Saudi Arabia, Russia and the West.
Turkey-Syria crisis points to risky post-American Mideast – February 13, 2020
In parts of Syria dubbed “de-escalation zones” by the government, what could yet prove a new regional conflict is escalating fast.
With virus outbreak, China showcases micro drone surveillance – February 3, 2020
Sometime last week, a small group of Chinese residents were sitting outside in the town of Chengdu. A small drone approached them, hovered nearby and began to speak.
In Davos, Trump frames climate change as global culture war – January 22, 2020
In Davos on Tuesday, President Donald Trump pledged the United States to a major global project to plant a trillion trees worldwide in the next decade.
From Taiwan to Moscow reshuffle, Xi and Putin face their limits – January 20, 2020
From rumours that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was lesbian to coordinated videos and website comments and a show of force with an aircraft carrier, China’s government appeared to be pulling out all the stops when it came to influencing Taiwan’s election early this month.
In next war, soldiers will leave their smartphones at home – January 14, 2020
As the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division departed for the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, their divisional commander gave a simple order.All personnel entering the region were told to leave smartphones and personal devices in the United States.
Soleimani strike will be felt well beyond Middle East – January 3, 2020
In killing Iran’s Major-General Qassem Soleimani in an air strike near Baghdad’s international airport, Donald Trump has taken a geostrategic risk it is almost impossible to imagine from any other U.S. president.
Legacy of 2010s will be growing international and political divisions – January 2, 2020
As a new decade begins, the first century of the new millennium will already be a fifth over.
Carrier fire points to weakness behind Moscow’s military might – December 19, 2019
It’s been a mixed month for Russia and its military. In Syria, they took control here of the former Islamic State capital Raqqa, strengthening their hand following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Personalities outweigh issues at NATO’s testy birthday summit – December 6, 2019
The celebration of NATO’s birthday began with Donald Trump branding his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “nasty” and ended with the U.S. president describing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “two-faced”.
In Trump era, Europeans want a very different foreign policy – November 28, 2019
As indicators of how America’s allies now feel about Washington after three years of Donald Trump, there are a few statistics more stark than those on how Germans think about relying on the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
In Hong Kong, worst may be yet to come – November 21, 2019
As protests in Hong Kong approach their sixth consecutive month, those in charge of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing may be regretting they ever took control of the territory – and particularly under a “one country, two systems” arrangement.
With ‘brain death’ comments, Macron highlights Europe’s NATO fears – November 8, 2019
Since U.S. President Donald Trump entered the White House in 2017, NATO summits have often proved diplomatically messy events.
Baghdadi death marks the end of an era for ‘war on terror’ – October 30, 2019
The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this week will not mark the end of Islamic state, nor U.S. military efforts against Islamist militancy in the Middle East and beyond.
Clinton does Democrats no favour reviving Russia conspiracy talk – October 23, 2019
As a contender for the U.S. presidency in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was besieged with opposition rumour and conspiracy theories.
Towards a post-American Middle East – October 16, 2019
As protests spread across the Arab world in late 2010 and early 2011, the Obama administration struggled to decide a strategy.
Beset by Hong Kong protests, China’s Xi showcases missiles – October 4, 2019
As Hong Kong recovered from its most violent day of protests so far, Beijing’s English-language “Global Times” newspaper led on the celebrations of 70 years of Communist rule.
When politicians lie, should Facebook promote them? – September 26, 2019
During the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook says it did not do enough to enforce its standards as rumour and untruth spread.
Saudi oil attack shows how Iran sees new Mideast game – September 21, 2019
If Iran’s government was truly behind last weekend’s cruise missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure, it has put its potential foes across the Middle East in an awkward, uncomfortable position.
Conspiracy theories risk becoming new currency of post-truth politics – August 22, 2019
On Wednesday, as wildfires ripped across the Amazon rainforest, the Brazilian president took to Facebook to accuse nongovernmental organizations of setting light to the trees.
For those who worried about the risk of the Cold War ending in catastrophe, the early- to mid-1980s were the most alarming period since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Western democracies face problems, but so do Russia and China – August 2, 2019
It has not been the easiest year for democracies in the West, with storm clouds gathering over Brexit and also now over next year’s U.S. presidential election.
With joint patrol, Russia and China divide U.S. allies – July 25, 2019
As bloodless encounters go, Tuesday’s face-off between a Russian surveillance plane and South Korean fighter jets was as vicious as they come.
New international moon race could define humanity’s future – July 17, 2019
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off for the moon, a new space race is on.
The dark new world of leaks, rumours and deadly hybrid war – July 11, 2019
s Britain ponders the fallout from leaked diplomatic telegrams from its ambassador to Washington, it ponders an awkward question.
Trump’s dance with autocrats keeps diplomatic doors open – July 3, 2019
For those who accuse U.S. President Donald Trump of being more at home in the company of dictators, autocrats and authoritarian rulers than with democratic leaders, the past week has provided ready ammunition.
G20 leaders more preoccupied by domestic woes than ever – June 27, 2019
World leaders have no shortage of global issues to discuss at this week’s Group of 20 summit but, perhaps more than ever before, most will be more focused on their own domestic politics than on international diplomacy.
As tensions rise, U.S. plan for Iran is unclear – June 20, 2019
When Barack Obama was preparing his fight for a second term as U.S. president in 2012, his administration was preoccupied with two big foreign policy crises.
Turkey, S-400 and the new arms sale geopolitics – June 14, 2019
Sometime next month, Russia may begin here shipping its S-400 air defence system to Turkey.
China president’s favourite general trips up over Taiwan – June 7, 2019
As head of Beijing’s strategic nuclear forces and its fastest rising general, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe had a reputation for “doing more and saying less”.
Maritime security experts say there was likely here less than four kilograms of explosives in the limpet mine that tore open a gash in the stern of Norwegian oil tanker “Andrea Victory” as she lay at anchor off the United Arab Emirates on May 12.
This week, dignitaries and Western military veterans celebrated the seventieth anniversary of the Berlin airlift, the mammoth year-long effort to break a ground blockade by the Soviet Union.
Huawei and the unravelling of globalisation – May 8, 2019
When former Chinese army officer Ren Zhengfei founded Huawei in 1987, his business plan appears to have been relatively simple.
Notre-Dame, Sri Lanka and democracy’s social media dilemma – April 25, 2019
When Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire on April 15, it was only a matter of minutes before conspiracy theories were swirling across social media.
What Sudan tells us about 21st century coups – April 19, 2019
Barely a week before Zimbabwe’s military ousted President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, its top commander visited Beijing. Exactly what he discussed with his People’s Liberation Army counterparts has never been disclosed.
China goes unconventional in escalating South China Sea face-off – April 12, 2019
In early December, a flotilla of two dozen Chinese fishing boats and escort warships sailed to here the disputed Filipino-occupied reef of Thitu. By the end of the month, Beijing had almost 100 vessels in and around the archipelago, sparking an initially largely hidden confrontation that could yet spark outright war.
India test and US Space Force fuel new high-altitude arms race – April 5, 2019
When historians of the future chart humanity’s military misadventures in space, they might conclude they began in earnest last month.
Is China winning global battle for silence over Uighurs – March 22, 2019
For Turkish firms exporting marble and other stone to an increasingly lucrative Chinese market, the Xiamen International Stone Fair should have been the business highlight of the year.
Chinese, local drones reflect changing Middle East – March 6, 2019
Ever since 9/11, drones have been amongst the most visible, and often controversial, signs of American power in the Middle East and beyond.
Korea talks failure caps worrying week for world peace – March 1, 2019
With Russian nuclear threats, India and Pakistan on the brink of all-out war and now U.S.-North Korea talks breaking down in Vietnam, it has been a messy week for diplomacy.
Are China, Russia winning the AI arms race? – January 15, 2019
Chinese authorities hope they will design a new generation of artificial intelligent weapons systems that could range from microscopic robots to computer worms, submarines, drones and tanks.
In Azov Sea, Putin plays a deadly Ukraine game – November 26, 2018
On Sunday, Moscow turned the key in that door by using a cargo ship to block entry to the Azov Sea. As warplanes and combat helicopters flew overhead, Russian border patrol boats seized three Ukrainian naval ships after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors.
Covering the world, paralyzed from the shoulders down – September 6, 2018
Twelve years ago this week, I woke up in a wrecked vehicle on a front-line road in eastern Sri Lanka. My neck was broken, I was paralyzed from the shoulders down and it took a matter of seconds to conclude my life was probably over.
The changing face of Afghanistan’s war – August 15, 2018
On the streets of a city in central Afghanistan, government troops and the Taliban have been fighting for the future of their country.
China’s plan to reshape the world – August 8, 2018
A decade after the Beijing Olympics, China’s rulers would rather be feared than liked – and that brings with it a very new dynamic in its domestic politics and relations with the rest of the world.
Donald Trump’s unsettling summit game – July 16, 2018
President Trump’s trip to Europe antagonized America’s allies in the region, pleased many of his supporters and demonstrated just how unwilling he is to listen to advises. Which, of course, was exactly the point.
Western armies risk losing their high-tech edge – July 6, 2018
When America’s soldiers, sailors and pilots go to war, they are used to enjoying massive technical superiority over their foes. But those days may soon be gone for good.
What the G7 still offers the world – June 7, 2018
As leaders of the world’s largest economies gather in Montréal, they face an awkward question: in the era of Trump, what is the West really for?
Why historically neutral Sweden is preparing for war – May 31, 2018
Over the last two weeks, every household in Sweden has received a booklet telling residents what to do in the event of invasion or disaster.
China’s Uighur minority increasingly have nowhere to hide.
What a nuclear deal with North Korea might like – April 25, 2018
If a nuclear deal with North Korea is possible, it will require concessions by both sides.
Russia’s “Satan 2” and the new missile race – April 5, 2018
Why Vladimir Putin just launched the largest ballistic missile in history.
How Beijing is winning in the South China Sea – March 29, 2018
With artificial islands and ever more assertive naval maneuvers, China is pushing back the US and its allies in the South China Sea.
Tillerson fall shows Trump learning game of politics – March 13, 2018
Donald Trump is learning how to work the presidency.