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With Jonathan Pearlman

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Australia’s 6009 sanctions

Australia’s currency and stock market dropped in recent days due to the activities of a fifty-year-old pastor from North Carolina, who has a congregation of twenty-five.

In 2016, Pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested in the Turkish city of Izmir after being accused of spying and of supporting a thwarted coup. His arrest angered American evangelicals …

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Project of the century

Five years ago, China’s president, Xi Jinping, announced his “project of the century”: the Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar globe-spanning infrastructure scheme. It appeared to be a Sinocentric trade blueprint, or an attempt to extend Beijing’s influence, or a vague branding exercise – and it is probably a little bit of each.

The …

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Our Cambodia dilemma

In one of the least surprising election results in recent history, Cambodia’s Hun Sen, who is among the world’s longest-serving prime ministers, extended his thirty-three-year reign by another five years on Sunday. The result was assured by the dissolving of the opposition last year, the jailing of its leader and a crackdown on the media. 

Seeking …

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Talking back to the United States

This week at California’s Stanford University – about as far from the White House as possible – Australia’s foreign affairs and defence ministers held two days of talks with their US counterparts.

Typically, this annual meeting receives little public attention. It is, like the Australia–United States alliance itself, an unremarkable …

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Putin’s South Pacific adventures

Hours after he finished hosting a football World Cup that he allegedly secured through bribery, Vladimir Putin flew to Helsinki for a summit with US president Donald Trump, whose election he helped to secure through electoral meddling.

Since becoming leader unexpectedly in 1999, Putin has been on a quest to restore Russia’s status as a global …

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The elephant next door

Within the next six years, Indonesia plans to complete a 142-kilometre high-speed rail link, the first such network in South-East Asia. The line, which will connect Jakarta to Bandung at speeds of 350 kilometres an hour, will reduce the current journey time from more than three hours to forty minutes.

Despite delays and uncertainty, the project …

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Is democracy normal?

When countries in Eastern Europe broke from the Soviet bloc thirty years ago, their next step seemed obvious: they began turning into Western-looking liberal democracies.

Back then, this shift seemed inevitable. 

“What everybody said they wanted in 1989 was ‘we want to be normal’,” the journalist Anne Appelbaum noted recently. …

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Protecting our patch

In the past three weeks, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop have conducted a flurry of meetings with leaders of small Pacific island nations, ranging from Palau to Vanuatu.

This diplomatic frenzy contrasts with the limited attention that Australia typically pays to its Pacific neighbours – with …

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China’s overt coercion

Recent efforts to combat China’s covert interference in Australia have led to heated public debate. But there is a growing area of meddling that receives less attention, even though it has potentially greater consequences: China’s use of economic clout to influence Australian corporations and governments, and those of other Asia-Pacific nations. 

Such …

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No great shake

The encounter between US president Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday started with a grand handshake and ended with a detail-free agreement, deflating hopes of a historic breakthrough.

The summit was difficult to process, perhaps because it was not like other dramatic encounters between adversaries …

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