Capitol Dome Peeking Out From Behind the Washington Monument
Dark times ahead? The stakes are particularly high in the next presidential election. | Photo: John Brighenti | CC BY 2.0

Preparing for the Worst: A PRIF Blog Series on the US Elections in November

The presidential elections in the United States this November come with incredibly high stakes – both for US democracy and for US allies across the world. A new PRIF blog series on the consequences of the elections will address the possible fallout of a second Trump term for PRIF’s research areas and examine ways that German and European policymakers could prepare for and respond to the elections.


People standing in a large room with the Philippine flag hanging on the wall
Members of the Philippine Congress sing the Philippine national anthem during the opening of the Second Regular Session of 17th Congress at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines, 24 July 2017. Photo: © picture alliance/EPA | ROLEX DELA PENA.

Failing in Control. Legislative weakness in the face of a strongman president in the Philippines

When Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency of the Philippines in 2016, he pushed a campaign against illegal drugs that resulted in thousands of suspects being killed by law enforcers. Parliament appeared entirely ineffective in opposing the extensive human rights abuses during the Presidents anti-drug campaign. This Spotlight examines the wider working logic of Philippine democracy that makes Philippine parliament into a subservient accomplice of any determined administration of the day, even if this means going along with severe human rights violations.


Containerterminal Tollerort in the port of Hamburg
Economic ties with China are increasingly viewed as a political risk, as shown by the debate over a COSCO investment into Hamburg port. | Foto: Raimond Spekking via wikimedia commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Germany’s New China Strategy: A Defensive Shift

After a lengthy process of internal deliberation, the German government released its China strategy on July 13. The document signals a policy shift away from the business-focused approach taken by previous governments, and towards a “de-risking” of ties with China. It also reframes the relationship by stressing elements of competition and even rivalry, based on the perception that Chinese authoritarianism is becoming a threat to Germany and its role in the world. Instead of seeking to transform autocracies through engagement, the new approach is much more about shoring up Germany’s own system.


Ein Foto des Deutschen Bundestages bei Nacht
Welche Rolle kommt politischen Regimetypen in der Nationalen Sicherheitsstrategie zu? | Foto: j0nqh via Pixabay

Nicht darüber reden ist auch keine Lösung: Die Rolle von Autokratie und Demokratie in der Nationalen Sicherheitsstrategie

Mit dem Beginn des russischen Angriffskriegs auf die Ukraine wurde das Narrativ eines globalen Wettstreits zwischen Demokratien und Autokratien wiederbelebt, das bereits im Zuge des Aufstiegs Chinas an Bedeutung gewonnen hatte. Im März 2022 hatte auch Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock noch von einem „Bündnis von liberalen Demokratien weltweit“ gesprochen, das es gegen die Diktaturen dieser Welt zu schließen gelte. Etwas mehr als ein Jahr später hat die Bundesregierung nun ihre Nationale Sicherheitsstrategie veröffentlicht, in der vom Zwei-Lager-Denken nichts mehr zu finden ist. Diese positive Entwicklung wird jedoch konterkariert von einem weitgehenden Schweigen zu Fragen von Stabilität und Sicherheit, die sich im Umgang mit unterschiedlichen Regimetypen  stellen – was auch keine Lösung ist, wie wir im Folgenden argumentieren.


Ein Foto des Rathauses von Bischkek in Kirgistan mit Gärten im Vordergrund und Bergen im Hintergrund.
Rathaus von Bischkek, der Hauptstadt Kirgistans. | Foto: amanderson2 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Die Republik Kirgistan im Prozess der Autokratisierung: Steinmeiers Reise nach Zentralasien im Kontext nationaler Prozesse und der deutschen Sicherheitsstrategie

Bundespräsident Frank Walter Steinmeier befindet sich auf einer Reise durch Zentralasien und besucht neben Kasachstan auch die Republik Kirgistan. Vor dem Hintergrund weitreichender Einschränkungen und Restriktionen gegen die Zivilgesellschaft und Menschenrechtsaktivistinnen bietet diese Reise die Gelegenheit, sich im Sinne der neu verabschiedeten Nationalen Sicherheitsstrategie für eine Partnerschaft zwischen Deutschland und der Kirgisischen Republik unter Wahrung der Menschenrechte auszusprechen.


White wall with crack
Decoupling is a process that is fraught with tensions. | Photo: AYOUB AALLAGUI, Unsplash

Decoupling and the “New Cold War”: Cautionary Lessons from the Past

An emerging “new Cold War” appears to pit democracies, led by the US, against autocracies, led by Russia and China. But the analogy between today’s regime competition and that of the “old” Cold War is deceptive. China and Russia today are much more closely intertwined with Western democracies than the Soviet Union ever was. These linkages will complicate the conflict considerably. There is already growing pressure to engage in “decoupling”, that is, to break these interdependencies. Research on past instances of decoupling shows that such processes often exacerbate conflict. This research offers four lessons about the general dynamics of decoupling – and little cause for optimism about today’s disengagement processes.


Putin and Xi at their meeting in Moscow
The Sino-Russian partnership differs significantly from the Western community of nations. | Photo: via wikimedia commons | CC BY 4.0

Xi and Putin’s Strategic Tango: Unpacking the Complexities of Russia-China Relations After the 2023 Moscow Summit

The March 2023 state visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping to Russia has attracted significant attention, and has been described as symbolic of growing cooperation between authoritarian states opposed to the current world order. However, as we argue in a recently-published article based on a review of Russian and Chinese expert statements, this partnership should best be understood as a limited, strategically motivated cooperation against shared threat perceptions. Meanwhile, there is much less agreement on normative questions, let alone a shared vision of an alternative world order.


Wall with bricks, half is painted white, the other half is painted blue, but on both sides a few bricks have the opposite color.
States with different political regime types increasingly view each other as competitors. | Photo: Katerina Pavlyuchkova, Unsplash (edited)

Regime Competition in a Fragmented World: Consequences for Peace and Conflict

More than thirty years after the proclaimed “end of history” and the third wave of demo­cratization, the world is once again marked by increased diversity in political regimes. The (re-)emergence of powerful autho­ritarian states like China and Russia and the trend of back­sliding in seemingly consolidated demo­cracies have created a more pluralistic and multipolar world, in which states with different political regime types increasingly view each other as competitors, seeking to prove the superiority of their own political and economic systems and to win the alle­giance of third countries.


Shadow of a person walking seen on a mural painted with the Brazilian flag
Even if Lula emerges victorious, the legacy of Bolsonaro will cast a pall over a Lula administration. | Photo: Gustavo Minas via flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

Brazil’s Presidential Election: How Far does the Populist Glow Reach?

The first round of Brazil’s presidential elections took place on 2 October 2022. The result was 43.2% for incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and 48.4% for ex-president (2003–2010) Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva. Given that none of the candidates achieved more than 50%, a final run-off is scheduled for 30 October. Pre-election polls predicted Lula would reach the critical 50% threshold. These polls also projected Bolsonaro would win around 36%. But in the end, his vote share was more than 43%. This result left the world searching for an explanation.