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The Foreign Affairs Interview

Author: Foreign Affairs Magazine

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Foreign Affairs invites you to join its editor, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, as he talks to influential thinkers and policymakers about the forces shaping the world. Whether the topic is the war in Ukraine, the United States’ competition with China, or the future of globalization, Foreign Affairs’ biweekly podcast offers the kind of authoritative commentary and analysis that you can find in the magazine and on the website.
62 Episodes
Earlier this month, Claudia Sheinbaum won a sweeping victory in Mexico’s presidential election. Although a lot of the coverage framed the results as a win for women and progressive politics, the story is far more complicated.  Mexico’s democracy is in trouble, warns Denise Dresser, a political analyst in Mexico. For years, Dresser has watched Sheinbaum’s party—and its previous leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador—govern through polarization and the erosion of democratic institutions, even as the country struggles with violence, corruption, and persistent inequality. Dresser is a professor of political science at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. There is a chance Sheinbaum charts a different course. But if not, Dresser worries that Mexico could face an autocratic future.  You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
For months, Iran and Israel have seemed to be on the brink of outright war. Although tensions are lower than in April—when the countries exchanged direct attacks—they remain dangerously high. Vali Nasr has tracked these dynamics since long before October 7. He is the Majid Khadduri professor of international affairs and Middle East studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. He served as the eighth dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS between 2012 and 2019. During the Obama administration, he served as senior adviser to the legendary diplomat Richard Holbrooke. He warns that as long as war rages in Gaza, the Middle East will remain on the verge of exploding. Yet it is not enough for Washington to focus just on ending that war. It must also put in place a regional order that can free the Middle East from these cycles of violence. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
There’s no question that Hamas violated international law when it attacked Israel on October 7, and as it continues to hold hostages in Gaza. But more than seven months into Israel’s response, the issue of whether Israel is violating international law—or even committing war crimes—is coming to a head. Washington is debating holding up deliveries of weapons to Israel. And the International Criminal Court is rumored to be preparing a case against leaders of both Hamas and the Israeli government. What’s happening in Gaza may seem unprecedented. But as the legal scholar Oona Hathaway writes in Foreign Affairs, “The conflict in Gaza is an extreme example of the breakdown of the law of war, but it is not an isolated one.” Hathaway is the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law at Yale University School of Law and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 2014–15, she took leave to serve as special counsel to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense. Foreign Affairs Deputy Editor Kate Brannen spoke with her on May 13 about the causes of that breakdown—and what, if anything, can be done to salvage the rules meant to protect civilians in wartime. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Russia’s Murky Future

Russia’s Murky Future


When Russia botched its invasion of Ukraine and the West quickly came together in support of Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power appeared shakier than ever. Last summer, an attempted coup even seemed to threaten his rule. But today, Putin looks confident. With battlefield progress in Ukraine and political turmoil ahead of the U.S. election in November, there’s reason to think things are turning in his favor. The historian Stephen Kotkin joins us to discuss what this means for Russia’s future—and how the United States can be ready for whatever that future holds. Kotkin is the Kleinheinz Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is the author of the forthcoming book Stalin: Totalitarian Superpower, 1941–1990s, the last in his three-volume biography of the Soviet leader. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
On April 13, Iran did something it had never done before: it launched a direct attack on Israel from Iranian territory. As historic and spectacular as the attack was, Israel, the United States, and others managed to intercept a huge percentage of the drones and missiles fired, and the damage inflicted by Iranian strikes was minor. Still, the world is waiting tensely to see how Israel will respond—and whether the Middle East can avoid full-scale war.  To understand the attack and its consequences, Foreign Affairs Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan spoke with Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, and Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group.  We discuss where this conflict could go next—and how to bring the two sides back from the brink of war.  You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Martin Indyk has probably spent more time and energy than anyone else—certainly more than any other American—trying to find a path to peace among Israel, its neighbors, and the Palestinians. He’s worked on these issues for decades. Indyk served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from July 2013 to June 2014.  He served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997, and again from 2000 to 2001. He also served as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1995 and as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the U.S. Department of State from 1997 to 2000. He spoke to Foreign Affairs Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan on April 1. The conversation covers the prospect of a cease-fire in Gaza; how the Biden administration is, and is not, using its influence to shape Israeli actions; and the possibility that this terrible war could finally move both sides toward a two-state solution. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
More than any time in the last 75 years, we’re living in a world at war. Conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine dominate headlines. But that’s just part of it. Last year, Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing thousands of ethnic Armenians to flee. There’s a full-scale civil war in Myanmar. In Africa, there is war in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Congo, and there have been seven coups on the continent since August 2020. Comfort Ero, the head of the International Crisis Group, has been tracking these conflicts as closely as anyone. She has watched the international system grow more brittle and less effective at preventing war—and has been doing the hard political work of ending conflict once it breaks out. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Bonus: India as It Is

Bonus: India as It Is


India has enormous momentum. Its population has surpassed China’s, making it the most populous country in the world. Its economy is expected to become the world’s third largest in the next few years. And, as much as any country, it seems positioned to take today’s geopolitical tensions and turn them to its advantage. The country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is expected to win a third term in office this spring, cementing his own political dominance. But that has come with a dark side—an assault on civil rights and democracy, which some warn will ultimately hinder India. To address Modi’s third term and India’s future more broadly, Foreign Affairs editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan moderated a panel including Alyssa Ayres, Ashley J. Tellis, and  Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Ayres is Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Tellis is the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And Mehta is Laurence S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Netanyahu’s Israel

Netanyahu’s Israel


A year ago, protests began to rock Israel. For months, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to weaken the country’s Supreme Court. Then came Hamas’s attack on October 7, and everything changed. “The war has caught Israel at perhaps its most divided moment in history,” writes Aluf Benn in a new piece for Foreign Affairs. Benn, the editor of Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, argues that Netanyahu worked to divide Israeli society with policies that put the country on track for disaster. He spoke to Foreign Affairs Executive Editor Justin Vogt on February 27. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Four months after Hamas’s October 7 attack, the war in Gaza continues with little reason to think that Israel is particularly close to achieving its declared goals. Meanwhile, the Middle East is on the precipice of a full-scale regional war—and it may be that that war has already begun. Dahlia Scheindlin is a pollster, a policy fellow at Century International, and a columnist at Haaretz. She is the author of the new book, The Crooked Timber of Democracy in Israel. Dalia Dassa Kaye is a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations and a Fulbright Schuman Visiting Scholar at Lund University. We discuss the domestic political landscape inside Israel, the risks of further escalation in the region, and whether there is a better path forward. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at 
Last fall, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates took to the pages of Foreign Affairs to issue a warning: with America facing the most dangerous geopolitical landscape in decades, dysfunction in Washington threatened to turn that danger into disaster. Today, Russia and China are testing the international order. Iranian proxies are attacking U.S. forces on a daily basis. And, as Gates writes, “at the very moment that events demand a strong and coherent response, America cannot provide one.” Gates worries that such dysfunction at home could prompt America’s foes to make risky bets—with catastrophic consequences for both the country and the world.  You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at 
Ukraine may be facing the toughest chapter of its war since the first days of Russia’s invasion. The frontlines have changed little over the past year. And, in November, Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, used the word “stalemate” to describe the situation on the battlefield. In the West, the political tides may be shifting—especially in the United States, where Republicans in Congress are holding up new aid, and Donald Trump, running for reelection, has said he’ll end the war in 24 hours if he returns to the White House.  Since the war began, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been tirelessly and eloquently making a case for Ukrainian victory, both on the world stage and in the pages of Foreign Affairs. In a January 23 conversation with Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, he discussed why the West should not give up on Ukraine, and the country’s prospects of victory in the months and years ahead. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at 
There’s a growing sense that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a pretty good position heading into 2024. Certainly that’s what Putin wants the rest of the world to think—that he can outlast Ukraine and its supporters in the West. Yet the situation looks more complicated on the ground in Russia.  And there are few people better positioned to make sense of that reality than Andrei Kolesnikov. Kolesnikov, a journalist and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has been in Moscow since the war began. Over the last two years, he’s written a series of deeply illuminating pieces for Foreign Affairs. In December 2022, the Kremlin listed Kolesnikov as a foreign agent.  Kolesnikov spoke with Foreign Affairs Senior Editor Hugh Eakin on January 8 about Putin’s hold on power and how Russians view their leader and his disastrous war. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Hamas’s attack on October 7 shocked the world and upended the status quo in the Middle East. As Israel’s war in Gaza continues, the two-state solution seems more out of reach than ever. And yet, close observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict understand that for there to ever be peace, a political solution must go hand in hand with any military strategy.  At a Foreign Affairs live event on December 14, Lisa Anderson, Salam Fayyad, and Amos Yadlin joined Foreign Affairs Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan to explore these issues and more.  Anderson is the James T. Shotwell professor of international relations emerita at Columbia University and was the president of The American University in Cairo from 2011 to 2015. Fayyad served as the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013. Yadlin is a retired major general in the Israeli Air Force and served as head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate from 2006 to 2010. Together, they discussed Israeli strategy, whether Hamas can actually be destroyed, and whether there is any hope for a return to a peace process. This is an edited version of their conversation. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Most Americans think their country is in decline. So do their leaders. Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have embraced foreign policies premised on the notion that the global order no longer serves American interests. But these pessimistic assumptions are wrong, Fareed Zakaria argues in a new essay for Foreign Affairs. Moreover, they are leading the country to embrace strategies that will harm much of the world—and the United States most of all. Zakaria is the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN, a columnist for The Washington Post, and the author of The Post-American World. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
There is no doubt that China’s economy is struggling. After Chinese President Xi Jinping ended the country’s zero-COVID policy a year ago, most economists expected growth to surge—but that never really happened, and deeper problems became apparent. So what are the exact causes of China’s stagnation?  The economists Adam Posen, Zongyuan Zoe Liu, and Michael Pettis each have different answers. China’s future—and the future of the United States’ policy toward China—hinges on which of their answers is the right one. Foreign Affairs Executive Editor Justin Vogt spoke with them at a November 14 discussion co-hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, of which Posen is president. Liu is the Maurice R. Greenberg fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Pettis is a senior fellow at the Carnegie China Center and professor of finance at Peking University. 
From killer robots to smarter logistics, artificial intelligence promises to change the way the U.S. military fights and develops weapons. As this new technology comes online, the opportunities are coming into focus—but so are the dangers. In a new piece for Foreign Affairs, Michèle Flournoy argues the U.S. military has no choice but to move forward with AI and to do so quickly. Flournoy served as the Pentagon’s policy chief during the Obama administration and today is a co-founder and managing partner at the consulting company WestExec Advisors. Deputy Editor Kate Brannen talked to her about how the U.S. Defense Department will need to change the way it does business if it wants to integrate AI safely and responsibly. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
There is no end in sight to Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. But even as fighting rages, questions abound about what happens when it finally stops. What can be salvaged from the wreckage? Will Hamas survive, if not as an organization, then as an ideology? Who will govern Gaza? What type of leadership will be needed on both sides to broker any type of lasting peace? Former Israeli security chief Ami Ayalon says that today there is no clear picture in Israel about what happens on the day after—and that this is a grave mistake. Ayalon began his military service in 1963 and went on to lead Israel’s navy and then Shin Bet, the country’s internal security service. The task for Israel, he argues, is not just addressing the security failures that preceded October 7, but offering a political future that both Israelis and Palestinians will support. You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
As the war in Gaza continues, the question of Hamas’s future has become paramount. But it has also raised questions about the years of Hamas rule in Gaza—and the group’s support among Palestinians.  Amaney Jamal is dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and co-founder of Arab Barometer, which conducts public opinion research across the Arab world.  Her most recent survey of Palestinian public opinion wrapped up on October 6—the eve of Hamas’s attack. As she wrote in a recent piece for Foreign Affairs, “The argument that the entire population of Gaza can be held responsible for Hamas’s actions is quickly discredited when one looks at the facts.” You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Putin’s Cannon Fodder

Putin’s Cannon Fodder


In Ukraine, where war with Russia grinds on, the dominant question has become: can one side outlast the other? This is especially true as both sides face another grueling winter.  One thing Russia has in ample supply is men. But how it treats its soldiers is having an effect on the battlefield, explains Dara Massicot, who has studied the Russian military for years, first at the U.S. Defense Department and later at RAND and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.   Foreign Affairs Deputy Editor Kate Brannen sat down with her to discuss how the human dimension of this war provides clues about where it might be headed next.  You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at
Comments (1)

jack massie

Harry hindsight

Jan 14th