Institutions and Organizations
Watch a livestream of a discussion with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland on March 7, 2023 at 11:15am PT

The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies is honored to host President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and his visiting delegation.

President Niinistö will deliver remarks on the war in Ukraine, Finland's bid for NATO membership, and strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Finland.

A discussion with a panel of scholars and security experts from the university's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Hoover Institution will follow the president's remarks. Michael McFaul, the director of the Freeman Spogli Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Russia, will moderate the discussion.

President Niinistö will be accompanied by a business delegation with representatives from a wide range of industries.

A question-and-answer session for invited guests, Stanford students, and the business delegation will follow the discussion.

This event is available to the public via the livestream below.

Meet the Panelists

Anna Grzymala-Busse is the director of The Europe Center, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor of International Studies, and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She is also a senior fellow (by courtesy) at the Hoover Institution. Her research interests include political parties, state development and transformation, informal political institutions, religion and politics, and post-communist politics. Her most recent book is "Sacred Foundations: The Religious and Medieval Roots of the European State."

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Director of The Europe Center
Full Profile

Oriana Skylar Mastro is a center fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies where she works primarily in the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and the Center for International Security and Cooperation. She is an international security expert with a focus on Chinese military and security policy, Asia-Pacific security issues, war termination and coercive diplomacy. Her research addresses critical questions at the intersection of interstate conflict, great power relations and the challenge of rising powers. She also serves in the United States Air Force Reserve as a strategic planner.

Oriana Skylar Mastro

Oriana Skylar Mastro

FSI Center Fellow
Full Profile

Michael McFaul is director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as special assistant to the president and senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014). He has authored several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.”

Michael McFaul Headshot

Michael McFaul

Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute
Full Profile

H.R. McMaster is the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is also a former Bernard and Susan Liautaud Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute. McMaster served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army for thirty-four years. He retired as a lieutenant general in June 2018 after serving as the twenty-sixth assistant to the U.S. president for the Department of National Security Affairs.

H.R. McMaster

H.R. McMaster

Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow
Full Profile

Steven Pifer is an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation and The Europe Center, both at the Freeman Spogli Institute, and a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. He served for more than twenty-five years as a Foreign Service officer, including as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, an ambassador to Ukraine, and as a senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council. His research focuses on nuclear arms control, Ukraine, Russia and European security.

Man smiling

Steven Pifer

Affiliate at CISAC and TEC
Full Profile

Risto Siilasmaa is the founder of F-Secure and WithSecure Corporations and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of WithSecure, having served as President and CEO of the company in 1988-2006. He is also an active venture capital investor with over 30 active investments via First Fellow Partners, a fund management company where he is both a general partner and the only limited partner.

In addition, Mr. Siilasmaa is the Chairman of the Technology Advisory Board appointed by the Finnish Government in 2020 and a Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group. Since 2017 he has served also as a Finnish Chairman of the China-Finland Committee for Innovative Business Cooperation. Mr. Siilasmaa is simultaneously a member of the Global Tech Panel, an initiative of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and he was a member of the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) in 2012–2020.

Risto Siilasmaa

Risto Siilasmaa

Founder of F-Secure and WithSecure Corporations, Chairman of WithSecure Corporation
Full Profile

Alex Stamos is director of the Stanford Internet Observatory at the Cyber Policy Center. He is a cybersecurity expert, business leader, and entrepreneur working to improve the security and safety of the Internet through his teaching and research. Alex previously served as the chief security officer of Facebook, where he led the company’s investigation into manipulation of the 2016 U.S. election and helped pioneer new several protections against this abuse. 


Alex Stamos

Director of the Stanford Internet Observatory
Full Profile

Kathryn Stoner is the Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She is also a Senior Fellow (by courtesy) at the Hoover Institution. In addition to her extensive research and writing on contemporary Russia, she also studies democracy, autocracy, and the conditions that lead to transitions from one to the other. She is the author of many books, including the recent "Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order.”

Kathryn Stoner

Kathryn Stoner

Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
Full Profile
Anna Grzymala-Busse

Encina Hall
616 Jane Stanford Way
Stanford, CA 94305-6055

Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science
Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Michael McFaul is Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1995.

Dr. McFaul also is as an International Affairs Analyst for NBC News and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).

He has authored several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. Earlier books include Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We Can; Transitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective (eds. with Kathryn Stoner); Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War (with James Goldgeier); and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin.

His current research interests include American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development. Dr. McFaul was born and raised in Montana. He received his B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and his M.A. in Soviet and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986. As a Rhodes Scholar, he completed his D. Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University in 1991. He is currently writing a book on great power relations in the 21st century.



Michael McFaul
Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow

H. R. McMaster was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for thirty-four years before retiring as a Lieutenant General in June 2018.

From 2014 to 2017 McMaster designed the future army as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and the deputy commanding general of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). As commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, he oversaw all training and education for the army’s infantry, armor, and cavalry force. His extensive experience leading soldiers and organizations in wartime includes commander of the Combined Joint Inter-Agency Task Force—Shafafiyat in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012; commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq from 2005 to 2006; and Commander of Eagle Troop, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Operation Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991. McMaster also served overseas as advisor to the most senior commanders in the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

McMaster led or col-ed important strategic assessments including the revision of Iraq strategy during the “surge” of 2007 and efforts to develop security forces and governmental institutions in post-war Iraq. In 2009–2010, he co-led an assessment and planning effort to develop a comprehensive strategy for the greater Middle East.

McMaster was an assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy from 1994 to 1996 where he taught undergraduate courses in military history and history of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He also taught a graduate course on the history of military leadership for officers enrolled in the Columbia University MBA program.

He is author of the award-winning book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. He has published scores of essays, articles, and book reviews on leadership, history, and the future of warfare in many publications including Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He was a contributing editor for Survival: Global Politics and Strategy from 2010 to 2017.

McMaster was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1984. He holds a PhD in military history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

H.R. McMaster

Steven Pifer is an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation as well as a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.  He was a William J. Perry Fellow at the center from 2018-2022 and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin from January-May 2021.

Pifer’s research focuses on nuclear arms control, Ukraine, Russia and European security. He has offered commentary on these issues on National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour, CNN and BBC, and his articles have been published in a wide variety of outlets.  He is the author of The Eagle and the Trident: U.S.-Ukraine Relations in Turbulent Times (Brookings Institution Press, 2017), and co-author of The Opportunity: Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Arms (Brookings Institution Press, 2012).

A retired Foreign Service officer, Pifer’s more than 25 years with the State Department focused on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union and Europe, as well as arms control and security issues.  He served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibilities for Russia and Ukraine, ambassador to Ukraine, and special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council.  In addition to Ukraine, he served at the U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Moscow and London as well as with the U.S. delegation to the negotiation on intermediate-range nuclear forces in Geneva.  From 2000 to 2001, he was a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Institute for International Studies, and he was a resident scholar at the Brookings Institution from 2008 to 2017.

Pifer is a 1976 graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor’s in economics.


Affiliate, CISAC
Affiliate, The Europe Center
Steven Pifer

Shorenstein APARC
Stanford University
Encina Hall
Stanford,  CA  94305-6055

Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Oriana Skylar Mastro is a Center Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where her research focuses on Chinese military and security policy, Asia-Pacific security issues, war termination, nuclear dynamics, and coercive diplomacy. She is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and continues to serve in the United States Air Force Reserve, for which she works as a strategic planner at INDOPACOM.

She has received numerous awards for her military service and contributions to U.S. strategy in Asia, including the 2020 and 2018 Meritorious Service Medal, the 2017 Air Force recognition Ribbon, and the 2016 Individual Reservist of the Year Award. She has won a number of other prestigious awards, including the 2016-2017 Stanton Nuclear Security Fellowship at the Council of Foreign Relations.

She has published widely, including in International Security, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, International Studies Review, Journal of Strategic Studies, The Washington Quarterly, Survival, and Asian Security. Her book, The Costs of Conversation: Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime, (Cornell University Press, 2019), won the 2020 American Political Science Association International Security Section Best Book by an Untenured Faculty Member.

Prior to her appointment at Stanford in August 2020, Mastro was an assistant professor of security studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University.

Her publications and commentary can be found at and on Twitter @osmastro.

Selected Multimedia

Oriana Skylar Mastro
Risto Siilasmaa

Alex Stamos is a cybersecurity expert, business leader and entrepreneur working to improve the security and safety of the Internet through his teaching and research at Stanford University. Stamos is the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory at the Cyber Policy Center, a part of the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he is also a research scholar.

Prior to joining Stanford, Alex served as the Chief Security Officer of Facebook. In this role, Stamos led a team of engineers, researchers, investigators and analysts charged with understanding and mitigating information security risks to the company and safety risks to the 2.5 billion people on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. During his time at Facebook, he led the company’s investigation into manipulation of the 2016 US election and helped pioneer several successful protections against these new classes of abuse. As a senior executive, Alex represented Facebook and Silicon Valley to regulators, lawmakers and civil society on six continents, and has served as a bridge between the interests of the Internet policy community and the complicated reality of platforms operating at billion-user scale. In April 2017, he co-authored “Information Operations and Facebook”, a highly cited examination of the influence campaign against the US election, which still stands as the most thorough description of the issue by a major technology company.

Before joining Facebook, Alex was the Chief Information Security Officer at Yahoo, rebuilding a storied security team while dealing with multiple assaults by nation-state actors. While at Yahoo, he led the company’s response to the Snowden disclosures by implementing massive cryptographic improvements in his first months. He also represented the company in an open hearing of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

In 2004, Alex co-founded iSEC Partners, an elite security consultancy known for groundbreaking work in secure software development, embedded and mobile security. As a trusted partner to world’s largest technology firms, Alex coordinated the response to the “Aurora” attacks by the People’s Liberation Army at multiple Silicon Valley firms and led groundbreaking work securing the world’s largest desktop and mobile platforms. During this time, he also served as an expert witness in several notable civil and criminal cases, such as the Google Street View incident and pro bono work for the defendants in Sony vs George Hotz and US vs Aaron Swartz. After the 2010 acquisition of iSEC Partners by NCC Group, Alex formed an experimental R&D division at the combined company, producing five patents.

A noted speaker and writer, he has appeared at the Munich Security Conference, NATO CyCon, Web Summit, DEF CON, CanSecWest and numerous other events. His 2017 keynote at Black Hat was noted for its call for a security industry more representative of the diverse people it serves and the actual risks they face. Throughout his career, Alex has worked toward making security a more representative field and has highlighted the work of diverse technologists as an organizer of the Trustworthy Technology Conference and OURSA.

Alex has been involved with securing the US election system as a contributor to Harvard’s Defending Digital Democracy Project and involved in the academic community as an advisor to Stanford’s Cybersecurity Policy Program and UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. He is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Cyber Security Task Force, the Bay Area CSO Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. Alex also serves on the advisory board to NATO’s Collective Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia.

Stamos worked under Prof. David Patterson while earning a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and three children.

Director, Stanford Internet Observatory
Alex Stamos
Kathryn Stoner

Visually banner card with the event title "Japan’s "Free and Open Indo-Pacific” Strategy: More Eloquent Japan and Domestic Political Institutions", and featuring a circle photo portrait of speaker Professor Harukata Takenaka

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” Vision in 2016, various scholars have analyzed policy formulation process of FOIP. Most of them refer to the rise of China as an influential power in the Indo-Pacific region with its own initiative, namely, the Belt and Road Initiative as a major factor which prompted the Second Abe Administration to launch FOIP.

It is the contention of this presentation that the current configuration of the Japanese political institutions has made it possible for the Second Abe administration to launch and pursue such a comprehensive strategy while an international factor is important. It demonstrates that a series of political reforms since 1990s have strengthened the power of the prime minister as an institution to initiate key cabinet policies and coordinate policy formulation among different ministries. The strong institutional foundation of the Japanese prime ministerial power has made it possible for the Abe administration to effectively pursue such a broad vision, engaging various ministries and organizations.

The existing research on Japan's diplomacy often evaluates Japan as a passive state. It considers that in the past Japan only responded to foreign pressure while it did not proactively push forward its own policies. The presentation suggests that Japan has changed and become more eloquent as a result of changes in domestic political institutions.


Square photo portrait of Harukata Takenaka
Harukata Takenaka is a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo. He holds a PhD from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Tokyo.

His key research areas are the role the prime minister in Japanese politics, changes in Japanese external policy, and democratization in Pre-war Japan.

Prof. Takenaka’s recent publications include: “Kyokoku Chugoku” to Taijisuru Indo-Taiheiyo Shokoku [Indo-Pacific Nations facing China aspiring to be a “Great Country”](edited) (Tokyo: Chikura Shobo, 2022), “Evolution of Japanese security policy and the House of Councilors,” Japanese Journal of Political Science, 22:2, (June 2021), 96-115, Korona Kiki no Seiji [Politics of Covid 19 Crisis](Tokyo: Chuo Koron Shinsha, 2020), “Expansion of the Japanese prime minister’s power in the Japanese parliamentary system: Transformation of Japanese politics and the institutional reforms,”Asian Survey,59:5:844-869 (September 2019); Futatsu no Seiken Kotai [Two Changes of Government] (edited) (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 2017); Failed Democratization in Prewar Japan (Stanford University Press 2014),

Harukata Takenaka Professor of Political Science National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan
Gi-Wook Shin
News Type

This essay originally appeared in Korean on June 16 in Sindonga (New East Asia), Korea’s oldest monthly magazine (established 1931), as the third in a monthly column, "Shin’s Reflections on Korea." Translated by Raymond Ha. A PDF version of this essay is also available to download.

“I voted for Yoon Suk-Yeol because I just couldn’t vote for Lee Jae-Myung. Do you think Yoon will be a good president?”

“Well, it’s only been a month since he entered office. We should wait at least a year to see how he does.”

When I visited Korea this June, I had this exchange while speaking with friends. Like these friends, there are many Koreans who cast their ballots for Yoon to oust the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) from power, even though they did not necessarily approve of Yoon. They achieved their goal, and the conservatives regained the presidency. However, these voters looked upon the Yoon administration with a mixture of hope and trepidation.

Their fears were realized only a month later, in late July. The ruling People Power Party (PPP) became paralyzed by an internal power struggle. A mere two months after entering office, Yoon’s approval ratings plummeted below 30%. Some polls even indicate that over half of voters would choose Lee Jae-Myung if the election were to be held again.

There is an uncanny resemblance to the early days of the Biden administration. The conversations I had with my Korean friends in June are reminiscent of those I had with friends in the United States soon after Biden entered the White House. They confessed that they voted for Biden because they could not support Trump, and they were both worried and hopeful about the new administration. Their concerns began to materialize during Biden’s first year in office. Despite a slight rebound in the past two months, Biden’s approval rating remains in the 40s. Those in Democratic circles openly voice their fears about losing both the House and the Senate in November’s midterms.

Biden and Yoon could not be more different in terms of ideological orientation or political experience. Nonetheless, they find themselves in a similar political predicament.
Gi-Wook Shin

Just as in Korea, there have been polls in the United States that show that more Americans would vote for Trump than Biden if the election were to be held today. The former president is poised to make another run for the White House in 2024, as the FBI continues its investigation into his potential mishandling of classified documents.

Biden and Yoon could not be more different in terms of ideological orientation or political experience. Nonetheless, they find themselves in a similar political predicament. How can we explain this state of affairs? Some would emphasize the effect of catastrophic events beyond any leader’s control, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Others stress the role of structural factors, including political polarization. Critics in Korea and the United States point to policy failures and shortcomings of political leadership, while both Biden and Yoon insist that their respective predecessors left behind daunting challenges. This essay examines each of these factors as it explores the path ahead for President Yoon Suk-Yeol, who recently marked his 100th day in office.

Is Yoon Korea’s Trump?

Before comparing Yoon with Biden, however, it is necessary to first address another frequently mentioned comparison—that of Yoon with Trump. In the months leading up to Korea’s presidential election this March, foreign journalists and observers often asked if Yoon could be understood as a Trump-like figure in Korean politics. To be sure, there is an overlap: a lack of political experience, strong anti-China rhetoric, and anti-feminist attitudes. Yoon’s unwillingness to foster diversity calls to mind Trump’s white supremacist rhetoric.[1] Both are perceived as “strongmen” who forcefully achieve their goals by any means, not skilled politicians who foster compromise through negotiation. Moreover, both are known for their blunt manner of speaking and their anti-pluralist rhetoric.[2]

However, the differences between the two are arguably more salient. Trump’s doctrine of “America First” rejected an international order built on multilateral cooperation. He showed no hesitation in openly pressuring longstanding allies like Japan and Korea. In contrast, Yoon has voiced support for the liberal international order and has emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Korea alliance. Furthermore, Trump has shown little regard for the rule of law. Instead of condemning those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Trump still claims that the election was fraudulent. Yoon, who was trained as a lawyer, has consistently emphasized the rule of law.

Trump was rejected by the Republican establishment as a political maverick. Yoon, on the other hand, is the embodiment of Korea’s elite. He graduated from the Department of Law at Seoul National University, which is regarded as Korea’s most prestigious university. He then became a prosecutor and rose to the position of prosecutor general, overseeing one of Korea’s most powerful institutions. If anything, Yoon brings to mind a different Republican president: George W. Bush.

Yoon and George W. Bush: Striking Similarities

Bush and Yoon both grew up in upper-middle-class households and graduated from prestigious universities. Bush’s father served as president from 1988 to 1992, while Yoon’s father taught at Yonsei University as a professor of applied statistics.[3] Despite their affluent backgrounds, both faced troubles during their youth. Bush struggled with alcohol and was once arrested for a dui violation. He also suffered defeat in his first attempt to run for Congress in 1978. Yoon failed the state bar exam eight times and succeeded on his ninth attempt, only to be relegated to less important positions multiple times in his prosecutorial career for his uncompromising stance in politically sensitive investigations.[4] Bush and Yoon have both overcome difficulties, and they also cultivated down-to-earth, approachable personas as politicians.

The similarities do not end there. As president, Bush and Yoon both relied heavily on well-established figures in the conservative mainstream when making appointments to key positions. Bush chose Dick Cheney, who served as secretary of defense during his father’s administration, to be his running mate. Donald Rumsfeld, who led the Pentagon under President Ford, was once again appointed to the same position. Key figures from the Republican national security establishment, including Condoleezza Rice, played a significant role in shaping the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

The Bush administration followed the traditional Republican stance of emphasizing alliances in foreign policy. It pursued market-friendly policies at home and abroad, lowering taxes and entering into free trade agreements with Korea and other countries. Moreover, it pushed ahead with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and labeled North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and Iran. In doing so, the Bush administration raised political tensions by pursuing a so-called ABC policy (“anything but Clinton”), seeking to overturn its predecessor’s legacy.

There are striking similarities in the composition and policy orientation of the Yoon administration. Consider its foreign policy team, for instance. Park Jin, a legislator with extensive foreign policy credentials, was appointed as foreign minister. Kwon Young-Se, a former National Assembly member who was the Park Geun-Hye administration’s first ambassador to Beijing, now leads the Ministry of Unification. Kim Sung-Han, a professor at Korea University who was a vice foreign minister during the conservative Lee Myung-Bak administration, is Yoon’s national security advisor. Kim Tae-Hyo, who played a key role in shaping Lee Myung-Bak’s national security policy and subsequently taught political science at Sungkyunkwan University, has returned to government as Yoon’s deputy national security advisor.

The Yoon administration is expected to stress the U.S.-Korea alliance and adopt a hardline stance against Pyongyang. Some expect Yoon to pursue a policy of “anything but Moon,” just as Bush proceeded with “anything but Clinton.”
Gi-Wook Shin

Some observers have noted that this team bears a resemblance to the neoconservatives of the Bush administration. The Yoon administration is expected to stress the U.S.-Korea alliance and adopt a hardline stance against Pyongyang. Some expect Yoon to pursue a policy of “anything but Moon,” just as Bush proceeded with “anything but Clinton.”

In assembling his economic team, Yoon has drawn from well-established career civil servants. His prime minister, Han Duck-Soo, entered the civil service in 1970 and later served as minister of finance and prime minister under President Roh Moo-Hyun. Choo Kyung-Ho, who serves as deputy prime minister and the minister of economy and finance, has nearly three decades of experience in economic and financial policy. The Yoon administration has rolled out a package of market-friendly economic policies focused on eliminating red tape, stimulating innovation, and lowering corporate taxes.

There is more than a passing similarity between the composition and policy objectives of the Yoon and George W. Bush administrations. That said, the political trajectory of Yoon’s presidency seems likely to follow that of Biden, not Bush. Unlike Biden, whose approval ratings have steadily declined after entering office, Bush’s ratings soared to 90% following 9/11 and stayed relatively high during the early days of the War on Terror. Bush was re-elected in 2004, but it remains to be seen whether Biden can do the same.

Yoon faces many of the same challenges as Biden: the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, high inflation, and a society riven by ever-worsening political and economic polarization. Both leaders also have to contend with a ruling party that is far from cohesive. Examining the path that the Biden administration has taken over the past 18 months can thus yield important lessons for the political future of the Yoon administration.

An Early Loss of Support

During Trump’s presidency in the United States and Moon Jae-In’s presidency in Korea, commentators often spoke about a crisis of democracy. The conversation has now shifted to focusing on a crisis of political leadership. Those in the United States and in Korea have sought to understand why Biden and Yoon, who each entered office after a hard-won electoral victory, faced difficulties early on in their terms.

As I noted in a previous essay, both presidents won narrow victories in bruising election campaigns marked by unprecedented levels of mudslinging.[5] In both countries, the ruling parties won important victories shortly after the presidential election. Raphael Warnock won a Senate seat in Georgia for the Democratic Party in January 2021, while the PPP swept Korea’s local elections in June 2022. However, those in the United States and Korea who hoped that the new president would overcome the crisis of democracy and return the country to normalcy have so far been disappointed.

Let us first look at the United States. According to a RealClearPolitics average of multiple polls conducted in July and August, nearly 70% of respondents believe that the country is going in the wrong direction. Only 23.2% stated that the country is headed in the right direction.[6] In its own analysis, FiveThirtyEight notes that Biden had the lowest approval rating (38.6%) of any president 18 months after entering office. (By comparison, Trump recorded 42.1% at the same point in his term.) Biden’s ratings have fallen even among African Americans and Latino Americans, who traditionally make up the Democratic Party’s base. Among youth, who overwhelmingly voted for Biden in 2020 (over 60%), the level of support has fallen by half.[7]

A similar trend is now evident in Korea. In terms of the speed and magnitude of the decline, Yoon has fared much worse than Biden. According to a poll of 1,000 respondents conducted by Gallup Korea from July 26 to 28, only 28% expressed support for Yoon’s job performance. In terms of age groups, those in their 30s and 40s showed the lowest level of support at 17%. Even among respondents in the city of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, which are conservative strongholds, negative responses exceeded positive responses by 7 percentage points.[8] If there was a difference between Biden and Yoon in this regard, it was in the main reason for the loss in support. Economic troubles created difficulties for Biden, whereas Yoon went against prevailing public opinion by appointing controversial individuals to key posts.

How might we understand the causes of Biden’s political troubles? In the July 20 New Statesman, Adam Tooze writes that “a combination of bad luck, ineptitude, internal divisions, the structures of U.S. politics and the ruthlessness of their enemies has put not only the future of the Biden administration but the republic itself in danger.”[9] One could reasonably classify the pandemic and high inflation as “bad luck.” Beyond this, Tooze largely points to two causes. Political polarization and “the ruthlessness of. . . enemies” are structural factors. On the other hand, “ineptitude” and “internal divisions” pertain to questions of political leadership. It is debatable whether Biden has already “failed,” as Tooze concludes. However, his frame of analysis provides a useful lens for diagnosing the current political situation in Korea.

Extreme Political Polarization

Structural factors have played an important role in the United States. Trump was skilled in using “divide and conquer” to his political advantage. Political polarization in the United States reached unprecedented levels during Trump’s term in office. The 2020 election came down to the wire, with Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania playing a decisive role in the electoral college vote. Trump, along with certain segments of the Republican Party, still refuses to concede defeat.

In such a polarized environment, it is difficult for even the most skilled politician to obtain an approval rating exceeding 50%. Major initiatives that require a broad national consensus, such as FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, have become virtually impossible. Biden initially pitched “Build Back Better” as a New Deal for the 21st century, but it encountered significant opposition in Congress. Conflicts over the so-called culture war issues, including abortion rights, have further intensified. Edward Luce, the U.S. national editor of the Financial Times, recently warned that “America is two nations barely on speaking terms.”[10]

Second, critics have raised doubts about the effectiveness of Biden’s political leadership at home. While Biden successfully led the Democratic Party to victory in its battle against Trump in 2020, voters did not necessarily see him as the most attractive candidate at the outset. Even though they did not secure the nomination, candidates such as Sanders and Warren, who openly advocated for progressive policies, drew a great deal of support during the primaries. Once Trump had been defeated, the intra-party alliance loosened. It became a daunting challenge to bring together different factions of the Democratic Party into a cohesive whole. I also raised this point in an interview with the Korean press, noting that Biden could face a lame duck period much sooner than expected. In perhaps the most well-known example, the Build Back Better initiative failed to pass Congress not only because of opposition from Republicans, but also because of pushback from Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema.

Although the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act takes meaningful steps related to climate change, many progressive Democrats were deeply unhappy with Biden for failing to keep his promise to act on the issue. Biden’s loss of support among young voters is partly due to economic difficulties, but it is also related to his reluctance to wholeheartedly adopt key elements of the progressive agenda. On the other side, centrist and conservative-leaning figures in the Democratic establishment, including Larry Summers, are criticizing Biden’s economic policies as being too far to the left. Moreover, Biden met with Mohammed bin Salman in July, despite his strong condemnation of the Saudi prince’s human rights record. This meeting was ostensibly for the purpose of persuading Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production. Biden received criticism from both sides of the aisle after failing to achieve this goal.

The United States is experiencing its worst inflation since the 1980s, with persistent concerns about an impending recession. Furthermore, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing war in Ukraine have raised doubts about the effectiveness of U.S. leadership on the world stage. Biden’s response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan also raised doubts in some quarters. All of these events have led to growing dismay and disappointment among the American public. It is certainly too early to pronounce Biden as a failed president, as Tooze claims in the New Statesman. If anything, the Dobbs decision and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act appear to have created momentum among core supporters of the Democratic Party ahead of this year’s midterms.

However, the Democratic Party still faces an uphill battle in its bid to retain the White House. The outcome of several ongoing criminal investigations involving the former president remains an open question, but Trump is all but certain to run again in 2024. If Biden fails, then Trump may well return—with profound consequences for America and the international community.

Tooze’s analysis of Biden’s first 18 months has significant implications for Korea. Both the United States and Korea are exposed to external shocks, including the pandemic and high inflation. The two countries also share structural problems, including political polarization and the lack of toleration and compromise among political actors.[11] Far from steering Korea’s democracy out of troubled waters, Yoon is in danger of losing political momentum altogether due to intra-party strife and incompetence.

Is There a Way Out for Yoon?

Just as Biden has to contend with Trump’s legacy, Yoon also has to deal with everything that Moon Jae-In has left behind. Missteps and complications in economic and foreign policy have surely created a challenge for Yoon, but one cannot keep blaming the Moon administration for ongoing difficulties. The people rendered their judgment when they voted the DPK out of power. Yoon will be judged on his own merits.

Biden can rely on a team of trusted aides and advisors. His party also controls both houses of Congress. Yoon, however, is still a newcomer to politics, and the opposition party commands a powerful majority in the National Assembly.
Gi-Wook Shin

In several respects, Yoon finds himself in a much more difficult situation than Biden. With decades of political experience, Biden can rely on a team of trusted aides and advisors with whom he has worked since at least the Obama administration. His party also controls both houses of Congress. Yoon, however, is still a newcomer to politics, and the opposition party commands a powerful majority in the National Assembly. The PPP and the DPK only recently agreed on the division of standing committee chairs, which is required to proceed with a session of the National Assembly.[12] This delay has cost the Yoon administration, which urgently needs support for its legislative priorities.

An approval rating in the 20s only two months into office is a serious warning sign. Every country in the world is being battered by external shocks, but smaller countries like Korea sway more violently when struck by the same wave. President Yoon has rightly said that policies should not waver with every fluctuation in public opinion, but a democratically elected leader must heed the people’s warning. Popular support is a sine qua non for any president.

To find a way out of the current crisis, Yoon must demonstrate leadership as a politician, not as a lawyer or a prosecutor. He must make it a priority to defuse internal strife within the PPP. Like Biden, Yoon was elected as the best candidate to achieve a transfer of power. He was seen, first and foremost, as a leader of disparate political forces who opposed Lee Jae-Myung. There are multiple factions within the PPP that seek to protect their own interests. Yoon’s supporters were united in their opposition to Lee, but it was unclear what they stood in favor of, with no clear goal to coalesce around once the election was over.

The ongoing struggle between Lee Jun-Seok, the suspended chairman of the PPP, and pro-Yoon politicians has taken no one by surprise. President Yoon could have fostered dialogue and compromise, but instead left this conflict to fester. His actions have sometimes exacerbated the situation. One journalist wrote that “Yoon is his own worst enemy.” Yoon must honestly reflect on his role in the ruling party’s crisis and show himself to be a responsible leader with integrity.

Yoon became a politician with a vow to restore fairness and common sense to politics. He also repeatedly emphasized the importance of freedom in his inaugural address. However, it still remains unclear to the Korean people what this means in practice. How does he intend to apply fairness and common sense to his administration’s policies? What concrete steps is he taking to restore and defend liberal democracy in Korea? Even if Yoon and his aides already have something in mind, the Korean people are still waiting for the answers to these questions.

In particular, polls repeatedly indicate that controversial personnel appointments are the main reason behind unfavorable views of Yoon. Put differently, the public believes that Yoon is violating his pledge to apply fairness and common sense when choosing individuals to appoint to key government positions. In the same vein, only criticizing the failures of the Moon administration is not enough to restore and renew Korea’s damaged democracy. The Korean people still await the Yoon administration’s vision for the country, one which would be based on fairness, common sense, and freedom.

How Yoon Can Rebuild Popular Support

Another way out of the current crisis would be to pursue policies that align with the political center. Due to political polarization, no president can hope for approval ratings in the 70s or 80s anymore. For simplicity, let us assume that roughly one-third of Korea’s electorate leans left, a third consists of moderates, and the remaining third is conservative. The most feasible strategy to regain popular support would be to attract around two-thirds of the moderates (22%) in addition to his conservative base (33%), which would yield an approval rating in the mid-50s.

Political polarization is a structural problem that cannot be resolved overnight. Nonetheless, certain steps can be taken to bolster support among moderates. The Yoon administration would do well to keep this in mind as it seeks to implement reforms in education, pensions, and labor policy. The experiences of past governments are instructive in this respect. Kim Dae-Jung entered office in 1998 with a legislative minority, but he joined forces with Kim Jong-Pil’s United Liberal Democrats to build political momentum.[13] Lee Myung-Bak faced a domestic political crisis early on in office, but he was able to regain support by enacting centrist policies that addressed the needs of ordinary citizens.

Faulty policies must, of course, be corrected. However, it is excessive and unnecessary to punish those who made a good faith effort to formulate reasonable policies based on the information that was available at the time.
Gi-Wook Shin

Yoon must resist the temptation to pursue “anything but Moon.” The Moon administration openly vowed to “eradicate deep-rooted evils,” rejecting and punishing the policies of its predecessor. Faulty policies must, of course, be corrected. Those who were involved in corrupt or illegal activities should be held to account. However, it is excessive and unnecessary to punish those who made a good faith effort to formulate reasonable policies based on the information that was available at the time. Doing so would make civil servants even more reluctant to do their jobs.

The Moon administration created a task force within every key government agency to pursue its “eradication” agenda. While using the judicial apparatus, it was a politically motivated act to punish those who were involved in the previous conservative administrations’ policy decisions. Yoon must avoid repeating this mistake. He would know better than anyone the pitfalls of going down such a path. Although Yoon was initially part of this effort as a prosecutor, he later became the target of such a political campaign during his time as prosecutor general.

Having a strong base of popular support is critical in conducting foreign policy, an area in which Korea will face formidable challenges. Yoon’s attendance at the NATO summit in Madrid in June demonstrated his resolve to strengthen the U.S.-Korea alliance and uphold the liberal international order. The overarching orientation of Yoon’s foreign policy is commendable. However, managing relations with China will be a demanding task. Yoon’s foreign policy team will soon be put to the test. Pyongyang could engage in a major provocation. Beijing will continue to pressure Seoul to uphold the “three noes” with respect to the THAAD missile defense system.[14] A military clash between China and the United States in the Taiwan Strait is by no means an unlikely possibility. Popular support is critical in responding to any foreign policy crisis. A leader who is weak at home is also constrained abroad.

Finally, Yoon must refrain from turning to the rule of law as the solution to every problem. Respect for laws and principles is a necessary condition for democracy, but it is not a sufficient condition. We have seen all too clearly how the Moon administration weakened Korea’s democracy under the guise of rule of law. Without respect for democratic norms and values and the resolve to defend them, liberal democracy cannot be sustained. To defend freedom, which President Yoon emphasized during his inaugural address, it is vital to show toleration for the other side and forbearance in the exercise of power. He must engage in a sustained dialogue to persuade the people, including the opposition.

In late July, Park Soon-Ae, the education minister, faced intense public opposition after abruptly announcing that the age of entry into elementary school would be lowered from six years to five. She resigned only ten days later. Before pursuing major policy reforms, sufficient time must first be taken to gather a wide range of views through public debate and dialogue. The Yoon administration not only faces a large opposition party, but also must contend with progressive elements of Korea’s civil society. The administration must skillfully conduct negotiations, reconcile opposing views, and foster compromise. The ability to exercise political leadership will be crucial.

In doing so, the administration must acknowledge differences while pursuing shared goals and interests. It is only natural for there to be opposing views in a pluralistic, democratic society. The government must listen to a variety of voices and appoint a diverse group of individuals to key positions. As I noted in a previous essay, ensuring diversity is critical to innovation and organizational effectiveness.[15] Relying heavily on former prosecutors and career civil servants, as the Yoon administration has done, makes it much more difficult for diverse voices and experiences from the full breadth of Korean society to inform policymaking on important issues.

A Global Crisis of Leadership: The Path Ahead for Yoon

We are now experiencing a global crisis of leadership, perhaps as serious as the global crisis of democracy. Trump and Moon are no longer in office, but their respective successors are struggling to unite and lead their countries. In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party experienced a prolonged leadership vacuum before choosing Liz Truss as the new prime minister. Merkel’s absence is keenly felt in Germany. Macron was re-elected after a difficult election campaign in France, but the ruling party’s approval rating is stalled in the mid-30s. Firm leadership and cohesion among democratic powers—including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan—are critical in defending the liberal international order from challenges by authoritarian powers like China or Russia. The current state of affairs is far from encouraging.

Korea is no exception. Its own crisis of leadership is unfolding much more rapidly than those in other major democracies, with serious repercussions. There are structural problems, both domestic and external, that President Yoon cannot immediately resolve. However, it is critical for him to deeply reflect on his effectiveness as a leader so far. If he honestly confronts and learns from his shortcomings and mistakes, the present political crisis could become a turning point. Amidst a global crisis of leadership, Yoon could elevate Korea as a staunch defender of democracy. The choice is his to make.


[1] See, for example, the discussion about the composition of Yoon’s Cabinet in Gi-Wook Shin, “Beyond Representation: How Diversity Can Unleash Korea’s Innovation,” Shorenstein APARC, June 30, 2022.

[2] This section and the following section expand on a previous discussion of this comparison in Gi-Wook Shin and Kelsi Caywood, “Which Yoon Should Biden Expect at the Upcoming South Korea-US Summit?,” The Diplomat, May 17, 2022.

[3] Together with Seoul National University and Korea University, Yonsei University is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in Korea.

[4] The state bar exam was abolished in 2017, as Korea transitioned to a U.S.-style system of law schools. Before 2017, individuals underwent training at the Judicial Research & Training Institute (JRTI) upon passing the bar exam. Only those with the highest grades during this training process could become judges or prosecutors. Although Korean culture stresses seniority by age, the Prosecutors’ Office has an organizational culture that emphasizes the year in which a prosecutor entered the JRTI. Having failed the bar exam eight times, Yoon essentially fell eight years behind his peers and entered the JRTI with individuals who were much younger than him. He also worked under prosecutors who were younger than him. His subsequent demotions set him back even further, until the Moon Jae-In administration appointed him as the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in 2017 and then as prosecutor general in 2019. The latter appointment was highly unusual, as it skipped five classes at once. Yoon belonged to the JRTI’s 23rd class, while his predecessor as prosecutor general belonged to the 18th class.

[5] Gi-Wook Shin, “In Troubled Waters: South Korea’s Democracy in Crisis,” Shorenstein APARC, May 3, 2022.

[6] “Direction of Country,” RealClearPolitics, accessed September 2, 2022.

[7] Geoffrey Skelley, “What’s Behind Biden’s Record-Low Approval Rating?,” FiveThirtyEight, July 14, 2022.

[8] “Daily Opinion no. 505 (4th Week of July 2022)” [in Korean], Gallup Korea, July 28, 2022.

[9] Adam Tooze, “Why Joe Biden failed,” New Statesman, July 20, 2022,

[10] Edward Luce, “America is Two Nations Barely on Speaking Terms,” Financial Times, June 8, 2022.

[11] See Shin, “In Troubled Waters.”

[12] In Korea’s National Assembly, the ruling party and the main opposition party typically divide the appointment of standing committee chairs. For instance, under the agreement between the PPP and the DPK in late July, the ppp appointed the chair of seven standing committees, while the DPK appointed 11.

[13] Born in 1926, Kim Jong-Pil graduated from the Korea Military Academy and played a key role in Park Chung-Hee’s coup in May 1961. Kim established the Democratic Republican Party, which was Park’s political base of power during his time as president, and also served as the founding leader of the Korea Central Intelligence Agency. After Korea transitioned to democracy, Kim joined forces with Kim Dae-Jung in 1998 and served as prime minister. This coalition is sometimes referred to as the “DJP alliance,” based on the initials of the two leaders (DJ/Dae-Jung and JP/Jong-Pil). Kim Jong-Pil died in 2018.

[14] This refers to China’s three demands: to refrain from deploying additional THAAD batteries, to not participate in the U.S. missile defense system, and to not participate in a trilateral military alliance with Japan and the United States.

[15] Gi-Wook Shin, “Beyond Representation: How Diversity Can Unleash Korea’s Innovation,” Shorenstein APARC, June 30, 2022.

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How Korea’s New President Can Recover from His First 100 Days of Struggles.


Christopher Giles is a researcher and open-source investigator focusing on information operations, and monitoring conflict and human rights issues.

Prior to joining Stanford University in 2021, Christopher reported on disinformation for BBC News, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election, where his reporting was “highly commended” by the Royal Statistical Society’s Journalism Awards. Christopher is a recipient of the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship and is pursing graduate studies in international policy and journalism.

Researcher, Stanford Internet Observatory

Herbert Hoover Memorial Building 107
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Stanford, CA 94305-6003

Affiliated Scholar, Deliberative Democracy Lab
Kleinheinz Fellow, Hoover Institution

Valentin Bolotnyy is a Kleinheinz Fellow at the Hoover Institution and an Affiliated Scholar at CDDRL's Deliberative Democracy Lab. He designs and analyzes randomized experiments aimed at understanding how Americans communicate about politics and public policy, and what factors may lead to changes in public opinion on key issues. He also works on forming research partnerships with government agencies to improve public services and gain insight into social behavior. His recent studies have covered the America in One Room experiment, climate adaptation, the gender earnings gap, public infrastructure procurement, immigration policies, and graduate student mental health.

Bolotnyy’s work has received national attention in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Vox, and American Theatre Magazine. He was awarded the Padma Desai Prize in Economics in 2019.

Bolotnyy received a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and a BA in Economics and International Relations, with honors and distinction, from Stanford University.

Donald K. Emmerson
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An edited version of this opinion piece first appeared in the 14 July 2022 issue of The Jakarta Post.

How preoccupied is America with its own domestic problems? To the point of impairing the ability of President Biden’s administration to give Indonesia and Southeast Asia the foreign-policy attention they deserve?

The Group of Twenty’s meetings are now at or near the top of the Indonesian foreign ministry’s list of things to do. Foreign minister Retno Marsudi has worried, amid talk of boycotts, that Moscow-Washington animosity over Ukraine could ruin the G20 summit in Bali this November, to the embarrassment of its Indonesian host and chair. Presumably to her relief, Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Indonesia to attend in person the preparatory G20 foreign ministers meeting that she hosted and chaired in Bali on 7-8 July 2022, and he did so despite the participation of his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.  In addition to holding a one-on-one session with Marsudi, Blinken also met with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi for a discussion of US-China relations that reportedly lasted five hours. Indonesia can take pride in having made that lengthy interaction possible. 

The foreign ministers’ meeting was not without drama. Twice, in response to criticism of Russia, Lavrov walked out of the room, and he left the conference altogether before it ended. Perhaps he forgot that in democracies, praise is not required.  But things in Bali could have gotten much worse, and in that sense America’s presence throughout the event helped save Indonesia’s face.

Biden’s administration has not neglected Indonesia or Southeast Asia, as recent diplomacy shows. In May he accommodated the priority on economic development favored by Indonesia and other Asian states by traveling to Japan to announce the formation of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Its 14 founding partners, including Indonesia and six other ASEAN members, account for 40 percent of global GDP. Earlier in May, in Washington, DC, Biden hosted a special summit with Indonesia and other ASEAN states. Their Joint Vision Statement with the US, as in IPEF, emphasized economic cooperation.

None of this diplomacy, however, could temper the strident political polarization that continues to disrupt America. Understandably, that frenzy of distrust and dissension has led some Indonesians to wonder how reliable a partner the US will turn out to be in years to come.    

The splitting of many Americans into rival partisan camps is in part structural. For example, compared with better-educated urban and suburban dwellers, less well-educated rural and small-town Americans are more likely to hold right-wing Republican views. The reasons why those views have become more extreme include the popularity of Donald Trump and his anti-democratic if not proto-fascistic campaign to re-install himself in the White House after losing the free and fair election of 2020.  His effort, Republican complicity in it, and the backlash against it have widened the separation of often coastal or near-coastal Democratic states from Republican ones more or less clustered in middle and southern America. Political scientist and statistician Simon Jackman goes so far as to argue that the US has not been this divided politically since the Great Depression of the 1930s—or possibly even since the 1860s Civil War.

The Vanderbilt University Project on Unity and American Democracy chooses the longer timeline. “Not since the Civil War,” it concludes, “have so many Americans held such radically opposed views not just of politics but of reality itself.” The project’s own findings, however, undermine the caricature of a country fatally hobbled by national schizophrenia and group delusions. 

The Vanderbilt Unity Index combines quarterly data from 1981 to 2021 on five variables—presidential disapproval, congressional polarization, ideological extremism, social mistrust, and civil unrest—to calculate changes in American national unity across those four decades on a 0-to-100 scale, from least to most unified. Over that period of time, the index has fluctuated in a close to middling zone between 50 and 70 on that 100-point scale. 

The index shows deep plunges in unity only twice since 1981, and both of those dives were linked to the uniquely calamitous presidency of President Trump. In contrast, the average score during the first five quarters of the Biden administration has been 58, a sharp improvement from the average of 51 under Trump. Heartened by that betterment, two of the Vanderbilt scholars surmise that America’s “disharmony may be dissipating.”

That could be an overoptimistic guess. Unity is one thing, victory another. Legislative elections will be held on 8 November this year. As of the end of June, prominent forecaster Nate Silver gave the still largely Trump-beholden Republican Party an 87 percent chance — a near-certainty — of replacing Biden’s Democrats as the majority party in the House of Representatives. The race for a majority in the Senate was too close to call. But even if Republicans control only the House, they will likely use that platform to undermine Biden’s administration during his final two years in office.      

As if likely losses of legislative power were not enough for Biden to worry about, maneuvers by Republicans to stack the Supreme Court with right-wing partisans have tilted that juridical balance steeply in their favor. The court’s new reactionary 6-to-3 majority has already made two shocking decisions. They have, in effect, denied women their long-standing right to abortion and made it easier to carry a concealed gun in public. Republicans claim to support individual rights. But they and their court appointees have deleted the long-standing constitutional right of a pregnant woman to decide whether to give birth or not, thereby depriving her of assured responsibility over her physical body and personal future. 

Regarding gun violence, in barely five months from 1 January through 5 June of this year, America has experienced 246 mass shootings — incidents that kill or wound four or more people. That puts the US on track in 2022 to match or exceed its record of 692 mass shootings in 2021, more than in any year since the Gun Violence Archive began counting them. The Republican-majority court’s unconscionable impulses seem to be to make women make more babies, wanted or not, and to make murders more likely as well.

There is good news. First, a massive popular backlash against these Republican decisions has either begun or is likely. Second, a nationally televised Congressional investigation of the violent attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 has displayed the complicity of Trump, and by association the Trump-infected Republican Party, in an insurrection that killed at least seven people and injured roughly 150 more. Third, although Trump may not end up where he belongs, namely, in jail, at least he faces Republican rivals for the party’s nomination to run for president in 2024. Conceivably those rivals could come to include a candidate who is politically more moderate and personally less criminal, corrupt, and narcissistic than he. 

President Joko Widodo will host the G20 leaders in Indonesia merely one week after the 8 November 2022 midterm legislative election takes place in the US. Will Biden go again to Bali? Not if at that time right-wing fanatics claiming election fraud are destabilizing America. For long-term interactions between Jakarta and Washington relations, however, what will matter is not who will attend the 2022 G20 summit in Bali. It will be the names and plans of the Indonesians and Americans who will run and win in the national elections to be held in their respective countries in 2024.

Donald K. Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Program at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. His recent publications include an edited volume, The Deer and the Dragon: Southeast Asia and China in the 21st Century.

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For long-term Jakarta and Washington relations, what will matter is not who will attend the 2022 G20 summit in Bali. It will be the names and plans of the Indonesians and Americans who will run and win in the national elections to be held in their respective countries in 2024.


Published in Shoji Homu, the leading business law journal in Japan, this article analyzes problematic aspects of a recent, controversial Japanese Supreme Court decision on the approval by a vote of the majority-of-the-minority shareholders (known as "MoM") of a "poison pill" defense against an activist shareholder. The coauthors point out that MoM was borrowed from Delaware corporate law, where it is used in a very different context, and highlight MoM's potential for abuse by target company management in Japan’s prevailing corporate governance environment.

They conclude by proposing a new form of a poison pill for Japanese companies that protects shareholders against structurally coercive bids and is consistent with existing Japanese judicial doctrine requiring shareholder approval of defensive measures, while simultaneously promoting all cash, all shares tender offers to improve economic returns to shareholders.

Title in Japanese: "Tokyo kikai seisakusho jiken ga teikishita mondai to shin J-Pill no teian"

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Shoji Homu
Curtis J. Milhaupt
Zenichi Shishido
Melissa Morgan
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In 1999, Lyubov Sobol was a serious eleven-year-old with aspirations to be a Sherlock Holmes-style private detective. That same year, Vladimir Putin, a small-time FSB agent and mid-level cabinet member for former Leningrad mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was abruptly placed into the national spotlight by then-president Boris Yeltsin. Never in her wildest dreams could young Lyubov have imagined that 20 years later, she would be facing off against now-President Putin and working on the front lines to investigate and expose the corruption of the most powerful people in Russia.

For the last twelve years, Sobol has been a lawyer and political activist with the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Russia (FKB), the country’s most prominent pro-democracy movement. She works closely with the group’s founder, Alexei Navalny, to push for the democratization of Russia and advocate against Putin's policies through on-the-ground and digital outreach. She is currently at Stanford as a visiting scholar with the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).

As the war in Ukraine continues and free speech and other rights within Russia are further curtailed, many activists, Sobol included, have had to adapt or leave the country. To help contextualize the work she and other activists are currently doing, she explains where the roots of the democracy movement in modern Russia began, and the place she hopes it will take on the global stage in the future.

Corruption is a foundational element of the system Vladimir Putin and his cronies built. Without removing him and his supporters from power, it will not be possible for serious reforms or the democratization of state mechanisms to take place.
Lyubov Sobol
CDDRL Visiting Scholar

Let’s start with a broad look at opposition movements and their place in modern Russia. What role have opposition movements played in Russian society since the end of the Soviet Era in the late 1980s and early 1990s?

After the attempt by the Communist Party of Russia to forcibly seize political control in the 1991 August Coup, the course towards democratic reforms was supported by the majority of the Russian population. However, the democratic politicians were divided, and they had little to no experience with public political activity or organizing participation in elections. They failed to offer a clear, intelligible  plan for reforming the country and get it across to voters.                     

With the exception of certain leaders like Foreign Minister A. Kozyrev, human rights ombudsman S. Kovalev, and Deputy Prime Minister B. Nemtsov, truly democratic politicians were not widely represented in power at this time, and did not have a significant influence on state policy. Many of the politicians in power used pro-democracy ideals and the language of human rights as a mask to further their own, more selfish interests. Then with the economic crash in 1998, radical rhetoric and a revitalized communist party began to regain support.

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.
Boris Yeltsin hands over the “presidential” copy of the Russian constitution to Vladimir Putin. (December 31, 1999) Wikimedia Commons

Ultimately, a strong democratic party never emerged in Russia and deeply rooted democratic institutions were not built. The corruption and false promises corroded trust in democracy and undermined many Russian’s belief in liberalism. When Putin came to power in the late 90s, he took advantage of the chaos and further crushed many of the structures of the state. By the 2000s, he had tightened control over the legislature and elections and removed almost all competition from within the power system.

Today, few opposition forces survive. The leading figure is Alexei Navalny, and the goal of his movement has been to promote the idea of democratic change and the change of Putin's regime as essential prerequisite for other structural reforms in Russia. His followers were refused the right to register as an official political party under false, far-fetched pretexts, and the organization was declared by the state as an extremist organization and subjected to countless, baseless criminal charges. Like most opposition politicians, Navalny is now in prison. But these attacks only show how in the last 10 years, he has truly become a viable competitor that Vladimir Putin’s regime fears.

Alexey Navalny marches with protestors in Moscow.
Alexei Navalny, Anna Veduta, and Ilya Yashin march at a pro-democracy rally in Moscow on June 12, 2013. WIkimedia Commons

You work with the Anti-Corruption Foundation (Фонд борьбы с коррупцией), which was founded by Alexei Navalny in 2011. What has your network’s approach been to combatting corruption and systemic issues in Russia?

Our team investigates corruption crimes and collects legal evidence that we send to various law enforcement agencies as part of our efforts to bring those responsible to justice. At the same time, we focus public attention on these problems, demonstrating the negative impact that corruption and criminal activity has on all spheres of life. It’s important for people to understand that corruption is a foundational element of the system Vladimir Putin and his cronies built. Without removing him and his supporters from power, it will not be possible for serious reforms or deep democratization of state mechanisms to take place.

We’ve actively worked to propose anti-corruption bills and support those who are trying to ratify international standards like article 20 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which criminalizes illicit enrichment. Representatives of our team have participated in elections and conducted dozens of election campaigns throughout the country at all levels of government, from municipal and regional to the presidential elections in the Russian Federation. Our team also worked with authoritative Russian economists and experts such as Sergei Guriev and Sergei Aleksashenko to develop projects for economic and political reforms.

We’ve won several elections in both city and regional parliaments, and have also developed and successfully applied the Smart Voting project to help coordinate voting in support of promising opponents of Putin's United Russia party. But all this being said, we’ve faced strong opposition from the authorities, the police, and the FSB with each victory.

Opposition pro-democratic forces are partners with the West. Putin can only offer the world blackmails on energy, the threats of nuclear war, and a global food crisis. We offer stable business relationships and peaceful, constructive foreign policy.
Lyubov Sobol
CDDRL Visiting Scholar

How have you and other activists had to adapt since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the further crackdowns in Russia against opposition voices and protests?

Repressions against our team began even before the attack on Ukraine. In the fall of 2020, the FSB tried to kill Alexei Navalny by poisoning him with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. After an investigation into this poisoning and his return to Russia, he was imprisoned. Our group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FKB) was declared an extremist group and a foreign agent by the Kremlin and liquidated. In practice, this means we are banned from participating in political work like elections and protests. This has essentially created a ban on any political opposition activity in Russia.

Under such conditions, most of our team has evacuated to neighboring countries and continues to work from exile. We still influence the minds and moods in Russia through our internet media resources, which have an audience of millions. Conducting one-time protests is currently impossible in the country due to the introduction of repressive laws, but we continue to encourage our supporters to participate in elections under the Smart Voting strategy. We stand up for increasing the number of our supporters and for the trust of the people, while increasing the political costs for Putin, reducing his personal rating, and diminishing the standing of the United Russia party.

Muscovites protest against the war in Ukraine.
Muscovites protest against the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Wikimedia Commons

What can supporters of democracy across the world do to help the work you and other activists from Russia are doing?

After the attack on Ukraine, the best thing the rest of the world can do is to help Ukraine to get everything it needs to win this war. Ukraine's victory is Putin's loss.

The war unleashed by Putin is criminal not only in relation to Ukraine and Ukrainians, but also to Russia. It contradicts Russia’s national interests and literally destroys its future. Putin and his regime are a common enemy for Russians, Ukrainians, and the entire democratic world.

But the war is not only on the battlefields and in the Ukrainian cities. This war has an economic front, and Western countries need to intensify their efforts to deprive the Kremlin of its resources to continue the war. There also needs to be much tougher personal sanctions against Putin’s officials and propagandists.

The outcome [of this war] will determine the vector of development for the entire world: either towards democracy or to totalitarianism. That’s why . . . this war is important not only for the people of Ukraine and Russia, but for everyone, everywhere.
Lyubov Sobol
CDDRL Visiting Fellow

Despite what the propaganda tries to portray, Russia is not homogenous and support for Putin is far from being ironclad. Putin has not won the entire information war for Russian’s attitudes. That’s why we at FKB consider it our duty to continue countering false information and tell Russians the truth about the war and Putin’s crimes.

We want the democratic community to understand how important this work is for victory in the war and the post-war reconstruction of Russia. While the physical fighting might be localized to Eastern Europe, the war will have far-reaching consequences across the globe. Its outcome will determine the vector of development for the entire world: either towards democracy or to totalitarianism. That’s why victory on the side of justice and rights in this war is important not only for the people of Ukraine and Russia, but for everyone, everywhere.

Liubov Sobol

Lyubov Sobol

Activist and CDDRL Visiting Scholar
Full Profile

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U.S Russia Relations Putin and Biden

U.S.-Russia relations, one year after Geneva

The June 16, 2021 meeting in Geneva between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a positive impulse to a bilateral U.S.-Russia relationship that was plumbing post-Cold War depths. Both sides made modest progress in the following months, only to be wholly derailed by Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine. It will be a long time before the U.S.-Russia relationship can approach anything that resembles “normal.”
U.S.-Russia relations, one year after Geneva
President Zelenskky addresses Stanford students and community members via a live video address in the CEMEX auditorium.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Calls on Students to Lead as Future Ambassadors in a Special Video Address at Stanford

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the Stanford community in a special video address about his country’s war against Russia for independence, freedom, and global democracy, which he said requires the continued support of all the people of the free world.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Calls on Students to Lead as Future Ambassadors in a Special Video Address at Stanford
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Lyubov Sobol, an activist and current visiting scholar at CDDRL, explains the roots of Russia's pro-democracy movement and the importance of its success to Russia, Ukraine, and the future stability of the global democratic community.

3D mockup cover of APARC's volume 'South Korea's Democracy in Crisis'

South Korea's Democracy in Crisis: The Threats of Illiberalism, Populism, and Polarization 
위기의 한국 민주주의: 비자유주의, 포퓰리즘, 양극화의 위협

In this book launch event held in Korea, the participants will examine and discuss the threats to democracy in Korea. For more information about the book, please visit the publication webpage.

<The book launch event will be in Korean>

14:00-14:05 Introduction by Ho-Ki Kim, Professor of Sociology, Yonsei University

Moderated by Dukjin Chang, Professor of Sociology, Seoul National University

14:05-15:20 Presentations

Democracy in Crisis: Populism in Post-Truth Era
Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University
Ho-Ki Kim, Professor of Sociology, Yonsei University

Two divergences in South Korea’s Economy and Disparities in Democracy
Jun-Ho Jeong, Professor of Economics, Kangwon University
Il-Young Lee, Professor of Economics, Hanshin University

Judicialization of Politics and Politicization of  the Judiciary in Korea : Challenges in Maintaining the Balance of Power
Seongwook Heo, Professor of Law, Seoul National University

15:20-15:40 Break

15:40-16:55 Panel Discussion

Won-Taek Kang, Professor of Political Science, Seoul National University
Seeun Jeong, Professor of Economics, Chungnam National University
Chulwoo Lee, Professor of Law, Yonsei University

16:55-17:00 Closing Remarks by Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University

This event is made possible by generous support from the Korea Foundation and other friends of the Korea Program.

In-Person event in Korea
June 14, 2PM-5PM, Korea Time
Press Center, Seoul

Steven Pifer
Daniel Fried
Alexander Vershbow
News Type

During a period of greater hope for Russia tempered by uncertainties, President Bill Clinton sought both to enlarge NATO and build a strategic partnership between the Alliance and Moscow. As part of his National Security Council staff, we three worked on the approach that produced the 1997 “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation.” It formalized a NATO-Russia relationship that we thought of as a potential “alliance with the Alliance” and contained security assurances for Moscow.

While the Founding Act produced tangible results in its early years, Europe today faces an aggressive, revanchist Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions have destroyed the basis for cooperation. NATO should suspend the Founding Act and, in particular, renounce its assurance regarding the stationing of conventional forces on the territory of new member states.

Read the rest at The Hill

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During a period of greater hope for Russia tempered by uncertainties, President Bill Clinton sought both to enlarge NATO and build a strategic partnership between the Alliance and Moscow.

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