TIME Foreign Relations

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron Boasts That Obama Calls Him ‘Bro’

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama watch a fly-past by the Red Arrows during the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor resort, near Newport
Andrew Winning—Reuters U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama watch a flypast by the Red Arrows during the NATO summit in Wales on Sept. 5, 2014

But which definition of "bro" is he referring to?

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron says he’s so chummy with U.S. President Barack Obama that he’s often referred to as “bro” by his American counterpart.

The British leader told the Daily Mail in an interview that Obama sometimes calls him “bro” on the phone, adding that the relationship between 10 Downing Street and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is “stronger than it has ever been, privately and in public.”

The “bro” comment set off some confusion in the British press regarding whether Obama was rather rudely calling Cameron a “bro” — that is, a member of a beer-pounding, usually shirtless tribe of “young white Americans, often fellow members of a university fraternity, who emulate black rap culture,” according to the Telegraph’s consultation with Urban Dictionary; or “an alpha-male idiot,” as the American term is alternatively translated, according to the Independent’s perusal of the same source.

Or, perhaps Obama was simply referring to his British comrade as his “bro,” meaning he feels a warm relationship with Cameron.

Like all brothers, the playful pair have been scolded together, especially after the two world leaders snapped a “selfie” at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013. Cameron has also been criticized for behaving a bit like a younger sibling to Obama, a point bolstered when the American President upstaged the British Prime Minister while shaking hands with NATO delegates September last year (leaving his “bro” without a hand to shake). But older bro Obama looked decidedly more sprightly playing ping-pong than Cameron (five years his junior) did in 2011, to the amusement of the U.K. press.

TIME politics

Cuba’s Unanswered Questions

Obama Makes Statement On U.S.-Cuba Policy
Pool / Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the nation about normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, at the White House on Dec. 17, 2014

In 2013, TIME took a look at a changing Cuba

When President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the United States would work toward normalizing long-severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, it came as a surprise to many.

But as TIME observed in a feature story last July, change has long been underway for an Island nation that, in the past, has had a reputation for seeming frozen in time. Rules about commerce and private business had been relaxed, citizens were encouraged to find non-state jobs, tourism was opening up and the possibility of a non-Castro leader suddenly seemed less distant. However, that didn’t mean that Cuba’s future was clear.

Many of the questions raised by writer Pico Iyer are, even in this new phase of Cuban history, still unanswered:

Cubans today are free–at last–to enjoy their own version of Craigslist, to take holidays in fancy local tourist hotels, to savor seafood-and-papaya lasagna with citrus compote, washed down by a $200 bottle of wine, in one of the country’s more than 1,700 paladares, or privately run restaurants. They’re free to speak out against just about everything–except the two brothers at the top–and they strut around their capital in T-shirts featuring the $1 bill or Barack Obama in his “Yes we can” pose, even (in the case of one woman leaning against the gratings in Fraternity Park) in very skimpy briefs decorated with the Stars and Stripes.

Yet as what was long underground is now aboveboard, and as capitalist all-against-all has become official communist policy, no one seems quite sure whether the island is turning right or left. Next to the signs saying EVERYTHING FOR THE REVOLUTION, there’s an Adidas store; and the neglected houses of Old Havana sit among rooftop swimming pools and life-size stuffed bears being sold for $870. “Nobody knows where we’re going,” says a trained economist whose specialty was market research, “and people don’t know what they want. We’re sailing in the dark.”

Read the rest of the story, free of charge, here in TIME’s archives: Cuban Evolution

TIME Foreign Policy

America’s Uneasy Path Abroad in 2015

A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks with his rifle, after returning from a mission at forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
Lucas Jackson—Reuters A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks with his rifle, after returning from a mission at forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2014.

The U.S. is still the world’s leading economy, but its geopolitical clout isn’t what it used to be

America is not in decline. The U.S. will have the world’s most formidable military for the foreseeable future. Its economy remains the world’s largest, and its recovery will probably gather more steam in 2015. Its workforce is not aging nearly as quickly as that of Europe, Japan or China. No country has a greater capacity for technological innovation. Almost all the world’s biggest tech companies are based in the U.S. For next-generation cloud computing, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing and nanotechnology, bet on the U.S. America has an entrepreneurial culture that celebrates not simply what has been accomplished but also what’s next. There is every reason to be confident that America has a bright 21st century future.

But its foreign policy is a different story. American power is on the wane, a process that will accelerate in 2015. Power is a measure of one’s ability to force others to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, and there are now more governments with enough resources and self-confidence to shrug off requests and demands from Washington. There was never a golden age of U.S. power when an American President could count on other governments to do as he asked. But there are several reasons the U.S. is now less able to build coalitions, forge trade agreements, win support for sanctions, broker international compromise or persuade others to follow its lead into conflict than at any other time since the end of World War II.

First, there are a growing number of emerging powers that, although they can’t change the global status quo on their own, have more than enough power to ignore what America wants—and even to block U.S. plans they don’t like. For example, Washington can still tell governments of developing countries that access to capital from Western-dominated lending institutions like the IMF and the World Bank depends on democratic or free-market reforms. But the strongest emerging markets need capital less than they used to, and some of them are creating their own lending and investment institutions.

The BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—in 2014 launched a $50 billion development bank, an alternative to Washington-based lenders. The BRICS bank can’t by itself end U.S. dominance of the global financial system. But add the China Development Bank, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and an expanding list of important regional lending institutions, and the world’s borrowers are no longer quite so dependent on Western lenders. The numbers tell the story. In 2013 the World Bank disbursed $52.6 billion. The same year, Brazil’s BNDES invested $85 billion, and its Chinese equivalent extended loans valued at $240 billion.

While emerging powers awaken, Washington’s relations with its traditional allies are not what they used to be. It was inevitable that as the Cold War receded further into history, Americans and Europeans would have less in common. Both are unhappy with Vladimir Putin and his assault on Ukraine, but Russia is not the Soviet Union. It’s not a global military power. European nations have far more economic exposure to Russia than America does, and Washington needs Putin’s help to get things done in other regions, most notably in the Middle East. Though the U.S. and Europe have coordinated their sanctions on Russia so far, we’re more likely in 2015 to see disagreements over how best to handle Putin.

Nor has it helped transatlantic relations that the U.S. National Security Agency was reportedly listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls and collecting Internet data, raising fears across Europe that U.S. information-technology firms have given America’s spy agencies deep access to European secrets. Last February, Merkel took the extraordinary step of calling for a European Internet, one walled off from the U.S. So much for free movement through cyberspace.

Anti-American anger in many European countries—which rose sharply during the presidency of George W. Bush, then eased with the election of Barack Obama—was tested by the spy revelations. It will be tested again by the Senate’s recently released torture report, which embarrassed a number of European governments that reportedly provided “black sites”—secret U.S. prisons—for use by the CIA. This can only make it more difficult for the next U.S. President to win support from European leaders for anything that wary European voters might not like. The country’s relations with Britain will suffer in years to come as it becomes clear that the U.K. will sharply reduce the role it plays in Europe or exit the E.U. altogether. Britain has given Washington much of its influence inside the E.U., and a U.K. outside Europe would weaken the alliance.

It’s also inevitable that the rise of China will fray U.S. ties with allies in Asia as the governments of these countries hedge their bets on U.S. staying power in the region. An ally like Japan knows that Washington is now less likely to intervene in its security disputes because the American public won’t support a lasting U.S. commitment to solve what are perceived to be other people’s problems. A Pew Research poll conducted in late 2013 found that for the first time in the half-century that Americans have been asked this question, a majority of respondents said the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Just 38% disagreed. More recent polls tell the same story. In a democracy, no President can sustain an expensive, ambitious foreign policy without reliable public support. In the U.S., this support is no longer there, and the world knows it. Short of another large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it’s hard to imagine anything that can restore public appetite for a more assertive foreign policy anytime soon.

For all these reasons, the U.S. will exercise less power in the coming years in nearly every region of the world, and we can expect a de-Americanization of the international system. But there are other forces at work as well. Some countries will make a more determined move away from reliance on the dollar. As the world’s primary reserve currency, the dollar has served for decades as the vital asset for central banks and commercial transactions of all kinds. Dollar dominance offers the U.S. important advantages. Its stability ensures that the country remains the safest port in any storm, attracting investment that keeps U.S. interest rates relatively low, despite the expansion of the national debt. It helps U.S. companies avoid the transaction costs that come with currency conversion and allows Washington to pay its debts by simply printing more money.

But dollar dominance is on the wane as China, Russia, Brazil and others move to denominate more of their commerce in other currencies. Five years ago, China conducted trade almost entirely in dollars. Nearly a quarter of that trade is now settled in renminbi.

At the same time, China has announced the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, an institution that will not require borrowing nations to uphold the environmental and labor standards that are conditions of help from Western capitals. China has also created a $40 billion Silk Road Fund that is designed to extend Chinese commercial influence across South and Central Asia and into Europe. Those initiatives will give China greater market power—and therefore political influence—with the governments of partner countries and will help Beijing escape the dominance of U.S.-mandated rules and standards. In addition, Russia and China are now talking about creating their own ratings agency to further diminish Western influence in their economies.

The emergence of new lenders and investors provides autocratic governments access to cash without having to promise democratic reforms. But diminished influence abroad is only part of the story. For many emerging states, partisan paralysis in Washington makes democracy a less than appealing path toward development.

Nor will it be as easy for the U.S. to build greater support for market-driven capitalism, particularly as China continues to demonstrate the growth potential of the state-driven variety. In 2015 congressional opponents of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, an 80-year-old institution designed to enhance the market power of U.S. companies operating abroad, will finally have a golden opportunity to kill it. At the same time, though much has been made of China’s economic-reform process, changes to China’s economy have less to do with privatization and more with making China’s enormous state-owned companies work more effectively.

American prospects in the Middle East are not, for the moment, very encouraging. The Obama Administration’s bid to make a deal with Iran to scuttle its nuclear program leaves the Saudis worried that the U.S. will lift sanctions on Riyadh’s bitterest rival, shifting the region’s balance of power in Iran’s favor. The continued erosion of U.S.-Saudi ties will persuade the Saudi royal family to run a much more independent foreign policy than it used to. For example, though technically part of a U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, the Saudis are not working as hard as they could to track funding and arms that militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria receive as they work to destabilize Iraq and Bashar Assad’s Syria. Even in places where the U.S. and Saudis have shared interests, the two countries are no longer closely coordinating policies.

The most direct challenge will come from China. Washington is still working to solidify its long-term commercial and security interests in East Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a colossal U.S.-led trade deal involving a dozen countries on either side of the Pacific. For the moment, this is not a deal that will include China and its state-dominated economy. That’s why China is working on an enormous international trade deal of its own. At a regional summit meeting in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a road map for the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). More than 20 countries have formally signaled interest in FTAAP membership. In fact, China—not America—is now the world’s lead trading nation. According to analysis by the Associated Press, in 2012 the U.S. was the largest trade partner for 76 countries, and communist China was the lead partner for 124.

The U.S. will remain the world’s most powerful nation for years to come, but that status doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. Advantages enjoyed for decades are fading as new powers push for new rules and standards—in international politics, the global marketplace and online. Globalization will continue to spread new ideas, speed the flow of information, lift nations out of poverty and drive global consumption. But it’s less likely than before to promote American values and an American worldview.

Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy

Read next: Number of Uninsured Americans Near Historic Low

TIME stocks

Cruise Line Shares Sail Higher as U.S., Cuba Relations Improve

Carnival's Breeze cruise ship stands docked prior to departure in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2014.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Carnival's Breeze cruise ship stands docked prior to departure in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2014.

Investors place bet on cruise operator shares even though tourism is still banned

Shares of cruise-line operators sailed to big gains on Wednesday as investors placed a bet that improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba could lead to new opportunities for tourism.

Shares of Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean all rose in early trading Wednesday, outpacing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after the Obama administration said it plans to lift many of its existing travel restrictions on Cuba.

The new regulations will make it easier for Americans to visit to Cuba under the 12 categories of travel that are currently allowed, The Wall Street Journal reported, though it isn’t immediately clear if or when the island will be open for mass tourism. Some kinds of tourism are still banned, according to various media reports,.

Still, Cuba is appealing to companies with the most to gain from the increased travel. The tropical island’s attractive beaches and proximity to the United States makes it a potential vacation hotspot. The Caribbean is already the largest cruise line market in the world, and Americans hop on the industry’s bulky ships more than any other nation.

Some of the cruise line operators already have strong links to the Caribbean. For example, nearly all of Norwegian’s ships serve the region. The Caribbean also makes up roughly 35% of Carnival’s passenger capacity, more than any other region. That means that if the U.S. were to allow its citizens to freely visit Cuba, many of the cruise industry’s ships are already in prime position to dock at Havana and other Cuban cities.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME conflict

Why Did the U.S. and Cuba Sever Diplomatic Ties in the First Place?

Fidel Castro cover
Cover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN The Jan. 26, 1959, cover of TIME

Diplomacy between the two neighbors has been strained for decades

On Wednesday, U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the two nations are on their way to restoring diplomatic relations. Obama, speaking of the change, said that the two nations are not served by a policy rooted in events that took place a half century ago.

But what exactly did happen back then?

It was actually over half a century ago that Fidel Castro led Cuban rebels against Cuba’s strongman leader Fulgencio Batista, if you count from when Castro led revolutionaries to the island in late 1956. (He had been involved in anti-Batista efforts for several years before that, too.) Though early reports on the movement speak of Castro and his supporters as underdogs with no hope of victory, as 1959 dawned, they proved victorious. America watched with interest, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that Castro’s Cuba would not be an easygoing neighbor to the United States.

As Castro purged Cuba of Batista supporters, he declined to institute the democratic reforms that many had hoped for. Initially, the revolution had not been overtly Communist, but Castro moved further toward that ideology as his rule went on. In the middle of 1959, he instituted wealth-distribution and land-confiscation programs; that July, TIME reported that a former Cuban official had said that “Cuba’s No. 1 Communist… is Fidel himself.”

In a Cold War world, the rise of Communism in a nation so close to Florida was not taken lightly. Though the U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Philip W. Bonsal, did finally manage to meet with Castro that September, their discussions — partly concerned with arrests of U.S. citizens in Cuba and the government confiscation of some U.S. investments in Cuba — proved fruitless.

In the United Nations, Cuba began to stand with Communist nations against the U.S.; in Cuba, the ruling regime encouraged anti-U.S. sentiments; in early 1960, the U.S.S.R. instituted a trade-and-aid deal with Cuba; U.S. sugar producers pushed for the nation to stop buying sugar from Cuba; Castro accused the U.S. of sabotaging a ship that blew up in Havana’s harbor. The details of changes in Cuba and the U.S. reaction to those developments are complicated and often conflicting, but suffice it to say that TIME called that period a “rapidly deteriorating situation that sees Cuban-American relations reach a new low each day.”

Eventually, in late October of 1960, the U.S. imposed a strict embargo barring two-thirds of American imports from Cuba, which before then had been buying a whopping 70% of its imports from the United States. As the two nations sparred over economics, Ambassador Bonsal was recalled from Cuba, after which point both embassies — Cuba’s in D.C. and America’s in Havana — were left to be headed by chargés, which meant, TIME pointed out, that “diplomacy between the two nations will become as difficult as commerce.”

In the weeks that followed, as rumors of a possible invasion by the U.S. spread throughout Cuba, people began to line up at the U.S. embassy seeking visas to leave the island. The daily lines became an embarrassment to the Castro regime but the rumors only increased as time went on. When Castro later demanded that the two countries have the exact same number of staffers in their respective embassies (11), the U.S. brought its entire staff home instead.

The crowds were still waiting when, early in January of 1961, the embassy closed its doors; there were more than 50,000 visa applications on file at the time. As TIME reported:

The crowd of desperate Cubans swarming around the U.S. embassy in Havana refused to believe that the doors were locked and that no more visas could be issued. One man hammered on the glass, waving his U.S. Army discharge papers. A woman with a broken leg was held up piteously to the scurrying U.S. staff workers inside. “But you are the humane people! You are the humane people!” a woman pleaded, grabbing a U.S. consular official as government photographers stood near snapping pictures of those who wanted to flee Castro’s Cuba.

The U.S. could not help them—at the moment. After two years of harassment. President Eisenhower ordered the State Department to break all diplomatic ties, at both the embassy and consular level, for the first time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. To most Americans the wonder was that the U.S. had stood it so long.

The only place in Cuba where a U.S. presence remained would be the naval base at Guantanamo Bay; a few weeks later, the U.S. announced a decision to all end travel to Cuba. Early 1961 proved to be the end of one phase of U.S.-Cuba relations, and the beginning of another, more openly combative, phase — and this week may well mark the beginning of the next.

Read TIME’s 1959 cover story about Fidel Castro’s rebellion, here in the TIME Vault: Fidel Castro

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