Congressional Relations

  • Colombia Peace and Prosperity Report Launch: A Dinner with President Juan Manuel Santos

    After almost twelve months of consultations and deliberations, the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center launched on May 17 the Colombia Peace and Prosperity Task Force report: A Roadmap for US Engagement with Colombia. It was the culmination of the work of a notable group co-chaired by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ben Cardin(D-MD), who strived to provide a roadmap for US engagement with Colombia going forward. The goal was to keep the focus on the US-Colombia partnership as the country implements peace and agenda items compete for priority in the new US administration.

    With Plan Colombia, a bipartisan strategic framework sustained over almost two decades, Colombia and the United States consolidated a mutually beneficial relationship. Today, the United States is presented with the opportunity to maintain a major stake in the next phase of Colombia’s transformation. Solidifying a strategic bipartisan partnership with Colombia offers the United States enviable opportunities to reap the national security benefits of its $10 billion Plan Colombia investment.

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  • Putin is Not Russia

    US senators, Russian opposition activist call for calibrated pressure on Vladimir Putin

    Two US senators—one a Republican and the other a Democrat—and a Russian opposition activist who has survived two apparent attempts on his life made a call for greater international pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect human rights. Speaking at the Atlantic Council on March 30, all three stated quite clearly that even as this pressure is applied, care must be taken not to hurt the Russian people in the process.

    Vladimir Kara-Murza, an ardent critic of Putin who has twice slipped into a coma after mysteriously falling ill—once in 2015 and more recently in February—said it was important to turn up the heat on Putin and his cronies, but noted that it is equally important not to equate Putin’s regime with the Russian people.

    “We’re against sanctions on Russia. We’re against sanctions on the Russian people,” said Kara-Murza, vice chairman of Open Russia. “It is essential that the US is not seen as seeking to punish the Russian people for the actions of a regime that they can neither unseat in a free election—because we don’t have any—and cannot hold to account through independent media or a legitimate parliament—because we don’t have any either,” he added.

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  • Reforming the H1B Visa System: A Conversation with Congressman Darrell Issa

    The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center hosted a discussion at the Capitol Hill with Congressman Darell Issa. Moderated by Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, the conversation focused on Congressman Issa's proposed legislation to review the H-1B program and ways to strengthen it.   

    Critics contend that systemic weaknesses in the H-1B program allow companies to import cheap foreign labor at the expense of US workers. As the primary recipients of H-1B visas, skilled Indian workers would be most significantly impacted by changes to the program. Congressman Issa expressed his views on the reform with the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. 

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  • Congressman Adam Kinzinger on the US Role in the Middle East and the World

    On March 17, 2017, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center hosted a discussion with Congressman Adam Kinzinger to discuss America’s role in the Middle East and the world. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, director of the Hariri Center, moderated the event.

    Kinzinger began by emphasizing that self-governance should be one of America’s mission statements for the world. He said that the Soviet Union’s dissolution was mainly due to the change in ideas among its citizens: the Soviet people saw Western life as a model and started to demand their freedom from the Soviet government. Kinzinger noted, however, that unlike during the Cold War era, there are now multiple “iron curtains” such as ISIS, authoritarian regimes, and discrimination. He explained that another mission statement of America should be to recognize those curtains and pull them down, and underscored that America’s most important goal in the Middle East should be to bring freedom.

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  • America's Role in the World: Congress and US Foreign Policy

    As the Trump administration continues to form its foreign policy and national security strategy, Congress has a distinct role of its own to play in shaping how the United States addresses emerging global threats and approaches its leadership role on the international stage.  

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  • Trump’s Immigration Ban Will Have ‘Catastrophic Implications’

    Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) sees order as a ‘gift’ to hardliners in Iran

    US President Donald Trump’s executive order that curtails immigration and the rights of refugees is illegal, has “catastrophic implications” for the United States, and is a “gift” to hardliners in Iran as it paints all Iranians as a security threat to the United States, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on January 30.

    “This ban on immigration from Iran to the United States is a gift to the hardliners at a moment in which we should not be giving them gifts,” said Murphy, noting that it comes at a particularly delicate time for the moderates in Iran soon after the death of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on January 8. “This is a movement that does not need another body blow, and yet they got it,” said Murphy.

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  • Bipartisan Colombia Task Force Calls for Renewed US Engagement with Critical Ally

    Atlantic Council Launches Group Chaired by US Senators Blunt and Cardin
    Task Force to Propose Path Ahead for US-Colombia Relations

    The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center concluded on December 8, 2016 the first convening of its Colombia Peace and Prosperity Task Force, chaired by US Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).The meeting ended with a call for the incoming Donald Trump administration to make strengthening relations with this critical US ally a key foreign policy goal. Meeting just one week after Congressional approval of the peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Task Force reiterated the importance of continued bipartisan support to ensure a lasting peace in the country. It called for mobilizing new US and international development assistance as well as expanded diplomatic, technical, and security engagements.

    As the new Trump administration takes office, the Task Force will focus on several objectives between now and its expected mid-April recommendations.  Among those are: how to make “Peace Colombia” a long-term congressional and administration foreign policy priority; determining the right funding levels for United States-Colombia cooperation; and analyzing how to catalyze support from the international community and development institutions.

    “Colombia’s historic peace accord and hard fought victories against the illegal drug trade are remarkable achievements.” said co-chair Senator Blunt. “It is important that we continue our commitment to enhancing Colombia’s security capacity and expanding economic opportunities between our nations.”  

    Co-chair Senator Cardin spoke of the need to ensure continuous support as Colombia implements a hard-won peace deal: “Colombia is one of our most important partners in the Americas and, as the U.S. undergoes a major political transition, we must take further steps to strengthen this strategic relationship. The Atlantic Council task force will play a central role in helping Congress and the next Administration set priorities for how the U.S. can best support Colombian efforts to strengthen governance and security in the years ahead.”

    The Task Force meeting received a briefing from US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker, Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzon and Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process Bernard Aronson. All three urged consolidated bilateral cooperation in the next administration to guarantee mutually beneficial economic growth and regional stability.

    “The US-Colombia relationship is the most important strategic partnership in the hemisphere, and the key to our success has been strong US bipartisan support,” said Colombian Ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzón. “As seen in the successes of Plan Colombia, the US-Colombia alliance has helped drive Colombia’s transformation over the past decade and a half. Building on this strategic partnership through Peace Colombia will be crucial as we work to build a stable and lasting peace, and this new task force will have a vital role to play in the post-conflict period.”

    “Plan Colombia was a success in large part because of the bipartisan support it enjoyed in the United States. The next phase, Peace Colombia, will need the same kind of endorsement. The breadth of leaders who joined us today—from Congress, the private sector, and civil society—demonstrates a commitment to continued engagement with this critical ally,” said Peter Schechter, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council.

    The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center will publish a final report on the Task Force’s recommendations in mid-2017.

    Other Task Force participants include:

    Scarlett Alvarez
    Vice-President and Global Chief Stakeholder and Sustainability Officer
    The AES Corporation

    Cynthia Arnson
    Director, Latin America Program
    Wilson Center

    Amb. Carolina Barco
    Former Ambassador of Colombia to the US; Senior Advisor
    Inter-American Development Bank

    The Hon. Rand Beers
    Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to the President
    US Department of Homeland Security

    Virginia Bouvier
    Senior Advisor for Peace Processes
    United States Institute of Peace

    Daniel W. Fisk
    Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the NSC; Chief Operations Officer
    International Republican Institute

    The Hon. Ruben Gallego
    US Representative (D-AZ-7)

    Amb. Robert Gelbard

    Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; President
    Gelbard International Consulting

    Thomas F. McLarty, III
    Former White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton; Chairman and Co-founder
    McLarty Associates

    The Hon. Gregory Meeks
    US Representative (D-NY-5)

    Amb. Roger Noriega
    Former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere; Founder and Managing Director
    Visión Américas

    The Hon. Devin
    US Representative (R-CA-22)

    Juan Esteban Orduz
    Chief Executive Officer
    Colombian Coffee Federation, Inc.

    Jaana Remes
    McKinsey Global Institute

    Catherine Robinson
    Director, International Government Affairs

    Michael Sheridan
    Director, Global Trade Strategy and Policy
    Ford Motor Company

    Michael Shifter
    Inter-American Dialogue

    Arturo Valenzuela
    Former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere; Senior Latin America Advisor
    Covington & Burling LLP

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  • Nuclear Energy: The Imperative for Innovation & Modernization

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  • Ukraine’s Humanitarian Crisis

    “People have forgotten that there’s a real humanitarian situation and a real need in a European country,” said Jock Mendoza-Wilson, director of international and investor relations at System Capital Management, during a recent Atlantic Council panel examining the crisis in Ukraine.

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  • US Lawmaker Urges ‘Path to EU Accession’ for Turkey

    Turkey will be critical to any US or NATO effort to shape Russia’s behavior in the Middle East and it should be put on the path to joining the European Union, said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

    “If we want to stabilize a volatile region with a strategic ally we are going to have to put them on the path to EU accession,” said Connolly. “It is in everyone’s interest that Turkey align itself with Europe and the EU.”

    Describing the Russo-Turkish relationship as one factor in the war in Syria, Connolly said: “Turkey must be able to engage Russia from a position of strength…as a democratic and NATO ally.”

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