Plan seen taking heat off Gulf Arab states over role in war on ISIS, putting onus on the United States to do more

Saudi Arabia’s offer to deploy ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Syria is seen as putting pressure on the Obama administration—which has been urging its Arab Gulf partners to ramp up their efforts—to itself take on a greater military role in Syria.

“[US Secretary of State John] Kerry has been going around saying, ‘Everybody has to do more. Our Arab allies have to do more,’” said David Ottaway, a Middle East Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “They’re saying, ‘OK, we’ll do more, but you have to do more.’ And they know the US is not going to do more, so they’re not going to have to do more.”

“As a diplomatic ploy, I think it is a wonderful way of taking the heat off them and putting it on the United States,” he added. 

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There is something odd about the upcoming Dutch plebiscite on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. On April 6, the Netherlands will hold a national referendum on a treaty between Brussels and Kyiv that was signed in 2014 and ratified in 2015. Yet, the European Union and the European Community have, during the last sixty years, concluded dozens of association, free trade, stabilization, and cooperation agreements with countries around the world. Association and similar arrangements are neither new nor exceptional; they are a standard tool of EU foreign policy, and are practiced by other international organizations as well. For good reasons, they are mostly ignored by the general public in Europe and elsewhere.

It is true that the recent association agreements with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia are larger than previous EU treaties. They include provisions to establish so-called Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas between the three countries and the EU. While one can argue that these treaties are somewhat novel, this is hardly enough ground to elevate the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement to an issue suitable for a national referendum. In view of the agreements' relative inconsequentiality for the Netherlands' future, organizing a popular vote on one of these treaties is just plain bizarre.

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One of the most startling examples of the adage "there are two sides to every story" is the difference in perceptions over the implementation of the Minsk Agreements between Ukraine and Russia. Minsk, if handled in good faith, could be the roadmap to deescalate the war in Ukraine and bring peace to the region.

In October, I wrote a scorecard that assigned points to each party responsible for breaching, breaking, or not fulfilling aspects of Minsk. Russia scored minus ten and Ukraine scored minus two. Efforts to pretend that Russia is just a mediator in the Minsk process are a sham. Russia's guiding hand, including resupply of weapons and soldiers, are all over the conflict.

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The resignation of Aivaras Abromavicius from the position of Minister of Economic Development and Trade is another nail in the coffin for the hopes for serious reform in Ukraine. In resigning, he follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Pavlo Sheremeta, who was also unwilling to serve in a government that was more interested in personal gain than true reform.

A smear campaign has once again been started by political factions for whom the truth is inconvenient. “The Minister was incompetent, the Minister moved too slowly, the Minister was inexperienced, the Minister had ulterior motives,” etc. The chorus is both familiar and pathetic. It hails from the best Soviet practice of disinformation, which is still well-practiced in Putin’s Russia and too often echoed in Ukraine.

It cannot go unnoticed that one by one, Ukraine’s finest reformers are being pushed to resign from the cabinet. These include Oleksiy Pavlenko, Minister of Agriculture; Andrei Pivovarsky, Minister of Infrastructure; and Alexander Kvitashvili, Minister of Health. All have resigned but have since retracted under pressure. Rumor even has it that Serhiy Kvit, Minister of Education, is under threat.

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North Korea’s fourth nuclear test followed by a ballistic missile launch have ominous implications—a North Korea in possession of miniaturized warheads and a delivery system.

These developments have rattled nerves and escalated tensions in Northeast Asia. The outrage over North Korea’s flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions has reverberated worldwide, yet China, North Korea’s sole ally, has refused to back tough measures that would raise the cost to Pyongyang of its behavior.

North Korea’s refusal to abide by Chinese entreaties not to launch a rocket is a remarkable display of disrespect toward Beijing. It also raises a key question: Is there a limit to China’s willingness to tolerate North Korea’s behavior?

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The recent backroom bilateral talks between the United States and Russia about Ukraine have caused anxiety in the region, raised hopes that sanctions could be lifted, and elevated Russian President Vladimir Putin's status to super power level.

All are counterproductive.

Since the bilateral talks and optimistic statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry about possible peace in Ukraine, Russian proxies in Ukraine responded by moving people and weapons westward from Donetsk and re-escalating violence near Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

Clearly, offering an olive branch doesn't work. Only tightening the noose will.

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International partnerships, technological innovation, addressing cybersecurity challenges seen as critical to realization of environmental goals

International partnerships, technological innovation, and addressing cybersecurity challenges will be key to turning a global commitment to clean energy into reality, according to a senior US energy official.

More than 190 nations agreed to curb rising global temperatures through carbon emission reduction and renewable energy technology adoption at the climate talks in Paris in December of 2015.

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Leader describes peace deal with leftist FARC rebels as an ‘irreversible moment’

Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, wholeheartedly believes that his attempt to end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running war will bear fruit, the big challenge, however, will be convincing Colombians that “peace is going to be marvelous.”

“Most Colombians have never seen one single day of peace… They think peace might be bad,” Santos said in Washington on February 3. He compared this terrified reaction to that of a prisoner who is to be released after spending decades behind bars. “We have to teach them that...It is much better to have peace than it is to have war,” he added.

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A new era of US leadership can lead an effort to help adapt, revitalize, and defend an international order that advances security, democratic governance, and prosperity, says Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson

Europe is in crisis. The continent today faces a confluence of crises far more profound than most realize. As a result, the United States risks losing its most important strategic asset in global affairs: a vibrant Europe as a partner of first resort. It’s time for the United States to shift from observer to actor, and return to our historic posture of helping to forge European unity—not for the sake of some vision of a united Europe, but so that we have a European partner better equipped to work with us on enormous global challenges.

Today, Europe faces historic tests. To the east, Russia seeks to roll back the gains of the post-Cold War period, aiming to rewrite the rules fundamental to Europe’s security, undermine Europe’s unity, challenge its core values, and foster instability on its periphery. To the south, the erosion of state authority and borders in the Middle East threatens Europe with mass refugee flows and Islamic terrorism.

And yet the greatest challenge to Europe is not external, but internal. There is a crisis in confidence, a loss of strategic purpose that puts at risk the so-called European project, which aims to turn former adversaries into an integrated Union.

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On February 3, Ukraine's Minister of Economic Development and Trade Aivaras Abromavicius announced his resignation at a press briefing with a big bang that may unleash a political crisis and shake the country's fragile finances.

Abromavicius, a 40-year-old investment banker of Lithuanian origin who has lived in Kyiv for many years as a fund manager, was one of the three foreigners recruited as a minister in December 2014. He has stood out as a strong reformer, taking pride in having introduced electronic state procurement on a large scale, carried out substantial deregulation, reformed his ministry, and improved management at state corporations. Together with Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, he has been the top Ukrainian representative at international events.

He offered a candid statement about the reasons for his resignation: "My team and I have no desire to be a cover for open corruption or puppets for those who want to establish control over state funds in the old fashion." He continued: "These people have names. And one of these names I am going to mention. It is Igor Kononenko. As a representative of the political force that nominated me a minister, he has done a great deal recently to block the work of my team and me."

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