Atlantic Council

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Deadline in Talks Likely to Be Extended, Says Former US Ambassador Thomas Pickering


As international negotiators approach next week’s self-imposed deadline for reaching a compromise to let Iran pursue a nuclear program, US and French former officials told Atlantic Council forums this week that a deal could offer new advantages in the Middle East.

An agreement could create an opportunity for a US-Iranian “open relationship” on confronting militant threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ambassador Thomas Pickering told a November 19 forum at the Council in Washington. “For the first time, the United States and Iran have gotten down to the wire, along with our European and Russian and Chinese colleagues, to something that could in one way or another generate, if not a sea change, certainly a major shift in the situation in the region,” said Pickering, a former undersecretary of state for political affairs.

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We can expect Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, to meet this week to vote on the country’s new government. The political parties of President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and their allies are close to completing negotiations and announcing their choices for the new Cabinet of Ministers. Critically, a delegation is in Kyiv from the International Monetary Fund, upon which Ukraine must rely for the cash to see it through multi-layered crises. The IMF has insisted upon meeting with the new cabinet before the fund’s team leaves Kyiv on November 25.

Below are many of the key appointments now under discussion, following Yatsenyuk’s presentation of his candidates on Friday, according to the Atlantic Council’s Kyiv-based senior fellow, Brian Mefford. You can see Brian’s full list at his blog.

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Colonel Igor Girkin Presses Kremlin to Expand Its War Through Southern and Eastern Ukraine


“The Shooter” is back. Colonel Igor Girkin, the career Russian intelligence officer who disappeared three months ago from his leading role in the Russian-sponsored war against Ukraine, has burst anew into Russia’s news headlines. He has given a spate of interviews in which he presses Russia’s government to step up direct military support for the two “people’s republics” it is backing in southeastern Ukraine.

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Boosting the World’s Economy Needs Action, Notably From Europe—Not Another Predictable Summit Communique


National leaders of the Group of Twenty met in Brisbane, Australia over the weekend to deliver an action plan for global economic growth and employment. Topping the agenda were items such as boosting job growth, investment to renew infrastructure , and improving the participation of minorities, immigrants, and women in the labor market. Yet, historically speaking, these meetings rarely result in actual progress or follow-through, unless there is a clear urgency.

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Mutual Vow Won't Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions, But May Help Advance More Serious Accords


The US-China climate change deal unveiled by President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping this week in Beijing has been heralded as a historic breakthrough in the effort to reduce climate change. But is it?

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A Tiny State, Vulnerable over Its Water Supply, Turns Weakness into Strength


A four-week dry spell wouldn’t be a crisis in most Southeast Asian countries, but when February became Singapore’s driest month in 150-plus years, the city-state’s six million people were reminded sharply that water scarcity has become a core national security issue. Singapore has been uncomfortably dependent for its water supplies since the 1960s, when, on the eve of independence, it signed two agreements to import its water from the neighboring Malaysian state of Johor.

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More than 63,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have crossed the southern US border without authorization in just the last year. A spike in arrivals over the summer led to national outrage over their situation, prompting President Barack Obama to propose a $3.7 trillion supplemental appropriation request in early July. Four months later, this request still lingers in Congress.

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As the US Congress Reconvenes, It and Europe Must Respond to the Kremlin’s Coming Offensive in Ukraine


Russia has moved a massive wave of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery into Ukraine’s Donbas region in recent days, accompanied by new uniformed troops without insignia, to bolster the armed forces of the Russian-sponsored Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics.

This military escalation follows Moscow’s political support for pretended elections to consolidate the two mini-states, a step that Europe and the US regard as a fundamental violation of the Minsk peace process launched in August. Ominously, evidence is growing that this buildup is preparing a new offensive by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his war against Ukraine—a campaign of attrition against Ukraine’s economically fragile state.

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World leaders arrived in Beijing on November 10 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, as China seeks to emphasize its global economic influence and power. Yet, even while China demonstrates its economic might, the country's slow response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa – where it has a substantial commercial footprint -- raised questions about China's leadership role beyond the economic sphere.

Indeed, bilateral trade between China and the three most affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea – is estimated around $5.1 billion.

As the Ebola outbreak became more global in nature, the world community started coming together to develop a coordinated response. China, on the other hand, continued to provide aid to a select few West African nations in its typical bilateral fashion with little regard for the nature of the health crisis.

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The pride, stature and global spotlight that comes with holding a major international meeting often becomes a factor influencing the host country's behavior. As China is hosting the APEC leaders' meeting, Beijing clearly wants to be seen as a gracious host and a cooperative partner.

The APEC meeting occurs in an Asia-Pacific where tensions have been mounting over territorial disputes, where competing trade agreements are in contention, and where, for the first time in several decades, many fear that regional stability may be at risk.

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