As strange as it seems, both US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump seem to agree on one thing: European allies don’t spend enough on defense and they need to seriously step up. How they both frame this message is where Obama the statesman and Trump the salesman differ.

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March of 2014, Obama has pressured NATO allies to meet the two percent of national GDP on defense spending for the bloc. At the same time, Obama has stated that the US stands firmly behind its European allies, while Trump throws out the baby with the bath water: repudiating allies who don’t fulfil their spending obligations while questioning the US commitment to European security.

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A nearly $450 million investment package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation—an independent US foreign aid agency—for Niger will empower farmers and bolster transit infrastructure in the West African state, improving the livelihoods of more than 3.9 million Nigeriens, according to Niger’s prime minister, Brigi Rafini.

The Nigerien government and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on July 29 enacted the investment compact—the first of its kind for Niger.

“The main problem in Niger is agricultural production and we want to focus, in particular, on the livelihoods of agriculturists and farmers—and that is at the very heart of the [MCC] program,” Rafini said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on July 28.

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French ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, sees ‘a very dark moment’ for his country

France, a victim of terrorist attacks for the past nineteen months, is facing its greatest security challenge since World War II, according to Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States.

“It is a very, very dark moment for my country,” said Araud. “It is obviously the biggest threat that France really has been facing since 1945.”

“It is a threat against our security, but it is also a threat against our values, the social fabric of our country,” he added.

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South Africa’s upcoming municipal elections on August 3 have brought the country’s economic crisis to the forefront of public discussion. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party will be striving to maintain its political foothold against the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party as the country continues to deal with a protracted economic crisis and poor domestic service delivery. Over twenty years since the end of apartheid, South Africa is in deep economic and political trouble, according to Ann Bernstein, CEO of the Center for Development and Enterprise (CDE)—an independent research organization based in Johannesburg.

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Cooperation among European law enforcement agencies is a ‘big challenge,’ says Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell

A spate of terrorist attacks across Europe over the past nineteen months has shaken confidence in European security, but has had divergent impacts on the popularity of the leaders of France and Germany, according to the Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen a rise in support, French President François Hollande has found his already low approval ratings dip further.

“The insecurity has…led to the revival of Mutti Merkel,” said Burwell, vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, at the Atlantic Council. The chancellor, who is viewed by the German public as a steady pair of hands that would take care of the issues in society, earned the nickname Mutti Merkel—the mother of the German family. Merkel’s warm welcome to migrants fleeing war zones in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan temporarily diminished this admiration as she was seen as having overstepped her bounds by being too generous. Germany registered close to one million asylum seekers in 2015.

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On July 20, investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet was assassinated in Kyiv. Sheremet hosted a morning show at Radio Vesti and was a top reporter at Ukrainska Pravda. A crusading journalist and native of Minsk, Belarus, he had already been expelled from both Belarus and Russia. He was killed by a car bomb.

It would be easy to dismiss Sheremet’s murder as an outlier. Unfortunately, it’s anything but. His death is merely the most drastic example of the steady deterioration of press freedom in Ukraine in recent months.

One day before Sheremet’s murder, Maria Rydvan, the editor of Forbes Ukraine, was stabbed three times in Kyiv; she had been walking in the park of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. Fortunately her injuries were only minor.

On July 25, the head of Business Censor, Sergei Golovnyova, was beaten in the well-to-do Podil section of Kyiv by two men who took nothing from him.

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In the wake of an attempt by factions of the Turkish military to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from power on the night of July 15, foreign policy experts point to increasing instability and a tightening authoritarian grip as core barriers to the resumption of Turkey’s European Union accession negotiations.

“There will be no EU accession. Whatever the Europeans want to do with regard to post-coup…Europe is subject to the implicit Turkish threat to send large numbers of refugees to Europe. The Turks have Brussels over a barrel on that issue especially given the way that politics are playing themselves out within European capitals,” said Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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On the eve of Ukraine’s special elections on July 17, Nadiya Savchenko walked into the crowded Stansiya Lughansk district commission offices in eastern Ukraine. She was there to campaign for Fatherland’s Iryna Verihina, who had been Luhansk’s governor for about six months before being replaced. Catching sight of Serhiy Shakhov, a candidate for Nash Krai (Our Land), arguing with the Fatherland commissioner, Savchenko demanded that he identify himself. After Shakhov identified himself as a candidate for parliament, she asked what he was doing there and why he wasn’t fighting in the east with the real men.

Savchenko is Ukraine’s most trusted politician, but this was her first real intervention into retail politics and she seemed authentically repulsed by the workings of the electoral process in Ukraine. To the delight of the television cameras and gathered journalists, Savchenko denounced the process as irrevocably flawed in a series of characteristically fiery appearances outside of the district election office. She later told me that she expected to write her own election law and that she herself was a “one term MP” with no interest in contesting a second term.

Savchenko would not be the first observer of Ukraine’s elections to conclude that the process requires a drastic dose of professionalization. Indeed, reforming Ukraine’s deeply flawed election system might be a Herculean task that can be accomplished only by a belligerent saint.

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This month, Ukraine introduced state financing of political parties in the hopes that it will create a more transparent, equal, and democratic playing field for politicians and their organizations. But the process will not be as beneficial to Ukraine’s reform efforts as it could have been.

In October 2015, the Ukrainian parliament adopted Law No. 731-19; in its initial version, this draft law introduced state financing for political parties that received more than three percent in the 2014 parliamentary elections. This particular threshold would have been to the advantage of smaller parties which did not make it into parliament two years ago; some of these, like Anatoliy Hrytsenko’s Civic Position, are built with no or only a little oligarchic financing.

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The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union will have a negative impact on the European economy because it creates uncertainty and decreases business confidence for the foreseeable future, according to the International Monetary Fund’s recently updated World Economic Outlook. Beyond uncertainty, experts contend that the outcome of the June 23 vote on a so-called Brexit highlights structural issues within the Eurozone that have prevented significant growth following the 2008 financial crisis.

“There’s no doubt about the fact that this is a negative shock to growth,” Paul Sheard, executive vice president and chief economist at S&P Global, said of the British referendum. “In many ways, it’s worse for the Eurozone than it is for the United Kingdom,” he added.

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