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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The February 3 resignation of Ukraine's Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius is a signal that the country's efforts to dramatically reduce corruption and rent-seeking are meeting with serious resistance.

The resignation also exposes how Ukraine's political system works. Just as in established democracies, technocrats and experts have to make common cause with politicians and ideologues. And just as in established democracies, politicians expect to wield influence when their parties win. The "Plum Book" that lists thousands of political posts in the US government reflects this reality.

Ukraine is now witnessing the rise of politicians who fought alongside civil society activists on the Maidan, campaigned for office, and won in the 2015 parliamentary elections. They have a reasonable expectation of political reward in the form of influential government posts, as winners in the United States and the EU would.

The problem is that the framework of politics in Ukraine is broken. Its major politicians and political parties are not only dependent on the financial support of entrenched business interests, but these interests have overarching control over a wide range of parties and politicians. Moreover, these interests lobby for economically damaging rents. Some also corrupt individual politicians and officials.

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‘Sports diplomacy’ laid the groundwork for detente, says US official

Decades before the United States and Iran agreed on the historic nuclear deal, international sports federations were working together to break down diplomatic barriers and prejudices between the two countries. Since 1998, wrestling rings and volleyball courts in Tehran and California—not Washington conference rooms—have been main arenas of intercultural diplomacy between the United States and Iran.

Sports diplomacy offers a “perfect marriage” for positive and sustainable diplomatic engagement between otherwise rival states, said Greg Sullivan, Senior Adviser for Public Diplomacy in the US State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs.

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For Ukrainians, the war in eastern Ukraine has become an everyday reality. Only two years ago, though, no one in the country believed war was possible—and certainly no one expected that propaganda would be one of its main weapons.

Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, little attention was paid to building a system that would ensure the security of information: that is, that would actively counter false propaganda. State security services ignored even the most basic anti-Ukrainian messages.

As a result, when the new government was faced with aggressive propaganda, it appeared completely incapable of acting. State functions related to information security were divided between at least seven different agencies and ministries. There was no proper coordination between these bodies, their functions were often duplicated, and some important tasks were not implemented at all. There was no state unit responsible for monitoring the situation in the field or identifying threats, which made simple decision-making impossible. Furthermore, there were no clear mechanisms for implementing such decisions.

During that time, Crimea was lost, and residents of the Donbas were frightened by Russian propaganda and believed that "fascists" were coming to kill them. Something had to be done to limit the onslaught of propaganda.

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Populist distrust toward government and media have buoyed Donald Trump's political fortunes, but this is not a phenomenon that is unique to the United States, according to a new global survey.

While the “informed public” is growing increasingly trusting of government, business, nongovernmental organizations, and the media, that opinion is not shared by the “mass population,” according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2016, an online survey conducted in twenty-eight countries among more than 33,000 respondents.

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What is wrong with Vladislav Inozemtsev's recent opinion piece on how to help Ukraine?

The problem with his article is not his advice itself, as flawed as it is, but the logic on which it is built. He uses the logic of imperialism, of an authoritarian state, of conspiracy theorists for whom the world is a chessboard and a powerful few are playing the game. What is missing in his analysis are forty-five million Ukrainians.

I'm convinced that Inozemtsev means well and really does want Ukraine to succeed. But suggesting that we "dump" the Donbas tells me that he just doesn't get it. From his writing, I surmise that Inozemtsev does not understand the difference between Ukraine and Russia. What is clear is that his "alternative vision" for my country is emblematic of the problems in his own homeland.

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