Strategic planning will play a crucial role in the next US president’s ability to mitigate an amalgamation of political, social, security, and economic threats at home and abroad, according to Mathew Burrows, director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“We need leadership on a lot of different levels to get us out of some of the bad spots we’re in and maximize those opportunities that do exist,” said Burrows.

In a geopolitical climate defined by the increased risk of major conflict, according to Burrows, “it may not be likely yet, but war between US and Russia, US/NATO and Russia, US and China, Iran and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states is no longer unthinkable.”

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Thirteen months since the last tranche, the IMF has finally allocated the third tranche of its program to Ukraine, bringing the total disbursement to $7.6 billion. Although it is less than the originally planned $1.7 billion and came with substantial delays, the receipt of the $1 billion tranche was celebrated by the Ukrainian government as the first time Ukraine has progressed that far in any of its IMF programs.

In its previous programs, Ukraine was quick to abandon the difficult IMF-prescribed reforms soon after its economic crises became less acute.

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In the face of challenges from a revanchist Russia, Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), David Barno, a former senior American commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, wants US Army leadership to reconsider how best to adapt to rising and modern security threats.

Russian aggression toward the United States, underscored by the recent instance of a Russian jet buzzing a US carrier, requires the immediate attention of US defense capabilities.

“We’ve seen the Russians launch [long-range] cruise missiles into Syria. We could be on the receiving end of that someday,” said Barno, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. The United States this week blamed Russia for attacking a United Nations aid convoy in Syria.

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This article is part one of a two-part series.

While oil markets agonize over the possibility of a “production freeze” agreement among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members facing political and economic distress from lower oil prices, much larger and strategic data points are receiving less attention. These data points, while too early to suggest are certain, would create a far greater set of problems for oil producers if they become structural trends—particularly for companies with higher cost resources and governments with unsustainable levels of petro-dollar spending.  In short, these data points can be categorized as signposts of a potential world of “peak demand,” or when forms of demand destruction will curtail and even begin to reverse global oil demand growth much earlier than anticipated.

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For the first time since Russia annexed Crimea, Russian elections were held on the territory of the disputed peninsula. That elections were held in Crimea has been a source of contention between Russia and the international community. OSCE election observers refused to monitor the polls in Crimea, and the US and EU condemned the September 18 elections as illegal and illegitimate. Ukraine has called for sanctions to be placed on those elected from Crimea to the Duma.

Unsurprisingly, Russia’s leading party, United Russia, swept the floor in Crimea, with United Russia candidates winning all three single-mandate seats in Crimea, capturing over 65 percent of the vote, and the single-mandate seat in Sevastopol.

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One day in September 2013, when Maxim Nefyodov, a managing partner at the investment firm Icon Private Equity, was leaving his office on Rylskiy Lane, he witnessed a funny scene. Accompanied by eight bodyguards, President Viktor Yanukovych’s odious ally, Yuriy Ivanyushchenko, was walking from an office building to his luxury SUV.

To Nefyodov this spectacle looked amusing. “Why would anyone live like this to be so afraid?” he thought.

A chance encounter with Yanukovych’s close ally made Nefyodov think again about Ukraine’s macroeconomic indicators, which had especially worried the firm’s partners in the past year.

Just six months prior to this encounter, Icon decided to exit from Ukraine’s private sector. The firm’s portfolio was 40 percent invested in domestic companies.

To put it mildly, the country was moving in the wrong direction. "The figures were illustrating this vividly,” Nefyodov said. [He is now Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade.] Three years later, he’s displaying figures from a public procurement website on his iPhone. He’s delighted with these figures.

“Just look, the ProZorro e-public procurement system has already saved 3.17 billion hryvnias (approximately $120,000,000) while hosting over 170,000 tenders,” he beams and takes a sip of beer. We’re meeting late in the evening at one of Kyiv’s restaurants.

The new public procurement system is considered to be one of the landmark reforms in Ukraine during the last two and a half years.

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Russia is back.” These were the recent words of General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe—and he was correct. Thanks to a rapidly growing arms budget and a worrisome frequency of snap military drills near NATO’s borders, Russia is indeed back to the game of power politics after a twenty-five year hiatus. The implications of this are clear: the threat that Russia poses is not going to fade away and policy planners will have to live with it—or better yet, understand the logic of this newly assertive great power.

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The United States and Russia have little chance of resurrecting the fragile Syria ceasefire, said Frederic C. Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“The odds do not favor the ceasefire being salvaged, sad to say,” said Hof, who served in the Obama administration as a special adviser for transition in Syria.

“The Assad regime and Russia seem to be greeting the apparent collapse of the John Kerry initiative with palpable relief,” he added.

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The Atlantic Council presented its annual Global Citizen Awards in New York on September 19 to three exceptional individuals whose extraordinary leadership has been invaluable in addressing global challenges and fostering unity.

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In the recent plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum [on September 3 in Vladivostok], Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the issue of Crimea’s ownership is historically closed.

Despite the adamant tone, such statements do not show Russia’s confidence but instead reveal the Kremlin’s vulnerability on this issue. The concept Krym nash (Crimea is ours) is an illusion and a propaganda meme which lacks structural meaning. Russia believes that its tactical victory will become its strategic victory, and Crimea will stay part of Russia forever. But they shouldn’t think that. Ukraine’s stance on returning the annexed territory, defending the rights of the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Crimea, and fighting for Ukraine’s sovereignty have strategically better prospects for success than Russia’s stance.

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