New Atlanticist

For those of us old enough to recall the Vietnam War, fact and reality were obscured and mangled by successive White Houses anxious to reach the delusional “light at the end of the tunnel.” Tragically, at the end of the tunnel lay a quagmire that consumed 58,000 American and countless Vietnamese lives. In the highly complex and complicated fight against the Islamic State (IS), are fact and reality similarly being distorted or ignored by the White House either because of lack of understanding of the conflict or other human error and misjudgment?

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Khalifa Hafter

Atlantic Council analyst says ISIS threat must galvanize political foes

Rival factions in Libya must come together for talks in Morocco this week to take on the threat posed by an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), says Atlantic Council analyst Fadel Lamen.

An ISIS affiliate has exploited the political and security vacuum in Libya by putting down roots in the eastern part of the country.

In January, ISIS-affiliated militants attacked Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel. They shocked the world in February by beheading twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya.

“This should galvanize everybody to come together to fight an existential threat,” Lamen, who is a Nonresident Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said in an interview.

Lamen will participate in the talks in Morocco on March 5 as a civil society representative and Chairman of the National Dialogue Commission.

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Atlantic Council analyst says US, NATO lack adequate nuclear deterrence policy

The United States and NATO lack an adequate nuclear deterrence policy even as Russia has put the nuclear option at the center of its national security strategy, according to Atlantic Council analyst Matthew Kroenig.

“NATO should strengthen its nuclear declaratory policy and develop new, more tailored nuclear capabilities to provide a credible response to a limited Russian nuclear strike,” Kroenig, a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said in an interview.

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John Allen

US envoy says officials in West, Middle East, and Southeast Asia are worried about growing threat

Officials in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia worry about the threat posed by affiliates of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and their potential to inspire foreign fighters, says retired Gen John Allen, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

These officials are concerned that besides destabilizing their home countries, the foreign fighters could help ISIL replenish its ranks, Allen said at a March 2 event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

The United States is focused on these concerns, and the 62-member coalition of nations and international organizations to fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria must decide how it will respond to this emerging threat, Allen said.

“The challenge that has been evolving over the last several months has been the emergence of organizations outside … Iraq and Syria. Those organizations, which have put their hand in the air ultimately to become affiliated with or to join the ISIL movement, [are] something that we are watching very carefully and very closely,” Allen said.

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For Long-Term Security, EU Should Push Moscow to Obey Rules and Kyiv to Reform Gas Sector

By brokering a March 2 interim gas deal between Ukraine and Russia, the European Union helped avert a wintertime cutoff of gas to Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Russia had threatened to halt supplies to Ukraine in the two countries’ dispute over prices and payments for Russia’ gas. The deal, in Brussels, came as Ukraine’s parliament passed one of several difficult reform laws that could help the longer-term energy security of both the country and Europe, analysts say.

Europe is at risk of Russian gas cutoffs because almost 15 percent of its total gas needs arrive from Russia via pipelines across Ukraine. But the EU can take a simple step to reduce its dangerous dependence on Russia’s good will in delivering gas to Ukraine, write two Canadian economists. EU leaders should begin building a more flexible, stable gas market in Europe by forcing the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, to remove a clause in its contracts that forbid European countries from swapping around volumes of gas bought initially from Russia.

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Raw Numbers on Military Drills Suggest a Gap in the West’s Deterrence

Readers who don’t specialize in NATO or military affairs may have missed a report from the NATOSource blog last week on a wide gap between the scale of military exercises conducted by Russia and by the NATO alliance. In the past two years, Russia’s major military exercises deployed a total of about 745,000 troops, while those of NATO countries involved a total of some 157,000. (Actually, only 72,000 troops took part in full NATO exercises; 85,000 participated in drills run by individual NATO member states.)

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Christine Lagarde

MIT Economist Says Rescue Plan Is Too Small, May Need Adjustment

An International Monetary Fund bailout for Ukraine underestimates the banking sector’s needs and is unrealistic about government expenditure on security and defense, according to Andrei Kirilenko, a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ukraine has secured a $40 billion bailout from the IMF and other creditors. The agreement, which spans four years and includes $17.5 billion from the Fund, “can represent a turning point for Ukraine,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Kirilenko, a Professor of the Practice of Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the package is not designed to “stimulate sustainable economic growth,” but to “close a bleeding wound in the underbelly of Europe.”

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Passive Responses to Putin Darken the Future for Ukraine—and for Russia

The professional killing of Boris Nemtsov February 27 confronts us with two facts that Western policymakers ignore at great cost in the Russia-Ukraine war. First, Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine is potentially a great domestic political liability for him. Second, it is central to his campaign to crush all democratic inclinations so as to force Russia back under into the authoritarian rule it bore for centuries under tsars and Soviet commissars.

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Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader, was shot dead near the Kremlin in Moscow on February 27.

Nemtsov, a former Deputy Prime Minister, had accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of leading Russia into a crisis with the West with his "mad, aggressive, and deadly policy of war against Ukraine."

"The country needs a political reform," Nemtsov said on Ekho Moskvy radio hours before he was assassinated. "When power is concentrated in the hands of one person and this person rules for ever, this will lead to an absolute catastrophe, absolute."

Nemtsov was working on a report documenting Russia's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He had planned to lead an anti-government protest in Moscow on March 1.

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How would the United States respond if the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) were to either take control of several Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad or conduct a major terrorist attack on the al-Asad airbase in Iraq where US personnel are based?

Neither development would spur the United States to draw down its presence in the region or overhaul its current approach, according to participants in a war game conducted by the Atlantic Council on February 25.

This response would be grounded in the realities of domestic politics as well as the challenge of balancing the interests of allies and partners, especially those in the region.

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