Chancellor is vital for European solidarity on Russia sanctions, says Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell

If German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to step down from her role it would create uncertainty over the fate of sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine, according to Fran Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“There is one area where her absence would make a great deal of difference potentially and that is on the sanctions on Russia,” said Burwell.

“With the British leaving [the European Union] and her leaving—if she should leave—that makes the continued adherence to these sanctions less certain. Depending on what happens in the Italian elections, those sanctions could be vulnerable indeed,” she added.  

Moreover, Burwell noted, instability in Germany would be a blow for the European Union (EU), which is grappling with the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the Union and the eurozone crisis.

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In light of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s widely-anticipated departure—whether through resignation or impeachment—the United States should be prepared to work with his likely successor, a man who is subject to US sanctions, the Atlantic Council’s J. Peter Pham said on November 20.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose ouster from the vice presidency by Mugabe early in November triggered the current political crisis in the first place, will likely be the next leader of Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa is the subject of US Treasury sanctions imposed in the early 2000s for his role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in the country.

Noting that a prominent opposition leader and longtime Mugabe foe, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has embraced Mnangagwa, Pham, who is director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, said: “We’re not saying whitewash the past, but it is in the interests of everyone that Zimbabwe is engaged at this critical time.” 

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The new European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (CoE) in Helsinki is, according to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, an “institution fit for our times.”

With membership from eleven European Union (EU) nations and the United States, the CoE is one of the most tangible examples of the pledge by NATO and the EU to work more closely together, addressing what both organizations recognize is a threat to their very foundations. Mattis visited the center in Finland last week.

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New and existing diseases tend to emerge and re-emerge in rural regions with limited public health systems. A disease jumps the species barrier, moving from animal to human host. Historically, these outbreaks would fizzle out close to where they began, as patient zero infected his community but the combination of death, immunity, and lack of new hosts stopped further spread of the pathogen.

Today, however, this cycle is exacerbated by two factors: a huge increase in livestock numbers, especially in the developing world, and the rapid growth of urban slums. With more animals living near humans, and humans living closer together than ever before, the chances of diseases emerging and spreading rapidly are significantly increased.

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While the twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23) was beginning in Bonn, the US House and Senate Armed Services Committees were wrapping up negotiations on the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The bipartisan conference report that emerged from those negotiations calls climate change “a direct threat to the national security of the United States [that] is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist.” 

For the past two weeks, much of the global conversation on climate change has focused on the talks in Bonn and how parties to the Paris Accord—from which the United States regrettably announced its intention to withdrawal—plan to meet their carbon reduction goals. However, the Armed Services Committees’ conference report emphasizes the national security risks associated with changing global temperatures.   

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As the world gathered in Bonn for its twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23), the newly published Emissions Gap Report 2017 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) helped to underline the mantra of the conference: all countries need to raise their climate protection efforts quickly and substantially.

The report shows that even if fully implemented, each nation’s current nationally determined commitments (NDCs), laid out by each of the signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement, would only achieve a mere third of the emission cuts required to meet the “(well) below 2 degrees” Celsius goal for global temperature increase set forth in the deal.

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The climate conference in Bonn has served as an important bellwether of the international communities’ continuing commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions and of the impact of US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. 

As the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP) comes to a close, it is worth noting why this conference was important, what it accomplished, and why Bonn, and the meetings to come, matters.

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Despite all eyes on the United States in the wake of US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Fiji, the host of the twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23), framed the conversation in Bonn around the challenges climate change poses to small island nations and how larger, wealthier nations can help.

From November 6-17, climate negotiators, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders gathered in Bonn, Germany for COP23. This year’s United Nations (UN) climate summit represented a few interesting “firsts.” It was the first meeting to take place since Trump announced in June his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement in favor of pursuing a coal-based energy mix, and it was the first UN climate summit to be chaired by a small island nation, Fiji.

Understandably, a significant amount of attention surrounding COP23 has focused on the US intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and the group of US mayors, governors, and businesses who attended COP23 to show that climate change is still on the US agenda. However, large, diverse countries like the United States have not yet felt the effects of climate change as acutely as a small island nation like Fiji.

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As signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement meet in Bonn for COP23—and new forecasts show an increase in CO2 emissions after three flat years—India’s efforts to transform its energy system are a key focus of attention. 

As the world’s second-largest coal consumer and third-largest carbon emitter, India’s policies and actions are critical to the future global emissions trajectory. India is also the world’s third-largest primary energy user and the largest user of non-commercial biomass. Its energy consumption has been growing at over 5 percent a year and demand will continue to increase as urbanization, income, and population increases.

In facing these pressures, the Indian government is confronting three formidable challenges: (1) assuring security of its growing energy imports; (2) providing reliable and affordable energy for economic growth and improved energy access for over 300 million people who are without modern energy; and (3) reducing pollution and environmental resource degradation.

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The most effective solutions to persistent threats from cyberspace will come from international alliances such as the European Union (EU) and NATO, both of which have begun to take steps to bolster members’ resistance to cyberattacks from governments and non-state actors, a complex issue with a long history. 

Last week, on November 10, NATO defense ministers endorsed a set of principles outlining how the Alliance can integrate the cyber capabilities of its member states into Alliance military operations. Most significantly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a new Cyber Operations Centre to help NATO defend cyberspace as a military domain as it has defended allies on land, sea, and in the air since the beginning of the Cold War.

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