South Sudan’s First Vice President Taban Deng Gai blames the absence of roads, the presence of criminals, and weak governance structures for the obstruction of UN peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts in his country.

Deng spoke in response to a confidential report from United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the UN Security Council that accuses the government of South Sudan of obstructing relief efforts.

“We believe that by the end of this year it will be a different story, better than it used to be,” Deng said in an interview with the New Atlanticist on September 28. Earlier that day, Deng attended a roundtable discussion hosted by the Council’s Africa Center.

In our interview, Deng criticized an investigation by the Sentry, a Washington-based advocacy group, calling it hastily reported. The investigation documents public corruption in South Sudan, including on the part of President Salva Kiir, and Deng’s predecessor, Riek Machar.

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Two and a half years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, too many public figures in the United States and Europe still seem unable to decipher Russia’s motives. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently told a Bosnian newspaper that NATO’s readiness to extend membership to Montenegro and welcome Bosnia and Macedonia was not only a mistake but also a provocation. At a recent meeting, a European political figure professed that he could not begin to understand why Lavrov and his government feel this way. Neither is he alone. Far too many people in public life seem unable to grasp the motives driving Russian behavior.

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Any hope of reviving a US- and Russian-backed ceasefire agreement in Syria may have been dashed by the air and ground offensives unleashed by the Syrian regime on the rebel-held parts of the western city of Aleppo.

Backed by Russia, the Syrian military has launched a “ferocious” attack on Aleppo using bunker-busting bombs and outlawed cluster bombs that have killed at least 1,000 people over the past eight days, said Raed al-Saleh, the head of Syrian Civil Defense—popularly known as the White Helmets—a group that was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for saving lives in the war-ravaged nation.

In Aleppo, where 275,000 civilians are living under siege, “there is nowhere that Syrian civilians can hide or take cover,” said al-Saleh. “They are basically all just sitting in their homes waiting to be killed.”

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The Kremlin has turned its disinformation machine on those who are investigating the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July of 2014, using state employees, state-run media, and the state-run, though unacknowledged, “troll factory” of fake Internet accounts.

The primary goal of the media attacks has been to undermine the credibility of citizen journalist group Bellingcat, an independent researcher into the crash. [Editor’s note: Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, is a nonresident senior fellow for Digital Forensic Research Lab with the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe program.] The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which conducted an official investigation in 2015 and concluded that MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile, has also been targeted.

The attacks have followed a pattern that could be termed “vilify and amplify.” They come just before the publication on September 28 of the results of a criminal investigation into the crash by an international team led by the Dutch prosecutor’s office.

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Iran’s missile program should “rank among the highest priorities of US national security concerns,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador who serves on the Atlantic Council’s board of directors.

In a parade on September 21, Iran’s “military displayed long-range missiles, tanks, and the Russian-supplied S-300 surface-to-air defense system,” according to a Reuters report.

“It’s not out of the question that over time the Iranian missile program could pose a threat to…the United States itself, and to its allies in Europe,” said Khalilzad, who served as the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration. He is president of Gryphon Partners, a global advisory firm.

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican challenger, Donald Trump, took part in their first presidential debate in New York on September 26. The debate was the first of three.

Here are some questions the Atlantic Council’s experts would like to pose to the candidates.

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"Russian propaganda made the mistake of using me as an example, and I just became too expensive for them. I am a person who never gives up,” said Nadiya Savchenko, a former prisoner of war, current member of Ukraine’s parliament, and one of the country’s most popular politicians, on September 22.

Three days earlier, the Atlantic Council gave Savchenko its Freedom Award in New York City. The award had been bestowed in 2015 and accepted by her sister Vera while Savchenko was being held in a Russian prison on trumped-up charges. She was released on May 25 and arrived in Kyiv to a hero’s welcome.

In a wide-ranging discussion at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, the pilot-turned-politician urged the international community to fight to free every single Ukrainian locked up in Russia. “I was not the only prisoner in a Russian jail. I would like you to continue this struggle to support my colleagues who are still there,” Savchenko said. According to the Let My People Go Campaign, there are at least twenty-eight Ukrainian political prisoners behind bars in Russia.

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The role Russia is playing in Donald Trump’s election campaign is quite extraordinary. The candidate’s son has acknowledged that Trump’s companies have received large Russian investments. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort worked for Ukraine’s disgraced pro-Moscow authoritarian president for almost a decade. Two of his foreign policy advisers, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Carter Page, have close links with RT and Gazprom, respectively.

The emails of the Democratic National Committee were hacked and released, effectively ousting its chair just before the Democratic National Convention, allegedly by Russian intelligence. This looks like a Russian special operation in the US presidential election, and the most shocking element is that most Americans do not understand that or seem to care.

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Nothing that happens in the Arctic stays in the Arctic. As a consequence of global warming, this is not a play on words but a truism. Climate change can no longer be denied; it must be addressed. Global warming is opening up an entire region, once silent and perpetually frozen, to commerce, transport, mining, and all the other benefits and ills of modern life. In August, the Crystal Serenity, a giant cruise ship used to ply warm seas, sailed across the top of the world, just one example of a radical transformation bringing the Arctic to the center of the global future.

The Arctic can no longer play second fiddle to other parts of the globe. It’s one of the world’s last major frontiers, and its value to every nation cannot be overstated. That includes the United States, a major Arctic nation with vital interests at stake.

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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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