It would be a “disaster” to cut trade relations with Mexico, Carlos Gutierrez, who served as US secretary of commerce in the George W. Bush administration, said at the Atlantic Council on June 27.

“[The North American Free Trade Agreement] is worth about one trillion dollars and companies have been setting up supply chains in these three countries for the past twenty years. We need to preserve this embedded infrastructure,” said Gutierrez.

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NATO must respond to threats from Russia by permanently stationing troops in the Baltic States, Poland, and the Black Sea region, according to a new Atlantic Council report.

“These are clearly modest—in terms of the troop commitments—measures designed to stabilize the alliance, protect our smaller allies in the east, and do what the NATO alliance has to do: protect the member states and collective security in Europe,” said R. Nicholas Burns, an Atlantic Council board member who served as under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. “We need to establish effective deterrence against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and that’s why our number one recommendation is the permanent basing of NATO troops in those areas,”

Burns co-authored the report, “Restoring the Power and Purpose of the NATO Alliance,” along with retired Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and a former national security advisor in the Obama administration.

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Amid the global political and economic turmoil in the wake of last week’s narrow decision by British voters in favor of taking their country out of the European Union, there has been no shortage of alarm about the potential toll of “Brexit” on Africa in terms of diminished trade, investment, and assistance. While there will undoubtedly be a significant negative impact in the short-to-medium term, over the long run, the news may not be all bad from the African perspective.

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By invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin has transformed the security situation in the Black Sea.

Upon capturing those territories, Moscow lost no time in seizing Ukrainian energy facilities in the Black Sea and accelerating its ongoing military modernization there. As a result, Moscow has built a combined arms force of land, sea, air, and electronic forces that NATO leaders admit is fully capable of denying access to NATO forces seeking to enter the Black Sea during a conflict. It has also deployed nuclear-capable weapons to the Black Sea area and is apparently building a similar network of anti-access area denial (A2/AD) capabilities against NATO in both the eastern Mediterranean around Syria and in the Caucasus.

Thus, as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has noted, Russia is well on its way to converting the Black Sea into a Russian lake, an outcome that endangers the security of all the states along the sea’s edges. Centuries of historical experience suggests that these threats will continue, along with increased efforts to intimidate these littoral states.

Romania, for example, is particularly concerned about threats to its energy platforms in the Black Sea, as well as about freedom of navigation there and control of the mouth of the Danube. Ukraine’s remaining port, Odesa, is at constant risk. Turkey is now surrounded to the north, south, and east by Russian troops in the Crimea, other areas in Ukraine, Syria, and the Caucasus. Since Romania and Bulgaria import Russian energy, and Turkey imports at least 60 percent of its gas from Russia, their vulnerabilities—along with Ukraine’s susceptibility to new and old threats—are quite visible.

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Germany has economic and political dominance in Europe, said Atlantic Council board member R. Nicholas Burns

In light of the British decision to leave the European Union, US President Barack Obama and his successor must forge a closer bond with Germany and shore up the “special relationship” with the United Kingdom, said R. Nicholas Burns, an Atlantic Council board director who served as under secretary of state for political affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

In a June 23 referendum, British voters favored the UK leaving the EU by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. The UK’s departure from the EU will open a dominant role for Germany in the bloc. Once the process of leaving is initiated, it may take up to two years for the UK to actually leave the EU.

“There is no question that Germany has become, and we all know it and see it, the dominant country in Europe economically and politically,” said Burns.

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After British voters approved a referendum to leave the EU on June 23, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze said: "We respect the British citizens' decision, but Ukraine feels sorry for these events. To my mind this will weaken the EU and it will have to concentrate on its own problems." 

The minister’s consternation and worries are right. For Ukrainians, the British vote is difficult to understand. They have fought and are still fighting for their “European choice.” Initially in a revolution, then in a highly intense hybrid war, and now in low-intensity warfare, they are defending their right to freely associate with and eventually join the EU.

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This time, Theo Sommer has outdone himself. After closing his eyes to the mass murders of the Soviet regime in an article published on May 31, the editor-at-large of Germany’s prestigious Die Zeit newspaper has now demonstrated in a just-published piece an alarming ignorance not just of Ukraine but of elementary strategic logic. The former is scandalous, given Ukraine’s prominence in the news. The latter is dangerous and could destroy Europe.

Sommer defends German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s recent claim that NATO has been engaging in “saber rattling and warmongering” vis-à-vis poor Vladimir Putin. Steinmeier’s alarming inability to distinguish between cause and effect—after all, it was Putin’s invasion of and continued aggression against Ukraine that terrified Russia’s neighbors and mobilized NATO—is either a serious cognitive failing or an instance of spineless appeasement.

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“David Cameron will go down as one of the most foolish prime ministers in British history. By placating populist sentiment and agreeing to hold a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union to manage tensions in his own Conservative Party, he has taken his country out of relevant international politics, forced himself out of a job, and perhaps permanently divided the Conservatives,” writes Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.

Read more: EU’s Salvation a Priority.

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“The British referendum has not turned out to be the final word. In both the United Kingdom and the EU, leaders are now pausing to consider their options. There is an unlikely, but possible, road toward reconciliation. But that reconciliation could come at a high cost, by encouraging other special deals and an erosion of the EU’s remaining coherence. Now is not the time for drift. If the EU is to reconnect with its citizens, it needs to be clear about its ambitions and vision. As European Council President Donald Tusk remarked June 24, ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,’” writes Fran Burwell, vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, at the Atlantic Council.

Read more: In Post-Brexit Era, a New Vision for the EU is Necessary.

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“In reality, the democratic deficit in the EU is not as much as it is often claimed. But in terms of perception, there is a very real sense that there is not adequate democracy in the EU. Correcting this perception and encouraging citizens to engage with the EU is one of the big challenges facing the Union in the future,” said Fran Burwell, vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, at the Atlantic Council.

Read more: EU ‘Must be More Transparent.’

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“It is clear that the European Union needs a huge transformation, and it especially needs a group of leaders that gives it a new direction,” said Andrea Montanino, director of the Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council.

Read more: EU Needs a ‘Huge Transformation.’

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“Brussels needs to address specific problems like its fiscal and monetary policies, whether austerity makes the most sense in certain countries, and how the migration issues will be addressed. One way or the other, the EU has to gain the confidence of the populace,” said Richard L. Morningstar, founding director and chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and a former US ambassador to the European Union.

Read more: Post-Brexit, Germany ‘Has to be Very Careful.’

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“The United Kingdom will emerge as the biggest loser from its voters’ decision to exit the European Union. The United States loses a useful ally in its dealings with the European bloc, but it has others. France and Russia benefit, while Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel will look increasingly vulnerable. Italy, Poland, and Spain have the opportunity to increase their influence within the EU, but are unlikely to seize it in the short term,” writes Ben Nimmo, information defense fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Read more: Brexit: Losers and Winners.

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“Europe and the United Kingdom are now in uncharted waters. The separation negotiations that lie ahead will be fraught. With French and German elections approaching, a concerted desire in Brussels to make the United Kingdom a cautionary example for other would-be exiters, and a significant amount of bad blood, a deal will not come easily,” said Ana Palacio, a former foreign minister of Spain.

Read more: Europe’s Soul-Searching Moment.

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“The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union will provide a massive boost to the isolationist, anti-immigrant, and eurosceptic policies of Europe’s far-right political parties,” writes Alina Polyakova, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.

Read more: Brexit a Boon for Europe’s Far-Right Populists.

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“[T]he biggest loser is Cameron; and British politics can be ruthless with losers. When Cameron promised a referendum in 2012, it was to settle a dispute within his own Conservative Party. He gambled, and lost; he campaigned, and lost. He has little or no credibility and may, as this writer fears, go down in history as the man whose decisions not only led to Brexit but to the breakup of the UK itself,” writes John M. Roberts, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and Global Energy Center.

Read more: The Disunited Kingdom.

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A vote by the British to leave the European Union should not be viewed as an isolated incident. It should, instead, set off alarm bells about the future of the European project.

Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States, described the outcome of the so-called Brexit referendum on June 23 as an “earthquake.”

“We have a lot of work to do in the United Kingdom in terms of limiting the damage and restoring the confidence” in the United Kingdom as being a good place to invest, Westmacott said in an Atlantic Council briefing.

Read more: Brexit: An ‘Earthquake’ in London.


A vote by the British to leave the European Union should not be viewed as an isolated incident. It should, instead, set off alarm bells about the future of the European project.

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to keep the United Kingdom in the EU was defeated by 52 percent to 48 percent despite overwhelming support from voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London. The United Kingdom must now negotiate its exit from the EU under the terms of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. These negotiations could last up to two years—thereby creating a period of uncertainty for global financial markets and political sentiment on the European continent.

Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States, described the outcome of the so-called Brexit referendum on June 23 as an “earthquake.”

“We have a lot of work to do in the United Kingdom in terms of limiting the damage and restoring the confidence” in the United Kingdom as being a good place to invest, he added.

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Boarding the Eurostar from Brussels to London on June 24, the British passengers still went through the “EU Members” line at passport control, while we Americans went through “All Other Passports”—for how much longer? Possibly, for quite some time, if some British leaders—including top campaigners to Leave—have their way. At the core of the issue is the need for the United Kingdom to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which governs how a member state leaves the EU. This obscure portion of EU legalese has now become central to a struggle between two views of Europe post-Brexit—a struggle that will play out over the next months and perhaps years.

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