The downing of a Russian SU-24 fighter jet by Turkey after it violated Turkish airspace and ignored ten warnings exemplifies the danger of Russian military support for Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad. But it will also complicate French President François Hollande’s quest to include Moscow in a unified coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Hollande, who has taken on the mantle of a wartime leader following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, met US President Barack Obama at the White House on Nov. 24 in a diplomatic effort aimed at building an all-inclusive coalition. He will also meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week.

Hollande has said he will urge Russia to focus its attention on fighting ISIS instead of propping up the Assad regime. But at least one member of the US-led coalition will resist a Russian role in the grouping.

“On the Turkish side, there is no appetite for greater coalition-Russian cooperation vis-a-vis the Islamic State inside Syria,” said Aaron Stein, Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Read More

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Paris, President François Hollande has called for Russian and American cooperation against ISIS, joining many other policymakers who have voiced the need for cooperation between Russian and American intelligence agencies against Islamic terrorism. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his generals to treat French forces as "allies." On November 20, Russia was uncharacteristically helpful, backing France's UN Security Council resolution, which urges countries to take "all necessary measures" against ISIS. The Russian defense ministry posted a video showing Russian pilots writing "For Paris" on bombs intended for Syria.

But before any such cooperation becomes a reality, it is important to think seriously about whether it is merited. And once we examine Russia's actual record concerning terrorism, the basis for such cooperation evaporates.

Read More

The shoot-down by Turkish fighters of a Russian warplane in Turkish airspace is an event of major significance in Syria, Ukraine, and beyond. 

The savage attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Paris on Nov. 13 has prompted French President François Hollande to seek a grand coalition with the United States and Russia against ISIS. The downing of the Russian jet, in or (if one accepts the Kremlin version) near Turkish airspace and over Syrian territory without any ISIS presence is a reminder that Moscow’s military effort in Syria has been devoted principally to 1) attacking opposition groups backed by the West, and 2) embarrassing NATO (with at least two prior incursions into Turkish airspace acknowledged by Moscow). 

Read More

As cities finished counting the votes from Ukraine's second round of mayoral elections, Mariupol and Krasnoarmiisk in the Donetsk region still haven't held elections. Mariupol, which over the last nineteen months has been a strategic target of pro-Russian separatists, has become a political battleground. Local elections that were supposed to take place on October 25 were canceled, officially because of "the improper preparation of election ballots, the absence of control over their printing and number, and lack of reliable storage." However, the events that led to their cancellation appear to be more political than procedural. Mariupol volunteers and activists blocked possible election fraud by the Opposition Bloc—a party born from the ashes of former President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions. Continuing manipulation and the recent escalation in violence threaten to again disrupt the elections scheduled for November 29.

Read More

The Atlantic Council’s Peter Schechter discusses the implications of Argentina’s presidential election

Mauricio Macri, the conservative Mayor of Buenos Aires, ended more than a decade of Peronist party rule in Argentina when he defeated Daniel Scioli in a hard-fought runoff election on Nov. 23.

Macri has promised to roll back President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s economic policies that have shut Argentina out of international credit markets and undermined its economic security.

His victory also presents an opportunity to mend ties between Buenos Aires and Washington that have grown frosty on Fernández de Kirchner’s watch.

Peter Schechter, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, discusses the implications of Macri’s election victory in an interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our interview:

Read More

On Nov. 23, 1944, the British Prime Minister made his way to the Royal Albert Hall where the American community in London was commemorating Thanksgiving. It’s not clear whether Winston Churchill invited himself or if his remarks were planned. In any case, his presence was an inspiring surprise for the audience. He spoke for a few minutes without notes. His memorable statement is best absorbed by listening to the somewhat haunting partial recording.

By the winter of 1944, Churchill foresaw that the Allies were going to prevail in the war in Europe and in the Pacific. That year had seen the D-Day invasion of France as well as the bloody battles of Mariana and Palau that had pushed the Japanese towards defeat. In a line that elicited spontaneous applause, Churchill recognized the “sober fact” that in three or four years, the United States had become the greatest military power in the world, and that that “is itself a subject of profound thanksgiving.”

Read More

Reviving the economy will be top priority for Argentina’s new President, says Atlantic Council’s Jason Marczak

Argentina’s President-elect, Mauricio Macri, will inherit an economy that is “in serious need of revival,” said Jason Marczak, Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Macri, who defeated his main rival Daniel Scioli in the Nov. 22 runoff election by less than three percentage points, has vowed a 180-degree turn on his predecessor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s economic policies.

Read More

A month and a half ago, while traveling along the frontlines of eastern Ukraine, I predicted that the Minsk II ceasefire agreements would not be respected by the Kremlin and its puppet Peoples' Republics. It was clear to me—in spite of a tentative ceasefire put in place on October 2—that the situation in the Donbas would continue to deteriorate.

Unfortunately, my projections were right. Fighting has flared up again. Over the last three weeks, Ukrainian field commanders, humanitarian volunteers, and local journalists told me that the Russia-backed fighters have been engaging in provocative shootings from mortars, heavy machine guns, automatic weapons, and snipers, and that these have become a regular occurrence along the entire frontline. On several occasions, the separatists have even brazenly launched full-fledged frontal assaults on Ukrainian positions. Saboteurs have crossed into territory controlled by Ukrainian forces to place anti-personnel mines. Reconnaissance groups and drones have become regular features, collecting tactical information. The Kremlin continues to provide large quantities of weapons, ammunition, equipment, and supplies to the separatists, while Russian military specialists are training the so-called rebels and mercenaries, thus transforming these rag-tag formations into a regular fighting force. Consequently, Ukrainian casualties are mounting and their frequency is rising.

Read More

Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley criticize efforts to keep out Syrian migrants

The terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 have produced an alarming anti-migrant backlash in the United States.

Republican presidential frontrunner Ben Carson has compared migrants fleeing the war in Syria to dogs.

Another Republican presidential contender, Donald Trump, said he would support setting up a database to track Muslim Americans.

Two other Republican presidential hopefuls, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, want to put the focus on helping Christian migrants.

And in Congress, Republicans and Democratic representatives have joined forces to pass a bill that would require all Syrian and Iraqi refugees to be personally vouched for by top US officials — a proposal which the FBI is calling “impossible.”

Two former senior US officials have lashed out at what they described as “demagogic” sentiment toward the migrants.

Read More

Deputy Secretary of State Blinken says Moscow realizes it cannot sustain costs and risks of intervention

Russian intervention in Syria has improved the prospects of a political transition in Damascus because Moscow “cannot risk the growing costs of its actions,” US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Istanbul on Nov. 20.

Differences between the United States and Russia over the political fate of Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad have been a key sticking point in efforts to end the war, now in its fifth year. The Obama administration insists Assad cannot be part of a solution. Russian President Vladimir Putin disagrees.

“Real differences remain, especially concerning Assad’s future, but the prospects for a political transition are better than they have been in a long time, and, ironically, part of the reason for this is Russia’s … intervention — to hold onto its sole foothold in the Middle East, the Assad regime,” Blinken said in his keynote address on the final day of the Atlantic Council’s seventh annual Energy & Economic Summit in Istanbul.

Read More