New Atlanticist

Breedlove, Ghani, Hewson, and Keith receive Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Award

What do Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Ashraf Ghani, Marillyn A. Hewson, and Toby Keith have in common? The answer to that question is probably: not much. That was until all four were honored with the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Award at a glittering ceremony April 30 at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Washington.

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A Brazilian woman trying to interest her fellow citizens in municipal politics joined a State Department official, a Pentagon strategist, and the publisher of Foreign Policy magazine April 30 for an Atlantic Council discussion titled “Imagining Solutions.”

The lively discussion—covering topics from Rio de Janeiro’s impoverished favelas to the worldwide explosion in smartphones—marked the last of four sessions comprising the two-day Global Strategy Forum sponsored by the Strategy Initiative of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

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The Washington establishment is unprepared for the technological and geopolitical risks of the future, America is losing influence around the world—and while the United States is still indispensable as a superpower, there’s debate on whether it ought to remain so.

These are among the takeaways from the Atlantic Council’s Global Strategy Forum held April 29-30 in Washington, as seen by Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe.

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Analysts debate US role in the face of global challenges

President Bill Clinton, speaking in 1996 on the US-backed NATO military intervention in Bosnia, described the United States as an “indispensable nation.”

Scholars debated that premise April 30 at the Global Strategy Forum hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Strategy Initiative in Washington.

Xenia Wickett, Dean of Chatham House’s Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs, defended the premise, while Christopher A. Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the CATO Institute, took an opposing view.

Yet Wickett and Preble often found themselves agreeing with each other.

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Panel discusses ‘power of narrative’ in getting message across on important issues and preparing for future challenges

Do you care much about climate change? How about the fate of polar bears gingerly making their way across thinning Arctic ice? Most people would probably care a lot more if they heard how dramatic temperature spikes and rising sea levels would disrupt their own lives, panelists said April 29 at the Atlantic Council.

In discussions on the consequences of climate change, “the vast majority of what we are talking about are things that are down the road … Americans just don’t think that way,” said Heather Zichal, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. “They [want to know] ‘What’s happening in my backyard? How am I going to get my kids to school?’”

She added: “As much as you can localize the message, the better off you are. Nobody in Iowa is worried about polar bear habitats, but when it comes to growing seasons and extreme drought and extreme flooding, that is something that is on everybody’s radar.”

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Tiny robots that can predict the exact fruit yield of apple trees while helping farmers cut water usage. Drone swarms which respond to 911 emergency calls without risking human lives. Genetically modified humans free of dozens of diseases that once killed millions.

Science fiction? Maybe, but not for long, say two scholars who spoke April 29 at the Atlantic Council’s Global Strategy Forum. The two-day event featured Vijay Kumar, UPS Foundation Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jamie Metzl, a Nonresident Fellow at the council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

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The Ukrainian army faces growing criticism from within its ranks after humiliating defeats at Debaltseve and Ilovaisk in eastern Ukraine. When fighting broke out between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, the Ukrainian military was weak and the state had to rely on volunteers. Of the fifty thousand Ukrainian troops in the field, 22 percent are loyal to volunteer battalions, according to one estimate. Now the Ukrainian government must address an inconvenient and pressing question that it has studiously ignored: how to integrate the more than seventy-nine semi-autonomous volunteer battalions into the military. The necessity to integrate the battalions goes beyond military necessity; this issue strikes at the heart of reform in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. The business as usual mixture of violence and politics can no longer be tolerated if the Ukrainian government has any hopes of reforming existing power structures.

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Ian Brzezinski: Our policy “conveys hesitancy and a lack of unity and determination. It has failed to convince Putin to reverse course. Indeed, it may have actually emboldened him.”   

The West's current strategy toward Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine not only promises continued conflict in Ukraine but also poses an increased danger of wider war, the Atlantic Council's Ian Brzezinski told the US Senate this week.

If the West holds to its current course, Ukraine is likely in the next six to eighteen months to lose more territory and see an even weaker economy, while Russia's economy will likely be only somewhat weaker and its leaders marginally more isolated, Brzezinski, a Resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said April 28 in testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

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Atlantic Council report suggests more US support for ‘nationalist opposition’ in Syria

Iran has fueled the war in Syria by providing a steady stream of assistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but his regime is gradually losing control, says Robert S. Ford, a former US Ambassador to Syria.

“I think we would have been able to get to a negotiation a long time ago if the Iranians had not provided so much assistance, which enabled the hardliners inside the Syrian regime to reject any negotiation,” Ford said April 28 at the Atlantic Council.

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It was Friday afternoon and as I was getting ready for the weekend, news broke that Sabeen Mahmud, director of The Second Floor (T2F), had been shot dead in Karachi. Even after reading it a few times, it just did not sink in. I stared blankly.

The death of Pakistan’s leading human-rights activist is a symptom of Pakistan’s larger problem. Authorities have already banned YouTube and are now censoring Twitter. One by one, Pakistan’s alternative voices are being silenced and avenues being shut down.

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