New Atlanticist

Wilson: Only the US Can Lead in Defending Europe Against Putin’s Rising Ambition


The United States and its allies must confront the aggressive actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin because failing to do so will escalate his ambitions—perhaps to the point of forcing a war with NATO, the Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson told the US Senate this week.

And the United States must lead, because no European country is strong enough to do so against a Kremlin that increasingly targets not just Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbors but the democracy and unity of Europe, Wilson said. The US government should galvanize a strategy including tightened economic sanctions on Russia, arms supplies for Ukraine’s defense, and a financial commitment similar to those for other major crises such as the Ebola outbreak and the ISIS war in the Middle East, he said.

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Burns: Give Arms to Ukraine, More NATO Cover to Baltics—and Leadership for Europe


President Barack Obama has given space for Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to lead recently in the Western response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. But it's now time for the US president to take the reins back, writes former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

The evidence is in the results of the cease-fire deal that Chancellor Merkel led in negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin promptly violated this second truce, as he did the first one, five months earlier. Again, he used the "cease-fire" as cover to seize new territory with his proxy forces in Donbas. With Ukraine’s courageous, half-equipped, patched-together army bloodied and short on essential weaponry, the way is open for the next Russian offensive.

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Erdogan
Turkey today appears more unsettled than at any time since the Justice and Development (AK) Party came to power in late 2002.  The difficulties it faces now differ substantially from those during previous periods of discord, such as the Gezi Park-related protests in May-June 2013 or when the military intervened in the 2007 presidential election.

Political divisions at the top are key drivers of today’s uncertainty, and they include acrimony among party leaders, frictions created by institutional and government changes, and impending personnel turnover.  Bickering over monetary policy not only reveals disunity, but also undermines the economic success that has greatly bolstered the party’s fortunes at the polls.  Regional and international risks round out the picture.  While no one doubts that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will remain Turkey’s head of state, and that the AK Party he founded will remain in power, the country’s ride over the coming year will be a rough one.

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Rivals and international community lack political will to end crisis, says Atlantic Council’s Pham

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar failed to resolve their differences by the March 5 deadline not only because they lack the political will to do so, but also because the international community lacks the will to make them, says J. Peter Pham, the Atlantic Council’s lead Africa analyst.

Kiir and Machar signed a ceasefire deal in February that was intended to be a step toward a power-sharing agreement.

The two sides faced a March 5 deadline to work out the details of that agreement, which was supposed to pave the way for setting up a transitional government. The deadline passed with no deal. The talks have now been indefinitely extended.

“The whole agreement was nothing more than kicking the can down the road. Well, we’ve reached the end of the road and now they’re going to try to kick it farther,” Pham, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, said in an interview with the New Atlanticist.

“At the end of the day, there is no political will,” he added.

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Did NATO Provoke a War By Trying to ‘Take’ Ukraine From Russia?


Much Western thinking about the causes of the Russo-Ukrainian War is rooted in a myth. It posits that the West—or, more specifically, NATO—attempted to wrest Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence, thereby forcing Vladimir Putin to defend Russia’s legitimate strategic interests by going to war with Ukraine.

The logic is impeccable. The only problem is that there isn’t a shred of truth to this claim.

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For those of us old enough to recall the Vietnam War, fact and reality were obscured and mangled by successive White Houses anxious to reach the delusional “light at the end of the tunnel.” Tragically, at the end of the tunnel lay a quagmire that consumed 58,000 American and countless Vietnamese lives. In the highly complex and complicated fight against the Islamic State (IS), are fact and reality similarly being distorted or ignored by the White House either because of lack of understanding of the conflict or other human error and misjudgment?

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Khalifa Hafter

Atlantic Council analyst says ISIS threat must galvanize political foes

Rival factions in Libya must come together for talks in Morocco this week to take on the threat posed by an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), says Atlantic Council analyst Fadel Lamen.

An ISIS affiliate has exploited the political and security vacuum in Libya by putting down roots in the eastern part of the country.

In January, ISIS-affiliated militants attacked Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel. They shocked the world in February by beheading twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya.

“This should galvanize everybody to come together to fight an existential threat,” Lamen, who is a Nonresident Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said in an interview.

Lamen will participate in the talks in Morocco on March 5 as a civil society representative and Chairman of the National Dialogue Commission.

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Atlantic Council analyst says US, NATO lack adequate nuclear deterrence policy

The United States and NATO lack an adequate nuclear deterrence policy even as Russia has put the nuclear option at the center of its national security strategy, according to Atlantic Council analyst Matthew Kroenig.

“NATO should strengthen its nuclear declaratory policy and develop new, more tailored nuclear capabilities to provide a credible response to a limited Russian nuclear strike,” Kroenig, a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said in an interview.

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John Allen

US envoy says officials in West, Middle East, and Southeast Asia are worried about growing threat

Officials in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia worry about the threat posed by affiliates of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and their potential to inspire foreign fighters, says retired Gen John Allen, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

These officials are concerned that besides destabilizing their home countries, the foreign fighters could help ISIL replenish its ranks, Allen said at a March 2 event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

The United States is focused on these concerns, and the 62-member coalition of nations and international organizations to fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria must decide how it will respond to this emerging threat, Allen said.

“The challenge that has been evolving over the last several months has been the emergence of organizations outside … Iraq and Syria. Those organizations, which have put their hand in the air ultimately to become affiliated with or to join the ISIL movement, [are] something that we are watching very carefully and very closely,” Allen said.

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For Long-Term Security, EU Should Push Moscow to Obey Rules and Kyiv to Reform Gas Sector


By brokering a March 2 interim gas deal between Ukraine and Russia, the European Union helped avert a wintertime cutoff of gas to Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Russia had threatened to halt supplies to Ukraine in the two countries’ dispute over prices and payments for Russia’ gas. The deal, in Brussels, came as Ukraine’s parliament passed one of several difficult reform laws that could help the longer-term energy security of both the country and Europe, analysts say.

Europe is at risk of Russian gas cutoffs because almost 15 percent of its total gas needs arrive from Russia via pipelines across Ukraine. But the EU can take a simple step to reduce its dangerous dependence on Russia’s good will in delivering gas to Ukraine, write two Canadian economists. EU leaders should begin building a more flexible, stable gas market in Europe by forcing the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, to remove a clause in its contracts that forbid European countries from swapping around volumes of gas bought initially from Russia.

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