US Ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, cites need to move quickly on achieving an accord acceptable to all sides

Two ground realities in Colombia—former guerrillas gathered in remote rural cantonments with scarce infrastructure and nationwide elections in the spring of 2018—make it imperative that a peace agreement that is acceptable to all sides is quickly found, according to Kevin Whitaker, the United States’ ambassador to Colombia.

On October 2, Colombians narrowly rejected the peace accord reached by their president, Juan Manuel Santos, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) following six years of negotiations.

Polls preceding the plebiscite consistently and confidently predicted a triumph for the “yes” camp in support of the accord. In anticipation of such an outcome, FARC guerillas started to gather in cantonments—isolated rural communities with little infrastructure—as agreed to in the accord. There they would lay down their weapons and prepare for lives as civilians. Now, much like the peace deal, the lives of these people are in limbo.

“Over time, it is difficult to maintain people in these rural settings without a lot of support structure around them,” Whitaker said in an interview. “The time pressure is there for everyone.”

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Russia’s decision to go ahead with Turkish Stream, an offshore pipeline that will bring Russian gas to Turkey, cements its dominance of the Turkish gas market.

In political terms, the revival of Turkish Stream—or TurkStream as Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, now terms the project—epitomizes the entente developing between Moscow and Ankara, a relationship that is of crucial importance given their differences in recent years, particularly over the war in Syria.

In strictly practical terms, however, TurkStream ensures that Russia will maintain its grip on the Turkish gas market. The project’s success will send a signal that Russia is still looking to find a way to supply gas to customers in Southern Europe that—if and when it stops using Ukraine as a supply route—it may not be able to reach by way of its controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline across the Baltic Sea.

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The Case for Smarter Sanctions on Russia

What should be done about an increasingly aggressive Russia? The past few weeks have brought more evidence of Moscow’s moves away from international norms and law. From continued denials of complicity in the MH17 tragedy and the bombing of a humanitarian convoy in Syria, to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent exit from the Nuclear Security Pact with the United States, Russia’s behavior is diverging further from the rules-based consensus of the post-Cold War world. This is in spite of Western sanctions that were introduced against Moscow in 2014.

Indeed, these moderate limitations on selling certain goods and services to Russia as well as on the freedom of movement of some Russians seem to have emboldened Putin. With a new debate underway in the EU and United States on the future of the sanctions regime, there may now be a window of opportunity for significantly expanding economic measures, including financial or personal sanctions, in order to bring Russia back from the brink of military escalation. The West has powerful non-military tools for dealing with a belligerent Russia, given Moscow’s high reliance on energy exports. But increased sanctions need to be predicated on a clear metric of what they are intended to achieve.

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An attempt is underway in the Ukrainian parliament to deprive the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) of its independence and oust its governor, Valeriya Hontareva. This would be a major reversal of Ukraine’s economic reforms and must be stopped.

In the last two years, Ukraine has carried out its most fundamental economic reforms since its independence in 1991. NBU has been a driving force in this reform wave. Since June 2014, Hontareva has led the bank, and hardly anybody has done more for economic reform than she. Focus magazine recently named her the most influential woman in Ukraine.

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Developing countries need a concrete strategy, backed by political will, that is focused on using clean energy for growth, according to a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. 

As the date on which the Paris climate agreement goes into effect draws near and participating countries begin to take steps toward implementing their goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Robert F. Ichord, Jr. sought to “emphasize the key role that developing countries will play in the future of the energy matrix in the world, and [how] that’s going to have profound implications for Paris.” He said “80 to 90 percent of energy growth is going to be in these countries.” 

However, Ichord, who formerly served as the deputy assistant secretary for energy transformation in the State Department’s bureau of energy resources, added that these countries are “going to need huge amounts of energy if they’re going to develop, and that energy needs to be clean and efficient.”

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The presidential debate on October 19 was the final one between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump before election day. Historically, the third debate is heavily focused on foreign policy, while the first two are dominated by domestic issues. Other than a few mentions of China, the military campaign to take Mosul back from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), NATO member states’ defense commitments, and Russia’s meddling in the election, foreign policy did not come up very often.

For the Strategy Consortium, led by the Atlantic Council, this was disappointing. The Consortium promotes an “ecosystem” of strategic thinkers from the think tank, corporate, government, and academic worlds who collaborate on strategic foresight, strategy development, and strategic implementation.

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In an election season marred by cyberattacks—an activity the White House has blamed on Russia—the security of voting machines is a prominent concern for voters.  Such concerns could undermine voters’ faith in the system as well as the legitimacy of the result of the presidential election, the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Chiu said in Washington on October 19.

“Hackers may not even need to actually compromise voting computers or systems to undermine the people’s trust in the election results,” said Chiu, who is director of the Strategy Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “[M]erely a credible claim of doing so could compel voters to cry foul, undermining the legitimacy of the vote, at home in the United States, and abroad,” he added.

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When does a Russian warlord become a “pro-Russian separatist?” Newsrooms around the world may want to ask themselves this question following Russian militant leader Arsen Pavlov’s assassination in Donetsk in mid-October. In the wake of the killing, one news report after another ran with headlines referring to Pavlov as a pro-Russian separatist leader, creating the impression of a Russia-leaning local who was defending his democratic rights by force of arms.

In reality, Pavlov was much more than simply “pro-Russian.” He was an actual Russian. This is not a matter of mere semantics—it is the crux of the entire conflict. Pavlov was one of tens of thousands of Russian citizens who have traveled to neighboring Ukraine in order to wage war. The forces Russia has deployed for this purpose include a mixture of regular army troops without insignia (“little green men”), paramilitaries drawn from Russian army veterans, Russian nationalists, common criminals, and local recruits. Together, they form a hybrid army of occupation that is larger than the armed forces of all but a handful of European states. Describing such people as "pro-Russian” is clearly absurd, and yet it continues. By almost any rational measure, Pavlov’s nationality should have been central to the international media coverage of his demise. Instead, in most reports it appeared as a mere footnote.

The media response to the death of Pavlov has highlighted the problems international reporters continue to face when covering events in Ukraine.

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The United States and Europe have entered a “dark period” of Islamophobia, and no easy solutions are at hand, panelists contended in a discussion at the Atlantic Council in Washington on October 20.

In the wake of deadly attacks by sympathizers of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino, hate crimes against Muslims in the West have soared to levels last seen in the period after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

The Atlantic Council and the Aydın Doğan Foundation jointly hosted a panel discussion in Washington to discuss the challenge of Islamophobia and to seek solutions to counter the spreading sentiments. The event was convened ahead of the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibition on “The Art of the Quran,” which opens on October 22.

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This week’s meeting in Paris of the Normandy Four is a critical one. If there is no measurable progress there to advance a framework for peace in Ukraine, public sentiment that Minsk is exhausted as a peace process will only grow. (Editor’s note: On October 19, 2016, France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine agreed to a preliminary roadmap for implementing the Minsk ceasefire agreement.)

The recent resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has prioritized security before elections in Ukraine—a major diplomatic breakthrough that needs to be consolidated in Paris. If the Normandy Four process cannot deliver provisions that stabilize the security situation, Ukraine risks being locked into Russia’s war of attrition. Russia’s strategy is to grind Ukraine to the point of collapse through a persistent loss of resources and public support, eventually bearing out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s view that Ukraine cannot govern itself.

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