The national security challenge posed in the Arctic by the growing presence of Russia and China as well as climate change makes it imperative for the United States to develop the strategic infrastructure needed to play a key leadership role, while maintaining safety and security in the region, said a senior White House official.

According to Amy Pope, deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to US President Barack Obama at the National Security Council, “it was clear that with a rapidly changing climate we needed to put in a leadership structure to guide US activity in the region.” The United States must prepare to engage other countries in a coordinated way in the region, she said at the Atlantic Council on October 25.

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In December 2015, the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International warned that Ukraine’s defense sector faces “a high risk of corruption.” TI named the country’s opaque procurement process as the highest-risk area for corruption. Assessing the defense spheres of NATO members and partner states, TI gave Ukraine a D on an A to F scale, primarily for its lack of transparency.

Fortunately, this problem has not gone unaddressed. At the behest of the Ukrainian government, the RAND Corporation studied Ukraine’s defense sector. Its findings, “Security Sector Reform of Ukraine,” were issued a year ago but published only recently. In response, this summer the Ukrainian government adopted a comprehensive reform program for the defense and security sector, the Strategic Defense Bulletin. Relying mostly on the recommendations presented in the RAND study, the document is a road map for the defense sector’s overhaul, covering the overall architecture of the security sector, the structure of defense institutions, the use of resources, cybersecurity, and cooperation with global partners. The bulletin is in line with NATO standards, and received positive feedback at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July.

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The most disputed point about the Minsk agreements has been whether to hold local elections in the Donbas before Ukraine regains control of its border with Russia, or after. Ukraine has insisted that security and the return of the border should precede elections, while pro-Russian separatists and Moscow have been pushing for the opposite, as agreed to in Minsk. At the time of Minsk II, Kyiv found itself at a disadvantage in the negotiations since it had been enduring an offensive on the city of Debaltseve and suffered an assault on Mariupol.

Russia has been violating the terms of Minsk, which led Kyiv to postpone constitutional reform and argue for the reverse sequence: security and border control first, then local elections.

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In the rush to produce cost-effective connected devices, not enough focus has been placed on security measures. The cost of such inattention became evident on October 21 when hackers exploited vulnerabilities in hundreds of thousands of everyday devices, including baby monitors and cameras, to cripple the Internet. This attack was merely a sign of things to come, said a cybersecurity expert at the Atlantic Council.

“This [cyberattack] is essentially in part fueled because the economics are such that we want these technologies, we want them fast to market, we want them inexpensive, so many of these devices have incredibly low margins, [and] have no security [measures],” said Joshua Corman, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.

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Health care in Ukraine has not worked in the past—not for hospitals, clinics, doctors or nurses, and most important, not for the Ukrainian people, regardless of where they live or work, unless they are fortunate enough to pay under the table to receive the most basic care.

Entrenched, bureaucratic, and corrupt interests, wielding a combination of bribes, private pharmaceutical deals, and indifference, contribute to a system in which the public’s basic health needs are unmet. The result is relatively high levels of disease and injury compared to former communist Central European countries and the industrialized West. A system perceived as providing free health care is, in fact, underfinanced by the state and is not at all free for those who desire sustained treatment for illness and injury.

In the past, the Ministry of Health has been seen as complicit with this broken health care system: at best, looking the other way to ignore inefficiency and corruption; at worst, participating in the system’s incompetence and lack of results.

But change is already underway.

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Tensions between the United States and the Philippines—a former US colony with which Washington has had a mutual defense treaty since 1951—have put a question mark over the future of the relationship and are being watched warily by countries in the Asia-Pacific.

Noting that the US-Philippines treaty alliance has been a “foundation for stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region,” Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow for technology and national security in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said: “Many other countries in Asia, especially those fearful of Chinese aggression, are watching what happens in the Philippines and looking at how that might change the balance of power in the South China Sea.”

“For countries like Vietnam, that are for good reason extremely fearful of China’s behavior, Philippines’ actions could well encourage them to strengthen their relationship with the United States as a way of rebalancing Asia,” he added.

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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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