The title of Sir Peter Westmacott’s new paper, Turkey’s European Journey, does not indicate where he thinks the country stands on that path, whether he believes Ankara is still headed toward Europe or whether it has turned off that road permanently. A conversation with Westmacott, a distinguished ambassadorial fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative who has served as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to France, Turkey, and the United States, sheds more light on how he sees Turkey’s current status under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Read More

On June 3, US Defense Secretary James Mattis stepped into the spotlight at Asia’s premier annual security gathering to reassure America’s Asian friends about our commitment to regional peace and prosperity. His remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore sent a much-needed message of commitment to a jittery region. But in the halls, questions lingered over the US administration’s broader Asia strategy and, specifically, its approach to economic engagement.

The Trump administration has distanced itself from its predecessor’s “rebalance” to Asia.  In the era of “America First,” what will replace it?  We have seen some hints about the US security role in Asia, but fewer details on trade and economics.

Read More

A resolution to the diplomatic fallout between Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will only come from the nations themselves, until which time the United States must avoid being dragged into the fray, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

Solutions “lie in the region,” and will only come about “when all… sides are tired of fighting” each other, said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. Meanwhile, the United States, navigating between allies on both sides of the conflict, must avoid being “caught in the firefight.”

Handjani joined Rachel Ansley, editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council, for a Facebook Live interview on June 14 to explain the implications of the rising tensions between Qatar and other GCC countries.

Read More

Even as US President Donald J. Trump touts the creation of coal jobs, 2016 energy trends indicate a sharp decline in the demand for coal worldwide, according to Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP.

Overall, according to Dale, these energy trends also indicate a plateau in carbon emissions. In fact, he added, despite Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord—a pact aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions—carbon emissions will steadily decrease thanks to strides made in the developing world toward renewable energy technologies.

The United States’ role in Paris was primarily one of leadership, “galvanizing the international community and bringing them to the table,” said Dale. While Washington’s decision to back away from that role will not have a major impact on the fight against climate change in terms of percentages of global greenhouse gas emissions, it could hinder the momentum of other signatories to the agreement, he said. 

Read More

If US President Donald J. Trump were to roll back engagement with Cuba it would chill US private sector investment, hurt Cuban entrepreneurs, and create an opportunity for Russia to assert itself on an island that lies merely ninety miles off the US coast, according to the Atlantic Council’s Jason Marczak, director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Trump is expected to announce changes to the United States’ Cuba policy on June 16. He is reportedly considering prohibiting business with Cuban companies that have ties to the military and tightening travel restrictions.

Under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, historic progress was made in the US-Cuba relationship, which had been frozen for more than fifty years. A diplomatic détente in the summer of 2015 was followed by both countries opening embassies in their respective capitals and a visit by Obama to Havana in March of 2016.

Now, that progress hangs in the balance.

Read More

Washington’s increased pressure on Tehran and a diplomatic crisis in the Middle East have created an “incredibly unpredictable” political playing field between two longstanding adversaries, according to a regional analyst.

“You can posit an array of catastrophic scenarios given the pace and intensity of frictions… between Iran, the United States, and other players,” said Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “The prospects of moving quickly up an escalatory ladder between the United States and Iran is extremely high.”

According to Amir Handjani, an Atlantic Council board member and senior fellow with the Council’s South Asia Center, recent events in the Middle East have further contributed to Washington and Tehran’s “very dangerous” perception of each other as destabilizing forces in the region.

Read More

In his brief time in the White House, US President Donald J. Trump has made a point of bestowing praise on the world’s leading autocrats. He repeatedly called Vladimir Putin a “strong leader,” described Xi Jinping as “a very good man,” said Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was doing a “fantastic job,” and lauded Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his triumph in a referendum that greatly expanded his presidential powers.

Trump’s new friends represent a rogues’ gallery of modern authoritarians.  These 21st-century strongmen are responsible for introducing an arsenal of new tactics to use against their domestic opponents, and have gone on the offensive in an effort to subvert and replace the liberal international order.

But modern authoritarian systems are not simply adversaries of free societies. They also represent an alternative model—a nuanced system anchored in regime control of government policy, the political message, the economy, and the organs of repression and a steadfast hostility to free expression, honest government, and pluralism. 

Read More

The Arab world is in a sorry state. The spat between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Qatar is but the latest symptom of an enduring serious rot in governance and a destructive power struggle in the wake of the Arab Spring. This situation is compounded by a lack of constructive dialogue on addressing the challenges that face most countries of the region.

Qatar’s excommunication from the GCC is the latest schism to hit what has seemed, at least since 2011, to be a stable and unified bloc. On June 5, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off air, land, and sea transportation links. On the surface, it appeared that Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism was at the heart of the dispute. Certainly, US President Donald J. Trump’s tweet, sympathizing with the action taken against Qatar, implied that this was his understanding. It took reminders from the Pentagon and the US State Department of US national interests in Qatar and its strategic interest in Gulf stability to get Trump to pull back on his original impulse to take sides and instead advise Saudi King Salman to seek unity and harmony within the GCC rather than allow a dangerous escalation in rancor.

Read More

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on June 5 affirmed the United States’ commitment to the Alliance’s collective defense provisions, a commitment US President Donald J. Trump publicly and controversially omitted making at a meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels in May.

In a Facebook Live interview with Damon Wilson, executive vice president for programs and strategy at the Atlantic Council, Stoltenberg said that in his meetings with Trump, the US president had affirmed his “commitment to NATO.”

“There’s no way to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5,” Stoltenberg said, referring to the article of NATO’s founding treaty that deals with collective defense.

Read More

As people in Europe and the United States express their growing skepticism of the value of international cooperation, the notion of a “liberal world order,” or the “free world,” is at risk of dissolving, according to Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.

Fried joined Alina Polyakova, director of research for Europe and Eurasia at the Atlantic Council, for a Facebook Live interview on June 6 to explain the importance of securing today’s international order against a number of social, political, and economic threats. Fried’s new report, The Free World, calls for US re-engagement with allies under stronger, value-based leadership, an approach which is not sacrificial and will ultimately benefit the United States.

Read More