Last summer, US President Donald J. Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it endangered the United States. A few months later, he derided North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Little Rocket Man” and said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was wasting his time attempting to negotiate with the regime in Pyongyang. Kim in turn threatened the United States noting in his new year’s day speech that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk and is ready to use it. Trump shot off a provocative tweet about the size of his own nuclear button, which he said was “much bigger and more powerful” than Kim’s.

In the backdrop of this war of words, North Korea conducted a series of missile tests, and even one nuclear test, while the United States led the international community in imposing unprecedented comprehensive sanctions on Kim’s regime. These sanctions aim to choke off the financing and fuel that have kept Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions alive.

All this led to the surprise announcement on March 8 that Trump has accepted an invitation to meet Kim in May.

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While #MeToo was born in the United States, it quickly sparked a sister movement in Europe, #MeTooEU. Brussels was shocked by the outpouring of stories of abuse and aggression against women—predominantly emanating out of the European Parliament—and the apathy with which their complaints had been handled through official channels. On this International Women's Day, there is a lot of talk about changing this unacceptable situation.

Looking back at what she calls “terrible developments” over the past twelve months, the European Council's Gender Equality Adviser Cristina Gallach is definitely a glass-half-full feminist. She believes women in the European Union (EU) are in a better place today than a year ago.

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While the influence of Russian disinformation in democratic processes featured prominently in conversations surrounding major election cycles in Europe throughout 2017-2018, another region, further from the Kremlin’s backyard, now faces its own fight against false narratives.

In Latin America, a region that will see three major elections in 2018, the concept of fake news has become a significant concern for policymakers and civil society groups alike. Ahead of elections in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, false narratives spread in the news and on social media are now constructed for two purposes: 1) to disseminate lies and 2) to create deep uncertainty or suspicion.

As was seen in the build-up to European elections, these narratives are designed by malign actors to influence the outcome of an election in such a way as sews discord and damages faith in democracy. 

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Ethiopia this week to underscore US support for a crucial partner that finds itself in a crisis.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned unexpectedly on February 15 in the wake of violent anti-government protests. The government then imposed a nationwide state of emergency that lawmakers endorsed earlier in March.

While Tillerson urged Ethiopian citizens to be patient with their government and refrain from violence, he also unequivocally condemned the state of emergency.

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Last week, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Zeljana Zovko appealed through the Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist blog to the US administration for greater engagement on the politically contentious issue of electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as closed-door negotiations between political parties continue. As a former BiH diplomat and an elected MEP from the Croatian wing of a BiH party that is at the core of the negotiation process, Zovko has put forward this party’s political argument for the further ethnicization of the electoral system.

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Germany may have gained a grand coalition this week, but it lost one of the champions of its clean energy transition—the Energiewende—with the resignation of former State Secretary for Energy Rainer Baake.

The Grand Coalition between Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party  (SPD) was approved by the SPD voters by a margin of 64 to 34 percent on March 4. While this enabled the formation of a new government, after six months of waiting for a governing coalition to be formed, it also spelled the end of Baake’s four-year tenure because he is a member of the Green Party, not included in the coalition. The now-former state secretary—often referred to as Mr. Energiewende—submitted his letter of resignation, calling the new governing coalition’s energy and climate aims, or lack thereof, a “bitter disappointment.”

In his letter to the incoming Altmaier, Baake expressed disappointment with the absence of climate goals in the coalition agreement, based on the decision by CDU and SPD negotiators to essentially drop Germany’s 2020 emissions reduction goals, which the country is widely expected to miss.

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Now that the new German government has been approved by the political parties and can finally begin work, it is time for Angela Merkel to think about her own agenda for the next few years.

At the start of her fourth—and presumably last—term as chancellor, she is politically weaker than she has been before, and thus must save her energy and influence for a few key issues. Merkel should never be underestimated—she is a survivor and could yet see reinvigorated public support and renewed political power. But the logical choice right now is for her to focus on issues that will build her legacy in Germany, in Europe, and in the world, including the transatlantic partnership.

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Any US or European response to the ongoing issue of disinformation must not exploit the openness of a democratic society, but work within its boundaries to ensure transparency of information, according to the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried.

“We have to fight disinformation within the norms of our government,” said Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center. Though the United States and its European allies must take important steps to counter Russian actors meddling in future elections, according to Fried, “we don’t have to become them in order to fight them.”

“The solution to this problem is going to look nothing like the problem itself,” said Jonathan Henick, deputy director of the Global Engagement Center at the US Department of State. Rather than turn the Kremlin’s subversive tactics against it, he said: “We are going to need to be much more creative in how to address this problem, and it’s not going to involve troll farms.”

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Italy’s March 5 parliamentary election, in which anti-establishment parties won half of the vote, has caused a political earthquake with the potential to reshape Italy, Europe’s future, and even how populism impacts democracy. 

Traditional political forces on the left and center are foundering. What will take their place remains to be seen both within Italy and in Europe as a whole, which remains split between its “Franco-German liberal democratic core” and illiberal democratic regimes in Hungary, Poland, and now potentially Italy.

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Prior to nationwide elections on March 4, @DFRLab published analysis outlining the complex relations between Italian political parties and the Kremlin. In the wake of foreign interference in domestic elections across Europe and the United States, a pressing debate continued over how these relations may have impacted Italy’s nationwide vote.

However, links between political actors are not the only channel through which foreign influence can potentially spread. The internet offers a new environment of less conventional, but perhaps more effective, channels to disseminate information and, therefore, disinformation. Social media pages, news blogs, and other types of websites have become the easiest and quickest means to promote a message, whether a traditional political program or malicious propaganda.

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