For eight years, the United States led the world in the fight to advance LGBTI equality and ensure that all people could live free from the fear of discrimination, bigotry, and violence.

More than any president before him, former President Barack Obama set the standard to inspire many around the world to follow.

On Obama’s watch, the United States set forth a number of measures to promote and integrate LGBTI rights into US foreign policy. Such steps included: issuing a presidential memorandum directing all federal agencies to ensure our overseas efforts promote the rights of LGBTI individuals; appointing the first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons to lead and coordinate the US Department of State’s diplomatic efforts across the globe; naming a Senior LGBT Coordinator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to ensure that LGBTI rights were fully integrated into all aspects of USAID's overseas work; and expanding the Global Equality Fund, a multi-million dollar, public-private partnership to advance international LGBTI rights.

This was incredible progress. For the first time in history, the United States made the promotion of LGBTI equality a priority in conducting foreign affairs. Yet, in less than six months, US President Donald J. Trump has already created a void of leadership that threatens the interests – and even the lives – of millions of LGBTI people around the world.

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Every time I think the editorials, commentaries, tweets announcing the end of US global leadership have reached a crescendo, it seems that some new decision or announcement from the White House elevates concern again. I confess that I, too, have decried the abdication of a leading role for the United States on the world stage more than once in recent weeks. 

From a strategic standpoint, there have been numerous policy errors in the first few months of the new administration of US President Donald J. Trump.  From a wavering stance on NATO, which does not acknowledge the full value of the Alliance, to a cozy relationship with strongmen and near silence on human rights, to the announcement on June 1 that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accord, Trump’s actions have rattled allies and created uncertainty about the trajectory of US leadership.  Whether or not one agrees with these and other foreign policy decisions of the Trump administration, it is indisputable that these have been difficult months for the American brand around the world. 

The American brand—our reputation, the perception that those around the world have of the United States, and the things they associate with it—is not a strategic end in itself. Being liked within the international community is not a security strategy, but it has been a cornerstone of the United States’ global influence since it emerged as a world power more than a century ago.

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US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is in line with his past denials of the reality of climate change, which he has called an “expensive hoax.” His decision, however, will have grave consequences for the United States.

Supported by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, Trump has made clear his intention to scrap former US President Barack Obama’s greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction targets and to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Moreover, Trump and Pruitt have also declared that the United States will renege on its $3-billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund. 

The Trump administration appears to have few qualms about the potential for increased CO2 and methane emissions from coal and natural gas production. It believes these sectors create jobs and are important to its political base. Rather than try to marry political priorities with climate commitments, the Trump administration has rejected any emissions-reduction targets and put its faith in private sector technology innovation to continue to produce the substantial emissions reductions we have seen as a result of the substitution of shale gas for coal.

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While Ford Motor Company is “disappointed” by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, it will not impact the company’s strategy to continue working toward technological advances designed to improve customers’ quality of life, William C. Ford, Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, said at the Atlantic Council on June 5.

It “would be nice” to see the United States abide by the Paris deal, an international agreement with more than 190 countries committed to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions, however, the US withdrawal from the accord “doesn’t change anything for us,” said Ford. He insisted his company, which has already made great progress toward clean energy improvements, will continue with business as usual.

“We are already ahead of where the Paris accords would like us to go,” in terms of environmental regulations, he said.

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Transatlantic Alliance Front and Center at Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards

US Vice President Mike Pence affirmed the United States’ support for NATO and its commitment to the collective defense of the Alliance at the Atlantic Council's Distinguished Leadership Awards reception in Washington on June 5.

“Our commitment [to NATO] is unwavering,” Pence said.  The United States, he added, will “meet our obligations to people to provide for the collective defense of all of our allies. The United States is resolved… to live by that principle that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Pence made a commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which deals with collective defense, less than two weeks after US President Donald J. Trump publicly omitted doing so at a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, reportedly surprising his closest advisors.

“A strong NATO is vitally important, especially in these trying times,” Pence said, going on to add: "From Russia’s efforts to redraw international borders by force, to Iran’s attempts to destabilize the Middle East, to the global menace of terrorism that can strike anywhere at any time, it seems that the world is more dangerous today than at any point since the fall of communism a quarter century ago."

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It may be an awkward moment for a birthday, but the Marshall Plan turned seventy on June 5. Designed to give Europe a hand up rather than a handout following the devastation of World War II, the Marshall Plan became the cornerstone for the emergence of a US-led, rules-based order that has enhanced Europe’s and our own prosperity and security ever since. Few will be celebrating this week, though, as never before has that order seemed more under siege. 

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With polls showing a narrowing margin between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the British general election to be held on June 8 is starting to look quite interesting. The idea that May would secure a landslide victory—one so prominent when she unexpectedly called the election five weeks ago—now seems to lie in the dim and distant past.

No one, bar a few Labour politicians who naturally have to make the case, is yet saying that Labour will actually win the election. However, there is the glimmer of a possibility that the election could result in a hung Parliament, with no party having an overall majority and with the United Kingdom (UK) facing the prospect of either a minority or a coalition government.

That would be a slap in the face for May and her mantra of a “strong and stable” government necessary for the upcoming negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), due to start just ten days after the election.

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The recent financial policy shifts agreed upon by European Union (EU) member states mark a move toward European economic growth and suggest a post-Brexit European capital market is starting to take shape.

On May 30, EU member states at the European Council set forth a series of regulatory policies designed to diversify the funding sources available to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and early-stage companies. They also agreed to a regulatory policy regarding securitization.

These policy shifts are crucial to the creation of a common capital market in Europe that includes a larger role for market-based finance alongside banks in financing growth and innovation. They are also crucial to developing a foundation for an innovative economy that can contribute to dynamic growth prospects with particularly European characteristics, as discussed in the Atlantic Council’s recently published EuroGrowth Initiative Report

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“America First” went from slogan to reality this week. On June 1, US President Donald J. Trump moved to fulfill a campaign promise to extricate the United States from the Paris climate agreement, a landmark accord designed to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

The decision came just days after European allies, members of the G7, and even the Pope urged Trump to stay in the agreement. They were not alone in their efforts—US companies from GE to Exxon Mobil to Microsoft to Google called on the president to stay in the Paris deal, to no avail.

This is not the first time that the United States has walked away from a previously-made climate commitment. However, in the years since former President George W. Bush rejected the 2001 Kyoto treaty on global warming, the global momentum for climate action has grown, as has US climate leadership. Washington was instrumental in forging the Paris Agreement, and, with the leadership of former President Barack Obama, convinced many allies of the sincerity of its global engagement and (re-)commitment to multilateralism.

Against this backdrop, Trump’s announcement of the US departure from the agreement is all the more jarring—and all the more difficult to swallow. The nature and manner of the decision, coming on the heels of social media hype, teaser tweets, and a fraught conclusion to the G7 where the United States acted as a stumbling block to reaching shared language on climate, point to the potential for more serious diplomatic repercussions.  

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US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to take the United States out of a global agreement that seeks to limit the damage caused by climate change is “shortsighted and reckless,” a “huge mistake,” and cedes US energy leadership to China and Europe, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

“The president’s decision to withdraw from Paris is a huge mistake. There is no upside,” said Richard Morningstar, founding director and chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. 

“This decision will make it more difficult to work with our friends and allies on a whole host of critical foreign policy and national security issues. It will make it more difficult for our companies to work in many countries,” he added.

Trump announced his decision at the White House on June 1.

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