Scan the headlines these days and you would be forgiven for thinking that the United States is the only country preparing for an important election. As seemingly all attention focuses on voters from the Atlantic to the Pacific don’t lose sight of some other contests around the world. Here is a look at the races we are watching in the runup to the US midterms.

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New report finds illicit trade could be flowing to the United States and Europe

The world’s most ubiquitous symbol of wealth is fueling the decades-long conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, policy experts said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on October 24. Militias and warlords are selling gold to fund their military activities and political control in eastern Congo and their illicit trade is not just flowing to the black market, but “may be coming here to the United States as well as Europe,” Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy for the Enough Project, explained.

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Now is not the time for the United States to shun Central America. Instead, the United States should double down on engagement with Central America’s Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) to address the violence, poverty, and endemic corruption that are pushing people to leave. Engagement is, after all, in the best interest of US national security.

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US President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis
If US President Donald J. Trump moves to replace Secretary of Defense James Mattis after the midterm elections in November, as he has signaled his want to do, the effect will be significant for government decision-making at home and for our defense activities abroad. 

A post-Mattis Department of Defense (DoD) will align more closely with the president’s worldview and act accordingly. We can expect more muscular and high-risk military posturing,  alliances coming under new strain, and the United States’ reputation for unilateralism deepening.

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The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty looks to be entering its final days. Are you all fired up and ready to put your missile knowledge to the test before this arms control treaty falls by the wayside? Spot the difference between GLCMs, SS-20s, and RS-26s with seven questions on the endangered deal.

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Trident Juncture 2018, one of NATO’s largest  exercises in recent years, got underway on October 25 in and around Norway in the context of a heightened security environment in Europe. With renewed Russian assertiveness on both sides of the Atlantic, including interference in democratic elections, the use of a chemical nerve agent on British soil, targeted cyber-attacks, and violations of Allied airspace only in the past year, tensions are high. Against this backdrop, NATO is taking stock of its collective defense and deterrence posture in Europe.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets US President Donald J. Trump and Jared Kushner.
Far from putting an end to the story, the Saudi government’s official explanation of what happened to Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul on October 2 has been met with a deluge of incredulity, sarcasm, and accusations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for both the murder and the cover-up that followed.  Given the wide opprobrium in the US Congress, media, and private sector, it is yet to be seen whether the West, particularly the United States, will punish Saudi Arabia with sanctions.

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The US-China trade dispute has put Latin America in a bind. While the tit-for-tat feud between the world’s two largest economies has had global repercussions, Latin America finds itself torn between its long-standing, traditional North American partner and a relatively new Asian investor.

As the United States and China compete for global economic dominance, Latin America must engage China for short-term trade opportunities without jeopardizing its drive toward long-term, sustainable economic growth and diversification. It must also preserve important ties to the United States and North America, which provide the region with crucial economic, diplomatic, and security support. 

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Macedonia and Greece have reached “a generational point here [where a] decision can be taken,” George Robertson, who served as NATO’s secretary general from 1999 to 2004, said at an event at the Atlantic Council on October 22. Robertson, speaking on Macedonia’s potential succession to NATO, explained that the agreement between Macedonia and Greece to change Macedonia’s name is “an alignment of stars that is unlikely to happen for another thirty or forty years.”

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If there is one thing most arms control experts can agree on it is this: Russia has for many years been violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Another thing they agree on: US President Donald J. Trump’s intention to walk away from the treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987 has created the impression that it is the United States that is at fault.

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