Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 1 boasted that Russia has developed “invincible” nuclear-capable missiles that can render existing missile defense systems “completely useless.”

Putin used his annual state of the nation speech—delivered just weeks before the March 18 presidential election that he is guaranteed to win—to tout Russia’s military might.

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On February 28, the European Union (EU) published the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which provides concrete terms for the United Kingdom (UK)’s separation. The draft marks the beginning of the second phase of Brexit negotiation, focused on the nature of the future relationship between the EU and UK.

With the publication of the draft at this time, the EU takes the initiative and sets the agenda, outmaneuvering the UK, in a pattern similar to what we saw in the first phase of the negotiations. While the priority until this point had been the negotiations for the “exit” part of Brexit, the newly released draft implements key elements of the “divorce deal” agreed in December 2017 and lays the base for negotiating future relations.

Though based on the provisions decided by both UK Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU alone composed the draft withdrawal agreement. May has responded to its release, saying she rejects the document.

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On March 4, Italy will hold an important national election that is being closely watched on both sides of the Atlantic for its potential impact within the country and in Europe, and as bellwether of the rise of populism in the democratic world.

The election will be in part a key test of the Italian political system and how it evolves with a likely new conservative government coalition. This coalition may include anti-establishment political parties that call for changes in the country’s policies on immigration and the European Union (EU).

The election has the potential to send political shockwaves through Europe if the new political movements are unable to form governing majorities.  In addition, political instability would also put renewed economic pressure on the country if interest rates on Italy’s rising public debt are increased above the current 2 percent.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May is entrapped in a maze of blind alleys, self-delusion, and bitter divisions over the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the rest of the European Union (EU) after Britain is due to leave the EU in just over a year’s time—at precisely 11:00 p.m. on March 29, 2019.

She will try to grope her way forward in a major speech on March 2, even though she is still far from finding solutions likely to prove satisfactory to her governing Conservative Party, to Parliament, or to British voters—let alone to the EU itself.

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Amid ongoing, deadly attacks in the Afghan capital and elsewhere, the Taliban has reached out to the United States to begin peace talks aimed at ending more than seventeen years of conflict between US-led forces and the once-ruling extremist group.

At least, that’s what the group’s open letter in February reads. In it, the Taliban states it is imploring the American people and members of Congress to convince the Trump administration of the necessity for the talks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on February 28 extended his own olive branch by offering to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed peace process. He said he was making the offer “without preconditions.”

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The United States’ engagement is needed in many trouble spots around the world, but in few places is the need as urgent as in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Many Americans will recall vivid TV images from the 1990s of massacres in Sarajevo, the ferocious siege of Bihac, and the genocide at Srebrenica. Since those days of unspeakable horror, a fragile but thankfully enduring peace has held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

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Boris Nemtsov: A life remembered, a legacy celebrated

Three years have passed since the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, but his legacy continues to inspire those who challenge Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government in Russia.

Describing Nemtsov’s life and legacy, his close friend and fellow dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza said: “Every country, every nation has its good sides and its bad sides. Boris represented the best there is of Russia.”

Nemtsov was a governor, member of the Russian Duma, deputy prime minister, critic of the Kremlin, opposition leader, friend, and “the most decent person I’ve ever known,” said Kara-Murza, chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping was nine years old when his father, a prominent communist revolutionary and vice premier of China, had a falling out with Mao Zedong.

The year was 1962. Xi Zhongxun was accused of supporting a novel that Mao opposed. For this crime he was stripped of his titles, demoted, and sent to work in a factory. His wife, Qi Xin, was forced to do hard labor on a farm.

Six years later, the younger Xi was among the millions of “intellectual youth” who were sent to the countryside for “re-education” during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which sought to purge the “impure” elements of Chinese society and preserve a communist ideology.

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Washington has recently revived concerns about the ultimate purpose of the European Union (EU)’s nascent defense plans, avowing these could undermine NATO and transatlantic solidarity if US officials don’t keep a “close eye” on them.

This is bombast. Officially, such concern may appear to rest on political, strategic, or military imperatives about NATO’s cohesion, but the real reason can only be one of two things:  either dawning economic worry or ignorance about what is really at play—and possible—in Brussels on the opposite side of town from NATO.

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Two developments have rocked the Latvian banking system in recent days. Last week, the country’s third-largest bank, ABLV Bank, was accused by the United States Treasury Department of systematic money laundering and aiding in the circumvention of the sanctions imposed on North Korea. Separately, Latvian Central Bank Governor Ilmars Rimsevics, one of the longest-serving central bank heads in Europe, was held over the weekend by Latvia’s anti-corruption authority after he was accused by officials at Norvik Banka of having demanded a bribe. As of now, the two developments appear unrelated.

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