Interview with Jason Marczak, newly appointed director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center

Jason Marczak, the newly appointed director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, discussed his vision for the Center and approaches to regional challenges in an interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our interview.

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North Korea’s missile test over Japan on August 29 came “perilously close” to being an act of war; the question now is how will US President Donald J. Trump react, said the Atlantic Council’s Robert A. Manning.

In response to past North Korean missile tests, Trump vowed to rain down “fire and fury”  on the hermit kingdom. After the latest test on Aug. 29, he warned Pyongyang that “all options are on the table.”

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un has threatened to fire missiles at Guam, but the North Koreans are very careful to calibrate their actions so that they fall just under the threshold that would force a US response. However, I think this time there is an accumulation of frustration and anger building in the White House,” said Manning, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. Guam is a US territory and home to the United States’ Andersen Air Force Base.

Noting Trump’s past rhetoric on North Korea, Manning said: “The missile test is the equivalent of [North Korean leader] Kim [Jong-un] throwing a pie in his face.”

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US President Donald J. Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan effectively puts the onus on Pakistan to end its support for terrorists.

If this strategy is to succeed, the United States must “adopt a very serious policy toward Pakistan,” said C. Christine Fair, the provost’s distinguished associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.

In an August 21 speech, Trump said Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations.”

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting ... that will have to change,” Trump added.

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US President Donald J. Trump should have stuck to his original line of questioning of his national security team before sharing his new “strategy” on Afghanistan and South Asia: what outcome are we seeking, and how will we get there?

Trump’s August 21 speech, in which he outlined his policy on Afghanistan, exemplified the truth of Lewis Carroll’s quotation from Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Long on assertions, but short on specifics, Trump’s speech failed to lay out a clear roadmap to “victory” that is based on history and regional ground realities. Indeed, Trump did not identify any benchmarks for actions to be taken by Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Russia, or even the United States.

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US president’s policy will send a clear message to the region, said Atlantic Council’s James B. Cunningham

US President Donald J. Trump’s approach to Afghanistan—marked by an indefinite US troop presence—sends a clear signal of the United States’ commitment to ending the war in that country, said James B. Cunningham, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“This is the first time that it is clear that the United States and its international partners are in this for the long term, and that we are going to make our future decisions based on events that are happening on the ground and in the region and not against a timeline,” he said.

Trump’s August 21 speech, in which he outlined his policy on Afghanistan, also sends an important message to Pakistan, which, by providing safe haven to terrorist groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, has been an impediment to ending the nearly sixteen-year-old war in Afghanistan, said Cunningham.

“One of the things that has impeded the effort to get Pakistan to act has been Pakistan’s own doubts about what the American goals and commitments are in the longer term. Now that the president has spoken to that that should be the basis for approaching them with a different set of choices,” he said.

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Recently, there have been a number of articles that explore the important and ongoing debate about the capabilities and policies NATO needs in order to deter and defend against the ever-looming cyber threats.

 While many such articles accurately highlight the urgent need for NATO and its member states to develop a more proactive approach to countering cyber threats, it is worth further considering a significant step the Alliance has already taken towards achieving a more effective posture to counter cyber threats. At the NATO Warsaw Summit in July 2016, the Alliance declared cyberspace an operational domain.

By declaring cyber an operational domain in which the Alliance must defend itself as it does on land, sea, and air, member states gave NATO a mandate to create a dynamic framework that will help the organization to better confront current security challenges. When implemented by 2019, NATO’s decision will empower military commanders to use cyber tools alongside conventional means of defense to confront current security challenges, such as use of cyber tools as part of hybrid operations.

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With new leadership shaking up Ecuador’s politics, the country has joined many of its neighbors in a renewed battle against corruption at the highest levels of government. In early August 2017, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno used an executive decree to strip his Vice President Jorge Glas of all his powers. Moreno’s measure—aimed at neutralizing Glas, rather than ousting him—resulted from growing disagreements with the vice president, who is enmeshed in corruption allegations.

Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa repudiated Moreno’s move to strip Glas of authority, adding to his long list of criticisms against the new president. Although Moreno was Correa’s handpicked successor—he served as Correa’s vice president from 2007 to 2013, their relationship has turned sour. While Moreno has embraced a national dialogue with numerous political parties and civil society groups —his predecessor’s most bitter rivals included—Correa has accused his successor of a “mediocre” and “disloyal” betrayal. This rivalry has sparked rifts in the ruling party, setting the scene for a political clash that will determine the future of the party and the country.

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On the eve of US President Donald J. Trump’s first meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington on June 26, the US State Department approved the sale of twenty-two Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System drones to India. This prospective purchase of drones manufactured by General Atomics marks the first of its kind from the United States by a country that is not a member of NATO. General Atomics (GA) and its affiliated companies now constitute one of the world's leading resources for high-technology systems ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle to electromagnetic systems, remotely operated surveillance aircraft, airborne sensors, and advanced electronic, wireless and laser technologies.

Both governments will need to finalize the terms and conditions of this foreign military sale.

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As the United Kingdom (UK) proceeds with negotiations to leave the European Union (EU), it must account for mounting security concerns regarding the potential drop-off in shared intelligence with EU countries.

A recent report published by the UK’s House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee concluded there will be a “barrier” to security if data transfers between EU nations and the UK are obstructed after Brexit, which would negatively impact the national security and counter terrorism efforts of not only the UK, but EU member states as well.  

In recent years, especially after the attacks in Brussels, Paris, Nice, and Berlin, there has been more cooperation within the EU to keep European citizens safe, highlighting both the growing importance and validity of intelligence sharing. The most recent attack in Barcelona on August 17, when a vehicle driven through crowds of pedestrians killed twelve and injured eighty, only underscores the growing need for collaboration in counterterrorism efforts throughout Europe. As a result, the UK needs to make the reconciliation between its security system and that of the EU a priority in the Brexit negotiations, working hard to secure the best UK-EU intelligence-sharing arrangement possible.

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On August 4, the administration of US President Donald J. Trump formally notified the United Nations (UN) of its intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, while a forthcoming report points to the increasing effects of climate change.

In providing formal notification, Trump confirmed his June announcement that he would pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. However, in line with Trump’s desire for a better deal, Washington stipulated that the United States would be willing to re-engage with the terms of the Accord on “terms more favorable to it.”

This move by the Trump administration raises more questions than it answers. Will the United States play a constructive role at COP23, the UN climate change conference in Bonn this fall, or will it be relegated to the sidelines? How will the rest of the world respond to US participation at COP23 and the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue to follow? More broadly, how will Washington engage in a process that is now driven by a framework (and a responsibility) for emissions reductions that it has rejected?

Adding to these questions, the administration’s official notification was followed by a reminder of just how real, and how serious, the implications of a changing climate are.

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