If US President Donald J. Trump were to roll back engagement with Cuba it would chill US private sector investment, hurt Cuban entrepreneurs, and create an opportunity for Russia to assert itself on an island that lies merely ninety miles off the US coast, according to the Atlantic Council’s Jason Marczak, director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Trump is expected to announce changes to the United States’ Cuba policy on June 16. He is reportedly considering prohibiting business with Cuban companies that have ties to the military and tightening travel restrictions.

Under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, historic progress was made in the US-Cuba relationship, which had been frozen for more than fifty years. A diplomatic détente in the summer of 2015 was followed by both countries opening embassies in their respective capitals and a visit by Obama to Havana in March of 2016.

Now, that progress hangs in the balance.

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Washington’s increased pressure on Tehran and a diplomatic crisis in the Middle East have created an “incredibly unpredictable” political playing field between two longstanding adversaries, according to a regional analyst.

“You can posit an array of catastrophic scenarios given the pace and intensity of frictions… between Iran, the United States, and other players,” said Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “The prospects of moving quickly up an escalatory ladder between the United States and Iran is extremely high.”

According to Amir Handjani, an Atlantic Council board member and senior fellow with the Council’s South Asia Center, recent events in the Middle East have further contributed to Washington and Tehran’s “very dangerous” perception of each other as destabilizing forces in the region.

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In his brief time in the White House, US President Donald J. Trump has made a point of bestowing praise on the world’s leading autocrats. He repeatedly called Vladimir Putin a “strong leader,” described Xi Jinping as “a very good man,” said Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was doing a “fantastic job,” and lauded Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his triumph in a referendum that greatly expanded his presidential powers.

Trump’s new friends represent a rogues’ gallery of modern authoritarians.  These 21st-century strongmen are responsible for introducing an arsenal of new tactics to use against their domestic opponents, and have gone on the offensive in an effort to subvert and replace the liberal international order.

But modern authoritarian systems are not simply adversaries of free societies. They also represent an alternative model—a nuanced system anchored in regime control of government policy, the political message, the economy, and the organs of repression and a steadfast hostility to free expression, honest government, and pluralism. 

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The Arab world is in a sorry state. The spat between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Qatar is but the latest symptom of an enduring serious rot in governance and a destructive power struggle in the wake of the Arab Spring. This situation is compounded by a lack of constructive dialogue on addressing the challenges that face most countries of the region.

Qatar’s excommunication from the GCC is the latest schism to hit what has seemed, at least since 2011, to be a stable and unified bloc. On June 5, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off air, land, and sea transportation links. On the surface, it appeared that Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism was at the heart of the dispute. Certainly, US President Donald J. Trump’s tweet, sympathizing with the action taken against Qatar, implied that this was his understanding. It took reminders from the Pentagon and the US State Department of US national interests in Qatar and its strategic interest in Gulf stability to get Trump to pull back on his original impulse to take sides and instead advise Saudi King Salman to seek unity and harmony within the GCC rather than allow a dangerous escalation in rancor.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on June 5 affirmed the United States’ commitment to the Alliance’s collective defense provisions, a commitment US President Donald J. Trump publicly and controversially omitted making at a meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels in May.

In a Facebook Live interview with Damon Wilson, executive vice president for programs and strategy at the Atlantic Council, Stoltenberg said that in his meetings with Trump, the US president had affirmed his “commitment to NATO.”

“There’s no way to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5,” Stoltenberg said, referring to the article of NATO’s founding treaty that deals with collective defense.

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As people in Europe and the United States express their growing skepticism of the value of international cooperation, the notion of a “liberal world order,” or the “free world,” is at risk of dissolving, according to Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.

Fried joined Alina Polyakova, director of research for Europe and Eurasia at the Atlantic Council, for a Facebook Live interview on June 6 to explain the importance of securing today’s international order against a number of social, political, and economic threats. Fried’s new report, The Free World, calls for US re-engagement with allies under stronger, value-based leadership, an approach which is not sacrificial and will ultimately benefit the United States.

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A good-humored people by nature, Brazilians know how to take misfortune in stride. On social media, memes and videos poke fun at the widespread corruption allegations that have mired the nation. Almost every politician and the most prominent businessmen have been tainted, leading to one of Brazil’s worst democratic crises since the fall of the authoritarian military dictatorship in 1985. Even as Brazil’s economy is on the mend, the fate of its president, Michel Temer, and that of the Brazilian government hang in the balance.

Brazil’s attorney general may indict Temer for corruption and obstruction of justice in the coming days. The outcome of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s deliberation of the validity of the 2014 Rousseff-Temer election ticket could also provide the means to Temer’s end. Can Temer hold on to the presidency? And what lies ahead for Brazil if he fails?

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The Conservative government’s surprise loss of its parliamentary majority in the United Kingdom’s June 8 general election will greatly complicate the task of withdrawing the country from the European Union (EU), on which negotiations are due to start June 19. But it might conceivably lead to a better outcome in the end.

Prime Minister Theresa May specifically called the “snap” election on April 18 in order to increase the Conservatives’ seventeen-seat majority in the House of Commons. This, she argued, would give her a stronger mandate for the so-called “hard” Brexit she was demanding from the EU—involving complete departure from the EU Single Market and Customs Union and a clampdown on immigration.

Far from achieving such a mandate, she has received a stinging and humiliating rebuke. The Conservatives now have only 318 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, down from 330. While she will try to carry on governing with the support of ten Democratic Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland, her days as prime minister are almost certainly numbered. The Conservative Party is notoriously intolerant of losing leaders.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May made a gamble when she decided to call early elections with the hope of shoring up political support ahead of difficult Brexit negotiations. That gamble did not pay off.

May’s Conservative Party, while still the largest in Parliament following the June 8 election, failed to secure the 326 seats necessary to hold an absolute majority in the House of Commons. The Conservatives now have 318 seats, down from the 330 seats they had before the election. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party increased its number of seats from 229 to 261. As a result, the United Kingdom now has a hung Parliament.

This outcome raises many questions, including about the negotiations on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU), set to start on June 19, and May’s own political future.

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With the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Louis XIV famously empowered national prejudice, initiating widespread persecution and driving the mass exodus of French protestants. Many of those within this highly skilled and industrious group fled to London, where they had no small part in the blossoming of English economic life which would soon see the birth of industrialization and the forging of a global empire. Arrivals to Holland, Prussia, and America had similar impacts in those places. France, the undisputed Western superpower of the seventeenth century, would fade in relative geopolitical prominence. A global defeat in 1763 at British hands which ended the Seven Year’s War cemented France’s legacy as the perennial second fiddle of modern global power. A petty act of illiberal tribalism for political expediency had a real impact on the rise and fall of nations.

The story of the Huguenots is not an isolated one. The expulsion of Jews from Europe, South Asians from Africa, and many others propagated decline in the perpetrator countries—and usually brought significant economic and political gains to those countries that took in the expelled people.

In modern times, the experience of LGBTQ refugees provides glaring evidence that this trend endures.

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