The New York Times reported on February 14 that Russia has secretly deployed two batteries of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile in violation of its international treaty obligations. The news is disturbing, but hardly surprising. Unless the United States and its allies respond promptly, the situation is likely only to deteriorate further.

Russia’s missile deployments violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the only arms control agreement in history to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons. It banned US and Russian ground-launched missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers and contributed to reduced tensions in Europe for over a quarter century.

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A new Atlantic Council report—Breaking Aleppo—uses satellite images, TV footage, social media, and security camera videos to debunk Russia’s claims that no civilians were killed in its airstrikes on the city of Aleppo in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“In an era where we’re facing a mixture of falsehoods and truths, the report is incontrovertible evidence,” said Fred Kempe, Atlantic Council president and chief executive officer, adding, “it exposes the deliberate and systematic destruction of Aleppo.” Kempe delivered opening remarks at the report’s launch at the Atlantic Council in Washington on February 13. He described how the report’s findings prove that the Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, targeted civilians and noncombatants “in a bid to break the will and spirit of the city.”

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On February 5, Jordan launched airstrikes in southern Syria, directed at the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Jaysh Khalid bin Al Waleed. Occurring shortly after King Abdullah II’s meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in late January and with US President Donald Trump in Washington at the beginning of February, Jordan’s stepped-up action in Syria underscores Amman’s continued pivot toward Russia and commitment to continuing coordination with Moscow in Syria. At the same time, the Hashemite kingdom is signaling to the Trump administration that it will not permit terrorists from Syria to enter Jordan. This is in line with Turkey’s announcement that it is ready to set up a buffer zone in northern Syria once the battle with ISIS at al-Bab is over.

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European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said all sides must abide by terms of the agreement

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on February 10 that Brussels is committed to the full implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, and that she came away reassured from her meetings with US officials that Washington shares that commitment.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council, Mogherini said she found “common ground” with the Trump administration on the deal that seeks to cut off Iran’s pathways to building a nuclear bomb. Mogherini said: “I heard from my interlocutors the intention to make sure that the deal is 100 percent implemented.”

“It is a clear European shared interest to preserve the agreement,” she added.

The EU, she said, will monitor in a “very strict manner” the implementation of the deal “in its entirety, from all sides.” The nuclear deal was struck between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany in 2015. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has found Iran to be complying with the terms of the agreement. Mogherini’s statement was a clear message to the United States to also stick to its commitments.

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Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a former president of Estonia, sees the dangers of digital warfare

Russian cyberattacks that aim to disrupt elections in Europe—much like they did in the United States in 2016—have put transatlantic security in “a whole different light,” Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a former president of Estonia, said at the Atlantic Council on February 9.

“Today, unconstrained by the limits of kinetic war, by the range of missiles and bombers, by the logistics needed to support an armored division, we can succumb to digital warfare,” Ilves said. “You don’t have to hack the power grid, let alone attack with a division of tanks, if you can hack the elections and change the policies of a country,” he added.

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Iran is testing the weight of US President Donald J. Trump’s words with its latest missile tests, said an Atlantic Council analyst.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have been ratcheted up as Trump and his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said they were putting the Islamic Republic “on notice” in response to Iran’s ballistic missile test on January 29 and an attack the next day by Iranian-backed rebels on a Saudi warship off the coast of Yemen. US officials said on February 8 that Iran had tested yet another missile.

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US President Donald J. Trump needs to take a strong stance against Russian aggression in order to protect US national security interests, according to an Atlantic Council expert.

“This is very dangerous for the United States to show such weakness in the face of Kremlin aggression,” said John E. Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, on February 9.  

“I hope that the president and those around him recognize that these policies are policies of weakness, and America cannot be great if it’s not able to defend its principles as well as its interests,” he added.

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The challenge posed by populism, which is fueled by an anti-globalization sentiment, can best be addressed by rallying nations around common goals of financial stability, sustainable and inclusive growth, and job creation, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said at the Atlantic Council on February 8.

“While there can be criticism about this, that or the other, I think around those three pillars I don’t see how we can disagree because I don’t know any policymakers around the world… [who are] saying ‘I want more unemployment, I want less growth, and I want more financial instability,’” she said.

Lagarde delivered remarks at the sixth and final installment of the Power of Transparency Series hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics program and Thomson Reuters. She later participated in a discussion moderated by Axel Threlfall, editor-at-large at Reuters.

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 Economic incentives, specifically the expansion of trade and increased investment in the Asia-Pacific region, could provide the best opportunity for strengthening the Atlantic-Pacific partnership, according to Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., chairman of the Atlantic Council.

These economic incentives could serve as a point of common interest to overcome the geographic and political divisions among the three major players of the Atlantic-Pacific partnership—namely the United States, the European Union, and parts of Asia such as Japan and, in some cases, China.

“Despite the numerous challenges set forth by an increasingly volatile geopolitical climate,” said Huntsman, who previously served as the US ambassador to China and Singapore, “market developments in the Asia-Pacific region offer huge opportunities to the United States and Europe, providing a historic opening to expand trade and investment and strengthen relations generally.”

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The cyber threat has finally come of age. In light of high-profile cyber breaches such as the Russian cyberattacks during the 2016 US presidential election and private information published on WikiLeaks, cyberspace is now unmistakably the new frontier of political conflict.

Hacking is also fast becoming a tool in the arsenal of terrorist groups, creating a new type of cyber terror threat. That threat has manifested itself in two main ways—pure cyber terrorism: a direct attack on a victim’s cyber infrastructure (computers, networks, and the information stored therein) for political and social objectives. The other form is hybrid cyber terrorism, where the Internet is used to recruit, propagate, and inspire others to acts of terrorism.

Both types pose a serious threat and are of special concern to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the world’s second-largest intergovernmental body with fifty-seven member states.

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