Atlantic Council’s Ben Nimmo warns: polarization is America’s Achilles’ heel

Western governments on October 4 unleashed a torrent of accusations against Russia saying its intelligence agency was responsible for cyberattacks on inquiries into Olympic doping, a former spy’s poisoning, and the downing of a commercial aircraft in 2014.

The US Justice Department indicted seven Russian intelligence officers on charges of hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations.

Earlier in the day, Dutch authorities accused four Russians, who they said belonged to Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, of attempting to hack into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

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“Russians really aren’t the heart of our problem,” former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said at a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington on October 3. Speaking on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Hayden noted that he does not believe that the interference had an impact on the result and that anti-disinformation measures are just “a painkiller. The fundamental fix is who are.” He emphasized that leaders need to focus not only on security, but also on doing their “duties as citizens… to help contribute to the long-term solution: which is fixing ourselves.”

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Trump administration pulls out of 1955 treaty with Iran

US President Donald J. Trump’s administration said on October 3 it was terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. Announcing the decision, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted “the absolute absurdity” of remaining in the treaty given the prevailing high tensions between the United States and Iran.

Later, speaking at the White House, US National Security Advisor John Bolton accused Iran of having made a “mockery” of the treaty “with its support for terrorism, provocative ballistic missile proliferation, and malign behavior throughout the Middle East.”

“Theater is part of diplomacy,” said William F. Wechsler, interim director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“In this case, we have a largely symbolic US action regarding a mainly obsolete treaty in response to another largely symbolic Iranian action regarding a generally ineffectual court,” he added.

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Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson urges release of former Millennium Fellow

On a visit to the Atlantic Council in September 2016, South Sudan’s First Vice President Taban Deng Gai had a clear message for his interlocutors in Washington: “What we tell them is, ‘Look, there is peace. Let us not allow that to collapse.’”

Deng spoke even as the death toll in South Sudan’s civil war steadily mounted. The war, which broke out in December 2013, was triggered by the bitter rivalry between South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and his on-again-off-again First Vice President Riek Machar. A new study backed by the US State Department concluded that at least 382 900 people have died since 2013; millions have been displaced.

It’s little wonder then that Deng raised plenty of eyebrows when he expressed optimism about the prospects of peace in his country at his latest appearance at the Atlantic Council on October 2.

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In August, the publication online of blueprints for 3D guns sparked fears of increased violence and unregulated ownership of weaponry. The 3D printing of weapons and weapon parts, however, poses not only a threat to domestic safety, but also to the international political landscape. Widespread 3D printing could enable nations that are the target of international sanctions to sidestep regulations and print restricted items. This would undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of this vital foreign policy instrument.

First emerging in the 1980s, 3D printing—also known as additive manufacturing—is the process by which a digitally modeled object is created by a printer, which adds material in layers. 3D printing has been adopted in industrial and personal capacities and has been heralded for enabling complex objects—such as heart valves and houses—to be produced at a fraction of the cost and time. As new applications of this technology have emerged, the 3D printing industry has grown rapidly. According to a 2017 report published by Dutch Bank ING, the annual growth rate for investment in 3D printing over the past five years is 29 percent compared to 9.7 percent in traditional manufacturing machines.

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The ambivalent results of the September 30 referendum in Macedonia – more than 90 percent voting yes, but below 40 percent turnout – understandably have caused many to doubt whether the small Balkan nation will remain on track to join NATO and the European Union (EU).

This analytical gloom ignores the fact that Macedonia has been on the brink of dramatic failure frequently during the past three years of its domestic political crisis and, yet, at each stage, its leaders manage to advance the country to a better position. This has not been a linear process. Nonetheless, over this period, Macedonia’s democracy and its European aspirations have decisively advanced.

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Democracies around the world have a “growing vulnerability surplus” when it comes to protecting their societies against online disinformation and digital electoral interference, Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, Karin Olofsdotter, said on October 2.

Olofsdotter opened the two-day Global Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformation (StratComDC), hosted in Washington D.C. by the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden, Lithuania’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Twitter. The forum brought together leading experts from government, civil society, and business to discuss how to address online disinformation and organized foreign electoral interference campaigns.

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The new trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico “modernizes” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and lifts a cloud of uncertainty that has lingered over the past several months, according to Earl Anthony Wayne, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program.

In negotiations that went down to the wire, Canada agreed on September 30 to join the United States and Mexico in a revised version of NAFTA. The new agreement will be referred to as the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“Overall, each of the three countries showed flexibility, can claim wins from the new agreement, and gave up preferred positions to reach agreement,” said Wayne, who served as the US ambassador to Mexico from 2011 to 2015.

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Low turnout in a referendum on a name deal in Macedonia has complicated that country’s prospects for joining NATO and the European Union (EU).

Macedonians that did vote in the September 30 referendum overwhelmingly supported the name deal between their country and Greece. However, the referendum was consultative and non-binding, as the deal can only be ratified with a constitutional majority in the Macedonian parliament. The low turnout (around 37%) could embolden opponents of the deal to block passage once it comes for a vote in parliament. Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has said he will call an early election if he fails to gain the support for the deal that he needs in parliament. Even if the deal passes in the Macedonian parliament, it will need to be approved by the Greek parliament, where it faces stiff opposition.

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Canada agreed, moments before the clock ran out on a September 30 deadline, to sign on to a trade agreement between the United States and Mexico that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new agreement will be known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA.

US President Donald J. Trump announced the deal at the White House on October 1 describing it as a “brand new deal to terminate and replace NAFTA.” With this breakthrough, Trump has fulfilled his campaign promise to rewrite NAFTA, which he has called “the worst trade deal in history.” The new agreement was negotiated “on the principle of fairness and reciprocity,” said Trump.

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