Ashish Kumar Sen

  • Cyberattack Cripples Ukraine

    The massive cyberattack that crippled public transportation, the central bank, government offices, the state power distributor, and public firms in Ukraine on June 27 serves as a potent reminder of the havoc that can be unleashed by low-level actors, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “This is another reminder that low-capability actors can have a profound impact on critical infrastructure like media, finance, energy, and others,” said Beau Woods, deputy director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    Besides Ukraine, which appears to have been hit particularly hard, symptoms of the attack were also reported from the United Kingdom, Russian oil producer Rosneft, and the Danish shipping company Maersk.

    “Despite early indications, it’s unclear whether this attack was targeted against Ukraine or just happened to hit the news cycle there first,” said Woods.

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  • Saudi Arabia and the United States are on a Collision Course with Iran

    Donald J. Trump and Mohammed bin Salman have a similar outlook when it comes to Iran. Both see the Islamic Republic as a threat that needs to be contained. What then does the elevation of Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, to the role of crown prince of Saudi Arabia mean for the Sunni kingdom’s relationship with Shi’ite Iran?

    “Nothing good,” said F. Gregory Gause III, head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.

    “I do see the likelihood of an American-Iranian confrontation, whether it is in Syria, whether it is on the water in the Gulf, whether it is in Iraq after the campaign in Mosul is concluded,” said Gause. The US administration, including President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis, “came into office with a view that Iran was the major issue in the region,” he noted.

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  • Macron’s Putin Policy: ‘Firmness Without Provocation’

    French President Emmanuel Macron would like to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to seek mutually acceptable solutions to crises that have bedeviled ties between the West and Russia over the past few years, France’s ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, said in an Atlantic Council phone briefing on June 19.

    Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia “is not an existential threat” to Europe, said Araud.

    “Russia has done things that we don’t accept, but at the same time Russia has its own legitimate interests, so let’s talk with the Russians to see whether we reach compromise deals which are mutually acceptable,” he said.

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  • Dialing Back US Engagement with Cuba Would be a Mistake

    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.
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  • Theresa May’s Failed Election Gamble

    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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  • Trump Will Need to Deepen US Engagement in Afghanistan

    US President Donald J. Trump’s America First approach will have to take a back seat when it comes to Afghanistan.

    As the Trump administration wrestles with a decision on whether to send several thousand additional US troops to Afghanistan in an effort to end a fifteen-year-old war and make peace with the Taliban, there is a firm belief in policy circles that there is a critical need for the United States to deepen its engagement in that country.

    Yet, with Trump there is a “real possibility that the United States, if it is not successful within some acceptable period of time, could choose to reduce its commitment to Afghanistan and ultimately withdraw,” said Ashley Tellis, Tata chair for strategic affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “If that outcome occurs the door will be open to internecine regional competition in Afghanistan, which will only make circumstances in Afghanistan worse,” he added.

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  • Pence Affirms US Commitment to NATO, Collective Defense

    Transatlantic Alliance Front and Center at Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards

    US Vice President Mike Pence affirmed the United States’ support for NATO and its commitment to the collective defense of the Alliance at the Atlantic Council's Distinguished Leadership Awards reception in Washington on June 5.

    “Our commitment [to NATO] is unwavering,” Pence said.  The United States, he added, will “meet our obligations to people to provide for the collective defense of all of our allies. The United States is resolved… to live by that principle that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

    Pence made a commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which deals with collective defense, less than two weeks after US President Donald J. Trump publicly omitted doing so at a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, reportedly
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  • Trump's 'Huge Mistake'

    US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to take the United States out of a global agreement that seeks to limit the damage caused by climate change is “shortsighted and reckless,” a “huge mistake,” and cedes US energy leadership to China and Europe, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

    “The president’s decision to withdraw from Paris is a huge mistake. There is no upside,” said Richard Morningstar, founding director and chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. 

    “This decision will make it more difficult to work with our friends and allies on a whole host of critical foreign policy and national security issues. It will make it more difficult for our companies to work in many countries,” he added.

    Trump announced his decision at the White House on June 1.

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  • Manchester Bombing Puts Libya’s ISIS Problem Back in the Spotlight

    A horrific suicide bombing in Manchester has put a spotlight on Libya—the North African nation where the chaos that has prevailed for the better part of the past six years has become a fertile breeding ground for a mélange of terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

    “What Manchester shows is that it is possible for a radicalized kid to go to Libya and potentially receive the kind of training that would allow him to return to his home country and commit an act of terrorism,” said Karim Mezran, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

    On May 22, a bomber identified by British authorities as Salman Abedi, the twenty-two-year-old British-born son of Libyan immigrants, detonated explosives at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena, killing himself and twenty-two other...

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  • Trump Shared Secrets with Russia. Here’s Why It Matters.

    The Washington Postreported on May 15 that US President Donald J. Trump disclosed highly classified information to two Russian officials—Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak—in their White House meeting on May 10.

    “The information the president relayed had been provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the US government,” the Post reported, citing unidentified current and former US officials.

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