Rachel Ansley

  • Financial Pressure Needed to Prevent Financial Crimes in the DRC

    Financial pressure on authoritarian governments, such as that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), must form the bedrock of US peacekeeping efforts, John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry and founding director of the Enough Project, said at the Atlantic Council.

    Increased consequences for government corruption and humanitarian atrocities are brought to bear “through the tools of financial pressure that are used when the United States is serious about a policy issue,” said Prendergast. Such measures can be seen in Washington’s dealings with Iran and North Korea. In regions such as the DRC, “by far the deadliest warzone in the world since World War II,” according to Prendergast, “conventional tools of diplomacy and crisis response are simply inadequate.”

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  • Xi Seeks to Solidify Grip on China

    The National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which opened in Beijing on October 18, will solidify Chinese President Xi Jinping’s grip on Chinese politics and society, part of a plan to guide the Asian nation toward dominance on the world stage, potentially at the expense of the United States, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

    During a three-and-a-half-hour speech which opened the Congress, Xi lauded the economic, social, and political gains made during his first five-year term. He also laid out his vision for further progress.

    Hardline reforms and a political crackdown from Beijing have brought China to the cusp of what Xi deems “new era.”

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  • In Somalia, Bombings Highlight Limits of US Military Assistance

    The deadly bombings in Mogadishu, attributed to, yet not claimed by al-Shabaab, highlight the need for a new strategy from both US forces and the Somali government to counter violent extremism as militant groups adapt to increased US military action, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “The weekend’s attacks highlight the limits of the military assistance [that the Somali government] has received,” said J. Peter Pham, vice president and director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “As the enemy has shifted, so too must the emphasis now move to building up police and intelligence capacities.”

    However, this is not a call for an increased US role in Somali state-building. “We need to recognize that what we can realistically do is minimize the threat that al-Shabaab and other militants can pose to regional security,” said Pham, adding: “What we cannot do is make Somalia ‘work’—only Somalis can do that.”

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  • Trump and the Art of the [Iran Nuclear] Deal

    As expected, US President Donald J. Trump on October 13 announced that he will not certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of a multilateral nuclear deal, accusing the Islamic Republic of “not living up to the spirit” of the agreement.

    While Trump did not take the United States out of the deal, he asserted the right to do so and warned that he would if the US Congress does not make amendments to the agreement.

    At the top of the list of amendments Trump would like is for Congress to address the issue of the “sunset clauses” in the deal. These clauses lift certain restrictions placed on Iran ten to fifteen years after the agreement took effect in January of 2016. However, even at that...

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  • Voting Machines: A National Security Vulnerability?

    The political instability that has resulted from Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections has put the focus on voting machines as a national security vulnerability, Douglas Lute, a former US permanent representative to NATO, said at the Atlantic Council on October 10.

    “I don’t think I’ve seen a more severe threat to American national security than the election hacking experience of 2016,” said Lute. There is a “fundamental democratic connection between the individual voter and the democratic outcome” of an election, he said, adding: “If you can undermine that, you don’t need to attack America with planes and ships. You can attack democracy from the inside.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin “added to the political gridlock in Washington today, all at very low cost to him,” said Lute. “In military terms, this is the classic definition of a threat.”

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  • Lifting of US Sanctions on Sudan Seen as Positive Step Toward Re-engagement

    The United States’ decision to lift the sanctions on Sudan, citing progress made on counterterrorism and humanitarian efforts, indicates Washington’s understanding that cooperation with Khartoum will best serve the interests of both countries, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “This decision reflects the conviction that engagement, rather than isolation, is more likely to advance US interests—and the welfare of the Sudanese people—on a range of governance, humanitarian, economic, and security issues,” said Mary Carlin Yates, an Atlantic Council board director, former senior director for African affairs at the US National Security Council, and US chargé d’affaires to Sudan from 2011-2012. However, Yates added, “there is still much work to do.”

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  • Russia’s Soldier Selfie Ban Fights Open-Source Research

    A law drafted by Russia’s ministry of defense, which would ban its soldiers’ use of social media, serves to confirm the work of open-source researchers reporting on the illicit presence of Russian troops in Ukraine and Syria, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

    “The Russian authorities and media have repeatedly tried to undermine open source researchers by arguing that they ‘only’ used social media,” said Ben Nimmo, an information defense fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab). “This shows Russia knows the researchers were right.”

    The ban, which serves to corroborate reports of Russian troops’ activity denied by the Kremlin, “confirms the value, and the power, of open-source research,” according to Nimmo. “It’s a validation of the work that they’re particularly nervous about it,” said Graham Brookie, deputy director of the DFRLab, adding: “As this work gains notoriety, [the Kremlin’s] public posture against it increases.”...

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  • Future Tense: What Next for Catalonia?

    Catalonia’s controversial independence referendum has left Spain with many unanswered questions and an unclear path forward, according to Carles Castello-Catchot, chief of staff in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    On October 1, the regional government of Catalonia in northern Spain went ahead with a referendum that Spain’s constitutional court had deemed illegal. A majority of the 2.3 million people who voted in the referendum favored independence for Catalonia. The Catalan government has announced it will move forward with a declaration of independence forty-eight hours after the election.

    The competing narratives have left the country “in a legal black hole where everything is up for discussion,” Castello-Catchot said in a Facebook Live interview on October 2. 

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  • Should the United States Arm Ukraine?

    While analysts agree that diplomacy is the ideal route to ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, they disagree on whether the United States sending defensive weapons to Ukraine will achieve that end.

    On September 22, the Atlantic Council, in collaboration with the Charles Koch Institute, hosted a debate between experts: Should the United States Arm Ukraine?

    The divisive prospect of sending US weapons to Ukraine as further defense against Russian aggression in the Donbas could, according to those in favor, defend US interests on the world stage. Alternatively, countered those opposed to the idea, it could escalate the conflict in a manner detrimental to US national security.

    Analysts both for and against sending weapons to Ukraine argued that a decision must be predicated on a consideration of what is in the best interests of the United States, yet the opposing sides diverged on how to achieve those ends.

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  • Germany’s ‘Lame Duck’ Chancellor

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was re-elected on September 24, will be a “lame duck” in her fourth, and likely final, term in office, according to Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and Atlantic Council board director.

    “There are those in her party and sister party that will want to start having a discussion about ‘after Merkel,’ and that number will go [up] as of today,” Ischinger said in an Atlantic Council press and members phone briefing on September 25. However, he added, “she shouldn’t be counted out. She’s been very good.”

    Ischinger joined Annette Heuser, chief executive officer of the Professor Otto Beisheim Foundation and Atlantic Council board director, and Stefan Kornelius, foreign policy editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung, to discuss the implications of Merkel’s re-election, not only for Germany, but also for its relationships with international partners such as the United States. Atlantic Council President...

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