Original pieces written by Atlantic Council staff or affiliates.
  • Will China’s Economic Slowdown Lead to a Major Crisis?

    China has incurred the largest debt buildup in recorded economic history—and the prognosis is not good. The International Monetary Fund surveyed five-year credit booms near the size of China’s and found that essentially all such cases ended in major growth slowdowns and half also collapsed into financial crises.

    A 50 percent chance of a financial crisis for the world’s second-largest economy would represent one of the greatest threats to the global economy.

    Can China avoid a crisis? Both bears and bulls make equally compelling arguments about China’s current challenges, suggesting the probability of a major crisis is in line with the historic precedent of 50/50.

    Read More
  • Chinese Infrastructure Project Drives Pakistan Further into Debt

    Islamabad seeks yet another IMF bailout

    Pakistan, faced with a mounting debt in part due to a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project with China, has turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for yet another bailout. The IMF, however, has made clear that a loan would be contingent on Pakistan being completely transparent about its debts to China; the United States—one of the largest stakeholders in the IMF—has said that Pakistan must not use the loan to repay China.

    The $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a series of extravagant infrastructure projects intended to increase regional connectivity. CPEC is part of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    Previous Pakistani administrations overestimated the role of largescale infrastructure projects as drivers of economic growth and underestimated the costs. While CPEC has the potential to bring much-needed economic development to Pakistan, its price tag threatens to plunge the country further toward fiscal instability.

    Read More
  • Turkish Policy in Syria: Divining Intent and Options for the United States

    Turkey was once the main sponsor of the Syrian opposition’s effort to topple Bashar al Assad. However, beginning in late 2016, Turkish policy has shifted following the Russian defeat of Turkish backed proxies in Aleppo. This change in policy sparked a reassessment of Turkish strategy away from the overthrow of the regime and towards close cooperation with Russia and competition with the United States. Beginning in the summer of 2016, Ankara settled on the pursuit of four closely interrelated goals in Syria: blocking westward expansion of the American backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); frustrating American military operations east of the Euphrates River; working through Russia to ensure that Syria remains a unitary state after the conflict ends; resettling displaced people in Turkish controlled territory in northern Syria.

    Read More
  • Escalation Between Turkish and Kurdish Leadership Alters Kurdish Relations with Assad

    Over the summer the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration (AA) focused on strengthening its hand in talks with the Syrian government, in an attempt to win concessions on self-rule before a potential withdrawal of US support. Among other escalatory actions, the AA inserted itself into service provision initiatives previously left to the state, and arrested dozens of candidates for local elections organized by Damascus. 

    Read More
  • Emmanuel Macron Can Make France Great Again

    Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, in an interview this week aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, acknowledged that he has “not succeeded in reconciling the French people and their leaders”—in other words, himself. Macron’s approval ratings stand at an all-time low with over seventy percent of French people polled not expressing confidence in his leadership.

    Yet great hopes have been pinned on Macron and he has worked hard to fulfill them. On November 11, at the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice ending the World War I, before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame underneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Macron delivered a long speech of tribute to the fallen. In the speech he also forcefully expressed a worldview in defense of the postwar liberal international order and implacably opposed to nationalism, populism, and the tribalism of politics in many countries, not least the United States, whose president, Donald J. Trump, sat stony-faced as his ally and supposed friend attacked directly Trump’s attitude and actions.

    Read More
  • Treasury Right to Sanction Saudis in Response to Khashoggi Killing

    The November 15 announcement by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the designation of seventeen Saudis for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be commended. While the Trump administration has been delayed in responding to the murder, with the president slowly forming a “very strong opinion,” the sanctions demonstrate that the administration has not stood idly by.

    Given the need for continued cooperation with the Saudi government on counterterrorism, oil production, and a host of other sensitive issues, the Global Magnitsky (or GloMag in sanctions parlance) sanctions authority was a strategic tool to use as part of a response to the Khashoggi murder.

    Read More
  • United States Sanctions Seventeen Saudi Officials Over Khashoggi Murder

    The US Treasury Department on November 15 slapped sanctions on seventeen Saudi officials in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

    The sanctioned Saudis include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trusted adviser, Saud al-Qahtani; senior aide Maher Mutreb; and Saudi counsel general in Istanbul, Mohammed al-Ootaibi.

    Read More
  • Frederic C. Hof’s Remarks on Syria at the World Affairs Council

    Below are remarks Ambassador Frederic C. Hof gave yesterday at the World Affairs Council of Greater Reading in Pennsylvannia regarding the continued importance of Syria policy and the role of the United States in the ongoing conflict.

    Read More
  • Electronic Jamming Between Russia and NATO is Par for the Course in the Future, But it Has its Risky Limits

    Norway says Russia jammed GPS during major NATO exercise

    BRUSSELS — New revelations by the Norwegian military and allied officials that Russia persistently jammed GPS signals during NATO’s recently concluded Trident Juncture exercise in Europe’s High North region are disturbing for their implications.

    That should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed, even nominally, Moscow’s tactics. But where to draw the line?

    Read More
  • The United States Should Not Get Involved in Libya’s Civil War

    An unmistakable sense of despair and gloom accompanies most news reports and literature on the state of affairs in Libya after 2011. The Arab Spring was meant to usher in a period of unprecedented change after decades of notoriously undemocratic leadership across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, seven years later, there has been very little positive development in terms of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in the Arab world. No Arab Spring country, however, has fared worse than Libya, whose revolt, ironically, was more of a NATO-supported war than a genuine home-grown revolution with protracted battles which have essentially torn the oil-rich North African nation to shreds.

    Read More