Analysis

The Washington Post reported 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.
A cyberattack that has crippled 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries could have been prevented had the victims conducted a simple security update.

“One of the lessons learned here is that people just do not patch their systems,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a nonresident senior fellow in the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

“The reality is: the vulnerability that was exploited was not a zero-day vulnerability,” he said.
South Korean leftist opposition candidate Moon Jae-in’s impressive presidential electoral victory is reverberating not only across the Korean Peninsula, but throughout Northeast Asia and the United States as well. In a crowded field of fifteen candidates, Moon won 41 percent of the vote, soundly defeating his conservative rival, Hong Joon-pyo, who won 24 percent.

While Moon’s victory almost certainly portends that South Korea will be less in sync with the United States and will pursue more accommodating policies toward North Korea, this election was primarily about Korean domestic issues. “Reform and unity” were the goals Moon articulated.
Later in May, US President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to attend his first NATO summit. The summit will take place at a time when most NATO and European Union (EU) leaders are breathing a sigh of relief with centrist Emmanuel Macron’s defeat of the far-right Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election on May 7. Both Le Pen and Trump—with the overt and covert support of Russian President Vladimir Putin—have been disdainful of NATO and the EU. The Le Pen bullet has been dodged, but the Trump challenge, and the conditions that have given rise to illiberal politics on both sides of the Atlantic, remain.  
In March of 2003, I commanded an EC-130 Compass Call, an aircraft configured to perform tactical command, control, and communications countermeasures, over the skies of Iraq. My crew’s mission was to jam enemy communications and help allied forces preserve Iraq’s oil infrastructure. During these missions, we positioned ourselves some distance from the intended target, while an electronic warfare officer controlled jamming functions using a keyboard located in the back of the aircraft.

While this mission demonstrates how developments in cyber technology can be used to further US security interests, a little more than a decade later a young man named Junaid “TriCk” Hussain aligned himself with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and undertook his own form of electronic warfare. Sitting comfortably away from his targets, like my orbiting EC-130, he used a keyboard to launch attacks through cyberspace. Specifically, Hussain built “kill lists” of US military personnel and published them online. He leveraged the increasing power and reach of social media to call for terror attacks against Western interests. These brash moves quickly attracted the attention of the US government. Ultimately, an airstrike from an unmanned aircraft killed TriCk in 2015.
US President Donald J. Trump’s first one hundred days in office have been defined by uncertainty, rhetorical blunders, and a degree of success, which, despite the criticism levelled at Trump, is part of the “learning curve” for any new president, according to a former Director of National Intelligence.

“I’ve noted in past presidencies not unsimilar phenomena,” John Negroponte, who served as Director of National Intelligence in the George W. Bush administration and is also a former US ambassador to Mexico, Iraq, and the United Nations, said at the Atlantic Council on May 1.

“People come into office with their own notions of what they’re going to accomplish,” said Negroponte. However, he added, over the course of the first one hundred days, a traditional benchmark for measuring how well a new administration can capitalize on the momentum of electoral victory, “those views get tempered by reality.”
Observers of France’s elections can breathe a sigh of relief. The first round on April 23 resulted in centrist, liberal Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! movement taking first place. He will face far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, whose anti-EU, protectionist platform terrifies markets, in the runoff on May 7. The mere avoidance of a runoff between far-left and far-right candidates sent markets surging on expectations of a Macron victory in the second round.

But, even if surveys show Macron with an approximately twenty-point lead over Le Pen going into the second round, France is not out of the woods just yet.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s president sees an opportunity

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) should be a platform for cooperation, not a point of conflict between the United States and China, the bank’s president, Jin Liqun, said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on April 24.

Former US President Barack Obama’s administration was reluctant to join the AIIB amid concern that China would use the institution to set the global economic agenda at the cost of environmental protections, human rights, anticorruption measures, and governance standards.

Jin recalled that in his conversations with Obama administration officials he often made the point that China was eager to work with the United States to create the AIIB. “When China and the US work together, wonderful things [will] happen,” he said.
The dust has yet to settle on the collapse of conventional French politics caused by the results of the first round of the presidential elections on April 23, yet we can already discern the broad features of a Marine Le Pen, or more likely an Emmanuel Macron, foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis the United States and the transatlantic alliance.

One of the sacred cows slaughtered at the altar of the first round was Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic: namely the “presidentialist” constitution that affords the Elysée Palace especially predominant powers in the domaine réservé of foreign and security affairs.
At first glance, Russian actions since the 2014 annexation of Crimea appear to signal a resurgence of power in the international system. Increases in military spending, forays into the Middle East, and a foreign policy punching above its weight have all served to remind the world that Russia maintains influence on the global stage.

However, behind the Cold War-levels of military activity and violations of international laws are fundamental issues which will plague Russia going forward. Demographic struggles have stricken the state since World War II, commodity price fluctuations and sanctions have crippled economic output, and the current defense spending trends are unsustainable. Against the backdrop of harsh economic reality, the illusion of Russian resurgence can only be maintained for so long, and NATO policymakers should take note.


    

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