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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 what point does a cyberattack become an act of war? Should the government react to a cyber-attack on the private sector? Is cyber privateering the answer to the government’s woes? These were some of the questions students (including this author) contended with at the Atlantic Council’s 2017 Cyber 9/12 student challenge on March 17 and 18.

Held at American University’s Washington College of Law, this was the fifth and biggest iteration of the annual student competition. Forty-five teams from 32 universities from across the United States took on the roles of cyber policy experts advising the National Security Council on how to react to a fictional cyber catastrophe.
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.
While Russia was “probably surprised” by the US missile strike on a Syrian air base, it is unlikely that the Kremlin will respond with escalatory force, according to a former deputy secretary general of NATO.

“They’re surprised, but I don’t necessarily think their reaction will be to escalate the situation,” said Alexander Vershbow, who now serves as a distinguish fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “The Russian reaction, while harsh in rhetoric… they’re going to try to draw a line around this incident,” he said.

“For the Russians, and I would hope for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, they would not provoke an open-ended conflict with the United States,” said Vershbow. However, he said, this incident “might convince the Russians to reign in their client more effectively than they ever have.”
US President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” policy—marked by a retreat from multilateralism—has paved the way for China to step into the void and for its president, Xi Jinping, to realize his “Chinese Dream,” according to two Atlantic Council analysts.

Trump and Xi met at the US president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on April 6 for a two-day summit.

Trump’s “America First” policy is a “double-edged sword” for China, said Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and its Strategic Foresight Initiative.

“On the one hand, Trump is handing the ‘Chinese Dream’ to Xi on a silver platter,” said Manning. Xi has described the “Chinese Dream” as “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” But on the “flip side is American nationalism… and Trump’s indictments of China,” Manning added.

Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow for technology and national security at the Scowcroft Center, said Trump’s “America First” policy has “so far proven mostly bluster by talking loudly but carrying a very small stick and undermining elements of America’s strengths in the Asia-Pacific region, including our alliances and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Dear European friends of America,

In these challenging times, I am writing to ask that you not abandon your American ally. We have fallen on hard times, and our new leader, Donald Trump, is different from any other in our history.

I know that some have compared Trump to one of his predecessors—Andrew Jackson. But Jackson was president in simpler times, when news moved at the speed of the pony express, and there was no country that could destroy ours in a matter of minutes. Or, for that matter, we were not able to wipe out virtually any other country on Earth.
US President Donald J. Trump’s draft budget, which proposes to increase defense spending by slashing funding for the US Department of State and foreign aid, would imperil national security efforts and weaken the US stance on the world stage, according to two US lawmakers—one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

“You cannot balance the budget on the back of discretionary spending,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). “If [increased defense spending] comes at the expense of the State Department, it’s not a recipe for success; it’s a recipe for making our national security weaker.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) echoed Moulton’s concern over the proposed budget, warning: “If you’re going to cut State, you’re going to have to increase the bullets. That does translate into body bags.”
Three years ago this month, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and laid the groundwork for its ongoing campaign to destabilize Ukraine.  That moment marked the end of a period of more than twenty years when the countries of the West looked to Russia as a partner. Of course, even before 2014, Russia had demonstrated a pattern of destabilizing countries in its neighborhood, particularly Moldova and Georgia. But Russia’s aggression against Ukraine—including the first changing of borders by force in Europe since World War II—represented a new strategic reality, and a wake-up call for the United States and its allies.

That new strategic reality is even starker today:  Russia has not only continued to undermine the post-World War II and post-Cold War international order through its illegal occupation of Crimea and its continuing war of aggression in eastern Ukraine; Russia has also engaged in political aggression against our societies, using cyberattacks, disinformation, propaganda, and influence operations to affect the outcome of elections and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions.   


    

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