Recent Events

In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19, US President Donald J. Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, called Iran a “rogue nation” and the nuclear deal with that country “an embarrassment,” said the United States was “prepared to take further action” on Venezuela, and lashed out at what he called a “corrupt, destabilizing” regime in Cuba.

Atlantic Council experts provided their analysis on the speech. Here is what they had to say:
In a reaction that is sure to bolster the narrative of those claiming responsibility for the attack, US President Donald J. Trump released a series of tweets labeling the incident at London’s Parsons Green subway station on  September 15 an act of terrorism before British authorities had done so. Trump claimed, among other things, that Scotland Yard had failed to identify and prevent the attack and that the solution was to “cut off” the Internet and make his travel ban to the United States “far larger, tougher, and more specific.”

The perceived success of a terrorist attack is a subjective measure, filled with uncertainties and spin, and partly dependent on the level and type of coverage it receives in the media—this includes the reactions of world leaders and the effect those words have on their countries’ populations.
On Wednesday, September 13, the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and Brent Scowcroft Center’s Asia Security Initiative hosted expert panelists for a discussion on Dr. Ichord’s new report on the power diversification strategy in Indonesia given current political and economic obstacles confronting the country and region. The discussion was moderated by Benjamin Soloway, assistant editor at Foreign Policy.  Topics of the discussion included market prospects for geothermal and renewable energy, nuclear energy, liquefied natural gas, oil, and coal production in Indonesia, the types of investment changes necessary to support infrastructure demands and carbon dioxide emissions goals, and the power sector challenges associated with transitioning from a decentralized to a more centralized form of government.
A new Atlantic Council report that seeks to enhance the US State Department’s effectiveness recommends, among other things, a more results-oriented budget and streamlined foreign aid.

 A key recommendation is to use the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as “the platform to build a more robust, effective civilian assistance capacity, empowering it with an expanded mission set and greater control over US foreign assistance efforts.”

 The report’s authors—ten foreign policy experts—also agreed that in order to make the State Department more effective, its structure must be refined, its personnel properly prepared for their jobs, and its relationship with the US Congress improved.

 This analysis is “more important than ever,” US Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) said at the Atlantic Council on September 6. Royce delivered the keynote address at the report’s launch.
In this follow-up to the Atlantic Council’s 2016 report on reforming the National Security Council, a team of respected and experienced authors led by former Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Chester Crocker, and David Miller examined the inner workings of the US Department of State in order to find ways to improve the department’s performance quickly and for little if any cost. The report spells out five key areas where the State Department needs improvement: structure and process, personnel, budget, congressional relations, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

On September 6, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative (FSR) hosted a launch event for the State Department Reform Report. The event featured a keynote address from Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a panel with the report’s authors moderated by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Chairman Royce stressed the importance of the State Department as the country’s “most important foreign policy institution,” and expressed his admiration for the department’s Foreign Service Officers (FSOs). The panel of authors then elaborated on several of their proposals, including the need for more dedicated training for FSOs, better mutual understanding between the State Department and Congress, and improvements to the independence and effectiveness of USAID.
 
North Korea’s missile test over Japan on August 29 came “perilously close” to being an act of war; the question now is how will US President Donald J. Trump react, said the Atlantic Council’s Robert A. Manning.

In response to past North Korean missile tests, Trump vowed to rain down “fire and fury”  on the hermit kingdom. After the latest test on Aug. 29, he warned Pyongyang that “all options are on the table.”

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un has threatened to fire missiles at Guam, but the North Koreans are very careful to calibrate their actions so that they fall just under the threshold that would force a US response. However, I think this time there is an accumulation of frustration and anger building in the White House,” said Manning, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. Guam is a US territory and home to the United States’ Andersen Air Force Base.

Noting Trump’s past rhetoric on North Korea, Manning said: “The missile test is the equivalent of [North Korean leader] Kim [Jong-un] throwing a pie in his face.”
As the United Kingdom (UK) proceeds with negotiations to leave the European Union (EU), it must account for mounting security concerns regarding the potential drop-off in shared intelligence with EU countries.

A recent report published by the UK’s House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee concluded there will be a “barrier” to security if data transfers between EU nations and the UK are obstructed after Brexit, which would negatively impact the national security and counter terrorism efforts of not only the UK, but EU member states as well.  

In recent years, especially after the attacks in Brussels, Paris, Nice, and Berlin, there has been more cooperation within the EU to keep European citizens safe, highlighting both the growing importance and validity of intelligence sharing. The most recent attack in Barcelona on August 17, when a vehicle driven through crowds of pedestrians killed twelve and injured eighty, only underscores the growing need for collaboration in counterterrorism efforts throughout Europe. As a result, the UK needs to make the reconciliation between its security system and that of the EU a priority in the Brexit negotiations, working hard to secure the best UK-EU intelligence-sharing arrangement possible.

Beijing’s disregard for twenty-year-old agreement raises questions about Hong Kong’s future

Beijing’s disregard for an agreement that ensures Hong Kong’s basic freedoms raises doubts about the future of democracy in this Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

On July 1, 1997, the United Kingdom (UK) handed Hong Kong back to China, ending 150 years of British colonial rule. On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of that occasion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulated how Hong Kong would be governed after the handover, “no longer has any practical significance.”

Twenty years after the declaration entered into force, and thirty years before its expiration, the agreement is far from insignificant. It produced the “one country, two systems” arrangement between China and Hong Kong. This arrangement has ensured Hong Kong’s ability to govern under democratic principles, while remaining tied to the Chinese mainland.
On August 2, 2017, the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security hosted a panel discussion on the week-long round of cybersecurity conferences known as “Hacker Summer Camp” – DEF CON, Black Hat, and BSides Las Vegas. Ariel Robinson, Analyst and Reporter for ITSP Magazine and Host of The Tech Effect podcast, moderated a conversation with Nick Leiserson, Legislative Director for the Office of U.S. Representative Jim Langevin; Cris Thomas (also known as Space Rogue), Global Strategy Lead for IBM X-Force Red; Jessica Wilkerson, Professional Staff Member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Beau Woods, Deputy Director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security on the three cybersecurity conferences that welcomed top hackers, academics, journalists, professionals, and government representatives. 
The Pentagon has confirmed that North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28. The missile, which landed in the sea off the Japanese coast, flew higher and for longer than the one North Korea tested on July 4. This means it could hit cities in the United States.

Here is what Atlantic Council analysts had to say about this development.


    

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