Recent Events

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.   
When approaching security in the Asia-Pacific region, new trends such as deepening intra-Asian defense cooperation and significant increases in Asian defense spending, now on par with that of North America, must be considered, said an Atlantic Council analyst.

“There is a trend of very significant increases in Asian defense spending, as well as concomitant intra-Asian defense cooperation” which provide opportunities for “multilateral hedging against some of the uncertainties associated with China’s rise,” and “in some cases North Korea,” said Barry Pavel, senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair, and director of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

Pavel said recent agreements between Singapore and Vietnam, Japan and Australia, India and South Korea are all examples of how Asian countries can “train together, exercise together, develop new capabilities together,” with the broad mission of promoting security and prosperity in the region.
In the aftermath of Russian cyberattacks during the US presidential election last year and amid concerns about a repeat of such a strategy in Europe as Germany, France, and the Netherlands go to the polls this year, British officials are calling for greater cooperation on cybersecurity between NATO and the European Union.

“NATO is the first and most important part of an international response, but it cannot be the whole answer,” Stephen Lovegrove, the British defense ministry’s permanent secretary, said at the Atlantic Council on March 6.

Citing threats from Russia’s “hybrid model” of warfare, Lovegrove called for military and non-military responses, which, he said, includes building on the agreement from NATO’s Warsaw summit in 2016 to reinvigorate the NATO-EU relationship through cooperation on cybersecurity and boosting counter-hybrid capabilities.

NATO needs to be configured quite clearly to meet the threat posed by Russia, said Lovegrove. “This is not an aggressive posture, it needs to be a defensive posture,” he added.
On March 7, the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security hosted a discussion on the rise of intra-Asian defense cooperation, its significance to regional dynamics, and potential implications to the US and global power dynamics. Recent partnerships range from Japan’s defense cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as India-Vietnam, Australia-India-Japan-US, Malaysia-Indonesia-Philippines maritime cooperation, and others.

Following a warm welcome and introductory remarks by Mr. Barry Pavel, Senior Vice President and Director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Mr. Gordon Lubold, Pentagon reporter at The Wall Street Journal moderated the panel on the increase of Asian defense spending and the evolving network of intra-Asian defense coalitions. The panel featured Ms. Lindsey Ford, director of Asian security at the Asia Society Policy Institute; Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, senior fellow at CNA Strategic Studies; Mr. Randy Schriver, founding partner at Armitage International LLC; and Mr. John Watts, non-resident senior fellow of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.
US President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on February 28 marked “a new trajectory” for the administration by reassuring allies while ensuring continuity of US foreign policy when it comes to international alliances, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

Trump’s speech “covered some ground that needed to be covered, NATO, commitment to allies, working with Muslim allies… and so this was a necessary and critical first step,” to address uncertainties about US commitment and reassure US allies, according to Barry Pavel, Atlantic Council senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair, and director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. In light of Trump’s statements, Pavel said the new administration “will pursue a lot of continuity in US foreign policy.”

“A lot more needs to happen,” said Pavel, “but this is a step we’ve all been waiting for, and now we can get going.” Pavel joined Alex Ward, associate director of the Scowcroft Center, for a Facebook Live discussion on March 1.  
Our world is changing, and quickly. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Arctic region. For decades, Arctic sea ice has been shrinking, the result of higher temperatures driven by climate change. So too has Greenland’s ice sheet, for the same reason. While each new winter has brought with it evidence of deterioration in polar stability, the winter of 2016-2017 has been the most alarming of them all. In the first winter months of 2016, temperature readings in the Arctic were the highest ever recorded, by 20-35 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 11-19 degrees Celsius) above historic averages.
The uncertainty created by US President Donald Trump’s questioning of whether the Alliance remains in the US’ interest has stalled the production of a new NATO strategic concept.

The last NATO strategic concept—the Alliance’s consensus statement on the threats and intended responses—was agreed in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010. In 2016, some astute observers suggested that 2017 would be a good time to start work on a new concept. By that time, the Russian threat had re-emerged, NATO was mostly out of Afghanistan, and the challenges posed by mass migration from the south and the terrorism that sent people fleeing to Europe had fundamentally changed the strategic environment.

Now, in light of the new US administration, there is no way that the allies will agree to start work on a new concept.
 Economic incentives, specifically the expansion of trade and increased investment in the Asia-Pacific region, could provide the best opportunity for strengthening the Atlantic-Pacific partnership, according to Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., chairman of the Atlantic Council.

These economic incentives could serve as a point of common interest to overcome the geographic and political divisions among the three major players of the Atlantic-Pacific partnership—namely the United States, the European Union, and parts of Asia such as Japan and, in some cases, China.

“Despite the numerous challenges set forth by an increasingly volatile geopolitical climate,” said Huntsman, who previously served as the US ambassador to China and Singapore, “market developments in the Asia-Pacific region offer huge opportunities to the United States and Europe, providing a historic opening to expand trade and investment and strengthen relations generally.”