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Lingering uncertainty regarding US support for NATO and burden-sharing among allies has raised questions as to the future of the NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement. While US President Donald J. Trump’s reaffirmation of the US commitment to Article 5, NATO’s mutual defense clause, may have temporarily placated allies, intense feelings of insecurity among the European allies remain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, taking an unusually strong stance, gave voice to these sentiments: “The time in which [Europe] can rely fully on others—they are somewhat over.” With these remarks, Merkel offered her answer to a question that has been asked repeatedly since Trump was elected president of the United States: Can Europe count on its ally across the Atlantic to come to its defense when needed?
Russia’s large-scale military exercise to be conducted in September can provide critical insight for NATO allies seeking to improve their readiness posture against an increasingly revanchist Russia, according to an Estonian defense official.

“Russians train exactly as they intend to fight, thus Zapad will give up ample information on their military and political thinking as it is right now,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for defense policy at Estonia’s Ministry of Defense, said at the Atlantic Council on July 11. According to Prikk, “we don’t consider this year’s Zapad exercise in itself to be a direct threat to us [NATO] or a cover for an attack, but we have to keep in mind that the Russians have the nasty habit of hiding their actual military endeavors behind exercises.”

“We have to be calm, vigilant, flexible,” in the months leading up to and following Zapad 2017, said Prikk.

In September, Russia will conduct a joint military exercise with Belarus—Zapad. Based on initial indications and past Zapads, the exercise, which will take place in Belarus, will assess the readiness of Russia’s military across many forces—land, sea, and air—and test a range of capabilities—not only conventional, but also cyber and nuclear, within a particular set of scenarios. This will be the first Zapad exercise since 2013. Zapad, which is also the Russian word for “west,” will take place against the backdrop of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, ongoing war in Ukraine, military intervention in Syria, and meddling in the US and French presidential elections.
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.
Challenges emanating from the Mediterranean region, including those posed by failed states, terrorism, and a historic flow of migrants, have contributed to a surge in populism on both sides of the Atlantic that could imperil transatlantic unity and the European project itself, Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, said on February 1.  

Vershbow, who previously served as deputy secretary general of NATO from February 2012 to October 2016, said that these challenges “threaten to undermine the traditional values of openness and tolerance on both sides of the Atlantic.” Consequently, these conditions necessitate a fresh look at the security situation in the Mediterranean, focusing in particular on drivers of instability.

“The security interests of the transatlantic community and the Mediterranean have been closely intertwined for centuries… but never more intertwined than today,” he said.  
In facing the challenges of the world today, leaders and policymakers can draw on examples from the past in order to create hope for the future.  As described by Fred Kempe, president and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council, one such example can be found in the late Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster, a military leader and statesman who worked through the twentieth century to help establish the current rules-based global order.

The Life and Work of General Andrew J. Goodpaster: Best Practices in National Security Affairs by C. Richard Nelson is a biography detailing the renowned general’s life and the ways in which he embodied “the defense of values, the defense of constructive leadership in the world alongside friends and allies to create a more secure future,” said Kempe.

Deborah Lee James, secretary of the US Air Force, said the transatlantic community is facing significant challenges

In light of numerous instances of Russian aggression around the world, the transatlantic security community must stand together in a coordinated show of force so as to deter Russian revanchism, Deborah Lee James, secretary of the US Air Force, said at the Atlantic Council on December 19.

“The transatlantic security community… is facing greater challenges today than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” said James. She said that Russia’s infringements upon the security of other nations are “poking and testing and pushing and seeing what the response will be.”

“We have to have resolve and we have to have an active response,” she said.
Donald J. Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the United States on November 8. Atlantic Council analysts and board members describe the challenges and opportunities the new president will face as he takes office in January of 2017, and provide policy recommendations.
As its summit in Warsaw approaches, NATO is bolstering defenses on its eastern flank, increasing military presence, improving infrastructure, and conducting military exercises. While praised in some circles, NATO’s actions have also drawn criticism. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has accused the Alliance of “warmongering” and ratcheting up tensions with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has characterized NATO’s actions as aggressive, hostile, and “Cold War-style.”

Nevertheless, the Alliance’s concerns are rooted in fact. As Russia stokes tensions near NATO’s eastern border, the Alliance must respond in a measured way to project strength, stability, and solidarity—especially if the United Kingdom acts on the decision of a majority of Britons to take the UK out of the European Union. While enhanced forward presence may not be the sole aspect of an approach that responds to Russia, it is certainly a vital one.
For one week in February, an Atlantic Council team and peers from Washington-based academic institutions and think tanks visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, Saijo, and Miyajima to learn about the culture, traditions, and international policies of Japan. We attended meetings with representatives of government agencies, private companies, and local think tanks. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored the trip. What follows is a combination of our observations.
The March 22 terrorist attacks in Brussels will have three major consequences for Europe’s political landscape.

First, it could deal a devastating blow to Europe’s open borders; the Schengen area is the magnum opus of a unified Europe. Following the terrorist attack, authorities shut down major public transport lines between Brussels and its European neighbors. France has sent an additional 1,600 police to “border crossings and air, sea, and rail infrastructure,” closing some major roads to Belgium. France’s Interior Minister also announced plans to implement checkpoints at domestic public transportation stations.

Apprehension is quickly spreading to other European capitals. The United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy, among others, have heightened security at large airports and transport points. British, Italian, Dutch, and Polish governments have also convened emergency national meetings amidst growing border security concerns. If nations begin to turn inward, shoring up borders and rejecting the Schengen zone, the foundation of the European project will be shaken to its core.


    

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