Brexit may not be avoidable after all.

The United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) announced on March 19 that they have agreed on a “large part” of an agreement that would result in Britain leaving the EU.
In a speech March 9 at the Atlantic Council, US Department of Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker, the Trump administration's top sanctions official, confirmed that new Russia sanctions are being prepared, and suggested that they would target members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's power structure.

This was just one of the items covered in a half-day conference hosted by the Atlantic Council's Sanctions Initiative. The event convened policy makers, sanctions veterans of previous US administrations, experts, foreign diplomats, and business representatives.
Does US President Donald J. Trump’s startling and widely panned declaration to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports set the stage for the United States’ exit from the World Trade Organization (WTO)?

Jennifer Hillman, a fellow at the Institute of International Economic Law, seems to think so. Trump’s maneuvering indicates that he “would like to create a crisis in the WTO, or…lay the groundwork for the United States to withdraw,” she said.

It is not impossible that, should the WTO level charges against the United States, the Trump administration may respond by saying, “that’s it, we’re leaving,” cautioned Hillman, a former member of the WTO appellate court. She joined a press and members call hosted by the Atlantic Council on March 6.
On February 28, the European Union (EU) published the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which provides concrete terms for the United Kingdom (UK)’s separation. The draft marks the beginning of the second phase of Brexit negotiation, focused on the nature of the future relationship between the EU and UK.

With the publication of the draft at this time, the EU takes the initiative and sets the agenda, outmaneuvering the UK, in a pattern similar to what we saw in the first phase of the negotiations. While the priority until this point had been the negotiations for the “exit” part of Brexit, the newly released draft implements key elements of the “divorce deal” agreed in December 2017 and lays the base for negotiating future relations.

Though based on the provisions decided by both UK Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU alone composed the draft withdrawal agreement. May has responded to its release, saying she rejects the document.
Two developments have rocked the Latvian banking system in recent days. Last week, the country’s third-largest bank, ABLV Bank, was accused by the United States Treasury Department of systematic money laundering and aiding in the circumvention of the sanctions imposed on North Korea. Separately, Latvian Central Bank Governor Ilmars Rimsevics, one of the longest-serving central bank heads in Europe, was held over the weekend by Latvia’s anti-corruption authority after he was accused by officials at Norvik Banka of having demanded a bribe. As of now, the two developments appear unrelated.

Atlantic Council analysts discuss agreement that could end political uncertainty in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on February 7 moved a step closer to forming a coalition government that would include her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

But first, more than 460,000 members of the SPD will need to approve the coalition agreement in a postal ballot. The results will be announced on March 4.

Approval of the deal would end more than four months of political wrangling that have followed an inconclusive election in September and keep Merkel at the helm for a fourth term as chancellor.
US stocks saw another volatile day on February 6 as ripples spread to global markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 4 percent—a nearly 1,200-point decline—on February 5. The declines for the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were the biggest single-day percentage drops since August 2011. The Dow closed 567 points higher on February 6.
The apparent lack of US preparation and defense nearly eighteen months after Russia’s interference in the presidential elections, especially given numerous media reports that Russia aims to interfere in the 2018 US midterm elections, is deeply troubling. We are heartened that Congress has taken up leadership to defend the US electoral process. But notwithstanding its good intent and timeliness, the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act of 2018, recently introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), is pursuing the right thing in the wrong way. 
UK Prime Minister Theresa May might have secured a major victory in the Brexit process, but she still faces exceptional political, social, and economic challenges in the second phase of negotiating the United Kingdom’s separation from the European Union (EU). European Council President Donald Tusk has already stated the latter half of the negotiations “will be more difficult than the first.”

On December 8 May achieved what many skeptics of the process did not consider possible, an agreement with the EU to further negotiations to define at least an outline of what the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU will look like.
Venezuela’s default on a massive international debt and Russia’s ongoing financial assistance to the South American country that is under both US and European Union (EU) sanctions, will push Caracas further into Moscow’s sphere of influence, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

“The Russians are throwing lifelines to the criminal Venezuelan regime with the intention of further pushing Caracas into Moscow’s orbit. With Venezuela both under US and EU sanctions and being shunned by the major countries of the hemisphere, the Russians see an opportunity to swoop in and use the situation to their advantage,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. He described how a country that is diplomatically isolated and run by an anti-US regime “provides a huge opportunity for Russia to establish a further footprint in a country that is within the geostrategic, geographical orbit of the United States.”