Issue Briefs

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The uncertain results of President Trump’s June 12 summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un underscore the fact that the United States needs to keep developing tools to intensify the “maximum pressure” campaign that helped bring North Korea to the negotiating table. If North Korea proves unwilling to denuclearize and diplomacy breaks down once again, the Trump administration will need game-changing options in its sanctions arsenal. In “How to Increase Pressure if Diplomacy with North Korea Fails” authors Daleep Singh, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and Peter E. Harrell, adjunct senior fellow at CNAS, explain that a truly “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea would require the credible threat of targeted sanctions against China. The authors identify opportunities to increase pressure on China to curtail its economic support for North Korea by proceeding in three parts. First, Singh and Harrell assess China’s financial vulnerabilities. Second, they review key US sources of leverage. Finally, the authors provide specific recommendations on potential sanctions if the current diplomatic opening with North Korea fails to resolve the crisis.

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Since Putin’s annexation of Crimea and military aggression in Donbas—and especially since the 2016 US presidential election—the spread of Kremlin propaganda and disinformation has become a dominant subject of discussion and debate in the West. Academic research, investigative journalism, government inquiries, and NGO activities have drawn back the curtain on the Kremlin’s efforts to meddle in and distort the Western information space.

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As the energy sector has become more globalized and increasingly complex in its reliance on software components, the supply-chain risk has evolved and expanded. One such risk that stands out is unintended taint, namely flaws in software components unintentionally built into products in design or implementation. Unintended taint may lead to unintended supply-chain subversion, and represents a significant and credible threat to the uninterrupted functionality of critical infrastructure within the energy sector. In this issue brief, we outline a taxonomy for understanding certain energy sector risks and provide concrete recommendations for policy makers and the private sector.

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Economic sanctions have proven to be an important foreign policy tool for the Trump Administration. In less than a year, it has expanded existing economic sanctions in response to disputes with North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela. In Secondary Economic Sanctions: Effective Policy or Risky Business, author John Forrer, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Business & Economics Program, explains that one specific strategy used to increase the effects of US sanctions is referred to as “secondary sanctions.” This type of sanction is adopted in addition to the “primary sanctions” imposed on a sanctioned individual or entity. The author adds that globalization has lessened many countries’ vulnerability to traditional sanctions, and poses severe challenges to designing and implementing economic sanctions. Mr. Forrer argues that secondary sanctions can bolster the effectiveness of primary sanctions. At the same time, he cautions that secondary sanctions can be controversial, and their effectiveness is highly contested. The author stresses the importance of fully understanding secondary sanctions’ promise and pitfalls, before embracing a strategy of expanded use of this foreign policy tool.

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Over the past year, many have questioned the extent to which the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are an arm of the Lebanese state or beholden to Hezbollah. Pointing to the LAF’s complicated relationship with Hezbollah, congressional and other voices in the United States have criticized US security assistance to Lebanon and threatened to withhold assistance. Yet, over the past decade, the military capabilities of the LAF have improved significantly, and the group has effectively defended Lebanon’s borders, including against ISIS. In “The United States–Lebanese Armed Forces Partnership: Challenges, Risks, and Rewards”, Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow Nicholas Blanford assesses LAF capabilities, the trajectory of the LAF over the past decade, and what leverage the United States has achieved through its investment in the LAF, in particular relative to Hezbollah, Iran, and other actors.

 

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In cybersecurity, it is time to go beyond sharing and ad hoc cooperation, to collaboration at scale across borders, stakeholders, and sectors. This effort should begin with a determined study of the responses to past incidents and how to improve them, then proceed to new, action-oriented Cyber Incident Collaboration Organizations (CICO) to streamline response. The goal of a CICO must be to streamline the current response process for an incident type, to provide an umbrella to make such work easier or to upscale it. In this issue brief, Jason Healey presents the next generation of innovations that will simplify agile, scalable response to incidents—across borders, stakeholders, and sectors.

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“Unlike in the legacy industries, there are no Ukrainian IT oligarchs, no IT-supported political parties in the Rada, and no IT-controlled Ukrainian media channels,” argue Andrei Kirilenko and Tetyana Tyshchuk in From Legacy to Digital: Ukraine’s Plugged-in Economy, a new issue brief by the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center. In fact, Ukraine has a long and proud history in the development of information technology (IT), both hardware and software. MESM, the first digital electronic computer in continental Europe, was completed in 1951 in Feofania on the outskirts of Kyiv. Despite the war, unfavorable investment climate, and weak institutions, Ukraine’s IT industry has been experiencing double-digit growth for several years running. This issue brief examines the rising IT sector in Ukraine and how the new digital economy is integrating into global markets and increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Ukraine’s human capital.

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With a May 12 deadline looming for sanctions waivers, US President Donald Trump is faced with an imminent decision whether to continue US implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Implementation (JCPOA) and remain part of the nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1 governments (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany). In Iran Sanctions and the Fate of the JCPOA: What’s at Stake if President Trump Fails to Renew the Sanctions Waivers? author David Mortlock, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, explains that while there is still time for US diplomats to reach some kind of accord with their European counterparts before May 12, President Trump is reportedly unsatisfied with the results so far. In the absence of a sufficient agreement with Europe, the president clearly appears prepared not to renew the waivers come May 12, and to reimpose sanctions that could impact an array of activity by private companies, largely outside the United States.

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From cryptocurrencies to blockchain to mobile money, financial technology (“fintech”) is revolutionizing the basic structures of the global economy. Financial services delivered through fintech are becoming more accessible, efficient, and personal. In sub-Saharan Africa, where only 34 percent of adults have bank accounts, fintech companies are already providing financial products and services to millions of unbanked and underserved Africans in ways that traditional financial institutions cannot.

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Disruptive technologies—such as the Internet of Things, robotics, and three-dimensional (3D) printing—have been heralded as the future of the global manufacturing sector. However, in Africa, they could hinder industrialization and result in fewer entry points into global supply chains. While it may be possible for African nations to “leapfrog” directly to newer technologies, it is more likely that developing the relevant worker know-how, infrastructure, and corporate capabilities necessary to leverage the potential value of these technologies will be a very gradual process. African policy makers must therefore pursue multipronged strategies to ensure relevance as 3D printing and other disruptive technologies move into the mainstream.

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