Issue Briefs

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In 2016, a series of highly impactful and publicized disruptions provided a wake-up call to societies on both sides of the Atlantic making obvious their dependence on inherently unpredictable technology. Just before the year began, a targeted attack disrupted the Ukrainian energy grid, forcing its operators to fall back on decades-old manual processes, and a similar attack followed late in the year. The Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles was forced to shut down for weeks as a critical patient-care system was unintentionally disrupted by ransomware—a common plague that impacted many other parts of societal infrastructure through the year, including San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), US electricity providers, and hospitals in the United States and across Europe. At the same time, a botnet of poorly secured devices disrupted large portions of the US Internet and knocked more than one million German households offline. And while the Russian breach of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the associated influence campaign continue to shock many in the United States and beyond, the specter of hackable voting computers also cast doubt on the US electoral system in the lead-up to and aftermath of the presidential election.

 

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The European security environment is at its most volatile since the Cold War, and much of the friction between NATO and a newly assertive Russia can be found in the maritime domain, particularly in the Baltic Sea region. This means that NATO must once again address the role of the maritime domain in collective defense and deterrence, and in particular NATO’s ability to conduct sea control and effect reinforcements across the sea. Germany, a key NATO ally in the Baltic Sea region, is currently rebalancing its navy toward the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser degree the North Atlantic, after more than two decades of tending to crisis management tasks. This presents a real opportunity to strengthen collective defense and deterrence in northern Europe and to help fill some of the capability and command and control gaps in the region. 

 

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This spring, the Swedish government is expected to bring back its military draft after seven years. In this, Sweden will join its neighbor Norway, which never abolished its military draft but did make it gender-neutral last year. A third European country, Lithuania, has also reinstated the draft after abolishing it a decade ago. “The Return of the Draft” by Elisabeth Braw, a nonresident senior fellow in the Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, takes a deeper look at how the draft is returning in a modernized fashion. The author outlines the key policy issues related to recruiting the best conscripts and how to maximize their benefit to the armed forces.

 
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Germany’s historical experience explains how the energy transition (Energiewende) came about, and largely explains the resilience of the policies to abandon nuclear power and to scale-up renewables in the face of the challenges they have posed to Germany’s consumers, utilities, and international competitiveness. Whereas the success of the Energiewende to date has come from the way it takes a unifying approach to energy, environment, and labor policies, its success will require expanding the scope from a German to an EU-wide scale. 

 
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There has been a global push toward finding a way to reduce the impact of climate change. In an attempt to help achieve this goal, countries have made changes to move toward low-carbon economies. Comparing transitions toward a low-carbon economy in the United Kingdom (UK), United States, Germany, and Denmark show the divergence of approaches alongside surprising similarities in public opinion. While focusing specifically on the de-carbonization of electricity as the primary component of the transition, the authors and ELEEP alumni analyze how public and political support for energy transitions have been influenced by price, public opinion, and historical context.

 
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The Trump administration should not take up its work under the assumption that the United States, with only 5 percent of the world’s population and around a quarter of the world’s economy, can continue to be an indispensable presence on the world stage. America’s relative decline since 1945 seems to be a byproduct of the post-World War II system it created along with its allies and partners, in which the United States worked to bring millions out of poverty, give other nations incentives to strengthen their governance structures and institutions, and establish global norms of behavior. That effort sought to ensure no worldwide conflicts recurred. However, fostering an environment where states, groups, and individuals could be further empowered naturally eroded America’s once-monopolistic strength; the United States has brought humanity to a new era where many are powerful and many can potentially lead.

 

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Since the 1979 revolution, recurring rounds of sanctions and eight years of war with Iraq have hammered Iran’s oil production and export capacity. Despite boasting the fourth largest proven oil reserves in the world, Iran’s oil production and exports languished at 4 million barrels per day (mb/d) and 2.5 mb/d, respectively, in 2011.

The entrance of the European Union and United States into an even more stringent sanctions regime in 2012 further crippled an already hamstrung industry. Iran’s crude exports dropped 40 percent to 1.5 mb/d in 2012 and sunk to an average of just 1 mb/d by 2014 as foreign markets closed, international investment evaporated, and supply chains withered.

 

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To decrease its heavy reliance on fossil fuels the Turkish government has made ambitious plans to increase its production of nuclear energy. It has reached tentative agreement with Russia and a Japanese-French consortium to build two nuclear power plants near Mersin on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast and in the Sinop District on the Black Sea coast. The fate of Turkey’s nuclear projects, however, is dependent on vendor financing, related to adoption of a “Build, Operate, Own” (BOO) model, in addition to political arrangements with the Russian Federation.

 

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France’s geopolitical power in Europe is unique. It combines a positive legacy of global leadership, a rich diplomatic network, universal aspirations, global military reach, cultural influence, and economic heft. The authors, Atlantic Council Senior Fellows Jérémie Gallon and Jeff Lightfoot, of this paper, “France: Europe’s Swing State: Foreign Policy Begins at Home,” argue that France is the pivotal swing state in shaping the contours of a stronger European Union (EU) and a reinforced transatlantic alliance at a crucial moment in the history of the West. 

 

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Eritrea has long been stigmatized as a regional “spoiler” by Washington, and despite little evidence of wrongdoing, the country remains under Security Council sanctions for supporting terrorist groups in Somalia.

Now is the time to rethink that relationship, argues Atlantic Council Africa Center Deputy Director Bronwyn Bruton in a new issue brief entitled "Eritrea: Coming in from the Cold." In the brief, Bruton traces the contours of the US-Eritrean relationship since the country’s independence in 1991, before making the case that a number of recent, surprising developments in the country illustrate its determination to constructively reengage with the international community. 
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