Issue Briefs

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In a new issue brief, “Beyond the Three Seas: A Strategy for Extending the 3SI Energy Security Vision to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova,” Global Energy Center Senior Fellow for Energy Diplomacy David Koranyi outlines the importance of the Three Seas framework for Ukraine and Moldova, and the importance of these countries for the initiative. While not formally a part of The Three Seas framework, which aims to enhance north-south interconnections in energy, transportation, and communications, Ukraine and Moldova are crucial countries for European energy security and would benefit from enhanced interconnections in all three areas—namely energy.

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Of all the political ideas to defend themselves before the court of human history, few have proven as potent and as compelling as that of electoral democracy. Yet in recent years, electoral democracy has once more come under challenge, facing off against popular discontent, revisionist governments, and—most significantly—the rise of new media and digital technologies. These technologies have at times demonstrated exhilarating promise, but they have also created new vulnerabilities that malicious actors have proven able and willing to exploit. This Issue Brief aims to provide a taxonomy of different forms and levels of state involvement in election interference, giving states a common lexicon to respond to cyber threats. It is not enough to simply speak of “hacking the vote”—and hopefully, by providing these initial terms, this report will spur a wider discussion on defining actions and sponsorship in this domain.

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Seven years from the Syrian revolution, the conflict in Syria has altered the course of history for the generation coming of age in the region. It has killed, wounded, or displaced millions of Syrians, worsened regional sectarianism, raised the risk of war between Israel and Iran, generated the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and created a new and more pernicious wave of violent radicals. Its effects extend beyond the region, shaping the outcome of politics around the world.

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Growing international trade and economic ties between the United States and India increasingly shape bilateral relations. However, major challenges including deficiencies in infrastructure, business practices, and protectionist policies pose complex challenges for the future of the US-India trade relationship. The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center launched the “Unlocking US-India Trade Potential Conference” in Bengaluru, India in November 2017 to address these challenges and explore policy recommendations to further facilitate economic partnership. This report outlines the key discussions that unfolded at the conference and the recommendations offered by experts to elevate the trade relationship between the United States and India to new heights.

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While the West continues to support efforts to democratize the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), shifting international trends threaten to slow the momentum. Increasing confrontation among Western leaders—evidenced, inter alia, by the outbreak of protectionist trade policies and Donald Trump’s dissociation from G7 positions at the June 2018 summit in Quebec—can have unintended consequences across the EaP region, which needs Western harmony if it is to align with Euro-Atlantic visions of common values and security.

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Recent Sino-Indian and Indo-Russian informal agreements to undertake joint projects in Afghanistan mark a geographical paradigm shift in the strategic ambitions of the region’s largest stakeholders. Partnerships in economic and regional connectivity offer the potential to reinvigorate interest in the Afghan peace process and to initiate shifts in regional alignments. But challenges to cooperation remain, including uncertainties regarding US policy in South Asia and Iranian sanctions, the threat of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran spilling over into the region, the role of Pakistan, and questions regarding the ultimate agenda of the Taliban. Despite these challenges, the opportunity for cooperation between India, China and Russia in the region signals new thinking regarding the Afghan War, and the potential beginning of enhanced cooperation between key stakeholders of an increasingly volatile and unpredictable international system.

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Since the recession of 2008-09, the Russian economy has experienced dramatic highs and lows. Oil prices, sanctions, and geopolitics have all had an impact. Dr. Sergey Aleksashenko, a nonresident senior fellow for global economy and development at the Brookings Institution, analyzes the scale of the impact and the impact of the Russian government's economic and financial support. Dr. Aleksashenko discusses the short-term constraints and the long term challenges for Russian economic growth.

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Over the past eighteen years, Vladimir Putin has perfected a peculiar style of rule in Moscow. A product of the KGB, Putin quickly appointed many of his siloviki colleagues to senior positions in the government shortly after coming to power. Once in office, his associates enriched themselves by looting state resources and seizing vulnerable private resources. The quest for economic gain also opened the door to cooperation between senior government officials and organized crime.

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As unrest over the Iraqi government’s failure to provide essential services grips southern Iraq, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is offering insight and analysis beyond the headlines. In a new issue brief, Beyond Security: Stabilization, Governance, and Socioeconomic Challenges in Iraq, Dr. Harith Hasan explores the ways in which economic and social issues play into Iraq’s instability and the genesis of violent conflict. In addition to Iraq’s flailing economy and demographic boom, the author highlights growing disillusionment with the political system, demonstrated by the low turnout in Iraq’s contested May 2018 election. Lack of political participation risks widening the gap between ruling elites and public demands, which could ultimately lead to further radicalization and conflict.

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Environmental degradation has become a major issue in Iran. It is a source of economic hardship, ill health, social disruption and recent political protests. Climate change has been a factor in this deterioration but so has mismanagement of the country's once ample natural resources. Our latest issue brief, Environmental and Wildlife Degradation in Iran, authored by ecologist David Laylin, reveals the monumental challenges faced by the Islamic Republic as it contends with water shortages, disappearing lakes and wetlands, polluted air, sandstorms, desertification, biodiversity loss and shrinking forests. This comprehensive analysis also outlines practical steps that the government of Iran and international partners can take to begin to overcome these challenges.

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