Issue Briefs

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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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Throughout much of the 1990s, progress was the order of the day. NATO enlargement under the Clinton administration was part of a broader global strategy, presenting democratic and entrepreneurial opportunity. This process was coupled with the prospect of new cooperation with Russia to create an undivided, free, and prosperous Europe. A decade and a half later, Central Europe faces severe challenges and signs of particular vulnerability to backlash against the very ideals this period set out to establish and the values expected to endure. 

 

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Over the past decade and a half, Russia has placed an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in its military strategy and doctrine. Moscow’s assertive “escalate-to-de-escalate” nuclear strategy poses a distinguishable threat to NATO nations, and requires greater strategic thinking about NATO’s nuclear posture. After a quarter century of reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons, NATO now lacks a credible deterrent for Russian “de-escalatory” nuclear strikes. To grapple with this possibility, NATO must consider the development of new, more flexible nuclear capabilities of its own.

 

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A permanent rotational presence of NATO troops in the Baltic States and Poland, the outcome from the recent NATO Warsaw Summit, will form an integral part of NATO’s increased deterrence measures against Russia in Europe’s east. One of NATO’s key challenges as it seeks to enhance its presence in the Baltic Sea region is the lack of modern military infrastructure, especially the kind that meets the needs of large Allied units. The Baltic states have not been unaware of their military infrastructure gaps, and all three countries have built their armed forces from the ground up, focusing on manning the force and equipment requirements. But if NATO troops cannot get their tanks and supply convoys to training ranges and bases far from the Baltic coastline, they will not be of much use. Additionally, improving military infrastructure is not just a matter of presenting a more palatable offer to NATO allies; it is also an issue of operational capabilities.

 

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At the outset of the political uprisings that began in North Africa in 2010, the four countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia faced similar economic and political challenges. Over the past almost six years, the countries have adopted different approaches to address these problems, however the overall economic picture today is grim amid varied political environments. In “Aftermath of the Arab Spring in North Africa,” authors Mohsin Khan and Karim Mezran examine whether these four North African countries have been successful in meetings the demands of their populations as expressed in the 2010-11 uprisings and what challenges remain for them in the future. 
 

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The Baltic Sea region has emerged as a key friction zone between the West and Russia since the onset of the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Russia has built up its military presence and activity in the region, challenging the post-Cold War order in Europe and spurring new concerns in the United States, NATO, and its partners about the region’s security. The overriding US security priority in the Baltic Sea region is to provide deterrence against aggression toward the Baltic States and effective defense if that deterrence fails. The Baltic States are arguably NATO’s most vulnerable members, and their small geographical size and limited military resources mean that they cannot, by themselves, offer strategic depth to the United States and NATO during a crisis. However, the region also contains two of NATO’s most valuable partners—Sweden and Finland—along with the emerging leader of NATO’s east, Poland.

 

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