• Debt Default Pushes Venezuela Further into Russian Orbit

    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.”

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  • Dialogue Seen as Crucial to Defusing North Korea Nuclear Crisis

    As US President Donald J. Trump grapples with the North Korean nuclear crisis, two former US officials have some words of advice: attempt dialogue before pre-emptive military strikes, and broaden the scope of that discussion to include the security needs of the region, including North Korea's.

    Ernest Moniz, who served as energy secretary in Barack Obama’s administration, said heaping sanctions on North Korea alone cannot produce results and that this approach will only “spin wheels.”

    R. Nicholas Burns, who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs in George W. Bush’s administration, said exhausting the diplomatic option before considering the military one is the “wisdom” gleaned from the first nuclear age. “Kim Jong-un is not a more deadly rival of the United States than Stalin was or Khrushchev was in the 50s and 60s,” he said.

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  • It’s Never Too Late to Set the Record Straight

    On November 24, 1933, the Soviet Union threw a lavish dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for 1,500 in honor of President Franklin Roosevelt’s recognition of the Soviet Union. They feasted on fancy wines, caviar, and Boeuf Stroganoff, then later in the evening gave a standing ovation to the special guest of honor, Walter Duranty, The New York Times’ foreign correspondent in Moscow and 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner.

    Outside the ballroom, the Great Depression was devastating capitalism and the Soviet Union was devastating Ukraine by starving to death millions to bring them to heel.

    November in Canada is Holodomor Remembrance Month, designed to remember one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history, a premeditated genocide perpetrated by Josef Stalin to collectivize farms and destroy Ukrainian society. Up to ten million died. “Holodomor” means death by hunger in Ukrainian.

    But the man feted years ago in New York, Walter Duranty, knew about Stalin’s mass murder and deliberately covered it up. It was a monstrous example of journalistic malpractice, unearthed as a result of research conducted by the Ukrainian diaspora and historians.

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  • The Importance of Being Angela Merkel

    Chancellor is vital for European solidarity on Russia sanctions, says Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell

    If German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to step down from her role it would create uncertainty over the fate of sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine, according to Fran Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    “There is one area where her absence would make a great deal of difference potentially and that is on the sanctions on Russia,” said Burwell.

    “With the British leaving [the European Union] and her leaving—if she should leave—that makes the continued adherence to these sanctions less certain. Depending on what happens in the Italian elections, those sanctions could be vulnerable indeed,” she added.  

    Moreover, Burwell noted, instability in Germany would be a blow for the European Union (EU), which is grappling with the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the Union and the eurozone crisis.

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  • Moscow’s Eye Turns South

    In November 2016, the Atlantic Council published the first volume of The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses, detailing the extent of Russian-linked political networks in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That report has since become a guide to those seeking to understand how the Kremlin cultivates political allies in Western European countries in order to undermine European consensus and sow divisions. In a new report, The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 2.0, we trace the extent of Russian political penetration in Europe’s southern flank—Greece, Italy, and Spain.

    These countries bore the brunt of Europe’s major crises in the last decade: the 2008 economic crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis. In the aftermath of the economic crisis, Greece, Italy, and Spain experienced double digit unemployment and income drops, coupled with reductions to social safety nets. The EU’s response was to impose austerity measures. And while these policies helped shore up the countries’ economies, they also bred domestic resentment against the EU, mainstream parties, and liberal democracy. Then Syrian refugees began arriving by the thousands on the Italian and Greek shores, further exacerbating social tensions.

    It is this volatile climate that has proven to be fertile ground for Russian overtures, while providing an opening for political parties oriented toward the East.

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  • Ullman in UPI: Vladimir Putin's Playbook for Disrupting the West

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  • Long History and Long Border with Russia Make Finland the Perfect ‘Hybrid’ Hub

    The new European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (CoE) in Helsinki is, according to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, an “institution fit for our times.”

    With membership from eleven European Union (EU) nations and the United States, the CoE is one of the most tangible examples of the pledge by NATO and the EU to work more closely together, addressing what both organizations recognize is a threat to their very foundations. Mattis visited the center in Finland last week.

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  • Bechev in The American Interest: Russia and Turkey: Back to Normal?

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  • Cohen in The Navigator: Russia’s Return To The Middle East: America Beware

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  • The Best Way to Improve Kyiv’s Military Odds Isn’t What You Think It Is

    As Ukraine continues to defend itself against Russian aggression in the east, there is one thing Kyiv can do to improve its odds for military success: reform its corruption-riddled defense sector. Transparency International's most recent Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index gives Ukraine a D grade, indicating a high risk of corruption.

    It’s not difficult to see why. For one thing, Ukraine's state-owned arms conglomerate Ukroboronprom is a cesspool of corruption. In one case, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine discovered a fraudulent scheme to buy old outdated engines for T-72 tanks instead of new motors while a recent audit found numerous financial violations and inefficient resource management totaling 557.8 million hryvnas (approximately $21 million).

    The high level of secrecy surrounding the country's defense expenditures constitutes a major corruption risk, says Transparency International’s Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee Secretary General Olena Tregub. And these problems in the defense sector have real-world effects.

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