On April 4, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, which laid the foundation for arguably the most successful alliance the world has ever seen. Yet despite all of its successes, many forget that NATO never had it easy. Throughout its long and venerable history, the Alliance not only had to address numerous external challenges and balance internal interests, but also take bold initiatives when the security of its member states was at stake. Therefore, at a time when some observers argue that the Alliance is facing various pressures, it is useful to put things into perspective, remember some of the earliest challenges NATO had to overcome, and draw some lessons from history.

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On March 22, instead of the usual festive mood in celebration of Nowruz, citizens of Kazakhstan were feeling disoriented and confused. The past week had been a politically turbulent one for this Central Asian nation.

Politics and people have existed in separate domains in Kazakhstan, but on March 19, politics made an unexpected return into the lives of ordinary people when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev made a surprising announcement about his decision to resign with immediate effect.

While people were still processing this news (the seventy-eight-year-old Nazarbayev had ruled Kazakhstan for almost thirty years), they were informed that Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, was to be renamed Nur-Sultan in Nazarbayev’s honor. Parliament quickly approved the initiative put forward by acting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who previously served as chairman of the Senate.

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Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s long-awaited investigation has not found adequate evidence to prove US President Donald J. Trump or any of his aides colluded with the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election. The investigation did not determine “one way or the other” whether Trump had illegally obstructed justice, according to a letter delivered to Congress by US Attorney General William Barr.


Barr made a summary of Mueller’s findings public on March 24.


“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller wrote in the findings released by the Justice Department.

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Perhaps the best one can hope for this coming week in the United Kingdom, in light of a slightly extended Brexit deadline to April 12, is something akin to a failed suicide. As is sometimes the case after narrowly escaped tragedy, the potential victim draws meaning from the exhilaration of unexpected survival.

Perhaps, by some miracle in the coming days, wiser heads in the UK government and parliament can construct a longer Brexit extension for a year or more that would allow a period of national reflection, resulting possibly in a new general election or even a second referendum, a so-called "people's vote," on whether to leave the European Union under now-known terms.

Perhaps, British legislators will see this reexamination as the only alternative, having soundly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan twice – an agreement the EU has insisted it won't renegotiate. They voted as well against the only other outcome on offer: a hard, no-deal Brexit with all its devastating economic consequences.

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Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is visiting Washington this week. The nation's capital — engrossed fully in the ramifications of the just-released Mueller report — may have little available bandwidth to invest in Netanyahu’s mission, but he shouldn’t be expected to mind: the prime minister’s most important audience this time around is not in the United States, but in Israel.


Israelis will be going to the polls on April 9 and Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. The campaign has been brutal. There has been markedly limited discussion of substantive policy issues, with an inordinate amount of attention being focused instead on the character of those vying for leadership.

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US President Donald J. Trump’s stunning decision to reverse Treasury sanctions on North Korea because he “likes” Kim Jong-un sends a troubling message to the United States’ friends and foes.

“Hard to believe, but the president is undercutting his own policy of maximum pressure/maximum diplomacy, which was arguable sound, in favor, it seems, of an obsequious gesture,” said Daniel Fried, a distinguished senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center who as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy crafted US sanctions against Russia, the largest US sanctions program to date, and negotiated the imposition of similar sanctions by Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia. 

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Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) will not take place on March 29, as British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised on countless occasions in the past two years. But a week which has seen the EU wrench the Brexit timetable from May’s hands will still be followed by one which could well set the course for Britain’s relations with Europe for generations to come.

It is not just the decisions taken by the European Council, comprising the EU’s heads of government, that has so transformed the atmosphere. On March 20, May appealed over Parliament’s head to the British people. But the result was that she entirely lost her authority in Parliament itself, ensuring that it will be the House of Commons, and not her own government, that now has effective control of the Brexit agenda.

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For better or worse, the Trump administration has encouraged new soul-searching at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva over the need for reforms to the multilateral trade system. But even well before Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States in November 2016, the United States and other WTO members were already confronting a series of existential questions. 

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On November 30, the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), modernizing the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and “rebalancing” trade relations between the three countries, according to the US administration.  Before the new pact officially takes effect, however, the legislatures of all three countries need to approve the agreement.

The USMCA would preserve the massive trading and shared-production networks that support millions of jobs in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Those networks support North America’s ability to compete effectively with China, Europe, and other economic powers. Approving USMCA this year would thus appear to be in the economic interest all three countries, providing certainty for the $1.3 trillion in three-way trade and for the many businesses, workers, and farmers that depend on the commerce and co-production that interlinks North America. Since USMCA will last at least sixteen years, its approval should provide certainty to encourage private sector investment in strengthening North America’s continental marketplace.

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The United Kingdom will no longer leave the European Union (EU) on March 29 as originally planned. However, policy makers on both sides of the English Channel still do not know when Brexit will happen, how it will be implemented, or even if it will really come to pass. Despite more than two years of negotiations, little is known about what will be the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU.

Here is a quick look at where things stand and what to watch out for in the coming weeks:

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