Snap elections are likely in Spain after Catalan independence parties withdrew their support from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government on February 13. They backed the social democrat in June in order to unseat a right-wing government that had refused any concessions to the independence movement, but Sánchez was unwilling to meet the Catalans’ ultimate demand: a legal referendum on secession from Spain.

Toppling Sánchez may turn out to be a costly mistake.

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Germany’s defense budget is on the march upwards, but can Berlin maintain the spending momentum given the prospects of a slowing global economy? There are also questions about how the country should spend its defense euros in the long term, say defense officials and policy experts.

Germany has long been an underspender when it comes to meeting NATO’s defense budget guideline of 2 percent of GDP for each of its allies, but that is now changing.

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US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in Warsaw on February 13 and 14 for a summit on the Middle East co-hosted by the United States and Poland. The summit, named a “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” will reportedly “address a range of critical issues including terrorism and extremism, missile development and proliferation, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region,” according to a joint US-Polish statement.

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Rather than spend time contemplating regime change, the United States should attempt engagement with Iran, panelists said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on February 12.

Roundly criticizing any thoughts from Washington that it could pressure Iran enough to achieve regime change, Mohsen Milani, executive director of the University of South Florida’s Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies, said: “I simply do not see the conditions for another revolution.” He saw “no evidence that there is a social base in Iran that wants to see a radical change.”

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On February 11, US ambassadors from twelve EU member states met in Warsaw to discuss the ways in which the United States can help the Three Seas Initiative, a project that seeks to facilitate interconnectivity on energy, infrastructure, and digitalization projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The meeting, led by the Atlantic Council and its Executive Chairman Emeritus retired Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., comes on the heels of US Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s visit to the Three Seas Initiative summit in Bucharest in September 2018, and a little over a year after US President Donald J. Trump endorsed the project while taking part in a 2017 summit in Warsaw.

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The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge—the brainchild of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative—got underway in London on February 11. The two-day event is a unique and innovative cyber crisis and policy response simulation. The UK edition is part of a wider Atlantic Council effort to foster the next generation of multidisciplinary cyber professionals.

“The UK government’s National Cyber Security Strategy is clear that more must be done for the UK to meet the future national demand. Much like the NCSC’s CyberFirst courses, Cyber 9/12 is an effective way to nurture the next generation of cyber security experts,” said Paul Chichester, director for operations at the National Cyber Security Centre in London.

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A casual consumer of news reading sensational headlines about Hungary would question whether the United States and Hungary are even allies. US officials are criticized for a policy of “appeasement” when they meet their Hungarian counterparts. It is therefore significant that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting Hungary this week as part of a concerted plan to engage Central Europe.

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February brings the most significant series of tests yet of whether President Trump can transform his disruptive US foreign policy into concrete outcomes. The four to watch most closely, all of dizzying importance, are negotiating a trade deal with China, denuclearizing North Korea, rallying an international community to contain Iran and democratizing Venezuela.

Trump’s trade team, led by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, will visit China early next week seeking progress toward a trade deal before a March 1 deadline, ending a 90-day truce agreed to by the two country’s leaders at the G20 in Buenos Aires.

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No one knows just what will be the outcome of Britain’s fraught negotiations to leave the European Union—and that means no one knows whether the United Kingdom will remain united after Brexit.


Several ministers in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet, speaking anonymously, have told the BBC they believe a “no deal” Brexit could lead to a vote on Irish unification. Sinn Fein, the Republican party which wants to see the British province of Northern Ireland unite with the independent Republic of Ireland, has already called for a vote on Irish unity after Brexit.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Central Europe is “the right call” by the Trump administration, according to Daniel Fried, a distinguished ambassadorial fellow at the Atlantic Council.

After the enlargement of NATO and the European Union to encompass these countries by 2004, “a lot of Americans thought our work in the region was done, and yet it was not so,” Fried explained. With US attention shifting to other regions of the world, the once very close partnerships between the United States and these countries “became eerily normal,” said Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council. “Central Europe began to be taken for granted as Washington’s attention understandably shifted elsewhere.”

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