This is the second in a two-part series.

 

One should expect a heated national debate about the political implications for US President Donald J. Trump once the key findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation become public. Few will stop at that point to ask what the evidence shows about how Russian meddling in the 2016 US election was possible, and what must be done now to protect American democracy and counter continued Russian hybrid warfare.

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US President Donald J. Trump on January 17 unveiled a plan to defend the United States and its allies from a missile attack—the first update to the United States’ missile defense strategy in almost a decade.

“Our goal is simple: to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States—anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” Trump said at the Pentagon.

The Missile Defense Review lays out the new technologies that the Pentagon wants to combat what it sees as a growing missile threat. It identifies North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran as adversaries that are “increasing the number, accuracy, and sophistication of their missiles.”

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The Atlantic Council convened government, private sector, and academic experts to set the global energy agenda for 2019 at the Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from January 11 to 13.

The future of the oil market was frequently discussed as policy makers and experts attempted to parse the dramatic developments of the past year and provide some guidance for what 2019 holds. Here are the highlights from those conversations:

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One deal passed significant tests with flying colors this week, while another died on the parliamentary floor. Were you paying attention to the negotiations and votes this week? Take seven questions on this week’s top news and show that you are a master dealmaker.

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Having judged Theresa May on her leadership and found her wanting in a sense of reality, political honesty, a willingness to understand her opponents, and a commitment to seek consensus, one can ask how well Emmanuel Macron has fared by those same criteria, particularly as he has faced the “Yellow Vest” movement of grassroots protesters donning the high-viz jackets that all French motorists are required to carry in their vehicles and which have become both a uniform and a distress signal of those who feel left behind by globalization, the Parisian elites, and the haughty demeanor of Macron himself.

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First, the good news. Amid the daily drama and questions about US President Donald J. Trump’s actual relationship with Vladimir Putin and his Russia, pieces of a defensible Trump foreign policy have emerged over the past two years. 


The focus on a return of great power rivalry, a theme of the administration’s national security strategy, is a solid judgment. The administration’s challenge of China’s predatory trade and other aggressive practices is a worthy and overdue objective. The Trump administration was right to move beyond the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” toward North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and replace it with a policy of maximum pressure. The president has a point when he challenges the assumptions of US military engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria (Obama did much the same). Whatever the explanation for the president’s obsequious approach toward Putin, the administration’s actual policy toward Putin’s aggressive Russia is, as was said of Wagner’s music, better than it sounds.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in her government on January 16, but now has until January 21 to come up with a new plan for Brexit.

The continuation of May’s government was threatened by a no-confidence vote triggered by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn after May’s draft withdrawal agreement on leaving the EU was defeated in Parliament by 432 to 202 votes. The no-confidence vote failed by nineteen votes, 306 to 325.

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On January 16, British Prime Minister Theresa May won the day against a motion of no confidence in her government by nineteen votes after losing a vote on her Brexit withdrawal agreement the day before by 230 votes, the largest proportion of MPs voting against a government motion ever recorded in the entire history of the British Parliament. In December 2018, she won a vote of no confidence within her own parliamentary party (the Conservative Party), which cannot be renewed for a year. She is, therefore, now politically unassailable both as prime minister and as leader of the Conservative Party.

But even if she has retained formal “confidence” she has lost the faith of the people and of Parliament to lead the country, not only but especially in the Brexit negotiations.

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It is just possible that the British Parliament might eventually be able to agree a compromise on how Britain should leave the European Union. But which of the country’s warring politicians might be able to secure such a compromise remains almost impossible to fathom.

The problem is that the two most important figures in this debate, Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, appear unwilling and unable to compromise.

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