Africa has generally ranked near the bottom of US foreign policy priorities. Historically, two-term presidents have waited until their second term to establish their legacies on the continent, and many one-term presidents have neglected it altogether. US President Donald J. Trump has surprised many by bucking this trend.

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A new era of great power competition took shape in Venezuela this past week.
 
As the first battle of this epoch, the contest for the future of Venezuela will have outsized consequences on what forces and values – democratic or autocratic – will determine not only the country’s future but also influence the regional and global future.

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A new set of tax reforms announced by Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar on January 23 follows pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from which Islamabad is looking to secure another loan. The bill, which seeks to boost foreign and domestic investment, comes as Pakistan faces a balance-of-payments crisis on its foreign loans intensified by currency devaluations and rising energy imports.

The tax measures would be Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s second set of fiscal reforms since taking power in July 2018. 

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In April 2018, India’s central bank—the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)—issued a new rule for payment systems providers operating in the country. Under the rule, all user data collected within the borders of the country needed to be localized within six months. The RBI said it was motivated by the need to have “unfettered supervisory accesses” to such data, given the fast-growing and increasingly technology dependent payments ecosystem in India. This new data protection rule is just one part of a larger set of multi-sectoral data protection and privacy measures being considered by India, put forth in a contentious draft Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill in July 2018. The draft PDP Bill is expexted to be introduced to Parliament this summer after the Lok Sabha elections in India in May 2019.

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In an era of great power competition, the United States should adopt a more permanent deterrence posture and bolster its alliances as a strategic comparative advantage over our adversaries. If we are concerned about near-peer competition from Russia and China, the United States must invest not only in its own capabilities, but also in its global alliance structure. Nurturing our alliances as a permanent asset rather than burdens will better prepare the United States for this era of great power competition.

Polarization within our nation and tumultuous relations within our alliances risk making the United States look vulnerable to our adversaries. While some of these divisions are real, the United States and its allies are in fact more strategically aligned in grand strategy – enjoying the support of Republicans and Democrats – than they have been since 9/11, if not 1989.

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Decision could spark "unpredictable and unconstrained US-Russian arms race," Atlantic Council's Alexander Vershbow says.

The US decision to suspend participation in a decades-old nuclear arms control treaty with Russia has raised the probability of a US-Russian arms race, according to Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former US ambassador to Russia.

“Although the US withdrawal will not take effect for another six months, today marks the effective end of the INF Treaty, the only nuclear arms agreement to ban an entire class of missiles,” Vershbow said. “The loss of the treaty creates a real possibility of an unpredictable and unconstrained US-Russian arms race in Europe and, potentially, in Northeast Asia as well.”

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The United States flexed its muscles this week, charging a Chinese executive and company and slapping sanctions on the Venezuelan regime. Were you paying attention to the accusations that have been flying around? Take our quiz to prove that you are the master of this week’s news.

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After seventeen years of war in Afghanistan, the NATO Mission Commander, US Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, provided a candid assessment of the situation, stating: “This [war in Afghanistan] is not going to be won militarily… This is going to a political solution.”


Last week, talks between Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, and the Taliban produced a tentative agreement that has generated hope for peace. What then are the mechanisms through which the military resources of the remaining thirty-nine troop-contributing nations can be translated into an enduring political resolution in Afghanistan?

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Belarus is attempting a delicate diplomatic dance as it attempts to thaw its relationship with the West while preserving its longstanding relationship with Russia.

“We want the best possible relationship with Russia and a normalized relationship with the West,” Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko said at the Atlantic Council on January 30.

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On January 28, the Trump administration again turned to sanctions to ratchet up pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro to step down.

The new sanctions measures severely limit key US revenue streams for PdVSA—Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company—by mandating that any money intended for PdVSA be deposited into blocked accounts, accessible only with authorization from the Trump administration. While PdVSA’s US subsidiary, Citgo, may continue to purchase and import petroleum products (at least until July 27), all payments must also be made into a US-based blocked account. Should that authorization expire, the result will effectively be a US oil embargo affecting a major source of crude oil for the southern United States. Further, the sanctions immediately ban the export of US diluents to Venezuela.  This ban will hamper Venezuelan production in the near term as replacing the US suppliers will take time and likely be more expensive.

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