As the temperature gets warmer and the days get longer, leaders around the world continue to await the potential fruits of their labor. Whether for a new Brexit agreement, finalization of important trade deals across the Atlantic and Pacific, or even a new leader in Central Asia, hope springs eternal. Take seven questions to see if you were paying attention to all the new developments in the world this week.

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Far-right parties in the Netherlands posted their best result to date in midterm elections on March 20. The Party for Freedom (PVV) and Forum for Democracy took a combined 21 percent of the votes. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party coalition government is projected to lose its majority in the Senate.

It wasn’t all bad news for Rutte. His liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) still placed second and his government will not, as it feared, be completely dependent on the Greens in the new Senate. It should be able to do deals with the Labor Party and smaller parties on the center-right as well.

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Despite a year of public criticism and uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed 2018 as a year of tremendous progress for the transatlantic Alliance. Launching his Annual Report for 2018 on March 14, Stoltenberg said allies are “doing a lot more together — in more ways and in more places — than ever before.”

Throughout 2018, NATO allies and their partners took steps to bolster the Alliance’s capabilities, strengthen its defense, and respond to changing security threats and technologies. Here is a quick look at what the Alliance accomplished in 2018, according to Stoltenberg’s new report.

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US President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) “will be gone by tonight” is welcome news.  An important battle in Syria has been won.  But the war will continue.  It will rage throughout the Muslim world until political legitimacy fills vacuums of governance that Islamist extremists will continue to contest; legitimacy that can only come about through the voluntary consent of the governed.  This is a war for the hearts and minds of Sunni Muslims; not buildings and trackless desert.

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s choice of the United States for his first official international visit as president did not come as a surprise given his vocal desire to reposition Brazil closer to the United States and his admiration for US President Donald J. Trump.

Bolsonaro was joined on his March 18-19 visit by six of his twenty-two ministers, including Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, Justice Minister Sérgio Moro, and Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo. The Brazilians had a clear agenda: expand and deepen the areas of cooperation between the two largest economies in the Western hemisphere and gain the support Brazil needs to further attract trade and foreign direct investment.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Rome on March 21 accompanied by a 500-strong delegation. A number of economic agreements, including a widely discussed memorandum of understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are expected to be concluded on the visit.


This MoU is not a trade agreement—only the European Union (EU) can sign trade agreements—but rather part of a political initiative that was launched in 2012 when eleven EU member states and five Balkan countries signed an MoU with China on investment, transport, finance, science, education, and culture.

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On March 19, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, made a brief statement on television declaring that he would resign the next day. Why prompted his decision and what will be its consequences?

Nazarbayev has discussed his possible resignation aloud for the last couple of years, so it appeared to have been well-prepared. He is seventy-eight, has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, and is considered to be in frail health, so his decision to resign makes perfect sense. He sets a good example for the region, where leaders have been ousted or other former colleagues in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan have died in office. His voluntary and well-planned resignation shows that Nazarbayev remained in full control and by no means was forced out.

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President steps down after almost thirty years in office

By resigning from the presidency after almost thirty years, Nursultan Nazarbayev may have given his greatest gift to Kazakhstan: a peaceful transition to a new generation following nearly three decades of stability—a stability that was likely solidified by Nazarbayev’s willingness to commit human rights abuses and corruption.

Nothing should be taken for granted. In general, transitions in the former Soviet Union have proved difficult, sometimes involving revolutions, internal coups, and last-minute changes in the succession before the new leader takes control.

But although Nazarbayev effectively became president-for-life in 2007 when he secured a right to contest presidential elections indefinitely, he has in fact been planning carefully for at least twelve years to ensure a smooth transition in the event of his retirement or death in office.

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Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has served as the president of Kazakhstan for nearly thirty years, on March 19 abruptly announced his decision to step down from the presidency, but also said he would retain several important posts. The resignation goes into effect on March 20.

“Nursultan Nazarbayev has been an effective leader for Kazakhstan since before independence,” according to John E. Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, but after resigning his position as president, the question now becomes whether Nazarbayev “and the various clans and other interest groups in the country can come to some sort of understanding on the new leadership.”  

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In the early 1980s, the KGB began spreading the conspiracy theory that the CIA was behind the AIDS epidemic.


There were several variations of the fabricated tale. The main one was that CIA experiments to create an incurable disease for use as a biological-warfare agent got out of hand. The result, according to the storyline, was that AIDS infected unsuspecting Haitians and Africans whom the CIA was testing it on—and the disease spread across the world.

It took a couple of years for this phony account to gain traction, giving scientists time to debunk it.

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