SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently shared some history with a friend, explaining why he reached out to China’s then-Premier Wen Jiabao in 2011, seeking urgent financial support and providing Beijing one of several European inroads in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
 
Orban’s reason was a simple one: survival. Facing a potential debt crisis and unwilling to accept austere loan conditions from Western institutions, Beijing offered a lifeline. For his part, Orban convened some Central European leaders with Beijing, and they laid the groundwork for the “16-plus-one” initiative based in Budapest that since then has provided China unprecedented regional influence.
 

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Washington Squanders its Newfound Leverage

Geopolitical issues converged in an unlikely location this week—the conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial meeting in Vienna, Austria. On the table were production cuts intended to stop the 30 percent slide in the price of oil from its high of $85 per barrel (Brent) in early October. Yet Iran sanctions, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Russia’s increasing engagement in the Middle East (part of a broader pattern of an assertive global posture), the escalation of trade tensions between the United States and China, and US President Donald J. Trump’s obsession with oil prices made politics a considerable undercurrent in OPEC’s decision to cut oil production.

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In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, “degrading US-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the US and its allies.” Moreover, in the course of his defense of the Trump administration’s Saudi policy, Pompeo exaggerated the value of Saudi partnership and sought to debunk critics by attacking their political affiliation, labeling the debate as one between liberal idealism and Trump pragmatism.

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The election of Salome Zurabishvili as Georgia’s next president serves as a dual landmark in Georgian history: she will be the first woman to assume the office and presumably the last to do so by popular vote. In her election night victory speech on November 28, Zurabishvili took an important, positive step by acknowledging the need to reach out to those who didn’t vote for her after a very tough and divisive race. By doing so, she seemed to aspire to what parliament said it intended through its 2017 constitutional changes in the role of the president: to transcend party politics and represent the nation as the ceremonial head of state, while transitioning from the choice of citizens to that of elected officials.

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On November 28, the US Treasury Department took an important step in responding to the SamSam ransomware cyberattacks, which occurred earlier this year. Considered one of the most effective cyberattacks in US history, the hackers behind SamSam since 2015 have targeted institutions ranging from companies to hospitals to schools, demanding payments in Bitcoin as ransom. After being paid, the hackers laundered these funds through online cryptocurrency exchanges into Iranian riyals, reaping the rewards of their malicious behavior. As part of their designation, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included the Bitcoin addresses of Iran-based Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammed Ghorbaniyan, who are accused of assisting the hackers in laundering payments through online cryptocurrency exchanges.

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The energy industry has become increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats as a result of rapid digitization. Cyberattacks against electricity grids, pipelines, and other critical energy infrastructure have long evolved from being mere nuisances to becoming serious security challenges.

Yet in terms of potency, most regular computer viruses pale in comparison to up-and-coming malware based on artificial intelligence (AI). In the near future, this highly disruptive breed of malware will usher in a new era of threats to the energy industry, allowing hostile actors to wreak havoc on a scale hitherto unknown.

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The Atlantic Council mourns the passing of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.
 
President Bush was one of the most distinguished international public servants of his generation. He was one of the greatest international statesmen and Atlanticists to ever serve as commander-in-chief.  Measured by his historic accomplishments, he was one of our greatest Presidents ever and perhaps the most consequential one-term President in American history.

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Qatar’s withdrawal from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will “signal a weakening of OPEC at a time when it is in some ways less powerful than it used to be, but also more crucial in balancing the market because US production is so strong,” Randolph Bell, director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center said. 

Announcing Qatar’s decision to leave the oil producers’ group on December 3, the country’s energy minister said the withdrawal was motivated by a “desire to focus... on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production.”

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President George H.W. Bush ascended to the presidency with a reputation for experience, judgement, integrity, and a steady hand. However, the looming question was whether he could inspire people with, in his own words, “the vision thing.”

That quotation, first reported by Robert Ajemian in a Time feature in 1987, dogged George H.W. Bush throughout his presidency. Yet, President George H.W. Bush – more than any post-Cold War president – successfully articulated a vision of a “Europe whole and free” that became an historically successful strategy guiding US policy for the subsequent twenty-five years. Indeed, his words, first spoken when I was a high school student gripped by the possibilities of the end of the Cold War, have inspired my own career for the past three decades.

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Vision and boldness are not labels usually attached to President George H.W. Bush. But such were the qualities he displayed in 1989, when he led the United States to embrace the advent of democracy in Poland, the first breakthrough in what turned out to be the end of Communist rule in Europe. Ahead of almost the entire US foreign policy establishment, Bush bet on freedom, one of the great calls of US Cold War policy. He showed prudence and restraint in his tactics, but deployed these qualities in the service of strategic US interests and its deeper values, which he understood were indivisible.

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