Recent Events

The Trump administration’s decision not to grant any more sanctions waivers to countries that import oil from Iran is part of a maximum pressure strategy intended to cut off a critical source of revenue and force Iran to the negotiating table. But it will likely result in an increase in oil prices, resistance from countries that continue to buy Iranian oil, and a backlash from Tehran, according to Atlantic Council analysts.


“The Trump administration’s announcement is certain to face pushback from major importers of Iranian oil, raise prices for consumers, and further erode the utility of sanctions as a non-military tool of US foreign policy,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

When most of us think about genetic technologies, healthcare comes to mind for some very good reasons. Our growing understanding of how our genes impact how our bodies function has made possible incredible medical innovations to treat and even cure some truly awful genetic diseases. But our genomes don’t just underpin our health, they are the blueprints of much of our lives.

The arrest of Julian Assange in London on April 11 is a victory for the rule of law. Whatever one believes of the purported nobility of his ideology that governments and persons he does not like should be subject to information warfare under the guise of targeted “transparency,” Assange and his allies and enablers have done far more harm than good. 

Individuals, businesses, and governments have the right to live within digital rules and laws.  Anything else is a crime, espionage or information warfare. Respect for protected and private information, whether it be for individuals or nations, is essential for societal function. Individuals who take it upon themselves to decide who deserves data respect and who does not are dangerous for all.  Who’s next? 

US President Donald J. Trump’s stunning decision to reverse Treasury sanctions on North Korea because he “likes” Kim Jong-un sends a troubling message to the United States’ friends and foes.

“Hard to believe, but the president is undercutting his own policy of maximum pressure/maximum diplomacy, which was arguable sound, in favor, it seems, of an obsequious gesture,” said Daniel Fried, a distinguished senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center who as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy crafted US sanctions against Russia, the largest US sanctions program to date, and negotiated the imposition of similar sanctions by Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia. 

The presence of US troops and military equipment in Europe is important, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford said on March 21, as Moscow would “be much happier if there was not a physical manifestation of our commitment to NATO because their message that we are not willing to meet our alliance [commitments] would be much easier to sell.”

When the foreign ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary finally signed documents completing their nations’ accession to NATO it marked the beginning of a new era for the transatlantic alliance. Twenty years ago, the ceremony held in Independence, Missouri—the hometown of US President Harry S. Truman, who oversaw the creation of NATO—marked the first time former-Communist adversaries had joined the alliance of democracies.

Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, was a junior desk officer at the US Department of State when then US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright travelled to Missouri to finalize the new enlargement. “For me, less than a year on the job, I was on a professional high,” Wilson recalled. “After watching Washington for years exude ambivalence about whether to welcome more allies into NATO, the compelling case presented by these nations’ extraordinary spokespeople won the day. The determination of Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles, and the subsequent bipartisan leadership of Robert Dole and Bill Clinton, ensured that President George H.W. Bush’s call for a ‘Europe whole and free’ would not remain just rhetoric.”

As Washington and Pyongyang pick up the pieces following the abruptly concluded summit between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi last month, the two sides have an opportunity to reassess their positions. Some former officials believe that there is, in fact, reason to be hopeful.

Kim “needs a different kind of future for [North Korea] and his regime, and he’s prepared to take some risks to do it,” said Kathleen Stephens, a former US ambassador to South Korea.

On March 4, 2018, a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were found critically ill on a park bench in Salisbury, England. It was later determined that they had been poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent. The attack was linked to the Russian state.


One year later, “Russia shows no sign of rethinking its confrontational policy toward the West,” said Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and  Security who served as the US ambassador to Russia from 2001 to 2005.

It’s disappointing that a deal was not reached in Hanoi, but it’s good that US President Donald J. Trump walked away rather than signing a one-sided agreement.  Agreeing to a total lifting of UN sanctions in return for only limited steps on denuclearization—closure of the Yongbyon facility— would have done nothing to reduce the North Koreans’ nuclear weapons and infrastructure, making the task of real denuclearization even harder.

Dismantlement of the Yongbyon facility, the main production site for the North’s plutonium and enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, would be an important achievement, but it would not shut off the North’s fissile material production completely.  The North has other facilities, some clandestine, in addition to Yongbyon, as Trump pointed out.  Moreover, dismantling Yongbyon would have left untouched the North’s existing stockpile of fissile material, warheads, ballistic missiles, and their associated production facilities—all of which continue to pose a real and growing threat to the United States, its allies, and the entire Northeast Asia region. 

In congressional testimony, Atlantic Council’s Alexander Vershbow says US allies concerned ‘we  may have given a gift to President Putin’

Although the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from a Cold War era nuclear arms control treaty with Russia was “legally justified,” the decision could “give Russia free rein to rapidly deploy ground-launched versions of its newest cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, warned Congress on February 26.

Vershbow, who is a former NATO deputy secretary general, testified to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces that Washington’s “allies are concerned that, politically, we may have given a gift to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, who has long sought to escape the INF Treaty’s limitations.”



    

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