Blogs

The near collision of US and Russian warships in the Philippine Sea on June 7 is just the latest close call between the two nations’ militaries that have increasingly found themselves in tense encounters around the globe. While a crisis was averted, the next time may be different.

Barry Pavel, senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair and director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, said with close calls like the one on June 7 “the risks of escalation are very significant.”

Atlantic Council’s Michael Carpenter tells lawmakers the United States needs to do more

The United States needs to do more to push back against Russia’s attempts to disrupt democratic societies around the world, Michael Carpenter, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, told US lawmakers on May 21.

“Today, Russia is doubling down on malign influence operations across Europe and North America, but we remain unprepared, underfunded, and often ignorant of the threat,” Carpenter told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment. He testified in a hearing on “Undermining Democracy: Kremlin Tools of Malign Political Influence.”

In his new book, Atlantic Council’s Anders Åslund says the United States Should Demand Transparency

The ability for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his oligarch allies to hide money in banks and real estate in the United States is “a real strategic danger,” US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warned on May 7.

The senator lamented the fact that the United States is “now number two in terms of the nations that support secret financing and funding and allow for the hiding of assets behind shell corporations. We should not be on that list at all, much less number two.”

All around the world, Russia is increasingly asserting itself, propping up dictators, and, in some instances, posing a direct challenge to US interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok on April 25. Kim’s visit to Russia, an old ally, came as diplomacy with US President Donald J. Trump has faltered.

Trump and Putin spoke on the phone for over an hour on May 3. Venezuela and North Korea were among the topics the two leaders discussed.


We take a look at some areas of confrontation, what is driving Russian interests, and how the United States is responding to this challenge.

The United States, working with its allies and democratic partners, can push back against Russian aggression, which has been marked by interference in elections in the United States and Europe; the harassment, invasion, and annexation of neighbors; and the propping up of despots in places such as Syria and Venezuela, Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Daniel Fried told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 1.

“The world’s great and emerging democracies have the power and political legitimacy” to not only push back against Russia, but also “to maintain a rules-based system that favors freedom and advances our nation’s interests and other nations’ interests,” Fried said at a hearing on “Countering a Resurgent Russia.”

Following his landslide election as president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy must now turn his attention to following through on much-needed economic and anti-corruption reforms, all while continuing to confront Russia in Ukraine’s east and the illegal occupation of Crimea.

The results of the April 21 contest, which saw Zelenskiy beat incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, with nearly three-quarters of the vote was “clearly a vote for change,” according to Atlantic Council Eurasia Center Director John Herbst, who is a former US ambassador to Ukraine. Zelenskiy cannot be content with the margin of his victory, Herbst added, as “Poroshenko’s 2014 first round victory was also unprecedented and he was very popular at the time he won” before experiencing a decline in popularity.

On a visit to Tbilisi in March, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated a decade-old promise: Georgia will eventually join the Western military alliance. However, despite Stoltenberg’s comments, there is little discernible evidence to suggest membership for Georgia is in the cards.

At NATO’s Bucharest Summit in 2008, the Alliance welcomed the transatlantic aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine and agreed that both countries will eventually become members of NATO. Since then, Georgia has taken meaningful political, economic, and military steps westward.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s long-awaited investigation has not found adequate evidence to prove US President Donald J. Trump or any of his aides colluded with the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election. The investigation did not determine “one way or the other” whether Trump had illegally obstructed justice, according to a letter delivered to Congress by US Attorney General William Barr.


Barr made a summary of Mueller’s findings public on March 24.


“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller wrote in the findings released by the Justice Department.

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.

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.



    

RELATED CONTENT