Publications

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North Central Europe has become the central point of confrontation between the West and a revisionist Russia. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is determined to roll back the post-Cold War settlement and undermine the rules-based order that has kept Europe secure since the end of World War II. Moscow’s invasion and continued occupation of Georgian and Ukrainian territories, its military build-up in Russia’s Western Military District and Kaliningrad, and its “hybrid” warfare against Western societies have heightened instability in the region have made collective defense and deterrence an urgent mission for the United States and NATO.

The United States and NATO have taken significant steps since 2014to enhance their force posture and respond to provocative Russian behavior. Despite these efforts, the allies in North Central Europe face a formidable and evolving adversary, and it is unlikely that Russian efforts to threaten and intimidate these nations will end in the near term. Now, ahead of NATO’s seventieth anniversary there is more that can and should be done to enhance the Alliance’s deterrence posture in the region. In this vein, the government of Poland submitted a proposal earlier this year offering $2 billion to support a permanent US base in the country.

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As the United States faces important decisions regarding its future role in Syria’s conflict, a new Atlantic Council report by Dr. Steven Heydemann, “Rethinking Stabilization in Eastern Syria: Toward a Human Security Framework,” provides important context, analysis, and strategic policy recommendations.

Only two areas in Syria remain outside of the control of the Assad regime, and the United States maintains a military presence in both. In this report, the author contends that if the United States has an interest in shaping the closing trajectory of the conflict in Syria, it has a narrow window in which to do so. In eastern Syria, the United States has an opportunity to use stabilization to advance both short- and long-term interests. It can adopt a stabilization strategy that will improve the well-being of communities in eastern Syria, develop effective, legitimate local authorities, and assist local communities in preparing for an uncertain political future.

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Over one year after the announcement of the Trump administration’s strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia, significant opportunity remains to improve efforts to achieve peace. In the Atlantic Council South Asia Center’s new report, Review of President Trump’s South Asia Strategy: The Way Ahead, One Year In, authors Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council; Ambassador James Cunningham, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; General David Petraeus, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Dr. Ashley J. Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Ambassador Husain Haqqani, Director for South and Central Asia, Hudson Institute; Mr. Manish Tewari, Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council; and Ms. Anita McBride, Executive in Residence, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University offer a list of recommendations to bolster the administration’s strategy and move toward a successful peace process in Afghanistan.

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“Two years ago, the Kremlin attacked the United States through a coordinated influence operation targeting the 2016 presidential elections,” writes Dr. Alina Polyakova in The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3.0: Russian Influence in Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, a new report from the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. Following successful installments on Russian influence in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, the report examines Russian efforts to establish a political presence in Northern Europe.

This report is the final installment of a three-year-long project that sought to expose a less often discussed element of the Kremlin’s political warfare: the cultivation of political allies in Europe’s core. The aim of the project is to draw attention to Western Europe, where for far too long the Russian threat was either dismissed, ignored, or overlooked. As is now known, the Kremlin’s tentacles do not stop in Ukraine, Georgia, or East Central Europe. They reach far and deep in the core of western societies. Acknowledging the ongoing threat is the first step to countering its effects and building long-term resilience.

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Trade between Latin America and China has multiplied eighteen times since 2000. Between 2005 and 2016, China invested close to $90 billion in the region. In the context of high stakes global trade confrontations, there is a strong motivation for Latin America and China to explore fresh options to upgrade, diversify, and deepen their trade-and-investment relationship, not only to manage peril, but also to leverage new opportunities and strengthen economic cooperation. Deliberate initiatives and strategic actions are required to put in place the policy levers that will help unlock these areas of business opportunity.

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At the July 2018 Brussels Summit, NATO sought to enhance its deterrence capacity, war-fighting posture, and responses to unconventional challenges in today’s complex and evolving security environment. These commitments are comprehensive, and included meeting the allies’ 2-percent spending pledge, but the results of these decisions will depend on their implementation. This paper sets forth a policy and programmatic framework for that implementation, proposing four sets of actions that NATO should undertake related to enhancing conventional readiness, strengthening cyber defense and resilience, countering hybrid challenges, and updating strategic planning.

In this paper, Kramer, Binnendijk, and Speranza argue that, to be most effective, these actions should be adopted as part of a broader, coordinated strategy that includes diplomatic, information, and economic efforts, and could be incorporated into the new 2019 NATO Political Guidance. They also underscore that the enhancement of conventional military and counter-hybrid capabilities, including measures to be taken left of crisis, are pressing elements that should be prioritized accordingly.

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Russian escalation at the Kerch Strait ended in cannon fire and the capture of three Ukrainian military vessels, leaving at least six Ukrainian sailors wounded. This escalation was a continuation of increasing Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov and around the Kerch Strait, where Ukrainian shipping and maritime activity has been routinely harassed.

On November 25, 2018, two Ukrainian gunboats and an accompanying tug boat were denied entry into the Sea of Azov while attempting transfer from Odesa to Mariupol. The Russian Federation considers the Crimean peninsula its territory since it illegally annexed and occupied the peninsula in 2014. This stance led Russia to grow increasingly aggressive in the Sea of Azov, although it is considered internal waters of both countries following a 2003 agreement.

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Last week, officials of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed that “a group of military specialists from Great Britain” arrived in Bakhmut (formerly Artemovsk) to work with Ukraine’s 72nd Mechanized Brigade. In particular, these British specialists were to assist Ukraine in a chemical attack that would be blamed on Russia and “separatist” forces — a clear allusion the Russian government’s line on the Skripal poisoning. There has been no credible evidence presented by Russia or the “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine to back this claim.

This claim is the latest installment of a long tradition of announcements from the so-called DNR that Western nations have sent military specialists or advisers to assist the Ukrainian Armed Forces. However, to date, there has not been a single credible, documented case of a Western country’s servicemen participating in the conflict in the Donbas.

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Territories between great powers—borderlands—have always been areas of strife. So it is with the countries caught between Russia and the West, those that were once part of the Soviet Union or firmly within its sphere of influence. Much of Europe has consolidated and, with the United States, established a lasting liberal democratic order, but Russia has been increasingly pushing back. Though most of the “borderlands” countries are now West-facing, Moscow wants to control at least the national security policies of its near neighbors.

The West should reject Moscow’s claim. It contradicts Western principles and is dangerous to our interests. The United States should lead the West in adopting an explicit strategy of promoting democracy, open markets, and the right of nations to choose their own foreign policy and alignments. This includes their right, if they meet the conditions, to join the EU and NATO.

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The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi thrust an otherwise little-known sanctions program into the spotlight—the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (or GloMag in sanctions parlance). On November 15, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control used the GloMag authority to designate seventeen Saudi citizens for their role in the Khashoggi killing. In “Global Magnitsky Sanctions: Raising the Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Bar” author Samantha Sultoon, a visiting senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Business & Economics Program and Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, argues that the GloMag sanctions offer a targeted response to human rights violations and corruption. The author adds that this sanctions authority has far-reaching implications for international businesses because it creates the need for companies to shift to a proactive corporate risk and due diligence strategy to account for human rights and corruption issues. Sultoon points out that this sanctions authority opens the door for multilateral sanctions actions with US allies, partners, and international human rights groups seeking to raise awareness of human rights violations and corruption. Finally, the author provides specific recommendations of how to maintain the integrity and value of the GloMag authority:

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