Publications

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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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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s persistent efforts to influence the domestic politics of his neighbors and countries well beyond Russia’s borders have posed enormous challenges in Europe and across the Atlantic. More than any other country, Ukraine has been the unwanted recipient of Moscow’s attention, particularly during the past five years. The Kremlin has sought to place a pliable client in command in Kyiv and block Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, including by pressuring the previous Ukrainian leadership against signing. The March 2019 presidential election will be a pivotal event in Ukraine’s history.

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The rapid uptake of disruptive technologies in Africa, such as mobile and financial technologies, is prompting speculation among tech investors about whether artificial intelligence (AI) applications will also take root on the continent.

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On November 5, 2018, the United States completed the re-imposition of nuclear related secondary sanctions on Iran. US President Donald Trump had announced in May that the United States would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) with Iran. To re-impose the sanctions, the US Departments of State and Treasury have revoked licenses that authorized certain activity with Iran as well as the waivers that were issued to lift the threat of secondary sanctions against non-US persons engaged in certain transactions involving particular Iranian individuals or entities. In “A Road-Map of the Re-Imposed Sanctions for Iran” authors David Mortlock, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, and Nikki M. Cronin, an Associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, provide a detailed, technical overview of the secondary sanctions on Iran that took effect on November 5, 2018.

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As a second and more punishing wave of US sanctions hits Iran, the Islamic Republic is dusting off an old playbook for circumventing such penalties and maintaining a crucial level of oil exports and other trade. A new issue brief by Holly Dagres and Barbara Slavin -- How Iran Will Cope with US Sanctions – discusses the myriad techniques Iran developed before negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, when sanctions had wider international support. The Islamic Republic is already redeploying many of these techniques, from turning off tracking devices on tankers to co-mingling oil with that of other exporters to the use of barter with key trading partners.

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In recent years, US economic and financial sanctions have become favored tools of US power. The centrality of the US financial system and the ubiquity of the US dollar in the global financial marketplace make sanctions a powerful tool to have on hand when confronting foreign policy challenges. The great danger is, however, that sanctions become a substitute for actual policy, rather than merely a tool of foreign policy. In “US Sanctions: Using a Coercive Economic and Financial Tool Effectively” authors David Mortlock and Brian O’Toole, who are both senior fellows at the Atlantic Council’s, explain what sanctions are and why they are used. The authors assess the Trump Administration’s use of sanctions and outline the conditions under which sanctions are most effective. Finally, Mortlock and O’Toole provide specific recommendations on what steps the US government must take to ensure sanctions remain a key component of the national security toolkit.

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