• Is There Art in the Afghan Deal?

    While the specifics of the deal that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is negotiating with the Taliban remain obscured, its emerging outline raises serious concern about the prospects for failure in its application.  A flawed agreement risks the collapse of Afghanistan into chaos, the return of the oppressive Taliban Emirate, and the growth of the Islamist terrorist threat to Western security and values.

    One side negotiating against a deadline is at a severe disadvantage when the other is not, and Ambassador Khalilzad has been operating under extremely complex conditions. But an agreement which fails to open the way to peace for Afghanistan will be a defeat for US leadership and values, and sacrifice US and Afghan interests in stability and security in that troubled region.    

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  • Beijing Strikes Back with More US Tariffs

    China’s commerce ministry announced on August 23 that it would be imposing additional tariffs on $75 billion of US goods in retaliation for the tariffs unveiled by US President Donald J. Trump on August 1.

    The Chinese decision would see tariff increases of 5 to 10 percent on 5,078 US products including soybeans and crude oil. The changes are scheduled to take effect in line with Trump’s August tariffs on September 1 and December 15. On August 1, Trump announced new tariffs on previously unaffected Chinese goods totaling $300 billion, meaning that virtually all Chinese goods shipped to the United States would be hit by US tariffs.

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  • Trashing Friends Puts America Last

    US President Donald J. Trump’s flirtation with a purchase of Greenland got ugly on August 20 when he tweeted that he was putting off his planned state visit to Denmark because Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wouldn’t discuss the sale. The president triggered this blow up with an ally, a democracy that had sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq in solidarity with the United States. That same day, the president again urged that Vladimir Putin’s Russia be brought back into the Group of Eight (G8), from which it was expelled in 2014 when it invaded and annexed territory of its neighbor Ukraine.

    There are many levels of wrong with this, starting with the president’s arbitrary picking of a fight over something, a purchase of Greenland, that most Americans had considered a summertime whimsy. But it’s worse than peevishness or bullying; this episode reveals a dark vision of the national interest that, if implemented, will undo the grand strategy which, as the saying goes, made America great.

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  • The Financial Implications of Deploying Sanctions in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong has been gripped by a brave protest movement sparked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposed Extradition Bill, which, though suspended, has yet to be withdrawn. Though protestors have moderate and measured requests, they have been met with the flagrantly irresponsible use of riot control devices such as tear gas in the Kwai Fong metro station. Police have turned a virtual blind eye to attacks on the press and protestors alike in Yuen Long. The protestors’ persistence has called into question whether Beijing might employ force to end the protests, envisioning another Tiananmen Square crackdown, and how Washington should potentially respond.

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  • Preparing for the US-Ukraine Summit

    Preparations are currently underway for a US-Ukraine summit in September. Therefore, it is worthwhile to propose an agenda for Presidents Zelenskyy and Trump when they and their cabinets meet. For this summit to succeed, the agenda must reflect a balance of interests and needs for both sides. Admittedly, Ukraine’s needs far outstrip those of the United States, but Ukraine has the means to promote regional solutions in Eastern Europe that materially advance the interests already outlined by the Trump administration both rhetorically and in actual policy.

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  • Airport Clash Raises Fear of Violent Crackdown in Hong Kong

    Months-long demonstrations in Hong Kong escalated on August 13, when riot police and protestors clashed in Hong Kong’s international airport. Demonstrators began occupying the airport on August 9, the latest move in a protest campaign that began in June. The violent encounters between protestors and riot police could spark a crackdown by Chinese authorities, Atlantic Council resident senior fellow Robert A. Manning said, adding that “this will not end well.”

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  • The Winners and Losers of the US-China Trade War

    Recently, US President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States would apply a 10 percent tariff to $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, adding to already existing tariffs. In retaliation, China devalued its currency, prompting the US Treasury Department to officially label China as a currency manipulator. Behind the fiery rhetoric from both camps, China posted its lowest economic growth numbers in twenty-seven years and the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since the Great Recession, despite low unemployment and reasonable growth.

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  • To Deal with Bad Ideas, Develop Better Solutions

    The Russo-German Nord Stream gas pipeline projects—Nord Stream I, completed in 2011, and Nord Stream II scheduled to be completed around the end of 2019—are bad projects because they increase European dependence on Russian gas in general, and especially because they give the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin the option of delivering gas to Germany while bypassing other European countries. Putin’s Russia has a track record of using gas exports as political pressure, for example, against Ukraine in the years leading up to Putin’s attack on that country in 2014 and has threatened to do the same to Central European countries, including those in the European Union. Given this, and their long experience on the receiving end of Kremlin ambitions, the Ukrainians, Poles, and Baltic countries are understandably skeptical about energy projects that would extend Putin’s ability to pressure them while simultaneously keeping German gas customers satisfied, which is what Nord Stream gives the Putin regime greater capacity to do.  

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  • House Amendment Could Scuttle US Attempts to Decrease Reliance on Russian Gas

    For years, policy makers in Washington have been focused on measures to reduce their European allies’ dependence on natural gas from Russia, from the promise of the Three Seas Initiative to pending bipartisan legislation championed by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introducing economic sanctions against foreign companies helping construct the controversial Nord Stream II pipeline from Russia to Germany.

    Amidst this push, the US House of Representatives and US Senate are preparing for the final conference on the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will also have an impact on Russia’s export of gas to Europe. The House version of the NDAA contains a floor amendment—the Huffman Amendment— sponsored by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), striking out NDAA legislative language that calls to limit the use of Russian Federation fuels at US defense installations in Germany and other European nations. This amendment works against the goal of US energy policy in Europe that aims to boost energy security and help its allies diversify away from Russian gas.

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  • Time Is Running Out to Kill Putin’s Pet Project

    Russia’s $12 billion Nord Stream 2 is not a natural gas pipeline. It’s a weapon, in the form of an underwater pipeline, that will give President Vladimir Putin the power to plunge the Soviet Union’s former satellites and republics in Europe into darkness or recession.

    It must be stopped.

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