• How the US-European Alliance Can Become Even Stronger in an Era of Disruption

    MUNICH – The United States has traditionally reassured doubtful allies of its security commitment through such measures as troop reinforcements and military exercises.

    However, disruptive times call for unconventional measures.

    This weekend, the U.S. will forward deploy more than 40 members of Congress – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – to the Munich Security Conference, the biggest such U.S. delegation in the 55-year history of the group, the most significant transatlantic powwow of its kind.

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  • May's Brexit Defeat Splits Parties and Could Prompt a Constitutional Revolution in Britain

    An astonishing day in the British House of Commons as the Government slumped to a striking defeat over its plans for Brexit, with parliamentarians calling for a constitutional revolution under which parliament would instruct the government on just what it has to do to end the Brexit crisis.

    Moreover, as both the ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party struggled to whip their own rebels into line, Labour finally came out with a clear statement of just where it stands on the future of Brexit – either the UK should enter a customs union with the EU or there should be a second referendum to ensure Britain did not leave the EU without a deal.

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  • What’s Driving the Spat Between France and Italy?

    On February 7, France announced its decision to recall its ambassador to Rome for consultations, denouncing a “grave situation” that “has no precedent since the end of the war.” This unprecedented move came a day after Italy’s deputy prime minister, and leader of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio flew to France and met representatives of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Jackets) movement. In a letter to Le Monde, Di Maio justified the meeting saying: “I wanted to meet with representatives of the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ and the citizens' initiative referendum group, because I do not believe that the future of European politics lies in the parties of the right or the left.”

    The meeting, and ensuing French reaction, marks a peak in the escalation of rhetoric between French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Italy’s ruling Five Star-League coalition over the past eight months.

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  • What the Death of the INF Treaty Means for Kyiv

    On February 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Pompeo said Russia had violated the treaty for years. The next day, the State Department notified the Russian embassy and the embassies of the other treaty parties, including Ukraine, of the US intention to withdraw from the treaty. President Vladimir Putin that same day said that Russia also would suspend its treaty obligations.

    Unfortunately, the INF Treaty is headed for demise.

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  • Brexit Briefing: What is Really Going On?

    I never wanted to bang on about Europe. However, as a special adviser to British Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, I managed to spend much of the past three and half years doing just that. 

    One of my roles in that time was to brief ministers going on TV or radio on the latest issues in the news that day. Following the daily ins-and-outs of Brexit could be both time-consuming and frustrating. But beyond the day-to-day details, there are some fundamentals that underpin the whole process. 

    This is my effort to draw them out. 

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  • What Putin Must Hear in Munich

    The international community is preparing for the annual Munich Security Conference, which will host more than 500 guests, including forty heads of state and government. I too will attend. Before the conference, I spent part of the week in Kramatorsk, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine, which underwent Russian occupation but was freed by the Ukrainian army. Four years ago, on February 10, Kramatorsk was fired upon by a Russian Smerch Multiple Launch Rocket System in a salvo of attacks with prohibited cluster warheads. Seventeen people were killed, and sixty-four were wounded. 

    In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, we spoke about Ukraine’s recent decision to adopt a constitutional amendment, which consolidates Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and the importance of uniting efforts so that no one can prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and the EU eventually.

    When I go abroad, I am always asked about the status of the ceasefire. Here I don’t have good news. A ceasefire at the contact line, as envisioned in the signing of the Minsk arrangements, has not become a reality. Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin still maintains the fiction that his country is not involved in the Donbas, Russia is undoubtedly the aggressor state. Putin hopes for a more pliable president after Ukraine’s spring presidential elections.   

    In Kramatorsk, we visited checkpoints, which function as de facto borders within a sovereign state. When Ukraine modernizes these checkpoints and increases the number of heating stations, waiting rooms, and windows for border guards, people told me that they fear that these checkpoints will remain forever. Here they understand the new global order has rapidly changed.

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  • Mike Pence Stands Up For NATO, But is That Enough?

    US Vice President Mike Pence, addressing US and Polish armed forces in Warsaw on February 13, emphasized the importance of NATO, reaffirmed the US commitment to the principle of collective defense, and encouraged allies to meet the Alliance’s defense-spending goal. It is an open question, however, whether his boss, US President Donald J. Trump, shares his conviction.

    “While Vice President Pence’s words were eloquent and reassuring, allies have learned that there is a disconnect between the administration’s policy and the president’s own feelings about NATO and other US alliances,” said Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former deputy secretary general of NATO.

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  • #StrongerWithAllies: Lithuanian Combat Photographer Started with a Dogged Pursuit

    Sergeant Specialist Ieva Budzeikaite was less than two weeks into her award-winning career as a combat photographer when the Lithuanian Armed Forces gave her a chance to snap pictures of troops taking survival training.

    “How cool is that!” she thought.

    She had no clue that in the forested, swampy training grounds she would be running faster than she had in her life.

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  • Whatever the Outcome of Elections in Spain, the Catalans Lose

    Snap elections are likely in Spain after Catalan independence parties withdrew their support from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government on February 13. They backed the social democrat in June in order to unseat a right-wing government that had refused any concessions to the independence movement, but Sánchez was unwilling to meet the Catalans’ ultimate demand: a legal referendum on secession from Spain.

    Toppling Sánchez may turn out to be a costly mistake.

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  • When a Pencil Is a Rocket Launcher: How We Talk about War

    In Kyiv, the wordkarandash (pencil) is an ordinary word one might encounter in an office supply store or an elementary school. But in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has killed more than 10,000, displaced another 1.7 million, and injured thousands of civilians,karandash means something else. The Ukrainian military uses it to describe 122-millimeter grad rocket launchers.

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