United States

  • NATO Owes Secretary Mattis a Debt of Gratitude

    Back in the spring of 2008, I was enjoying a quiet moment in my office at NATO headquarters when the phone rang. My assistant told me that the new Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), Gen. James Mattis, was making his courtesy calls to NATO in Brussels and would drop by in ten minutes to talk to me. 


    Frankly I was mystified.  NATO has two supreme commanders, SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) and SACT, and in all my thirty-eight years on the NATO international staff I have never known either of these individuals to call on an official below the rank of secretary general, the chairman of the Military Committee or the NATO ambassadors on the North Atlantic Council. At that time I was the director of the Policy Planning Unit. If he had an issue at my level, Mattis would normally dispatch an aide or one of his section chiefs. What could I contribute that would make our new SACT wish to come to see me in person?  


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  • A Path Forward in Afghanistan

    One year on, there appears to be little to show for US President Donald J. Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan. The administration needs to implement this strategy in a way that creates an opportunity to end the war in Afghanistan while advancing core US interests of defeating terrorism and demonstrating that a moderate Islamic state, aligned with the international community, can succeed.

    The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center convened policymakers, analysts, and diplomats to assess the gaps in and imminent challenges facing the US strategy in Afghanistan. In a resulting report, “A Review of President Trump’s South Asia Strategy: The Way Ahead, One Year In,” these experts provide some important recommendations to the administration. Here’s a look at those recommendations.

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  • Trump, Trudeau, and Peña Nieto Sign New Trade Agreement: Here’s What You Need to Know About the USMCA

    In 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement went into force, it intrinsically linked the economies of the United States, Mexico, and Canada; becoming the lynchpin of the North American economy and amplifying its competitiveness in the international market.

    Nearly twenty-five years later, a new, modernized trilateral trade deal between these three countries was signed by US President Donald J. Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Argentina on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 30.

    Trump called it a “truly groundbreaking achievement.” The USMCA must still be approved by the US Congress where Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives in January.

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  • Trump Cancels Meeting With Putin

    ‘Better no meeting than a bad one,’ says the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried

    Hours after the Kremlin confirmed a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald J. Trump on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, the US president cancelled the appointment with his Russian counterpart citing the continued detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and their crew by Russia.

    “Better no meeting than a bad one,” said Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center.

    Fried was referring to the last Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in July.

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  • Trump-Xi Meeting at the G20: An Opportunity to Calm a Trade War

    US President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to have a highly anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires later this week.

    The meeting will take place against a backdrop of sharp trade acrimony that has been marked by tit-for-tat trade tariffs. The Trump administration, for now, plans to raise existing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1, 2019.  Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $267 billion of Chinese goods.

    G20 leaders will meet in Argentina on November 30 and December 1.

    Robert A. Manning, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, will be keeping an eye on the Trump-Xi meeting. Here’s what he expects.

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  • Is Another Trump-Putin Meeting a Good Idea?

    US President Donald J. Trump is expected to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Buenos Aires later this week. Is that a good idea in light of Russia’s latest aggression toward Ukraine and the somewhat stymied success of past meetings between the two leaders? In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump left open the possibility that he might, after all, cancel the meeting over the incident in the Kerch Strait. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting,” he said.

    Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and the Eurasia Center, said: “A meeting would make sense if, but only if, Trump is willing to send the right message to Putin, and the president’s track record doesn’t lead to confidence.”

    Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, flatly said a Trump-Putin meeting was a terrible idea.

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  • Another Ukraine Crisis Tests US Resolve

    The seizure by Russian forces of three Ukrainian naval vessels near the Sea of Azov on November 25 highlights Moscow’s strategy of broadening its “creeping annexation” beyond Ukraine’s land borders and into the Black Sea. Russia’s refusal to abide by agreements providing Ukraine rightful passage and access to the Sea of Azov is an attempt to pressure Ukraine and undermine its economy and national security.

    Rising tension between Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea reinforces how dangerous the Ukraine-Russia conflict remains for the region and for the world.

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  • Trade Wars? Let’s Talk Turkey

    Over the past few months, US President Donald J. Trump’s administration has engaged in trade disputes with several of the United States’ trading partners, most notably China, but also traditional allies like the European Union (EU), Canada, and Mexico. EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, who was in Washington last week for discussions with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was unable to make much headway in transatlantic trade talks. All eyes are now on the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 and December 1 at which Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to try and de-escalate trade tensions between their two countries.

    These trade disputes do have a silver lining: your Thanksgiving turkey will be cheaper this year. But before we celebrate this price drop let’s take a closer look at what it tells us about what is going on in the world of trade.

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  • United States Sanctions Seventeen Saudi Officials Over Khashoggi Murder

    The US Treasury Department on November 15 slapped sanctions on seventeen Saudi officials in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

    The sanctioned Saudis include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trusted adviser, Saud al-Qahtani; senior aide Maher Mutreb; and Saudi counsel general in Istanbul, Mohammed al-Ootaibi.

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  • The Wake-Up Call

    “The security and wellbeing of the United States are at greater risk today than at any time in decades. America’s military superiority… has eroded to a dangerous degree. America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave.”

    The above warning is the opening of the National Defense Strategy Commission’s report, which was released on November 13. The Commission—of which I was a member—was established by the 2017 Defense Authorization Act to independently assess the state of the nation’s defense as well as to review the Department of Defense’s (DOD) January 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS).

    In our report, we note that many of the skills necessary to conduct military operations have atrophied and that the United States’ edge in technologies that underpin US military superiority is eroding or has disappeared. We add that these trends are undermining both our ability to deter adversaries and the confidence of US allies, increasing the likelihood of military conflict. 

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