What's New

Streit Council Advisory Board Member Stanley R. Sloan's new book, Transatlantic Traumas, examines the connections between external and internal threats that challenge the West and its leading institutions - NATO and the EU. After discussing the meaning of “the West” and examining Russian and Islamist terrorist threats, he assesses the main internal threats: the rise of radical right populist parties, Turkey’s drift away from Western values, the Brexit shock, and the Trump presidency in the United States. He concludes by suggesting that the West can be reinvigorated if political centers in Europe and the United States reassert themselves in an approach of “radical centrist populism.” Sloan is a Visiting Scholar in Political Science at Middlebury College and a Non-resident Senior Fellow in the Scowcroft Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States. (Read More)

What Does a Nuclear North Korea Really Mean for the International System? 
In the last four months, North Korea has transformed the strategic landscape of East Asia, achieving both its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and first thermonuclear weapon. This new reality for the United States, Japan, South Korea – and the wider liberal international order – must be confronted. For decades, like-minded free democracies have invested heavily in collective defense, extended deterrence, and non-proliferation; but now those fundamental pillars of the global system are at risk. If they buckle, it may trigger events that would effectively end the post-Cold War status quo – all without North Korea firing a shot. (Read More)

John Davenport joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board
John Davenport is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at Fordham University. Professor Davenport has published and instructed widely on topics in free will and responsibility, existential conceptions of practical identity, virtue ethics, motivation and autonomy, theories of justice, and philosophy of religion. He has published and spoken about the need for a federation of democracies, and is currently working on a book titled A Federation of Democracies: Towards Universal Basic Rights and the End of Tyranny. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University.

The European Defense Fund: What Does it Mean for Transatlantic Security?
The European Commission launched the European Defense Fund (EDF) on June 7, 2017. It will provide €590 million through 2020, and at least €1.5 billion per year after 2020, to incentivize collaborative defense research, development and acquisition within the EU. The aims of the fund are to reduce duplication in defense spending, produce more defense capability for every euro spent, and enhance the interoperability of European forces. (Read More)

NATO, Trump, and the Return of the Burden-Sharing Debate
As North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders prepare for a summit meeting in Brussels on May 24-25, they face heightened uncertainty about the future of the Alliance. U.S. President Donald Trump, like his predecessors, has voiced support for NATO while emphasizing the need for a more equitable defense spending burden within the Alliance. Unlike his predecessors, Trump has suggested that the U.S. may not aid NATO allies when attacked if they do not meet the Alliance’s non-binding pledge to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. (Read More)

Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance News

U.S., Britain blame Russia for global cyberattack
17 April 2018 – Reuters

On Monday, the United States and Britain accused Russia of launching cyber-attacks on computer routers, firewalls, and other networking equipment used by government agencies, businesses, and critical infrastructure operators around the world. Both countries issued an alert saying the campaign by Russian government-backed hackers is intended to advance spying, intellectual property theft, and other “malicious” activities, noting that it could be escalated to launch offensive attacks. This followed a series of warnings by Western governments that Moscow is behind several cyberattacks.
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Merkel, Trump plan talks to ease tensions, Germany’s Beyer says
17 April 2018 - Bloomberg News
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump are expected to meet in Washington at the end of April in an attempt to resolve ongoing disagreements over trade and security. Speaking on the topic, the German Government Coordinator for Trans-Atlantic Relations, Peter Beyer, emphasized the continuing importance of Germany's relationship with America, and stated his hope that the two countries could work together to face mutual challenges, for which he noted the example of alleged theft of intellectual property by China.
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U.S. considers fresh sanctions as Russia stands by Assad
16 April 2018 - Financial Times

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday that President Trump is "considering additional sanctions on Russia, and a decision will be made in the near future." The move is a response to Moscow's staunch support for the Syrian regime despite repeated allegations of chemical weapons use against civilians. French President Emmanuel Macron, who called the coalition airstrikes against the Syrian government "a legitimate act of reprisal," also expressed support for new sanctions against Russia. 
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EU threatens sanctions against Syria but not Russia
16 April 2018 – Reuters
EU foreign ministers are considering new sanctions on Syria for its suspected chemical attacks, but held off on joining U.S. moves toward more sanctions on Russia. Any new sanctions would build on the EU’s previous punitive measures, which it has implemented since 2011. The ministers did not agree on whether to adopt new sanctions on Iran for assisting the Syrian regime, as proposed by Britain, France and Germany.
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U.S.-led strikes on Syria: what was hit?
16 April 2018 - BBC

On April 14, the United States, United Kingdom, and France fired 105 missiles at three key sites in Syria that are "specifically associated with the Syrian regime's chemical weapons program." The strikes occurred one week after a suspected chemical attack on the then-rebel held town of Douma, where more than 40 people were believed to be killed. Russian military spokesman, Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi, told reporters that "Russia considers the strike to be a response to the success of the Syrian armed forces in fighting international terrorism and liberating its territory, rather than a response to the alleged chemical attack." Syria for its part denies that they are still in possession of any chemical weapons, but experts from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have ascribed four chemical attacks to the government since then.
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Nord Stream 2 completes permitting procedure in Finland
16 April 2018 – New Europe

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which will run from Russia to Germany, completed Finland’s permitting process on April 12. This will allow the pipeline’s construction through Finland’s Exclusive Economic Zone. All necessary permits have also been obtained in Germany, and work through national permitting processes in Russia, Sweden and Denmark continue.
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U.S. backs EU Iran sanctions push, warns firms against Tehran trade
10 April 2018 – Reuters

On Tuesday, the United States welcomed a push by some EU states to impose new sanctions on Iran and warned firms considering doing business with the Islamic Republic that they could be funding militant groups and regional instability. President Trump has set European allies a May 12 deadline to revamp a 2015 deal with Tehran hat lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Last month, France, Britain and Germany sought EU support for approval for new sanctions, but have struggled to persuade other member states to back them. The U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence is touring Europe to garner more support.
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Russian markets reel after U.S. imposes new sanctions
9 April 2018 – The New York Times

Monday was one of the worst days for Russian markets since the 2014 annexation of Crimea with investors dumping Russian stocks, bonds and the ruble in the face of new American sanctions and signs of cracks in the relationship between Presidents Trump and Putin. The selloff left Russian stocks down more than 8 percent and sharply raised borrowing costs for some of the country’s most important companies. The ruble dropped more than 4 percent against the dollar, and the price of government bonds fell. A new round of sanctions hinted at by President Trump would jeopardize modest economic gains from recent years.  
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EU urges Poland to further address concerns over judiciary reform

9 April 2018 – Reuters
The European Commission is encouraging the Polish government to take further action on restoring the independence of its judiciary. The comments come after the Polish Government made concessions on the issue with European Commission, since the latter moved to begin stripping Poland of its EU voting rights in 2017. However, the concessions were labelled "illusory" by some, who argued that they fail to fully address concerns that the reforms will give the incumbent Law and Justice Party undue control over the theoretically independent courts. European Commission spokesman Frans Timmermans said the European Commission would need to see further action on the matter before it could be considered resolved.
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Trump tweets condemnation of Syria chemical weapon attack, saying Putin shares the blame
9 April 2018 – Washington Post

Following a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed at least 40 civilians on Saturday, the U.S. and France will plan a “strong, joint response” on Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. The U.S. and France, along with other nations, called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held Monday. In a series of tweets on Monday, President Trump blamed Putin, Russia, and Iran for backing Assad, and promised they have a “big price to pay.”
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Hungary's euroskeptic leader Orban claims victory
9 April 2018 – CNN

On Sunday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed victory in the country's parliamentary election after campaigning on an anti-immigration platform. With 92% of the vote counted, Orban’s coalition led by the Fidesz party was projected to win 133 of 199 seats in Parliament – a supermajority according to the country’s National Election Office. Orban, who will win his fourth term, is already Hungary's longest-serving leader since the fall of communism in 1989. He has transformed Fidesz from a liberal party formed in the 1980s to a right-wing populist one, and has passed a slew of laws tightening regulations on the media, central bank, constitutional court and nongovernmental organizations – all of which EU leaders have warned would undermine the country’s democracy.  Orban is a critic of the European Commission and has accused it of overreach in Hungary's affairs, particularly in its attempt to impose a quota system that would have obliged Hungary to settle refugees.
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North Korea tells U.S. it is prepared to discuss denuclearization: source
8 April 2018 – Reuters

A U.S. official said on Sunday that North Korea told the United States for the first time that it is prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets President Donald Trump. This official said that the U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit. These communications have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea through its United Nations mission, as well as intelligence officers from both sides using a backchannel. Until now, the United States had relied mostly on ally South Korea’s assurance of Kim’s intentions.
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U.S. imposes sanctions on Russian oligarchs, officials for “malign activity”
6 April 2018 – Reuters

The United States imposed sanctions on Friday against Russian businessmen, companies, and officials, striking at associates of President Vladimir Putin in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for what it called a range of “malign activity.” This includes alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. The Treasury Department placed sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, plus 17 senior Russian government officials. The sanctions stand to hurt the Russian economy, especially the financial and energy sectors, but Russian state companies under the U.S. sanctions will receive additional government support.
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India is close to buying a Russian missile system, despite U.S. sanctions
5 April 2018 – The New York Times

India’s defense minister is visiting Russia this week to finalize the purchase of a Russian missile defense system, in a weapons deal that would violate American sanctions against Russia. The potential $6 billion deal that would deliver five S-400 Triumf systems, comes at a time when the Trump administration is both weighing more extensive sanctions against Russia and trying to forge a military alliance with India. If the deal goes through, the United States will have to choose between punishing India for violating sanctions or granting an exemption to avoid souring the relationship they have been cultivating to hedge against Chinese military expansion.
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Germany’s Merkel to visit Trump, as trade, Iran deadlines loom
5 April 2018 - Reuters

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at separate occasions this month. The trips, on April 24 and 27, come shortly before the expiry of an exemption for the European Union from American import duties on steel and aluminum. Trade is thus likely to feature heavily in the discussions, as both leaders will likely lobby for a permanent exemption from the tariffs. However, the meetings also come shortly before the May 12 deadline for Trump to re-approve the Iran Nuclear Deal, which both European leaders support.
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Merkel coalition hits back at Trump’s attack on gas pipeline
4 April 2018 – Bloomberg

Germany’s governing coalition rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that links Germany and Russia, and is of concern to many EU member states. In the same statement, Trump also criticized Germany for its low level of defense spending. Calling the two issues “apples and oranges,” members of the coalition dismissed Trump’s remarks a transparent attempt to promote the export of U.S. liquefied natural gas.
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U.S. plans to sanction Russian oligarchs this week: sources
4 April 2018 - Reuters

The United States plans to sanction Russian oligarchs this week under a law targeting Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, in what could be the most aggressive move so far against Russia’s business elite. The sanctions, which two sources said will be announced as early as Thursday, would follow the March 15 U.S. decision to sanction 19 people and five entities, including Russian intelligence services, for cyberattacks stretching back at least two years. Four sources said the sanctions would be imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, also known as CAATSA, which was passed by Republicans and Democrats seeking to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, involvement in the Syrian civil war, and meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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Russia tests missiles in the Baltic Sea, a day after Baltic leaders met with Trump
4 April 2018 - The Washington Post

One day after the Presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia met with Trump at the White House, Russia started a live-fire military exercise in the Baltic Sea, just outside of NATO territorial waters. The three-day missile test forced a partial shutdown of Latvian civilian airspace and was the first time Russia has tested live munitions in Latvia’s exclusive economic zone, a stretch of international waters just outside of Latvia’s territory in the Baltic Sea. Sweden and Poland also received notifications from the Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday about live-fire exercises in the Baltic Sea, and Sweden rerouted flights during the operation.
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Chinese defense chief says his trip to Russia is a signal to the U.S.
4 April 2018 - CNN

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said that U.S. officials should take notice of the increasingly significant high-level military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing. During his visit to Russia, Fenghe reiterated several times that China wants to, "show [the] Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia," and noted the "common concerns and common positions on important international problems" between the two countries. Fenghe, a fierce loyalist to President Xi Jinping, was appointed to his position last month. 
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Trump instructs military to begin planning for withdrawal from Syria
4 April 2018 – The Washington Post

President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has not yet set a date for them to do so. In a meeting with top national security officials on Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State, but added that the U.S. mission would not extend beyond the destruction of the Islamic State. The President added that he expects other countries, particularly wealthy Arab states in the region, to pick up the task of paying for reconstruction of stabilized areas, including sending their own troops, if necessary. There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Syria advising and assisting local proxy forces and directing U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State forces; Trump claims their mission is as “close to 100 percent” accomplished.
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NATO chief says alliance is not trying to isolate Russia
4 March 2018 – Reuters
Speaking at the University of Ottowa, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg offered assurances that the alliance is not trying to isolate Russia. The comments come a week after NATO expelled seven Russian diplomats and downsized Russia's NATO mission to two thirds of its manpower. The move was a result of Russia's suspected involvement in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, an allegation Russia vehemently denies. Stoltenberg went on to say that, although NATO has no intention to isolate Russia, it could not view the Skripal poisoning as an isolated incident; he highlighted the fact that, in the last decade, Russia has annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, propped up embattled Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and meddled in the affairs of other nations. He described Russia's past actions as a "pattern of hatred."
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The United States is starting a trade war with China. Now what?
4 April 2018 – The New York Times

The Trump administration is on the brink of a trade war with China, as China threatened to retaliate on Wednesday against products and industries that President Trump has vowed to protect, hitting back against the administration which detailed a list of $50 billion in Chinese imports that it plans to tax on Tuesday. In response, China outlined tariffs on $50 billion worth of American soybeans, cars, chemicals, and other goods. President Trump suggested in a series of tweets that he saw no reason to back down, saying that the United States was already on the losing end of a trading partnership with China. Markets plunged on Wednesday, but administration officials remained calm saying Wall Street should not have been surprised by China’s reaction and that the U.S. could ultimately negotiate with the Chinese.
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Erdogan, Putin mark start of work on Turkey's first nuclear power plant
3 April 2018 – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Mersin today to officially launch the $20 billion joint construction of the Akkuyu nuclear reactor, Turkey's first nuclear power plant. The 4,800 megawatt plant is expected to open in 2023, and alongside discussions between Moscow and Ankara to procure S-400 missile systems, represents a significant detente in Russia-Turkey relations. Just days after the plant's groundbreaking ceremony, Iranian, Russian, and Turkish officials will host a summit in Ankara later this week seeking to unify their policies toward to the Syrian civil war. 
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Facebook removes dozens of Russia-linked accounts
3 April 2018 – Politico

Facebook announced Tuesday that it removed dozens of multiple platform accounts and pages controlled by Russia’s Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency. A total of 70 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts, 65 Instagram accounts, and 138 Facebook pages were removed. Most of the pages ran advertisements and were targeted at Russian speakers. Uncovering these accounts took "months of work," and Facebook removed them because of their connection to the IRA and not because of their content.
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EU carbon market emissions rise for first time in 7 years in 2017
3 April 2018 – Reuters

According to data published on Tuesday by the European Commission, emissions regulated under Europe’s carbon market rose for the first time in seven years in 2017. According to the analysts’ interpretation of the data, emissions totaled 1.756 billion tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) last year for companies under the Emissions Trading System (ETS) excluding airlines, which is up 0.3 percent on the previous year. This rise is attributed to the European economy’s growth of 2.5% in 2017, as well as an increase in the number of flights. The emissions figure will be keenly watched by participants in the ETS as it provides a first indication of the supply and demand balance.
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Turkey, Russia deepen ties amid troubled relations with West
2 April 2018 – The Washington Post

Ties between Russia and Turkey are growing closer as Putin revisits Turkey this week. On Tuesday, Putin will join Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a symbolic ground-breaking ceremony for a Russian- made nuclear power plant built on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, and on Wednesday the two will meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussing Syria’s future. The warming relations between the two countries come as ties between the European Union nations and Turkey have become increasingly testy, and as Turkey announced it would not follow NATO and EU allies in ousting Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.
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China hammers U.S. goods with tariffs as “sparks” of trade war fly
1 April 2018 – Reuters

China increased tariffs by up to 25% on 128 U.S. products, escalating a dispute between the world’s biggest economies in response to U.S. duties on imports of aluminum and steel. The tariffs, which will take effect Monday, matched a list of possible tariffs on up to $3 billion in U.S. goods published by Cinna on March 23. U.S. President Donald Trump is separately preparing to impose tariffs of more than $50 billion on Chinese goods following an investigation under Section 301 of the 1974 U.S. Trade Act.
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German Tornado jet may be unsuitable for NATO missions: report
31 March 2018 – Reuters

According to a German Defense Ministry report, the German armed forces may not be able to use the Tornado fighter jet for NATO missions, as it has not been possible to build an encryption device for secure data transfer into the jet. A spokesman for the German air force said its 10 Tornado jets registered for the NATO Response Force meet current requirements, without providing further details. Germany wants to begin phasing out the Tornado jets in 2025, and the defense ministry has said that the Eurofighter Typhoon is the leading candidate to replace them.
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Trump is willing to reopen TTIP amid EU-U.S. trade dispute, Ross says
29 March 2018 – Bloomberg

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated that President Trump remains open to concluding a transatlantic trade and investment agreement with the EU. Ross told EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom that he would seek a formal negotiating mandate from Congress. The move comes as the EU faces a May 1 deadline, imposed by the Trump Administration, to make economic and security concessions. If it does not, it could face U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs.
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Russia to expel 60 U.S. diplomats; tensions are worst in decades
29 March 2018 – New York Times

On Thursday, Russia announced it would expel 60 American diplomats and an unspecified number of envoys from other countries to retaliate for a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats working in the West and beyond. Further, the Kremlin exceeded an equivalent response to the United States by ordering the closing of the American Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. Voicing alarm that the East-West confrontation was spinning out of control, the secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, said that the crisis recalled the Cold War.
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U.S. calls for larger rapid-reaction NATO force to counter Russia
29 March 2018 – The Hill

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the United States has asked NATO commanders to ensure that at least 30,000 troops and accompanying aircraft and ships can reach any location within 30 days. NATO currently has a rapid-reaction force of 5,000 troops meant to aid one of its members quickly if attacked, but it has no solid plans for a broad NATO mobilization if Russia attempts to annex lands around its borders as it did in 2014. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told NATO that it needs to quicken decision-making and have units ready to deploy in short notice; NATO officials are hoping to reach an agreement before the July summit.
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With NATO, EU sets out plan to enable faster troop movement across Europe
28 March 2018 – Reuters

On Wednesday, the European Union announced an “Action Plan on Military Mobility” to enable military personnel and equipment to move more quickly across Europe, which NATO sees as vital in the event of a conflict with Russia. According to NATO commanders, conflicting regulations across EU countries, bridges and tunnels that are too narrow or weak for heavy equipment, and few special allowances for transfers of U.S. troops all make it difficult for NATO to speedily mass troops on its eastern flank. Next year the European Commission will outline the best ways for the EU to create a new system that would also be within NATO standards.
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NATO announces expulsion of Russian diplomats following nerve agent attack
28 March 2018 – NPR

NATO followed the lead of many of its member countries and announced that it is expelling Russian diplomats in connection with the nerve agent poisoning in the UK earlier this month. Specifically, NATO withdrew accreditation for seven staff members of the Russian mission and denied pending accreditation to three others. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the announcement was meant to “send a very clear message to Russia” that its action “has costs.” Moscow said the move was insignificant but vowed to retaliate.
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OPEC and Russia considering 10-20 year oil alliance
28 March 2018 – Financial Times

OPEC and Russia, both of whom have engaged in production cuts over the past year to stabilize oil prices, are looking to extend oil market cooperation for decades. According to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh and Moscow “are working to shift from a year-to-year agreement to a 10-20 year agreement.” Moscow’s involvement, until now, had been considered unique and any multi-decade deal would be unparalleled.
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China says North Korea's Kim pledged commitment to denuclearization
28 March 2018 – Reuters

China and North Korea confirmed that Kim Jong Un traveled to Beijing and met with President Xi during what China called an unofficial visit from Sunday to Wednesday. This visit was Kim’s first known trip outside North Korea since he assumed power, and is believed to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States. China said Kim pledged his commitment to denuclearization and to meet with U.S. officials.
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Britain joins first project backed by new EU defense research fund
28 March 2018 – Reuters
Britain has joined fourteen other European states in a joint defence research project, the first under an EU-wide research and development program. The 35 million Euro grant is for the development of new naval surveillance technology, but also marks the first step in a wider program that seeks to integrate European militaries and their defence industries. The so-called "Ocean 2020" project will entail 42 companies from across the 15 countries, though it will be lead by Italy's Leonardo SPA aerospace and defence group. The EU seeks to coordinate with NATO on its defence integration, while reducing its dependence on America. Britain does seek security cooperation with the EU after it leaves the bloc in 2019, though it is not clear if it will remain in the Ocean 2020 project after that date. 
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Poland strikes $4.75 billion Patriot missile defense deal with U.S.
28 March 2018 - Financial Times

The Polish government has finalized the procurement of American-made Patriot missile defense systems for $4.75 billion - the largest defense deal in Poland's history. Warsaw purchased four fire-control stations, four radars, sixteen individual missile platforms, and 208 PAC-3 MSE Patriot missiles. Poland aims to use these new missile defense systems as deterrents against Russia.
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Swiss revive plan to support newer EU members as ties thaw
28 March 2018 – Reuters

Switzerland has committed to a contribution of $1.4 billion toward projects supporting new EU member states. The decision comes after months of financial-sector tension between Bern and Brussels, and primarily serves as an effort to enhance EU-Swiss relations and stabilize Swiss access to the EU single market. The payment, which is now awaiting approval from Swiss parliament, will be finalized in the coming days.
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Russia, China eclipse U.S. in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears
27 March 2018 – The Hill

Pentagon officials and key lawmakers warn that Russia and China are outpacing the United States in the development of hypersonic missiles, or missiles that can fly at more than five times the speed of sound. Russia claims to have tested a hypersonic missile this month, and China tested a similar system last year. General Hyten, Commander of Strategic Command, told Congress that U.S. missile defense cannot stop these missiles, but that the U.S. is instead relying on nuclear deterrence or threat of a retaliatory U.S. strike.
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Trump and Western allies expel scores of Russians in sweeping rebuke over UK poisoning
26 March 2018 - The New York Times

The United States – alongside 14 of its closest European allies including Germany, Italy, France, Denmark, and Poland – has ordered the expulsion of hundreds of Russian diplomats and persons linked to active foreign intelligence operations from their respective countries. The U.S. alone has already removed more than 60 Russian diplomats from American soil, and permanently closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. These unified moves come in response to the Kremlin-orchestrated poisoning of a defected former Russian spy living in the UK.
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UN: War crimes evidence in Syria "overwhelming," not all can be pursued
26 March 2018 – Reuters

The UN's Commission of Inquiry on Syria has produced an "overwhelming volume" of evidence for war crimes committed by both pro-Assad and anti-Assad forces during the civil war. The commission, led by Catherine Marchi-Uhel, concluded in its report that the sheer number of atrocities is so vast that "it is not possible to prosecute all of the crimes committed." Chief prosecutor Paulo Pinheiro presented documents to a panel of judges demonstrating crimes against humanity, torture, murder, and mass executions. 
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Row over vetting Ukraine judges prompts U.S.-backed body to quit
26 March 2018- Reuters

A Washington-backed body set up to vet judges in Ukraine as part of the battle against corruption quit its role on Monday, saying the process to screen a judge fit for office was a sham. The Public Integrity Council (PIC) was set up in 2016 and supported by USAID provides technical expertise and support, and had worked with the High Qualification Commission of Judges to ensure that around 6,000 judges were qualified and not involved in corrupt practices. This row highlights Ukraine’s troubled efforts to tackle corruption, which it needs to do in order to qualify for more aid from the IMF.
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Topic: EU-Turkey summit
26 March 2018 - Reuters

The European Union and Turkey met at a summit in Varna, Bulgaria to discuss their deteriorating relations. Speaking afterward, the EU expressed a willingness to continue assisting Turkey with the refugees it is hosting. However, it highlighted its worries over President Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian approach to governance, as well as Turkey's actions in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. There were further disagreements over Turkey's stalled accession talks, which Turkey blamed on the EU; the EU cited Turkey's actions as the obstacle in the talks.
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Europe’s $38 billion carbon market is finally doing its job
26 March 2018 – Bloomberg

Recent EU measures aimed at increasing the cost of carbon emissions – via its emissions trading system – are expected to achieve this objective. Thirteen years after the creation of the system, and after five years with a significant oversupply in emissions permits, coal, steel, utilities and other industries are now expected to face higher costs for emitting. The EU’s carbon trading system is the largest of more than 45 in existence worldwide.
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U.S. settles South Korea trade disputes before summit with North
26 March 2018 – Bloomberg
The U.S. has agreed to revise its trade deal with South Korea and spare the country from a steel tariff. A deal was reached when South Korea agreed to limit its shipments of steel to the U.S., and to accept more American car exports. President Donald Trump previously called the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement a “job killer.” The resolution of outstanding trade issues comes ahead of a meeting between the U.S. and North Korea.
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Poroshenko to sign cooperation program with NATO for 2018 in near future
26 March 2018 – Kyiv Post

On March 26, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze told the press that President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko will sign a program of cooperation with NATO for the current year in the near future. According to Klympush-Tsintsadze, the new program significantly increases the number of tasks aimed at implementing reforms, particularly in the field of security and defense. Additionally, the program includes the formation of a national system for preventing and responding to threats to national security.
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Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont detained in Germany
25 March 2018 – The Washington Post

On Sunday, authorities in Germany detained former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont after he crossed into the country from Denmark, setting up a possible extradition of the leader to Spain. German deputy state prosecutor Ralph Doepper said Puigdemont will appear in court on Monday for a procedural hearing and that a higher regional court will decide later whether to keep him in custody pending a Spanish extradition request. In Barcelona, tens of thousands of pro-independence Catalans gathered to protest the detention, leading to clashes with riot police.
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U.S. charges, sanctions Iranians for global cyberattacks on behalf of Tehran
23 March 2018 – Reuters

On Friday the United States charged and sanctioned nine Iranians and an Iranian company called the Mabna Institute for attempting to hack hundreds of universities worldwide, dozens of firms and parts of the U.S. government, including its main energy regulator, on behalf of Tehran’s government. U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the nine Iranians are considered fugitives who may face extradition in more than 100 countries if they travel outside Iran. Friday’s actions are part of an effort by senior cyber security officials at the White House and across the U.S. government to blame foreign countries for malicious hacks, and on Friday the Department of Justice privately warned major internet infrastructure companies to expect attacks from Iran.
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China prepares retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports
23 March 2018 - Financial Times, Associated Press

The Chinese government announced plans for retaliatory tariffs against more than $3 billion of U.S. exports, including a 15% counter-tariff on steel piping, and other tariffs as high as 25% on pork, apples, wine, recycled aluminum, and more than 100 other American products. As fears of a major U.S.-China trade war continue to mount, the Chinese Foreign Minister has stated bluntly that it is "fully prepared to defend [China's interests]," and is "not afraid" of an escalating trade dispute. While the European Union is also mulling over protective measures of its own, it is not yet clear how Brussels will respond to growing economic tension between China and the United States. 
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Trump signs spending bill, averting government shutdown
23 March 2018 - AFP

President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion federal spending measure which will prevent the U.S. government from shutting down. Trump surprised lawmakers by threatening to veto the bill, which would have closed down nearly all federal government functions indefinitely, and resulted in the third shutdown of 2018 alone. The bill notably raised U.S. defense spending by $61 billion, and included funding for 100 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump also told lawmakers he will "never sign another bill like this again," urging Congress to end the recent pattern of government shutdowns by passing standard long-term budgets in regular order. 
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Europeans promise more steps against Russia over UK spy attack
23 March 2018 - Reuters

At a recent Brussels summit, European Union member states agreed to take additional measures against Russia for its suspected involvement in the use of Novichok nerve agent to poison a former spy and his daughter on British soil. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called British evidence of Russian involvement "very solidly based," and called for more measures to be enacted; many EU members have already recalled their ambassadors from Moscow. Moscow rejected the assertions, calling the accusations "baseless" and part of an "anti-Russian" campaign led by London. 
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Norway adopts EU energy rules, averting break with bloc
22 March 2018 – Reuters
Norway’s parliament approved the adoption of the EU’s energy rules, enabling the country to retain full access to the EU market. The center-right government feared that rejecting the EU’s Third Energy Package would diminish or end its access to the EU market, which it has had for the past 24 years.
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U.S. grants last-minute exemptions to looming steel tariffs
22 March 2018 - Financial Times

The U.S. government has delayed enacting major steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU and other allies. The tariffs, a major point of contention in the transatlantic relationship, were delayed to allow more time for negotiation, following heavy opposition from parties on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU, along with Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea, will thus be exempt from the 25 per cent tariffs on steel and 10 per cent tariffs on aluminum until further notice. However, the exemption is contingent on whether or not "progress" can be made on the $100 billion US trade deficit with Europe.
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Kosovo parliament ratifies border deal with Montenegro after stormy session
21 March 2018 – Reuters

Kosovo’s parliament ratified a 2015 border agreement with Montenegro, paving the way for the country to gain visa-free travel to the EU. Kosovo is the last country in the Balkans whose citizens need visas to travel to EU member states. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence after NATO drove out Serbian forces.
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Kiev tightens requirements for Russians traveling to Ukraine
21 March 2018 - Reuters

According to a decree signed by Ukrainian President Poroshenko on Wednesday, Kiev will tighten control over travel by Russian citizens to Ukraine in a further move by the authorities to distance the country from its neighbor and one-time ally. The decree will require Russians and citizens of certain other countries to notify the Ukrainian authorities in advance about their reason for traveling into the country; Russians and Ukrainians have travelled freely since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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EU says Europe should look beyond Trump’s trade conflict

21 March 2018 - Bloomberg Politics
In a letter written to the 28 heads of EU member states, EU President Donald Tusk sought to downplay the risks to transatlantic relationship posed by recent U.S. sanctions on nearly all steel and aluminum imports. Even without an exemption, Tusk noted, the tariffs would only affect roughly 1.5% of transatlantic trade. He thus encouraged continued engagement with the U.S. and described transatlantic relations as a "cornerstone of the security and prosperity of both the United States and the European Union."
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G20 sees need for "dialogue," fails to defuse trade war threat
21 March 2018 – Reuters

Financial leaders from the G20, representing the world's largest economies, held their latest summit in Buenos Aires this week. Coming on the heels of the Trump Administration's push for major U.S. tariffs, the G20 ministers argued for "further dialogue" on international economic cooperation, and reiterated their commitments to "continue to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices." While the G20 acknowledged the existence of "legitimate trade defense instruments," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin contended at the summit that new American measures to defend domestic steel and aluminum production are reasonable efforts seeking to guarantee "free and fair, reciprocal trade." 
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Climate change could force more than 140 million people from their homes by 2050
20 March 2018 - The Independent

A comprehensive new study from the World Bank concludes that more than 140 million people will lose their homes to climate change by the year 2050. According to the modeling in the report, climate change presents a "looming human crisis" as millions will suffer from water scarcity, intense crop failures, and worsening storm surges over the next few decades alone. World Bank chief Kristalina Georgieva urged both international institutions and "hot-spot" countries to begin planning for the increasing urbanization, internal migration, and public health emergencies on the horizon.
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EU leaders to seek better communication on threats after nerve-agent attack
20 March 2018 – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

EU leaders are set to ask foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to look into ways to improve the 28-member bloc's strategic communication, counterintelligence, and cyberdefense in the wake of the recent nerve-agent attack. According to draft conclusion ahead of a March 22-23 summit in Brussels, the bloc’s leaders agree tha, “the European Union must strengthen its resilience to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear-related risks, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its member states as well as NATO." The draft does not put direct blame on Moscow for the nerve-agent attack, but it does say that "it takes extremely seriously the United Kingdom government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible."
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UK and EU agree to “decisive step” with 21-month Brexit transition
19 March 2018 – Financial Times

Negotiations between the UK and EU have yielded a 21-month Brexit transition, avoiding a cliff-edge exit. During this period, the UK will abide by EU rules but lose its say in its decision-making process. The two sides reached comprehensive agreements on a financial settlement and the rights of four million EU citizens in Britain. Disagreements remain over judicial cooperation, data protection, intellectual property, and other issues.
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Britain pulls out of EU defense force
19 March 2018 - Politico

The UK has withdrawn its offer to lead a battle-ready EU military force after Brexit, the first concrete example of the impact of the country’s EU exit on European defense cooperation. The UK informed the chairman of the EU military committee last Wednesday that it would no longer be the lead nation in a 1,500 strong “battlegroup” for EU defense in 2019. In the letter informing Brussels of the decision, Britain’s Lieutenant General George Norton said the decision was made because of the logistical problems caused by Brexit, and insisted Britain could still remain part of the program further down the line if a political agreement could be struck.
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Britain wins fresh EU, NATO support over nerve attack
19 March 2018 - Reuters

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a joint news conference Monday after their meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. There, Johnson won further support from the European Union and NATO over the nerve agent attack on a former double Russian agent as he denounced Moscow’s denials of involvement “increasingly absurd.” Stoltenberg echoed Johnson’s position against Russia saying, “Russia will continue to seek to divide us.” Asked what support Britain had requested from the EU and NATO to counter Russia, Johnson said he was seeking to intensify work on a range of strategies, such as defenses against Russian attacks on computer networks, challenging disinformation campaigns, and acting against criminal financial networks.
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India emerges as world's big defense spender
19 March 2018 - International Institute for Strategic Studies

India’s defense spending of $52.5 billion in 2017 makes it the fifth-largest in the world, overtaking the UK to reach the “top 5” slot for the first time. According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, India’s defense spending is the largest after the United States ($602.8 billion), China ($150.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($76.7 billion) and Russia ($61.2 billion). The jump in rank is a result of two developments. One is a relative decrease in defense spending by the UK, France, and Japan. The second is India’s increasingly tense relations with neighbors China and Pakistan, as well as an expanded role for India’s navy in the Indian Ocean.
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European Union releases 10-page list of potential targets for retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products
16 March 2018 - The Washington Post
Signaling a continuation of transatlantic trade tensions, the EU made public last week its list of potential goods on which it may enact tariffs. The tariffs, threatened retaliation for steel and aluminum tariffs enacted by U.S. President Donald Trump, are targeted at goods ranging from bourbon to orange juice. The targeted goods are mostly associated with states that could prove a political vulnerability to Trump; bourbon is a major export of Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while orange juice is a major export Florida, an important state in the upcoming mid-term elections.
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Revive trade deal talks to avoid trade war, EU urges Trump

16 March 2018 - Reuters

The EU urged U.S. President Donald Trump to revive trade talks in order to avoid a trade war between the two economic powers. European Council President Donald Tusk urged Trump to rejoin talks on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TTIP deal sought to break down existing trade barriers and remove the tariffs Trump has described as "horrific" and used to justify his own protectionist measures.
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NATO defense spending goes up for third year in a row
15 March 2018 - The Washington Post

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Thursday that alliance members increased their defense spending in 2017 for a third consecutive year, amid complaints from President Trump that only a handful of the 29 allies are meeting their pledges. Only four countries, the United States, Britain, Estonia, and Greece, reached the 2% of GDP spending mark this past year, although more are expected to reach it in 2018. NATO countries (not including the U.S.) collectively spent an estimated 1.45% of their annual economic output on defense last year.
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U.S. sanctions Russians for meddling, but puts off punishing oligarchs
15 March 2018 – Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department launched new sanctions against five Russian business entities and 19 individuals with ties to Russian intelligence services, the most expansive such measure since the Trump Administration began. The sanctions were levied mainly for U.S. election meddling, as they include 16 individuals indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but the timing of these new actions is also significant as they come immediately following a joint assessment with Britain, France, and Germany that Russia is principally responsible for the nerve gas attack against former KGB spy Sergei Skripal.
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Global leaders blame Russia for nerve agent attack on former spy
15 March 2018 – Associated Press

The leaders of the United States, France, Germany and Britain say they are united in blaming Russia for a nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal, saying "there is no plausible alternative explanation" to Russian responsibility on the March 4th attack.  Additionally, the leaders claim that Russia's failure to respond to Britain's "legitimate request" for an explanation "further underlines its responsibility." They have also said that the use of a chemical weapon is "an assault on UK sovereignty" and "a breach of international law." NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday that it is important to respond to the nerve-agent attack “in a measured way,” adding that Britain has not requested any explicit help and that he sees no need to activate the alliance's collective defense clause.
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Ukraine’s main backers in EU put pressure on Kyiv over reforms
14 March 2018 - RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

In a discussion paper titled, “Keeping Ukraine on the Reform Path,” thirteen of Ukraine’s most enthusiastic backers in the European Union warned that the implementation of important reforms are “just beginning or lagging behind,” adding that the presidential and parliamentary elections next year will be “a test for Ukraine.” The document was signed by representatives of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Britain. EU-Ukraine relations will be debated when EU foreign ministers gather on March 19 in Brussels, and while no concrete decisions are expected at the gathering, it will indicate how the EU views the reform process and political situation in its eastern neighbor.
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EU presses tough migration stance with more Turkey money, stricter visa rules
14 March 2018 – Reuters

On Wednesday, the European Union said it would provide another 3 billion euros for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as restrict travel for countries refusing to take back their citizens who fail to obtain asylum in Europe. Some 1.8 million refugees and migrants have reached Europe across the Mediterranean since 2014, causing friction among member states on how to handle them and lifting support for nationalist and populist parties. Despite heavy criticism of Erdogan’s track record on human rights, the bloc’s top officials will host him for high-level talks next week, a reminder that the EU cannot handle their refugee problem without Turkey.
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Retaliation likely after May expels 23 Russian diplomats over spy poisoning
14 March 2018 – The Guardian

In response to a Russian nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter, which occurred on British soil, British Prime Minister Theresa May cut formal diplomatic ties, ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, and strengthened powers to detain suspected intelligence agents at the border. Russia’s ambassador to the UK stated that British diplomats will be expelled in retaliation.
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Despite Brexit, Britain wins EU support on nerve agent attack
13 March 2018 – Reuters

Germany, France, the EU, and NATO expressed solidarity with Britain in the wake of a nerve agent attack on British soil. The poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter are believed to have been carried out by Russia. As the British government prepares its response, there is no sign of a willingness to place additional sanctions on Russia.
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Italy’s League and 5-Star attack EU budget rules after vote
13 March 2018 - Reuters

The two Italian populist parties that came off best in the recent election are clashing over their approaches to the Eurozone. The 5-Star Movement and the League oppose the EU’s current budgetary rules, and have called for drastic reform. However, their attitudes differ quite heavily from there, with the League's leader Matteo Salvini calling the EU "destroyers" and calling for Italy to leave the Eurozone as soon as it can. By contrast, the leader of the 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, has called for constructive relations with the EU. As neither party gained enough votes to form a government outright, they will need to form a coalition with other parties if they wish to gain power; their approach to the EU will therefore be decisive in the upcoming negotiations.
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Fearing trade war, EU warns of protectionism “dead end”
12 March 2018 - AP News

EU leaders, meeting for talks in Brussels, voiced strong concerns about the potential consequences of aluminum and steel tariffs due to be imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. Ministers variously described such protectionist measures as a "dead end" and always political...a historical error." The EU has rejected the U.S. government's claims that the tariffs are necessary for the national security of America, and has reiterated its staunch support for free trade. It has already outlined $3.4 billion worth of retaliatory sanctions it is willing to impose should Trump proceed with the tariffs. 
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Hungary seeks broader anti-migrant alliance after Austria, Italy elections
12 March 2018 – Reuters
Hungary is attempting to coordinate with Austria and Italy in response to the EU’s migration policy, after elections in those countries produced outcomes favorable anti-migrant views. Hungary and its neighbors in the Visegrad Group have opposed accepting migrants on the basis of security concerns and the desire to preserve the Christian make-up of their societies. While Hungary does not seek to enlarge this group to include Austria and Italy, it seeks “more efficient” cooperation with them on migration.
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U.S. asks China for $100bn plan to cut trade deficit
11 March 2018 – Financial Times

Sources close to talks between the U.S. and China say Chinese envoy Liu He was asked for a written plan to reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $100 billion earlier this month. China’s Commerce Minister said on Sunday that the “imbalance is partly due to American export restrictions,” referring to high-tech and military-use items that the U.S. blocks for export to China. The White House seeks long-term reductions to the trade deficit through structural reforms to China’s intellectual property regime and by lifting tariffs on U.S. automobiles and other exports.
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India, France to work for Indian Ocean freedom of navigation
10 March 2018 - Associated Press

France and India have signed multiple agreements that will deepen their security partnership, and announced joint-military sea traffic monitoring and freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the Indian Ocean. Indian PM Narendra Modi stated: "Both our countries believe that for world peace, progress, and prosperity in the future, the Indian Ocean region is going to play a very important role." France has major sovereign and strategic interests in the region, as it possesses one the largest maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the world, to include multiple territories in the Indian Ocean. The two democracies will work to keep Chinese illegal fishing and military vessels in check, in addition to expanding efforts against illegal shipping.
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Japan, 10 other nations sign new TPP

9 March 2018 – Jiji Press
Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement yesterday. The agreement does not include the United States, which withdrew its commitment from the agreement in early 2017. The countries party to the agreement account for 13% of global GDP, 7% of the world’s population, and 15% of global trade.
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North Korea asks for direct nuclear talks, and Trump agrees
8 March 2018 – New York Times
U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s invitation to a meeting on the country’s nuclear program. No sitting president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Trump has stated that he would not compromise on the existence of the regime’s nuclear weapons. Analysts expressed skepticism about the meeting, saying there is no indication that North Korea is prepared to abandon its status as a nuclear-armed state.
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Mexico, Canada and others may be exempted from U.S. tariffs
7 March 2018 - Associated Press

In what seems to be a de-escalation of his recently announced protectionist measures, U.S. President Donald Trump today suggested he may allow exemptions for Australia, Canada and Mexico. He also alluded to "other countries" being granted exemptions. The move steps back from his earlier statements, in which he overtly supported a trade war with U.S. allies.
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North Korea says it is "open to ending nuclear program”
6 March 2018 - CNBC/Financial Times/The Washington Post

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has taken a first step towards negotiating the status of his nuclear program. Kim, alongside other North Korean government officials, met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stated Pyongyang's "firm will to vigorously advance" inter-Korean ties and the possibility for some form of reunification. South Korean diplomats affirmed that, in return, "[t]he North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize" should it be afforded security guarantees in the future. President Trump praised the latest North-South diplomatic efforts, stating, "I think they are sincere." Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was less optimistic in his analysis, stated that he "seriously doubt[s]" an honest North Korean effort to broker an agreement.
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EU agrees first defense projects, delays decision on British role
6 March 2018 - Reuters

A group of EU countries have agreed to a series of joint defense projects, with Britain notably absent from the decision. No announcement has yet been made on whether non-member states will be able to join the projects at any point, potentially excluding Britain indefinitely. The 17 agreed-upon projects all fall under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) pact, and range from a new line of armored infantry vehicles to a joint European medical command. The move marks the start of the multi-billion euro joint agreement, which seeks to increase efficiency in defense spending by more closely integrating the European arms industry.
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Italy anti-establishment parties make big gains in election
5 March 2018 - Financial Times

Italy's Five Star Movement and Northern League parties won sweeping support from voters in a critical national election which will likely result in a hung parliament. Elites and establishment center-right and center-left parties found themselves unable to retain voting coalitions and soothe concerns over sluggish economic performance, widespread corruption in the financial sector, and an influx of over 620,000 migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. Three straight center-left prime ministers presided over a jobless recovery from the 2008 economic crisis, which helped stabilize the economy, but more than 32% of Italians under the age of 30 remain unemployed. Analysts worry that the election is indicative of growing anti-EU sentiment across the continent.
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China boosts military spending 8% amidst ambitious modernization drive
5 March 2018 - CNN

The Chinese government released new budget plans showing substantial increases in defense spending ahead of this week's 13th National People's Congress in Beijing. The new budget claims China will spend about $175 billion in total on its military in 2018, an 8.1% increase over 2017 spending that marks seven consecutive fiscal years of major defense expansion. While Chinese government statistics provided for the military have a history of inaccuracy, U.S. defense spending remains several times larger than Beijing's reported numbers, with a Pentagon budget of $686 billion for 2019 alone. The United States and China are the world's two biggest military spenders, accounting for about 36% and 13% of total worldwide military spending respectively. 
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France's Macron urges WTO action over U.S. steel tariffs
5 March 2018 - Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the EU may need to take urgent action at the World Trade Organization if U.S. President Donald Trump goes ahead with his proposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Speaking on Monday after a meeting with the Premier of Quebec Philippe Couillard, President Macron warned that Trump's tariffs amounted to "economic nationalism"; he went on to state that the EU would need to react "swiftly and proportionately" to them through WTO mechanisms.
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In retaliation for Trump's Plan, EU leader threatens tariffs on Bourbon and Bluejeans
2 March 2018 - The New York Times

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced today that the EU will respond to President Trump's planned steel and aluminum tariffs with tariffs on roughly $3.5 billion of American exports ranging from motorcycles to bourbon. German and British industrial leaders have spoken out against Trump's plan, calling the move "[a clear] violation of the rules of the World Trade Organization," and, "the worse possible option for the world economy."
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UN points to likely war crimes in Syria's Ghouta
2 March 2018 - Reuters

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein announced today that formal mechanisms to investigate war crimes committed by Syrian government forces against residents of eastern Ghouta will be set in motion. He stated: "I must emphasize that what we are seeing, in eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria, are likely war crimes, and potentially crimes against humanity." The UN has already started compiling evidence and dossiers on individuals which may be prosecuted in the future.
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WTO concerned about U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs
2 March 2018 - Associated Press

The head of the World Trade Organization, Robert Azevedo, stated the body has concerns over the recent threat from U.S. President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. There are fears the tariffs could lead to economic retaliation from allies that would be heavily impacted by the sanctions. This includes the EU and Canada. Despite Mr. Trump's assertion that "trade wars are good," Mr. Azevedo has stated that a "trade war is in no one’s interest."
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