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

Mogherini unveils EU response to New Silk Road
19 September 2018 – Euractiv

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini announced the European Commission’s vision for greater connectivity between Europe and Asia. The plan, which she said will be based on international rules and regulation that promote sustainable political and economic ties, is seen by some as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
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U.S. considers “Fort Trump” military base in Poland
19 September 2018 – France24
Polish President Andrzej Duda is concerned about Russian aggression and has asked President Trump to consider a permanent military base in his country. Trump is considering Poland’s request and Duda has stated he would name the base “Fort Trump.”  Russia is concerned about Poland’s request and believes stability in Europe will be compromised as a result.
(Read More)

Orban says Hungary to appeal Article 7 in defiant message to Brussels
19 September 2018 - Euronews

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban issued a defiant message to Brussels on Tuesday, saying he will appeal the EU's decision to trigger Article 7 procedures against the country and prove that the Sargentini report is based on “absurdities.” The European Parliament backed the launch of Article 7 after Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini wrote in a report that Hungary had breached various EU values, citing migrant abuse, restrictions on press freedom, corruption and conflicts of interest as well as "stereotypical attitudes" toward women.
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California and the EU cement their climate alliance, bypassing Washington
18 September 2018 – Forbes
The EU has signed a deal with California which aims to coordinate responses to climate change, and facilitate cooperation on measures such as carbon taxes. The move comes in response to the apathy demonstrated toward issues related to climate change by the Trump Administration, notably through its decision to withdraw from the 2016 Paris Climate Accord. The agreement signed seeks to link the EU’s 13-year-old Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) with California’s five-year-old cap and trade scheme.
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U.S. warns of Russian interference in Macedonia’s NATO bid
17 September 2018 - The Wall Street Journal

While visiting Macedonia on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that Russia is actively working against a referendum in Macedonia that would clear the way for the Balkan nation to join NATO. U.S. officials believe Russia is attempting to influence Macedonian voters, who will decide in the referendum whether to change the country’s name to “North Macedonia,” a step toward NATO membership. Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he has no evidence or indication of Russian involvement.
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Thousands march in Macedonia in favor of name change, NATO, EU membership
16 September 2018 – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Thousands of Macedonians marched in Skopje on Sunday in support of a move to change the country’s name and for eventual NATO and EU membership. The demonstrators urged a “yes” vote on the September 30 referendum that will ask Macedonians to change the name of the country to North Macedonia, thereby ending a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece over the country’s name. Greece, an EU and NATO member, cited the dispute to veto Macedonia's bid to join the two organizations. The official referendum question will be: "Are you for EU and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?"
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Europe pushing for euro dominance to fend of Trump, Spain says
14 September 2018 - Bloomberg News

The European Union seeks to strengthen the global role of the euro, in an effort to increase the bloc's resilience to American influence. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrel suggested a need to "find a way to get around the American threats,” referring to U.S. trade tariffs and threats of sanctions over topics such as the JCPOA and the ICC. By increasing the euro’s use in international trade, the EU would make it easier for global actors to do business beyond the reach of the United States.
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U.S. accuses Russia of covering up breaches of North Korea sanctions
13 September 2018 - Reuters

On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Moscow covering up breaches of UN sanctions on North Korea after it pushed for changes to an independent report on sanctions violations. The report, submitted to the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee last month, said Pyongyang has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and is violating UN sanctions on exports.
(Read More

EU court upholds EU sanctions vs Russian banks, companies over Ukraine crisis
13 September 2018 - Reuters

The EU’s general court upheld the bloc’s sanctions against Russian banks and oil and gas companies over their involvement in Ukraine. Rosneft, Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprom Neft, Vnesheconombank, Prominvestbank and DenizBank challenged the EU sanctions, which restrict their access to some financial transactions, certain sensitive goods and technologies, and capital markets in the EU. They also prohibit the provision of services required for certain oil transactions.
(Read More

New York replaces London as world’s top financial center due to Brexit, survey says
12 September 2018 – Independent

As Brexit negotiations continue and banks shift jobs out of London to keep access to the EU market, New York has taken the top spot on the Z/Yen global financial centers index. In Britain, financial services firms account for 12 percent of economic output and pay more tax than any other industry. According to Reuters, Britain is expected to lose out on 5,000 financial services jobs by March.
(Read More)

EU parliament pushes Hungary sanctions over Orban policies
12 September 2018 - Reuters

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to sanction Hungary for flouting EU rules on democracy, civil rights and corruption in an unprecedented step that left Prime Minister Viktor Orban isolated from powerful allies. Hungary said it would seek legal ways to challenge the 448-197 vote it described as “petty revenge.” Although the vote has little chance of leading to the ultimate penalty of Hungary’s suspension from EU voting, the 197 votes cast against the parliament’s bid to launch this punitive process highlighted substantial minority opposition.
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Mattis to visit Macedonia as it considers NATO invite
11 September 2018 - The Hill

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on Tuesday that he plans to visit Macedonia this weekend to “make very clear” American stands against Russian aggression as the nation considers its invitation to join NATO. Macedonia, formerly part of Soviet ally Yugoslavia, was formally invited by NATO in July to start accession talks. Moscow officials have said the nation could become “a legitimate target” if relations between NATO and Russia deteriorate further.
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Hungary’s Orban vows to defy EU pressure ahead of unprecedented vote
11 September 2018 - Reuters

As tensions continue to rise between the Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orban, and the EU, the European Parliament is voting on Wednesday on whether or not to officially censure Orban for alleged anti-democratic actions. Orban's rule has been defined by pressure he has put on courts, media and NGOs that oppose him, leading to a consolidation of power and wide accusations of democratic backsliding. If the motion passes, the EU could impose sanctions on Orban's government, including the suspension of Hungarian voting rights in the bloc.
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ICC “undeterred” by U.S. sanctions threat
11 September 2018 - BBC

The International Criminal Court stated that it will continue “undeterred” in the face of threats by the United States. After the court revealed it wanted to investigate American servicemen over alleged detainee abuse in Afghanistan, National Security Adviser John Bolton called the court “illegitimate” and warned of possible sanctions if the ICC goes ahead with the investigation. The U.S., which has been critical of the ICC since it was established, is among dozens of nations that have not joined it.  
(Read More

U.S. trade talks with EU on course for partial deal in November
10 September 2018 – Financial Times

After a meeting on Monday, U.S. and EU trade representatives stated that there could be “an early harvest in the area of technical barriers to trade” as early as November. The reduction of regulatory barriers to trade had been the subject of negotiations for a transatlantic trade agreement under the Obama Administration. While tariff reductions in politically-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and financial services remain far off, the move could at least reduce the likelihood of renewed transatlantic trade tensions.
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Japan’s Abe says talks with Putin moving towards peace treaty
10 September 2018 - Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok are moving toward a peace treaty. Russia and Japan have not signed a peace treaty since World War II because of a dispute about Pacific islands known in Russia as the Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories. After the meeting, Abe added that the head of Japan’s self-defense forces would visit Russia in October.
(Read More

U.S. preparing for second Trump meeting with North Korea’s leader
10 September 2018 - The Wall Street Journal

On Monday, the White House said it was working to arrange a second meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, signaling an attempt to revive the stalled diplomatic efforts between the two countries. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that Kim had sent a “very warm” and “very positive” letter requesting to meet with Trump for a second time. Sanders said the White House would not release the letter unless North Korea agrees to do so, but described it as a “further evidence of progress” in the relationship between the two leaders.
(Read More

Lithuania commits to spending 2.5 pct of GDP on defense by 2030
10 September 2018 – Reuters

Lithuanian officials have been worried about Russian actions beginning with its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. That has prompted Lithuania’s political parties to state they want to rebuild the country’s military and increase defense spending with the goal of 2.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2030. This year, Lithuania is slated to spend two percent of GDP on defense.
(Read More)

EU leaders aim to hold special Brexit summit in mid-November
10 September 2018 - Reuters

European Union leaders have announced plans to hold a mid-November summit to sign off on the terms of a final Brexit deal. There are major issues that need be resolved, such as the Irish border question, and some EU officials predict that a final deal may not be reached until December or January. However, any delay beyond this date would imperil the planned date of actual withdrawal from the EU, scheduled for March 29, 2019. The general consensus within the EU is that Britain should be out of the bloc before the European Parliamentary elections in May 2019.
(Read More

Sweden faces political gridlock as far right makes gains
10 September 2018 – France24

The nationalist Sweden Democrats party made significant gains in the country’s latest parliamentary election. The party, which aims to take Sweden out of the EU and freeze immigration, gained nearly five percentage points in total votes and 14 seats since the last election four years ago. In 2015, Sweden accepted 163,000 asylum seekers.
(Read More)

We must face China together, new U.S. envoy to Brussels tells EU
7 September 2018 - Reuters

Gordon Sondland, the new U.S. Ambassador to the EU, called on both sides to overcome their trade disputes and together stand up to China's "economic aggression." Sondland argued that the U.S. and EU need to build off the positive momentum gained from a July agreement, which saw both sides manage to ward off U.S. tariffs on EU car exports. Citing concerns about Chinese overproduction, unfair state subsidies, and intellectual property theft, Sondland suggested coordinated pressure from both parties could lead to China choosing to operate closer to the normative rules of international trade.
(Read More

Trump is losing the trade war, according to his favorite measure
6 September 2018 - Business Insider

Recent data shows that U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist measures may be having effects opposite to what was intended. The American trade deficit with the EU and China seems to have risen to its highest level since February - by 9.6% in the month of July, due to a 1% decrease in overall American exports. Nevertheless, few experts believe these developments will dissuade Trump from his protectionist trade policies. 
(Read More) 

We are ready to welcome you, NATO’s Stoltenberg tells Macedonia
6 September 2018 – EuroNews

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg urged voters in Macedonia to join the alliance and support a change of the country’s name. Voters will cast their ballots on September 30 on whether they will join the military alliance. Macedonia will have to accept some constitutional changes before its membership is finalized.
(Read More)

UK charges two Russians for attempted murder of Skripals, blames Moscow
5 September 2018 - Reuters

The UK has charged two Russians with the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter, describing the suspects as military intelligence officers almost certainly acting on behalf of the Russian state. British police revealed images of the two men they said had flown to Britain for a weekend in March to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent. Prime Minister Theresa May lay the blame clearly with the Russian state.
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Britain would now vote to stay in the EU, new poll shows
5 September 2018 - Reuters

In a recent survey conducted by research bodies NatCen and The UK in a Changing Europe, 59% of respondents would now vote to remain in the EU if given the option. The results will likely contribute to a growing debate over whether the British government should hold a second referendum, to confirm that Britain does still want to leave the EU, amid concerns that the initial referendum was marred by misinformation, poorly informed voting decisions, and potential foreign interference.(Read More)

Ukraine-NATO joint military exercises begin in Lviv region
3 September 2018 – Radio Free Europe

On September 3, joint military exercises with NATO and Ukraine began in the region of Lviv in western Ukraine. The exercises include ten NATO countries, and over two thousand troops are participating. The exercises will last until September 15. For the first time, Ukraine’s Border Guard Service and National Guard troops are expected to take part in the drills.
(Read More

As EU divisions deepen, Macron stakes out electoral turf
31 August 2018 - Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron laid out what many see as the main talking points for next year’s European Parliament elections. He has drawn the line between pro-European integration "progressives" and anti-immigration "nationalists." The statement comes one week after Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, both far-right nationalists, jointly labelled Macron their primary adversary. Macron appears to be hoping to create a broader coalition, composed of moderates from both the left and right.
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Nord Stream 2 construction begins in German waters despite threats
30 August 2018 – Financial Times
The construction of Nord Stream 2, the long-planned gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that would bypass Ukraine and other countries on the continent, has started. The pipeline is supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government but opposed by many other EU states and the United States. The latter argue the pipeline will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian energy and undermine Ukraine as a transit country.
(Read More)

Turkish foreign minister insists EU reforms "still a priority"
30 August 2018 - Hurriyet News

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu declared that Turkey will resume the “Reform Action Group” meetings on August 29, a move which implies a desire to rebuild ties with Europe. The meetings are intended to drive reform efforts that will allow the country to meet the EU's accession standards, despite accession talks being on hold amid worsening relations between Turkey and the bloc. The reform action group meetings haven't been held since 2015. He also went on to emphasize that, despite warming relations, Turkey's ties with Russia will are "not an alternative" to their ties with the EU and America.
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ASEAN economic ministers ink 2 agreements to remove barriers in goods and services trade
29 August 2018 – Channel NewsAsia

ASEAN economic ministers signed two agreements to deepen the integration of service sectors and facilitate trade among member states. They also signed agreements aimed at increasing e-commerce and digital integration. Economic ministers from the 10 ASEAN member states are in Singapore for their annual meeting, and other related meetings.
(Read More)

Germany cools on Macron Eurozone budget proposal
29 August 2018 – Financial Times

French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to give the Eurozone its own funding to combat financial stress now faces opposition in Germany. The fund would be used to foster growth and competitiveness, and to stabilize the common currency area’s members when they face economic shocks. Macron has said this permanent fiscal capacity should be equivalent to several percentage points of the Eurozone’s GDP – in the hundreds of billions of euros.
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UK and EU drop October deadline for Brexit deal
28 August 2018 – Bloomberg

As negotiations drag on, the UK and EU have dropped their October deadline and now aim to finalize Brexit terms by mid-November at the latest. Reaching an agreement before the end of the year is viewed as vital to give the parties enough time to ratify the accord before Britain leaves the union.
(Read More)

Denmark reconsidering EU defense opt-out after meeting with Macron
28 August 2018 – DW
During a visit to Denmark on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron discussed involving the Danish in more European Union defense activities in an attempt to rely less on the United States for security. Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen wants to contribute more to EU defense. Currently, Denmark is a part of the EU but has a defense opt-out as part of its membership. The defense opt-out clause can be changed if a national referendum is held.
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Russia to hold biggest war games in nearly four decades
28 August 2018 - Reuters

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia will hold its biggest war games in nearly four decades with a massive military exercise that will involve the Chinese and Mongolian armies. The exercise, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), will take place in the central and eastern Russian military districts and involve almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all its airborne units. This all takes place at a time of heightened tensions between the West and Russia, which is concerned about what it says in an unjustified build-up of the NATO military alliance.
(Read More

France calls on EU to not rely on U.S. defense, reach out to Russia
28 August 2018 – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

In an address to French ambassadors on August 27, French President Emmanuel Macron called on the European Union to boost military cooperation and stop relying on the United States for defense while reaching out to Russia to develop a “strategic partnership.” In the speech, Macron appeared to leave behind his efforts in the last year to develop joint policies with U.S. President Trump, instead criticizing him for being an “unreliable” partner and "turning his back" on the "multilateralism" built by Western powers since World War II.
(Read More

Germany ready to “take more responsibility” in European defense policy, says Merkel
27 August 2018 – Euractiv

In a televised interview this past Sunday, German Chancellor Merkel stated she favors the idea of a European security council and a contingent of European intervention troops, which France is advocating as well. Merkel also stated she would like Germany to take the lead on European defense issues.
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U.S., Mexico reach NAFTA deal; talks with Canada to start immediately
27 August 2018 - Reuters

The United States and Mexico reached a deal on Monday to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and talks with Canada were expected to begin immediately in the hopes of reaching a final agreement by Friday, according to a senior U.S. trade official.
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U.S. voices support for Macedonia’s EU-NATO integration
23 August 2018 – Balkan Insight

This week U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed support for Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the EU, after meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov in DC. Macedonia recently changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and will join NATO under its new name.
(Read More)

As Italy gets ready for a new budget, some experts are preparing for the worst
22 August 2018 – CNBC

Economists have warned that Italy may face a serious debt crisis in the near future, citing the combination of Italy’s populist coalition vowing to “spend more” and the fact that Italy currently holds “the second largest public debt pile in the euro area.” As Rome’s debt stands at 130 percent of GDP, more than double the EUs threshold, experts stress the need for caution from the Italian government as its begins drafting a budget plan for 2019.
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Britain urges EU to toughen Russia sanctions
21 August 2018 - Deutsche Welle

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told an audience in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday that Britain will push the EU to increase sanctions against Russia. In his first major speech since taking over the position as the UK's chief diplomat, Hunt said the bloc should stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the U.S. over the sanctions it imposed on Moscow this month, adding “that means calling out and responding to transgressions with one voice whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea.”  
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Rand Paul suggests talking to Russia about the size of NATO
21 August 2018 – Roll Call
Senator Rand Paul suggested speaking with Russia about the idea of not expanding NATO into Eastern Europe. The senator was recently in Russia for meetings with Russian officials who are apprehensive about NATO expanding to countries such as Georgia and Ukraine.
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Trump “would consider” lifting Russia sanctions for concession on Ukraine, Syria
21 August 2018 - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

President Trump suggested that he would be open to lifting sanctions against Russia if it makes concessions on Syria and Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov welcomed the openness to dialogue but preferred “even more some kind of concrete actions” from the U.S.
(Read More)

Russia’s Putin to maintain gas transit to Europe via Ukraine: spokesman
21 August 2018 – Reuters

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that Russia will continue to supply Eastern Europe with Russian gas via Ukraine. President Putin made the initial announcement to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a bilateral summit on Sunday, when the two leaders also discussed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
(Read More)

U.S. imposes fresh sanctions for Russian cyber-related activity
21 August 2018 – Reuters

The United States imposed new sanctions against Russia for cyber-related activity. Two Russians were sanctioned for their efforts to circumvent previous U.S. sanctions while one Russian and one Slovakian company were sanctioned for similar efforts. Russian officials demand evidence for the newly imposed penalties, promising a swift response if needed.  
(Read More) 

Microsoft claims win over “Russian political hackers”
21 August 2018 – BBC

The software company Microsoft says it has thwarted Russian attempts to launch cyberattacks against U.S. conservative groups. The company says Russian hackers tried to steal data from political organizations, including the International Republican Institute and the Hudson Institute think tanks. The domains seized were also associated with several Senate offices and services. Microsoft said the Fancy Bear hacking group were behind the attacks.
(Read More)

Japan and India agree to begin talks on defense sharing pact to counter China
21 August 2018 – Japan Times

Japan and India have agreed to talks on an agreement that will enable them to share defense capabilities and supplies, including fuel and ammunition. The move is intended to deter China, and comes amid others by Japan to bolster its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.” This fall, Japan and India are set to conduct their first joint military exercise.
(Read More)

Tough talks, no agreements at Merkel, Putin meeting near Berlin
19 August 2018 – CNBC

German chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Putin over the weekend in an effort to make progress on the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Iran via dialogue. Although no official agreements emerged, both leaders explained that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is purely for economic reasons and that it should not be politicized. Neither leader brought up any potential ramifications from the United States during the meeting.
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Russia’s embrace sows “total confusion” for Serbia’s EU hopes
18 August 2018 – Bloomberg

Serbia appears to share similarities with Ukraine in their attempt to join the European Union while simultaneously expressing fidelity toward Russia. Despite Serbia’s public declaration that joining the EU is its “geo-strategic goal,” Serbia continues to support Russia as its primary trading partner by refusing to endorse international sanctions.
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Germany’s Merkel set to visit Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan
17 August 2018 - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

German Chancellor Merkel is traveling this week to meet with the leaders of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Merkel is expected to meet with the Georgia’s leader to discuss the country’s potential membership in NATO. While in Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Chancellor is likely to discuss energy resources and future efforts that can be taken to secure supplies to Western Europe.
(Read More)

Trump and Putin agreed that Iran should exit Syria, official says
16 August 2018 – Bloomberg

A U.S. administration official stated that the Trump-Putin conversation during the bilateral meeting in Helsinki was largely dominated by the crisis in Syria. Presidents Trump and Putin agreed that Iran should withdraw from Syria but acknowledged it would be a difficult feat to accomplish. The anonymous source also stated that the two leaders discussed the Islamic State, the Golan Heights, and ongoing humanitarian efforts within Syria.
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Trump, seeking to relax rules on U.S. cyberattacks, reverses Obama directive

15 August 2018 - The Wall Street Journal
President Donald Trump took steps on Wednesday to loosen limits on when the U.S. government can deploy cyber weapons against adversaries, reversing Obama-era guidelines. According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, Trump signed an order that reversed Presidential Policy Directive 20 which had mapped out an elaborate interagency process before the United States engages in cyberattacks. Although the policy directive signed by former President Barack Obama was classified, its contents were made public when it was leaked in 2013 by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
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White House condemns Turkey's tariffs on U.S. imports
15 August 2018 – Reuters

The White House on Wednesday condemned Turkey’s doubling of tariffs on U.S. cars, alcohol and tobacco imports, calling the action “a step in the wrong direction.” Turkey took the action in response to the Trump Administration’s doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum last week, which contributed to a tumble in the Turkish lira. Tensions between the two NATO allies are strained amid Turkey’s detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey has accused Brunson of backing a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago.
(Read More)

Kremlin confirms Bolton meeting with Russian officials next week
15 August 2018 – Politico

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton will meet with Kremlin officials next week, the first official meeting for the two nations following Trump and Putin’s bilateral summit last month. Along with Russian officials, Bolton is scheduled to meet with Israeli and Ukrainian officials in Geneva to discuss “a range of important national security issues.”
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U.S. official warns of more actions against Turkey if pastor not freed
14 August 2018 - Reuters

A White House official said on Tuesday that the United States could apply additional economic pressure on Turkey if it refuses to release a jailed American pastor. The message emerged a day after White House National Security Adviser John Bolton met privately with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic to discuss the pastor’s situation. Further actions would most likely take the form of economic sanctions, though the United States is also considering a fine against Turkey's’ state-owned Halkbank for allegedly helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
(Read More

Merkel, Putin to discuss Syria, Ukraine and energy
13 August 2018 - Reuters

On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the war in Syria, the conflict in east Ukraine, and a disputed pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany in talks near Berlin. Germany wants Russia to finalize a ceasefire in Syria with the United States and resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
(Read More

NATO’s east is rearming, but it’s because of Putin, not Trump
13 August 2018 – Bloomberg

Countries on NATO’s eastern border have been increasing their military acquisitions since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, not because of President Trump’s comments on the alliance. Countries such as Romania are buying more fighter jets, for example.
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Diplomatic row jeopardizes $1.5B helicopter deal between Turkey and Pakistan
13 August 2018 – Defense News  
Disagreements between the U.S. and Turkey have led to the suspension of a $1.5 billion deal between Turkey and Pakistan. Turkey is unable to produce T129 ATAK helicopter gunships, despite being largely manufactured in Turkey, due to the necessity of including American-made parts. As Washington issues sanctions on Turkish steel and aluminum exports, Turkey will “need U.S. export licenses to go ahead with the T129 deal.”

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U.S. ambassador urges Britain to ditch support for Iran nuclear deal
13 August 2018 - Reuters

The United States again called on Britain to follow its lead and withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. The U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, accused Tehran of using its assets to fund "proxy wars and malign activities" instead of supporting its own economy; to this end, he has suggested America will increase the economic and political pressure it is putting on Iran, and requested Britain to join it. But last week Britain’s Middle East Minister, Alistair Burt, ruled out the possibility of Britain forgoing its support for the deal to support America's position.
(Read More

Trump puts Turkey alliance on the line with standoff over pastor
11 August 2018 – Bloomberg
Last Friday, President Trump increased tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum in response to the arrest and detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. As a result, Turkey’s economy has been hit hard and the use of the U.S. military base in Incirlik could be in jeopardy, causing major tension within NATO.
(Read More

Russia denounces new U.S. sanctions as illegal, mulls retaliation
9 August 2018 – Reuters

Moscow has deemed the new round of U.S. sanctions as illegal, pointing to the contrast between the positive bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin, and the “unprovoked” issuing of new sanctions. The Russian ruble hit a two-year low following the announcement of sanctions, and Russian officials vow retaliation will match any losses they are forced to endure.
(Read More

U.S. unveils plans for space force to counter Russia, China “threat”
9 August 2018 - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Trump Administration cited the growing sophistication of China and Russia’s “on-orbit activities,” with the potential of damaging U.S. satellites, as justification to create a sixth branch of the military. President Trump declared that the U.S. must have “American dominance in space, so we will.” His administration is working closely with Congress to approve $8 billion over five years to create the force.
(Read More

Turkey turmoil rocks world stock markets, euro falls
9 August 2018 – Reuters

President Trump’s decision to double U.S. tariffs on metal imports from Turkey has seemingly sent global markets into a tail-spin. As Turkish policymakers hesitated to act, the Turkish lira plummeted to its worst day since the country’s economic crisis in 2001. Fears of a new economic crisis have impacted Europe and emerging markets as the euro fell to its lowest point in over a year, along with decreasing bank shares in Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
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Trump Administration and EU build momentum toward hashing out a trade deal
9 August 2018 – CNBC

Two weeks after agreeing to do so, the U.S. and EU are working toward a trade deal. Both sides are preparing for meetings in the coming weeks, and a senior EU trade official is scheduled to visit Washington on August 20 to “flesh out ideas that are being exchanged.” Topics of discussion include expanding U.S. natural gas exports to Europe.
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After soybeans, EU touts U.S. LNG imports to woo Trump on trade
9 August 2018 - Reuters

The European Union highlighted its increasing imports of U.S. natural gas as one of the main measures agreed on in talks between the two that sought to deescalate their trade dispute. It did however call on Washington to make its natural gas prices more competitive. European imports of American natural gas doubled between 2016 and 2017. Similarly, European imports of soybeans surged in the last year, in response to a price drop following plummeting Chinese imports of the product.
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Pakistan, Russia sign rare military cooperation pact
8 August 2018 – Voice of America
Russia aims to fill the gap vacated by American military forces by replacing them in military exchange programs with Pakistan. Russian security ties with Pakistan have strengthened over the past few years as American cooperation with Pakistan appears to be headed in the opposite direction. Russian authorities met with Pakistani officials over a two-day summit, which yielded an agreement for the Russian military to begin training Pakistani army officers.
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EU acts to counteract sanctions as Trump warns against doing business with Iran
7 August 2018 – Euronews

Hours after the EU’s “blocking law” was reactivated to counter the economic threat posed by U.S. sanctions on Iran, Trump said that “anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.” European officials condemned the renewed sanctions as illegal and in violation of a UN Security Council resolution, vowing to counter the U.S. measures and save the Iran nuclear accord. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the EU is encouraging investors to maintain business ties with Iran to preserve the nuclear deal, despite the U.S. withdrawal.
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Singapore minister: Major cyberattack may be state-linked
6 August 2018 - The Washington Post
A cyberattack that breached 1.5 million health records in Singapore has been attributed to sophisticated attackers who may be state-linked according to S. Iswaran, the minister for communications and information. Speaking to parliament, Iswaran said detailed analysis found that the attack was the work of an “advanced persistent threat” group that normally are state-linked and “who conduct extended, carefully planned cyber campaigns, to steal information or disrupt operations.”
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U.S. restores some Iran sanctions lifted under nuclear deal
6 August 2018 – The Washington Post

On Monday, the United States re-imposed the first round of Iran trade sanctions that were suspended under the 2015 nuclear agreement, distancing itself from every other country that signed the agreement and putting the accord’s future in jeopardy. Administration officials say the sanctions, which had been waived for the past two and a half years, will be snapped back officially on Tuesday morning at one minute past midnight. In a background call to reporters, senior administration officials said the goal is to prod Iran to renegotiate the nuclear agreement so it also addresses Iran’s ballistic missile tests and adventuresome activities in the region.
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Measure to shield EU firms from Iran curbs starts on Tuesday - Germany
6 August 2018 – Reuters

The European Union announced that on Tuesday it will implement a measure to protect its businesses operating in Iran from American sanctions, which are due to go into effect at that time. The move, which is intended to protect both European sanctions in the region and the JCPOA, is based on a 1996 regulation that bans European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions and refuses to recognize any court rulings that seek to enforce relevant US penalties. The EU has affirmed it will protect European firms caught up in any resulting disputes.
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Putin signs measure to raise Russia’s VAT
4 August 2018 - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Russian citizens will be subjected to a two percent VAT increase beginning on the first of the new year. President Putin continues to decline in popularity polling following his approval to increase Russia’s value-added tax from 18 to 20 percent and due to his plan to increase the retirement age. Putin’s United Russia party has fallen 16 percentage points since the announcements while his main opposition, the Communist Party, has recently received a 15.6 percentage increase.
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NATO to modernize air base in Albania
4 August 2018 – The Seattle Times

NATO has decided to invest $58 million “to modernize the air base in Kucove,” located approximately fifty miles outside the Albanian capital. Albania continues to upgrade its outdated weaponry since joining NATO in 2009. The financial investment will also serve as support for NATO in “supply operations, logistics support, air policing, training and exercising.”
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U.S. envoy to UN accuses Russia of violating North Korea sanctions
3 August 2018 – Reuters

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, accused Russia of violating UN sanctions against North Korea by allowing North Korean laborers to enter and work within Russia. Haley cites “credible reports” that despite any public condemnation made by Russia within the UN Security Council, Russian officials are violating those commitments by granting new work permits to North Korean workers.
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Pompeo says North Korea weapons work counter to denuclearization pledge
3 August 2018 – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to North Korea to address worrying activity that appears to be inconsistent with the pledge of denuclearization. Pompeo and U.S. officials have accused Pyongyang of continuing to make bomb fuel, new missiles, and “one or two new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles at the research facility.” The United States has been coordinating with the UN, China and ASEAN to facilitate denuclearizing the peninsula.
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Turkey threatens to retaliate over U.S. sanctions in escalating dispute between NATO allies
2 August 2018 - Telegraph

The U.S. has placed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers in response to an American pastor being placed under house arrest for alleged terrorism changes.  The sanctions are specifically directed toward Turkish Justice Minister Abdlhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who led in the arrest of the pastor.
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Trump national security teams says Russia behind effort to meddle in U.S. elections
2 August 2018 – Reuters

The president’s national security team has veered from Trump’s narrative, stating on Thursday that Russia is responsible for “pervasive” acts of meddling in the upcoming elections. Officials believe that the aggressive efforts are connected to the Kremlin, but they argue that Russian interference does not favor one party over another. Instead, “this is about exploiting the fault lines that exist in our society and building on what was done in 2016.”
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Sharp increase in positive views of U.S. among Russians after Trump-Putin summit, poll finds
2 August 2018 – The Washington Post

Russian perspectives toward the West appear to be changing for the first time in four years. Polling conducted by The Levada Center shows that more Russians view the United States positively for the first time since 2014, in large part due to the recent bilateral meeting in Helsinki. Additionally, polling shows similar results for the European Union, with 42 percent in favor as opposed to 38 percent against. Finally, polling found a 13 percent drop in approval ratings for President Putin.  
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