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With One Small Step, Trump Makes History in North Korea

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On June 30, Donald J. Trump became the first US president to set foot in North Korea. Trump made history when stepped across a low concrete marker accompanied by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and walked a few steps into the North. The two leaders agreed to have their negotiators resume an effort to reach what has so far been an elusive nuclear deal.

US President Donald J. Trump, accompanied by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, stepped into North Korea at the border village of Panmunjom on June 30. Trump is the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Trump, Xi Pause US-China Trade War

US President Donald J. Trump agreed on June 29 to lift some restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and delay imposing new tariffs on Chinese goods. These concessions were announced following a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, at which the two leaders agreed to restart trade negotiations between their countries.

Trump Sanctions Iran’s Supreme Leader

US President Donald J. Trump on June 24 signed an executive order that he said would place “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader.

“The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country.  His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Trump said before signing the order in the White House. “These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” he added.

Open Source Information as a Tool in Exposing Authoritarian Regimes

In April, Norwegian security agents informed Iyad el-Baghdadi that he was the target of a threat emanating from Saudi Arabia. El-Baghdadi believes the threat came from the government of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the crown prince’s righthand man Saud al-Qahtani.

El-Baghdadi, a prominent Arab activist, is a critic of the Saudi government, much like his late friend, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He took the threat seriously.

Open Source Investigators Set Their Sights on Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen

Bellingcat and the Global Legal Action Network are using open source information to investigate airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on civilian targets and critical infrastructure in Yemen.


The goal of this project is to investigate “a hundred airstrikes as part of legal cases to prevent arms exports to Saudi Arabia,” said Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, an open source investigation website. In remarks at the Atlantic Council’s 360 O/S disinformation conference in London on June 21, Higgins used videos—most relying on satellite imagery—to explain the work his team of researchers has been doing to verify the credibility of information obtained from conflict zones around the world.

‘Door is Wide Open’ for Negotiations with North Korea, US Envoy Says

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on June 19 that “the door is wide open” for negotiations with North Korea, while admitting that US-North Korean diplomacy has been in a “holding pattern” since the summit between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February.

Wanted: A Code of Ethics for Open Source Researchers

As more and more actors start to work with open source information there is an urgent need for a code of ethics to guide decision-making on what tools are used and when, speakers told an audience at the Atlantic Council’s 360/OS conference in London on June 20.

The Importance of Working Together in the Fight Against Disinformation

A report released last week by the European Commission and the European Union’s diplomatic service said “evidence collected revealed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences” during the European parliamentary elections in May. The European analysis said it was too soon to conclude whether these online campaigns had influenced the outcome of the elections.

Can Xi’s Visit to North Korea Facilitate US-China Trade Talks?

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to North Korea this week will underscore Beijing’s clout in Pyongyang and, by doing so, Xi may be looking to re-energize a US effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and gain leverage in stalled US-China trade negotiations.

“President Xi recognizes that closer relations with North Korea’s leader will give China additional leverage in its ongoing [trade] dispute with the United States,” said Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

Trump Expected to Announce US Troop Increase in Poland

US troop presence in Poland is likely to be at the top of the agenda when US President Donald J. Trump and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, meet at the White House on June 12.

Pointing to Russian military activity in its neighborhood, the Duda administration has made the case for a permanent US troop presence in Poland at a base Polish officials have suggested they would christen “Fort Trump.” The Polish government has even offered to pay $2 billion to support this base.

Dial 911: Trump’s Telecommunications National Emergency

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US President Donald J. Trump on May 15 declared a “national emergency” that gives his administration the power to prevent US companies from doing business with foreign suppliers, including, potentially, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. The decision is likely to exacerbate tensions with China with which the United States is currently engaged in a trade war marked by tit-for-tat tariffs.

Signage is seen at the Huawei offices in Reading, Britain, May 2, 2019. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)

The Growing Russian Challenge and What Should Be Done About It

All around the world, Russia is increasingly asserting itself, propping up dictators, and, in some instances, posing a direct challenge to US interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok on April 25. Kim’s visit to Russia, an old ally, came as diplomacy with US President Donald J. Trump has faltered.

The Huawei Challenge

Despite an effort by the United States to persuade its friends and allies not to use 5G wireless communications technology developed by Huawei, many will find it hard to avoid doing business with the Chinese telecom giant altogether.

Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, explains: “It will be difficult to avoid licensing any Huawei or Chinese 5G technology as Chinese firms hold 37 percent of all 5G patents.”

Huawei, for instance, said Manning, “has over 1,000 patents, so many nations and carriers may have little choice but to license some Chinese 5G technology.”

5G Access Key to Competing Globally, Says Former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff

A tweet can reveal your location, an Apple Watch monitors your health, a grocery chain loyalty card allows the supermarket to track your purchases. All of this constitutes what Michael Chertoff describes as “digital exhaust”—data that we constantly and unconsciously emit. The challenge this poses is how to protect that data in an increasingly interconnected world.

A Look at the Implications of Trump’s Decision to End Sanctions Waivers for Countries Importing Iranian Oil

The Trump administration’s decision not to grant any more sanctions waivers to countries that import oil from Iran is part of a maximum pressure strategy intended to cut off a critical source of revenue and force Iran to the negotiating table. But it will likely result in an increase in oil prices, resistance from countries that continue to buy Iranian oil, and a backlash from Tehran, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

Trump Wades into Libyan Crisis, And Why That’s Not Good News

US President Donald J. Trump’s apparent support for Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, has muddied the waters in a dangerous part of the world. But does it signal a shift in the US position?

In Sudan, Bashir is Out, But Military Rule is Not Quite What the Protesters Had in Mind

After three decades, Sudan is no longer ruled by Omar al-Bashir, but his ouster in a military coup raises more questions than answers.
Amid anti-government protests that have only grown in intensity, Sudanese Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf on April 11 announced that Bashir had been taken into custody and that a transitional government administered by the military and led by Auf would run Sudan for a two-year period. Auf also announced the suspension of the constitution and a three-month state of emergency.

EU, China Agree to Deepen Trade Ties

The European Union and China on April 9 agreed to strengthen their trade relationship, cooperate on WTO reform, widen market access, and not force businesses to hand over their intellectual property— the last a longstanding complaint of foreign investors in China.


The announcement followed a meeting between European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Brussels.

Libya: Back on The Brink of a Civil War?

Libya, once again, is on the boil.

Khalifa Haftar, who leads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) in the eastern part of the country, set off alarm bells this week when he ordered his troops to march on Tripoli where an internationally recognized government is seated. Haftar refuses to accept the legitimacy of this government, which is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. And therein lies the problem.

Congolese President Cites Threat from ISIS, Seeks US Help to Fight Terrorism

The Islamic State, pushed out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, could seek to establish a caliphate in the heart of Africa, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi warned in a meeting at the Atlantic Council in Washington on April 4. He sought a “strategic partnership” with the United States, one of the pillars of which would be military assistance to address the challenge of terrorism.

Turkish Foreign Minister Says Ankara’s Plan to Buy Russian Missile Defense System is a ‘Done Deal’

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on April 3 insisted that Ankara will not bow to US pressure to scrap a deal to buy a Russian missile defense system and said mixed signals on Syria from the United States show that the administration does not have a coherent strategy.

Pence Takes Germany to Task Over Defense Spending

US Vice President Mike Pence on April 3 chastised Germany for not spending enough on defense, warned Turkey against going ahead with the purchase of a Russian missile defense system, cautioned against the rise of China, and sought to reassure NATO allies that they will always have the United States’ support.

NATO Allies Prepare to Put Up a United Front

As NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary this week expect to hear one message loud and clear: the Alliance is strong and united.

In July 2018, US President Donald J. Trump plunged NATO’s Brussels Summit into chaos by excoriating allies on the subject of defense spending and threatening to pull the United States out of the Alliance.

This time will be different.

NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70

This week will be a celebration of NATO. The military alliance that has ensured an unprecedented period of peace on the European Continent turns 70 on April 4; its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, will address a joint session of the US Congress; and the Atlantic Council will co-host NATO Engages, a daylong conference at which US Vice President Mike Pence and Stoltenberg will be among a galaxy of speakers.

Russia Ups the Ante in Venezuela

With the arrival of its troops and military advisers in Caracas this past weekend, Russia has upped the ante with the United States over how to deal with the crisis in Venezuela.

While the United States — along with dozens of other countries — recognizes Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela, Russia has thrown its lot behind Nicolás Maduro.

Mueller’s Findings: What Do They Mean for US Foreign Policy?

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s long-awaited investigation has not found adequate evidence to prove US President Donald J. Trump or any of his aides colluded with the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election. The investigation did not determine “one way or the other” whether Trump had illegally obstructed justice, according to a letter delivered to Congress by US Attorney General William Barr.

Barr made a summary of Mueller’s findings public on March 24.

Trump's Reversal of North Korea Sanctions Sends a Dangerous Signal

US President Donald J. Trump’s stunning decision to reverse Treasury sanctions on North Korea because he “likes” Kim Jong-un sends a troubling message to the United States’ friends and foes.

A ‘Renewed Resolve’ in Congress to Reinforce NATO

There is a “renewed resolve” in the US Congress “to reinforce NATO and its mission, to rededicate ourselves to meeting certain goals like the 2 percent goal for defense spending, and to send clear and unmistakable messages to Vladimir Putin’s Russia that the physical compromise of sovereign territory will not be tolerated and that Article 5 is alive and well,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA).

Trump’s Support for Israeli Sovereignty Over the Golan Heights May Hurt Israel

In a departure from longstanding US policy, US President Donald J. Trump on March 21 tweeted that it was time the United States recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

While there is perhaps more than a touch of politics behind the timing of the tweet—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, is up for re-election on April 9—an actual shift in US policy on this sensitive issue could have serious consequences.

British National Security Adviser Sees US Role Central to Facing Global Challenges

It is critical for allies to work together in the face of global challenges to democratic values and principles, Mark Sedwill, national security adviser to British Prime Minister Theresa May, said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on March 8, while emphasizing the singular importance of the United States in such an endeavor.

After Hanoi: The Road Ahead for the United States and North Korea

As Washington and Pyongyang pick up the pieces following the abruptly concluded summit between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi last month, the two sides have an opportunity to reassess their positions. Some former officials believe that there is, in fact, reason to be hopeful.

One Year Since the Skripals Were Poisoned, Russia Has Not Given Up its Confrontational Policy Toward the West

On March 4, 2018, a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were found critically ill on a park bench in Salisbury, England. It was later determined that they had been poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent. The attack was linked to the Russian state.

The Second Trump-Kim Summit: What Will Success Look Like?

US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will hold their second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 and 28.

The two leaders last met in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Following that meeting—the first engagement between a sitting US president and the leader of North Korea—Trump declared that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat.” However, there is little evidence that Kim is preparing to eliminate his nuclear weapons.

In Venezuela, Maduro and Guaidó are on a Collision Course Over Humanitarian Aid

The crisis in Venezuela is heading toward a showdown between Nicolás Maduro’s regime and the US-backed opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, this weekend.

Maduro’s Days Are Over, Says Colombian President Duque

Colombian President Ivan Duque said on February 14 Nicolás Maduro should relinquish his hold on power in Venezuela and face trial for crimes against humanity. He also called on the Venezuelan military to support Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by a number of countries, including the United States, as the interim president of Venezuela.

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

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

Exit Interview: EU’s Envoy to Washington on Navigating Challenges in the Transatlantic Relationship

David O’Sullivan, the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, wraps up his time in Washington at the end of February. The last two years of his tenure have been challenging ones for the transatlantic relationship. That challenge mainly comes from US President Donald J. Trump who once described the EU as a “foe.”

Venezuela Update: More Recognition for Juan Guaidó

The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain are now among the countries that have officially recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly, as interim president of Venezuela. This follows Nicolás Maduro’s rejection of a European deadline to call fresh elections—Maduro responded by offering to call a parliamentary vote instead of a presidential one.

Venezuela’s Interim Government Shuns Maduro’s Offer of Dialogue

Venezuela’s interim leaders, sensing that their dream of freedom “is tantalizingly close,” are in no mood to enter into a dialogue with Nicolás Maduro’s regime, which has driven the oil-rich South American nation into a humanitarian crisis while cracking down on its opponents.
This week, under pressure from a growing number of countries, including the United States, Maduro has sought to involve his international backers, including Russia and Mexico, in a new process of dialogue with the opposition.

Venezuela’s interim government is having none of it.

Venezuela: What’s Next?

Even by Venezuela’s standards, it has been an unprecedented week for this oil-rich South American nation. In a span of a few days, the crisis that has been simmering for the past few years has reached a boiling point as the international community, including the United States, has turned up the heat on Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

Here’s What You Should Know About What’s Going on in Venezuela

US President Donald J. Trump’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela ramps up pressure on Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Caracas. The recognition is an important step, but also raises many questions.

Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, addressed some of these questions in an interview with the New Atlanticist’sAshish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our interview.

A Look at Trump’s Missile Defense Strategy

US President Donald J. Trump on January 17 unveiled a plan to defend the United States and its allies from a missile attack—the first update to the United States’ missile defense strategy in almost a decade.

Trump to Meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Again in February

US President Donald J. Trump will meet Kim Jong-un for a second time in late February to push the North Korean leader to take steps toward denuclearization, the White House said on January 18. It did not announce a location. The two leaders last met in Singapore on June 12, 2018. That was the first meeting between a leader of North Korea and a sitting US president.

Is a second summit a good idea?

Two Years of Trump: Key Moments in Foreign Policy

January 20 marks two years since US President Donald J. Trump took office. We take a look back at some of the big foreign policy headlines made by the president and his administration over these past two years.

Polish Prime Minister Urges Allies to Beef Up Cybersecurity Budgets

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on January 16 called for a collective Western response to cyber threats while urging allies to increase spending on cybersecurity.

Nuclear Power Sparks Different Reactions

Nuclear power evokes a broad spectrum of responses around the world. While the United Arab Emirates is building a nuclear power plant and Saudi Arabia has announced its intention to do so, in Japan—where the memories of the Fukushima plant disaster of 2011 are still fresh—there is a reluctance to embrace nuclear power, while Germany is implementing a plan to take all of its nuclear reactors offline by 2022.

Taking Stock of Energy Security Risks in the Twenty-First Century

Climate change, geopolitics, economic development, energy transitions and security of supply are just some of the challenges facing energy security in the twenty-first century.

OPEC Production Cuts Defended

OPEC’s secretary general and its former president on January 13 defended the group’s decision to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day from criticism that the cut is insufficient to address the slowdown in the market.

United States Determined to Drive Iran’s Oil Exports Down to Zero

The United States is determined to drive Iran’s oil exports down to zero in its effort to maximize economic pressure and force Tehran back to the negotiating table to discuss a “comprehensive deal” in place of the nuclear agreement US President Donald J. Trump abandoned last year, Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran and senior policy advisor to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said at the Atlantic Council’s 2019 Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi on January 12.

How to Survive a Volatile Energy Market

Diversification is key to surviving, and even thriving, in the current volatile energy market. Just ask Musabbeh Al-Kaabi and Claudio Descalzi.

Mubadala Chief Executive Officer (Petroleum & Petrochemicals) Musabbeh Al-Kaabi believes that all sources of energy will be required in the future. And so, Mubadala, a global investment company headquartered in Abu Dhabi, has made key investments in upstream (specifically, low-cost resources and natural gas) and downstream (in the highly competitive feedstock in the United States, for example).

Pompeo: The United States is a ‘Force for Good’ in the Middle East

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 repudiated former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies while seeking to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to the region. Ironically, allies have been rattled of late by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. This decision, Pompeo insisted, is not a change of mission.