What's New

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)

Streit Council Advisory Board Member Brendan Simms on the Post-Brexit European Order
The challenges facing the United Kingdom over the next two years are numerous and increasing by the day. All of these issues are hugely important and they are closely interconnected. At root, however, they are a question of order, not so much of the “rules-based” global international community, significant though that is, but of the European order around which the world system was originally constructed and that remains – for the UK, at least – the primary pivot. (Read More)

Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance News

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.
(Read More) 

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.
(Read More)

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."
(Read More)

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." 
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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."
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More) 

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.
(Read More

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More) 

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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. 
(Read more

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More 1, 2, 3)

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.
(Read More)

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.
(Read More

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. 
(Read More

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.
(Read More)

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."
(Read More

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.
(Read More

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."
(Read More)

EU’s Juncker urges Kosovo solve border deal with Montenegro

28 February 2018 – Associated Press
Near the end of his tour in the Western Balkans, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker called for Kosovo to ratify a border demarcation deal with Montenegro and improve ties with Serbia. The EU says the border deal is a precondition for Kosovo’s entry into the visa-free Schengen Zone. Kosovo’s parliament recently failed to ratify the measure.
(Read More)

Facebook says finds no new evidence Russia interfered in Brexit referendum
28 February 2018 - Reuters

Social media giant Facebook testified to a British parliamentary committee that its internal investigation into Russian election interference on its platform during the 2016 Brexit referendum turned up "no new evidence." Facebook's UK policy director Simon Milner told the House of Commons that outside of previously disclosed "minimal activity," the company saw "no additional coordinated Russian-linked accounts or pages delivering ads to the UK regarding the EU Referendum."
(Read More) 

EU, U.S. officials plan Berlin talks on Iran nuclear deal - source
28 February 2018 - Reuters

European and American officials are due to meet in Berlin for talks on the Iran Nuclear Deal. The meeting, due in March, was discussed by a source within the German Foreign Ministry and seeks to address the two actors’ conflicting attitudes on the deal. American opposition to the European supported deal has been a source of contention between the two normally close allies. President Trump has threatened to withdraw from the deal entirely if it is not "fixed"; such a move would likely cause the entire deal to collapse.
(Read More) 

Xi term limit proposal sparks rare public dissent in China
27 February 2018 - The Washington Post

After the Chinese Communist Party voted internally to amend its constitution and eliminate term limits for the positions of President and Vice President, allowing Xi Jinping to remain China's head-of-state indefinitely, citizens are protesting a "return to the an imperial regime." Students, political scholars, and even the former editors of state-run news publications are openly challenging the move, expressing fears that Xi's ambitions recall Mao Zedong. 
(Read More

Western EU states tell Poland time is running out to restore rule of law
27 February 2018 – Euractiv
Western EU states have informed Poland that time is running out to roll back the reforms of its judiciary and state media – changes that the European Commission says undermine the rule of law in the country. The Commission recommends the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the EU if it does not concede on this by March 20, but the EU is unlikely to take this step as it requires unanimity and Hungary has sided with Poland.
(Read More)

U.S. seeks "robust involvement" in EU defense pact
27 February 2018 - Reuters

According to diplomatic sources, the U.S. government told EU states that it and other non-EU NATO members should play a key role in an EU defense pact. American officials fear the pact may lead to a duplication of NATO efforts and shut American arms manufacturers out of the European weapons market. The European response has, however, been less than enthusiastic, with one official arguing that the call is “a bit ironic” given U.S. President Donald Trump’s "America First" worldview.  
(Read More)

EU’s Juncker says Serbia must solve dispute with Kosovo
26 February 2018 – Associated Press

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker stated that Serbia must solve its dispute with Kosovo before it can join the EU. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Juncker added that Serbia and other states must implement judicial reforms and improve the rule of law before joining. He is visiting Serbia as part of a broader tour of the Western Balkans, where Russia is attempting to bolster its influence.
(Read More)

EU tells Balkan states 2025 entry possible for all
26 February 2018 - Reuters

In a tour of Balkan states seeking EU membership, European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Junker stated his belief that the Western Balkan states could become EU members by 2025. His comment was made in a press conference held jointly with the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama; the latter lauded his country's progress towards EU accession standards, with judiciary reforms already producing considerable results. Similar efforts in combating drug production have produced marked successes. Albania and Macedonia are expected to begin accession negotiations as early as June.
(Read More)

EU leaders can’t yet agree on post-Brexit budget
23 February 2018 - Associated Press

Speaking after a summit of EU leaders, European Council President Donald Tusk acknowledged that the bloc is unlikely to agree on a new multiyear budget this year. Tusk said there are still divisions between the 27 EU nations - Britain did not take part in the summit - but he presented an optimistic picture for the future. He said leaders approached the negotiations with "open minds," and had agreed to spend more on defense and illegal migration. The budget negotiations come at an important time, as the bloc seeks to plug the gap in its budget left by Britain's imminent withdrawal.
(Read More)

Merkel eyes overhaul of EU finances for post-Brexit bloc
22 February 2018 - Reuters

In a speech to the Bundestag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Brexit provides a chance for a "broad rethink" of EU finances. The call comes before an EU summit, which aims to address the future budget of the bloc; leaders will discuss whether or not to increase the next seven year budget compared to the last. A survey found that a majority of Germans back deeper EU integration, and debate rages within the bloc as to whether a downsizing EU will necessitate a downsized budget; the latter move is supported by smaller EU members such as the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Merkel's strongly pro-European worldview matches that of French President Emmanuel Macron, opening the possibility of reform.
(Read More

EU renews sanctions on Russian officials, Ukrainian separatists
21 February 2018 – Radio Free Liberty / Radio Europe

The EU decided to extend asset freezes and visa bans on 150 Russian officials and Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatists for another six months; the measures also apply to 38 entities. The sanctions mainly apply to Russia’s energy and banking sectors, and were first imposed in March 2014 after Russia seized the Crimea region of Ukraine. Since then, they have been renewed every six months.
(Read More)

Macron's EU debate idea gains momentum after Poland joins in
21 February 2018 - Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron has gained the support of 25 of the 27 long-term EU member states to hold debates on the future of the bloc. The debates, one of the promises of his election campaign, are to be held as "citizen consultations" in which each country would be able to hold open forums to hear and debate views on the EU. The debates could be held in the format of parliamentary discussions, online polls, and TV debates, but the details would be arranged by each state. Ideally, these debates would then produce a list of reforms toward which the EU could work; in this way, Macron hopes to make the EU reform process more accountable. Thus far, only Hungary and the Netherlands have not offered their official support for the debates. 
(Read More)

South Korea signs free trade deals with 5 Central American countries
21 February 2018 - Reuters

South Korea's trade ministry announced that it has finalized five separate bilateral free trade agreements with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The deals with eliminate existing tariffs and duties for roughly 95% of traded goods and services between the party countries. While the agreements still need to be ratified by each nation, the contents of the deals have been formally settled. South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said the deals will open the door to "comprehensive, strategic partnerships" with Central American states in the future.
(Read More)

EU warns it will retaliate if hit by U.S. trade curbs

20 February 2018 – Reuters
Last Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department recommended that President Trump impose steep curbs on steel and aluminum imports. The European Commission responded today that it is prepared to respond if its industry is affected by the proposed measures, which range from global and specific country tariffs to broad import quotas.
(Read More)

Almost 200 dead in new assault on Syria's eastern Ghouta
20 February 2018 - Financial Times

The daily death toll in Syria has reached its highest level in almost four years according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In the past two days, air strikes and heavy artillery attacks by pro-Assad government forces have killed 194 people in eastern Ghouta, 52 of which were children. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations estimates that more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed or wounded there in the past 40 hours alone, and rescue workers fear that eastern Ghouta may face, "mass extermination." UNICEF has condemned the ongoing assault by Syrian government forces as "barbaric." 
(Read More

EU scraps Ukrainian border projects, warns of "Ukraine fatigue"
20 February 2018 - Reuters

A project to upgrade border posts between Ukraine and Eastern European Union states has foundered, amid concerns about cost overruns, delays and various other missteps. The project aimed to stimulate trade between Ukraine and the EU by cutting border crossing times and improving customs procedures; its failure raises doubts about Ukraine's ability to meet EU accession standards. A senior European diplomat warned of "Ukraine fatigue" as some members of the bloc tire of supporting Ukraine due to its failures to tackle corruption or otherwise carry out adequate reforms. Nevertheless, the diplomat emphasized that the EU as a whole would still keep supporting the country; the bloc has committed 12.8 billion euros in aid and development assistance to Ukraine since its 2014 revolution.
(Read More)

EU split over expansion into Western Balkans

15 February 2018 – Reuters
EU members are divided over the European Commission’s proposal to expand the Union into the Western Balkans. Germany is very reluctant, pointing to rule of law shortcomings in Central and Eastern European member states. Poland, Italy and Austria are among the members that support admission. EU diplomats say that the region must address corruption and criminal gangs before joining the bloc.
(Read More)

UK blames Russia for “malicious” NotPetya cyber-attack
15 February 2018 - BBC News

The British government has taken an unusual step and publicly accused the Russian military of June’s NotPetya malicious ransomware attack, which started in Ukraine and spread across Europe. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Russia was “ripping up the rule book,” and that the UK was duty-bound to respond. Russia has denied responsibility for the NotPetya attack - which is estimated to have cost companies more than $1.2bn - and pointed out that Russian firms were among those whose systems were affected.
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NATO defense ministers approve new alliance commands
14 February 2018 - U.S. Department of Defense

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO defense ministers have approved plans to form two new alliance commands. Speaking in Brussels, Stoltenberg said “we will establish a new joint force command for the Atlantic, to help protect sea lines of communication between North America and Europe. We will establish a new support command for logistics, reinforcement and military mobility - improving the movement of troops and equipment is essential to our collective deterrence and defense.” The U.S. has volunteered to house the joint force command and Germany has offered to host the logistics command. The next move will be for defense ministers to decide on the timelines, locations, and staffing for the headquarters.
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U.S. trade move against China snared in legal concerns
14 February 2018 - Financial Times
As the Trump Administration's Section 301 investigation of Chinese government policies related to "technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation" under the 1974 Trade Act approaches a formal finding, concerns about the fallout for all parties are mounting. Beijing is preparing lobbying campaigns to challenge negative press, while White House officials are seriously considering invocation of the rarely-cited 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which would result in President Trump declaring a state of emergency over Chinese trade. The President is afforded special powers under such an emergency. In a discussion on that matter, Trump told members of Congress this week that he seeks to "keep prices down," but stated firmly that "if we ever have a conflict, we don't want to be buying steel [from] a country we are fighting." 
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U.S. tells NATO allies spending plans still falling short

14 February 2018 – Reuters
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told European allies on Wednesday they need to increase their defense spending to meet NATO budgetary goals. He also stated that troop contributions to missions did not exempt members from broader spending goals. His comments come soon after President Trump proposed a 30% increase in U.S. military funding for Europe, ostensibly to deter Russian aggression in the region; Mr. Mattis suggested European allies should emulate this move. Mr. Mattis is currently in Europe for a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers. So far, 15 of the 28 member states have met the informal two percent target.
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U.S. intelligence chief calls debt a security threat
13 February 2018 - Financial Times

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, America's top intelligence community official, testified to Congress today that expanding national debt poses a "dire threat" to America's national security, and that a future "fiscal crisis" would "undermine our ability to ensure our national security." Coats also called North Korea a "potentially existential problem" for the United States, and warned that Russia will attempt to interfere with the 2018 midterm elections.
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Russia and China are developing “destructive” space weapons, U.S. intelligence warns
13 February 2018 - CNBC

According to a report from U.S. intelligence agencies, within the next few year Moscow and Beijing could possess “destructive” weapons for use in a potential space conflict. The two United Nations Security Council members are pursuing “anti-satellite weapons as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness.”  Anti-satellite weapons, which include ballistic missiles, are designed to damage space-based systems. They are a major element of what is known as counterspace technology, or hardware and software that aim to hinder adversaries in outer space.
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U.S. 2018 elections “under attack” by Russia: U.S. intelligence chief
13 February 2018 - Reuters

On Tuesday, leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections by using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports, much as it did in the 2016 campaign. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former senator appointed by Trump to be Washington’s top intelligence official, told a congressional committee that Russia and other foreign entities were likely to attack U.S. and European elections this year and beyond, adding that Moscow believes similar efforts successfully undermined U.S. democracy two years ago.
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U.S. and Turkish officials in talks as relations reach “crisis point”
13 February 2018 - Arab News

Senior U.S. and Turkish officials are holding urgent talks this week as tensions increase between the two countries over their positions on Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will go to Ankara, amid fears clashes could emerge between forces aligned with the two countries; earlier this week U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster met a Turkish government adviser to discuss the matter. As Turkish forces push deeper into Kurdish regions of northern Syria, they move closer to Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. government. Should the two sides engage each other, there is a risk Turkish soldiers could come into conflict with American troops embedded in Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), their regional allies. 
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EU to refuse to sign trade deals with countries that don’t ratify Paris climate change accord
12 February 2018 – Independent

EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom recently stated that a binding reference to the Paris climate deal would be “needed in all EU trade deals” from now on. She stated that deals concluded with Mexico and Mercosur would include the clause, and another EU official said the policy would also apply to a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK. But it also means that a trade deal with the U.S. cannot be concluded at present, since President Donald Trump has indicated that he would prefer to renegotiate the climate agreement.
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U.S. fears closer EU defense ties could undermine NATO
12 February 2018 - Financial Times

Concerns are mounting among American defense officials that closer security ties within the European Union might serve to decrease NATO’s leverage in confronting Russia. Katie Wheelbarger, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, told reporters today that, "[w]e don't want to see EU efforts pulling requirements or forces away...from NATO and into the EU," alluding to European plans to decrease deployments to U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The EU's new defense arrangement, known as "PESCO" (Permanent Structured Co-Operation), plans to "complement rather than compete" with NATO, and will improve training and readiness in 17 different areas for EU member states. 
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China says U.S. bill on Taiwan ties threatens stability
9 February 2018 - Reuters

China's Foreign Ministry threatened "serious disturbances to Sino-U.S. relations, and the situation in the Taiwan Strait" if the U.S. Senate votes to pass a bill which would encourage reciprocal diplomatic visits between Taiwanese and American officials. Beijing considers the bipartisan bill, which would become a law in the United States, a violation of the "One China" policy and has demanded it be immediately withdrawn. Chinese Spokesman Geng Shuang stated that his government is "[e]xtremely dissatisfied and resolutely opposed" to American congressmen considering any laws that might impact Taiwan's international status.
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Fearing Russia, United States, Germany offer to host new NATO commands: officials
8 February 2018 – Reuters

The United States and Germany offered to host two proposed new NATO commands aimed at deterring Russia, in a show of support for the alliance’s military build-up that has echoes of the Cold War. Creating two new commands, which diplomats said would have up to 1,500 personnel in total, would be the first expansion in two decades after NATO sharply cut back in 2011. This development has strong symbolism both for Eastern European allies fearing Russia and for Germany, whose offer comes at a time when it faces pressure from Washington to spend more on defense.
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Putin, Erdogan discuss military coordination in Syria
8 February 2018 – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

After speaking on the phone on February 8, Putin’s office released a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to strengthen coordination between the countries’ military and security services in Syria. Plans for closer cooperation are intended to improve “the fight against terrorist groups that are violating the cease-fire regime” in Idlib Province, which borders Turkey. Putin and Erdogan discussed what the Kremlin said was "the importance of continuing the joint work of Russia, Turkey, and Iran" on Syria, and a possible meeting between Putin, Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was discussed.
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Curbing migration post-Brexit would be “catastrophic” for Scotland - report
8 January 2018 - Reuters

The Scottish devolved government, in a report issued on Wednesday, claims post-Brexit restrictions on migration could prove "catastrophic" for the country's economy. The government claims that, due to the country's low population, it would need migration to shore up its economic growth. As such, the Edinburgh government has been asking for more say in British immigration policy, which currently seeks to lower overall immigration into the nation to the tens of thousands. The report claims that lower migration could cause Scotland's gross domestic product per capita to drop 4.5% by 2040.
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EU, NATO face growing threat of inadvertent military clash
7 February 2018 - Euronews

Advance copies of the latest annual Munich Security Report, titled "To the Brink - And Back?" have been released by the Munich Security Conference Foundation in preparation for its international conference next week. The comprehensive report concludes that aging arms control agreements, changing international norms, and rapidly proliferating large-scale military exercises and forward deployments have created a "dire state of affairs" in which an "inadvertent military clash" between Russia and Europe is increasingly probable. However, the report also lauds better military integration within NATO, the EU's economic growth, and the creation of the Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) as "ambitious reform[s]" which may cool tensions across the continent.  
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European Parliament dismisses its Polish vice president
7 February 2018 – Associated Press

On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted to dismiss one of its vice presidents, Ryszard Czarnecki of Poland, after he compared a rival in the Polish parliament to a Nazi collaborator. The move heightens tension between Poland and most other members of the EU, coming after Poland passed a law penalizing certain statements about the Holocaust and the widely criticized reform of its judicial system.
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Italy’s Northern League chief attacks euro, says preparing exit
7 February 2018 – Reuters

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s right-wing Northern League party, said that his party is preparing the ground for Italy’s departure from the Eurozone. The Northern League is a key member of the center-right coalition which is expected to win most seats at the upcoming election but will probably fall short of a working majority. The party’s election program calls for “returning to the European Economic Union which preceded the Maastricht Treaty.”
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Merkel’s conservatives make big concessions to SPD in coalition deal
7 February 2018 – Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and the Social Democrats (SPD) have secured a coalition deal after months of political paralysis. The SPD will gain control of the finance ministry, which could indicate a shift in policy toward the Eurozone. SPD leader Martin Schultz said the coalition will stop “forced austerity” and set up an investment budget for the Eurozone.
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Serbia and Montenegro could join EU in 2025, says Brussels
7 February 2018 - The Guardian

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini stated today that Serbia and Montenegro could join the bloc as soon as 2025. As this is "not a deadline," the date of entry still heavily dependent on the countries’ meeting the EU's accession standards, including intensifying efforts to crack down on corruption and organized crime, while also strengthening the rule of law. Serbia and Montenegro are only two of six EU prospects in the Western Balkans, with the other four yet to start membership talks. Nevertheless, this statement indicates that the EU is keen to expand once again, after many years of focusing on internal troubles.
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China says mid-course missile interceptor test successful
6 February 2018 - ABC

China's Defense Ministry confirmed that it carried out an anti-ballistic missile intercept test yesterday, and that the test was successful. The missile was a surface-launched mid-course Kaituozhe variant of China's SC-19 system, which is roughly equivalent to the U.S.'s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) BMD platform. Chinese defense officials stated in a briefing after the test that it was "defensive" in nature, and "does not target any country." This successful demonstration of Chinese BMD capabilities comes just days after the U.S. failed a nearly identical intercept test in Hawaii.
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Trade barriers “unavoidable” outside customs union, says EU’s Barnier
5 January 2018 - BBC News

British Brexit Secretary David Davis today affirmed the government’s intention to fully leave the EU customs union following Britain's complete withdrawal from the bloc in 2020. He stated that Britain wishes to retain free trade with the EU, but also wants the freedom to pursue its own free trade deals with other countries. The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier responded that if the UK leaves the customs union it will face "unavoidable" barriers to trade with the bloc. He went to on to declare that Britain could either have free trade with the EU or leave the customs union, and the "time had come" for the UK to decide which of these it wants.
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Four powerful countries plan resistance to China in a disputed Asian sea
5 February 2018 - Voice of America

Four of the world's most powerful liberal democracies - the United States, Australia, India, and Japan - known as "the Quad," have vowed to come together to halt Chinese infringement on freedom of navigation rights and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Joint military exercises and patrol operations, increased military aid and arms sales within the bloc, and upholding the authority of international institutions like the Permanent Court of Arbitration are all critical goals for the burgeoning alliance to resist China's territorial claims on more than 90% of the water and land in the South China Sea.
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Lithuania: Russia deploying more missiles to Kaliningrad
5 February 2018 - Associated Press

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite announced today that Russia has deployed new Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, capable of utilizing conventional and nuclear warheads, to Moscow's Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad. Grybauskaite said that the missiles are intended to remain there "for [a] permanent presence," unlike past Iskander deployments, and added that Russia is endangering "half of all European countries" with the new missiles.
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U.S. begins reducing troops in Iraq after victory over IS
5 February 2018 - Associated Press

As Baghdad repeatedly declares victory over the Islamic State - known both as ISIS and Daesh - the United States has started to permanently reduce troop levels in Iraq for the first time in over three years. U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon stated in a briefing on the matter that "continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need, and in coordinate with the government of Iraq." As of last fall, nearly 9,000 U.S. military personnel remained in the country. The move is consistent with Secretary of Defense James Mattis' new National Defense Strategy, about which he stated that "[g]reat power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security." 
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Tillerson extols 19th-century U.S. foreign policy in Latin America
2 February 2018 - Financial Times

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began his first diplomatic visit to Latin America today, and offered remarks on America's role in the region before he embarked. He stated that China's "imperial power" in the region could destabilize Latin America, urged stronger measures against narcotics and weapons trafficking, and controversially endorsed the 1823 Monroe Doctrine as a "success," and argued that it is "as relevant today as it was the day it was written." Proffered by President James Monroe, the doctrine claimed that foreign interference and colonization in the American hemisphere would no longer be tolerated and, by corollary, that America had free reign to utilize "international police power" in the Western hemisphere.
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Treasury warns of wide impact if U.S. sanctions Russian debt
2 February 2018 - Reuters

As Congress and the U.S. Treasury Department consider expanding sanctions against Russia to cover sovereign debt, the Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a report that doing so would likely result in "negative spillover effects" for the world's economy. Russia, unlike popular sanctions targets like Iran or North Korea, has a large and globally-integrated economy, meaning that increasing debt-related sanctions would damage "both the Russian Federation, and U.S. investors and businesses." The report concluded that attacking Russia's sovereign debt would both "lead to Russian retaliation against U.S. [economic] interests," and decrease "[the] competitiveness of large U.S. asset managers." 
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Tory rebels launch bid to keep UK in customs union with EU
2 February 2018 - The Guardian

Two leading Conservative Party MPs have launched a bid to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU following Brexit in 2020. Seeking cross party support, Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke hope to ensure a "softer" Brexit. Labour Party leadership has not ruled out supporting the bid, with many of their backbench MPs already offering support. The move is seen as undermining the authority of Prime Minister Theresa May, who is coming under rising pressure to decide on whether to support a "hard" or "soft" Brexit. The government line on the issue has been unclear so far, but official statements thus far seemed to hint at avoiding a future customs union with the EU.
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France to finance exports to Iran, aims to sidestep U.S. sanctions
1 January 2018 - Reuters

French state-owned investment bank Bpifrance has announced plans for new deals with Iran designed to circumnavigate U.S. sanctions. By offering dedicated, euro-dominated export guarantees to Iranian buyers of French goods or services, any deals made will avoid U.S. dollars and enterprises, therefore placing it outside the reach of U.S. sanctions. A French banking source said Italy, Germany, Austria and Belgium are working on similar methods to insulate their trade with Iran from U.S. sanctions. The move comes amid a growing divide between the EU and U.S. over the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal; the former believes Iran is sticking to the terms of the deal and deserves to profit from increased trade. The latter wishes to reimpose sanctions on Iran for violating the "spirit" of the deal.
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Romania’s judicial overhaul risks Schengen hopes, Juncker warns
31 January 2018 – EU Observer

On Wednesday, President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker asked the Romanian government to amend current legislation on its judiciary. If it does not, Juncker said the country’s accession to the EU’s Schengen zone would be at risk. The Commission previously warned that the legislation rolls back rules on corruption and shields politicians from prosecution. Tens of thousands of Romanians have protested the legislation in recent weeks.
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Ukraine tests locally made cruise missile
31 January 2018 – Euronews

Ukraine has tested a cruise missile capable of striking ground and seaborne targets. Although authorities did not reveal the range of the locally made missile, they said it is in line with the country’s international agreements. The missile was not named by the authorities, but has been identified on the Defense Blog media outlet as the Neptune, based on the Soviet-designed Kh-35 introduced to the Russian military in 2003. This missile can sink warships with displacements of up to 5,000 tons of water, which would include all of Russia’s landing ships and frigates.
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Climate change threatens half of U.S. bases worldwide, Pentagon report finds
31 January 2018 - The Guardian

A comprehensive new Pentagon study has determined that 1,700 U.S. military bases across the world are severely endangered by climate change. Extreme flooding, droughts, and other climate-induced hazards present a clear threat, according to the DOD's findings. The report found that "[i]f extreme weather makes our critical facilities unusable, or necessitates costly or manpower-intensive workarounds, that is an unacceptable impact." The study assessed the destruction of airfields, energy infrastructure, and on-site water systems as the most dangerous effects of extreme weather due to climate change.
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Russian spy chief reportedly met with U.S. intelligence officials despite sanctions
31 January 2018 – NPR

Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s foreign spy service known as the SVR, reportedly traveled to the U.S. earlier this month and met with top Trump Administration intelligence officials, despite being on a U.S. sanctions blacklist. Reuters cited two unnamed U.S. sources as having confirmed the meetings, which included “U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other U.S. intelligence officials”; the meeting was also confirmed by the Russian embassy in Washington. 
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German far-right AfD lawmaker becomes chair of key budget committee
31 January 2018 – Reuters

Peter Boehringer, a lawmaker from the euroskeptic, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party, who has criticized Eurozone rescues and the European Central Bank, has been chosen as the chair of the parliament’s influential budget committee. The committee voted on Wednesday to accept Boehringer, who rose to prominence by campaigning for the repatriation of Germany’s gold reserves from overseas and has called for an “immediate end to mass illegal Islamic migration to Europe that threatens our existence.” The AfD, which surged into parliament in last September’s election amid public concerns over a mass influx of migrants and refugees into Germany, wants the country to leave the Eurozone and reintroduce the deutsche mark.
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U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia "in the near future"
30 January 2018 - France 24

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that America will impose new sanctions against Russia "in the near future," following his department's release of a list naming 114 Russian government officials and 96 wealthy oligarchs who may be the target of those sanctions. While recent U.S. sanction measures have focused on Iran and North Korea, Russia was heavily sanctioned last year via the 2017 Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
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U.S. general says North Korea has not demonstrated all components of ICBM
30 January 2018 – Reuters

Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, affirming previous assessments by the Department of Defense and intelligence community, announced today that North Korea has still not proven it possess "all components" of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Offering specifics, Selva said that Kim Jong Un's multitude of missile tests have not yet demonstrated "fusing and targeting technologies, and [a] survivable re-entry vehicle." He did not rule out the possibility that North Korea has these capabilities, but reiterated that they have not been "demonstrated" via observable tests. However, Selva stated that the Air Force has growing concerns regarding North Korea's fleet of mobile transporter erector launchers (TELs), which make a hypothetical DPRK missile launch harder to predict and trace. 
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Eurozone growth reaches highest level in a decade
30 January 2018 - Financial Times

According to Eurostat, the Eurozone has achieved its highest annual growth rate in over 10 years, as it continues to outpace both the United States and United Kingdom. Financial crises and political instability over austerity have plagued the Eurozone in recent years, but a broad-based recovery emerged in 2017 with 2.5% growth, and with the European Central Bank’s move away from support mechanisms like quantitative easing. Italy, Spain, and France are also poised for solid growth in 2018. 
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Britain worse off in three Brexit scenarios, leaked analysis says

30 January 2018 – Reuters
An internal British government briefing, leaked this week, appears to show that regardless of the terms under which Britain leaves the European Union, the impact on its economy will be negative. The "EU Exit Analysis - Cross Whitehall Briefing" suggests that leaving the EU could lead to between 2% and 8% lower economic growth than current forecasts, and will impact every sector of the British economy. Some British anti-EU politicians have dismissed the report as inaccurate and "simply wrong." Government spokespeople also noted the analysis was only in its initial stages, and had yet to consider the outcome should the government achieve its stated goals in Brexit negotiations. 
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U.S. Treasury releases list of Russian oligarchs linked to Putin
30 January 2018 – CNBC

The U.S. Treasury Department released a report late Monday listing a number of individuals closely affiliated with the Russian government. The department made clear that this is not a sanctions list, though many of the individuals on the list are already subject to U.S. sanctions. The list instead highlights a number of wealthy Russians who are close to President Putin and could be at risk of sanctions. While not all the names of people and entities in the report were made public, those that were included 114 senior political figures close to Putin and 96 oligarchs with a net worth of $1 billion or more. Speaking on Tuesday, President Putin said the country was not planning to retaliate but called it an unfriendly act.
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U.S. army leader tells Germany: Meet NATO spending goal or weaken NATO
29 January 2018 – Voice of America

U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters during a visit to U.S. troops in Germany that a failure by the next German government to fulfill a pledge to boost military spending to two percent of its economic output will weaken the NATO alliance. Esper said Germany had a particularly important role in NATO given its economic strength in Europe, and that he would take the German government at its word that it will stick to its pledge to meet to 2% target. The BDI industry association this month estimated that Germany spent just 1.13 percent of its economic output on defense in 2017, well below NATO's projection of 1.22 percent due to stronger-than-expected economic growth.
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EU agrees Brexit “transition” negotiation guidelines
29 January 2018 - BBC News

The European Union has set out its demands for the "transition period" which will run for two years after Britain begins to leave the EU in March 2019. The period is intended to allow time for a final exit deal to be negotiated, and minimize the impact of Britain's withdrawal. The EU has demanded that during this period Britain continue following its laws, without being involved in making decisions for the bloc. The British Brexit Secretary David Davis has called for Britain to be allowed a right to object to any new laws passed during this period. EU authorities also suggested that Britain should be able to negotiate its own free trade agreements independently of the EU during the period, but any agreements made would not come into effect until after the transition period ends. Both sides agree that Britain should remain part of any EU trade deals during the transition period.
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Finns, worried by Russia, hand cautious president huge election win
28 January 2018 – Reuters

On Sunday, Finish President Sali Niinisto secured a rare first round election win as his delicate balancing of ties with neighbor Russia and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance resonated with voters. Niinisto won his second six-year term with an overwhelming 62.7 percent of the vote, with his closest rival securing just 12.4%. During his first term, Niinisto was instrumental in maintaining relations with Moscow, despite the country backing Western economic sanctions against Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
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Czech president wins new term in boon to euroskeptic forces
28 January 2018 – Bloomberg
Czech President Milo Zeman has won a second term on an anti-immigrant and euroskeptic platform. This occurred despite the fact that the Czech Republic is one of the EU’s fastest growing economies, and has the lowest level of unemployment and the highest living standard among the bloc’s eastern members. Zeman’s critics say that his efforts to strengthen ties with Russia and China have undermined relations with Western allies.
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U.S., Poland oppose gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany
27 January 2018 – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
The U.S. and Poland have adopted a joint stance against the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany. The pipeline would bypass Central Europe and leave it more vulnerable to Russian pressure. "Like Poland, the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline," U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson said. "We see it as undermining Europe's overall energy security and stability and providing Russia yet another tool to politicize energy as a political tool."
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Defense secretary warns of Russia plot against infrastructure
26 January 2018 – BBC

Gavin Williamson, the British Secretary of Defense, said that Moscow is spying on energy supplies, which, if cut, could cause “total chaos” in the country resulting in “thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths.” Head of the British army, Sir Nick Carter, warned that the UK is struggling to keep up with Russian capabilities. Williamson said Russia has been researching the UK’s undersea connections for electricity linked to the continent.
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China reveal Arctic ambitions with plan for "Polar Silk Road"
26 January 2018 - Financial Times

China, in an unexpected move, has published plans for a "Polar Silk Road" to span the Arctic region and establish Beijing as a major power in the geopolitical battle for territory and sea lanes at the top of the world. China currently holds observatory status in the international Arctic Council, but does not actually border the Arctic. President Xi Jinping hopes to make China the world's first "polar power," and plans to make large investments in resource exploration, energy, and maritime shipping and technology in the Arctic. 
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Europe's joint defense plans are taking shape, German minister says
25 January 2018 – CNBC

Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said at the World Economic Forum on Thursday that the building blocks of the European Defense Union are being put in place. Speaking in Davos, von der Leyen said: "We hope to build up a structure where on one side we have a reliable NATO, which will always be for collective defense and on the other side, we have us, the Europeans. We have to build up the European Defense Union." The union is designed to prevent the EU from having to rely on NATO for its defense requirements, and 25 nations have signed up to the common defense plan.
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Trump says he would re-enter TPP trade deal if it's made "substantially better"
25 January 2018 - The Hill

U.S. President Donald Trump stated in a CNBC interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos that he would "do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal." During his 2016 campaign, Trump stood firmly against free trade agreements like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now known as CPTPP. He did not offer specifics on how the deal would be changed such that the United States would join. Terms on an updated version of the Pacific trade deal were agreed to by 11 other countries just days ago, and will be formally adopted by member states in March.
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Kissinger warns senators of "systemic failure of world order"
25 January 2018 - Stars and Stripes

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today that, "the international situation facing the United States is unprecedented." Kissinger told the Senate that global destabilization and uncertainty is worse than ever before, and is "more than a coincidence of individual crises across various geographies. Rather, it is a systemic failure of world order." Kissinger joined former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Deputy Secretary of State Dick Armitage in expressing concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, a war-torn Middle East, and the coming impacts of "de-globalization." The former high-ranking diplomats also testified that "traditional patterns of great power rivalry are returning," and concluded that the U.S. military is at risk of losing its technological edge over the rest of the world. 
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Macedonia takes step to end Greek name dispute
25 January 2018 - EU Observer

Speaking at the World Economic Forum after meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for three hours, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said his country will rename its airport in a step designed to reassure Greece and unlock its NATO and EU bids. The airport title is part of a bigger dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s national name, and Greece has blocked Macedonia's NATO and EU bids for decades on the grounds that its name implies a territorial claim to a Greek region of the same name.
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President Trump predicts “tremendous increase” in UK-U.S. trade
25 January 2018 - BBC

After a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke of increased trade and cooperation with the UK. He claimed that the countries were "joined at the hip" on military matters, echoing May's comments that they stand "shoulder to shoulder" against shared threats. The meeting marks the first significant interaction between the two leaders since they had a public disagreement over Trump's re-tweeting of three videos from the British far-right group Britain First. More recently, Trump cancelled a scheduled visit to the UK where he was due to open the new U.S. embassy in London.
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EU provides record funding for a France-Spain power link
25 January 2018 – Reuters

The EU is expected to provide 578 million euros to build a power link between Spain and France. The link will carry excess renewable energy from Spain, and is part of a broader effort by the European Commission to increase the use of renewable energy, meet climate goals, and reduce dependence on Russian gas. Other projects to interconnect the European energy market will also receive funding.
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German leader Merkel says the current world order is under threat
24 January 2018 - CNBC

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Germany's Angela Merkel argued that protectionism and political polarization should not overtake multilateralism on the international stage. "Protectionism is not the proper answer" to issues in the global economy, said Merkel, adding that the world had "not learned the lessons from history" about repeating the mistakes which precipitated World War I and World War II. Merkel told the worldwide audience that Germans will not "shu[t] ourselves off and isolat[e] ourselves." 
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Finns, with wary eye to Russia, set to re-elect cautious Niinisto president
24 January 2018 - Reuters

Finns are expected to re-elect moderate Sauli Niinisto for his second six-year term in elections on Sunday, counting on his skill and caution to ensure a close relationship with NATO without antagonizing neighboring Russia. The latest opinion polls show support of 58-68 percent for Niinisto, who is originally from the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) - a member of Helsinki’s ruling coalition - but campaigns as an independent.
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Navalny takes Putin to European Rights Court
24 January 2018 - Voice of America

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has taken his feud with President Putin to the European Court of Human Rights, complaining that his repeated arrests by Russian authorities are politically motivated and a violation of his basic rights. Navalny has been campaigning for the March 18 presidential election but has been barred by the election commission, which says a criminal conviction disqualifies him from the ballot.
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Erdogan says to extend Syria operation despite risk of U.S. confrontation
24 January 2018 - Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to extend ongoing military operations in Syria eastward to Manbij, but reiterated that Ankara is seeking "justice" rather than land. Military operations in Manbij would occur in close proximity to NATO forces operating in northern Syria, which includes nearly 2,000 U.S. special forces troops. According to Turkish officials, it is possible that Turkish and U.S. soldiers would "come face-to-face" in Manbij. Erdogan told reporters that defeating the Kurdish YPG in Afrin will make it possible for Syrian refugees to return to the country, despite the fact that the United States supports the YPG as a component of the broader Syrian Defense Force (SDF).
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ASEAN-focused China fund raising up to $3 billion for Silk Road projects
24 January 2018 – Reuters

A state-run Chinese investment firm, the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund (CAF), has been quietly rebooted by the Export-Import Bank of China in order to raise $3 billion for "One Belt One Road" projects in Southeast Asia. Beijing is hoping to target its direct investment and overseas lending businesses at ASEAN in order to gain political and financial influence in the 10 member body. CAF already owns the largest shipping company in the Philippines, and Thailand's largest deep-water port.
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Davos 2018: “More to come” on U.S. trade tariffs
24 January 2018 – BBC

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the first of the U.S. delegation to arrive in Davos for a meeting of the World Economic Forum, said President Trump is “determined to deal” with what he views as unfair foreign trade competition. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, also in attendance, echoed this view. The warnings come after the U.S. imposed large tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, which prompted criticism from China and South Korea.
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World Economic Forum in Davos out to heal “a fractured world”
23 January 2018 – Deutsche Welle

As this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meets in the Swiss town of Davos, it brings with a message of "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World." 70 heads of state are present, representing most regions of the globe, as well as key figures from the world of business. However, it is U.S. President Trump's speech on Friday that is likely to cause the most debate, owing to his policies, which run counter to the views traditionally espoused at the forum. Other expected highlights include French President Macron, who is expected to propose ambitious new EU reforms, and German Chancellor Merkel. Gender is also taking center stage this year, as a new all-female panel will be held.
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Single European defense market a distant goal, says Commissioner
23 January 2018 - IHS Jane’s 360

Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European Commission and the EU’s top official for defense industrial policy said that he believes that although the permanent structured co-operation (PESCO) may lead to an unprecedented level of defense co-operation among national capitals in Europe, neither it, nor the other measures authored so far by the EU, will trigger a true single defense market in the future. “While Europe’s security situation means that the member states need to take their fate into their own hands more than ever before, it will be for them to decide how far they want to go.”
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Turkey says seeks no clash with U.S., Russia, but will pursue Syria goals
23 January 2018 – Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Turkey seeks to avoid any clash with U.S., Russian, or Syrian forces but will take any steps needed for its security, as the fourth day of an air and ground offensive against Kurdish forces in northwest Syria was underway. The United States and Russia both have military forces in Syria and have urged Turkey to show restraint in its campaign, Operation Olive Branch, to crush the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG in the Afrin region on Turkey’s southern border.  
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Tillerson blames Russia for gas attacks on civilians in Syria
23 January 2018 - The Washington Post, Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that his agency found Russia responsible for recent chlorine gas attacks outside of Eastern Ghouta, and has asked Moscow to refrain from voting on UN Security Council resolutions regarding Syria. While the Syrian government has denied the use of chemical weapons, Tillerson stated that "[w]hoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility." He also said that Russia is currently in violation of a 2013 agreement reached with the U.S. government to remove unconventional weapons from Syria in accordance with the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention
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Trans-Pacific trade deal to go ahead without U.S.
23 January 2018 - Financial Times

Eleven countries - including Japan, Australia and Canada - have officially agreed to terms on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP), formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The United States decided to exit TPP negotiations last year under the Trump Administration, but the agreement was revived by remaining parties and has now been formally concluded. The deal was largely secured by the removal of regulations sought under the Obama Administration in past negotiations. A signing convention and ceremony will be held in March to launch what will become one of the largest international trade agreements in modern history. Japan's Economic Minister Toshimitsu Motegi commented that he plans to "explain again to America the importance of the deal," and "hopes [the U.S.] will come back" to join the CPTPP. 
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Fighting rages amid Turkish push in Kurdish enclave in Syria
22 January 2018 – Associated Press

Following major air operations, the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army have launched the ground phase of their invasion into the Afrin region of northwestern Syria, known as "Operation Olive Branch." Turkey's government claims that it has pushed into Syria in order to stabilize and secure the Turkish border region, aiming to defeat elements of the U.S.-backed YPG Kurdish militia. Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that it will push eastward to the town of Manbij after operations in Afrin conclude. 
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Growing EU-India convergence of views on global issues
19 January 2018 - India Today

EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski said on Friday that a global convergence on policy and viewpoints is emerging between India and the EU, leading to much closer cooperation. Areas of cooperation range from foreign policy and security issues, to trade, economics and research. As they reenter negotiations for a free trade agreement, they also agreed to step up dialogue on China and Pakistan.
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U.S. says China WTO membership was a mistake
19 January 2018 - Financial Times

A new assessment from the Office of the United States Trade Representative says that China's admission to the World Trade Organization was a "mistake," and presents a "systemic" threat to the global economy and free trade. While the United States staunchly supported China's bid for WTO membership in the early 2000s, the first annual report from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer concludes "it seems clear that the United States erred in supporting China's entry into the WTO on terms that have proven to be ineffective in securing China's embrace of an open, market-oriented trade regime." USTR urged policymakers to consider both unilateral and multilateral measures to force Beijing to change course on international trade, and warned that other issues like export-dumping and intellectual property theft are severely damaging the American economy.
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France's Macron pledges big increase in defense budget
19 January 2018 - Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron has committed to a substantial increase in defense spending over the next several years, primarily focused on sustaining domestic counterterrorism operations and overseas military campaigns. Speaking in Toulon, Macron highlighted a newly-doubled global operations budget, promised to raise total defense spending by $2.2 billion in 2018, and also pledged to reach the NATO-recommended two percent of GDP spent on the military before 2025. Hoping to maintain the ability to intervene "everywhere in the world," Macron also stated that he plans to institute a conscription-based national service program as soon as possible. 
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Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership
19 January 2018 – Reuters

In an interview with Reuters, Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Omer Celik, said that Turkey would reject any offer of partnership with the European Union short that falls short of membership - warning that the current impasse gave Turkey no reason to maintain its migrant deal with the bloc. “A privileged partnership or similar approaches, we don’t take any of these seriously. Turkey cannot be offered such a thing….Whatever it would be called, a privileged partnership or cooperation against terrorism, such an offer will not even be considered by Turkey.” The EU has expressed concern over Turkey’s crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed 2016 coup, and French President Emmanuel Macron recently mentioned the possibility of a partnership rather than full membership.
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Britain and France agree on deals to limit Brexit fallout
18 January 2018 - The New York Times

At the ongoing summit between French and British leaders, a range of agreements have been made covering defense, security, and refugees. The agreements were augmented with a good-will gesture, as France agreed to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain; this would mark the first time it has left France in 950 years. Britain also made gestures of good faith, including an additional £44.5 million ($62 million) to be paid to France to reinforce security around the port of Calais. Britain also offered military support for French operations in the Sahel region of Africa, while France offered to help reinforce British troops on a NATO operation in Estonia. The summit comes as Brexit talks continue between Britain and the EU. Macron, however, refused to support Britain's attempts to secure a favorable post-Brexit trade deal.
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Macedonia told to resolve Greece dispute and implement reforms to join NATO
18 January 2018 – Reuters

After a meeting between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Stoltenberg said that “NATO’s door remains open” to the country, but that Macedonia must resolve a decades-long dispute over its name, implement judicial reforms, and build good relations with neighboring countries to join NATO. Greece, which has blocked Macedonia’s efforts to join NATO and the European Union, says that the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim over Greece’s own northern region of that name.
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Ukrainian parliament passes bill on “occupied” territories
18 January 2018 - Associated Press

On Thursday, Ukraine’s parliament passed a bill on the “re-integration” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the country’s east, which are controlled by Russia-backed separatists. The bill describes those two regions as “temporarily occupied” by “aggressor country” Russia and envisages the use of military force to get them back under Ukraine’s control. The bill contains no reference to the Minsk peace deal brokered by France and Germany that obliged Ukraine to pass legislation offering broad autonomy to the separatist regions and a sweeping amnesty to the rebels.
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United States wins WTO chicken ruling against China
18 January 2018 - Reuters

The United States defeated China in a World Trade Organization arbitration ruling related to Beijing's illegal use of punitive tariffs against U.S. poultry producers. The WTO instructed China to lower tariffs immediately, and concluded that American companies like Tyson Foods Inc. and Pilgrim's Pride Corp. lost more than $1 billion in sales as a consequence of the measures. Beijing is allowed a limited period to make an appeal, but it remains unclear if it will choose to do so. The U.S. has a long history of WTO complaints against China, including major anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases in recent years. Washington and Brussels have also formally opposed Beijing's campaign for "market-economy status" within the organization, which would considerably loosen international regulatory restrictions on China.
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Mexico-EU free trade deal should be finished in a few weeks: official
17 January 2018 – Reuters

The EU and Mexico should be concluding talks over an updated trade deal “within the next few weeks,” according to a senior Mexican official. The new accord will update the EU-Mexico trade deal on industrial products, in force since 2000, adding to it farm produce, government procurement, and investment. The conclusion of the deal comes as part of a recent strategy by Mexico to reduce its dependence on the U.S., who has antagonized its southern neighbor by demanding an overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
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Exclusive: Trump says terminating NAFTA would yield “best deal” in renegotiations
18 January 2018 – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday argued that withdrawing from the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would result in the best deal for the U.S. in future trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico. Despite warnings from lawmakers, foreign leaders, and industrial and agricultural groups, Trump argued that "the way you're going to make the best deal is to terminate NAFTA." The comments come less than a week before the next round of NAFTA negotiations, due to be held in Montreal, where negotiators will be faced with the prospect of attempting to reconcile aggressive American demands on a range of topics. An American withdrawal from the 24 year-old trade agreement would likely cause it to collapse entirely, with significant implications for the economies of North America.
(Read more)

Exclusive: Trump accuses Russia of helping North Korea evade sanctions; says U.S. needs more missile defense
17 January 2018 - Reuters

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump complained that Russia is helping North Korea evade international sanctions, signaling frustration with a country he had hoped to forge friendly relations with after his 2016 win. Speaking to Reuters in an Oval Office interview, Trump said “Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea. What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.” Both China and Russia signed onto the latest rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea imposed last year.
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U.S. puts Russia and China at top of defense agenda
17 January 2018 - Financial Times

The Pentagon's first National Defense Strategy (NDS) under the Trump Administration will be published in an unclassified format on January 19, and will feature newly aggressive military stances against both China and Russia. Defense officials have commented that the revamped strategy "tries to put U.S. defenses on a more competitive basis given the investments that China and Russia have made," especially in missile technology, cyber-warfare, and modernized air and naval forces. Like the White House's 2017 National Security Strategy, the Pentagon's latest NDS will reaffirm that America currently exists "in an era of great power competition, and the two countries that most challenge the U.S. are Russia and China." 
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EU still open to Britain changing mind on Brexit
16 January 2018 - Reuters

EU leaders stated on Tuesday that, should it wish, the United Kingdom would be able to remain in the EU despite already triggering the withdrawal process. In a debate unexpectedly catalyzed by comments from prominent euroskeptic Nigel Farage, both pro and anti EU campaigners in Britain have for the last week been discussing the prospect of a second referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU. This new statement from European leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker seemingly quashes the argument that Britain's activation of Article 50 of the EU Treaty, which initiated its two-year withdrawal period, was an irreversible move. The prospect of a second referendum is unlikely, as the heads of the two main parties in Britain have both refused to support such a move.
(Read more)

Erdogan: NATO must take stance against U.S.
16 January 2018 - Voice of America

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on NATO allies to take a stance against an American plan for a Kurdish-led border security force in Syria, saying that members of NATO should oppose such a force. On Monday, Erdogan accused the United States of creating a “terror army” in Syria, along the border with Turkey. He said Turkey would destroy this army “before it’s even born.” During a speech to his ruling AKP party on Tuesday he said: “Hey NATO! You are obliged to make a stance against those who harass and violate the borders of your members.” NATO has called Turkey “a highly valued ally” and said the alliance is committed to Turkey’s defense, but that the matter is an issue for the anti-IS coalition led by the U.S.
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Denmark will increase defense spending to counter Russia: PM
15 January 2018 - Reuters

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said in a joint news conference with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis on Monday that the Danish government expects to win backing for a substantial increase in defense spending next month, to counter Russia’s intensified military activity in eastern and northern Europe. In 2016, Russia moved nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and deployed its S-400 air missile defense system there, and in 2016 Denmark said Russia hacked its defense computer network.
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Turkey condemns U.S.’ YPG army plan in Syria
15 January 2018 – Hurriyet Daily News

Turkey responded strong to the U.S.-led coalition in Syria statement on Sunday that it is working with the mainly Kurdish YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to set up a new 30,000-strong border force in Syria. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Jan. 14 saying Turkey had reiterated on numerous occasions that it was “wrong and objectionable” to cooperate with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party  “terrorist organization” on the ground in Syria in order to fight ISIL and stabilize the areas liberated from it. Turkey has long protested U.S. support for the YPG, which is sees as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK.
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Japan announces three-way pact with Baltic countries as Abe tours Eastern Europe
14 January 2015 - The Japan Times / Washington Post

Japan has entered a cooperation agreement with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to improve their political and economic ties. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been touring Europe over the past week, during which he finalized the deal alongside his Baltic counterparts. Sectors ranging from medicine, to travel, to information technology are all expected to benefit. Abe and Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis also called for the EU's own newly concluded economic partnership treaty with Japan to be ratified as soon as possible, as it would help make smaller partnerships like their Baltic agreement benefit all sides. 
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French president to advocate closer military ties with Britain

14 January 2018 – Financial Times
At an upcoming Anglo-French summit, French President Emmanuel Macron will encourage the UK to join a new European defense initiative to more closely integrate the armed forces of participating European states. The European Intervention Initiative (EII) would in theory result in cost reductions for Britain and other participating members, while also allowing British arms manufacturers to retain important access to European markets should it leave the EU. Some critics have however questioned whether Britain would agree to such proposals, given its historic unwillingness to commit to integration into European military structures. Other have argued that Mr. Macron’s proposals could lead to duplication with NATO and the recent EU PESCO Treaty, leading to confusion and inefficiency in times of crisis. Nevertheless, such overtures do show that France envisions close military cooperation with Britain, even if the latter does leave the EU.
(Read more)

Incumbent Czech president looks set to win first round of election
13 January 2018 - The Guardian

Incumbent president of Czechia (Czech Republic), Milos Zeman, is leading the first round of the election, with 42.9% of the vote, after 30.6% of votes have been counted. With the second most popular candidate coming in at 24.7% of the vote, Zerman looks set to win the first round. However, the opposition field is split between eight contenders, which will be narrowed down to one for the second round of elections at the end of the month. Zeman is a decisive figure, whose anti-Muslim and pro-Russian rhetoric has split opinion in the country.
(Read more)

Canada files trade complaints against the USA
13 January 2018 - The Guardian

In a complaint filed to the World Trade Organization, which was made public on Wednesday, Canadian authorities criticized anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed by the American government. The cases cited range across two decades, and relate to American actions toward Canada and dozens of other countries. This action comes amid heating trade rhetoric between Canada and the USA, as both countries head toward the renegotiation of the crucial NAFTA Treaty in the near future. Thus, though such actions may simply be seen by some as posturing, it nevertheless marks a sharp divergence from the amicable overtures that have conventionally defined Canadian-American relations in recent years. 
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Germany coalition talks: Merkel welcomes breakthrough
12 January 2018 – BBC

German politicians have achieved a breakthrough in talks aimed at forming a new coalition government after talks lasting more than 24 hours led to a blueprint agreed upon. The talks were between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) Party and its former coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), and produced a 28-page document that agreed on key sticking points suck as migration and Eurozone reform.
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Spain, UK hold first talks on Brexit's fallout in Gibraltar
12 January 2018 - Associated Press

The UK and Spain have launched negotiations late this week in Madrid to determine how Brexit will impact the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. The EU issued post-Brexit guidelines that Spain will gain veto powers over the future of London's centuries-old claim to the Iberian coastline, calling into question how UK citizens living there will be affected. The UK's Foreign Office called the preliminary meetings both "informal" and "productive," but reiterated its defense of the status quo. 
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Key EU states stand by Iran nuclear deal
11 January 2018 - The Guardian 
In a meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran, Britain, France, Germany, and top EU diplomats, a strong message of support for the Iranian nuclear deal was issued. In what was seen by many as a response to American President Donald Trump's threats to renege on the deal, all parties voiced their support for the Joint Comprehensive Frame of Action (JCPOA). The support was not unconditional, however, with both France and Britain advocating for supplementary deals on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and Middle Eastern policy – both matters which are not covered under the JCPOA. The timing of this statement is significant, with the American President deciding on Friday whether or not to reimpose sanctions lifted as part of the JCPOA, despite Iranian compliance. Should this happen, Iran has stated that the deal will likely collapse.
(Read more)

Southern EU states unite on populism and migration
11 January 2018 – EU Observer

Southern EU members Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain have issued a joint statement calling for EU citizens to have more say on policies related to populism and migration. This initiative was first proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron during his election campaign. The group also expressed support for creating transnational lists of members of the European Parliament for EU elections in 2019 – to help address the Union’s democratic deficit.
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U.S. and EU face "common" China challenge, says U.S. official
10 January 2018 - EU Observer

Speaking at a meeting with EU officials, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David Malpass told policymakers and reporters that China's "very aggressive" global trade policies are a "common challenge" for both the United States and European Union. Malpass added that China, under Xi Jinping's leadership, "has moved away from the liberalization path that been a strong theme in earlier years," and now emphasizes "state-owned enterprises...[and] the involvement of the Communist party into the business sectors." According to the USTR, America's goods and services trade deficit with China totaled $309.6 billion in 2016, and data for 2017 is due to be released next month.
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U.S. becomes a net gas exporter for the first time in 60 years
10 January 2018 – Bloomberg

The U.S. is now a net gas exporter for the first time since at least 1957. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, net exports averaged 0.4 billion cubic feet per day in 2017 – an increase from a net inflow of 1.8 billion in 2016. This trend is expected to continue.
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“Southern Seven” EU nations meet for biannual summit
10 January 2018 – Euronews
The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain met in Paris this week to discuss pressing matters and find common ground ahead of March’s full EU summit. Their most urgent discussions revolved around ongoing migration from across the Mediterranean, and led to a common call for more EU support for border controls. There were also calls for a more active EU foreign policy in the form of combating poverty in Africa, so that migration from the continent might be discouraged through the stabilization of nations from which migrants originate. In a sign of ongoing support for regional integration, there was also a call for a common budget for Eurozone members.
(Read More) 

U.S. must act now to ward off more Russian election meddling, report says
10 January 2018 – CNN

According to a new report, related Wednesday by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, the U.S. will not be prepared to defend against possible Russian meddling in the 2018 midterms or the 2020 presidential contest unless it takes action now. The report details the extent to which Moscow has tried to shape elections across Europe, detailing Russia’s arsenal of military invasions, disinformation campaigns and corruption, and its weaponization of energy resources, among other tools.
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AP: Trump to extend sanctions relief for Iran
10 January 2018 - Associated Press
U.S. President Donald Trump will extend relief from economic sanctions to the Iranian government as stipulated under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known the Iran nuclear deal. The White House argued today that amendments to U.S. laws regarding that agreement, combined with an increased focus on targeting Iranian private sector entities and individuals, made the relief possible. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that U.S. officials are "in the process of trying to...fix [the Iran deal]," rather than cancelling it outright.
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European powers to reaffirm support for Iran nuclear deal
10 January 2018 - The Hill, Reuters
The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, will convene a meeting tomorrow with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, alongside the foreign ministers of Germany, the UK, and France in order to reiterate their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. A representative involved with the meeting told reporters the goal of the session is to "send a message to Washington that Iran is complying, and that it is better to have the nuclear agreement than to isolate Tehran." President Donald Trump has until Friday to make another decision on recertification of the Iran deal.
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Trump tells Seoul he's open to talks with North Korea
10 January 2018 - CNN
A day after representatives from North and South Korea held day-long negotiations in Panmunjom, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that he would "absolutely" consider direct negotiations with Kim Jong-Un's government, adding that "if something can happen, and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity." White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stated later that any bilateral negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington would have to occur "at the appropriate time, and under the right circumstances." South Korea's Moon Jae-in thanked the U.S. for helping to make talks possible, and said that Trump assured him that "no military action" would occur as long as an inter-Korean dialogue proceeds.
(Read More)

Russia presses EU to pay up for rebuilding Syria
9 January 2018 – Financial Times

Russia’s representative to the EU is urging European states to financially support the reconstruction of Syria – a program that could cost “dozens of billions” of euros. Big EU states are refusing to do so without a peace agreement that contains provisions for a political transition. Tensions over the issue have been rising in Moscow.
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Juncker rejects cutting EU funds to Poland
9 January 2018 – Politico
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he rejects the idea of cutting EU funds to Poland because of disagreements over the rule of law and refugees. Poland is the largest beneficiary of EU funding, receiving 100 billion euros in structural, agricultural and other funds in the current seven-year budget cycle. Last month, the Commission triggered the Article 7 process against Poland because of judicial reforms. This could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the EU.
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Italy’s 5-Star says it is no longer time to leave the euro
9 January 2018 – Reuters

The leader of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, stated that pulling Italy out of the Eurozone is no longer a goal of his party. The 5-Star Movement previously committed to holding a referendum on Italy’s Eurozone membership if it fails to win concessions on the common currency area’s fiscal rules.
(Read More) 

Trump officials debate targeted N. Korea strike in “bloody nose” strategy: report
9 January 2018 - The Hill

According to a report published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, U.S. officials have discussed conducting a targeted strike against sites in North Korea in a “bloody nose” strategy. This strategy involves striking a North Korean facility in response to a nuclear missile test, with the aim of showing North Korea the consequences of its actions without leading to an all-out war.
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Trump admin approves $133 million anti-ballistic missile sale to Japan
9 January 2018 - CNN

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration notified Congress that it approved the potential sale of SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles to Japan in a deal estimated to be worth $133.3 million. Included in the sale are four Standard Misile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missiles, which are anti-ballistic missiles that can be deployed on Aegis-class destroyers or on land, via the Aegis Ashore program. If concluded, the sale would “follow through on President (Donald) Trump’s commitment to provide additional defensive capabilities to treaty allies” threatened by North Korea’s “provocative behavior,” said a State Department official.
(

American oil drillers' output could top Saudi Arabia and rival Russia by 2019, U.S. forecast shows
9 January 2018 – CNBC

According to a forecast from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, American drills will pump enough oil in 2019 to potentially surpass Saudi Arabia’s output and rival the world’s current top producer – Russia. The forecast predicts that U.S. oil production will average 10.8 million barrels a day in 2019, and expects American output to top 11 million barrels a day for the first time ever in November 2019.
(Read More)

U.S. hails Korea talks, despite North's rejection of denuclearization
9 January 2018 - Reuters

Rare high-level bilateral negotiations between North and South Korea, which carried on for nearly 12 straight hours, have yielded an agreement which allows Pyongyang to send a delegation of politicians and athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Despite previous statements casting doubt on the efficacy of bilateral talks, U.S. President Donald Trump said he supports the agreement "100 per cent" and added that he would "love to see them take it beyond the Olympics." State Department spokesman Steven Goldstein echoed Trump's remarks, calling the talks a "positive development" and a "good first step" toward eventually discussing denuclearization - which North Korea refused to make any immediate concessions on in Panmunjom. China and Russia also expressed support for the North-South negotiations.
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U.S. Navy destroyer arrives in Ukraine amid rift with Russia
9 January 2018 - Newsweek

A U.S. Navy’s guided-missile destroyer arrived in Ukrainian waters on Monday in the third visit by a vessel of its kind to the tense Black Sea region since August. The U.S.S. Carney docked in Odessa as part of an ongoing commitment by the U.S. military to show support for Ukraine, particularly in the face of Russian aggression. Since the fallout with Moscow, the U.S. has sailed warships to visit the area on nearly bi-monthly basis.
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Hungary and Poland defend larger European budget
9 January 2018 – Euractiv

The Hungarian and Polish governments expressed a willingness to become net contributors to the EU’s budget after Brexit, and they support the Commission’s call to increase contributions above one percent of EU GDP. The Commission expects member states to reach an agreement on the next budget by spring 2019, before the European elections.
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Juncker calls for EU budget boost after Brexit
8 January 2018 – Financial Times

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is urging EU member states to contribute more to the Union’s post-Brexit budget. The new budget, which will run from 2020-2025, will be left with a Brexit gap of up to 13 billion euros after 2021. The Commission seeks the funding to cope with migration, protect the Eurozone against economic crises, and combat climate change.
(Read More)

Russia says 13 drones used in attack on its air base, naval facility in Syria
8 January 2018 – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Russian Defense Ministry said on January 8 that 13 armed drones were used in an attack on its Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility in western Syria. There were no casualties or damage as a result of the attacks as Russian forces were able to overpower radio signals for some of the drones and gain control of them during the attacks overnight on January 5-6. "Engineering solutions used by the terrorists in the attack...could have been obtained only from a country possessing high-tech capabilities for providing satellite navigation and remote control," a Russian representative said.
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NATO, Russia to hold high-level meeting later this month: report
7 January 2018 – The Hill

NATO is set to hold talks with top Russian military commanders later this month, the first such high-level meeting since 2013. According to BuzzFeed News, which broke the story, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti will meet with the chief of general staff for Russia's Armed Forces Gen. Valery Gerasimov in Baku, Azerbaijan later in January. The meeting will be the first of its kind since 2013, after the U.S. cut various channels to Russia following the conflict in Ukraine.
(Read More

Russia meddling in Mexican election: White House aide McMaster
7 January 2018 – Reuters

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the Russian government has launched a sophisticated campaign to influence Mexico’s 2018 presidential election and stir up division, in a clip from a December 2017 video just reported on Saturday. He did not elaborate on how Russia is seeking to influence the election, but did say that the U.S. government is concerned by Russia’s use of advanced cyber tools to push propaganda and disinformation.
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U.S. to start South Korean trade talks amid rising tensions   
5 January 2018 – New York Times

U.S. and South Korean officials will meet on Friday to formally start renegotiating the free trade pact between the two countries. President Trump has called six-year old agreement a “horrible deal” and vowed to rework it. The negotiations risk seriously dividing the two allies as North Korea attempts to drive a wedge between them and continues to improve its nuclear capabilities.
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North Korea accepts South's offer to meet for talks
5 January 2018 – CNN

North Korea has accepted South Korea's recent offer to hold high-level diplomatic talks on January 9 to discuss Pyongyang joining the 2018 Winter Olympics, among other topics relevant to the "inter-Korean relationship." The negotiations will be held along the de-militarized zone in Panmunjom. The last major diplomatic meetings between the DPRK and South Korea were more than 4 years ago, and both countries offered statements expressing hope for a thaw in tensions and an opportunity for "reconciliation." 
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