FPI Overnight Brief: January 11, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him
  • Spy agencies investigating claims Trump advisers worked w/Russian agents
  • Tillerson to say Russia must be held to account for its actions
  • David Satter: Russia questions for Rex Tillerson
  • China sends aircraft carrier into Taiwan Strait
  • Michael Auslin: The end of the Asian Century
  • Iran agrees to take steps to reduce enriched uranium stockpile
  • Heinonen: Iran stockpiling uranium far above current needs
  • Kerry: Obama hoped to use ISIS as leverage against Assad

Middle East/North Africa

Iran
 
Iran agreed to take steps that would push its stockpile of enriched uranium far below the 300-kilogram cap fixed in its 2015 nuclear agreement, potentially eliminating one flashpoint over an accord that President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly criticized during his election campaign, Western diplomats said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Iranians bade farewell to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday, with the sprawling state funeral veering slightly off script when groups of mourners started shouting opposition slogans. – New York Times
 
Iran is demanding further “compensation” from the United States following claims America violated the nuclear agreement by passing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, according to comments by senior Iranian officials following meetings with the Obama administration in Vienna. – Washington Free Beacon
 
Olli Heinonen writes: Given the complexity of the JCPOA’s terms, transparency is necessary to ensure strict and meaningful enforcement. That should entail releasing Iran’s research and development plans to lay out its current and future nuclear needs, and whether these plans impact the JCPOA’s parameters for a one-year breakout time. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
 
Caitlin Pendleton and Paul Bucala write: Rafsanjani’s unexpected death will transform the Iranian political system. It remains to be seen how Rouhani and his centrist allies will manage the loss of Rafsanjani before the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for May 2017. It is clear, however, that the Supreme Leader and regime hardliners have lost a major obstacle in ensuring that their policies continue in the post-Khamenei era. – AEI’s Iran Tracker
 
Syria
 
Well before Russia’s military came to Bashar Assad’s aid in Syria, the Obama administration calculated that the Islamic State’s expansion in the region would force the Syrian president into negotiating with Washington, according to private comments Secretary of State John F. Kerry made last fall. – Washington Times
 
Secretary of State John Kerry maintained Tuesday that President Obama "never retreated from his red line" in Syria, when he pledged to retaliate against Bashar Assad's regime if it used chemical weapons. – The Hill
 
Russia's defense minister has lashed back at the Pentagon chief for saying that Moscow has made virtually no contribution to fighting the Islamic State group. – Associated Press
 
Iraq
 
The United States could leave a residual military force in Iraq after the Islamic State is pushed out of its last stronghold there, Defense Secretary Ash Carter indicated Tuesday, saying militants loyal to the terror group will continue to pose a significant threat throughout the region well into the future. – Military Times
 
Iraqi forces made new advances against Islamic State in east Mosul and fought the militants in areas near the Tigris river on Wednesday, seeking to build on recent gains, military officials said. - Reuters
 
A top Iraqi commander told The Associated Press that the operation to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group could be complete in three months or less. – Associated Press
 
Arabian Peninsula
 
Photographs recently released by the Australian government show that light anti-armor weapons seized from a smuggling vessel near Yemen’s coast appear to have been manufactured in Iran, further suggesting that Tehran has had a hand in a high-seas gunrunning operation to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. – New York Times
 
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia had arrested two rights activists in the first ten days of this year and accused Riyadh of a crackdown on dissent. - Reuters
 
Lebanon
 
Lebanon’s new Hezbollah-supported president is courting Saudi Arabia in an effort to restore billions in military aid, a delicate task as his country grows closer to Iran, the kingdom’s main rival for Middle East power. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Israel
 
Close U.S. allies in the Middle East have warned that moving the embassy might look easy but would be deeply reckless, like painting a big bull’s eye not just on a building, but on the United States and its friends. – Washington Post
 
More specifics about congressional restrictions on US military aid for Israel have emerged with the State Department release of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) governing the bilateral pact signed nearly four months ago. – Defense News
 
President-elect Donald Trump may soften his pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a new report. – The Hill
 
Palestinian leaders have threatened to withdraw their recognition of Israel if Donald Trump moves the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a senior official said on Tuesday. – Financial Times
 
Grant Rumley writes: For more than a decade, Abbas has had either Washington’s devout support or its tacit approval to pursue his domestic agenda. In the months ahead, he will have to deal with an unfriendly White House, a possibly antagonistic Congress, and a Palestinian public that is growing more distant from his government. When Abbas was interrupted by a Fatah delegate during a three-hour speech at a party conference on November 30, he went off script to reassure the crowd. “I know where I am going,” he said. Palestinians, however, are not so sure. – Foreign Affairs’ Snapshots
 
Aaron Menenberg writes: A result of Obama’s approach to the conflict is the split it has caused in the Democratic Party over American support for Israel and its role in finding a resolution. Centrist Democrats who condemned Obama over 2334 and continue to believe in the two-state solution are making arguments that not too long ago were overwhelmingly shared within the party….If Obama decides to pursue another effort to weaken Israel before he leaves office, it may be impossible for pro-Israel Democrats to remain at ease with their party. – The Tower

Asia

South Asia
 
A double bombing by the Taliban near the Afghan Parliament office compound in Kabul on Tuesday killed dozens of people during the early-evening rush hour, officials said. – New York Times
 
The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that five of its officials were among those killed in explosions at the governor’s compound in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Tuesday. – New York Times
 
A senior Indian government minister predicted upcoming state elections would be a “complete sweep” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, which is hoping that a strong mandate will help it push through more policy changes in the second half of Mr. Modi’s term. – WSJ’s India Real Time
 
Human rights organizations Tuesday urged Pakistani authorities to investigate the disappearance last week of four liberal activists known for their vocal criticism of the country’s security policies and opposition to religious extremists. – WSJ’s India Real Time
 
China
 
China sent its sole aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday morning, Taiwan officials said, a defiant move that signals China’s growing naval strength and may foreshadow an early foreign policy challenge for President-elect Donald J. Trump when he takes office in nine days. – New York Times
 
President Xi Jinping of China plans to stride into the snowy high-altitude conclave of the world’s financial elite next week, attending the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, the first time a top Chinese leader will put himself into the mix of political leaders and business executives who view themselves as the masters of the global economy. – New York Times
 
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned ignoring recent steps by Beijing to liberalize its economy would endanger Chinese cooperation on other major geopolitical issues, particularly containing North Korea’s nuclear program. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Japan
 
Dozens of American envoys will leave office next week, but few of them are as prominent as Ms. Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy. Over the last three years, she helped manage relations with one of America’s most important allies, but her status as the first woman to hold the post may have been just as consequential for traditionally male-dominated Japan. – New York Times
 
According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the number of confirmed Russian military vessels sailing in those sea areas has been on the rise since 2006, when the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces began to be operated in an integrated manner. It is assumed that Russia aims to secure its influence in the Far East region. – Yomiuri Shimbun
 
Korean Peninsula
 
The Pentagon has dispatched a sea-based X-band radar unit to the Far East in response to recent nuclear threats by North Korea's Communist dictatorship, a U.S. defense official told Fox News Tuesday. – Fox News
 
Sen. Lindsey Graham said he intends to offer retired Gen. Jim Mattis a congressional authorization to use military force to stop the North Korea intercontinental ballistic missile program. – Washington Examiner
 
The U.S. military might monitor a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test and gather intelligence rather than destroy it, as long as the launch did not pose a threat, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 
East Asia
 
Raytheon’s Standard Missile 6 has been cleared by the Pentagon for international sales and a trio of potential Pacific nations are likely the first customers. – USNI News
 
A South Korean political vacuum and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's concerns about his conservative political base have rekindled a feud over wartime history, just as tension over North Korea makes cooperation between the U.S. allies as vital as ever. - Reuters
                                                                                                              
Interview: RealClearDefense Editor David Craig interviews Dr. Michael R. Auslin on his new book, released today: The End of the Asian Century - War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World's Most Dynamic Region. Dr. Auslin explains why the Indo-Pacific region is so important, misunderstood, and the future risk factors facing this region. – Real Clear Defense
 
Michael Auslin writes: If we wish to avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of a war in Asia or a widespread economic collapse, we need to understand the diversity of risks the region faces and to begin thinking about how to manage those risks. Given the importance of the Indo-Pacific, we have little excuse for being taken by surprise by an Asian crisis. Nothing in this book predicts or presupposes any particular dire outcome, yet the very act of identifying dangers and thinking them through can lead to wiser investment decisions, policies, and intellectual engagements. This is risk analysis on a broad palette. – The National Interest
 
Southeast Asia
 
These accounts and others, given over the last few days by refugees who fled Myanmar and are now living in Bangladesh, shed light on the violence that has unfolded in Myanmar in recent months as security forces there carry out a brutal counterinsurgency campaign. – New York Times
 
A Chinese H-6 strategic bomber flew around the Spratly Islands over the weekend in a new show of force in the contested South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 
The Philippines, seeking to improve relations with China, hopes a framework for a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea will be completed by the middle of this year, its foreign minister said on Wednesday. - Reuters
 
The United States has designated an Indonesian radical network behind an attack in Jakarta as a terrorist group and announced sanctions on four militants in an effort to disrupt Islamic State group operations and recruitment in Australia and Southeast Asia. – Associated Press

Security

The F-35
 
The Trump administration should “rigorously and comprehensively review” Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet, the Pentagon’s costliest program, the Defense Department’s director of combat testing said. - Bloomberg
 
The F-35 will be delayed an additional seven months at a cost of at least $500 million despite a recent promise from Lockheed Martin's CEO to drive down costs, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday. – Washington Examiner
 
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is slated to be armed with the B61 nuclear bomb as early as 2020, but could carry the weapon sooner, a general said. – Defense Tech
 
Navy
 
With U.S. ships and troops operating in increasingly close proximity to near-peer global competitors, the commander of Navy Surface Forces wants foes to get used to disappointment. – Military.com
 
As the Navy beats the drum on its concept of distributed lethality on the seas, contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. has a plan to put elements of its missile defense system on a new class of ship. – DOD Buzz
 
The Navy and industry could act quickly to ramp up amphibious warship production if the Congress and new administration support the Navy’s new call for 38 amphibs, the director of expeditionary warfare (OPNAV N95) told USNI News. – USNI News
 
The Navy is expanding the mission portfolio of its emerging submarine-hunting drone ship so that it can conduct surface warfare missions, fire weapons and launch electronic attacks, service developers said. – Scout Warrior
 
Mackenzie Eaglen and Rick Berger write: Congress and the Department of the Navy should work together to rewrite the legislation by deleting the portion that moves funding out of the Navy shipbuilding account to a defense-wide account and leaving the expanded cost-saving contracting authorities in place. Also, appropriators need to keep a more watchful eye on their authorizing counterparts, who show no resistance to their efforts at using a Deterrence Fund even after appropriators repeatedly quashed it. – Real Clear Defense
 
The War
 
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is calling on President Obama not to transfer any more detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after receiving what he says is a “troubling new report” from the intelligence community. – The Hill
 
A group of retired military officers is telling President-elect Donald Trump not to bring back torture for terrorism suspects, The New York Times reported. – The Hill
 
Intelligence
 
President-elect Donald Trump’s public bashing of the intelligence community could drive some agents and analysts away from their jobs, degrading the community’s overall capabilities, former officials tells Nextgov. – Nextgov
 
Strategic Issues
 
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN) write: On this date in 2007, China provocatively demonstrated its ability to destroy a satellite causing thousands of pieces of long-lived space debris, signaled their intention to attack satellites in a domain long perceived as a sanctuary from conflict, and placed the United States and its Allies on notice that its reliance on space systems for warfighting and intelligence operations are now at risk. – Real Clear Defense
 
Peter Huessy writes: Despite heated rhetoric and cleverly written ghost stories, our nation’s nuclear Triad is safe, secure, and if modernized in due course, will remain effective. For seventy years, during and after the Cold War, the nuclear Triad has successfully deterred war between the nuclear-armed superpowers. And has done so perfectly, without fail. Why then argue with success? – Real Clear Defense

Russia/Europe

Ukraine
 
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found. - Politico
 
To be sure, the majority of Ukrainians still cling to the dream of eventually joining the EU, and they overwhelmingly prefer the bloc to other political groupings like the Russian-led Eurasian Union. But after the initial euphoria following the revolution, their fervor for the EU has been steadily waning. – Politico EU
 
Halya Coynash writes: Russian President Vladimir Putin has called construction of a bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea a “historic mission.” He should pay better attention to history. This mission is doomed to failure, and not only because of sanctions. Experts warn that even if the bridge now under construction can be finished, its chances of standing for any length of time are small. – Atlantic Council
 
Russia
 
Leading U.S. senators from both parties proposed new sanctions against Russia that would markedly increase Moscow’s economic isolation and could limit President-elect Donald Trump’s ability to improve ties with the Kremlin. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
It’s been called a bromance. But Putin and Trump, two men who view international issues through a prism of self-interest, each with his own peculiar personality, have never met in person. It will be a fateful tete-a-tete for Trump, and the Russian leader brings “a diverse bag of tricks” to the table, his European counterparts say. – Washington Post
 
Two of the five Russians who the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Monday for human rights abuses are suspected by Britain of poisoning former Kremlin spy official Alexander Litvinenko with polonium a decade ago. – Washington Free Beacon
 
The World Bank is predicting 1.5 percent growth in Russia’s gross domestic product in 2017 and sees a gain of 1.7 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent the following year, helped by increases in commodity prices. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, in one of her last appearances at the U.N. Security Council, lashed out at Russia on Tuesday for invading and annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and carrying out "a merciless military assault" in Syria. – Associated Press
 
Stephen Blank writes: Once the West has acted on this plan for reinvigorated moral-economic-political-ideological-military capabilities, it will then be possible to negotiate with Moscow, if that is what Western leaders want, and to do so on the previously-established basis of an allied consensus. Returning to the world of the Cold War may look to some like progress or even like peace, but it will be war. To paraphrase Trotsky, the West many not be interested in war, but war is interested in the West. – Atlantic Council
 
Europe
 
At a time when the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump has pledged a migrant crackdown in the United States, the moves in Western Europe’s most populous nation signal a harder line also forming on this side of the Atlantic. – Washington Post
 
Germany released a plan to rein in known extremists after authorities failed to prevent a terrorist attack last month by a Tunisian radical on a government watch list. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Britain’s position as the leading European power in NATO is in jeopardy following its exit from the European Union, potentially affecting the alliance's command structure, according to one of the UK’s leading defense think tanks. – Defense News
 
With just 10 days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, our European allies appear to have gotten over the initial shock of his election and moved to a wait-and-see mode. They’ll judge him by his actions in office, not by his mixed messages on the campaign trail. – Breaking Defense

Americas

United States of America
 
Federal prosecutors asked a judge on Tuesday to sentence James E. Cartwright, a retired Marine Corps general and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to two years in prison for lying to F.B.I. agents about his discussions with reporters about Iran’s nuclear program. – New York Times
 
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee warned that “a rising tide of authoritarianism and illiberalism” threatens democracy, freedom and the rule of law around the world, in a rare public appearance since her defeat in last year’s election. – Wall Street Journal (Subscription required)
 
Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday warned about the rise of a "factless political environment" in which policy is made on Twitter and said President-elect Donald Trump's "America First" policy could lead to a U.S. retreat from the world. He also lamented a lack of contact with the incoming Trump administration. – Associated Press
 
Interview: FPI Fellow James Kirchick discussed his recent Washington Post piece on Russia's growing influence in the Republican Party and other Western democracies - The Buck Sexton Show

Russian Interference in the Election
 
FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday that Russian hackers successfully hacked some Republican groups and campaigns, though officials said the Russians revealed much less of that material compared with the volume of disclosures made about Democrats’ emails. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
FBI Director James Comey refused to say on Tuesday whether the bureau has investigated ties between Russia and associates of President-elect Donald Trump, raising questions about whether the intelligence community has disclosed the full scope of its investigation into Moscow’s multifaceted interference in the U.S. election. – Foreign Policy
 
New details emerged in Senate testimony revealing how Russia’s Vladimir Putin directed a large-scale information “assault” on the U.S. presidential election to undermine the American democratic system, senior U.S. intelligence leaders disclosed during Senate testimony Tuesday. – Washington Free Beacon
 
Members of Congress made clear Tuesday they're increasingly willing to broach a taboo topic: possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. - Politico
 
The long-awaited first news conference since Trump became president-elect took on added consequence Tuesday evening amid explosive new reports that U.S. officials are looking into allegations that Russia may have gathered compromising material on Trump. - Politico
 
The Senate intelligence committee's top Democrat criticized the Obama administration on Tuesday for its slow response to allegations of Russian hacking during the presidential campaign as the panel heard from the director of the FBI, whom several Democrats criticized for announcing a new probe of Hillary Clinton's emails 11 days before the election. – Associated Press
 
Possible Russian Blackmail
 
U.S. intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent months trying to substantiate explosive claims, compiled by a former Western intelligence official, that Russian government operatives engaged in an extensive conspiracy with advisers to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and employees of his company, people familiar with the matter said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Russia has denied having any compromising material on President-elect Donald J. Trump, saying on Wednesday that an uncorroborated report containing salacious allegations about him was “pulp fiction” intended to hurt Russian-American relations. – New York Times
 
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN. - CNN
 
BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government. - BuzzFeed
 
United Nations
 
The new U.N. secretary-general urged the world organization and its 193 member states on Tuesday to stop focusing on responding to conflicts and do far more to prevent war and sustain peace. – Associated Press
 
Canada
 
Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was appointed Canada’s foreign affairs minister on Tuesday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet, putting a Russia critic on the front lines of working with the incoming Trump administration. - Reuters
 
Cuba
 
Editorial: A break with Havana would dash the hopes of millions of Cubans who still expect the United States to use its leverage to promote real change. Mr. Trump should freeze contacts with the regime’s security agencies and link any further U.S. economic concessions to an increase in political freedom. – Washington Post

Africa

West Africa
 
Nigeria is facing mounting pressure to find some 200 schoolgirls abducted 1,000 days ago in Boko Haram's most infamous attack after the rescue of 24 girls raised hopes that they are alive. - Reuters
 
Ivory Coast's government has yet to pay bonuses promised to soldiers to end a two-day army revolt, mutineers said on Tuesday, and confusion over how much has been agreed risked a repeat of the unrest that paralyzed the country. - Reuters
 
Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday named a close collaborator and former prime minister Daniel Kablan Duncan as vice-president, a new post created under a constitution approved by referendum late last year. - Reuters
 
Gambia's Supreme Court was unable to hear President Yahya Jammeh's legal challenge to his election defeat on Tuesday after judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone failed to show up. - Reuters
 
East/Central Africa
 
Kenyan police have arrested two suspected members of the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab for planning attacks on churches and other sites in Nairobi, police said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 
Perpetrators of war crimes including murder and rape in Central African Republic are going unpunished and fuelling worsening violence in the country, Amnesty International said on Wednesday as it called for funds to rebuild the national justice system. - Reuters
 
A former opposition leader in Republic of Congo was arrested on Tuesday for arms possession after months in hiding, police said. - Reuters

Trump Transition

Policy
 
Trump is like nothing in recent memory. It remains unclear whether the president-elect and his team — few of whom have government foreign policy experience — see his individual policy pronouncements as part of a broader strategy or have begun to consider some of the contradictions they pose. – Washington Post
 
Incoming White House national security adviser Michael T. Flynn said Tuesday that the Trump administration plans to “examine and potentially re-baseline” U.S. relationships around the world but will “keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity.” – Washington Post
 
Donald Trump’s vowed tax cuts could goose global economic growth this year and next, the World Bank said Tuesday, fresh fuel for a world struggling with stagnant trade, weak investment and rising policy uncertainty. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Flynn also appeared to hint at plans, supported by most GOP defense lawmakers, to reduce the size of the National Security Council staff. Without providing any details, Flynn said he is “absolutely committed to carrying out necessary reforms carried out by previous administrations.” – Breaking Defense
 
Personnel
 
President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for homeland security secretary struck a markedly different tone from the president-elect on some of Trump’s signature issues on Tuesday, calling for increased outreach to Muslims and saying the controversial southwest border wall might not “be built anytime soon.” – Washington Post
 
Two civilian national security experts told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that they support retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis becoming defense secretary, but said his appointment should not set a precedent in which it is broadly acceptable for retired senior officers to run the Pentagon. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
 
Kelly also brings to the $40-billion dollar agency a more nuanced view of border security, immigration and counterterrorism than his new boss, according to a pre-hearing questionnaire obtained by Foreign Policy. – Foreign Policy
 
Six senior Pentagon officials have reportedly been asked to stay in their posts through the Trump administration's initial weeks to ensure the U.S. military can react instantly in the case of a crisis.   – The Hill
 
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says dealing with lawmakers and serving as the state’s healer-in-chief through deadly natural disasters, a shooting massacre and other crises has equipped her for the role of United Nations ambassador. – Associated Press
 
Tillerson
 
ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan through a European subsidiary while President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of State was a top executive of the oil giant and those countries were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. – USA Today
 
Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson might face hurdles to getting confirmed if he does not back a bipartisan plan to impose new sanctions on the Russian Federation. – Roll Call
 
Josh Rogin reports: In his first public remarks as President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, former ExxonMobile chief executive Rex Tillerson will say he believes Russia is “a danger” and that NATO allies are right to be alarmed by its aggression. But he makes no mention of Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election campaign or the future of U.S. sanctions. – Washington Post
 
David Satter writes: With U.S.-Russia relations at a possible turning point, the confirmation hearings of Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson need to go beyond superficialities and weigh the true nature of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Senators should demand that the former Exxon Mobil CEO demonstrate an understanding of recent developments regarding three issues: the 2015 assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and the 1999 Russian apartment bombings. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Democracy and Human Rights

Tyler Roylance writes: Citizens of democracies should always be on guard against politicians or parties that place themselves above the offices with which they have been entrusted. Voters in such countries may initially take pleasure in watching new leaders burn down procedural or institutional barriers to implement their programs, but those fires can easily spread to consume an entire polity. – Freedom House’s Freedom at Issue

Ideas

Afshin Molavi writes: America’s political class must come to terms with the reality that the United States is more globalized and connected to the world economy than is often realized, and its members must also understand that the growing economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America offer promising soft-power opportunities for diplomacy and even more promising growth opportunities for the U.S economy. – Washington Post

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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