April 24, 2018

The Dish | April 24, 2018

By Julianne Smith and Jim Townsend

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April 24, 2018

The Macron State Visit (and Merkel too) Edition

  • Macron Briefing Book: Washington is all aflutter about anything French this week. Even freedom fries have been taken off the menu on the Hill (especially with President Macron’s speech tomorrow to a joint session of Congress). The French red, white, and blue is fluttering from lamp-posts on Pennsylvania Avenue and even Washington restaurants have spiffed themselves up to impress the gourmands visiting from Paris. But like Charlie the Tuna, it takes more than wearing a beret to impress the Macron crowd. President Macron gave an important speech about the Future of Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week. While his vision for Europe is idealistic, it’s hard not to be moved about what he said about democracy. Two soundbites: “The answer to the authoritarianism that surround us is not authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy.” “Everybody must assume its responsibility, and I want to belong to a generation that has taken the firm choice to defend its democracy. Democracy it’s not an empty word, democracy has a meaning which emerges from the battles of the past.” It sounds like le President is ready for his White House meeting today.
  • Trading Places: The Macron motorcade will hardly have returned from Andrews when it will be time for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to have her star turn at the White House. Friday’s visit by Mutter will not be a champagne State Visit but more a beer and pretzels affair with hard talk on some of the same issues: the tariffs, Iran, and trade. The Chancellor will make her case (like Macron will likely do today) on why a trade war between allies is a bad idea. This meeting will be difficult: the bilateral relationship is unnaturally tense for such traditionally close allies, and Trump has continued to grumble about Germany, especially on trade and defense burden-sharing. And then the Germans did not participate in the Syria strikes along with the French and Brits. The timing for the visit coming so close after the Macron rainbow tour could have been better, but given the tariff expiration on May 1st, it couldn’t be helped. As Sophia Besch tweeted, quoting Peter Beyer, the CDU’s transatlantic relations coordinator, “Macron will take care of the nice pictures and play his role. Merkel will deliver the hard work and play hers.”  Sounds like a week of good cop, bad cop.
  • Les Mains Attraction: To warm up for his trip to the U.S., President Macron received Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Paris. The Dish is jealous of all that handsome in one room, but we did see one unanswered question asked on Twitter - does Trudeau have gigantic hands or is Macron actually tiny? There seemed to be substance to the visit on trade, culture and climate change. And at least, unlike his trip to India, Trudeau didn’t dress up as Napoleon for this visit.
  • Suwalki Gap: If you haven’t heard of the Suwalki Gap then you haven’t met a Baltic defense strategist. It is the land corridor between Poland and Lithuania through which NATO land force reinforcements would reach the three Baltic Republics. Unfortunately, the corridor passes between Russian forces based in Kaliningrad and Belarus, making it a vulnerable chokepoint. If Russia closes the gap, reinforcements could only reach the Baltics by sea or air, both of which have their own vulnerabilities. Janusz Bugajski from CEPA describes the problem in the latest edition of Europe’s Edge. Get to know this geography…even if you’re not a Baltic defense strategist.
  • An Istan-bear Market: Turkey’s economy is in trouble. The Turkish lira, has already lost more than half of its value against the dollar since 2013, and has dropped a further 10 percent this year. Inflation is in double digits, and has been for over a year. So before the economic outlook worsens President Erdogan announced, on April 18th, that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on 24th June. Both had been originally scheduled for November 2019. The June elections will mark the first time Turkey votes for president and parliament on the same day. But the snap move aims to beat both the failing economy and the flailing opposition. The main secular party has not yet found a credible candidate. And some believe the early date was chosen so that the newly-formed Iyi Partisi (“Good Party”) would not be able to stand (the rules require that parties must have held their first convention at least six months before any election). Nationalism could feature heavily in Erdogan’s campaign, putting more pressure on relations with Europe and the U.S. Elections in Turkey can be full of surprises; this one could be too, at a time when Turkish democracy hangs in the balance.
  • Polish Plumbers: It’s not just the iconic “Polish plumbers” who leave their homes in Eastern Europe and head West, taking the jobs of Parisian plombiers.  Courtesy of jakubmarian maps and tweeted by Atlantic Council non-resident senior fellow Agnia Grigas, 2015 UN data shows quite a bit of Europe living abroad. What’s up with Portugal, one of the leaders at 22.1 percent? Better beaches elsewhere.
  • Semper Fi: There are always gifts exchanged during State visits and the Macron visit is no exception. One of the gifts from the French President is described in this video and involves remembering, in a way that is uniquely French, the U.S. Marines who died at Belleau Wood in 1918
  • Brussels Sprouts: We hope you enjoyed our podcast doubleheader last week, and we’re back this Thursday with an all new edition. This time, we’re joined by Danish Minister of Finance and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen. We were out of our element at first, discussing trade and the future of TTIP, but it wasn’t long before the conversation shifted to Danish defense spending and Nord Stream 2, a sticky topic in Danish foreign policy. Be sure to give it a listen when it’s released!

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