April 04, 2018

The Dish | April 3, 2018

By Julianne Smith and Jim Townsend

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April 3, 2018

  • Doing the Bunny Hop at Truman Hall: The U.S. Ambassador to NATO tweeted photos showing USNATO staff having fun finding an egg or two at the US NATO Permrep’s residence Truman Hall, currently home to Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison. Given the upcoming NATO Summit in July, NATO kicking two Russian spies back to Moscow Station, and even worse the big move across Autoroute Zaventem to the new NATO HQ, the hard working USNATO staff deserved some Peeps and hard-boiled eggs. The Dish staff is placing bets on whether it was DCM Julie Fisher or Deputy Defense Advisor Jim Hursch in the bunny costume.
  • Photo Intel: A photo tweeted by NATO Spokesperson Dylan P. White of the new NATO HQ gives some perspective on just how big the new NATO HQ will be. Another shot tweeted by Dutch Ambassador to NATO Marjanne de Kwaasteniet shows an impressive atrium that will be the entrance hall(?). Stories are being circulated about how long it takes to walk from one part of the HQ to the other. This could be a problem for a poor negotiator running from communiqué drafting in a conference room to their mission in order to get guidance. Maybe the Pentagon could loan NATO some of their Cushman carts?
  • U.S. Trade with Europe – state-by-state: It is surprising that many in Washington don’t know that the EU is our biggest trading partner, and are not even aware of how their home state benefits from European trade. Those that take such a trading partner for granted by throwing around threats of a trade war should think again, especially if their state is drinking from the cup. To help those who don’t know the score, here is a breakdown of European trade with the U.S., state-by-state, put together by The Center for Transatlantic Relations, in the appendix to their publication “The Transatlantic Economy 2018.”
  • The Four Presidents: Today the three Baltic Presidents: President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė will meet a fourth President for lunch at the White House for a U.S.-Baltic Summit. They are expected to discuss the economy and regional security issues, and sign a joint declaration. A joint press conference will also be held after the meeting, which are always full of surprises. The Baltic Embassies have been working night and day on this visit and this hard work will no doubt pay off. Let’s hope for a lively discussion about Russia; the Balts know something about that country.
  • (Whispers) What if the Marriage Doesn’t Work?: Claudia Major, a senior associate for international security at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and Christian Mölling, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), dare to ask what if the marriage between Paris and Berlin doesn’t work after all? They describe in an article for Carnegie Europe how important it is for Franco-German leadership in Europe that both nations work together on defense initiatives (like PESCO) and joint procurement projects (like a nextgen fighter). However, Paris and Berlin are not always on the same wavelength about how to do it. There is a lot riding on both nations developing compromise approaches, for instance on when to work within an EU framework (Germany) and more pragmatically outside Brussels (France). Say the authors, “This is the particular dynamic of the Franco-German couple. Having opposite viewpoints is neither new nor need it be a problem. But it is the lack of willingness to find a compromise that might make Europe miss the momentum— a lose-lose-lose situation for both Berlin and Paris, and for Europe as a whole.”
  • Does Cheese Whiz Count?: A “cheese stability index” has been developed by Politico Europe that shows the more cheese variations produced in a country the more stable that country is. The index seems to ring true, especially when you consider the sparse variations of cheese produced in Syria or Libya. As for the United States, seeing as Cheese Whiz and square cheese wrapped in cellophane are not real cheese, we are likely off the index for instability.
  • More Buck Than Bang: Daniel Fiott, Defense Analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies, tweeted us a comparison of defense spending in 2017 using data from IISS. Interesting takeaways: the EU spends a lot but where does the money go? And post Brexit, what will that EU figure look like? For the amount Russia spends (under Japan), Putin does a good job making it look like he is 10 feet tall. See the list here.
  • You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Pour Tea: There was so much British news this week that we’ve made it form a polite queue. There was the publication of the National Security Capability Review, and with it a new “Fusion Doctrine.” A big cash injection for the MOD, including an extra £600 million for the dreadnought submarine programme. The 100th anniversary of the RAF. Gen Sir Nick Carter, currently Chief of the General Staff and best known as a member of pop group the Backstreet Boys, appointed as the new Chief of Defence Staff. And, on 29th March, the milestone on one year to go before Brexit. A moment the Daily Express chose to highlight with a big picture of a cliff edge….
  • World Cup News – Blowing the Whistle: The Dish still thinks the World Cup should be taken out of Russia and played elsewhere. But with 10 weeks to go that looks unlikely, barring a further Russian outrage. So the Dish felt a slight swell of pride when we saw that the U.S. will have some representation there - as the only country to have two referees selected to run the rule on games. MLS referees Mark Geiger and Jair Marrufo were both named amongst the 36 referees participating this week. Now is it possible to watch a game and just cheer for the match officials? And is too much to ask for them to ensure fair play across the whole country.
  • Kemerovo Fire: The Dish has spent the last few months being extremely critical of the Russian establishment. Post Skripal we welcomed last week’s diplomatic expulsions and hope there is more to come on money laundering. We believe the Russian people deserve better than the government they have. On Sunday 25 March a shopping mall fire in Kemerovo (central Siberia) claimed at least 64 lives, 41 of them children. Russia's commissioner for children's rights blamed negligence. Public discontent about the incompetence, venality and callousness of Russia’s ruling class is usually contained and localized. Not on this occasion. The reaction built all week online and in the Russian press to the extent that the region’s Governor, in post since 1997, stood down on April 1st. Perhaps Putin’s previous tactics are backfiring just a little. Julia Davis tweeted that Russian state media hosts were complaining that no one they spoke to believed their coverage of Kemerovo – no rational person could do so after all their lies.
  • Summit Solutions: The Transatlantic Security team here at CNAS, in advance of NATO’s July Summit in Brussels, just released a short, two-page memo outlining opportunities to strengthen the Alliance. The memo presents five specific initiatives that U.S. policymakers and their NATO counterparts can pursue to make NATO more agile and responsive to an array of security threats. A longer NATO Summit primer will be released in June. To read the cliff notes, click here.

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