March 22, 2018

The Dish | March 20, 2018

By Julianne Smith and Jim Townsend

Welcome to The Dish! Curated by the CNAS Transatlantic Security Team, the Dish sends you the latest in transatlantic relations once a week. If this is your first time receiving the Dish, click here to sign up!

March 20, 2018

  • Action at the NATO Summit: NATO issued a strong statement of unity in support of the UK after the Russians attacked a former Russian spy and his daughter with the nerve agent Novichok. But what action will NATO take at the July Summit to combat such Russian hybrid warfare besides issuing a sternly worded communiqué? Reuters reports that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that “…Chancellor Merkel and her colleagues will face new decisions at the NATO summit in July in Brussels. We must be alert and resolute.” He went on to say, “Russia must not miscalculate. We are always ready to respond when an ally is attacked militarily. We want credible deterrence. We don’t want any war. Our goal is de-escalation.”
    Credible deterrence calls for credible action to be taken by NATO in response to the Russian attack, and the Summit is a critical venue to announce what that action is. Expelling diplomats, and international condemnation are reasonable first steps, but what matters most to Putin is money and national reputation, which is why we called last week for a boycott of the World Cup. Further action should be forthcoming – from more substantial sanctions from the U.S. Treasury to stemming the tide of dirty money from Russian kleptocrats and money launderers in London. Meanwhile, in Russia an election has taken place. For now we will limit our coverage to this tweet
  • Meanwhile, at the EU: The UK got a harsh indication of the new normal as they walk out the EU front door. Andrew Rettman writes in the EUobserver that: “Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, has described Russia as a ‘difficult partner,’ but said the UK poisoning was a ‘bilateral’ issue, indicating that Britain can count on little support from the EU…Germany joined France and the U.S. in backing the UK accusation last week, but Maas added on Monday that ‘dialogue’ with Russia ought to continue as it was ‘an important partner’ in solving international conflicts.” Adding insult to injury, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was the first Western leader to congratulate Putin on his re-election. It is unclear how those softer statements square with what the Chancellor thinks…or the harder message the German government agreed to at NATO. On the other hand, the EU Foreign Affairs Council released a strongly worded statement expressing its “unqualified solidarity with the UK.”
  • We’re in the Money: NATO SYG Jens Stoltenberg released his NATO Annual Report and a major highlight was the announcement of an additional $46 billion being spent on defense by Allies (even trumpeted by the U.S. permrep!). But is that enough to appease the U.S. and allow more urgent issues like Russia to lead the Summit agenda? Defense News reports that Paris has announced a plan to put €100 million (U.S. $123 million) annually towards artificial intelligence and will create an agency for defense innovation, which is open to civil and startup companies and as well as European cooperation. More good news--Constanze Stelzenmüller tweets that the new Economics Minister Peter Altmaier affirmed the German commitment to 2% defense spending goal by 2024.
  • Bittersweet: Yesterday, the long-suffering denizens of the old but iconic NATO Headquarters in Brussels began moving into the new HQ building across the street. Looking more like an EU building from Place Schuman, the new HQ will certainly lack the cozy feel and the soul of the old building, scene of many a drama and a fist fight or two (and that’s just at the US Mission!) The U.S. will be the last to make the move. Lest we forget, here are some photos provided by Belgian news outlet VRT from the old building for those of you wiping away tears.
  • Putin Redraws the Map of Europe: With Putin’s re-election for another term (six years) as President of Russia, we can expect more charges that NATO is an enemy that surrounds Russia. Martin Black (@martinxo) tweets another perspective on NATO's 'encirclement' of Russia.
  • New Batting Order in Berlin: After being sworn in as one of Europe’s longest serving MODs, Ursula von der Leyen re-shuffled her staff. See the full list here for all the major muscle movements. Hat tip to ARD German TV Managing Editor and Defense Expert Christian Thiels.
  • Like the Sun of Naantali: Today is World Happiness Day, and last week the Sustainable Development Solutions Network released the World Happiness Report. Clearly we all need to move to Scandinavia. Finland is apparently the happiest country in the world, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. The report claims to rank countries based on wealth, freedom, life expectancy, social support, trust and generosity. The Dish can’t comment on the metrics, but notes that the ten happiest countries in the rankings also fill ten of the top eleven spots in the ranking of immigrant happiness – suggesting acceptance, assimilation and quality of life are linked. America came in 18th and France 23rd, and the findings made the Dish recall this old Finnish joke:
    An American, A Frenchman and a Finn saw an elephant.
    The American thought "How much could I get if I sell that elephant?"
    The Frenchman thought "What would that elephant taste like?"
    And the Finn thought "What does that elephant think of me?"
    Russia is 59th on the list – presumably they have poisoned the elephant.
  • The Dish Calendar: Still think PESCO is a fish? Put on your calendar the EU signature event ‪#EUDefense2018, the EU’s transatlantic symposium organized by the EU’s delegation to the US in partnership with ‪@CSIS in Washington DC on 13 June 2018. See you there!
  • Across the Pond, in the Field: Last week, the CNAS Transatlantic Security Team headed down south to Tampa, Florida for the third stop in the new "Across the Pond, in the Field" project with The Rt. Hon David Miliband, Ambassador Peter Wittig, The Hon Michèle Flournoy, and CNAS' very own CEO Amb Toria Nuland. We kicked off the two-day trip with a public event at the Robert W. Saunders Public Library, had an enjoyable lunch with the World Trade Center Tampa Bay, and met with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to learn more about the history and future plans of Tampa. Pictures will be up on the website soon! Next stop? Grand Rapids, Michigan June 12-13.
  • Baltic Sprouts: Tomorrow an all new Lithuanian episode of Brussels Sprouts will be hitting your favorite podcast provider. Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevičius, sat down with CNAS’ Jim Townsend to discuss his recent visit to Washington, Baltic security concerns, and to reflect on Lithuania’s inspiring journey to NATO membership. A feel-good story for all transatlantic advocates.

We want to hear from you, too! Have a Dish you want us to add? Send it to Jim Townsend at or on Twitter at @jteurope.

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