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June 26, 2018
- World Cup Update - Boom Xhakalaka: So far so good for Europe in the World Cup. Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, England, Belgium, and, of course, Russia all appear to be sailing through to the last 16 at the time of writing. But politics and sport are impossible to keep apart. FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for these celebrations during a 2-1 win over Serbia. Xhaka and Shaqiri, both of Albanian-Kosovar heritage, put their hands together to make a double-headed eagle symbolizing the Albanian flag. In relation to the same match, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Serbian FA for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans.
On a more light hearted note, Iran should face more sanctions after this attempt at a throw in which was swiftly parodied on Twitter. The Dish: bringing you pictures of puppies and pandas since 2017.
- Recepe For Success: On Sundayevening Recep Erdoğan won re-election as President of Turkey with an outright majority in the first round of voting - 52.5% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted. His biggest challenger, Muharrem İnce, came second with 30.67%. Selahattin Demirtaş of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) won 8.36%. Turnout was a record 87%. But despite the increased numbers voting the result showed that Erdoğan retained broadly the same share of the vote as he has in other recent polls. In 2014 he won with 51.79%. In the 2017 referendum to expand presidential powers, his yes campaign won 51.4%.
Erdoğan will enjoy the new powers conferred by the April 2017 constitutional referendum - able to issue binding decrees, pick VPs and Ministers (there will be no PM) and control bureaucratic appointments. Parliament’s responsibilities will diminish, but even there Erdoğan will retain control. While his AKP saw its vote decrease from 49.5% to 42.5%, his nationalist allies, the Nationalist Movement party (MHP) won 11.2% -giving a majority to the pro-government bloc. While there remain some concerns about the vote, Turkey has proved that it is not Russia, and remains a democracy that will continue to deserve the engagement of the West. Indeed, Ceren Kenar argues that Erdoğan has made Turkey more nationalist than anything else - so entirely in keeping with the current Western trend.
- The European Intervention Initiative C’est Arrivé: Last year, President Macron proposed the creation of a European Intervention Initiative (EII) to build a European strategic culture that would underpin a “by invitation only” intervention force developed outside the EU. The proposal was bold in that it implicitly acknowledged that the EU was not up to the task of developing a capable and swiftly acting European intervention force to act in a crisis. Eight nations (and maybe Italy) have now signed up including Germany, which was not an enthusiastic supporter especially because this force would be developed outside the EU, which is Germany’s preferred platform. Christian Mölling and Claudia Major write in Egmontfrom the Royal Institute of International Relations that Germany made the right decision to join. “Ultimately, much more is at stake [in the German decision to join], namely Germany’s credibility in terms of security policy. At the NATO summit in Brussels in July, Germany is likely to get heavy criticism for its defence spending not coming close enough to the 2% GDP goal. At the same time, the ongoing reports about the disastrous state of the Bundeswehr make Germany’s allies wonder what the German Armed Forces can actually do. If Berlin now rejects the prestige project of its most important partner in Europe without offering an alternative solution, then Germany’s partners might be tempted to see to a disappointing contradiction between Germany’s rhetorical ambitions and what it really does.”Two interesting comments tweeted from top experts in London:
- Peter Ricketts: “This is good news. The U.K. already has a successful bilateral Task Force with France. The fact Paris have opted for this ‘coalition of the willing’ approach outside EU shows they understand need for practical mil cooperation, not Eurodefence ideology.”
- Jonathan Eyal from RUSI: “The real question is whether everyone in the EU will rush to pile in. If they do, then this initiative will go down the same route as all previous others. If, however, the Intervention Initiative retains a selective membership, then it is worth watching more closely.”
This is a significant development in European defense and shows a seriousness of purpose and a dose of pragmatism by France.
- Eat Your Broccoli: As much as you may not like eating broccoli, it’s good for you (at least that what they say), so here is some broccoli—the “tasks and focus areas” chart for NATO’s Joint Forces Command-Brunssum (JFC-Brunssum). These are the guys who command and control all the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence forces in the Baltics and Poland as well as the NATO Response Force in 2018. It’s not good enough just to know that NATO has deployed forces in the north…you need to know about JFC-Brunssum too. So bon appétit (you will be quizzed!)
- A Second Helping: Yes, more broccoli but this will come in handy. A consortium of think tanks, funded by the European Defense Agency, has a project called “Permanent Monitoring and Analysis of military capabilities and defence sector trends,” and they have produced a study “analysing the developments regarding key military capabilities of 31 European countries in four specific areas: Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), Space-based capabilities for security and defence, Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities in the maritime domain.” The study is quite thorough and the Dish staff is still trying to absorb it, but what’s important is that the EDA is sponsoring such a study and that they are making it public. This way, when we talk about European military capabilities, we will have some facts to back up our rhetoric, at least in these areas. Let’s hope for more such studies.
- Throwback Tuesday: Thanks to Lukas Trakimavicius we can ponder what the NATO-Warsaw Pact Land Force Order of Battle looked like from this NATO chart produced in 1987. Read the chart and see how familiar the ratios look in some respects to today’s situation (of course scope and scale are very different). One aspect that reminds us of how serious the Cold War was: when fully reinforced, the manpower face-off was 4.5 million NATO forces versus 6.0 million from the Warsaw Pact. Did NATO need an initiative to muster 30 ships, 30 squadrons and 30 brigades at 30 days readiness to move?
- Zazdarovje!: Sometimes sport is good for obscuring politics. On 14 June, hours before the opening match of the World Cup, the Russian Government quietly submitted a bill that proposed a pension age increase from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 for men phased in between now and 2028. Even with the World Cup dominating the media there has been extensive and largely negative coverage in the Russian media. The life expectancy for Russian men is just 66.5 – we have resisted the temptation to insert a stereotypical vodka joke - meaning many will not reach pension age under the new plans. The last (failed) attempt at pension reform in the mid-2000s resulted in a sharp drop in Putin’s approval ratings. Will the same happen again? Or will something come up to shift attention - either sport or politics? Reports suggest that John Bolton will be traveling to Moscow and GOP Senators will spend the 4th of July in Russia. Is that preparation for a Trump-Putin summit? Or so they can attend the knockout phase of the Cup? We may need that drink now.
- Summit Sounds: The 2018 NATO Summit is just over the horizon and you better believe Brussels Sprouts is spreading the word. To give us a better grasp on what to expect in July, Julie Smith and Jim Townsend sat down with three former U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO Ambassador Toria Nuland, Ambassador Doug Lute, and Ambassador Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow. Listen here for a fascinating discussion from serious NATO veterans!
- Transitions - Farewell Katherine Graham: The Dish says goodbye to our Editor and Publisher Julie Smith, who is decamping for Berlin from her corner office where she oversaw the busy newsroom of The Dish since its inception. Julie was the final say on content and quality; she saved the Dish from many embarrassments, legal challenges, and poor attempts at humor. Auf wiedersehen Julie!
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