March 16, 2018

The Dish | March 13, 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 13, 2018

  • Rex Out: Today, Washington woke up to the news that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is officially out. The Washington Post (and President Trump's Twitter account) report that CIA Director Mike Pompeo will step into Tillerson's post and Gina Haspel will become the new CIA chief. Couldn't he have at least waited until after the NATO summit...?
  • Noooo: To add to the barrage of news, FP stalwart Robbie Gramer tweets that according to Steven Mnuchin, those Allies who make the goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense get a tariff waiver. If it’s not a joke it’s extortion. You just can’t make this stuff up...
  • PESCO One-Pager: Dish fan Martin Caudron (@caudronmartin), Senior Communications Officer at the EU’s delegation to the US, tweeted this handy one-page reference paper on the 17 collaborative projects launched by PESCO nations. Three areas have PESCO projects: training and exercises, operations, and capabilities. Nothing to be afraid of here, folks, and if PESCO projects can bring improvements in these areas, NATO is better off, too.
  • Small Plates: Some bits for the week ahead:
    • Incirlik and Afrin: The USAF is drawing down dependents and redeploying aircraft from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey—not unexpected given the reduced optempo over Syria and periodic ISIL terrorist threats to Americans at the base. Both sides are saying this drawdown is not a result of Turkish-US tensions; regardless, as Turkish forces close in on Manbij and US interests there, it reduces the base and its US tenants as a target for Turkish displeasure with the US.
    • Typhoon in Saudi Arabia: The Brits are close to signing a deal with the Saudis for 48 Eurofighter aircraft—great for the UK but what about Germany? One of the Eurofighter developmental partners, Berlin is not happy with what the Saudis are doing in Yemen and German arms sales to countries where there are policy differences, like Turkey, are under close scrutiny. Matthias Wachter (@WachterBDI) tweets, given that Eurofighter has 33% German content, will the Germans block the sale? If they do, the blow will be massive as European defense industry collaboration depends on foreign sales, and if one partner hits the brakes on a sale, you can forget about future collaboration.
    • Chancellor for Life: As an interesting reflection on Angela Merkel’s long reign in Berlin, The Spectator Index offers this perspective:

Leaders during Angela Merkel's time as Chancellor of Germany:

US: Bush, Obama, Trump
UK: Blair, Brown, Cameron, May
France: Chirac, Sarkozy, Hollande, Macron
Italy: Prodi, Berlusconi, Monti, Letta, Renzi, Gentiloni

In Europe, only Putin and Erdogan are in the same league with Mutter. That’s a long time to hold power…

  • A Poisonous Regime: Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the UK on March 4th. They remain in a critical condition. Unsurprisingly Russia denied being involved. But on March 12th PM May said Skripal was poisoned by a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. While the Russian state media was awash with conspiracy theories – always a good indication, as with Malaysia Airways Flight 17 of their guilt - one anchor felt free to say that traitors should be worried. We must see through the lies and disinformation. President Putin has overseen the blurring of the lines between acts carried out by the Russian state and those by freelancers acting in its name. But ultimately he is responsible and the Dish thinks it is past time for a robust response. There are a range of options available. The Russian threat should be discussed at length at the July NATO Summit. In the UK Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Tugendhat MP called for the Government to “deal with the new Russian aristocracy around the Tsar.” Possible responses should include travel bans, asset freezes, money laundering investigations and selective cancellation of visas. Reportedly British officials are talking to the US and European allies about coordinated diplomatic, economic and military measures as well. It is critical that the Russian state face consequences.
  • World Cup Update – Stop Playing Ball: In 1980 the US led a boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In total, 65 nations refused to participate in the games, including Canada, West Germany and Israel, although not Great Britain. The US may not have qualified for the 2018 World Cup but we think another boycott should be arranged now. Russia has shown that it has no right to host the biggest sporting event of the year, and gain the plaudits and prestige that come with it. The England team should lead the protest (historically they turn up for the group stages, but boycott the quarter finals) but the Dish believes that they should be supported by all NATO allies – especially France, Germany and Poland. Other nations – like Australia and Japan – could join as well. And the Premier League (with the likely exception of Chelsea) could refuse to allow their players to travel on safety grounds. In 1980 NBC had won the US broadcast rights for the Summer Olympics but cancelled their telecasts. Fox should do the same this year, as well as the BBC and ITV in the UK.
  • China Up, US Down, Europe Confused: An all new edition of Brussels Sprouts will be going live tomorrow. Peter Potman, Director of the Asia and Oceania Department at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs sits down with Julie Smith and Dr. Dan Kliman of CNAS to discuss China’s growing global influence, how Europe should respond to Beijing’s ambitions, and potential opportunities for transatlantic coordination on China. Be sure to tune in!
  • Across the Pond, in the Field: The Transatlantic Security Program heads to Tampa, Florida this week for the third trip as part of CNAS’ Across the Pond, in the Field outreach project. With us, we’re bringing an all-star cast: The Rt. Hon. David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee; Peter Wittig, Ambassador of Germany to the United States; The Hon. Michèle Flournoy, CEO of WestExec Advisors; and our very own CNAS CEO, Ambassador Toria Nuland. We’re looking forward to two-days of public events, and meetings with government, business, and military leaders. Be sure to read Julie's op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, check out for more information on the trip, and read the Dish next week for pictures and updates

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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