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March 27, 2018
- EUCO Echo: These EU Summits don’t get much coverage in the States, but they should. The EU Council met last week, which in addition to snarling Brussels traffic, brought EU heads of state and government together to take forward a substantive EU agenda. These EUCO Summits impact the US; in fact, the EUCO remained in session until the early morning hours of Friday waiting for a tweet from President Trump saying whether he would exempt the EU from his steel/aluminum tariff. Only then would the EU debate what to do in response. Also from the EUCO, EU members (including strong support from Berlin) fell in line behind the UK in fingering the Russians for the Salisbury attack and will take joint action in response. A relief that despite Brexit, the UK still has friends on the continent, and recognition that this was not just an attack on the UK but on international security.
- Not Putin Up With It: The German Embassy corrected the Dish last week that, contrary to an article in the EUobserver, the new German Foreign Minister Maas had come out very strongly on the Russian government’s repeated violations of international law. A stronger and more unified Western message – that Russia’s flouting of international law will no longer be tolerated – has happily become clear. On Monday, at least as we were writing this, the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Albania, Macedonia, Norway, Australia and 16 EU countries announced a coordinated expulsion of Russian intelligence officers. That included 60 in the US alone, including 12 stationed at the UN, and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. It looks increasingly as though Russia underestimated the impact the poisonings would have on their reputation. Here’s to hoping there will be more expulsions to come, including from some of those EU countries, like Austria and Greece that are yet to respond.
- Game of Thrones: In 2016, as soon as the ballots were counted in London that spelled Brexit, the pieces on the game board of European politics began to move. With the UK out, the alliances and blocs that had been formed in the EU around the UK or in response to the UK, began to break up and new ones formed. The game pieces continue to move today as nations big and small rebuild their alliances. Caroline de Gruyter, a correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, has written an excellent piece for Carnegie Europe where she says you can “clearly smell a change in the air: Europe is moving again.” She writes the political ballgame in Europe will change profoundly upon the UK’s departure. She concludes, “The direction of this movement is unknown, and the obstacles are many, but political energy is percolating in all corners of the union. Many countries are eager to make use of it.” And many countries hope not to be run over by it!
- From Our America’s Desk – A Song of Fire and Fury: Winter came to Washington again last week and not just more snow. Game of Thrones devotees will know that House Bolton is infamous for its centuries-old practice of flaying their enemies alive. President Trump announced another shakeup of his court last week – dismissing General McMaster and replacing him with the more medieval John Bolton. Bolton is known for eviscerating his enemies - particularly in the UN – and has been very clear in his hard line stances on Iran, North Korea, and even Russia. With Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn also departed the Trump show threatens to rival GoT for body count. Will fan favorite Jim Mattis make it through the next season? He was photographed having dinner with Tillerson last week. Let’s hope no-one poisoned the wine. No spoilers, but if they did we might suspect Littlefinger.
- Blue Monday: Last Monday, as the Dish printing presses were clacking away (a la “The Post”), a more complicated text was finally agreed – the Brexit transition deal between the UK and the EU. Britain signed up to a transition period until December 2020, in which it will maintain obligations to the EU while losing its voting rights but gaining the ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries. Let’s hope those deals are better than the one struck to make Britain’s newly restored blue passports – which will be made by the French. Still, if freed from the EU, Britain is going to have to be an agitator for free trade and so get used to others bidding for Government contracts. Alternatively some, like the Westminster correspondent of the Sun, say they quite like the French being made to manufacture the UK’s victory passports, with a schadenfreude similar to the French exiting the Chunnel at Waterloo Station.
- Calling Don Rumsfeld: the Brexit unknown unknowns continue to pile up for London. The UK notified the EU military secretariat that it would not provide a battlegroup for the fall 2019 rotation. While that should not come as a surprise, the UK did just pledge fealty to European defense. However, until a deal is struck, it is hard to do any planning or spend money on a relationship yet to be defined. Even more complicated is the UK interests in the EU’s GPS competitor Galileo. As CER’s Sophia Besch tweets: “Until now, a British company has been the contractor for Galileo’s payload electronics. However, because under current transition arrangements the UK cannot be granted access to sensitive EU-only information, the EU has introduced a break clause. The break clause gives EU the right to cancel existing Galileo contracts without penalty once a supplier is no longer based in an EU member state, thus in effect preventing UK companies from bidding even while the UK is still an EU member.” A Munich Security Conference reflection group led by Marta Dassù, Wolfgang Ischinger, Pierre Vimont, and Robert Cooper may offer a way out. Writing in their just released Policy Report, the group urges “Now is not the moment for either the European Union or the United Kingdom to risk allowing the political tensions around Brexit to harm their own interests or weaken protection of their citizens. On the contrary, this is a moment that demands cooperation, investment in research and capabilities, and renewed commitment in order to deepen European security, regardless of Brexit.” It could be the Russian attack in Salisbury may have dampened some of those EU-UK political tensions…at least for a while.
- Calling Mercator: CSIS has done a masterful job presenting 12,000 years of Eurasia's history that fly by on 12 electronic maps. We are looking forward to seeing what the 13th map will look like! Maybe it’s a political map with boundaries demarcated by political change?
- The Dish Bookshelf – Meeting the Russian Conventional Challenge: “NATO has the inherent capacity to deter, or if necessary prevail in, a conventional conflict. Its forces, however, while large, are currently neither adequately ready nor oriented to ensure that such deterrence is fully credible or that a warfighting campaign could be promptly successful.” To fix this, The Atlantic Council has produced a very thorough and detailed analysis by well-respected experts Hans Binnendijk and Frank Kramer. Let’s hope the July NATO Summit includes these recommendations.
- Alliances of Trust: Tomorrow Brussels Sprouts will be back with an all-new episode, this time with special guest Dr. Karen Donfried, President of the German Marshall Fund and former Senior Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council. Dr. Donfried offers her perspective on the current state of transatlantic relations, reflections on this year’s Brussels Forum, and takeaways from her time at the Obama White House.
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