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May 30, 2018
- Not So Pici After All: The initial draft of this Dish covered the deal the Five Star Movement and the Northern League made to form the next Italian government. The pair signed a policy program last week, and although they would have problems delivering and paying for it, the way ahead seemed clear. Not any more. Over the weekend, the Italian President Sergio Mattarella refused to approve EU/Euro-skeptic Paolo Savona as Economy minister. Since the Second World War no previous Italian head of state has taken this approach, but Mattarella did so, stressing the financial need to keep Italy in the Eurozone. Both parties have in the past suggested they would support an exit from the euro, but moderated their views during their election campaign. Now with fresh elections almost certain, voter anger over M5S and Lega’s thwarted attempt to govern may turn the vote in to a plebiscite on the EU. The latest poll has them at a combined 57%. Mattarella’s action could serve to bring about the one thing he was trying to prevent.
- Da Da DAT DAT da da DAT DAT DAT: In case you didn’t recognize that tune, it’s the theme from Mission: Impossible. The perfect theme music to play as you look at these photos of secret agents from the EU trying to penetrate the new NATO building.
- Hurricane Warnings: Tomas Valasek returned from a visit to Washington and wrote up his impressions for Carnegie Europe in which he predicts stormy weather ahead for transatlantic relations. Based on his DC discussions, there is an under-appreciation for why Europe is angry over the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA…it’s not just a disagreement about Iran, but the poke in the eye the U.S. gave Europe on the way out. “The current deal, known as the JCPOA, has a totemic value to many Europeans: it stands for a breakthrough for the EU, when the institution—which had long seen itself as rising global power—at last took on a vexing global problem and delivered a solution. Seen that way, the U.S. withdrawal does not just make the Middle East worse off; it also strips Europe of its crowning achievement. This is not widely understood in Washington, where officials profess surprise at the strength of Europe’s defense of the deal.” Even worse, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech and subsequent discussions at State hinted that Europe’s continued business relations with Iran smack of profiteering. “Europe’s resolve to stick to these business ties, and the United States’ determination to confront Europe over them, suggests the transatlantic relationship will get worse, possibly much worse, in the short run. For the first time arguably since the Suez crisis, the United States and key European powers will be actively seeking to undermine each other in a region they consider central to their foreign policies.” Just in time for the NATO Summit.
- Dinner and a Movie: The EU keeps European video studios afloat by producing (very) short videos that explain or celebrate EU milestones. Here is a small collection of them put together in celebration of Europe Day: pay special attention to the first video featuring Robert Schuman announcing the EU. Ever wonder how bombed-out European cities got rid of the mountains of rubble in the streets? Take a look.
- Mapping the EU: The popularity of the EU has hit a 35-year high. According to the European Parliament’s May 23rd Eurobarometer, “Two thirds of Europeans believe their country has benefited from being a member of the EU, the highest percentage since 1983 and an increase of three percentage points since the autumn. In addition, 60% of Europeans consider EU membership a good thing.” The European Parliament released this map showing where the EU was most popular. Interesting that EU popularity is growing even in the face of the rise of populism-fueled EU skepticism. Where the EU is most popular is instructive too…the EU continues to have a north-south problem.
- "The Way We Do Things Around Here.": Nick Witney, writing for the European Council on Foreign Relations, identifies what the EU is missing as it builds a force that can take on military operations autonomously—it’s missing a “shared strategic culture.” Agreeing with a similar finding by French President Macron, Witney writes, “So Macron is correct to identify an underlying problem of ‘culture’ – of habit, mindset, ‘the way we do things round here’. And getting the key practitioners to work together has to be part of the solution. Common action by the EU in defence and foreign policy depends on a common appreciation of Europe’s security environment, and the challenges and opportunities it presents. And it depends on working together to prepare a range of possible responses – including planning for possible military operations. Jointly undertaken, such activity should promote convergence of national attitudes and approaches – the development, in short, of a ‘shared strategic culture’.” It has taken NATO years to develop this culture and there is still work to do. But the EU is new to things militarily and so is in the early stages of building a strategic culture. President Macron’s European Intervention Initiative is an important step along the way. Says Witney, “But, for now, France’s proposal seems to be limited to a practical, step-by-step approach to reviving the idea that there is little point in maintaining armed forces if you are not prepared to use them; to reminding Europeans that they have agreed that this may mean using them together, in operations outside the NATO framework; and to getting ready for the most likely contingencies.” The EU has a long way to go.
- Lira-cal Gangster: With a month to go before critical Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Turkey, the economy looks to be providing the stiffest opposition to President Erdogan as he tries to strong arm the country. The Turkish lira has been falling against the dollar all year. But in an interview in the margins of his recent London trip, Erdogan said that he planned to take greater control of the economy if reelected. The markets took fright. On 22 May, Fitch, a major rating agency, released a statement criticizing the President’s “explicit threat” to Central Bank of Turkey (CBT) independence. And the lira fell further. The CBT has since taken action to raise interest rates but it's not yet clear whether the move will be enough to stop the prolonged depreciation. Will increased mortgages and bigger bills just weeks before the election make a difference to the outcome? Or will Erdogan prove he can beat the financial world into submission too?
- Dead Souls: President Putin has confirmed the make-up of the new cabinet. Little changes. Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoygu stay on at Foreign Affairs and Defense. So we should expect more of the same in the Kremlin’s approach to the big policy issues. And likely more trouble. This week saw international prosecutors say they had unequivocal evidence of Russian involvement in the downing of a passenger jet - killing all 298 people on board - four years ago. The Netherlands and Australia both said they would hold Moscow legally responsible. The British Defense Secretary also said this week that the Royal Navy responded 33 times to Russian warships approaching UK waters last year - compared to once in 2010. This piece by James Kirchick in National Review is timely.
- Dish Calendar: Don’t miss the EU Security & Defense Washington Symposium on Wednesday, June 13th at 8:00-2:30 at the U.S. Institute of Peace, get the skinny on what PESCO really is!
- Strategic Fluency: Feeling like you’re losing your strategic fluency? You’re not the only one! Luckily this week’s Brussels Sprouts podcast offers a refresher of sorts as we explore all things nuclear with Dr. Brad Roberts, the Director for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy. Expect a fascinating discussion spanning NATO’s nuclear deterrence capabilities, the space domain, and North Korean nuclear issues.
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