May 09, 2018

The Dish | May 8, 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!

May 8, 2018

The JCPOA Edition: Soon we’ll know.

  • Tough Love: Harvard’s Stephen Walt, writing in Foreign Policy, has some tough words for the 3Ms (Macron, Merkel and May) and their approach to Trump on the JCPOA. In an article entitled: “Europe Has No Clue How to Handle an American Bully,” Walt laments the passing of a time when stronger European leaders could have stood down an American bully. Instead, the European leaders tried to appease him, becoming enablers instead. A harsh appraisal; we will know soon whether their approach was the correct one. Regardless, the 3Ms have earned our gratitude for never giving up.
  • The Fleet’s In: The U.S. Navy announced the return of 2nd fleet to Norfolk. Like much U.S. force structure dedicated to European defense, 2nd fleet was disestablished in 2011 to save money. And, like much U.S. force structure dedicated to European defense, it’s coming back. The Navy also announced it would host a new addition to NATO’s command structure: Joint Forces Command (JFC) Norfolk. Both announcements are in response to increased Russian activities in the North Atlantic and the need to better defend the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) between the U.S. and Europe. Perhaps ACT should revert to Supreme Allied Command Atlantic (SACLANT) too?
  • It’s Not the End of the World: Ian Bond writes in the Center for European Reform (CER) Policy Brief that Trump’s approach “to Europe should be a wake-up call, not a sign that the world as we know it is ending.” Such a wise assessment of U.S.-European relations is important to keep in mind even as individual European nations find themselves in the Administration’s crosshairs, or like the EU, find it difficult to navigate a Washington where the familiar touchstones of the post-World War II era seem faint. The good news is that “Trump’s hostility to the EU and NATO is not so far reflected in U.S. public opinion, except among his core supporters. Most Americans still have positive views of the EU, NATO and major European countries.” However, the reverse is not true. “Transatlantic disagreements are nothing new. But some of the shared assumptions about the importance of the relationship, which acted as shock-absorbers in the past may now be weaker. European governments also need to put more effort into persuading European publics that opposition to Trump’s policies can be combined with support for transatlantic ties. On both sides of the Atlantic more needs to be done to increase the ability of societies to resist narratives designed to drive wedges between Europe and the U.S.”
  • Which Is It: “Oh, my most hated friend” or “Ah, my most beloved enemy?” The ancient enemies France and England were at it again, with their Washington Ambassadors trading insults over the burning of the White House and even Waterloo. French Ambassador Gerard Araud committed a forced error by saying the White House was burned in 1815 (it was 1814), which gave an opening to UK Ambassador Kim Darroch to steal a base by reminding Gerard that it was Waterloo that happened in 1815. Just as the benches for both teams were emptying onto the playing field for fisticuffs, Ambassador Nick Burns jumped in the middle and got both teams back to their dugouts tweeting: “Touché Gerard. France was our first ally. Britain our first adversary. As others have pointed out. They burned the White House in 1814. But that is a minor point.”
  • The Italian Elections: Remember Them?: The recent Italian election was seen as yet another sign that populism in Europe was on a roll, as the 5 Star Movement begins to put together a government that is far from EU friendly. However, Lia Quartapelle, a Democratic Party Leader in the Italian Parliament and a European Young Leader writes in Europe’s World that, “The outcome of the election is worrying, and yet it should not be considered as a vote against Europe.” She goes on to describe a Movement that is beginning to shift some of its foreign policy positions to gain credibility in Rome and in Brussels. But she makes a key point for her Democratic Party compatriots whom she feels need “to be responsible for countering the drifts of sovereigntism, protectionism as well as pro-Russian and anti-European forces.” But most importantly, her party must recognize the concerns of those who put 5 Star into power.
  • Ruble Trouble: SIPRI published its annual trends in military spending report this week and the report attracted lots of headlines in part through its claim that at $66.3 billion, Russia’s military spending in 2017 was 20 per cent lower than in 2016. But while we might wish that Russia would slash its defense spending, or want to convince ourselves that our sanctions were having a dramatic effect, these figures ignore a spike in the 2016 numbers caused by the Ministry of Finance paying down commercial debt in the Russian defense industrial complex - a onetime payment thought to be between 700 and 800 billion rubles. Russia’s defense budget remains robust and likely will be so for the foreseeable future.
  • On Top of Spaghetti: All covered with cheese. I lost my sense of cultural identity. When somebody tweeted. That somebody was @swedense Sweden's official account on Twitter who last week admitted that Swedish meatballs, which reportedly IKEA sell two million of a day, aren’t Swedish at all, but instead were brought from Turkey in the early 18th century. Cue panic. Swedense seems to have backtracked a little since – and now suggests that they have “come to realize that culinary history is complex.” Here is to more European cooperation. And all this makes us think it’s about time the Dish had another restaurant field trip.
  • It’s All Riots, Ma: The traditional May Day marches across Europe saw plenty of people refuse to bow down to authority. French unions took to the streets for another occasion to protest against President Macron’s rail and civil service reforms. But the peaceful rally in Paris descended into violence when around 1,200 hooded protesters from far-left anarchist groups started smashing shop windows, burning cars and hurling paving-stones at the police. Riot police eventually responded but not before the violence overshadowed the unions demands. All this will help the masters make the rules and reinforce the Government’s case that France needs to change and that those resisting it need to be faced down. Meanwhile in Russia there were plenty speaking jealously of them that are free – at the start of the week protesting against the clumsy blocking of popular messaging app, Telegram. And then on 5th May against President Putin's forthcoming fourth term in office. At those second rallies at least 1,500 arrests were made across Russia, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Riot police were reported using tear gas, beating protesters with truncheons and dragging them into police vans. It’s not alright, and the Russian people are bleeding.
  • Going…Going…Gone: One last shout-out to the old NATO HQ, courtesy of the German Mission to NATO. The Dish Staff remember when they had those in the Pentagon…
  • Eat Your Veggies: The wait is over and a fresh serving of Brussels Sprouts is here – this time with Christian Mölling, Deputy Director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, as promised. Be sure to have a listen for a conversation exploring the German perspective on President Macron’s and Chancellor Merkel’s recent visits to Washington, the evolution of European security initiatives, and the future of German leadership on the continent.

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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