EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 03/12/2019

POLITICO – Ryan Heath / Alliance divided: Breaking down NATO’s factions

  • NATO, founded on the concept of collective action, is struggling with conflicting ideas from its members about how the 29-country coalition should focus its attention. France’s leader has proclaimed the “brain death” of the group, Turkey is demanding more NATO support for a controversial, unilateral invasion in Syria and President Donald Trump continues to bully allies over their defense spending.
  • Most political and military leaders say that’s exactly how the alliance will emerge from this turbulent political moment. NATO member governments are bound together by history, geography and necessity, while the alliance’s military relationships are solid. Still, the divisions are clear and, in many cases, widening. Here are the top gaps and factions to watch.
  • Today only nine alliance members are hitting an agreed-upon target of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense: the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Turkey and France are close. The majority are far from meeting the target. Precious little unites the alliance’s three most difficult members — Turkey, France and the U.S. — but that hasn’t stopped them causing heartburn within NATO.
  • President Trump would like NATO allies to focus on the strategic threat China poses, and is calling on members to not let Chinese firms help build next-generation wireless networks. China is several steps ahead in dealing with this challenge. Hungary and Italy led 22 European countries in signing agreements to support China’s Belt and Road initiative, Beijing’s controversial foreign investment program.
  • The Guardian – Agence France-Presse / Trump blasts Macron over ‘brain dead’ Nato remarks

EURACTIV – Alexandra Brzozowski / EDA chief: We need both, strategic autonomy and defence cooperation

  • Europe has to step up its defence cooperation, according to Jorge Domecq, who heads the European Defence Agency (EDA).  According to him: “Strategic autonomy should be a concept which is not built against anyone. It’s not questioning our transatlantic link, not questioning our support to NATO as the cornerstone for collective defence, it only shows the need to become a more relevant partner for our allies across the Atlantic, but also in other fora as the global security provider, which is what the EU has the ambition to do.” 
  • Moreover, he stated that: “What the Commission can do, on the basis of those priorities and planning tools that have been set up, is to provide the incentives and the funds through the European Defence Fund  (EDF) and other mechanisms to support that progress in the European defence effort.”
  • Referring to PESCO, Mr Domecq argues that: “I do see improvement. By the end of this year or early next year, around 17 of those projects will be reaching initial operational capability. PESCO is a creature which is only two and a half years old and it has been a big effort, both for capitals, but also for EU institutions and EU military staff.”

The Washington Post – David J. Lynch, Rachel Siegel & Terrence McCoy / White House opens new fronts in trade war, targeting Brazil, Argentina and France

  • President Donald Trump revved up his global trade war on two fronts on Monday, announcing tariffs on industrial metals from Brazil and Argentina while threatening even harsher penalties on dozens of popular French products. The administration said the moves were necessary because US trading partners were acting unfairly to disadvantage both the country’s traditional economic pillars as well as its best hopes for future prosperity.
  • Robert E. Lighthizer, the president’s chief trade negotiator, defended that the French tax imposed upon American Internet companies: “discriminates against US companies, is inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies.” Speaking early on Tuesday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the proposed tariffs “unacceptable.”
  • The president’s enthusiasm for tariffs is not shared by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell, who has said they are making executives so uncertain about the outlook that companies are delaying investments and slowing the economy.

South China Morning Post – Teddy Ng & Kristin Huang / China threatens visa curbs on US officials over Hong Kong and Xinjiang

  • US  officials and lawmakers could face visa restrictions in China, as Beijing considers retaliatory measures against Washington for what it calls interference in Chinese internal affairs over Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Mainland media and diplomatic observers said Beijing was mulling visa restrictions, while one state media editor went further and suggested all US diplomatic passport holders could be barred from entering Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of Uygurs are held in detention camps.
  • The Chinese foreign ministry responded to the passage into law of the US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by suspending visits of US military vessels and aircraft to Hong Kong. The Act allows the US to impose sanctions on officials that violated human rights in Hong Kong. The ministry also announced sanctions on five US-based NGOs which Beijing accuses of supporting violence: Human Rights Watch, the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House.
  • US President Donald Trump said on Monday that the situation in Hong Kong could complicate his administration’s efforts to secure a trade deal with Beijing. “It doesn’t make it better,” Trump acknowledged when asked if the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – which he signed into law last week just before Thanksgiving – would make a deal with China harder to achieve.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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