Category Archives: NATO

(EurActiv) ‘No thanks!’ to EU and Nato, Iceland PM says

(EurActiv)

  • Katrin Jakobsdottir became Iceland’s first Green prime minister on 30 November 2017 (Photo: Seppo Samuli/norden.org)

Eurozone failures mean Iceland should stay out of the EU, its prime minister told EUobserver.

She would also quit Nato if she had her say.

  • During the Second World War US troops kept Iceland free from German occupation (Photo: EUobserver)

“I don’t think we should enter the EU right now. I don’t think there is any reason to apply,” Katrin Jakobsdottir said in an interview with this website, as Iceland’s new government prepared to celebrate its first anniversary in power.

“Personally, I’m critical towards the economic policies of the EU – the creation of the eurozone without any real centralised policies on taxes or fiscal policies,” she said.

“The European Central Bank has become really powerful without being very democratic. The economic policies of the EU have been really distant from people in the eurozone and they’ve created divisions that need not be there,” she added.

Iceland applied to join the EU in 2009, but abandoned the process in 2015.

It has remained a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), two free-trade clubs, instead.

The North Atlantic country, with a tiny population of just 340,000 people, is also a member of Nato, the world’s largest military alliance.

The issue of EU membership remained divisive, Jakobsdottir said.

“It was controversial then [in 2009] and still is,” she said after recent polls, which indicated that 60 percent of Icelanders wanted to stay out of Europe, while 40 percent wanted to go in.

Free trade with the EU had been unequivocally good for Iceland, the eurosceptic prime minister said, however.

“Iceland’s position within the EEA has proved beneficial to us,” Jakobsdottir said.

“When we look at our economy, our social structure and our policy-making, I think that we’ve done pretty well without being members of the EU,” the prime minister said.

“You can check all the indices of the world: We’re not doing too badly on economic performance, social indicators, or gender equality for that matter, where we’re ahead of all other Nordic countries,” she added.

War games

The 42-year old Jakobsdottir, a former academic, became the second-ever woman to lead Iceland last year.

Her party, the Left-Green Movement, formed a coalition with the liberal Progressive and Independence parties to take power.

The government supports Nato membership, but the prime minister said she favoured “diplomatic and political” solutions to modern security challenges.

“My party’s position is that we are against Iceland’s membership of Nato. However, we’re the only party in Iceland’s parliament that holds that position,” she said.

“We – as the Left-Green party – recognise that there is a strong majority in Iceland in support of our Nato membership, but we don’t favour the idea of a permanent military presence here in Iceland,” she added.

US troops kept Iceland free from German occupation in World War II.

Iceland also became a founding member of Nato in 1949, but the US quit its permanent base there in 2006.

Jakobsdottir spoke amid mass-scale Nato war-games – Trident Juncture – which began last week and which saw three Canadian and two British frigates as well as a US amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima, and 7,000 American soldiers come to Reykjavik.

The operation’s focus is to defend Norway from a “fictitious aggressor” – Nato’s veiled term for Russia.

But the straits between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK have received increased attention after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and began a military build-up in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which hunt for Russian submarines, have also become frequent visitors at Iceland’s Keflavik airport in recent years.

Diplomatic solutions

Jakobsdottir said she was “critical of any increased militarisation of the North Atlantic.”

Her government would “stick to the security policy [Nato membership] that we’ve agreed upon”, she said.

But “we [her party] favour more peaceful solutions and we don’t think that increased militarisation is a solution,” she added.

“We need to strengthen diplomatic and political relations. We will not give up that position even if there is trouble around us,” she said.

(EUobserver) Spanish fighter jet accidentally fires missile in Estonia

(EUobserver) “Thank God without human casualties, but it is nevertheless extremely regrettable”, Estonia’s president Jueri Ratas commented after a Spanish fighter jet accidentally fired an air-to-air missile over Estonia on Tuesday during a routine Nato training mission. Estonia’s military is now searching the area around where it was fired, as it is potentially still armed, while the Spanish defence ministry has opened an investigation into the matter.

(JN) NATO expulsa sete diplomatas russos e rejeita três pedidos de acreditação

…Well done…

(JN) NATO decidiu expulsar sete diplomatas da missão da Rússia junto daquela organização, na sequência do envenenamento do ex-espião russo Serguei Skripal.

O secretário-geral da NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, indicou ainda que a Aliança Atlântica rejeitou os pedidos de acreditação para outros três elementos da missão da Rússia, que não é membro da aliança atlântica.

“Retirei hoje as acreditações a sete membros da missão russa junto da NATO. Também rejeitei três pedidos de acreditação”, afirmou Stoltenberg, numa declaração à imprensa na sede da Aliança Atlântica em Bruxelas.

Segundo o secretário-geral da NATO, tais medidas enviam “uma mensagem clara à Rússia de que existem custos e consequências face a um padrão de comportamento inaceitável e perigoso”.

E também surgem perante “a ausência de uma resposta construtiva da Rússia” sobre o caso Skripal.

Apesar destas expulsões, Stoltenberg destacou que a Rússia ainda terá uma missão diplomática com 20 pessoas junto da NATO na sede da Aliança Atlântica, na capital belga, o que permitirá a Moscovo manter contactos essenciais com os 28 Estados-membros que compõem aquela organização.

“A decisão de hoje não altera a política da NATO em relação à Rússia. A NATO continua empenhada na abordagem a duas vertentes de uma defesa forte e de uma abertura ao diálogo, incluindo a preparação para a próxima reunião do Conselho NATO-Rússia”, frisou.

Os Estados Unidos e cerca de vinte outros países, entre os quais 16 da União Europeia (UE), anunciaram segunda-feira a expulsão, no conjunto, de quase uma centena de diplomatas russos dos seus territórios, em apoio ao Reino Unido.

Na semana passada, Londres expulsou 23 funcionários russos como represália pelo alegado envenenamento com um gás neurotóxico do ex-espião russo.

Em 4 de março, Skripal e a sua filha foram encontrados inconscientes num parque de Salisbury (sul de Inglaterra) após terem sido expostos a uma substância química que, segundo Londres, foi desenvolvida na Rússia.

O Governo do Presidente Vladimir Putin tem desmentido todas as acusações e exigido provas concretas sobre esta alegação.

O Kremlin considerou as medidas um “gesto provocador”, prometendo responder à altura.

“A Rússia nada tem a ver com essa questão”, insistiu Moscovo.

Decisão de Portugal defenderá interesses nacional, europeu e da NATO

A decisão do Governo português sobre o “caso Skripal” está “em curso” e rege-se pela defesa dos interesses “nacional, europeu e da Aliança Atlântica”, mas também pela “autonomia, prudência e firmeza”, disse à Lusa o ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros.

“A medida que em cada momento se revelar mais conforme aos interesses nacionais portugueses, aos interesses europeus e aos interesses da Aliança Atlântica, essa será a medida que nós tomaremos, porque são esses os três critérios: o nosso interesse nacional, enquanto país que fala com toda a gente no mundo e que tem uma enorme facilidade de contacto com todas as grandes regiões do mundo, e os interesses europeu e da Aliança Atlântica”, afirmou hoje, em declarações à Lusa, Augusto Santos Silva.

Assim, as medidas que o Governo português decidir “sem precipitação, com autonomia, com prudência, mas também com firmeza”, sublinhou o governante, “são as que melhor respondam a estes três critérios”, acrescentou.

MNE russo diz que expulsões devem-se a “pressões colossais” dos EUA

O chefe da diplomacia russa afirmou hoje que a ação concertada de duas dezenas de países de ocidentais de expulsão de diplomatas russos em resposta ao caso Skripal é “o resultado de pressões colossais” dos Estados Unidos.

“Quando se pede a um ou dois diplomatas para abandonarem este ou aquele país, ao mesmo tempo que se murmuram desculpas ao ouvido, sabemos precisamente que é o resultado de pressões colossais, de uma chantagem colossal que é, infelizmente, a principal arma de Washington na cena internacional”, disse Serguei Lavrov numa conferência de imprensa em Tashkent transmitida pela televisão russa.

China pede “tranquilidade” face a vaga de expulsão de diplomatas russos

China apelou hoje à “tranquilidade” e ao “abandono da mentalidade da Guerra Fria” após a expulsão de diplomatas russos por países em todo o mundo, na sequência do envenenamento do ex-espião russo Sergei Skripal no Reino Unido.

“Os países implicados deviam obedecer à lei internacional e às normas básicas das relações diplomáticas, visando evitar uma maior escalada das confrontações”, disse a porta-voz do ministério chinês dos Negócios Estrangeiros, Hua Chunying.

A porta-voz reagia assim à decisão dos Estados Unidos e cerca de vinte outros países de expulsar, no conjunto, quase uma centena de diplomatas russos dos seus territórios, em apoio ao Reino Unido.

Imprensa russa denuncia nova “Guerra Fria”

A imprensa russa considerou hoje que as expulsões coordenadas de diplomatas russos de 23 países após o envenenamento de um ex-espião russo mergulharam as relações entre Moscovo e o Ocidente num novo “período de Guerra Fria”.

O diário Izvestia titula “encenação russofóbica”, enquanto o jornal Nezavissimaia Gazeta lembra que “há muito que não se registam expulsões coordenadas”.

“A relação entre a Rússia e o Ocidente entra num período de ‘Guerra Fria'”, resumiu o analista Fiodor Loukianov nas páginas do diário Vedomosti, considerando que as expulsões “são particularmente destrutivas para as relações russo-americanas”.

“Está claro que ainda não se chegou ao fim desta escalada, pois é claro que vai ser agravada. Esperam-se medidas ainda mais severas do que as sanções económicas contra a Rússia”, previu.

Para o diário Kommersant, as “medidas, de uma gravidade sem precedentes (…), não são mais do que um novo agravamento das relações” entre a Rússia e o Ocidente.

Em sentido contrário, a rádio independente Ekho Moskvy defendeu que toda a política da Rússia “concentra a energia na autodestruição desde 2014”, ano da anexação da península ucraniana da Crimeia, seguida por uma série de sanções ocidentais.

ONU evita comentar decisão de expulsão mas confirma ter sido notificada

A ONU disse hoje ter sido notificada pelos Estados Unidos sobre a expulsão de um grupo de diplomatas russos, que preferiu não contabilizar, acreditados na missão da Rússia junto daquela organização, mas escusou-se a comentar a decisão.

Um porta-voz da ONU confirmou que a organização internacional recebeu a notificação de Washington mas que, “dada a sensibilidade” da matéria, só podia confirmar que o secretário-geral das Nações Unidas, António Guterres, estava “a seguir atentamente” o assunto.

Na conferência de imprensa diária, o porta-voz de Guterres, Farhan Haq, evitou comentar a decisão de Washington, nem sequer quis precisar o número de funcionários visados pela medida, a respetiva identidade e os procedimentos que se seguem.

Farhan Haq afirmou que as “ações” adotadas pelos Estados Unidos estão sustentadas na secção 13B do acordo firmado em 1947 entre Washington e a ONU, texto que regulamentou o funcionamento da sede da organização na cidade norte-americana de Nova Iorque.

A secção mencionada por Farhan Haq, que o próprio leu parcialmente na conferência de imprensa, estabelece que os diplomatas designados para as missões junto da ONU não podem abusar dos respetivos privilégios para poder residir no país com “atividades não relacionadas com o respetivo caráter oficial”.

Esses privilégios, definidos no artigo 11.º do mesmo acordo, estabelecem, entre outros aspetos, que as autoridades norte-americanas não podem dificultar a entrada e saída da zona onde fica localizada a sede da ONU aos membros das respetivas missões, aos peritos com funções atribuídas pela organização internacional, convidados e representantes de organizações não-governamentais reconhecidas.

Bulgária convoca para consultas embaixador em Moscovo

O Governo búlgaro convocou hoje o seu embaixador na Rússia, Boiko Kotsev, devido ao caso do envenenamento no Reino Unido do ex-espião Serguei Skripal e de sua filha Yulia com um agente químico.

“O primeiro-ministro [Boiko] Borisov ordenou ao embaixador que regresse a Sófia para manter consultas com o Governo”, informou o Executivo em comunicado.

A Bulgária, que assume este semestre a presidência rotativa da União Europeia, é um dos 11 países do bloco comunitário que não decidiram, na segunda-feira, expulsar qualquer diplomata russo devido ao caso Skripal.

Na semana passada, Borisov declarou em Bruxelas que a Bulgária não tencionava expulsar diplomatas russos pelo facto de não existirem “provas firmes” contra Moscovo.

A Bulgária, que integra a NATO, mantém tradicionalmente boas relações com a Rússia.

Moldávia expulsa três diplomatas russos

A Moldávia anunciou esta terça-feira que também vai expulsar três diplomatas russos, no âmbito da ação internacional coordenada de resposta ao envenenamento do ex-espião russo Serguei Skripal no Reino Unido, anunciou o Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros moldavo.

O embaixador russo em Chisinau, Farit Muhametshin, foi informado da decisão.

A Moldávia, afirma o MNE num comunicado, considera o ataque a Skripal “uma ameaça à segurança coletiva e à lei internacional”.

(BBG) Trump Paralyzed on Russia as Probes Continue, Ex-NATO Chief Says

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s administration is
paralyzed by the continuing probes of Russia’s role in the 2016
election, limiting the U.S.’s ability to speak with a single
voice against Moscow’s meddling abroad and find productive ways
to improve ties, NATO’s former chief said.
Anders Rasmussen, who led the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization for five years through 2014, said that the policy
stalemate in Washington undermines U.S., European and Russian
interests alike in hot spots such as Ukraine.
“He can’t move, the U.S. can’t move,” Rasmussen, who now
serves as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko,
said at a roundtable with Bloomberg reporters and editors
Thursday in Washington. The continuing probes “serve the
interests of Putin,” he added. As a result, “We haven’t seen
Russia move one single step in the implementation of the Minsk
agreement” reached in 2015 to stop the military conflict in
eastern Ukraine.
“Putin must be laughing right now because has achieved much
more than he could ever have dreamed of” in undermining the
credibility of Western democratic institutions, he said. U.S.
intelligence agencies have found that Russia was behind a social
media and internet campaign that they said was aimed at hurting
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and ultimately helping to
elect Trump.
Rasmussen, who was Denmark’s prime minister from 2001-2009,
said “the road to better relations with Moscow runs through
Kiev.”

UN Proposal

He said the U.S. and its allies should try to build on what
he called an unacceptable Russian proposal at the United Nations
calling for peacekeepers in eastern portions of Ukraine. They
could do that by backing Ukraine’s demand that UN-sanctioned
troops control the border between Russia and its former Soviet
partner, he said.
But with probes by a special counsel and congressional
committees continuing, he said policy in Washington appears
confused.
“Right now we are seeing such mixed signals from this
capital,” Rasmussen, 64, said. “Congress has decided to
strengthen sanctions, but the administration is hesitant to
actually implement it. Congress has decided that the U.S. should
deliver defensive military systems to the Ukraine, but the
administration is hesitant to implement it.”
Read how Russia props up Ukraine rebels with coal sales
from war zone
“It’s important to not only float the ideas of these
initiatives but also ensure that there is a consistent messaging
from the administration and Congress,” he said.
Rasmussen would probably get a sympathetic audience for his
views among foreign policy leaders on Capitol Hill. Republican
Senator John McCain of Arizona, who heads the Armed Services
Committee, has repeatedly called for tougher measures against
Russia over Ukraine and has criticized the White House for
missing an Oct. 1 deadline to implement new sanctions against
Moscow.
McCain and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland last
month called on the administration to disclose how it will
implement fresh sanctions “robustly,” saying it would send a
message to Moscow that the U.S. is committed to countering
“Russian subversion and destabilization.”
Rasmussen, saying that Putin sees policy hesitation as a
weakness, also called on Europe to follow tougher sanctions
against Russia over Ukraine, for the West to provide defensive
weapons to Kiev and for the country to be named a “major non-
NATO ally.” That designation, already held by nations including
Afghanistan and Japan, would facilitate defense cooperation
between the West and Ukraine, Rasmussen said.
“We have to do something to change the calculus in the
Kremlin, and I still believe that ‘peace through strength’ is
the right formula,’ he said.

(BBG) Editorial Board: NATO Allies Can Spend More Money, More Wisely

(BBG) The 2 percent rule take into account whether nations provide what the alliance needs.

Pay up or hush up.

 Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

If Donald Trump and Barack Obama agree on something, does that mean it’s true? In the case of Europe’s woeful support of its collective defense, yes: Member states need to contribute their “fair share” toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a phrase both men used in speeches in European capitals.

The question is what “fair share” means. Instead of measuring how much member nations spend on their defense, NATO should pay more attention to how they spend it.

The current definition — members are expected to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense — is both misleading and unfair. Currently, only four European members meet the alliance’s target and things are going the wrong direction. Across Europe, including non-NATO members, military spending as a percentage of GDP has dropped by almost 9 percent in the last five years.

But some kinds of military spending are better than others. Money for major training exercises, or transport planes and helicopters for airlift operations, is far more valuable than lots of spending on ill-equipped troops in glorified jobs programs.

Spending on national defense is always going to reflect national priorities. That said, better coordination among member nations can bolster both their security and the alliance’s. A wealthy nation may want some shiny new fighter jets, but the collective defense may be better served by more prosaic equipment such as refueling tankers. To their credit, not only have the alliance’s newer members such as the Baltic States been paying up, they’ve been helpful in buying what NATO most needs.

Arriving at a consensus as to what constitutes useful spending among 28 separate militaries would be contentious and difficult, to put it mildly. It would still be a useful exercise.

What kind of criteria might NATO consider? Broadly defined, it should be measuring the ability to react quickly to a military crisis: the speed with which combat troops and their heavy equipment can be deployed; the number of tactical aircraft and major warships (aircraft carriers, cruisers, nuclear submarines and the like); the experience of pilots (as measured by flight hours); the age of its technology for reconnaissance, surveillance and other such tasks; and the percentage of defense spending on cybersecurity, and research and development. And so on.

Member nations should also get credit for contributing to alliance missions, whether in Afghanistan or with troops in the easternmost nations and waters bordering an increasingly restive Russia. The alliance could also give weight to spending per capita, a metric under which Norway towers over all members other than the United States. Finally, it might consider the percentage that each nation contributes to the continent’s overall military spending, as illustrated here:

Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies

The Europeans aren’t “free riders” (another concept both Trump and Obama have invoked). At the same time, they can certainly do more to contribute to the continent’s collective security. Coming up with more concrete and constructive ways to measure those contributions would be a great benefit to both NATO and its member nations.

+++ (BBG) Trump Blasts Germany Again for Trade Deficit and NATO Support

(BBG) President Donald Trump blasted Germany anew over trade and defense, ratcheting up a dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel that risks getting personal and undermining a trans-Atlantic bond that is the bedrock of U.S.-European relations.

Trump’s comments came in an early-morning tweet on Tuesday issued just as Merkel hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin, where they held a joint cabinet meeting and signed cooperation agreements. Modi suggested that India will adhere to the Paris climate accords, while Trump makes up his mind.

Narendra Modi and Angela Merkel on May 30.

Photographer: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” the U.S. president posted on Twitter. “This will change.”

The message came minutes after Merkel and Modi held a joint press conference in which the German leader called India a “reliable partner with respect to big projects.” That contrasted with her comments on Sunday that Europe needs to step up as trans-Atlantic ties, which have underpinned German foreign policy since World War II, become “to some extent” less dependable.

“That’s great,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday in reaction to Merkel’s remarks. “That’s what the president called for. The president is getting results and more countries are stepping up their burden sharing.”

Merkel regards her speech on Europe becoming more active internationally as a reflection of the reality during the Ukraine conflict and the refugee crisis, according to a senior German government official with knowledge of her thinking. Her comments may have been interpreted differently in the U.S., causing an uproar, but that’s not her fault, said the official, asking not to be named discussing private deliberations.

Spicer said that Trump feels he and Merkel have a “fairly unbelievable” relationship.

“They get along very well,” he told reporters at the White House. “He has a lot of respect for her.”

Modi to Li

Trump’s tweet underscored the deterioration of links with a key NATO ally, yet his timing also highlighted Germany’s web of relations with international partners who broadly share Merkel’s free-trade outlook and conviction on combating climate change. After hosting Modi, Merkel is due to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. She’s also looking to French President Emmanuel Macron as an ally in strengthening the euro area.

In a speech to a German-Indian business forum later on Tuesday, Merkel took another tilt at a president elected on a ticket of “America First,” referring to “a whole series of protectionist tendencies” emerging worldwide. She said “it’s necessary to be open to achieve fair trade conditions.”

Merkel, who’s campaigning for a fourth term in September elections, stuck to her message at her party bloc’s weekly parliamentary caucus meeting. While trans-Atlantic relations remain of paramount importance, disagreement shouldn’t be swept under the carpet, a party official quoted her as telling the closed-door session.

‘This Man’

While it’s unclear whether Merkel has deliberately picked a fight with Trump or misspoken and bitten off more than she can chew, challenging his stance is popular in Germany.

Polls suggest that Merkel has overwhelming backing among German voters, and even among her political opponents, for taking a stand. It’s the “calling of our times to stand up to this man with everything that we represent,” Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Merkel’s main election challenger, said in a campaign speech late Monday.

It’s also not the first time a German chancellor has clashed with a U.S. president. Merkel’s Social Democratic predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, publicly disavowed George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in a trans-Atlantic rift that Merkel worked to repair upon her election in 2005.

Forging Own Path

Alongside Modi, Merkel said that while trans-Atlantic relations are of “paramount significance,” the European Union had to forge its own path in the world “considering the current situation.”

“What I said was simply to indicate that, here are even more reasons beyond those we already have that Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands,” she said.

Modi, the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, welcomed a stronger global role for the EU and expressly lauded the bloc’s most powerful leader.

“We always want that the European Union should be stronger, should be more active,” Modi said. “Through Chancellor Merkel, we will be able to work with the European Union. It’s very easy for us.”

G-20 Summit

Modi’s comments contrasted with Trump’s meeting with EU leaders in Brussels last week, when he said that Germany is “very bad” for flooding the U.S. with cars, hectored NATO allies on military spending and refused to explicitly back the principle of collective defense. At the Group of Seven summit that followed, Trump’s first, passages on free trade and on immigration were substantially altered compared to previous years, while the U.S. was alone in failing to commit to the global Paris climate agreement.

After failing to sway Trump, Merkel has turned her attention to forging consensus among other G-20 nations at a summit meeting she’s hosting in Hamburg in July.

Modi signaled that India will move forward on its climate agenda even if the U.S. exits the Paris agreement, saying politicians have “absolutely no right” to put in jeopardy the environment for future generations. He praised Merkel’s experience and Germany’s economic example to India.

“We are meant for each other,” Modi said.

(CNN) Trump scolds NATO allies over defense spending

(CNNPresident Donald Trump on Thursday chided NATO member countries directly for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance and declined to reiterate US commitment to the alliance’s mutual defense pledge.

“Members of the alliance must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations,” Trump told the heads of state, who stood silently — some shifting uncomfortably — behind him.

“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” he said.
The call appeared to reveal Trump’s continued misunderstanding of NATO members’ defense commitments. While Trump argued that many of the allies “owe massive amounts of money from past years,” the 2% defense spending benchmark that allies must meet is designed to boost their military, not to funnel money to NATO or other allies.

Trump’s remarks — paired with his conspicuous decision not to reiterate US commitment to NATO’s mutual defense provision, Article 5 — are likely to unsettle allies who had hoped to hear Trump assuage their concerns about his commitment to the historic alliance.

Moreover, the President’s scolding was cast against a striking backdrop: the freshly unveiled 9/11 memorial, which marks the only time the NATO alliance has invoked Article 5. That decision triggered NATO’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

Remarking on the official opening of NATO’s $1 billion new headquarters, Trump offered a tongue-in-cheek comment that he “never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost.”

Trump first cast doubt on the provision during his presidential campaign, shocking members of the alliance when he suggested the US might only defend members of the alliance who “fulfill their obligations to us.”

Trump only addressed the Article 5 commitment in passing at the top of his remarks, noting that “our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective defense commitments.”

He did not promise the US would do the same should a NATO ally come under attack.
Instead, Trump badgered heads of state of the alliance that an increased financial commitment was needed.

Under the NATO treaty, members of the alliance must commit 2% of their GDP to defense spending, a benchmark that only five of the alliance’s 28 members currently meet.

“Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats,” Trump said. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.”

Briefing reporters Wednesday on Air Force One, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “of course we support Article 5,” but declined to say whether Trump would reiterate the US’ adherence to the mutual defense pledge in his NATO remarks.

In recent months, Trump has sought to assuage some NATO ally concerns, declaring last month in a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg the alliance is “no longer obsolete” as he had claimed on the campaign trail.

The President also reiterated his call for stricter controls on immigration and the flow of refugees, saying “the NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration.”

“You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout. And in many cases, we have no idea who they are,” Trump said. “We must be tough. We must be strong. And we must be vigilant.”
While Trump signed an executive order to halt the flow of refugees into the US and ban citizens of several Muslim-majority countries, other NATO leaders have opened their countries to refugees and beat back criticism that those policies could increase the terror threat.

Speaking ahead of Trump at the unveiling of a memorial to the fall of the Berlin Wall was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

NATO allies should remain “united in the trust that it is not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful, but an open society,” she said.

(Reuters) In abrupt shift, Trump warms to China and NATO, sours on Russia

(Reuters) After less than three months in office, President Donald Trump has abruptly shifted his stance on an array of foreign policy issues from the U.S. relationship with Russia and China to the value of the NATO alliance.

Trump, who ran for the White House on a pledge to shake up the status quo in Washington, repeatedly lashed out at China during the campaign, accusing Beijing of being a “grand champion” of currency manipulation.

Candidate Trump also dismissed the NATO military alliance as obsolete and said he hoped to build warmer ties with Russia.

But at a White House news conference and in a newspaper interview on Wednesday, he offered starkly different views on those issues, saying his relationship with Moscow was souring while ties with Beijing were improving. He also lavished praise on NATO, saying it was adapting to changing global threats.

“I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said as he stood at a news conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in the White House East Room on Wednesday.

The reversals on Russia and NATO could reassure U.S. allies in Europe who were rattled by Trump’s overtures toward Moscow during the campaign. But the president’s talk of “bonding” with Chinese President Xi Jinping could sow confusion in Asia, where U.S. allies are fearful of a rising China.

Trump’s apparent shifts toward a more conventional foreign policy came amid infighting within his administration that has lately seen a decline in the influence of political operatives, mainly his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Six months ago, candidate Trump suggested he was eager for an alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump said last September.

“ALL-TIME LOW”

On Wednesday, however, Trump said he had growing concerns about Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russia,” said Trump, who ordered the firing of U.S. cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield last week to punish Assad for suspected use of poison gas in Syria’s civil war.

While criticizing Russia on Wednesday, Trump said he and Xi had bonded during the Chinese president’s visit to the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where they dined together with their wives and held talks.

Ahead of that visit, Trump had predicted “difficult” discussions on trade.

The improving ties with Beijing were underscored when Trump told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Wednesday that he would not declare China a currency manipulator as he had pledged to do on his first day in office.

Trump, a former real estate developer, took office in January as a government novice whose foreign policy mantra during was a vow to keep America safe and build up the U.S. military.

Christine Wormuth, former undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration, said Trump had a “steep learning curve” on foreign policy when he came into office but that it was beginning to even out.

“He’s starting to have a more nuanced and deeper understanding of a lot of issues,” said Wormuth, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The evolving Trump foreign policy appears to reflect less of the influence of his campaign team and more the views of Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, all of whom are deeply skeptical of Russia.

Trump’ former national security adviser, retired General Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on Feb. 13 for contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Trump took office.

The new tone on foreign policy comes as Trump has been trying to settle the palace intrigue inside the White House, where Bannon, former chief of the conservative Breitbart News organization, has been at odds with the more mainstream Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser who is Trump’s son-in-law.

In an interview with the New York Post on Tuesday, Trump offered only lukewarm support for Bannon.

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said.

(Reuters) Exclusive: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April – sources

(Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China’s president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them.

Tillerson intends to miss what would have been his first meeting of the 28 NATO allies on April 5-6 in Brussels so that he can attend President Donald Trump’s expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, four current and former U.S. officials said.

Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security, two former U.S. officials said.

Trump has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Tillerson worked with Russia’s government for years as a top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp, and has questioned the wisdom of sanctions against Russia that he said could harm U.S. businesses.

A State Department spokeswoman said Tillerson would meet on Wednesday with foreign ministers from 26 of the 27 other NATO countries — all but Croatia — at a gathering of the coalition working to defeat the Islamic State militant group.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was due to have arrived in Washington on Monday for a three-day visit that was to include talks with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and to take part in the counter-Islamic State meetings.

The State Department spokeswoman said Tillerson would not have a separate, NATO-focused meeting the 26 foreign ministers in Washington but rather that they would meet in the counter-Islamic State talks.

“After these consultations and meetings, in April he will travel to a meeting of the G7 (Group of Seven) in Italy and then on to meetings in Russia,” she added, saying U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon would represent the United States at the NATO foreign ministers meeting.

‘GRAVE ERROR’

Representative Eliot Engel, the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said that Tillerson was making a mistake by skipping the Brussels talks.

“Donald Trump’s Administration is making a grave error that will shake the confidence of America’s most important alliance and feed the concern that this Administration simply too cozy with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” Engel said in a written statement.

“I cannot fathom why the Administration would pursue this course except to signal a change in American foreign policy that draws our country away from western democracy’s most important institutions and aligns the United States more closely with the autocratic regime in the Kremlin,” he added.

A former U.S. official echoed the view.

“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsie with Russia,” said the former U.S. official on condition of anonymity.

“You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies,” he added.

Any Russian visit by a senior Trump administration official may be carefully scrutinized after the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday publicly confirmed his agency was investigating any collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.

Trump has already worried NATO allies by referring to the Western security alliance as “obsolete” and by pressing other members to meet their commitments to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.

Last week, he dismayed British officials by shrugging off a media report, forcefully denied by Britain, that the administration of former President Barack Obama tapped his phones during the 2016 White House race with the aid of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency.

A former U.S. official and a former NATO diplomat, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said the alliance offered to change the meeting dates so Tillerson could attend it and the Xi Jinping talks but the State Department had rebuffed the idea.

The former diplomat said it was vital to present a united front toward Moscow. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 to serve as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

“Given the challenge that Russia poses, not just to the United States but to Europe, it’s critical to engage on the basis of a united front if at all possible,” the diplomat said.

(EurActiv) EU takes first steps towards military HQ

(EurActiv)

Sigmar GabrielL, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs; Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development; Ms Ursula Von der Leyen, German Federal Minister of Defence. [European Council]

EU foreign and defence ministers on Monday (6 March) agreed to create a joint command centre for the bloc’s military missions, a step towards more EU cooperation on security and defence.

Last December, EU leaders agreed to beef up their capabilities in responding to external conflicts and crisis, build the capacities of partners and strategically protect Europeans. Another part of the agreement was to explore ways to establish “a permanent operational planning and conduct capability at the strategic level”.

Today, the 28 countries backed the Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) with a view to it taking over this spring.

The embryonic military headquarters has long been opposed by Britain, the bloc’s leading military power, but the idea was revived by Germany and France after the British voted to leave the EU.

The organisation would command the bloc’s “non-executive military missions”, within the existing EU military staff of the European External Action Service (EEAS). These include the three military training missions the bloc now runs in Mali, Somalia and Central African Republic.

“These missions are important for peacekeeping but also for security in the region,” said Carmelo Abela, foreign minister of Malta, whose country chairs the rotating presidency of the EU.

WATCH: Making missions more efficient for safer central region – @AbelaCarmelo after joint mtg of EU defence+foreign mins

In the future, this could also cover any capacity-building, monitoring or demobilisation and disarmament military missions.

“We are progressing steadily towards strengthened defence cooperation and we will continue to do more,” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said after the ministers’ meeting.

“It is not a European army – I know this is the label going around – it is a more effective way of handling our military work,” Mogherini insisted..

“This is about protecting our citizens. The European Union has unique tools to help Europeans to take more responsibility for their own security, and to do more effectively.  This is what we are doing with our work in security and defence.”

and : @EUCouncil reviews progress and agrees to improve support for military missions. Read:http://bit.ly/2lvYxoR 

The MPCC was greeted as a first step in the right direction by MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who insisted the EU should move progressively turn this into a fully-fledged EU military headquarters.

Even if symbolically significant, the MPCC would in practice consist of only some 30 people and will most likely be led by the current head of the military staff at the EEAS. After much debate, the head of the new body will be called director and not commander.

EU defence in an age of uncertainty and crisis

The refugee crisis, the election of Donald Trump, the UK’s Brexit vote and the ever-present threat of terrorism, mean current conditions seem right for EU governments to take steps toward deeper military coordination or even integration, writes Richard Maher.

The creation of the EU’s military HQ is intended not to undermine NATO. Poland, which has for a long time based its own security on guarantees from Washington and the transatlantic military alliance, is also worried that more defence cooperation in the European bloc could weaken NATO’s resolve in Europe.

“If we look at the current turbulent international environment, it is clear that Europe needs to do more for its own defence and security. The establishment of a headquarters for  EU military operations is important in order to plan and carry out the EU’s own operations as well as to facilitate cooperation with NATO,“ said Estonian MEP Urmas Paet (ALDE), rapporteur on the European Defence Union.

“It’s a first step,” said Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister. As for “a European army, maybe later,” he said, answering questions after the meeting.

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker called for a common EU defence headquarters last year after the Brexit vote, resurrecting an idea that had circulated in the EU for years.

Juncker: NATO is not enough, EU needs an army

The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats, as well as to restore the bloc’s standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper yesterday (8 March).

In the just published White paper on the future of the EU-post Brexit, the executive underscored “NATO will continue to provide hard security for most EU countries but Europe cannot be naïve. And has to take care of its own security. Being a ‘soft power’ is no longer powerful enough when force can prevail over rules.”

Michael Fallon, the British defence minister, said he would urge the European Union “to cooperate more closely with NATO to avoid unnecessary duplication and structures.”

(Reuters) Europe must not bow to U.S. spending demands on NATO: EU’s Juncker

(Reuters)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to U.S demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.

U.S. President Donald Trump has raised questions about his commitment to the NATO defense alliance if European countries do not raise defense spending to 2 percent of economic output. The United States puts up 70 percent of alliance funds.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies on Wednesday that they must honor military spending pledges to make sure the United States does not moderate its support.

“It has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Juncker said in a speech on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference.

He said he knew that Germany would no longer have a budget surplus if it increased defense spending to 2 percent of GDP from 1.22 percent.

“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military,” he said, arguing it would be sensible to look at a “modern stability policy” made up of several components.

“If you look at what Europe is doing in defense, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defense spending,” he said.

“Europeans must bundle their defense spending better and spend the money more efficiently,” he added.

(Euractiv) US warns NATO: Increase spending or we might ‘moderate’ support

(Euractiv)

US President Donald Trump’s defence secretary warned NATO allies yesterday (15 February) that they must honour military spending pledges to ensure the United States does not “moderate” support for the alliance.

Jim Mattis, on his debut trip to Brussels as Pentagon chief, also accused some NATO members of ignoring threats, including from Russia.

“America cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mattis said in a closed-door session with NATO defence ministers, according to prepared remarks provided to reporters.

The comments represented some of the strongest criticism in memory of allies who have failed to reach defence spending goals.

Europe’s low expenditure has long been a sore point for the United States, which puts up 70% of alliance funds. But Trump has made change a priority, saying allies have “been very unfair to us” for not spending more.

Trump was sharply critical of NATO during his election campaign, making European allies nervous by calling the alliance obsolete and praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.

My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits!

US might ‘moderate’ support

Since taking office on 20 January, Trump has voiced strong support for NATO, comments echoed by Mattis at NATO’s Brussels headquarters. Mattis called NATO “the most successful and powerful military alliance in modern history” and made a point of shaking hands with each of his European counterparts at the start of the meeting.

Mattis, however, suggested US support should not be seen as a given.

“I owe it to you to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States, and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms,” Mattis said.

“America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence.”

Mattis stopped short of issuing an explicit ultimatum or say how the United States might moderate its support. The US for years has called for European allies to spend 2% of economic output on defence, he said.

But he added that NATO allies must show progress in 2017 and adopt a plan, with target dates, toward defence spending goals.

Italy and Spain, two of Europe’s larger economies, spend barely 1% a year on defence as they seek to curtail budget deficits following the global financial crisis.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, three other wealthy European nations that are among the smallest spenders on defence, still need to convince centre-left political parties that they do not support higher defence spending, preferring to prioritise welfare and education.

But the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, who fear a repeat of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, are on course to meet the 2% goal, while Romania is also heading towards that level.

After Mattis’ address, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the former US general had explained that “the impatience of the American taxpayer is a reality”.Hardly a ‘mad dog’

Other defence chiefs appeared to back up Mattis’ plea and he was broadly seen to be reassuring NATO of America’s commitment after a contentious election campaign that put allies on edge.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the session that “the United States is right” on defence spending, according to one official who was present at the time, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said he was not surprised by Mattis’ remarks, and described him as “absolutely calm, humble even” – far from the “Mad Dog” nickname that Trump himself has used for him.

“It wasn’t that dramatic,” he told Reuters. “The important point is that the United States is committed to a strong NATO and that means properly financed armed forces.”
Trump has been jolted by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador. US intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also dismissed concerns about the US commitment to NATO, and played down the fallout from turmoil within Trump’s administration.

(NYT) Trump Prepares Orders Aiming at Global Funding and Treaties

(NYT) WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing executive orders that would clear the way to drastically reduce the United States’ role in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as begin a process to review and potentially abrogate certain forms of multilateral treaties.

The first of the two draft orders, titled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations” and obtained by The New York Times, calls for terminating funding for any United Nations agency or other international body that meets any one of several criteria.

Those criteria include organizations that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization, or support programs that fund abortion or any activity that circumvents sanctions against Iran or North Korea. The draft order also calls for terminating funding for any organization that “is controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism” or is blamed for the persecution of marginalized groups or any other systematic violation of human rights.

The order calls for then enacting “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining United States funding toward international organizations.

The order establishes a committee to recommend where those funding cuts should be made. It asks the committee to look specifically at United States funding for peacekeeping operations; the International Criminal Court; development aid to countries that “oppose important United States policies”; and the United Nations Population Fund, which oversees maternal and reproductive health programs.

If President Trump signs the order and its provisions are carried out, the cuts could severely curtail the work of United Nations agencies, which rely on billions of dollars in annual United States contributions for missions that include caring for refugees.

The second executive order, “Moratorium on New Multilateral Treaties,” calls for a review of all current and pending treaties with more than one other nation. It asks for recommendations on which negotiations or treaties the United States should leave.

The order says this review applies only to multilateral treaties that are not “directly related to national security, extradition or international trade,” but it is unclear what falls outside these restrictions.

For example, the Paris climate agreement or other environmental treaties deal with trade issues but could potentially fall under this order.

An explanatory statement that accompanies the draft order mentions two United Nations treaties for review: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Taken together, the orders suggest that Mr. Trump intends to pursue hiscampaign promises of withdrawing the United States from international organizations. He has expressed heavy skepticism of multilateral agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and of the United Nations.

The draft orders, which are only a few pages each, leave several unanswered questions. For example, it is unclear whether they call for cutting 40 percent of United States contributions to each international agency separately, or to the overall federal funding budget.

The orders call for reviewing any funding that could go toward the International Criminal Court, though the United States currently provides no funding to that body. They also call for terminating funding to United Nations bodies that include full Palestinian membership, though this is already United States law. Under former President Barack Obama, the United States cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization when it accepted Palestinians as full members.

The United States provides about a quarter of all funding to United Nations peacekeeping operations, of which there are more than a dozen, in Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. At least one of these, the operation in southern Lebanon, directly serves Israeli interests by protecting the country’s northern border, though the draft order characterizes the funding cuts as serving Israeli interests.

+++ V.V.I. (BBG) Trump Calls NATO Obsolete and Dismisses EU in German Interview

(BBG) Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc, and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to two European newspapers which conducted a joint interview with the president-elect.

Trump, in an hourlong discussion with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London published on Sunday, signaled a major shift in trans-Atlantic relations, including an interest in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal.

Quoted in German by Bild from a conversation held in English, Trump predicted that Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination designed with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade. For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent to whether the EU stays together, according to Bild.

The Times quoted Trump as saying he was interested in making “good deals with Russia,” floating the idea of lifting sanctions that were imposed as the U.S. has sought to punish the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and military support of the Syrian government.

‘Some Good Deals’

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,’’ Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it.’’

Trump’s reported comments leave little doubt that he’ll stick to campaign positions and may in some cases upend decades of U.S. foreign policy, putting him fundamentally at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on issues from free trade and refugees to security and the EU’s role in the world.

Repeating a criticism of NATO he made during his campaign, Trump said that while trans-Atlantic military alliance is important, it “has problems.”

“It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said in the Bild version of the interview. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.” The Times quoted Trump saying that only five NATO members are paying their fair share.

While those comments expanded on doubts Trump expressed about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his campaign, he reserved some of his most dismissive remarks for the EU and Merkel, whose open-border refugee policy he called a “catastrophic mistake.”

Brexit Praise

In contrast, Trump praised Britons for voting in 2016 to leave the EU. People and countries want their own identity and don’t want outsiders coming in to “destroy it,” he said. The U.K. is smart to leave the bloc because the EU “is basically a vehicle for Germany,” the Times quoted Trump as saying.

“If you ask me, more countries will leave,” he said.

Trump told the Times that he plans to quickly pursue a trade deal with the U.K. after taking office and will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May soon.

“We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides,” he said. “We’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.”

While Trump blamed Brexit on an influx of refugees he said that Britain was forced to absorb, the U.K.’s number of asylum applications in 2015 was a fraction of the 890,000 refugees who arrived in Germany that year at the peak of Europe’s migrant crisis.

Build in U.S.

With Merkel facing an unprecedented challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany as she seeks a fourth term this fall, Trump was asked whether he’d like to see her re-elected. He said he couldn’t say, adding that while he respects Merkel, who’s been in office for 11 years, he doesn’t know her and she has hurt Germany by letting “all these illegals” into the country.

In line with his threats against other automakers, Trump said Bayerische Motoren Werke AG would face a 35 percent import duty for foreign-built BMW cars sold in the U.S. BMW should scrap plans to open a new plant in Mexico and build the factory in the U.S. instead, he was quoted as saying. BMW plans to start building 3 Series sedans at San Luis Potosí in 2019.

Other Trump comments, according to Bild:

  • The Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq may have been the worst in U.S. history
  • Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is a natural talent who will bring about an accord with Israel
  • Trump plans to keep using social media, including Twitter, once he’s in the White House to sidestep the press and communicate directly with his followers
  • People entering the U.S. will face “extreme” security checks, possibly including some European nationals

(Independent) David Cameron could become next Nato Secretary General

(Independent) UK Government wants former prime minister to ‘bat for England’ as it steps up involvement in defence alliance.

david-cameron.jpgDavid Cameron could become the fourth Briton to be Nato Secretary General Reuters

David Cameron has emerged as a frontrunner to be the next secretary general of Nato after reports he will be nominated by Theresa May.

The former prime minister is reportedly being lined up by the UK Government as a candidate to replace the current secretary general, former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, when he steps down in 2018 or 2019.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, has previously said the UK will play a bigger role in Nato to make up for its withdrawal from the EU.

Cabinet sources said they want to find a prominent role for Mr Cameron, who resigned in June after losing the EU referendum.

One senior Cabinet minister told the Daily Mail: “We’ve got to find a role for him – he has so much to offer. We have got to get him batting for Britain again.”

Allies of Mr Cameron suggested he would be interested in the role. One said: “The key at this stage is to flag high-level interest in leader level conversations and to show that our eventual candidate is visible and acceptable to everyone.

“That means a would-be candidate would need to start talking about the right issues and show up at various conferences such as the Munich Security Conference and Davos.”

Key to winning the position will be securing the support of the United States. The secretary general is appointed by consensus after discussions between the 28 Nato member states, but American support is seen as important in influencing other states.

Nato’s most senior military officer, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is usually an American and so the secretary general of the organisation has traditionally been an European. The last Briton to hold the post was George Robertson, a former Labour Defence Secretary, between 1999 and 2003.

Earlier this year Mr Fallon said the UK wanted to step up its involvement in Nato. He said: “It’s a disappointment we’re leaving the European Union because in my view it does add to what Nato gives us. But Nato is the cornerstone of our defence and what we’ll be telling other leaders is we’ll be doing more in Nato to compensate for our withdrawal from the EU.

“We’ll be leading harder into the alliance and that’s the purpose of the deployments we’re announcing today.”

Mr Stoltenberg began his term in 2014, succeeding former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Mr Cameron is currently on the speaking tour circuit. where he is reported to be earning hundreds of thousands of pounds per speech.

He is also in the process of writing his autobiography, due to be published in 2018.

The next head of Nato is likely to take office at a key time for the organisation. US President-elect Donald Trump has been critical of the organisation and said he would make US contributions to Nato dependent on other states paying a bigger share.

Mr Trump said he would not necessarily come to the defence of a Nato ally under attack – the core promise of the alliance.

He also suggested Nato could dissolve, adding: “That’s OK, not the worst thing in the world”.

(EurActiv) Juncker: ‘Europe must take care of its own defence’

(EurActiv)

In an interview, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EurActiv’s partner Ouest France that Europe urgently needs to improve its defence cooperation and look after its economic interests.

Jean-Claude Juncker is president of the European Commission. He spoke to Ouest France’s Laurent Marchand.

Is the election of Donald Trump the final nail in the coffin for the free trade deal with the United States (TTIP)?

We had a lot of difficulty agreeing with the Obama administration. Contrary to what has been said, we have not caved to the enormous pressure from the US, particularly on public markets and financial services.

I do not think the Trump presidency will be any less demanding and I think the chances of seeing this deal concluded are getting smaller and smaller. One day, I believe, Europe will see that this is a huge missed opportunity.

Just as a less comprehensive agreement would have been?

Yes, but not many people know that 31 million jobs – that is one in seven jobs in the EU – depend on foreign trade. The agreement reached with South Korea created 200,000 jobs. Trade deals benefit Europeans if they are negotiated well. And they only make sense if Europe arms itself with trade defence tools like those used by the US.

But we are a long way from this.

The US imposed a 260% customs duty on Chinese steel imports, while the EU imposed a duty of just 20%. China’s overproduction of steel is exactly double Europe’s entire production. We have to bulk up our trade protection arsenal.

Are you advocating European protectionism?

No, this is not protectionism. Commercial exchange has to be free but opportunities must be equal. We cannot voluntarily lay down arms.

Trump’s election is a wake-up call to Europe about its defence responsibilities. Is this a major change?

Trump is not the first one to let us know that Europe’s defence provisions are inadequate. But he is more brutal in his manner. It is now a burning obligation for Europe to take care of its own defence.

Today, the fragmentation of our defence efforts is costing us dearly – between €25 billion and €100 billion per year – and making us vulnerable. We spend €200 billion on defence but we only have 15% of the Americans’ efficiency because we have too many overlaps and not enough interoperability.
Europe has two armies worthy of this name, and if the United Kingdom leaves the EU there will only be one left: the French army, which very often steps in to save Europe’s honour. Governments will have to explain the reality of the situation to the public; in the long run, no EU member state is capable of defending either itself or the continent.That’s an old problem…

Trump, Fillon, the supporters of dialogue with Moscow are back in fashion. What is your view on this?

Our relations with Russia are one enormous work in progress. Without Russia, there is no European defence structure. EU territories cover just 5.5 million km², while Russia alone covers 17.5 million km². So I would like the EU and Russia to deal with one another as equals.
If we tell Russia the sanctions will continue, this is the kind of language that hits home. If we allow the idea to surface that this may not happen, Moscow will take advantage. This is not a remark aimed at my friend François Fillon, it is just a general observation. We must be united in our discourse against Russia’s willing violation of Europe’s borders.By maintaining the sanctions against Moscow?

Russia is financing a very active influence campaign in Europe, is it not?

It looks that way. Do you know how many people the EU employs to run counter-propaganda? Eleven. And Russia? 4,000. We have no sense of the ridiculous here.
Without mentioning particular countries, I have seen the fundamental values of the European construction being treated with a certain disregard. As the Commission, we struggle to impose our view.Press freedom and the independence of the judiciary are being attacked in Poland and Hungary. Can the Union do anything to oppose this?

The principle of unanimity has made Article 7 of the European Treaty, which allows for a member state to be sanctioned if it stops playing by the rules, into nothing more than a water pistol. We are having these conversations, particularly with the Polish authorities. We have to try and be persuasive. But it does worry me.
I think that over the last two years, Turkey has moved a little further from the EU every day. And after having made such remarkable democratic progress. Ankara needs to ask itself: does it really intend to become a member of the EU one day?The European Parliament adopted a text calling for Turkey’s accession negotiations to be frozen. Do you support this?

Mr Erdoğan must know that one day he will be the one held responsible for refusing visa liberalisation. He is passing the buck onto the EU. And I pass it straight back to him. His refusal to accept our criteria means he has refused Turkish citizens free movement in Europe.

On immigration, was Angela Merkel’s decision to open the borders in September 2015 a noble gesture or a big mistake?

It was a human gesture that deserves respect and applause. Some call it a mistake. But there were hundreds of thousands of refugees in Hungary trying to force their way over the Austrian border. If we had not opened the borders that night, what would have happened? The situation would have been exactly the same as on the Greek islands. So I think she was right. What is more, she is a Christian Democrat, and that means something. It is a particular view of democracy.

Are you in favour of strengthening the EU’s external borders?

One year ago, the Commission proposed a system of border guards and coast guards. The Parliament and the Council now agree and the project is under way. What most people do not know is that the Commission proposed this in 2001. It was unanimously refused by the member states, including France and Germany. They say Europe has failed. No.  It was the member states that did not want it.
When I walk around in the streets of Luxembourg, people tell me what they like and what they do not like. I have known for a long time that Europe does a bad job of making itself understood. I am convinced that Europe should take care of the big problems of the times, not the small things.How do you keep in touch with public opinion when you are at the top of the Commission?

What does this mean?

We, the Commission, are not there to hassle people. We have to be big on the big things and small on the small things. This means addressing the Digital Single Market, energy and not regulating coffee machines or toilet flushes. This is what we have been doing for two years.

What do you say to farmers in trouble, who feel unprotected against the big multinationals and globalisation?

Personally, I am a big defender of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Without the CAP, Europe would be in a strategically weak position. Until 1964, Europe was not self-sufficient in its food production. Today it is, thanks to the CAP and the efforts of European farmers.
Yes. But first, we have to defend macro-agriculture for strategic reasons. I am very sensitive to the problems of the dairy sector. We also have to take our chances where we see them. Indonesia and Vietnam, for example, have 340 million inhabitants and produce only one-quarter of the dairy products they consume. That is an enormous market to grasp. And this comes back to your first question: the need for balanced trade agreements.Maybe in the broader sense, but for people…

Is Europe losing influence in the world?

We are the smallest continent. Europeans accounted for 20% of the global population at the beginning of the 20th century. We will end the 21st century at just 4%. Faced with this new situation, Europe has to concentrate its efforts.

Trump said, “America first”.  Would you say “Europe first”?

That is not the right question. Because saying “Europe first” or talking about the “United States of Europe”, is misleading. I am a vigorous opponent of the concept of the “United States of Europe”. I think it will never see the light of day. We should abandon the idea that the EU is becoming a superstate. People do not want that. People need closeness, the feeling that develops towards their immediate surroundings. That is the Europe we should defend.

(EurActiv) Erdogan demands support against PKK at NATO meeting

(EurActiv)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday (21 November) urged the European Union and West to step up backing of Ankara’s fight against Kurdish militants, as he addressed a meeting of NATO lawmakers.

Erdoğan said he expected the support of NATO countries in Turkey’s fight against “all terror groups” including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Islamic State (IS) jihadists and the group blamed by Ankara for the failed 15 July coup.

He called on the European Union to tighten its approach to the PKK, which Brussels designates as a terror group but whose members, according to Erdoğan, are allowed to roam freely within the bloc.

“Those who have a hesitant attitude against terrorist organisations will be hit themselves sooner or later,” he said in a speech to deputies at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 but its bid to join the European Union has been further set back by disputes over the magnitude of its crackdown in the wake of the coup.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile emphasised the alliance’s “solidarity” with Turkey in the wake of the coup and said Ankara “has the right” to prosecute those responsible.

Some 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended in the civil service, army, judiciary and other institutions and 36,000 people jailed pending trial in the investigation of the abortive July 15 putsch, in which more than 240 people were killed.

Western allies, in particular in Europe, have voiced concern at the breadth of the purges under President Tayyip Erdoğan. Some European politicians have called for a freezing of Turkey’s EU membership talks, while a senior UN official on Friday (18 November) described the measures as “draconian” and “unjustified”.

Erdoğan has repeatedly rejected such criticism, saying Turkey is determined to root out its enemies at home and abroad, and could reintroduce the death penalty. He has accused Western nations of siding with the coup plotters and harbouring terrorists.

Pressed by a Dutch lawmaker to condemn the crackdown, Stoltenberg said he had told Turkish leaders all measures had to be taken within the rule of law.

He said he welcomed cooperation between Turkey and the Council of Europe over the legal measures after the coup, saying this should be an “important tool” to ensure the rule of law and human rights are applied.

Stoltenberg also made no reference to Turkish officers serving in NATO command posts who he had said last week had asked for asylum following the failed coup.

Meanwhile, he added he wanted to see “more assurance measures” from NATO states to help Turkey on its unstable borders, in addition to the current surveillance flights and deployment of missile batteries on the Syrian frontier.

Such measures may have help in mollifying the Turkish president, who, just last week accused NATO ally Belgium of being an important centre for supporters of both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the cleric Ankara says orchestrated a failed July coup.

Erdoğan, speaking to reporters in Ankara before leaving on an official visit to Pakistan, also said he has showed German officials documentary proof that an organisation in Germany was collecting money for PKK militants.

(EurActiv) German defence minister wants EU military to match NATO

(EurActiv)

Germany’s defence minister said yesterday (7 November) the European Union must modernise its military defence and security to match NATO’s drive to beef up its own security forces in the wake of a major Russian build-up.

France, Germany, Italy and Spain are calling for a common European defence policy after Britain’s vote to quit the bloc, an initiative that marks the EU’s biggest push since the 1990s.

“We have seen an enormous modernisation drive by NATO over the past three years because of the Kremlin’s behaviour,” Ursula von der Leyen told a security conference hosted by the conservative Christian Democrats.

“That was correct and important, but I believe that we must invest at the least same energy into a modernisation of the European security and defence union,” she said.

Von der Leyen, keen to assuage concerns raised by the United States and Britain, said the increase should occur “knowing that one cannot build up competition between the two bodies, but that they should work in a complementary fashion”.
“I see a big mission for the European Union, which must work for a solution together with the African countries,” von der Leyen said. “But to do that, it must better organise and bundle the many instruments it has in the civilian and military realms, actually implement them, and offer a joint European response.”For instance, she said, the EU had a clear mission in working with Africa to stem the steady flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, but that was not NATO’s job.

In a joint letter, Germany, France, Italy and Spain have argued that the EU should be able to respond to external crises without the guiding hand of the United States.

Proposals include increasing European spending on military missions, jointly developing assets such as helicopters and drones, expanding peacekeeping abroad and building stronger defences against state-sponsored hackers.

NATO, and especially the United States, has long argued that Europeans should increase defence spending and strengthen their militaries to ensure their own defence.

EU defence ministers will hold talks on the plans in Brussels next week before presenting a more detailed strategy at a summit meeting of EU leaders in December.

Von der Leyen has been pushing hard to revamp the German military, improve its procurement process and boost personnel. Last month she said Germany was ready to play a larger military role in the service of closer European defence cooperation.

(Independent) Spain to review permission for Russian warships to refuel en route to bomb Aleppo amid anger from Nato and allies

(Independent) Russian carriers were expected to take on fuel at the Spanish port of Ceuta.

Spain is reviewing its decision to allow Russian warships to refuel at one of its ports on their way to bomb the Syrian city of Aleppoamid international outrage.

A naval fleet headed by the Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier, which passed through the English Channel last week, was expected to dock this morning in the North African enclave of Ceuta to take on supplies.

Nato, the British government and EU politicians voiced their shock at the move just days after Spain signed a European Council statement saying it was “appalled” at the escalating violence in Aleppo and calling on the Syrian government and its Russian allies to stop its “excessive and disproportionate” attacks on civilian areas.

The Russian ships are on their way to the eastern Mediterranean to boost Vladimir Putin’s campaign in support of Bashar al-Assad, loaded with fighter jets, reconnaissance and combat helicopters and cruise missiles.

Russian warships move through English Channel under Royal Navy watch

Asked about Spain’s role in supplying the fleet, Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary-General, said he was “concerned”.

“I have expressed that very clearly about potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for airstrikes against Syria,” he added.

“I repeat those concerns today and I believe that all Nato allies are aware that this battle group can be used to conduct airstrikes against Aleppo and Syria.”

Guy Verhofstadt, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, called Spain’s decision “scandalous”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Spain signed EU statement on Russian war crimes in Aleppo last week – today [Tuesday] helps refuel fleet on way to commit more atrocities. Seriously?”

The UK said that although access to Spanish ports was a matter for local authorities, concerns had been raised.

“Her Majesty’s government has previously expressed concerns to the Spanish government about its hospitality to the Russian navy when we have concerns about Russia’s military activity,” a British Government spokesperson said.

Spain, a Nato member, regularly allows Russian war ships to stop in its enclave of Ceuta, which borders Morocco at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.

A spokesperson for the foreign ministry told El Pais permission was granted on a case-by-case basis depending on the ship in question and possibly security risks.

“We are looking at the latest [supply] stops requested based on information requested by Russian authorities,” he added.

Intense international media coverage has followed the fleet’s progress from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, with Royal Navy ships tracking it through the Channel.

Keir Giles, an expert on Russian security issues, told The Independent that bolstering the country’s firepower in the Syrian conflict may not be the deployment’s only objective.

“The biggest thing that worries me is that while there is all of this intense media focus not just in the UK but in  Europe on this one action in one place, what are they [Russia] doing somewhere else?” he asked.

“They have achieved complete media and public opinion focus on one bright, shiny object that is being held up to potentially distract from more important things happening elsewhere.”

The deployment includes the Admiral Kuznetsov, Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) battlecruiser, the Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyer, Severomorsk destroyers and several supply vessels.