Uniting democracies has been the key international political trend of the last hundred years. Understanding this trend and enabling it to continue is the key to world political development.
Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright (Dem. of Tex.) died in Fort Worth, Texas on May 6, 2015. An 18-term U.S. Representative, Wright was a close personal friend of Clarence K. Streit and a decades-long member of the board of Federal Union, Inc., the predecessor of The Streit Council. He was a longtime supporter of Atlantic Union and Streit's call for federal institutions first articulated in his book UNION NOW, to solidify the Atlantic Alliance in World War II and later with NATO. While in the U.S. House, Wright was a supporter of U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver's (Dem. of Tenn.) "Atlantic Union Resolution" and, later, the similar efforts of U.S. Rep. Paul Findley (Rep.of Ill.). For many years, Wright was often a spokesperson for the concepts of Clarence K. Streit in the U.S. Congress. The photo to the left is of Wright at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver with D. Bruce Shine, Chairman of the Board of The Streit Council, where both were convention delegates.
New Book by Streit Council Advisory Board Member Kenneth Weisbrode
In Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformers, historian Kenneth Weisbrode asserts that Old Diplomacyis not really that old—many of its concepts and methods date to the mid-nineteenth century—while the practices of New Diplomacy emerged only a couple of generations later. Moreover, "Diplomacy 2.0" and other variants of the post-Cold War era do not depart significantly from their twentieth-century predecessor: their forms, particularly in technology, have changed, but their substance has not. In this succinct overview, Weisbrode reminds us that to understand diplomatic transformations and their relevance to international affairs is to see diplomacy as an entrepreneurial art—and that, like most arts, it is adapted and re-adapted with reference to earlier forms. Diplomatic practice is always changing, and always continuous. To read more about this book, click here.
Kenneth Weisbrode, Ph.D., joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board. He is an Assistant Professor of History at Bilkent University, Turkey and has written and edited several books, including Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformers; Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI; and The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats who Forged America's Vital Alliance with Europe. He is also the co-founder of the Toynbee Prize Foundation's Network for the New Diplomatic History, and holds a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University.
New Book by Streit Council Board Member Richard Rosecrance
In The Resurgence of the West: How a Transatlantic Union Can Prevent War and Restore the United States and Europe, Richard Rosecrance calls for the United States to join forces with the European Union and create a transatlantic economic union. A U.S.-Europe community would unblock arteries of trade and investment, rejuvenate the West, and enable Western countries to deal with East Asian challenges from a position of unity and economic strength. Through this great merger the author offers a positive vision of the future in which members of a tightly knit Western alliance regain economic health and attract Eastern nations to join a new and worldwide international order. To read more about this book, click here.
At the Washington D.C. Summit on Cross Continental Cooperation, held by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy from November 4-7, Streit Council President Richard Conn Henry reviewed the history of the Streit Council, starting with Clarence K. Streit's self-publication of Union Now just prior to World War II, and continuing with the passing of the Atlantic Union Resolution in 1964. Henry also expounded his idea on a possible Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that, if adopted, would lead to a federal union with the European Union. His proposal can be found here.
Brendan Simms, Ph.D., joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board. He is a Professor of the History of European International Relations at the University of Cambridge, and is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the think tank Project on Democratic Union, which supports a full political union of the Eurozone. He also founded and is the President of the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank dedicated to fostering a strong British and European commitment to liberty; constitutional democracy; human rights; governmental and institutional reform; a robust foreign, security, and defense policy; and the transatlantic alliance. His publications include Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire 1714-1783 (2008) and Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (2001).
Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance News
EU and Ukraine sign Memorandum of Understanding for €1.8 billion in financial assistance
22 May 2015 – European Commission
Today in Riga the European Commission and Ukraine signed an agreement for a loan of 1.8 billion of euros. This Memorandum of Understanding covers six main areas to implement structural reforms of the Ukrainian economy. The agreement also complies with other programs from the World Bank and the IMF which also support the current reform commitments of the Ukrainian government. The package will be disbursed in three major payments and is expected to boost financial reforms, economic growth, as well as governmental transparency in the short-term. It parallels other European contributions in humanitarian aid and technical assistance.
EU wants framework for free trade deal with U.S. by end-2015
21 May 2015 – Economic Times
Angela Merkel is pushing for a deal that establishes the political framework for a transatlantic free trade agreement between the U.S. and EU by the end of 2015. The agreement could lead to new jobs and generate over $100 billion annually for the transatlantic area.
EU commitment to Pacific Trade despite EPA stall
21 May 2015 – Radio New Zealand
The EU reaffirmed its commitment to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the bloc and Pacific countries. Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s Trade Commissioner, has proposed a three year deferral of negotiations so Pacific countries can determine the best course of action. The trade negotiations have been ongoing for the last eleven years and Ambassador Andrew Jacobs describes the current state of negotiations as “going in circles” for the past few months.
Draghi: “Growth is too low everywhere” in Europe
21 May 2015 – Business Insider
Though he acknowledged the modest recovery in Europe, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi stated that growth and inflation readings in Europe are too low, and citizens are becoming frustrated at the lack of robust growth. Federal Reserve board member Stanley Fischer expressed his praise of new banking supervisory institutions within the EU that will be able to unwind large banks without costly bailouts. That said, he believes that the monetary union “will not survive unless it also brings prosperity to its members.”
EU chief warns Ireland on need to reduce debt
21 May 2015 – Irish Times
The Vice President of the European Commission, Jyrki Kyrtainen, is pushing Ireland to continue with necessary economic reforms, and paying down debt. He criticized Ireland’s most recent budget and stressed the importance of reduce public expenditures over increased spending. Currently, Ireland is the fastest growing country in the EU with a growth rate of 3.5 percent. The European Commission is concerned that public sector pay raises will create negative spillovers for the country’s private sector.
ECB says QE working, but government reforms needed-minutes
21 May 2015 – Reuters
The ECB believes firmly that its Quantitative Easing program is working, and plans to maintain it stimulus measures through September 2016. Fears over the potential scarcity of bond market supply due to ECB asset purchases have been overstated, according to the minutes. Furthermore, the easing program signaled to governments that they should strive to implement more structural reforms, and improve conditions for businesses.
Irish Unemployment Rate Falls to 6 year low of 9.8 Percent
21 May 2015 – New York Times
Ireland’s unemployment fell to 9.8 percent, a decline from 10.1 percent in January. It is the first time in six years that unemployment is in the single digits. In 2008, Ireland was hit hard by the financial crisis as its economy suffered after a credit-fuelled boom. Ireland is now forecast to have the strongest growth in the EU in 2015.
Parliament urges EU Member States to gear up for new security challenges
21 May 2015 – European Parliament News
Current threats to European security, including yet not limited to terrorism and cyber-attacks, are increasingly demonstrating the need to enforce a more effective common policy on security and defense for EU’s member’s states. The EU Parliament approved a motion calling for substantial progress in the EU operational capabilities to face international threats to security and instability on its borders. The upcoming meeting of June 25-26 represents a unique opportunity to offer some concrete response to critics of EU’s security policies. The Parliament also discussed a revision of current market regulations to boost technological innovation, especially in defense.
NATO troops needed for long term to contain Russia, Estonia says
21 May 2015 – SWI
Estonia’s Defense Minister appealed to NATO to send more troops to the country to guarantee its national independence and security from Moscow’s aggressive and expansionist policies. However, NATO’s secretary confirmed that the presence of troops in the Baltic states has already increased over the last few weeks. Although the news of Russian bases along the Estonian border is raising Tallinn’s concern, NATO confirmed that its response time to a Russian attack has been virtually reduced to zero. Estonia also confirmed the enhancement of its military capabilities including mid-range defense systems and tanks.
Obama on Iran deal: “Personal interest in locking this down”
21 May 2015 – NBC News
In a recent interview President Obama confirmed that, in addition to security interests, he has a personal interest in securing the nuclear deal with Teheran. Obama also highlighted that, although Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statements have been deeply anti-Semitic, this does not preclude him from reaching an agreement with the U.S. In addition, Obama denied that relieving economic sanctions on Iran will allow Teheran to further pursue its military build-up. Obama added that a specific process will prevent this from happening.
EU says Riga summit “not anti-Russia beauty contest”
21 May 2015 – BBC News
One of the leaders of the six former Soviet Republics participating the Riga meeting claimed that the summit “is not a beauty contest to distance them from Russia”. European Council President Tusk argued that Russia’s aggressiveness and bullying tactics is adversely affecting the relations between the Kremlin and its former partners. He also added that Moscow’s pressure on its neighbors and threats of war will not intimidate the EU. German Chancellor Merkel further reiterated European criticism of Moscow stating that the EU’s Eastern partnership is not expansionist in its scope, differently from Moscow. She also excluded any possibility for Russia to join the G7 until Moscow accepts the group’s core values. Although Ukraine membership won’t be discussed during the meeting, Ukrainian President Poroshenko reaffirmed Ukraine’s European aspirations. Meanwhile, Moscow firmly criticized military training in Georgia and Ukraine with U.S. troops, labeling it as a Western instrument to exert pressure on former Soviet states to join the Western camp.
Germany’s Merkel dashes Ukraine’s EU membership hopes
21 May 2015 – The Wall Street Journal
German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that the “Eastern Partnership isn't an EU enlargement policy instrument,” anticipating today’s meeting in Latvia. Ukraine, however, has confirmed its expectation for a visa waiver to Ukrainians from next year, making Berlin and Kiev’s diverging views more evident. Berlin, especially, expects greater efforts to fight corruption and improve both the economic and judicial system in Ukraine. Still, Merkel renewed Germany’s criticism of Russia’s aggressive strategy toward the former Soviet Republics and reasserted the importance of the partnership program to ease the transition to democracy and rule of law.
Will Finland join NATO? Russian military activity leads Finns to question neutrality
20 May 2015 – IBTimes
Russian aggressiveness could force Finland to re-think its current neutrality. Although Finland is not a part of NATO, it recently intensified its military drills and cooperation with NATO in response to the current unrest in Ukraine. Still, the majority of Finns oppose entrance into NATO, but also express concern over Russian maritime activity along the Finn shores. Meanwhile, Finland, an EU member state, also supported economic sanctions against Russia. Finland’s increasing role within the Nordic defense framework, however, has provoked Moscow’s criticism. The Kremlin warned Finland not to join NATO and also interpreted its current cooperation as a threat to the constructive relations of the last few decades. Finland, for its part, reasserted its criticism for Crimea’s annexation and the Ukrainian war, yet also restated its effort to pursue peace in the region.
Dollar rises on renewed confidence in the U.S. recovery
20 May 2015 – Wall Street Journal
The release of the Federal Reserve minutes reverberated in financial markets in the U.S. and EU. The minutes revealed the Fed is leaning against a federal funds rate hike in June in favor of an end of 2015 lift-off. Fed officials highlighted the weakness of various economic indicators in delaying its decision to raise interest rates. The dollar fell after initial gains in the trading day but rebounded to finish higher against the euro and Japanese yen. The euro weakened as policy makers continue to struggle to find common ground with Syriza, and the ECB’s front-loaded stimulus proposal. Over the past two months, the dollar has fallen four percent against a basket of currencies in the WSJ Dollar Index. That said, Fed officials expect an economic rebound for the remainder of the year.
Euro under pressure after Greece warns it could fail to meet IMF payment
20 May 2015 – The Guardian
The euro tumbled as Greek officials believe that the country will not be able to repay part of its debt to the IMF by June 5th. Moody’s has warned that Greek banks could face a liquidity crisis as investors and depositors pull capital from banks. Furthermore, Moody’s contends that the banks will need indefinite assistance from the ECB as depositors will continue to lose confidence in Syriza’s ability to carry out a reform program and secure fuds from creditors. To counter capital flight from Greek banks, the Syriza government is proposing a transactions tax on bank depositors. Nikos Filios, Greece’s Parliamentary Speaker, stated the Greeks won’t be able to repay the IMF unless its creditors unlocked bailout funds, and prioritized payments to pensioners, wages, and salaries over paying off Greece’s debts to creditors.
France slammed by IMF for record high spending
20 May 2015 – CNBC
The IMF outlined a series of reforms that France must implement in order to return to higher growth levels. Although France expanded by a surprising 0.6% in the first quarter, unemployment remains high at 10.6% as of March. The IMF attributes the growth to external factors (lower oil prices, a weaker euro, and low interest rates) as opposed to France’s economic fundamentals. The IMF stressed the importance of reducing fiscal spending in order to return confidence to investors and corporations and increase business investment. Furthermore, France must eliminate “structural rigidities” by instituting labor market reforms and business taxes.
Ukraine becomes leading EU trading [artner among Eastern Partnership countries
20 May 2015 – Global Post
In 2014, the Ukraine was the biggest recipient of EU exports and a leading source of EU imports among the EU’s eastern trading partners. 52% of total EU exports to eastern partners (71 billion euros) went to Ukraine. Overall, the EU exports primarily manufactured goods to eastern partners and receives mostly primary goods from the same trading partners.
Russia weighs on EU’s eastern ambitions
May 20 2015 – Financial Times
Following a previous meeting of EU leaders with six former Soviet countries in Lithuania, Ukraine’s refusal to sign an EU integration deal resulted in massive protests in Ukraine and the fall of its government. Within weeks Russia annexed Crimea and violence began. The upcoming meeting will hardly have similar affect, yet Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia have enthusiastically embraced the idea of European partnership since then. European offers for free trade and cooperation on the reformist path, however, still oppose Russia’s post-Soviet integration project. Thus, Europe has to face the dilemma of deepening integration with former Soviet Republic at the cost of possible military escalation with Moscow. At the same time, people in the region expect Europe to hold its promises as well as security guarantees form Moscow in the short-term.
NATO to Russia: Be transparent on military drills
19 May 2015- DefenseNews
NATO Secretary Stoltenberg invited Russia to guarantee full transparency on its border and to avoid military drills that further increase tension with Ukraine. Although the cease-fire is proving extremely fragile, Russia continues to deny any support to the separatists and refuses to withdraw heavy weapons or allow OCSE monitors access to the region under control from the pro-Russian factions. Despite this, communication between NATO, the United States, and Russian remains open.
Euro Slumps after official says ECB will Front-Load Stimulus
19 May 2015 – Wall Street Journal
Benoit Coeuré, an ECB board member, sent European sovereign bond yields and the euro tumbling after his comments at a private dinner last night. Coueré stated that the ECB will “front-load” its stimulus measures in the short-term until the end of June to avoid injecting excess liquidity in the summer holiday period. Typically, stocks and bonds trading is muted during the summer season. Besides sovereign bonds, Coeuré’s remarks had a positive impact on equity indexes across the EU including the DAX and Stoxx Europe 600. Ian Stewart, Chief Economist at Deloitte, believes that the new stimulus measures will increase the purchasing power of consumers and reduce interest rates in the short-term.
ECB rolls its tanks onto the lawn as Greece’s PM faces a party mutiny
19 May 2015 – Fortune
Benoit Coeuré’s comments have also been interpreted by markets as a sign of the ECB’s willingness to do whatever it takes to contain damage from a potential Greek default or exit from the euro. It is becoming increasingly evident that there are fundamental differences between members of Greece’s governing party concerning the terms on a bailout deal needed to pay off creditors. The fissures within Syriza may prevent any financing agreement between Greece and the EU from being realized. Furthermore, Bank of France Governor, Christian Noyer, claims that the front-loaded stimulus measures will help bring inflation closer to the ECB target of 2%. In April, headline inflation remained at 0% while core prices (stripping out energy and food prices) grew by 0.3%.
National Front joins anti-TTIP lobby
19 May 2015 – EurActiv
Marine LePen, leader of the National Front in France, expressed her opposition to the TTIP trade negotiations at the European Parliament. She argues that the trade deal would cost thousands of French jobs, and she is attempting to mobilize opposition to the deal across the political spectrum. Currently, there are only 60,000 French citizens that have signed a TTIP petition compared to one million German citizens. Worryingly, Le Pen would halt negotiations or nullify the treaty if she wins France’s Presidential election in 2017. Le Pen’s anti-TTIP comments came after a report published by the European Commission showing the expansion of both the U.S. and EU economies if a trade deal is signed.
ECB’s Praet warns Unemployment will Remain High
19 May 2015 – Wall Street Journal
ECB Executive Board member, Peter Praet, underscored the importance of structural forms within European countries to reduce the high unemployment rate across the Eurozone. In March, the Eurozone jobless rate stood at 11.3% which is double the U.S. unemployment rate. While many countries have taken important steps, Mr. Praet believes that further reforms can be implemented in labor laws, justice systems, governance, and diffusion of technologies across borders. Without these reforms, it may be difficult to bring down the structural unemployment closer to the U.S. and UK even with the ECB’s recent monetary policy expansion.
Tailwinds for Eurozone economy may be about to turn
19 May 2015 – Reuters
Although the Eurozone surged past U.S. and UK GDP growth rates in the first quarter, the economic tailwinds propelling this surge may be subsiding. The three key factors in first quarter Eurozone GDP growth are the 60% drop in the price of oil, a weaker euro, and lower sovereign bond yields. Currently, oil has rebounded by 50% since January, German bond yields have risen 10 fold, and a broad category of stocks have fallen. Further volatility in the Eurozone bond markets could shave up to a 0.3 percentage point of nominal GDP growth over the next year if bond yields rise more than 50 basis points. That said, economists at JP Morgan remain bullish on EU growth prospects with forecasts of a 2.5% expansion over the first half of 2015.
Fighting in Ukraine takes toll on country's economy
19 May 2015 – CTVNews
Since violence began, Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by about a fifth from what it once was. This decline is closely related to the loss of most of the country’s industry to pro-Russian rebels in the east. Already affected by an economic recession that began two years prior the conflict, the Ukrainian economy lays in great unrest and inflation is rampant. In such a context, the Ukrainian government is re-focusing its effort to improve the service and agricultural sector that could attract significant foreign investment and re-launch the national economy, which is nowadays deprived of its coal and steel supply form the east. In addition, also the IMF is planning on giving further loans to the country to cope with the skyrocketing debt. Although the cut of import tariffs on Ukrainian goods from the EU has ameliorated free trade between the parties, it has not had the expected impact on the whole economy. Still, the import of 2/3 of energy from the EU is greatly benefiting the country’s economic independence from Moscow.
Russia bans “undesirable” international organizations ahead of 2016 elections
19 May 2015 – The Guardian
The Kremlin’s law banning “undesirable foreign organizations” is raising concern among political opponents of President Putin. This subtle law implies that many foreign organizations work to support foreign intelligence agencies and fall in line with President Putin’s recent claims that “Western special services continue their attempts at using public, non-governmental and politicized organizations to pursue their own objectives, primarily to discredit the authorities and destabilize the internal situation in Russia.” Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have labelled the law as a draconian measure to crush any internal dissent and asserted their concern for Russia’s authoritarian drive. The law is designed to punish members of the blacklisted organizations by a mix of fines and jail time, ultimately hoping to isolate internal opposition from any external support in their fight for political freedom.
Eurozone exports boosted by weaker euro
19 May 2015 – The Wall Street Journal
A weaker euro is boosting Eurozone exports, aiding its economic recovery. Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency, said the Eurozone had a surplus in their trade in goods of €23.4 billion ($26.2 billion), up from €16.1 billion in March 2014. A survey of 3000 German companies conducted by DIHK German Chambers of Commerce found that 53% expect their overseas business to grow over the next 12 months, while 41% forecast the level to remain unchanged and only 6% assume they will do worse.
Merkel gives Greece 12 days to reach financing accord
19 May 2015 – Bloomberg
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have given Greece until the end of May to reach a deal on its aid program, echoing EU President Jean-Claude Juncker. Greek officials confirm that negotiations are in the “final stretch,” though EU and IMF officials assert that there is much work to be done. EU leaders are expected to press Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to drive the negotiations toward a conclusion at an EU summit in Riga on Thursday.
Top aide to Iran's leader meets Syria's Assad, pledges support
19 May 2015 – Reuters
The Tuesday meeting between a top Iranian official and Syrian President Assad confirmed Teheran's support for the regime after four years of civil war. During the meeting Iranian and Syrian officials discussed oil, electricity and industrial investments and also restated their common efforts against the terrorist threat. Over time Iran has provided Assad's regime with financial and military resources, also supporting Hezbollah from Lebanon. Iran also criticized Saudi Arabia for its support of anti-Assad factions as well as the Western powers for their campaign to remove President Assad from power. In doing so, Tehran argued, the West ultimately undermined any political settlement of the civil war. However, the combined pressure of both insurgents and Islamic state militants is increasingly shaking Assad and his regime.
NATO's Stoltenberg tells Russia's Lavrov to pull out of Ukraine
19 May 2015 – Reuters
NATO's secretary Stoltenberger requested Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to withdraw military and financial support to Ukrainian separatists. During a meeting on Tuesday, the two representatives also discussed border security and Stoltenberger reaffirmed NATO's concern for further escalation of the conflict. Russia, however, continues to deny any support to the separatists.
EU Defense, Foreign Ministers Approve Military Mission Targeting Smuggler Boats
18 May 2015 – Deutsche Welle
To prevent further drowning of immigrants across the Mediterranean, EU foreign ministers have agreed on launching an unprecedented military mission that will target the smugglers’ boats. The first step will consist of gathering information about the smuggler network by using intelligence on the ground. The plan is expected to save immigrant lives while also stopping smugglers from profiting from political instability in the region. The complexity of the operation, however, has already produced major criticism against military attacks that could also affect the ability of migrants to escape. The European efforts also include a revision of a quota of asylum applicants to relieve Greece, Italy, and Malta from the burden of the continuous immigration.
NATO: “Terrorists” May Use Migrant Cover to Get to Europe
18 May 2015 – The Times of Israel
NATO’s Secretary expressed his concern for foreign fighters who are hiding among the migrants seeking refugee across the Mediterranean. During the meeting with the EU foreign ministers about a possible naval blockade in Libya, Stoltenberg commented that a prompt response is crucial not only to stop this human tragedy but also to strengthen Western security. Although Stoltenberg confirmed that the EU countries did not ask for help, NATO is ready to offer assistance to reduce the terrorist threat.
Japan Would Attack North Korea To Defend U.S. After Missile Attack, Defense Minister Says
18 May 2015 - International Business Times
Following the approval of new Defense Guidelines, Japanese Defense Minister confirmed that Tokyo would strongly retaliate against North Korea in case of attacks against the United States. Diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Kim Jong Un's North Korea have been increasingly tense and Japan has called for further sanctions against the North Korean regime. For example, Tokyo banned any North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports. Meanwhile the United States also asked China to implement stronger sanctions against North Korea in response to its growing nuclear and missile program.
Iran ready to help Iraq confront Islamic State: senior Tehran official
18 May 2015 – Reuters
Iran claims its willingness to support the Iraqi government in its fight against Islamic state militants. U.S. officials have also reported that Iranian aircraft have already carried out military attacks against ISIS in Tikrit. These actions have revamped a former Iraqi-Iranian alliance yet the city of Mosul in northern Iraq remains under the firm control of the militants.
Russia Closes NATO’s Transport Corridor to Afghanistan
18 May 2015 - The Moscow Times
On Monday Russia closed a transport corridor that allowed NATO to bring supplies to Afghanistan, claiming that it was done due to the termination of the 1386 UN Security Council resolution. Although NATO kept small military forces in Afghanistan, its mission officially terminated in December 2014. However, minor military and financial support continued to flow through the Russian corridor. This act marked the end of the cooperation between Western forces, especially the U.S., and Putin government. Although the Russian leader supported the post 9/11 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, recent events in Eastern Europe have marked a watershed in Russian-American relations.
Russia, Ukraine, EU say trade deal talks were “constructive”
18 May 2015 – Reuters
At talks on Monday, Russia did not restate its demand for a delay to the implementation of an EU-Ukraine trade deal or threats of retaliation. Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said: “Our view is that the time remaining must be used as effectively as possible.” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom recognized that Ukraine has not fulfilled EU conditions for the deal to take effect, but that it should be in a better position after seven months of reform. The bilateral trade deal is set to take effect on January 1, 2016.
European boots on Libyan ground
18 May 2015 – Politico
Facing the incoming immigration from Libya, EU's Foreign Minister Mogherini stated that the EU is ready to take military action and expect a resolution from the UN Security Council to facilitate the cooperation with the Libyan authorities. Meanwhile some European countries are also awaiting from the UN authorization to take military action against the smugglers. Russian opposition inside the UN, however, could delay the resolution. Moreover, different European countries have questioned the use of military forces and the problematic differentiation between fisher and smuggler boats. While these issues will be central to the upcoming discussion in Brussels, the problem of a quota system as well as resettlement program for immigrants remain crucial. Eastern European countries as well as UK and France are firmly opposing the current quota proposal. Most countries ask the EU Commission to autonomously decide their quota according to their capabilities and needs.
Russia, U.S. Try Diplomacy on Ukraine and Syria Conflict
18 May 2015 - Bloomberg
U.S. diplomats stepped up their effort to address the problems related to cease-fire in Ukraine, local elections in rebel-held regions, and international monitors. Russian officers, however, criticized the U.S. for the worsening of diplomatic relations and its inability to persuade the Ukrainian government to enter talks with the separatist rebels. By contrast, Kiev refuses any responsibility for the escalation of violence and the delay in the devolution of autonomy to the easternmost regions attributing responsibility to Moscow's back of the rebels. Amidst the military and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the talks have also addressed the problem of Syria and ISIS, and the U.S. has repeatedly asked Russia to exercise pressure on Assad to find a diplomatic settlement and undermine the terrorist efforts.
West clings to fraying Ukraine peace deal despite Kiev doubts
17 May 2015 – Reuters
Although President Putin shows no sign of wavering and NATO is increasingly concerned about an upcoming offensive from the separatist forces in Ukraine, the Western powers are still firmly supporting the cease-fire reached in Minsk three months ago. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Poroshenko has to respond to internal criticism for the increasing loss of troops in Eastern Ukraine while also seeking not to jeopardize Western support. People in Kiev, however, hardly believe Russian troops will abide by the Minsk agreement, widely described as an “illusion.” Thus, Ukrainian and European views are increasingly diverging and Kiev is uninterruptedly suffering human casualties for an agreement that does not include any recovery of territorial losses. Although Putin does not seem intent on showing any weakness, he might decide not to further escalate the conflict in Ukraine, taking an extreme risk both in political and economic terms. Nonetheless, keeping the conflict at a low level would further the Russian goals to keep Ukraine out of both Europe and NATO.
Greek Finance Minister Lashes Out at ECB Chief
14 May 2015 – The New York Times
While denying allegations that he insinuated a threat that Greece would not make repayments to the European Central Bank, controversial Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis did remark that ECB President Mario Draghi is coming down hard on Greece out of fear from Germany, Greece’s main creditor. The Bank “is expected to tighten the screws next Wednesday by placing further restrictions on emergency cash the central bank provides to keep the Greek banking system from collapsing.” Greece continues to toe the line of default, scraping together another repayment to the IMF on Tuesday, with help from the IMF.
UK Should Hold EU Referendum as Soon as Possible, Says BOE’s Mark Carney
14 May 2015 – The Wall Street Journal
Bank of England governor Mark Carney stated that the newly reelected Prime Minister David Cameron should hold the referendum on EU membership as soon as possible to “limit uncertainty for businesses and investors.” The promised referendum will be held by 2017, however could be pushed up to next year. Carney also stated his belief that EU membership provides a “big advantage” for the UK economy. Cameron has expressed his interest in remaining in the EU, provided they achieve reforms regarding immigration and welfare for noncitizens. Challenges include “crafting the exact question [and] allowing Mr. Cameron enough time to secure the reforms he wants.”
NATO, Ukraine concerned by Russian comments on nuclear weapons in Crimea
13 May 2015 – Reuters
Both NATO and Ukraine have expressed deep concern in response to Russian statements about the possible stationing of nuclear weapons in the annexed part of the Crimean region. In addition, NATO and Ukraine foreign ministers have called on Russia to respect the Minsk agreements and stop the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian separatists. However, as in the past, Moscow continues to deny any military support to the separatists.
Kerry Has “Frank” Talks with Putin About Ukraine, Syria
14 May 2015 – NewsMax
Talks between Russian President Putin and American Secretary of State Kerry have marked a slow improvement in U.S.-Russian relations, which has not been at such a low point since the Cold War. The two representatives discussed the situation in both Ukraine and Syria. While the U.S. has repeatedly accused Moscow of initiating the unlawful annexation of the Crimean region, Moscow has accused Washington of last year’s overthrow of a Ukrainian President supported by Russia. Likewise, while Washington criticizes Moscow for the poorly implemented cease-fire, the Russian government continues to deny any support to the Ukrainian separatists. Although Russia and the U.S. remain on opposite positions in Syria, U.S. officers anticipate a change of strategy in Moscow and await the nuclear deal with Iran.
Gulf allies, worried about Iran, show more muscle with U.S.
14 May 2015 – CNN
The Wednesday meeting between President Obama and the Gulf countries’ representatives follows nuclear deal talks between the U.S. administration and Iran. Along with Israel, the Gulf countries firmly oppose the deal and fear that it will unlock financial resources that Iran could use to further extend its power in the region. Although the Gulf countries are eager to obtain security guarantees from the U.S., they are showing less deference toward the American ally. The meeting agenda also extends to the conflict in Syria, Libya, and Islamic extremism. As proven by the recent Saudi initiative in Yemen, the Gulf countries will take action against Islamic extremism with or without American permission and expect America to engage more to strengthen security in the region. The US is considering extending military training and assistance to the Gulf countries while also loosening restrictions on the sale of weapons.
EU and NATO to Tighten Cooperation to Face Emerging “Threats”
14 May 2015 – Deutsche Welle
The EU’s foreign affairs head and NATO ministers agreed to work closely to face both the Russian threat and the migrant wave from Africa and the Middle East. Although details of the EU’s plan against the human traffickers have not yet been fully discussed, the military option has not been ruled out by both EU and NATO. Within this discussion, some of the European members appear more prone to use the military option than others who are pushing for an agreement with the different warring factions in Libya. Likewise, the ISIS terrorist threat and the Ukrainian conflict is forcing NATO to re-think its strategy and effectively combine both conventional military techniques and non-conventional methods such as cyber-attacks. Despite the Minsk agreement, Russian support for separatist factions is undermining the peace process, NATO secretary stated.
3 Baltic Countries Request Permanent NATO Troop Presence
14 May 2015 – ABC News
Due to increasing Russian aggressiveness, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania requested NATO to permanently deploy 700-800 troops in their countries. Moscow’s activism in the Baltic Sea is increasingly concerning the Baltic States that regained their independence over twenty years ago. Although NATO Secretary Stoltenberg did not give a resolute response to the Baltic requests, he confirmed NATO’s preparedness to protect its members and quickly act in case of military threat.
Pacific and European trade deals may be back on track as U.S. Senate votes again
13 May 2015 – The Guardian
President Barack Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority bill passed another hurdle, with the Senate agreeing to move forward with the legislation, despite a negative vote on Tuesday. Part of the deal allows “Democrats to have a vote on a customs enforcement bill, which contains the currency language, as well as the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” which Senate minority leader Harry Reid declared “fair.” These components of the bill may still not reach the final draft, as they will have to get through a Republic controlled House and the White House. Obama’s opposing party supports the ambitious legislation more broadly than do the Democrats.
NATO Commander Accuses Russia of Making Irresponsible Nuclear Threats
13 May 2015 – Reuters
NATO’s supreme commander in Europe criticized Russia for its nuclear threats as well as its support of separatist forces in Ukraine. General Breedlove stressed that pro-Russian forces are violating the Minsk agreements but Moscow repeatedly denied it. He also added that the irresponsible Russian claims about its right to use nuclear weapons for self-defense would only increase tension in Ukraine and invited Moscow to moderate its tone and language. In such a tense diplomatic context, the continuous offensive of the separatist forces especially concerning to Ukraine and NATO.
EU Commission says Germany should invest, France must reform
13 May 2015 – Reuters
The European Commission’s annual policy recommendations released recently called on Germany to put its economic prosperity to use by investing in infrastructure, education and research, and pushed for the French government to implement structural reforms, specifically citing “labour market reform, competitiveness, the efficiency of the tax system, wage setting and the unemployment benefits system.” The Commission also commended Italy’s request “to undertake a lower fiscal adjustment in 2016 also to support the foreseen structural reforms.”
Kerry Urges Closer Ties Among Allies in Battling Islamic State
13 May 2015 – Voice of America
On Wednesday, American Secretary of State John Kerry called for closer relations between the Western coalition and the Gulf countries to oppose the ISIS threat. Kerry suggested stronger defense arrangements yet some of the Gulf countries are more willing to fight Syrian President Assad rather than the Islamic state group. Likewise, Turkey has also criticized Washington for its mild approach toward Syria, perceived from Ankara as the real cause of regional instability. In addition, NATO’s secretary emphasized the need to defy the terrorist threat while newly inviting Moscow to cut its support to Ukrainian separatists. After the meeting Kerry returned to Washington DC to face the Gulf countries’ hostility toward the U.S.’s prospective nuclear deal with Teheran.
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