STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a biweekly basis provides short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context. Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha.
Most dynamic first week of a new American president in recent history
President Trump has completed his first week in office and it was as spectacular as anyone could have expected. Many policies were launched and many abolished, fulfilling his campaign promises. Not only policies but also declarations and state visits shed light onto future foreign affairs of the US. Topics of trade and immigration dominated the beginning of Trump’s presidency.
- Building of the promised border wall with Mexico has been officially launched. Increasing tax on Mexican imports is one of the options to fund the construction. President Trump also seeks to start the long-promised renegotiation of NAFTA. In reaction, Mexican president Peña Nieto cancelled his official visit to the US. Canadian PM Trudeau on the other hand welcomes another executive order to push forward construction of the Keystone pipeline.
- As a first official visit president Trump welcomed British PM Theresa May highlighting the special relationship between UK and the US. More importantly for European security the statesman reassured their commitment to NATO and European security. Trump also had an hour-long phone conversation with Russian president Putin discussing regional and international threats. They probably have not discussed sanctions which Trump pledged he wants to abolish during his campaign, or alleged election hacking (which Russia might have tacitly admitted).
- Trump has officially ended US participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a big disappointment to some key allies in the region. Australia and New Zealand might keep the deal alive even without the US. Meanwhile China, which was not part of the original deal, could pursue its own initiative which would mean a boost in its power. While abandoning economic means Trump’s Secretary of State Tillerson indicated adopting more hard-power tools against China especially in the South China Sea.
- A ban on refugee admission has been issued, along with a 90-day travel ban for the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. In reaction Canada offered to ramp up its refugee admissions. Moreover, the new administration appears to be the most pro-Israeli in decades. Days after the inauguration the President invited Israeli PM Netanyahu to the White House and he has repeatedly promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Trump’s nomination for the ambassador to Israel Friedman and the Presidents’ son-in-law and senior advisor Kushner are both known for their pro-Israel activism. These policies could likely escalate conflicts in the Middle East.
Time still not right for a solution in Cyprus
Although the groundbreaking talks in Geneva between highest representatives of the Republic of Cyprus and the unrecognised Northern Cyprus raised a dose of optimism they failed to produce any results. They also failed to be the first success of the new UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres although there was some progress. Security, territorial boundaries and property rights remain the central issues. Position of Turkey, which has around 35 000 soldiers in the North since the 1970s, is essential. It might have been a spoiler to the negotiations as president Erdoğan needed support of nationalist parties in parliament, which oppose any concessions, for constitutional changes. Russia has little to gain from resolution either – it played a role in the failed 2004 negotiations; it has enormous influence on the country; and there are some speculations of meddling. Nevertheless, solution is the closest it has ever been; it could improve EU-NATO cooperation in the region, bring Turkey closer to the EU and dismantle the EU’s last militarised ‘border’. However, experts remain cautious.
Serbian nationalist train sparks threats of war with Kosovo
The train, with the inscription “Kosovo is Serbia”, was stopped on the border on 14 January by the Kosovo special forces. Use of force threats followed from the Serbian PM Vučić and president Nikolić. Kosovo president Thaçi suspects Crimea-like annexation of the northern part of Kosovo by Serbia. Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia intensified earlier in January with former Kosovo PM Haradinaj arrest. September crisis over Serbs’ national holiday in Bosnia which could lead to secession referendum of Republika Srpska highlights the new instability in Balkans. Russia is likely using the crises to increase its influence in the region. Deepening crisis in the Balkans poses a direct threat to wider European security and could jeopardise EU or NATO membership negotiations of some Balkan countries. Effective policy is, nonetheless, hampered by the divided approach to the Kosovo issue by the West.
Text has not undergone language revision.