Weekly cables

Week 13 - 2017

In his first interview as Secretary of State and echoing one of Donald Trump’s electoral suggestions, Rex Tillerson broached the possibility of Japan and South Korea obtaining nuclear weapons. Talking to the Independent Journal Review Tillerson explained that such a development would be effectively considered for mutual deterrence reasons and only in case of a nuclearized North Korea. Notwithstanding the Secretary of State’s statements, the U.S. federal agencies haven’t yet decided whether that should be regarded as the least worst scenario, as for the future Washington mostly fears a full-fledged nuclear Japan. But by envisioning three more nuclear powers in Asia, the U.S. wants to increase pressure on China to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program, most likely overestimating Beijing’s capabilities on that front.

Despite much fanfare to the contrary, Trump’s alleged penchant for defending Israel’s interests won’t be enough to get U.S.-Israeli relations back to where they were prior to Obama’s presidency. As Limes wrote some weeks ago, America’s priorities in the Middle East have shifted and now Israel is just one of four countries supposed to establish a regional balance of power against their will. No matter Trump’s advent, U.S.-Israeli relations will remain tense, as Jerusalem cannot accept being just “one regional power among others”. Now the Israeli government has announced that Bibi Netanyahu won’t be attending the annual conference (March 26-28) of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, U.S. main pro-Israel lobby, and there will be no bilateral meeting between the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister, as a protest against t a perceived continuity between Trump and Obama administrations and against current White House not scrapping the nuclear deal with Iran. Among Jerusalem’s grievances there is also the likely confirmation by Trump of Yael Lempert as director for the Levant and Egypt at the U.S National Security Council, a leftover from the previous administration much despised in Israel. Even if Bibi were to travel to the U.S. at the last minute, just floating the possibility of skipping the trip altogether signals a burgeoning rift between Jerusalem and Washington.

A few days after MacroGeo warned against looking at the outcome of the Netherlands’ general elections as a turning point in reviving the European Union, Dutch caretaker finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also chairs the Eurogroup, told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that to plea for solidarity EU members should get their budgets in order first, instead of «spending all their money on drink and women». His unpleasant rhetoric aside, Dijsselbloem is in lockstep with Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble who few days later explained that «Europe is suffering from its member states not doing what they have to do and some relying too much on others». Another signal of how the Netherlands, against its own historical strategic imperative, is poised to further integrate into Germany’s KernEuropa rather than spearheading Europe’s further integration.