Weekly cables

Week 17 - 2017

France’s presidential election and the country’s strategic dilemma

Facing off in the runoff vote of France’s presidential election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen well embody the strategic dilemma Paris has been dealing with for months. Either staying as a second fiddle in the multi-speed Europe Angela Merkel has been advocating for, meaning Germany’s sphere of influence in the heart of the continent, or pulling out of the German project to adopt a more independent posture. Both candidates are confident that in the long run demographics and the country’s nuclear arsenal will allow France to pull ahead of Germany. But Macron believes that for the time being Paris needs to stick with Berlin, also not to be severely punished by financial markets; while Le Pen would like for France to go solo, attracting other Eurosceptic countries along the way and counting on Russia as a counterweight to Germany’s power. Unfortunately, neither knows how to assimilate millions of Muslim immigrants who in the next years will consistently boost France’s population growth (Le Pen doesn’t even want to try).

Russia scores a win in its fight against US intelligence (but still has a long way to go)

Social media company Twitter informed that it will comply with Russia’s terrorism law and transfer the personal data of its users to databases housed on Russian soil starting in 2018. Under the 2016 law companies must provide Russia’s authorities access to their users’ calls, texts, and internet activity, while helping the Federal Security Service decode the messages. Many countries around the world - i.e. Russia, China, Germany, India, Brazil – have long decried what they perceive as the US unfair advantage of profiling other countries’ citizens through social networks servers being located on American soil. According to those governments, thanks to such data Washington is able to know how foreign citizens across the world feel and predict what political choices they could make. With Twitter buckling under its pressure, the Kremlin has now made a dent in the US intelligence armor, but as long as Facebook and other social networks resist those very requests the American advantage won’t wane for quite some time.

MacroGeo and the US military bluff on North Korea

In our April 11 cable, we wrote: “Japan might have called the American bluff on North Korea. As the U.S. Navy strike group Carl Vinson moves toward the western Pacific Ocean as a show of force aimed at Kim Jong-un’s regime, a senior Japanese military source explained that: "If the U.S. military was to attack, there could be a request to Japan for rear-guard logistics support but there has been no talk of such preparations." Then on April 18 it turned out that the USS Carl Vinson had gone south through the Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, instead of going North towards the Korean peninsula. As of this writing, the Vinson is finally heading for Korea but it is now clear that the US will resort to military action against Pyongyang only if all other options are no longer viable. Time is running out, but it’s not up yet.