Analysis

Just as Queen Elizabeth II offers her yuletide greetings to the British people in her Christmas Day broadcast each December 25, so, tradition goes, the president of France presents his New Year’s wishes to the French people on December 31. Emmanuel Macron’s speech on the last day of 2017 was his first New Year’s address. He sought to be exceptionally inclusive and unpolitical; then, toward the end of his remarks, he began to give a glimpse of his larger, long-term vision for France.
This January 8 marks the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech, a foundational moment in America’s rise to define and lead a rules-based world order. Wilson has not been in fashion for some time: his political rigidity at the end of his career probably tanked Senate acceptance of the League of Nations, the culmination of the Fourteen Points; his embrace of national self-determination as a basis for nation states has limits and downside risks; and “Wilsonian Idealism” is frequently dismissed as impractical cant or cover for determined American pursuit of its national interests. Add to this Wilson’s appalling record on race relations in America.

And yet, for all his flaws and for all their flaws, Wilson’s Fourteen Points stand as the first draft, an early and astonishing assertion, of America’s Grand Strategy for the American Century; at 100, they are worth another look.
US National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and his team deserve credit for clear expression of the threat to the United States from autocratic, revisionist powers, especially Russia. Outlining the new National Security Strategy (NSS) to be released on December 18, McMaster earlier this week publicly cited Russia’s “sophisticated campaign of subversion and disinformation and propaganda,” noting that the NSS would spell out this threat, and that the United States would respond accordingly.  

Good for him, especially so given the complexities of Russia policy in the administration of US President Donald J. Trump.  
The solution to persistent problems in the Balkans lies with the region’s people, particularly the youth who can catalyze economic reforms and drive the countries of Southeastern Europe toward a vibrant, entrepreneurial economy.

The key, according to US Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), is rolling back government regulations in order to “spark entrepreneurial zeal.” That spark, said Johnson, is essential for the Balkans—a region with “so many opportunities.”

Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s conference—“A Coming Storm? Shaping a Balkan Future in an Era of Uncertainty”—on November 29, Johnson said: “You need a government regulation system to set the rules of the road… but you don’t need much more than that.” The real source of economic dynamism lies with the entrepreneurs and owner-operated businesses, who, according to Johnson, have the ability to change the region for the better and begin to induce more foreign direct investment (FDI).

Criteria for the US Administration’s “Kremlin Report”

On August 2, 2017, US President Donald J. Trump signed H.R. 3364, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), into law. Section 241 of the Act calls on “the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State” to submit to Congress a detailed report—with the option of making part of it classified—including “identification of the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation, as determined by their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.” Section 241 mandates that the report address the relation of these persons with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and identify their corruption, estimated net worth, and known sources of income. The section also poses similar questions about Russian parastatal entities of diffuse ownership but serving the state. The Kremlin Report, as it might be termed, is due on or around February 1, 2018. 
The crisis in Spain dramatically escalated on October 27 with Catalonia’s regional parliament declaring independence and the Spanish Senate responding with the approval of unprecedented powers for Madrid to seize control of the autonomous region.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called an emergency cabinet meeting and could fire Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers—he now has the power to do so under Article 155 of Spain’s constitution. Under these circumstances, the Spanish government would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police, and publicly owned media.

“The question is going to be: how does the Spanish government implement Article 155 in the wake of the declaration of independence,” said Fran Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.
The Trump administration on October 26 issued a robust list of Russian defense and intelligence sector entities plus public guidance, which together seem to indicate its intention to robustly implement the new Russia sanctions. Although the list does not itself impose sanctions, it is a significant action, which, if implemented carefully, could impose new restrictions on Russian military and intelligence apparatus. 

Germany’s Ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig, cites ‘stability’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s re-election to a fourth term on September 24 is good news for the United States, which can continue to rely on Germany to be a “great transatlantic partner,” Germany’s Ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig, said in an interview.

“It is good news in terms of continuity, reliability of our country, of its role in Europe, of its role in the world,” Wittig said.
On September 24, Germany held an election for its federal parliament, the Bundestag, and as many forecasters had predicted, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) emerged as the strongest party.  For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, six political groups consisting of seven parties sit in the Bundestag. With new parties entering the Bundestag, a more fragmented parliament and proportional changes in seat distribution will alter political decision-making for the coming legislative period.

It is not yet clear what the government will look like. Martin Schulz, chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD), rejected a continuation of the coalition partnership with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU. Conversely, the CDU does not completely exclude continuing the “grand coalition” with the SPD. Over the next few weeks, Merkel’s conservative party will also hold coalition negotiations with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. Economic and business issues figure prominently amongst the important topics that the politicians and experts of the parties will discuss.
Atlantic Council experts share their take on the outcome of the German elections. Here’s what they have to say:


    

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