Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that it seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19, and US officials believe a second British-owned tanker may also have been intercepted in the latest escalation over control of one of the world’s most vital energy trade waterways.
The first tanker, the Stena Impero, was seized by Iranian boats after it ignored warnings to stop, according to Iranian officials. The second tanker, MV Mesdar, operates under a Liberian flag but is owned by UK company Norbulk Shipping.
The United States claims a US navy vessel destroyed an Iranian drone on July 18, continuing the escalatory spiral between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf.
US President Donald J. Trump announced before a press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that the USS Boxer “took defensive action against an Iranian drone,” which had come within 1,000 yards of the US ship. Trump said the drone ignored “multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew,” before it was “immediately destroyed.” According to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, the drone was “brought down by electronic warfare jamming.”
While many European leaders have pushed back against US President Donald J. Trump’s criticism of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), and even the European Union itself, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte wants his colleagues to look at Trump’s rhetoric as an opportunity. “We have to make use of Trump’s criticism of these organizations to start to improve them. It is a much more constructive [approach],” he advised.
As Europe and the United States face off over trade, defense spending, and other high-profile disagreements, the foreign ministers of Central Europe signaled that they are ready to take the lead in repairing the vital transatlantic relationship.
Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s conference “The United States and Central Europe: Celebrating Europe Whole and Free” on July 17, ministers from the Visegrád countries—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—celebrated the deep relationship their countries have with the United States and stressed the importance of a strong transatlantic bond.
After years of disinterest and occasional disagreements, the United States has re-engaged with its allies in Central Europe at a time when their help is critical in confronting a revisionist Russia and a resurgent China, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, the US acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said on July 17.
The anniversaries we mark this year represent great achievement, mixed with tragedy. 100 years of US relations with the newly-independent nations of Central Europe; eighty years from the start of the Second World War, in part the terrible consequence of US strategic withdrawal from Europe; thirty years since Central Europeans overthrew communism, which led to the end of “Yalta Europe”; twenty years since NATO’s first enlargement beyond the Iron Curtain, in which the United States played a leading role; and fifteen years since the European Union’s enlargement beyond that same line, led by Europeans and supported by the United States.
Colombia is not going to change its open-door policy for its neighbor Venezuela, despite the influx of 1.5 million Venezuelans fleeing the economic and political collapse of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, according to Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo.
Congressional Democrats and the US Trade Representative (USTR) are inching toward agreement on key elements of the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Trump administration is aiming to achieve Congressional approval of the new trade agreement during September or October, when it still may be possible to get it through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives before 2020 electioneering is in full swing.
The delivery of a Russian air defense system to Turkey has jeopardized the defense relationship between the United States and one of its most important NATO and regional allies.
The first components of the Russian-built S-400 air defense system arrived in Ankara on July 12, according to the Turkish ministry of defense, beginning the fulfillment of an agreement Turkey signed with Russia in December 2017.