Monday, 4 September 2017

Kim Jong-un must be cordoned off

What does Kim Jong-un want? What is his end-game? Or, even a smaller question, what are the next provocations he is prepared to launch?

There is no simple answer to these very fundamental questions. We are caught in a dark room and have no sense of purpose.

The only certainty is that the man is a rogue leader. He completely is out of the accepted norms. He has no respect for some of the most basic principles that govern the relations among states.

In view of that, each major country has to ask itself a very straight question: what can we do to stop this extremely dangerous course of action, this criminal behaviour?

And the right answer is to isolate the man and his regime. They must be treated as pariah politicians. And that should be said loud and clear, including by the Chinese and the Russians. Ambiguity coming from Beijing and Moscow is not at all helpful.

There is no need for any additional show of force. The rogues know that such force is available and formidable. They also know that they would be reduced to pieces if they decided to take the initiative to carry an aggression against any other state. 

But there is a need to gather as much means of prevention as possible. Including the most sophisticated military means. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

My reading of the G20 summit (2017)

On the recent G20, the negative issues on the table, either openly or coated in diplomatic words, could be summarised as follows:

- The risks linked to international uncontrolled massive migrations;
- The US withdrawal from the Paris accord on Climate Change
- New trends towards trade protectionism
- The attempts to side-line key international organisations, including the UN, the WTO and the Human Rights Council.

The positives, as I see them:

- Establishment of a new fund, to be administered by the WB, to promote the entrepreneurship of African women; USD 325 million.
- The review of steel overcapacity issue and the recommendation that a plan of action should be prepared by Nov. 2017 to address this most divisive economic and trade issue.
- More coordination on the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
- The leaders have shown they want to find a common ground on a number of issues.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Kim Jong-un, a dangerous provocateur

Kim Jong-un is above all a provocateur. But a dangerous one, let's be clear. His repeated provocations have created a very delicate situation in his part of the world. And that's a complex region, at it's at the centre of fundamental geopolitical and strategic interests of very powerful countries.

In my opinion, he is not reading the current international situation with smart eyes. Political circumstances have deeply changed. As the intelligence about his most strategic means of power and military capabilities has also changed.

He still believes that China will shield him from any military action coming from outside. In addition, he is convinced that his threats of retaliation against South Korea will discourage others from intervening in the North. He might have a point. However, I am no longer sure that such point is strong enough. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The EU and the US

When it comes to the difficult response to the current US Administration, the EU leaders have decided to follow two lines.

First, to keep the political dialogue open. This policy dialogue should be centred on the key issues, particularly on respect for the international institutions, defence, trade and climate change. It should be based on clarity: the EU's positions should be stated without any unnecessary ambiguity.
Second, to emphasise the long term nature of the mutual relationship. Both sides have a long history of cooperation and share a number of fundamental values. That should be the basis to identify the common interests and to work together to achieve them. 

The suggestion made by some in Europe that today´s US leadership should be, as much as possible, ignored was not adopted. The EU political masters believe that a reasonable level of engagement should be cultivated.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Renewed confidence in Europe

The EU leaders participating in the forthcoming G20 Summit, scheduled for next week, met today in Germany to coordinate their views on key agenda issues.

This was a very positive initiative, a development that should be recognised.

It shows a fresh level of determination in matters of European policy coordination and harmonization. It was also a manifestation of the new momentum Europe is experiencing and that gives us a new breath of confidence in our shared future. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Brexit game

The Brexit formal discussions have finally been launched. The first meeting between the EU and the UK negotiators took place today. It was, from the European perspective, a good beginning.

The UK position evolved a great deal as a result of the popular vote in their recent general election. Today´s meeting showed a conciliatory approach. The British policy line seems to be to keep the country out of the EU political decisions and banner, and, at the same time, to maintain it strongly connected to Europe, including when it comes some critical political matters.

This policy is very British. It´s the extraordinary art of playing with ambivalence. To be out and in, depending which mirror you may use to look at the reality.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Oil and diplomacy

Last year, in the US, the number of shale oil wells has doubled. The American production is now 9.29 million barrels a day. That is about 47% of the country's daily consumption. And it takes significant pressure out of the international oil market.

It also brings the value of the barrel down.

It has consequently a major strategic impact on oil revenues in Russia and other key producers. The economic strength of such countries is seriously affected. And that will be the case in the foreseeable future. More so, as many developed economies are steadily moving out of fossil fuels into renewable sources of energy.

One of the lessons we should extract from these developments is that, when it comes to deal with adversarial countries, economic factors are at present much more effective – and acceptable – than the military ones.

A related lesson is that your adversaries will not take this matter lightly. Therefore, you must be prepared to confront them on the political field as well. And that means, among other things, promoting the appropriate public information campaigns, keeping your own citizens aware of the challenges at stake, and responding to hostile propaganda. But it also means to open dialogue lines of communication with those antagonistic countries. That´s the role of diplomacy. It is as important as ever.

Friday, 5 May 2017

On trek up to the end of May

This blog will resume at the end of May, upon my return from a long journey. 

Thank you for your support. 


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Let the intelligence people do their work

The most dangerous mistake regarding North Korea could result from erroneous intelligence. It´s a real possibility. I know from a number of examples that intelligence agencies, even the best resourced and the most experienced ones, tend to make mistakes on critical matters. That´s particularly the case when they are under serious political pressure, as it is the case.

If the relevant intelligence people come to the conclusion that the North is about to launch some kind of nuclear or other threatening device, our side might then decide that the time for pre-emptive action is upon us. In these matters, decisions are taken fast.

Once they have been taken, it might be too late to contain and mitigate their multiple consequences.

Therefore, the first point in such a delicate situation as the current one is to make sure the intelligence work is carried out as professionally as possible, outside any type of political compulsion. Secondly, it is essential to fully consider the regional leaders ´opinion. Particularly, the South Korean ones, who are at present at the end of a decisive presidential campaign for an election scheduled for May 9. This is their region and in the world of today, their views are of paramount importance. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Dangerous times in the Korean Peninsula

The North Korea´s dangerously aggressive posture remains a major issue in the international political agenda. Consequently, the UN Security Council met yesterday on the matter. This was a meeting at the ministerial level as to demonstrate the seriousness of the most recent developments related to the country.

The US approach to make use of extreme diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang deserves support. Diplomacy passes through Beijing. The key to convince Kim Jong Un to abandon the accelerated missile and nuclear programmes is held by China. Therefore, the efforts on the diplomatic front must focus on very close contacts with the Chinese leadership.

It is also true that China does not appreciate a deeper US presence in the region. In particular, it remains strongly opposed to the THAAD missile deployment that the US has launched in South Korea. But that disagreement should not be an excuse. China must use all its leverage on North Korea.

The US additional show of force can be justified by the recent threats coming from the North. It should also be recognised that it contributes to intensify the atmosphere of crisis. But it is also obvious that the main cause of tension comes from Kim´s options.

The North Korean leader must understand that the American policy has changed. It is in his own interest, besides the interests of his fellow citizens.

In the last few hours there have been some noises regarding direct action against Kim himself. I would not be surprised if it is confirmed that such action is under review. However, that or any preventive strike – and we have been further away from a strike than we are today – would cause hell in the Peninsula, and in the region.

I trust that people who decide about these matters fully understand what is at play.