Friday, March 23, 2018

President Trump gets on with what he wants

23 March 2018

Trump’s line-up

By: Karsten Riise

One year into his term, the world must prepare itself for the fact that President Trump seems to get on with what he wants to do. Prepare for a profound change in the structure of the world.

With his replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor McMaster, President Trump seems to be lining up for some big moves on his national and international agenda:

1. A showdown with Iran, N.Korea – and in the end, China !

2. A final Palestinian “solution” together with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which will be 110% according to the deepest wishes of the current Prime Minister of Israel.

President Trump’s steel tariffs may end up by being insignificant tariffs for two US allies, Canada (actually the biggest foreign steel supplier to the USA) and the EU. Hence, only China may be really affected by the tariffs. This pattern may also apply, if Trump chooses to ‘blow-up’ the whole World Trade Organization (WTO): President Trump can replace the WTO with bilateral and regional US agreements with Canada, the EU and other traditional US partners in such a way, that ‘incidentally’ only China will be kept out.  President Trump’s trade policy towards China may be thoroughly calculated: More production of products in China for the USA will be relocated back into the USA. President Trump probably also calculates, that US high-tech exports to China may not be greatly affected by the foreseeable Chinese trade-retaliation, as these high-tech supplies will still be strategically important for China. Curbing China’s growth by means of a trade-war can also affect China’s economic capability to build up the military – a military rightly or wrongly designated by many in the USA as a serious competitor for world domination. A trade-showdown with China may therefore look very promising to President Trump – and to his new National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Ex Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and ex-National Security Advisor McMaster were both standing in the way of President Trump’s visions, including his plan to divide the Middle East with Israel and Saudi Arabia. A policy, for which President Trump has designated Jared Kushner as informal but plenipotentiary envoy, and Jared Kushner has successfully obtained the closest possible confidence with the leaderships of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Rex Tillerson’s diplomacy was actively undermining this, by trying to soften Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Qatar. And McMaster was also undermining President Trump’s Middle East policies, by denying Trump’s special envoy Jared Kushner the necessary top-secret security clearance to do this job. Now Tillerson and McMaster a both out of the way, and a strong signal has been sent to everyone not to repeat Tillerson and McMaster’s political mistakes of not following President Trump’s intentions closely.

Surprisingly, with a possible top-level meeting with N.Korea, President Trump may even on this issue have at least a slight chance to achieve something his way. Clearly, the dynamics of US-China relations are key to this. Though talking ‘fire-and-fury’, President Trump has even still managed so-far not to start any new US war, a ‘feat’ which stands in stark contrast to some of President Trump’s more big-media applauded predecessors, or even in contrast to his once opposing presidential candidate.

You may (even strongly) like or dislike the policies, President Trump pursues. With the appointment of a former torturer-in chief to lead the CIA, you may probably strongly disapprove of some of the means he is willing to apply. Many American presidents have pursued policies not approved by large segments of the American people. You may also have your own ‘mainstream-private’ and politically ‘correct’ gender views about President Trump’s private life, though these opinions are mostly colored by political sympathies and by outright ‘liberal’ and conservative bigotry - and females seeking fame and money through litigation against wealthy and disputed male individuals is an ordinary phenomenon, and not automatically sympathy-inspiring.

All this does not touch on the fact, that one year into his term, the world must prepare itself for the fact that President Trump seems to get on with his idea of ‘putting America first’. This will profoundly change the structure of the world. ‘Putting America first’ may sound akin to ‘global leadership’, but it is in fact antithetical to the outlasted idea of ‘US global leadership’.  In fact, ‘putting America first’ this way may result in something, I have seen for long, namely a thorough unwinding of the US global empire and a world more fragmented into regions and criss-cross relations.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fear of the 'Other'

15 February 2017

Fear of 'Otherness' in Europe

By: Karsten Riise

The fear of "otherness" is rising in Europe, and popular perceptions are wildly distorted.

Some very interesting data have been published from the February 2017 Security Conference in Munich. Many people in Europe have a totally distorted perception of how many Muslims they believe live in their country:

France believes that 35% Muslims live in the country - absurdly wrong, the correct figure is only 7.5%.

Italy believes it has 20% Muslims - the correct figure is only 3.7%

Germany believes 21% Muslims - correct figure 5.0%

Sweden believes it has 17% Muslims - the correct figure is 4.6%

The Netherlands believe 19% Muslims - correct figure 6.0%

Great Britain believes 15% Muslims - correct figure 4.8%

Denmark believes 15% Muslimer - correct figure 4.1%

Hungary and Poland believe they have 6%-7% Muslimer - but in reality they have close to zero percent.

There is a need for a dialogue with those who fear these (often absurd) figures. That will be dialogue exactly with some of those, which many in the political establishments in Europe may want to keep out, and not like to talk with.

Muslim enrichment is a chance. We need a new kind of togetherness in this area. That can open up developments, to good things.

If, however, a stream of refugees becomes too overwhelming at some points in time and space, it can become dangerously disruptive, even destabilising. What we see today are in comparison still relatively small indications of far more consequential events which happen over the next years and decade, if no very, very, good and big ideas are put into action soon.

If the burden of refugees is (like today) merely shifted to just outside the official "perimeter" of Europe (neighboring countries), the problem will not be solved, it will grow. It will just be temporarily moved out of sight, with the danger that it will be forgotten (by Europeans) for too long.

Everybody talks about Russia in European security. I believe Russia can and must become a partner.

A totally new kind of foreign policy - including military, but a more integrated approach, and with military just as a component - is the only real solution for Europe to avoid future destabilisation from refugee calamities. And Africa (1 billion people) together with a wide region stretching eastwards of Europe, should be put on top of a constructive cooperation. This will cost money & effort - lots of it.

It must be a new project for cooperation between Europe and with all of its neighbors.

The need for cooperative action on a whole new level can become a mutual chance.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Monday, January 30, 2017

EU fast trade and service agreements

This suggestion was rather quickly implemented by the EU after I proposed it to the EU Parliament. The EU Commission chose to detach investment-treaties (which require a long procedure with the member-states) from trade & services agreements, which the EU-Commission can conclude in a fast-track way.

30 January 2017

The EU needs "lego-system" for trade & services arrangements

By: Karsten Riise

The EU needs a comprehensive Africa trade deal, that can help African countries develop by allowing Africa much more access to the European Single Market. See

The EU should also quickly be able offer an enhanced trade-deal with Mexico, to assist Mexico develop, if Mexico should experience a deterioration of its trade-terms with Mexico's market to the North. When EU relations with Russia normalize, a new trade deal with Russia will be needed. Many more trade deals will be needed for the EU in the future. And of course, the EU after Brexit needs a new deal with the UK.

The ability to close a new trade-deal (or modify one) is a very important "soft-power" in EU's foreign policy and security policy. And sometimes there is need to move rather fast.

All the above examples imply larger degrees of exchange with the EU in goods, services and investments - three of EU's so-called "four freedoms". But all the examples above specifically must exclude the fourth freedom, free movement of labor.

The EU needs a principled approach - with lego-elements to build with The EU needs a concept - a "lego-system" to plug-in various elements to configure new deals with anyone - to avoid "taylor-making" every deal from scratch.

The EU also needs a treaty between all members, where the member states give a mandate (within specified limits) where the Commission with approval from the Council and the Parliament can close new trade deals - without further approval procedure within each memberstate.

The EU Commission should have a power-of-attorney, at document which specifies a range of deal-making options on behalf of all members. All member-states should sign this power-of-attorney to the EU. Member-states should so-to speak "ratify trade-treaties beforehand", on the condition that all final treaties are finally approved by a majorityprocedure in the EU Council and the EU Parliament.
The EU is at risk to lose opportunities in "soft-power" by slow maneuvering.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Friday, September 9, 2016

Army uniting Europeans

9 September 2016

European Army - a great step to unite Europeans

By: Karsten Riise

A European Army can be a great step to unite Europeans - not just on the commanding level, but also directly at person-to-person and community-level.

I wish to make a parallel to Italy. With reference to the Danish Italy-expert Thomas Harder, when Italy was united, people from the North and South could not understand each-others’ languages. So much had 1000+ years of separation moved Italians from each other. Much like Europe's multitude of languages today. Putting soldiers from North and South into the same fighting-units, and placing them all away from their home-towns, made them learn to understand each other.

NATO cooperation has always been reduced to the top-levels. At the operational levels, each NATO-country operated its own homogeneously "national" units, confined in their national language.

The European Army must be different - mixing all nationalities into the same fighting units.

English could even be used as command language - since the UK is leaving the EU, all Europeans will then language-wise be at the same levels.

No soldier will then feel superior by having own language as command-language.
(Only the Irish will have an English language-advantage, but Ireland is a small country).

Nothing unites people as much as having to work together - especially in circumstances like achieving success in war and conflict.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Separate coffers in Europe

This suggestion for a "Euro light" solution was never adopted by the Euro-countries. Instead he Euro-countries decided to increase their mutual risk-exposure - a path which leads to much more integration. 

29 May 2012

Create separate coffers in Europe

By: Karsten Riise

The countries of Europe are on track to take unlimited risks on behalf of each other. Richer countries
are so scared of the problems in Greece, Portugal etc. that they provide enormous guarantees to the
indebted countries. Also, the European Central Bank (ECB) takes huge risks on its balance sheet buying unknown amounts of Greek and Italian debt. To this comes talk of an EU ´Growth Pact´ with additional big expenditures and guarantees. The total EU budget can soon be added as a loan guarantee, and the public is kept ignorant of the over-all inter-country risk-picture.

The European Union´s help to fellow Europeans is on way to add more to collective risk than to safety.

It is necessary to construct Europe in a way, that EU countries and institutions basically maintain
separate coffers -- but within one overall system. Italy and Greece must still have the freedom to go
bankrupt, the Euro-system simply must be made robust enough to handle that.

Early US experience relevant for the EU
In the 1840´ies, the USA, let 9 of its states fall into bankruptcy. The 9 bankrupted states represented a
quarter of the American population, corresponding to a bankruptcy in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and
Greece at the same time(*). As we all know, the dollar still exists -- the dollar survived the bankruptcy of so many states.

The Euro with necessary precautions can also become robust enough to resist a similar bankruptcy among any or all of the European Union´s debt-loaded countries.

The ECB must elaborate two action plans: The first action plan must be carried out immediately. The
ECB must identify and map out all direct and indirect EU and inter-country guarantees and risks.
Based on scenario-analyses, the ECB must then implement a goal-oriented reduction and management of all EU and inter-country risks. The second ECB action plan must be an emergency
plan with IT-support, how to cut-off from the Euro-system any country on the verge of bankruptcy.

The financial markets must be made to trust, that any country in Europe (even Germany) safely can
be cut-off from the Euro-system at the push of a button.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


(*) See Centre for European Policy Studies 30 April 2010: Learning from the US experience.