Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Trump is gone...

By Jean-François Coustillière, President of the IHEDN-Euroméditerranée Association and member of the JFC Conseil analysis group

on Tuesday, March 16th 2021 à 17:49 | Read 413 times

(photo: F.Dubessy)
(photo: F.Dubessy)
Trump has left... Biden is replacing him. As expected, on the international level, relations have been disrupted. If the American strategy does not fundamentally change, the form of the relationship is nevertheless pleasantly affected. But the interests of the United States remain the same and the government will defend them, which was expected.
However, the populist and unpredictable president, who confused the international scene with a market place where he felt he was the strongest and owed no consideration to the other players, starting with his allies and with the possible exception of Netanyahu, has lost his place.

Biden, his successor, has real experience of international relations, of multinational negotiations, of cross-interests, of power relations, of the fragility of alliances, of the weaknesses of both sides and of the permanent factors that guide each state. He knows that it is undesirable to humiliate partners, especially when they are allies.

The biggest sometimes need the smallest to counter a challenger. He adopts an approach of exchanges and apparent negotiations even though he knows that the United States is still the most powerful. He affects to give consideration to most of the issues under discussion even if, undoubtedly, he only moderately adheres to some concerns that must seem very secondary to him.

"Turkey as a so-called strategic partner
Thus, the new President of the United States has already given with great commitment and care, but also with diplomacy, a new turn to the issues that probably seem to him the most perilous and for which it was important to set red lines:

    relations with China: "relations with Beijing would be a mix of 'competition when healthy', 'collaboration when possible' and 'antagonism when necessary'. "1
    relations with Saudi Arabia: "Joe Biden will be talking to King Salman, not MBS, the US presidency said. Gone are the days when the young and impetuous crown prince had direct access to the White House "2
    relations with Russia: "Washington announced on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, sanctions against several senior Russian officials in response to the poisoning of the opponent Alexei Navalny, .../... on January 20, adopted a much firmer tone towards the Kremlin than his predecessor .../... these sanctions, which target in particular seven senior officials, were taken "in close consultation with our EU partners" and are "a clear signal" sent to Moscow "3
    relations with Turkey: "Antony Blinken won over several Republican senators during his parliamentary nomination hearing as Secretary of State by referring to Turkey as a 'so-called strategic partner' that 'in many ways does not behave like an ally'"4
    NATO: "The new Pentagon chief signed a piece in the Washington Post entitled 'The United States cannot shoulder its responsibilities alone, which is why we believe in NATO'"5
    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on nuclear issues with Iran. Biden wants to get back into the deal. But we need flexibility on the Iranian side, .../.... Iran does not want to reopen the deal, but at the same time it demands guarantees that the US will adhere to it "6.


US disengagement from conflicts

Of course, other issues have not yet been addressed: the future of the normalisation of UAE-Israel-Moroccan relations, the future of the war in Syria, the prospects of the crisis in Iraq and Libya, the negotiations in Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the China Sea and others: "The United Arab Emirates are multiplying their declarations stating that this rich Gulf monarchy is disengaging from countries where it is militarily involved: Yemen, Eritrea and especially Libya .../... this disengagement is the result, according to several observers, of American pressure from the Biden administration "7. This is also the case with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where the ICC decision was rejected by the US administration: "We strongly oppose the announcement by ICC prosecutors of an investigation into the Palestinian situation and are disappointed",8 thus demonstrating that Israel's untouchability remains de rigueur.

It is illusory to imagine that Europeans, and specifically the European Union, will systematically find their own way. A first example is already provided by this information on the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline project, which shows that the United States, while President Biden declared that it was a "bad agreement" for Europe, has not given up applying the extraterritoriality provisions of American law: "Threatened with financial reprisals, eighteen European companies responsible for insuring the construction site, such as the French company Axa or the German company Munich Re, have given up providing their services. ". However, the American views and policies will be more readable and it will be possible to adapt to them and even to seek negotiation with mutual respect. Let us hope, however, that the Europeans do not give in to the easy way out and continue their efforts to build an autonomous European Union that is strong economically, diplomatically and militarily.

The Mediterranean area remains a troubled region

The Mediterranean is unfortunately not spared from these gloomy prospects. Beyond the issues already mentioned, two issues are emerging, very close to us, as sources of potential risks that are particularly worrying for our security through their inescapable migratory consequences: the collapse of Tunisia, the wreckage of Lebanon and the decay of Algeria. The socio-economic situation in these three countries is creating real despair among their populations. The desire to emigrate is becoming more and more pronounced while the political leaders are unable to find answers that would satisfy the aspirations of their people. Obviously, Islamic movements, at least in Tunisia and Algeria, are taking advantage of the situation to present themselves as a recourse for distraught populations.

It is to be feared that these new issues will be added to the already numerous ones: Cyprus, the Aegean Sea, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Libya, etc. The Mediterranean area remains, on Europe's southern border, a turbulent and dangerous region that carries risks and threats. The European Union must take the full measure of this situation and draw lessons from it that are commensurate with the stakes. Cooperation is a necessity for the security of space and not an option. It must be strong and determined.

1 Le Point - 4 March 2021
2 Le Figaro - 23 February 2021
3 Le Point - 2 March 2021
4 L'Obs - - 12 February 2021
5 Le Monde - 4 March 2021
6 Le Figaro - 23 February 2021
7 RFI - 4 March 2021
8 Le Monde - 4 March 2021



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