Morning Brief

Disputes Overshadow NATO’s 70th Anniversary

As its leaders convene in London, cracks in the NATO alliance could be growing.

French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands after a press conference in Paris on Nov. 28.
French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands after a press conference in Paris on Nov. 28. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Leaders begin the NATO summit in London amid some disunity, Facebook again faces scrutiny over its political advertising policy, and protesters in India are taking to the streets after a woman’s murder and sexual assault.

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NATO Leaders Meet in London

NATO leaders are meeting at Buckingham Palace in London today to start a two-day summit that marks the 70th year of the trans-Atlantic military alliance amid some disunity. Member states are confronted with Turkey’s attack on U.S.-allied Kurds in northern Syria and its purchase of a Russian weapons system, as well as skepticism toward the NATO project itself from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump arrived in London on Monday and—after repeated claims that the other members don’t spend enough on NATO collective defense—could be placated by a pledge from Europe, Canada, and Turkey to contribute $400 billion by 2024. The leaders are also expected to sign off on new strategy to keep an eye on China’s military and to discuss space policy. Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet on the sidelines on Wednesday.

Brain dead? At last year’s summit, Trump made headlines. But this year, it was French President Emmanuel Macron, who said ahead of the meetings that NATO was experiencing “brain death”—prompted by the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria. The criticism has irked Merkel, but analysts say that in terms of military strength NATO is stronger than ever.

How will the leaders treat Erdogan? The tension between Turkey and the United States is shaping the summit, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defending his attack on Kurdish fighters in Syria. He’s even holding up a NATO plan to protect the Baltic States and Poland in protest—a sticking point for Eastern European leaders. Reuters reports that on Monday U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had again pushed Turkey to approve the plan. But, as Sinan Ulgen argues in FP, Turkey does not deserve all the blame.

What We’re Following Today

Facebook back in the spotlight over political ads. Google and YouTube have reportedly removed political ads for U.S. President Donald Trump in recent months for spreading false information—raising scrutiny on Facebook, which has refused requests to remove some of the same ads.

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the company’s policy on CBS This Morning: “I don’t think a private company should be censoring politicians or news,” he said. The comments come as Britain’s Conservative party, which has been criticized for misinformation, increases its ads on the platform ahead of the Dec. 12 election. Facebook’s chief lobbyist, the former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has echoed Zuckerberg’s defense.

Protests against gang rape escalate in India. People in cities across India are protesting the alleged rape and murder of a woman, who was a veterinarian, in the city of Hyderabad last week. The demonstrations have spread to Delhi, Bengaluru, and Kolkata as outrage grows. Four men have been arrested, and the protesters are demanding a quick investigation and harsh punishment—as well as stricter laws against sexual violence in India. The deadly gang rape of a woman in Delhi in 2012 sparked mass protests with similar demands, but thousands of rape cases remain tangled in judicial red tape across India.

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Talks resume over Ethiopia’s Nile dam plans. The irrigation ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan are in Cairo this week seeking to resolve their dispute over an Ethiopian hydropower dam under construction upstream on the Nile. Egypt fears the dam—which is 70 percent complete—will restrict its water supply, and observers are concerned the project could lead to regional conflict. The meetings in Cairo come a month after talks broke down and the United States mediated the dispute. To avoid military action, further international mediation is essential, Imad K. Harb argues in FP.

Keep an Eye On

China’s response to U.S. action on Hong Kong. After the United States passed legislation last week backing the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, China has banned U.S. military presence in the city and sanctioned some U.S.-based NGOs. If Trump is trying to get the upper hand in trade negotiations with Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to call his bluff, Farah Jan and J. Melnick argue in FP.

Trump’s trade war. On Monday, Trump made a surprise announcement that he would restore  tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, jolting markets and staking a new position in his global trade war. He accused both countries of currency manipulation. Trump has also proposed 100 percent tariffs on French goods, including wine and cheese, in retaliation for a French tax on U.S tech companies.

The case against Netanyahu. Israel’s attorney general submitted an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Knesset on Monday, naming more than 300 prosecution witnesses. The move kicks off a 30-day period in which Netanyahu can seek parliamentary immunity—a scenario that seems unlikely given political deadlock.

Odds and Ends

DPD, a subsidiary of France’s postal service La Poste, has started using drones to deliver packages to the remote Alpine village of Mont-Saint-Martin, where winter conditions make it difficult for vehicles to reliably make the journey. The postal drone is launched from the side of a van and delivers packages to a village terminal.

In Australia, new artificial intelligence cameras have been launched to catch drivers who are texting or otherwise using their phones illegally on the road in what New South Wales authorities say is a global first. After a three-month “warning period” drivers will be fined AU$344, around $235, if they are caught on camera.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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