Concerning the latest developments, the US and Britain, out of the blue, jointly banned all electronic devices larger than a mobile telephone on flights, setting off from a large number of airports of mostly Muslim countries and heading for Britain or the US. The gadgets can be stored only in the baggage, away from the passengers cabin. More important though, was the refusal of Rex Tillerson to attend the 5 and 6 April NATO quarterly meeting in Brussels, which would have been his first as State Secretary. Let’s take one thing at a time.
US and Britain act alone
There was no prior consultation with mainland EU countries about the new banning of electronic devices from passenger cabins of commercial flights, setting off from practically all the mainly Muslim countries, including Turkey, with destinations in US and Britain. The step is expected to have much more disrupting effects than the ban of liquids in handbags. Unaware passengers will face the options of either losing their gadgets or not embarking on their flight.
The ban includes tablets, laptops, DVD players and cameras. All those items are not at all easy to give up in order to catch a plane, as it is the currently the case with say, 120 ml of shampoo or toothpaste. Currently, all packages of liquids exceeding 100 ml are banned from handbags to be carried in the main cabin, and have to be thrown away if the passenger wishes to board the airplane. Imagine the same scenes taking place, but involving expensive tablets, laptops or cameras.
All Muslims are suspicious
The new measure covers all flights with US destinations, departing from the airports of Cairo, Istanbul, Kuwait-City, Morocco, Amman in Jordan, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Britain is to do the same for all flights to the UK departing from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The hasted application of the measure as from this Saturday 25 March is expected to create very tricky problems.
Obviously, there is no time for the public to grasp the new restrictions. The high value of the banned from main cabins items may gravely puzzle a number of passengers. Concerning the US, it’s interesting to observe that the measure doesn’t involve any American air company, because none of them serves the airports stigmatized. All those flights are conducted by European or Arab companies, including the Turkish Airlines. In this issue the US and Britain, among other things, obviously want to make Europe seen as being slack vis-à-vis the Muslim extremism.
Tillerson disparages NATO
Concerning the second incident this week, intended to belittle Europe, it may be considered as more significant than the first one, at least from a semantic perspective. The refusal of Tillerson to attend his first NATO meeting as US State Secretary, has raised eyebrows in many European capitals. The State Department even rejected the alternative dates proposed by Brussels for the April NATO meeting. The Americans proposed their own options. According to Reuters, Tillerson will stay in the US to participate in the 6 and 7 April visit of the Chinese President Xi jinping and later on during the same month he will visit Moscow. The Americans for their own reasons dropped the possibility of Tillerson participation in the first day of the NATO conference on 5 April and then they also rejected all the other options as proposed by NATO.
The new American scorn of NATO reminded everybody, that President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the Atlantic alliance organization and called it “obsolete”. Add to that his demands that the Europeans and more so Germany owe a lot of ‘protection’ money to the US, and the mainland EU capitals can be certain of the American intentions. As a matter of fact, Tillerson confirms what the European Sting wrote on 20 February, on the occasion of the Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis visits to Brussels: ”They rather confirmed the ideas the Europeans had about the Trump administration; disrespectful for the EU, vying for economic protectionism and being strategically flippant in confronting the Russian assertiveness”.
In conclusion, it’s beyond reasonable doubt that the new American administration’s objectives in Europe are quite different than under Barack Obama. State Department confirmed that Tillerson will visit President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin next month, and together with that it aired the disparaging treatment of the NATO meeting dates. Russia is not any more an ‘outcast’, and the US under Trump can cooperate closely with Moscow. This cooperation may include dealings in the Ukraine and Syria, and probably Crimea, which will be outraging for the Europeans. All these are infallible signs about spring and summer storm clouds gathering in the European skies.