Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Migrant rescue ship docks in Spain’s Mallorca — “One survivor, others dead.”

July 21, 2018

 

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Rescue workers from the Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO retrieve the bodies of an adult and a child amid the drifting remains of a destroyed migrant boat off the Libyan coast, on Tuesday July 17, 2018. A migrant rescue aid group accused Libya’s coast guard of abandoning three people in the Mediterranean Sea, including an adult woman and a toddler who died, after intercepting some 160 Europe-bound migrants on Monday near the shores of the northern African country. (Proactiva Open Arms via AP)

A Spanish rescue vessel carrying two dead bodies and a survivor from a migrant boat wreck has docked in a Mallorca port after a four-day journey across the Mediterranean Sea.

The aid group Proactiva Open Arms had found the bodies of a small boy and a woman on Tuesday and accused Libya’s coast guards of abandoning them after intercepting dozens of Europe-bound migrants.

Video posted by the group showing the floating bodies and the rescue of another woman still alive caused outrage across Europe.

The rescuers had refused to dock in Italy saying they didn’t trust how Italian authorities would handle an investigation into the wreckage. Rome and the European Union have trained and financed the Libyan coast guard to halt the flow of migration.

The Associated Press

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What EU’s record fine will mean for Google

July 18, 2018

US tech company must pay a €4.3bn penalty but also overhaul its Android model

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Android over money

By Rochelle Toplensky in Brussels

The EU has fined Google a record €4.3bn for imposing anti-competitive terms on companies using the Android mobile operating system, the second time Brussels has penalised the US tech company for abusing its market dominance.

Beyond the financial cost, the European Commission’s antitrust decision has significant implications for Google’s business operations as the company must now overhaul one of the most important computing platforms of the smartphone era.

Antitrust decisions come in two parts. First, EU officials must prove the company is dominant in relevant markets — which they did for Google in general search, licensed mobile operating systems and app stores. (Apple, which does not license its iOS operating system and App Store to rivals, was not considered a competitor to Android.)

Then it must be established that the company unlawfully exploited its strength to stymie competition. The commission found that restrictive terms required makers of Android phones to install Google products as a condition of using Play, the Android app store. Other conditions prevented manufacturers from selling phones that use other operating systems, and paid phonemakers to exclusively pre-install Google search. Google denies wrongdoing.

Why is the case important to Google?

Since its launch in 2007, Android has helped Google preserve its pre-eminence as consumers moved from desktop computers to mobile devices. More than half of worldwide internet traffic is now on mobile devices, 80 per cent of which run on Android, providing a showcase for Google services and mobile apps.

Google gives away Android and keeps it updated for free, covering its costs with the revenues made from people using its services. Licences for the official version of Android are conditional on devicemakers following certain rules.

As a result of the EU decision, Google will be expected to revise the terms of service that made this model viable, notably the guaranteed distribution of Google products. Such changes would leave Google with less control, potentially opening up opportunities for rivals.

How has Google responded?

Google rejects the commission’s case on three main grounds. It argues that the refusal of EU investigators to accept that Android competes with Apple’s iOS system misconstrues the market.

The company also says the commission fails to acknowledge how easy it is for users to switch. Even if apps are pre-installed, Google argues that consumers can easily “swipe away” the Google products and download something else.

And it thinks the commission is underestimating the importance of rules for developers and users. App developers rely on a degree of consistency to distribute products. Making Android more open, in other words, could degrade the user experience.

What triggered the investigation?

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Microsoft, Oracle and Nokia were among 14 companies that complained to the EU in April 2013, claiming Google unfairly supported Android and its mobile services by offering cut-price licensing and exclusivity deals. The commission began an investigation, sending formal charges to Google in 2016.

Brussels launched two other investigations into the tech company. The first, concluded last summer, resulted in a €2.4bn fine for illegally favouring its shopping service over rivals. Google has appealed against the decision. The remaining probe relates to how the company prevented websites that use its search bar and ads from also showing competing ads.

What happens next?

Google will pay the fine and has 90 days to decide how to change its Android contracts to remove illegal provisions. The commission will ultimately review whether the company’s solution complies with its ruling.

If the changes fall short, Google’s parent company Alphabet could be liable for further fines of up to 5 per cent of daily revenues, which would be roughly $12m a day. Google is expected to appeal against the decision in court.

It is too early to tell how Android will change in Europe, or beyond. Google might start to charge a licence fee to cover its software costs and device suppliers might be given more freedom to develop their own version of Android. Google could even mimic Apple and keep Android for use only in its own Pixel phones. Any changes are unlikely to be noticed by users for many months.

https://www.ft.com/content/60502464-8a57-11e8-bf9e-8771d5404543

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Google to Be Fined Record $5 Billion by EU Over Android

July 18, 2018

Google will be fined about 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) by the European Union over apps for Android mobile devices, setting a record for antitrust penalties, according to a person familiar with the EU decision.

The penalty — the same amount the Netherlands contributes to the EU budget every year — is due to be announced by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager at 1 p.m. in Brussels.

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The EU’s decision would bring the running total of Google fines to 6.7 billion euros after last year’s penalty over shopping-search services. It could soon be followed by more fines from a probe into online advertising contracts.

Google has built a massive business of banner and videos ads, thanks largely to its central role on Android devices. Google will account for a third of all global mobile ads in 2018, according to research firm eMarketer, giving the company around $40 billion in sales outside the U.S. Google risks losing that traction if it is forced to surrender its real estate on millions of Android phones.

QuickTake: Why Google Is Again in the EU’s Antitrust Crosshairs

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai had a call with EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager late Tuesday for a so-called state of play meeting, a usual step to alert companies of an impending penalty, according to one of the people, who asked not to be named because the discussion is private. The probe targets Google’s contracts with smartphone manufacturers and telecoms operators.

The European Commission exceeds last year’s then-record 2.4 billion-euro penalty following an investigation into Google’s shopping-search service. Google owner Alphabet Inc. and the commission both declined to comment on the Android fines.

Despite being a record fine, Alphabet generated about the same amount of money every 16 days in 2017, based on the company’s reported annual revenue of $110.9 billion for the year.

Alphabet shares were down 1.2 percent in pre-market trading in New York on Wednesday.

EU Attack on Android Boosts Rivals in the Battle of the Apps

Levies are based on revenue in the market being probed and can’t exceed 10 percent of a company’s global annual revenue. Google raked in around 25 billion euros in digital advertising in Europe in 2017, equity research firm Pivotal Research estimates.

More significant than a blockbuster fine could be an accompanying order freeing up phone manufacturers to choose non-Google apps to install on Android phones. That would yield crucial real estate for app developers given that about 80 percent of smart mobile devices use Android.

EU officials have been investigating Google contracts that require manufacturers of Android phones to take Google’s search and browser apps and other Google services when they want to license the Play app store.

The EU is also targeting Google’s payments to telecoms operators and manufacturers who exclusively install Google search on devices and contracts that prevent handset makers selling phones using other versions of Android.

Google has a market share of more than 90 percent for general Internet search, licensed smart mobile operating systems and app stores for Android software, the EU said in 2016.

— With assistance by Stephanie Bodoni, and Natalia Drozdiak

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Google braces for huge EU fine over Android

July 18, 2018

Google prepared Wednesday to be hit with huge EU fine for freezing out rivals of its Android mobile phone system in a ruling that could spark new tensions between Brussels and Washington.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager spoke by telephone with Google chief Sundar Pichai on Tuesday night to tell him about the decision in advance, a source close to the matter told AFP.

Vestager is expected to announce that Google abused its dominant position in the market by making tie-ups with phone makers like South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Huawei.

Two European sources told AFP the fine would be “several billion euros” without giving further details. EU rules say Google could be fined up to 10 percent of parent company Alphabet’s annual revenue, which hit $110.9 billion in 2017.

“The fine is based on the length of the infraction, but also on whether antitrust authorities believe there was an intention to commit the offence, and whether they excluded competitors or not,” said another source close to the matter.

The Android pavilion at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

The European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm, refused to comment.

The long-awaited decision comes as fears of a transatlantic trade war mount due to President Donald Trump’s shock decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports.

Denmark’s Vestager has targeted a series of Silicon Valley giants in her four years as the 28-nation European Union’s antitrust chief, winning praise in Europe but angering Washington.

The case against Android is the most significant of three complaints by the EU against the search titan, which has already been hit with a record-breaking 2.4-billion-euro fine in a Google shopping case.

Brussels has repeatedly targeted Google over the past decade amid concerns about the Silicon Valley giant’s dominance of internet search across Europe, where it commands about 90 percent of the market.

– ‘Financial incentives’ –

In the Android file, the European Commission has accused Google of requiring mobile manufacturers such as Samsung and Huawei to pre-install its search engine and Google Chrome browser on phones, and to set Google Search as the default, as a condition of licensing some Google apps.

Google Search and Chrome are as a result pre-installed on the “significant majority” of devices sold in the EU, the commission says.

The complaint formally lodged in April also accuses Google of preventing manufacturers from selling smartphones that run on rival operating systems based on the Android open source code.

Google also gave “financial incentives” to manufacturers and mobile network operators if they pre-installed Google Search on their devices, the commission said.

Vestager’s other scalps include Amazon and Apple.

The EU’s biggest ever punishment targeted Apple in 2016 when it ordered the iconic maker of iPhones and iPads to pay Ireland 13 billion euros ($16 billion) in back taxes that it had avoided by a tax deal with Dublin.

The EU has also taken on Facebook over privacy issues after it admitted that millions of users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which was working for Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

The Google decision comes just one week before European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is due to travel to the United States for crucial talks with Trump on the tariffs dispute and other issues.

Transatlantic tensions are also high after Trump berated NATO allies over defence spending at a summit last week, over his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and over the US president’s pull-out from the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate deal.

AFP

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EU’s Attack on Android Boosts Rivals in the Battle of the Apps

July 15, 2018
App developers may be able to get a foothold on Android phones — Android investigation expected to be wrapped up in coming days
The Android pavilion at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Google’s latest European Union woes could mean opportunity knocks for app developers stymied by contracts that pre-install the U.S. giant’s own services on Android phones and tablets, according to analysts and companies.

The Alphabet Inc. unit is expected to face an antitrust fine over Android in the coming days that could top last year’s record 2.4 billion-euro ($2.8 billion) penalty for shutting out rivals to its shopping search service.

But more significant could be an accompanying order freeing up phone manufacturers to choose non-Google apps to install on Android phones. That would yield crucial real estate for app developers given that about 80 percent of smart mobile devices use Android.

“It would dramatically help us,” said Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive officer of Paoli, Pennsylvania-based DuckDuckGo Inc., a search engine that doesn’t track users. “It’s clear to me that people would choose other options if the choice was easier to make.” DuckDuckGo said it hasn’t complained to the EU about Google, pointing to the effort involved.

Google dominates mobile search in Europe, with 97 percent of the market, while its Chrome web browser has a 64 percent market share on mobile, according to web traffic analysis firm StatCounter. The company’s control of ads on millions of Android phones will help it capture a third of all global mobile ads in 2018, bringing in some $40 billion in sales outside the U.S., said research firm eMarketer.

The EU’s investigation targets contracts that require smartphone makers who want to install Google’s Play store to add a bundle of Google services, including search, web browser, email and mapping. EU officials worry that users stick with the default they get on their phones.

Email is “probably the most vulnerable one for Google” if device makers were able to install their own email app as default or add Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook, said Daniel Gleeson, a senior analyst at research firm Ovum Plc.There is “definitely potential in maps” where any advertising revenue loss for Google from location services would be very serious, he said, citing Here Technologies as a potential rival.

Google and the Brussels-based European Commission declined to comment for this article. Microsoft declined to comment about possible opportunities for its services. Here Technologies didn’t respond to a request for comment.

OsmAnd, an offline mapping application, reported “a really huge difference” when it was pre-installed on a small manufacturer’s tablet in 2013, said Chief Executive Officer Victor Shcherb. “It created a huge traffic from day zero on that device,” which was later discontinued.

Shcherb said his company competes only indirectly with Google Maps since his application tends to cater to users looking for specialist mapping services, such as for hiking. Still the EU’s decision could help the app reach a wider audience, he said.

Google ceded some market share to Russian search engine Yandex NV after it agreed to allow users in the nation to choose their own preferred search engine on Android phones. Yandex says it now has nearly 48 percentof the search market, up from around 37 percent. Google also paid a fine as part of a settlement of an antitrust probe by Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service last year.

Nudging computer users to choose their own internet browser was also the EU’s preferred way to end more than a decade of antitrust disputes with Microsoft in 2009, which helped push some web users to shiny new web software made by Google — at that time just a precocious new kid on the block.

Android is “a multi-lane highway of choice” and people can download competing apps at any time, the company’s general counsel Kent Walker said in a 2016 blog post. Google’s apps account for less than one-third of preloaded apps on a device, he said, and “a consumer can swipe away any of our apps at any time.”

Why Google Is Again in the EU’s Antitrust Crosshairs: QuickTake

Google also argues that its actions to police the Android ecosystem and prevent multiple versions of Android — also part of the EU probe — help app developers to make products that work across millions of devices. Giving away Android for free also helps reduce smartphone costs, it said. Google relies instead on advertising to make money from Android.

People download lots of other apps, according to a survey by the Developers Alliance, an association of 70,000 developers, which counts Google as a member.

Among 2,000 Android users surveyed in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, around 28 percent download additional search apps, 29 percent download at least one new app store, and 23 percent download at least one alternative web browser to the apps that come pre-installed, the alliance said.

Critics say it’s hard to challenge Google. Aptoide, an app store that competes with Google Play, filed an antitrust complaint with the EU in 2014 over contracts that prevent device makers engaging with it.

Aptoide Chief Executive Paulo Trezentos said the company has been growing “but not so much in the [handset] manufacturing side.” It is increasingly relying on users downloading the store via the web browser. The app store is rarely pre-installed, partly because it can’t counter Google’s offer to device-makers to bundle its app store with other Google apps.

Some analysts see little hope for increased competition in markets where Google has become well-entrenched.

“This order will come way too late because user addiction has moved from the [Play] store to the Google services,” said Richard Windsor, owner of research company Radio Free Mobile. It’s “going to be a tough call” for anyone to come up with a better range of products than Google.

— With assistance by Mark Bergen, and Ilya Khrennikov

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-15/eu-s-attack-on-android-boosts-rivals-in-the-battle-of-the-apps

Italy rescues migrants, asks other countries to host them

July 14, 2018

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is trying to find countries willing to take in some 450 migrants rescued from an overcrowded ship in the Mediterranean on Saturday, a source at the premier’s office said.

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FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte 

A ship operated by EU border agency Frontex and a vessel owned by Italy’s tax police picked up the migrants near the Italian island of Linosa and more than 100 nautical miles from Malta, which rejected pressure from Rome on Friday to rescue them.

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is leading a high-profile campaign to exclude humanitarian rescue ships from Italian ports and has said the migrants will not be allowed to land in Italy.

Eight of the migrants who needed medical assistance were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment, the source said.

The source, who asked not to be named, said Salvini had spoken with Conte on the telephone about how to resolve the situation.

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“The migrants could be distributed immediately among European countries, or Italy would contact Libya to send them back to where they came from,” the source said.

A third option would be to leave the migrants on the ships temporarily while their asylum requests are considered, the source added.

The source said Conte would write to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and other European heads of state to urge them to apply the European principles on migrants that were restated at a summit in June.

“Italy is no longer willingly to take on, alone, a problem that affects all European countries,” the source said.

Late on Friday, Malta said the people traveling on the packed vessel were Italy’s responsibility.

In two similar stand-offs between Rome and Valletta since Italy’s new populist government took office, migrants ended up in Spain and in Malta.

According to international law, refugees cannot be returned to a place where their lives are in danger. Both the United Nations and EU have acknowledged that Libya is not safe.

Earlier this week, however, Salvini asked EU interior ministers to declare Libya a place of safety where migrants can be taken after they are picked up at sea. German, Austrian and French ministers agreed it could be done, Salvini said.

Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Helen Popper

Reuters

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450 migrants stranded at sea as Italy, Malta dig heels in

July 14, 2018

Another 450 migrants on board two military vessels were stranded at sea on Saturday as Italy and Malta locked horns over whose responsibility it was to offer them safe harbour.

The boats, which are currently in Italian waters, had initially set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel which was identified early Friday while passing through waters under Malta’s jurisdiction.

But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has authority over the country’s ports, on Friday refused to let them dock in his latest show of intransigence over migrants stranded at sea.

And on Saturday, as those on board were transferred to two other vessels, he insisted the boats be instructed to “head south, to Libya or Malta”.

© AFP | Late on Thursday, an Italian coastguard vessel carrying 67 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily

“We need an act of justice, of respect and of courage to fight against these human traffickers and generate a European intervention,” he said in talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, his remarks carried by Italian news agencies.

In an exchange of messages, emails and phonecalls on Friday, Rome had tried to push Valetta to take responsibility for those on board the wooden boat.

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Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, insisting that those on board only wanted to reach Italy.

On Saturday morning, they were transferred to two military vessels but where the vessels will dock remains unclear.

Eight women and children were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment.

The new standoff kicked in just hours after 67 migrants were allowed to disembark from an Italian coast guard ship in Sicily late on Thursday.

Salvini, who took office when Italy’s new populist government came to power on June 1, wants to block any further migrant arrivals by boat and has banned charity rescue ships from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.

Last month, the French rescue ship Aquarius and the German boat Lifeline, who between them were carrying hundreds of migrants, were forced to divert to Spain and Malta respectively after Italy turned them away.

Italy, Greece and Spain have been on the front line of the migrant crisis, with Europe deeply divided over how to share the burden of the massive influx of people seeking to create a new life in Europe.

AFP

That Giant Sucking Sound is Post-Brexit London Losing Out

July 10, 2018

The U.K. capital’s rivals are slowly carving chunks out of its business.

There won’t be so many commuters like these.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Lingchi is the Chinese word for a form of torture in which flesh was systematically sliced from the body of the condemned, resulting in death by a thousand cuts. It was banned there in 1905; but, with Brexit looming, the practice is set for a revival in the City of London.

The British government continues to be riven by disagreements over what it wants its future relationship with the European Union to look like. And while the U.K. so far has only had one referendum on Brexit, the financial services industry gets to vote as often as it wants — and it is signaling deep disquiet with the likely outcome.

U.S. asset management behemoth BlackRock Inc. and investment bank Citigroup Inc. have been persuaded to expand in Paris with the promise of reduction in red tape, according to the Financial Times. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said last week that it’s asked “several dozen” of its London employees to relocate to other cities in the EU including Paris, Madrid and Milan. The moves could accelerate “depending on the outcome of negotiations,” the bank said in a memo.

The U.K. has already conceded that it won’t have the same access to EU markets for services after the divorce. The government said last week that it will seek “arrangements on financial services that preserve the mutual benefits of integrated markets and protect financial stability, noting that these could not replicate the EU’s passporting regimes.”

That’s not a particularly reassuring vision. Offering crash courses in French, Italian and German to soon-to-be-London-emigres could be a growth business for some enterprising entrepreneur.

So it’s little wonder that the number of foreign direct investment projects established in the U.K. last year declined, while other countries won more business, according to the latest U.K. Attractiveness Report published by consulting firm EY on Monday.

The drop in projects has real consequences. The U.K.’s share of the jobs created by the financial services industry in Europe shrank to 16 percent last year, its lowest level in a decade, according to EY. Back in 2016, the figure stood at 37 percent.

Ross Perot was wrong when he suggested in the 1992 presidential campaign that the “giant sucking sound” was the U.S. losing jobs as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But it’s increasingly hard to see how London can avoid an outflow of bankers, traders and investors if the current state of uncertainty persists.

The U.K. capital may, for now, remain the favored destination for investment in Europe, and it’s not about to hang up its brogues just yet. But money has always flowed to where it feels welcome and stayed where it’s well looked after. Given the current government’s apparent disdain for business in general and financial services in particular, no wonder London’s rivals are slowly carving out chunks of its business.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Mark Gilbert at magilbert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-10/london-s-post-brexit-decline

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Europeans leaders worry Trump wants to fulfill promise to bring American troops home

July 6, 2018

After 18 months of Donald Trump’s “America First” presidency, European leaders meeting with him next week fear the United States may change its traditional course and begin to bring American troops home from the continent.

It comes as nations, especially in Eastern Europe, are lobbying the United States to increase the number of troops on the continent as they worry about combating an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Trump has talked about bringing U.S. troops home from around the globe since he was on the campaign trail espousing a strategy he dubbed “America First” but he has yet to act.

“They are scared to death,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told McClatchy. “They are worried about a very unpredictable president of the United States. They are increasingly worried he is going to do things not based on what’s in the best interest..but based solely on his vision of ‘America First.’ “

The Pentagon is already reviewing the impact of withdrawing some of the 35,000 active-duty American troops in Germany, the Washington Post reported last month.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with President Donald Trump during the Group of 7 summit meeting in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. The photo quickly went viral after it was shared on Merkel’s Instagram account. Jesco Denzel German Federal Government via The New York Times

The fate of American troops in Europe are not expected to be on the agenda of the Brussels meeting of NATO — the alliance formed after World War II to counter a Soviet, now Russian, threat — but will loom large, as it comes just before Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

Some worry an unpredictable Trump, at the U.S.-Russia summit, could agree to take the first steps to embolden Russia, such as halting military exercises or agreeing that Crimea, a region of Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014, belongs to Russia.

Magnus Nordenman, who worked as a defense analyst and a strategic planning consultant for major European defense industry companies, said European allies are “absolutely worried” after hearing Trump disparage allies of the G-7, as well as NATO members’ contributions and seeing him eager to meet Putin as well as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

“There is element of uncertainty in all this,” said Nordenman, now the director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. “But we all need to take a bit of a breath here…and hope the president is in a good mood when he goes to Brussels.”

A senior administration official with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly did not initially answer the question about possible troop withdrawals on a conference call with reporters. But when asked a second time, the official said Trump is not expected to threaten troop withdrawals in Germany or elsewhere.

Congress is likely to oppose troop withdrawals and could pass legislation to prevent Trump from using money to move the military.

Trump has criticized international alliances and organizations, even the United Nations, and European allies fear he is less committed to their security and NATO as previous U.S. presidents. Last month, he abruptly refused to sign a joint statement with the G-7, the world’s largest economies following a meeting in Canada.

“At a time when the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the U.S. is under a lot of pressure over disagreements on Iran and trade, NATO is really at the core of this relationship and will Trump — by basically criticizing the Europeans and conditioning American support — bring more disunity within the alliance,” said Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program who is in touch with a few diplomats who are concerned about Trump’s possible reduction of troops. “It would weaken the alliance and provide new opportunities for countries like Russia to take advantage of that.”

A third of active-duty U.S. military troops overseas — more than 60,000 — are stationed in Europe, including 35,000 in Germany, 12,000 in Italy, 8,500 in the United Kingdom and 3,300 in Spain, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of information from the Defense Manpower Data Center, a statistical arm of the Defense Department. Thousands more rotate into other European countries temporarily.

Many U.S. troops are there to do more than protect those countries. They are strategically located to help in other regions of the world, such as counter Iran or strike the Islamic State.

The Trump administration has been supportive of NATO and European countries at a tactical level — actions generally credited to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It has sent more military equipment, participated in regional exercises, signed new defense agreements with Sweden and Finland and increased the number of Marines in Norway on a rotational basis by 350 and in Poland by a battalion.

Poland, Romania and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been asking the U.S. for additional troops for several years. Poland is willing to spend up to $2 billion to lobby the U.S. to build a permanent military base there, according to a Defense Ministry proposal.

Still, Trump has repeatedly threatened to punish countries if they don’t spend enough on defense, even suggesting the U.S. may not protect them if they don’t pay their fair share. That’s in direct contradiction of NATO’s pledge that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all of them.

“That’s the question: Is the U.S. security conditional?” asked Heather Conley, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs for Bush and is now a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

In June, he sent letters to several allies complaining they are not abiding by a 2014 commitment to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on national defense. Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. ambassador to NATO, said this week that all 29 NATO members are increasing defense spending with 16 of them on track to meet the 2 percent goal.

Daniel DePetris, a military expert as at Defense Priorities, a D.C.-based foreign policy organization focused on a strong military and restrained foreign policy that is in periodic conversations with the Trump administration, said the countries either don’t believe Russia is a real threat to them or that the U.S. will protect them.

“Either they have to step up and do what’s rational based on their economic power or it is appropriate for us to reduce our contingent over there,” he said.

The White House declined to say if and how Trump might punish the countries. “I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement or any action he could potentially take, but as you guys know, he’s shown some frustration there on the financial burden that the United States unfairly is forced to bear, and he wants changes,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters this week.

In recent weeks, Trump suggested withdrawing more than 25,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea after trying to persuade Kim to rid his country of nuclear weapons.

Pentagon leaders canceled military exercises there at Trump’s direction but they quickly reaffirmed the United State’s ‘ironclad commitment’ to defend South Korea.

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article214324579.html

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