President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Thursday with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, where he explained his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord on Thursday.  He further reassured the United States remains committed to the Transatlantic alliance and to robust efforts to protect the environment.

President Trump spoke again with British Prime Minister May on Sunday morning after a terrorist attack Saturday evening at the London Bridge resulted in seven dead and 48 injured.  He condemned this “heinous” attack and offered U.S. assistance as the British investigate and seek to bring to justice the perpetrators.  This is the third terrorist attack in three months in the United Kingdom.

President Trump decided against moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Thursday, citing the need to allow space for Israel and Palestine to negotiate a peace agreement.  President will welcome Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to the White House on 9 June.

President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam to the White House on Wednesday.  The two released a joint statement for enhancing the Comprehensive Partnership  In sum, President Trump expressed his support for Vietnam in successfully hosting APEC 2017 and noted that he looks forward to visiting Vietnam and attending the APEC Leaders’ meeting in November.  Regarding the South China Sea, both leaders reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and “highlighted the importance that parties refrain from actions that would escalate tensions, such as the militarization of disputed features.”  President Trump also “stressed that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Sydney, Australia with Secretary of Defense James Mattis from 5-6 June to participate in the 2017 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) hosted by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne.  Secretary Tillerson will travel next to New Zealand to reaffirm strong bilateral ties and to discuss coordination on shared strategic interests with Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee.  Secretary Mattis arrived in Singapore over the weekend and addressed the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asia-focused defense summit of ministers and delegates from more than 50 countries, on Saturday.  He will join Secretary Tillerson in Australia for the AUSMIN.

Both chambers of Congress are in session this week.  There is currently a bipartisan push underway in Congress to tighten sanctions on Russia.  The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday announced a bipartisan agreement on legislation that would strengthen and expand sanctions against Moscow as it pertains to Ukraine and Syria.

North Korea – New U.N. Sanctions Approved; U.S. Tests Missile Defense System

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke after the U.N. Security Council approved additional sanctions against North Korea on Friday.  She said:  “The United States will work tirelessly to make sure that the international community never gets used to North Korea’s violations or looks the other way.  And North Korea must understand that the international community will never accept the regime’s development and testing of nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency confirmed the U.S. military successfully intercepted a mock ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean in a test of a missile-defense system on 30 May.  The test was aimed at protecting the United States from the type of ballistic missiles North Korea is developing.  Vice Adm. Jim Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, explained that “[t]his test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”

The mock ICBM-class target was fired from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site in the Marshall Islands.  An interceptor, launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, successfully locked on the target and brought it down.  The test is the first of the ground-based, mid-course defense system against an ICBM-class target.

While North Korea has conducted an “unprecedented” number of tests and launches over the past year, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that the test was not in direct response to tensions with North Korea, explaining that the country “is not the only reason why we have this capability and why we test this capability.”

Shangri-La Dialogue

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Singapore on Friday to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue from 2-4 June.  The summit, which includes bilateral meetings and sessions on security in the Asia-Pacific, comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region with China and North Korea.

This marks Secretary Mattis’s second visit to Asia since taking office in January.  During his speech on Saturday, Secretary Mattis emphasized that while the United States appreciates Chinese cooperation on North Korea, it will not accept Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.  While speaking at the forum, Secretary Mattis also eased concerns for allies in the Asia-Pacific, providing reassurance that the region remains a priority and that the United States remains fully engaged with its partners.

Gen. Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also in Singapore for the dialogue.  On 2 June, Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam presented Gen. Dunford with Singapore’s Military Distinguished Service Order medal for his unwavering support of the U.S.-Singaporean partnership.  After the ceremony, Gen. Dunford and Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean government leaders before returning to the dialogue.

Asia-Pacific:  U.S., Japanese, South Korean Army Leaders Discuss Security Cooperation

Army Gen. Robert B. Brown, the U.S. Army Pacific commander, held a trilateral meeting on 23 May with South Korean Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jang Jun-Gyu and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshiya Okabe.  The three leaders agreed that cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea remains a priority in in the light of the threat posed by North Korea.

Gen. Brown noted that such meetings are significant because “they enable cooperation among regional powers in Northeast Asia.”  The three leaders agreed to a follow-up meeting at the Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference/Pacific Armies Management Seminar, which will be co-hosted by South Korea and the United States in September.

Syria, Iraq – Strikes Continue Against ISIS Targets

On 1 June, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, confirmed that Iraqi forces are closing in on the final terrorist-held areas in western Mosul, while partnered forces in Syria are only a few kilometers from Raqqa.  In the past week, the coalition has conducted 21 strikes in support of the Iraqi security forces’ efforts, hitting mortars, machine guns, multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and factories where they are made.

While the Iraqi government has instructed civilians to evacuate Mosul’s Old City, Army Col. Dillon noted that the terrorists are targeting fleeing civilians, explaining that citizens have been “victims of ISIS-emplaced bombs and bobby traps as they attempt to flee.”

In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to close in on ISIS targets around Raqqa.  “The coalition is dedicated and focused on the defeat of ISIS.  Our partnered forces are dedicated and focused on the defeat of ISIS,” Army Col. Dillon shared, adding that “all parties in southern Syria should remain focused on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to the region and worldwide peace and security.”

  • On Thursday, 8 June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Beyond Iraq and Syria: ISIS’ Global Reach.”

NATO – Montenegro, The Newest Member

On Monday, 5 June, Under Secretary Thomas Shannon will accept Montenegro’s instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).  Montenegro’s Prime Minister Duško Marković will officially deposit the instrument at the ceremony, making Montenegro the twenty-ninth NATO Ally.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will also participate in the ceremony to welcome Montenegro as the Alliance’s newest member.  On June 7, Montenegro’s flag will fly over NATO Headquarters for the first time.

European Reassurance Initiative – FY 2018 Defense Budget Request Includes $4.7 Billion for ERI

Last week, Air Force Maj. Gen. David W. Allvin, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, shared that the Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget request includes nearly $4.8 billion for the ERI to enhance deterrence and defense and improve the readiness of forces in Europe.  Gen. Allvin explained that the funding “is one of our nation’s commitments to Europe” and “demonstrates our strong dedication to the trans-Atlantic bond and the defense of our allies.”

In a news release last week, EUCOM Commander Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said that the funding “increases our joint capabilities to deter and defend against Russian aggression,” adding that these investments will “further galvanize U.S. support to the collective defense of our NATO allies and bolster the security and capacity of our U.S. partners.”

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the United States authorized ERI at $985 million in 2015, $789 million in 2016, and $3.4 billion in 2017. The FY 2018 ERI budget request also includes $150 million to continue efforts to build Ukraine’s capacity to conduct internal defense operations to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Monday, 5 June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled “Beyond Iraq and Syria: ISIS’ Global Reach.”
  • On Tuesday, 6 June, the Senate Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is scheduled to hold a hearing to examine Austria’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, focusing on priorities and challenges.
  • On Wednesday, 7 June, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Energy Opportunities in North America.”
  • On Thursday, 8 June, the House Foreign Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Attacking Hezbollah’s Financial Network: Policy Options.”
  • On Thursday, 8 June, the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Former Director James Comey, FBI.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 9 June: President Trump welcomes Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to the White House
  • 12 June: USTR deadline for written comments re: NAFTA
  • 18-20 June: SelectUSA Investment Summit in National Harbor, Maryland
  • 27 June: USTR hearing on NAFTA
  • Before August: Congress to vote on the raising the debt ceiling