The latest news on Germany’s economy doesn’t look good. According to data released today, German factory orders contracted in November, ending three consecutive months of growth. The primary culprit for the 1 percent decline was the eurozone, where orders contracted almost 12 percent. Domestic orders and orders from countries outside the eurozone, on the other hand, increased by 2.4 percent. (The last time German factory orders contracted, in July, demand outside the eurozone registered the biggest drop.) While the decline, especially from the eurozone, isn’t exactly comforting, rising demand at home and beyond the eurozone is welcome news for Germany. Still, the trajectory since the beginning of last year is pointing in the wrong direction, even if the situation isn’t imminently dire.
Bolton walks back the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. U.S. President Donald Trump’s admittedly hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, said the U.S. withdrawal from Syria would depend on Turkey promising not to attack Syrian Kurdish forces and that no concrete timetable for the move had been decided. Bolton also said his comments were consistent with Trump’s position – and so far, at least, he still has a job. Turkey wasted no time in firing back: A presidential spokesperson called the remarks “irrational,” and Turkish media used an ever-present and chilling phrase to describe relations between the two countries: “rising tensions.” Going forward, we’ll keep an eye on whether Bolton, who is in Ankara today, really is representing the views of the president and on how Turkey will respond.
More fireworks in Gaza. After a brief respite, a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel – and greeted with Israeli airstrikes on “several terror targets in the northern Gaza Strip,” according to the Israel Defense Forces. Various Palestinian media outlets reported that, as a result, Qatar’s ambassador will delay a planned trip to Gaza this week and Israel will block a third installment of $15 million in Qatari funding to the Gaza Strip. And the balagan isn’t limited to Israeli-Palestinian hostilities: A spokesperson for Fatah accused Hamas of raiding members’ homes and media facilities over the weekend. Consequently, Fatah canceled a planned celebration of the 54th anniversary of its founding to “avoid bloodshed,” according to Ma’an News Agency. This is the song that never ends.
Freedom of navigation operations. The dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry entered the Black Sea and arrived at the Romanian port of Constanta early yesterday morning. It’s the first U.S. naval ship to enter the region since the Kerch Strait incident in early December. Russia’s Ministry of Defense noted that a Russian patrol ship was monitoring the Fort McHenry’s activities. Meanwhile, as U.S. and Chinese officials began trade talks, the USS McCampbell, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of three Chinese-controlled islands in the Paracels. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry described the incident as a “provocation” and said that China had protested the move to the U.S. government. As long as the response to these gestures stays at the usual level of indignant statements, there’s not much to see here, aside from the fact that the U.S. Navy seems to enjoy giving its ships Irish names.
A failed coup in Gabon. A coup attempt in Gabon would not normally make it into this space, but this is the same country where the United States recently deployed military personnel, an initiative it announced Friday. The mutineers managed to take control of the national radio station early this morning and even announced the formation of a council to “restore democracy” in the country. But that was the high-water mark. The rebel officers in charge have since been duly arrested, and the government is firmly in control, according to an official spokesperson. A statement from U.S. Africa Command said there was “no change in the status of [U.S.] forces in Gabon,” who were deployed to manage the fallout from the recent elections in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, so perhaps this is where this story ends. Our discomfort about the timing remains, however.
- The Washington Post reported that Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, said he would work to lift tariffs imposed last month on Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia if Kosovo felt sufficient support in its negotiations with Serbia.
- The commander of the Iranian navy said Iran and Russia were preparing to hold joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea “in the near future.”
- Yellow-vest protests continued in Paris this weekend, but the French Interior Ministry insisted that the number of protesters and demonstrations nationwide was “plummeting.”
- The website for TVP Info, a Polish news channel, reported that sources in Poland’s Internal Security Agency believed Russia hired a group of Poles to carry out an arson attack in February 2018 on a Hungarian cultural association in western Ukraine to strain Ukrainian-Hungarian relations.
- China’s foreign currency reserves rose for a second consecutive month.