King kingdom

What we’re watching: UK-Nordic security pact, Biden-ASEAN summit, King Abdullah II at the White House

Boris Johnson embraces NATO-linked Nordic countries

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed security declarations with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Wednesday. These documents are promises that if either Nordic country is attacked, Britain will come to its aid. In return, Sweden and Finland promise the same support to the United Kingdom. Asked about the details, Johnson said his government would offer “anything Sweden asks for” and “share more intelligence, strengthen military exercises and continue joint development of technology.” Regarding specific weapons, the British Prime Minister said that would be determined by what was requested. These are simply political promises, not security guarantees like those offered by NATO membership. But this demonstration of solidarity comes at a sensitive time; Finland and Sweden are widely expected. to announce their application for NATO membership in the coming days, and their governments have warned that the “grey zone” period between formal application and certain acceptance will leave them vulnerable to various forms of Russian aggression. Intelligence now believes that Moscow is planning a long war with the intention of achieving “goals beyond Donbass”.

Will ASEAN be on Biden’s side?

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden kicks off a two-day summit in Washington with eight leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. There is a big item on the agenda: China. Biden will try to persuade guests to take his side in the US-China rivalry, but almost all will surely say, as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did, that it’s an impossible choice. ASEAN has long been in a row with China over a range of issues, primarily Beijing’s claim to the entire South China Sea, disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. But China has too much economic and military clout in Southeast Asia for ASEAN to openly oppose Beijing, no matter how much investment and security cooperation Washington offers. Given that the bloc will likely meet Biden’s overtures with his usual bromides, perhaps the most interesting thing about this summit is two no-shows: Myanmar and the Philippines. Myanmar’s junta was not invited because the United States still recognizes the previous democratic government which the generals overthrew in February 2021, and incumbent Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not responded because he is on the about to be replaced by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is less openly pro-China than Duterte.

King Abdullah to visit the White House

King Abdullah II of Jordan will meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday for their second face-to-face meeting since Biden took office. The two will likely discuss bilateral relations, with Jordan stressing the need for continued American aid to help its struggling economy (the United States is Jordan’s largest donor, providing $1.65 billion over the course of the year). 2021 financial year). They are also required to focus on the recent upsurge in violence in Jerusalem, particularly at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Jewish Israelis refer to as the Temple Mount. Jordan is the custodian of the site and is responsible for its day-to-day administration. Amid recent clashes between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police, Amman requested additional Waqf monitoring at the site, and Israeli authorities agreed. Yet the Jordanian government, which generally enjoys warm ties to Jerusalem, has accused Israel of provocations against Muslim worshippers. (Israel says it was responding to the stone-throwing and maintaining the status quo, which prohibits Jews from praying on the Temple Mount, despite it being Judaism’s holiest site.) Indeed, the security situation in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank remains precarious, and King Abdullah could politely ask the Biden administration – distracted by the attack in Ukraine – to pay more attention to it.