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Fulbrighters Reflect on their Exchange Year

In this video produced by the German Fulbright Alumni Association in 2014 former German and US grantees talk about the relevance of their exchange experience and their reasons to get involved with the Alumni Association. 

The video captures the importance of the Fulbright program quite well. Authentic, personal, no exaggerations. After watching it, you will probably want to get in touch with the German Fulbright Alumni Association or learn how to get a Fulbright grant: For Germans going to US, for Americans going to Germany, for all other nationalities and destinations

The last link takes you to the State Department and promotes the Fulbright Program as "the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. (...) Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide." Most programs with rich countries are financed jointly. The German-American Fulbright program has received 2.6 Mio EUR from the State Department and US Host Institutions, but the much larger amount of 5.6 Mio EUR from Germany's federal and regional governments in 2013/2014. 332 Americans and 408 Germans received grants in that academic year.

The American Fulbright Alumni Association has just released this promotional video:

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Atlantic Review Receives the Fulbright Association's Mulert Award

Many organizations give awards to prominent people, who have already received dozens in the past. Sometimes it seems the purpose is not to honor the recipient of the award, but to use his or her fame to shine a light on the organization that is bestowing the award. Many also combine the awards ceremony with a fundraising dinner.

Not so the German Fulbright Alumni Association, which awarded the Mulert Award on Mutual Understanding 2015 to this blog. I will keep you post regarding the project that I will implement. 

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NATO Solidarity: Atlantic Community is a Vision, not yet a Reality

The Pew Research Center's transatlantic survey indicates a high degree of security complacency and a lack of solidarity across NATO member publics. Evidently, the Atlantic Community is still a distant future, with this vision being marred by an absence of real unity. We must encourage more policy dialogue between citizens throughout Europe and across the Atlantic and thereby create empathy and a shared identity.

Many in the European publics, especially the Germans, take US support for granted, feel comfortable as security free-riders, and don't seem to understand NATO's concept of collective defense. From the Pew Research Center:

Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively). Germans (58%) are the most likely to say their country should not. All NATO member publics are more likely to think the United States will come to an ally's defense (median of 68%) than to be willing to do so themselves. (…) Poles stand out as less certain that the U.S. would come to an ally's aid (49% would, 31% would not).

This is quite troubling and disconcerting as only a friend in need is a friend indeed. But, according to this poll, we are not even „fair weather friends", as we oppose solidarity already, before a NATO ally has even been attacked. Coming to each other's defense is the most basic principle of a friendship or partnership. Failing to do so is obviously infinitely worse than a disagreement about out-of-area missions or specific strategies.

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An Anthem for NATO

The NATO Foreign Ministers have met in Antalya, Turkey, instead of Brussels. Various public diplomacy activities were organized as well. I think this is great, as Turkey is at a NATO “front-line” and has also been drifting away from the West as the AKP policies and public opinion polls by the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Trends have shown in recent years. Thus, any policy or gesture to reverse the trend is welcome.

What has been going viral from the meeting, however, is something else. A video of senior leaders singing “We are the World,” often with critical comments:

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Not a Riddle: Reading Russia - and Responding Resolutely

Putin's strategy is to intimidate, confuse and divide the West. He wants us to worry about his next steps. He appears stronger than he is, if Western decision-makers and opinion leaders consider Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Churchill's famous description from October 1939 has made a comeback in the last fifteen months, but unfortunately not as the full quote:

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe.  That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.

Churchill's reference to the "riddle", I believe, was mainly about forecasting Russia's actions, which is similar to the weather forecast. The next few days can be forecasted with quite some authority, but not the next weeks. Yet, we all know the not too distant future: Winter is coming. (Only stupid bureaucrats in charge of our public transport systems get surprised by the first heavy snow fall.) Russia's future looks bleak as current policies are not sustainable.

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Standing the Test of Time

This blog has not been prolific in recent months, but I am glad that my past articles stand the test of time:

1. When Russia's green men seized Crimea in February 2014, US and German politicians and pundits suggested different responses. I explained the reasons for these transatlantic differences: Misreading Ostpolitik and the Cuban Missile Crisis Screwed up German and US Foreign Policy

This article from March 2014 is still relevant and will most likely explain gut reactions to future crises as well. The current German and US governments cannot ignore their pundits and public opinions, but so far Merkel's and Obama's Russia policy has not been too much negatively influenced by the popular, but shallow and wrong reading of past US or German policy successes. The EU and the US have been balancing sanctions and diplomacy quite well. They have successfully maintained transatlantic unity, which is more important than higher sanctions or more diplomacy.

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Fulbright Alumna interviews Chancellor Merkel

Ahead of her US visit Chancellor Merkel answered questions from Fulbright Alumna Kate Lindemann on TTIP, the US funding cuts to an exchange program with Germany, and racism & xenophobia in the US and Germany. Video is in German:

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We Saved Fulbright, Now We Need to Save CBYX

When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."

Good news? Yes!

But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:

The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.

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