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EU Closer to Adopting Biometric Security Measures, and Drones Too!

From Deutsche Welle:
The European Commission agreed to a plan to collect fingerprints and photographs from foreigners entering the EU, part of an effort to fortify the bloc's borders.  The plan, which was presented on Wednesday, Feb. 13, could see EU funds used to develop surveillance equipment like cameras, sensors and pilot-less drones. Civil libertarians argue that the controversial measures infringe on people's privacy and won't fight crime.  But proponents of the plan called the proposals "further building blocks in the often stated aim of the European Union to build a space of free and secure travel through collective responsibility and solidarity."
Yesterday’s Washington Post also had an interesting article on the topic:

If approved by the European Parliament, the measure would mean that precisely identifying information on tens of millions of citizens will be added in coming years to databases that could be shared by friendly governments around the world.

The United States already requires that foreigners be fingerprinted and photographed before they enter the country. So does Japan...
The plan is part of a vast and growing trend on both sides of the Atlantic to collect and share data electronically to identify and track people in the name of national security and immigration control.

A Different Kind of Quagmire: Iran

Tired of the same old boring quagmire?  Looking for a new kind of quagmire to talk about with your friends?  Good news if you are, because Iraq is not the only quagmire around.  No need to look far—keep it in the “axis of evil.”  Iraq’s neighbor, Iran is also a quagmire of a sorts… a diplomatic quagmire for the transatlantic allies. 

I’ll corroborate: the United States and Europe have been trying to anneal sanctions against Iran through the United Nations Security Council for years, only to have their proposals consistently rebuffed and watered down by China and Russia.  The latest US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities” (PDF version), is unlikely to make the pursuit of sanctions any easier:
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.
Good news, right?  Only kinda, according to Ralf Fuecks who points out at Atlantic Community that Iran remains a threat, regardless of the NIE:
Continue reading "A Different Kind of Quagmire: Iran"

Three Perspectives on NATO and Afghanistan

The escalating conflict between European countries and the United States over the level of commitment to Afghanistan has spurred a good deal of commentary. There are very different perspectives on who is to blame, but a consistent theme is that the conflict has deeper roots in what Europe and the US see as the future role of NATO.

In a long, complex argument - Cracks in the Foundation: NATO's New Troubles - the CATO Institute's Stanley Kober compares NATO's current troubles in Afghanistan to the long-forgotten SEATO. The South East Asian Treaty Organisation eventually dissolved in 1977 after failing to engage in Vietnam, a war the US fought on its own and eventually disengaged from. Although circumstances are different, he argues that a loss in Afghanistan might bring the alliance into an existential crisis.

America, Kober argues, should not extent security guarantees when it is not absolutely certain that it can back up these guarantees. Therefore, instead of seeking to expand NATO even further, the US should consider the real possibility that it will not last, and he concludes:

Given the difficulties the alliance is confronting, it is not too early to begin discussions with our allies about what a post-NATO world would look like. They have put their trust in us, and we have an obligation to them, and to ourselves, to face the world honestly.

In the Los Angeles Times, Boston University international relations professor Andrew Bacevich has a similarly bleak piece called NATO at Twilight. Bacevich focuses on the degraded capacities of European countries, and the lower amount of solidarity the alliance can now command. His main criticism, however, is directed at the Bush administration, which, he states "is kidding itself if it thinks Europeans will save the day in Afghanistan." According to Bacevich, the only realistic remaining purpose of NATO is securing European integration.

Foreign affairs journalist Eric Margolis goes even further in his Edmonton Sun piece, Europeans can see what America cannot:

At this week's NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, an angry U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates accused some Europeans of not being prepared to "fight and die" in Afghanistan in the battle against the Taliban.

The undiplomatic Gates is quite right. Most Europeans regard the Afghan conflict as a) wrong and immoral; b) America's war; c) all about oil; or d) probably lost.

Margolis himself seems to choose door 'd)', citing increasing attacks on supply lines in Pakistan, and a recent statement by ISAF commanding officer Dan Mcneill that a proper counterinsurgency campaign would require 400,000 troops. He also argues that by pushing this impopular, distant war, the United States is undermining its power in Europe, which is mostly provided through the alliance.

The role of NATO is understood on very different levels. It is alternatively seen as an institution furthering European integration; a possibly obsolete but also potentially overstretched check on Russia, and a tool for furthering American influence in Europe.

The US itself does have a clear policy spelling out what it wants from NATO: A more outward looking alliance that will support its global missions. Disagreement on whether that is something Europe wants NATO to do is perfectly valid, but European countries can only reach a compromise with the US when there is a European policy on NATO's role. Unlike the increasingly disaffected public, European government leaders still believe in the alliance. Quite what they want from it is less clear.

(hat-tip to the European Tribune for the Margolis piece and to reader Don S for the Bacevich piece)

New York City Shops Put Up "Euros Accepted" Signs

Reuters:

In the latest example that the U.S. dollar just ain't what it used to be, some shops in New York City have begun accepting euros and other foreign currency as payment for merchandise.

This comes after the Latest Indication of US Economic Troubles: Hip-Hopper Flashes Euro Notes.

Thus, Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and an adviser to Senator McCain, considers it necessary to remind everyone: Ignore the Obituaries, U.S. Reign Will Endure, which is also response to Parag Khanna's essay in the NYT, discussed on Atlantic Review.

I think it is good that NYC shops open up to Euros, but most customers pay with credit card anyway these days. The Boston Globe claimed in November 2007: "With dollar low, US is one big outlet: Europeans arriving in droves for bargains."

Do you see an expression of Schadenfreude on my face? Nope. I am just reflecting on history: Before we had the Euro and before credit cards were popular in Europe, we would travel to other European, Asian or African cities and use plenty of exchange bureaus or banks to convert our national into the local currencies. But this was not possible when traveling to the United States, where it was extremely difficult to find a bank that would exchange Deutschmark into Dollars without several days waiting period and huge fees. The dollar was the only currency Americans knew and accepted. Every tourist had to get dollars before arrival. So we were carrying plenty of cash and traveler checks in dollars. Now the United States is becoming more international by opening-up to the Euro. Cool, but then again, everybody is paying with credit card these days, so it is not such a significant change now.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Thanksgiving: More Americans Travel to Europe Despite the Weak Dollar

Ronald Asmus' Strategy for the West: Expand East

Ronald Asmus has a new “grand strategy” for the west: it should continue to expand eastward (see Foreign Affairs, subscription only):
The challenge of securing Europe’s eastern border from the Baltics to the Black Sea has been replaced by the need to extend peace and stability along the southern rim of the Euro-Atlantic community—from the Balkans across the Black Sea and further into Eurasia, a region that connects Europe, Russia, and the Middle East and involves core security interests, including a critical energy corridor.  Working to consolidate democratic change and build stability in this area is as important for Western security today as consolidating democracy in central and eastern Europe was in the 1990s.
The west’s most important accomplishment following the Cold War has been its integration of central and eastern European countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union—countries that have undergone significant reforms to be accepted into NATO and the EU.  It is interesting that despite the ubiquitous negative publicity NATO is receiving these days, due largely to a perceived lack of teamwork in Afghanistan, there are several countries that continue to fervently seek membership—take the 71 percent of Georgian’s who endorsed NATO membership in a January referendum for example (see Today’s Zaman). 
Continue reading "Ronald Asmus' Strategy for the West: Expand East"

Contest: Six-Word Motto for Europe and America

The NY Times' Freakonomics blog mentions England's reluctant search for a national motto and runs a contest for a six-word description of the United States. Pat Patterson recommended it and said that he likes best #9 "Hubris: It's not just for Greeks" and #52 "The hot girl who ignores you." I like #30 "The worst country, besides all others" and #103 "We Reserve the Right to Invade."

What's your favorite motto for the United States, Britain, Germany, France or the European Union? Post in the comments section.

German Politician Urges Canadian PM to Pressure Germany

Hans-Ulrich Klose, vice-chair of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee, supposedly told the Canwest News Service that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper should put more pressure on countries like Germany and France to station troops in the more dangerous southern parts of Afghanistan. Klose is a member of the Social Democratic Party, which is part of Chancellor Merkel's coalition government. And he wants the Canadians to pressure his own government... So crazy, it could be true. Well, to his credit, Klose has also been outspoken in the German press calling for German troop deployments to the South.

Where Next for Serbia?

The Atlantic Review is pleased to present a guest article by Professor Stefan Wolff, from the University of Nottingham. 

Professor Wolff addresses the Serbian elections that took place over the weekend, and explains that while the pro-western candidate has won the elections, the future of Serbia is far from certain.

sss eewFor many voters and observers, there were two surprises in Sunday's second round of presidential elections in Serbia. The first one was that the current president, Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party, won, if only by the slightest of margins. Even among his supporters, this was far from a certain result, but they welcomed it all the more enthusiastically. The second, and perhaps greater surprise was equally welcome: Tadic's challenger, Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (whose leader Vojislav Seselj is currently in The Hague being tried for war crimes committed during 1992-5 war in Bosnia) quickly accepted defeat and congratulated his victorious opponent.

With Tadic--pro-western and pro-democratic in orientation--confirmed in office for another term, all the signs should point clearly to Serbia catching up with its neighbours in the process of economic and democratic reform, as well as closer ties with the European Union, which, after all, was the central message of Tadic's campaign: "Together we'll conquer Europe." Yet, Serbia's future course is far from clear. Three predominant factors account for this continuing uncertainty:

Continue reading "Where Next for Serbia?"