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Obama and Missile Defense

A week after declaring his intentions to position Iskander tactical missiles in Kaliningrad region in response to US missile defense plans for Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev lays out his terms (Reuters):
But we are ready to abandon this decision to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if the new American administration, after analyzing the real usefulness of a system to respond to 'rogue states', decides to abandon its anti-missile system.

We are ready to negotiate a 'zero option'. We are ready to reflect on a system of global security with the United States, the countries of the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Obama can expect pull in the other direction by the US Missile Defense Agency, whose outgoing Director Lt. Gen. Trey Obering argues missile defense technology may be farther along than the President-Elect believes (
Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet. The technology has caught up.  What we have discovered is, a lot of those folks that have not been in this administration seem to be dated in terms of the program. They are kind of calibrated back in the 2000 timeframe.
Jeff Lindemyer links to two articles that offer a view of what Obama’s stance on missile defense was during the campaign at Nukes of Hazard.

See also from Atlantic Review:
* Is Russia a Superpower?  Cold War II?
* United States and Poland Agree on Missile Defense Deal
* Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks

Europe or the US? Educational Questions We Need to Ask

Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Online University Rankings, wrote this guest post:

Are European and US college programs equivalent?

The transatlantic divide is being further torn apart by the educational argument. The fierce debate rages on – are the three year degrees offered by institutions in the UK and across most of Europe equivalent to the four year programs on offer at US colleges? If not, which of them is the more superior? Are graduates of the shorter program less smart than their American counterparts? Or is it vice versa?

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Is Europe "Ready to be Obama stakeholders, not free-riders"?

Thomas Friedman in the NY Times (HT: Katie):
To all those Europeans, Canadians, Japanese, Russians, Iranians, Chinese, Indians, Africans and Latin Americans who are e-mailing their American friends about their joy at having “America back,” now that Obama is in, I just have one thing to say: “Show me the money!”

Don’t just show me the love. Don’t just give me the smiles. Your love is fickle and, as I said, it will last about as long as the first Obama airstrike against an Al Qaeda position in Pakistan. No, no, no, show me the money. Show me that you are ready to be Obama stakeholders, not free-riders — stakeholders in what will be expensive and difficult initiatives by the Obama administration to keep the world stable and free at a time when we have fewer resources.
I agree. The honeymoon will not last that long.

Before the presidential elections, there were reports about Europe's Letter to the Next U.S. President: "In an unprecedented move, EU foreign ministers will send a six-page memo to the winner of the U.S. election asking for cooperation." I heard rumors that this letter was supposed to be quite specific and promise specific EU commitments to more burden sharing.
I don't know if that letter has now been delivered...

Two Different Paths to NATO: Georgia and Ukraine

Ukraine and Georgia were previously anticipated to take the next step toward full NATO membership, attaining Membership Action Plans (MAPs), at an upcoming December NATO Ministerial.  However, Georgia’s conflict with Russia and the destabilizing, perennial internal political squabbles between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko in Ukraine has made a 2008 MAP for either country all but impossible to imagine. 

Steven Pifer, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that in this situation, it would be unwise for the US to push hard for MAPs in December.  Instead the US should develop a Plan B for moving Georgia and Ukraine toward membership:
Rather than pursuing a quest certain to end in diplomatic failure, Washington needs a Plan B. It should aim to shape a December outcome that sends positive signals to Kyiv and Tbilisi while making clear that NATO does not concede Ukraine or Georgia to Russia’s geopolitical orbit.

Seeking MAPs in December, only to fall short, would not be good for Ukraine or Georgia or for their long-term NATO prospects. Likewise, it would not be good for the U.S. government to make a big diplomatic push to persuade allies to agree to MAPs – and fail again, as it did in Bucharest.
Pifer outlines his own Plan B proposal here.
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Excited About Obama, Realistic about Transatlantic Cooperation

German and American policy pundits and exchange students look forward to a new phase in transatlantic relations, but also recognize the limits of further US-European cooperation. That's my conclusion from speaking to dozens of America enthusiasts at Telekom representation in Berlin, where one of the many election night parties took place.

Here's my interview with Dr. John C. Hulsman and Dr. Henning Riecke of the German Council of Foreign Relations as well as Johannes Thimm, a Ph.D. candidate at the Free University:



You will find the interview with the German Fulbright alumni and the US exchange students on

Five Reasons Obama would not be Elected in Europe

Denis Boyles argues in the National Review that while the vast majority of Europeans are hoping Obama will be elected President of the United States today, he would not have a chance of success were he running to lead any European country. Boyles offers five reasons why:

1. “His tax policies are frightening,” in that they are too far left for Europe.
2. “His views on abortion are way too extreme for Europeans.”
3. “His lack of experience means trouble.”
4. “He’s in love with failed ideas.” Boyles calls Obama a “socialist romantic”, compares his policies to the EU Constitution, and then argues that the dream of Obama and all liberals is to have kids raised by the state – the first argument makes no sense and the second argument is simply not true.
5. “His name, incidentally, is Barack Hussein Obama. Sorry to save this for last, but the sad fact is a politician with Obama’s racial and ethnic background wouldn’t stand a chance in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, or anywhere else in the European Union no matter how charming his speeches were.”

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War Hero Versus Shooting Star

As Andrew Hammel from the University of Düsseldorf pointed out in his interview with Jörg Wolf recently, most Germans "haven't the faintest idea what John McCain stands for" politically. If you thought you could find out by reading his autobiography, think again. "Faith of My Fathers" could just as well be placed on the bookshelf labeled "military history".

In his so-called "family memoir", John McCain describes in detail wartime adventures of his father and his grandfather. Both were named like himself: John Sidney McCain, and both were four-star admirals in the Navy. John McCain the third (72) succeeded them to military academy and became a bomber pilot. After childhood and youth full of fits of rage and fistfights followed the stereotypical life of a soldier, including fights, romantic escapades, alcohol and gambling.

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