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Setting the Record Straight: Carl Benz from Germany Invented the Car

First Al Gore invented the internet. Then President Barack Obama invented hope and change. And now he proudly claimed in his address to the joint session of Congress:

I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it. None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy.  But this is America. We don't do what's easy. 

Apparently Americans invented everything, including history. And it's only other nations that walk away, give up, quit and cry like babies when they hit an obstacle. Only other nations do things the easy way, like signing up for three or four credit cards or borrowing money from China and from future tax payers. Continue reading "Setting the Record Straight: Carl Benz from Germany Invented the Car"

Siemens' Engagement in Russia

This is a guest post by Peter Männer, who is commenting regularly here under the pseudonym of 'Zyme' and working without it as a pupil barrister in Regensburg for the judiciary branch of Bavaria. 

Transatlantic relations as well as Franco-German relations are expected to suffer from the latest development of Siemens' engagement in Russia.

On February 2nd, Siemens declared that it was going to make use of its "Put"-option regarding its 34 % share of a joint venture with the French nuclear company Areva. This step has been made due to the fact that Paris had blocked Siemens for years from gaining influence on decision making within the 'AREVA NP joint venture'.

In Moscow on February 3rd, when Siemens CEO Peter Löscher and his board were presenting the operational results of the last quarter, they also announced an agreement with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin containing an alliance between Siemens and the Russian Atomenergoprom. The latter has been founded in 2007 as a means of consolidating the entire chain of nuclear industry in Russia, covering all aspects from uranium mining to nuclear research, production and management of nuclear power plants as well as propulsions for nuclear submarines.

The Russian Prime Minister called the agreement a "large-scale partnership, ready to work in Russia, in Germany as well as in third countries", while the coordinator of energy policy for the conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Parliament, Joachim Pfeiffer, explained that "politics must have an interest in Siemens maintaining and expanding its competence in nuclear energy, to be able to play a significant role on the world market."
Rather negative reactions followed from France and the United States.

Claude Mandil, a former executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, pronounced his regret about the loss of a "European Partnership" between Siemens and the French Areva company due to Siemen's intentions. 

Le Monde went even further in considering this agreement as just the latest of Vladimir Putin's efforts about dividing the Europeans, calling it a "Looming German-Russian Axis in nuclear affairs".

From the United States, Stephen Szabo, the executive director of the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, warned Berlin from taking the road of the traditional German Seesaw policy between Washington and Moscow. In such moves he is seeing substantial differences between Germany and the United States regarding national interests, political cultures and their respective methods, which could endanger the revivement of the relationship between both countries.

A New Public Diplomacy Approach for NATO

Dr. Stefanie Babst, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Strategy, argues that public diplomacy needs to respond to the challenges of the Web 2.0 world:

NATO should be more courageous in using digital tools to directly interact with the public. Why not host a permanent blog on the NATO website? Why not widen the debate about NATO's new Strategic Concept beyond the 'usual suspects' and try to obtain new thinking through, for instance, online discussions with citizens on specific aspects of NATO's future role? Let us hope that when Allies discuss NATO's future strategic course at the forthcoming Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, they will also take a moment to sign up to a 21st century public diplomacy approach.

Dear readers,

Do you think NATO would benefit from engaging the blogosphere? Do you think bloggers have constructive advice for NATO's specific challenges?

Do you think NATO would manage to identify and then listen to the smart bloggers and their readers and implement the best suggestions? Here I mean citizen bloggers, not the wonks who blog.

Nancy Pelosi: Italy Is Our Greatest Ally

Italy holds the G8 presidency this year and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi puts her charms on. Prior to a departure of a Congressional delegation to Italy she kissed ass praised in a press release: "The United States has no greater ally in NATO than Italy"

Is she aware that Britain and Canada are part of NATO as well? 

Italy has 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, and pledged to increase the number to up to 2,800 towards the end of April, reports AFP, and adds that Foreign Minister Frattini wants "to consider how to involve Iran, not whether to involve Iran."

While US President Barack Obama announced that would send an additional 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total American contingent in the country to 55,000 soldiers, NATO Allies are not sending that many additional troops to the Hindu Kush, reports DW World:

Germany, the third-largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan with 3,500 troops, this week said it would temporarily send an additional 600 soldiers to help provide security during the upcoming election.

Endnote: Are at least the French now happy as integrated NATO warriors? Ségolène Royal criticizes Sarkozy’s decision to rejoin NATO’s military command is the wrong response to the new era Obama has ushered in. See's English mini summary of Royal's French op-ed. Sarkozy ruled out sending any additional troops, according to the above mentioned DW World article. Is the Obama-Europe honeymoon already over before it starts?

Trans-Atlantic vs. Trans-Pacific

Barack Obama's first foreign trip as president will take him to Canada tomorrow, not to Europe. He gave his first press interview to an Arab TV station, not a European broadcaster.

Secretary Clinton went on a tour to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, but not yet to Europe. She brought "an invitation from President Obama to Prime Minister Taro Aso to meet him at the White House next Tuesday. He will be the first foreign leader received at the White House," reports the New York Times. Michael Green, the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, describes in the Wall Street Journal how to freshen up "a key trans-Pacific alliance."

Should we get envious or even concerned that the new and cool team in Washington does not want to play "Hope & Change" with us? Is the Pacific region taking priority over Europe in Obama's US foreign policy? Could be, but that is not bad for us. Europe benefits from America's strong security presence in Asia. My friend Shawn Beilfuss, a supply chain manager in Melbourne, agrees and concludes: The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Relationships: Not a Zero-Sum Game.

Besides, we are still winning the Google Fight: Searching for "trans-atlantic alliance" produces twice more results on Google than "trans-pacific alliance." And we are even more popular, if you skip the dash after "trans."

Moreover, Vice-President Biden was already in Germany, as for instance Michael Knigge points out in a commentary for Deutsche Welle: Biden gave a foreign policy keynote speech at the Munich Security Conference. Europeans got all warm and excited, when Biden promised that the new administration would listen more, even though he stressed that America would also ask for more support. Europeans are not quite prepared to deliver, which French President Sarkozy emphasized by rhetorically asking in Munich: "Does Europe want peace, or does Europe want to be left in peace?" I think we learned from Japan how to be a good ally of the United States: just smile!

Endnote: European leaders are hitting the road as well and reorient their foreign policies in search of new economic deals. ABC News reports: Old Europe Reaches out to New Iraq

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the first German foreign minister to come to Iraq in more than 20 years, arrived one week after Nicolas Sarkozy visited Baghdad, the French president calling on other European countries to follow his lead "to support the peace."

Favorite Hypocrisies

Moisés Naím starts his FP Magazine article on US foreign policy hypocrisies with this:

The official position of the United States is that Europe should allow Turkey to join the European Union. Turkey's entry would give its citizens the right to travel freely to any other EU member state. This prodding to Europeans to embrace Turkey comes from the same country that is building a 700-mile-long wall along its border with Mexico.

What is your favorite foreign policy hypocrisy? European and North American examples only, please.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

Germany's former Chancellor Schroeder does not express many new ideas in his Spiegel essay (in English), but I found these two statements in the second part fairly interesting:

We need a blunt analysis within the NATO alliance on why efforts to pacify southern Afghanistan have failed. I am convinced that the Bundeswehr's concept, which tends to be militarily conservative and is considerate of the population and civilian facilities, will be more successful in the long run. The disparity between these different strategies in the north and south is a problem, and it also represents a failure on the part of the NATO secretary general.

Gerhard Schroeder is also very critical of President Karzai and wants to motivate the Afghan leadership (whoever that is) by setting a timeframe for troop withdrawals. He mentions that the "Petersberg process," started in November 2001 under the guidance of then Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, led to an Afghanistan agreement in 2006, which I did not know about and therefore want to share it: "On the basis of this agreement, the Afghans gave themselves until 2013 to independently guarantee security, good governance, the rule of law and economic and social development. This temporal horizon is certainly very optimistic."

"The Europeanization of America"

President Obama's stimulus plan is turning America into Western Europe, warns Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). He says it as if it were obvious to everyone that a "Europeanization of America" is a bad thing and does not require an elaboration:

David Vickrey of Dialog International criticizes that "US Conservatives Demonize Europe (Still!)" and asks:

Does that mean that the half million Americans losing their jobs each month can count on having health care, public transportation, quality education and a robust safety net? This is supposed to frighten us?