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Is it just Joe?

That is what the Russians must be wondering these days. Let's recap.

Three weeks ago, President Obama goes to Moscow and holds a speech saying that he recognizes "the future benefit that will come from a strong and vibrant Russia", talks about Russia's "rightful place as a great power", and states: "The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game". He offers a few words about the right of Russia's neighbours to set their own foreign policy, but follows up by saying that NATO seeks "collaboration, not confrontation" with Russia.

To the ever-suspicious Russians, this should have sounded like an actual attempt to improve relations.

Cue Joe Biden. The VP was sent on a quick tour to Ukraine and Georgia to assuage fears that the US would change its stance on their possible future membership of NATO. Biden did that part of the job well enough, giving some combative language that the US would "stand by" Georgia, but also making it clear that there was no military way for the country to regain control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, Biden then decided to give an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he managed to insult just about everyone - even the Georgians - but most of all the Russians. The WSJ headline 'Biden Says Weakened Russia Will Bend To US' is hardly an exaggeration.

When Biden recently made some silly remarks about Israel striking Iran, Mickey Kaus pointed out that this might be a useful form of strategic ambiguity. You might want that kind of thing with regard to Iran, but don't think strategic ambiguity would be useful with regard to Russia, especially in the context of trying to improve relations. So if the White House was ever serious about that, it will have to find a way to communicate that its really only Joe, you know.

Germany to Kick Ass in Afghanistan?

Hey, hey, believe it or not, Germany is getting tough at the Hindu Kush. The Bundeswehr started its biggest operation yet in Afghanistan. 300 members of the Quick Reaction Force support the Afghan Army against insurgents near Kundus. For the first time, infantry fighting vehicles with heavy firepower have been deployed.

Moreover, the German Army Inspector General Wolfgang Schneiderhan stated in a press conferences that "now is the time to carry out this escalation" because of the upcoming Afghan elections and increase in attacks against the Bundeswehr. He also announced that the rules of engagement are currently being revised. "Escalating" is a normal military term, but I am still surprised that a general is using this phrase in a press conference. It might have been the first time ever since WWII that a German general is publicly advocating an escalation.

I have written a bit more about this on Atlantic-Community.org and would appreciate your assessment of the impact on stability in Afghanistan and the German mindset. Some German papers were talking about a "psychological threshold" being crossed in Germany.

American Success in Iraq Shuts Europe Up

"If someone had said two years ago that the US would have largely withdrawn its forces from Iraqi cities by now, he would have been called naive," writes German journalist Christoph Suess. Europeans did not believe that the Iraqis would be able to handle their own security so soon. They (we) "completely ignored all successes on the ground" and "did not want to confess that maybe the US did in fact achieve something in Iraq."

Read his op-ed on Atlantic-Community.org: American Success in Iraq Shuts Europe Up.

Central and Eastern European Leaders Urge Obama Not to Forget Their Region

It's the first open letter of this kind since 1989. A group of former heads of state, heads of government, and cabinet ministers from Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic warn President Obama that their close alliance with United States is undergoing a severe test:

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, however, we see that Central and Eastern European countries are no longer at the heart of American foreign policy. As the new Obama Administration sets its foreign-policy priorities, our region is one part of the world that Americans have largely stopped worrying about. Indeed, at times we have the impression that U.S. policy was so successful that many American officials have now concluded that our region is fixed once and for all and that they could "check the box" and move on to other more pressing strategic issues. Relations have been so close that many on both sides assume that the region's transatlantic orientation, as well as its stability and prosperity, would last forever.

That view is premature. All is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship. Central and Eastern Europe is at a political crossroads and today there is a growing sense of nervousness in the region.

The open letter is published in English in Gazeta Wyborcza via Atlantic-community.org's Top Press Commentary section.

Obama as Chancellor of Weimar America

What do some conservative US and leftist German politicians have in common? They use the other side of the Atlantic for fear-mongering.

The latest example is Jim DeMint, Republican Senator from South Carolina. According to The Washington Independent he made the following statement, when promoting his book at The National Press Club:

Part of what we're trying to do in "Saving Freedom" is just show that where we are, we're about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they're easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that's where their security is.

Aha, I see, Iraq and Afghanistan and the current recession are for the United States what the WWI and the depression were for Germany. And the oldest modern democracy in Washington is still as immature as the Weimar Republic's, started after WWI. So Obama is running Weimar America.

OMG! People, get your guns, Hitler is just around the corner!

Continue reading "Obama as Chancellor of Weimar America"

NATO's Future Depends on Europe

On July 7th, NATO officially kicked off the process of drafting a new strategic concept. This process is an opportunity for Europe to recommit to the Alliance and stop the slow but steady process of "decoupling," which Jan Techau describes as the biggest threat to NATO. The director of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin argues on Atlantic-Community.org that European governments need to do two things:

First, they need to muster all their creativity to provide policy-relevant input for the upcoming drafting procedure and the ratification process that will follow. Only then will there be the chance that the new strategic concept is going to be a politically meaningful, intellectually strong and strategically far-sighted document. Only then will it be able to unfold the self-binding power that is needed to counter the decoupling tendencies. And only then will the signal be clear enough that Europeans are still serious about what it means to be partners in an alliance.

Secondly, European governments must finally get straight with their populations on what's ahead. Yes, the world is an increasingly insecure place. No, the US won't be prepared to carry the burden alone any longer. Yes, that means more and smarter spending on unpopular stuff, more engagement, and most certainly more casualties. No, this isn't war-mongering, this is the 21st century. Say it publicly. Say it now.

What are the chances that European governments will come up with enough resolve to do those two things?

Before you answer, please take the recent "mixed developments" in account, which Spiegel International writes about:

Behind closed doors, the German government is slowly but surely changing the rules for combat on Afghanistan, allowing its forces to take a more offensive approach. At the same time, German popular support for the "war" that no one wants to call a war continues to decline.

Atlantica: A Threat to American Freedom

In Roland Emmerich's latest disaster movie 2012 the alignment of our solar system's planetary bodies during the winter solstice in three years will cause the Earth to topple from its axis. This leads to the end of the world.

And three years later it is likely to get even worse, because "there is a movement in the U.S. Congress to create a transatlantic free trade area by 2015." That's the impression I get from Rick Biondi's warning in The Examiner. Apparently the creation of such a free trade area will lead to a horrible "Europeanization of America:"

Europeans have always favored the rule of law and collective order over liberty. Worshippers of foreign philosophies in Congress are embarrassed by this rift, and are working hard with President Obama to reverse it through ideological capitulation.

To effectively unite Atlantica, many policymakers believe we need to meet our European friends in the middle. In essence, we must become more progressive, so our political and economic agendas can harmoniously merge on a transatlantic level. The Europeanization of America is a deliberate and calculated agenda. Once Americans are conditioned to accept and live under more socialistic ideals, a true Atlantic community can effectively be negotiated.

I find his choice of words hilarious ("Atlantica," ideological capitulation," "calculated agenda," and "conditioned to accept") and his concerns truly fascinating as they reveal such different values.

Another Crazy Bush-Hitler Comparison

I always found the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's feuilleton to be weird compared to the rest of the paper, but this book review (in German) by Edo Reents is beyond weird, i.e. it is outrageous. The book tries to explain why the Dreyfus Affair matters today and is written by the US novelist Louis Begley. The reviewer claims: ". the Bush government, which, inasmuch as it illegally imprisoned and tortured people, essentially behaved no differently than the National Socialists."

So, now John Rosenthal was able to state in Pajama's Media: "German Daily: Bush Was Hitler" And it is this sort of blog posts and headlines that seems to give quite a few Americans the impression that Bush-Hitler comparisons are a common feature in the German media. I find that quite unfortunate, but I admit that these crazy comparisons (or even equations) do happen and are worse than their exaggerations on some US blogs, like on the American Thinker.

Related posts on Atlantic Review: Two More Americans Accuse Germany of Historical Revisionism and Top Democrat on Auschwitz, Guantanamo and Europe