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Berlin is not Afraid

Terroristen dieser Welt, schaut auf diese Stadt!

Our 9/11 reflexes are alive and well, but is the tragedy of Berlin really a national crisis?

Running a lorry into a crowded Christmas market was an attack on our lifestyle and insofar it transcends Berlin. But the magnitude of the tragedy warrants individual solidarity, not a national uproar. Our thoughts should be with the families of those we have lost. Yet this is not a moment to rally around the flag - because when disaster does strike, these "9/11 reflexes" will be worn out from the almost daily routine of mourning the dead of terrorist attacks in cities around the world.

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Thought Experiment: NATO Distorts American Strategic Interest

In Aesop’s fable the Lion, the Bear and the Fox, the lion and the bear fight over a deer until both are too tired to continue, the fox, having seen their fatigue and lacerations runs off with the deer in its jaws. America, being the Lion, is reengaging in its global power struggle through NATO with Russia, the Bear. The deer in this scenario is a strategic interest or something akin to a superpower status. For the sake of argument, the Fox can be China. America too busy with Russia means it cannot pay attention to a greater threat of China who economically and demographically is far more likely to supersede it than Russia – which is both geopolitically vulnerable and demographically weak. In this sense NATO drags America to engage against Russia over Ukraine and it complicates a possible convergence of interests with Russia in combatting radical Islamic terrorism. In sum there are few direct strategic interests in combatting Russia.

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Western Foreign Policy Dissent and NATO's Role in the World

Jeremy Corbyn recently won his re-election to lead Britain’s opposition party, the Labour Party. An ardent socialist and sceptic of interventionism, he has advocated leaving NATO before being leader. Now as leader, he has consistently criticised it for destabilising eastern Europe due to its Eastward expansion in the 1990s, antagonising Russia and being involved outside NATO’s traditional sphere, for example in Afghanistan. Corbyn has publically argued at Labour Party, Stop the War Coalition and Momentum rallies (extra-parliamentary organisations closely allied to Corbyn) that NATO should be ‘closed down’ to bring a halt to potential war in Eastern Europe. With his position secure in Parliament, his argument, and the movements that agree will not disappear.    

Corbyn’s foreign policy argument is that NATO is a hegemonic instrument for the West, particularly America and oil companies. Recent history has shown that the United States has declared war on more states, like Iraq and Panama and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda or Somali rebels than Russia has. NATO has been used in interventions, like Libya, that in Corbyn’s eyes bring together NATO’s imperialism and oil security. Further evidence cited by Corbyn is that NATO is by far the strongest military alliance in the world– with a combined budget of $900 billion, with the United States contributing two thirds; it dwarfs Russia’s $50 billion. This hard military power can only ever be malign, military force that size cannot be benign according to Corbyn.    

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Through the Looking-Glass: Looking Westwards from Berlin

The Atlantic Review stands for analysis and commentary on transatlantic issues from security and economics to pop culture and Fulbright.

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Popular topics of our blog posts include: Afghanistan, Anti-Americanism, NATO, Iran, Iraq, Terrorism, European Union. Click here for a full list of the issues we cover.

Joerg WolfJörg Wolf founded Atlantic Review in July 2003. Joerg Wolf works as project manager and Editor-in-Chief of the Atlantic Community, the open think tank on global issues, published by the Atlantic Initiative e.V. in Berlin. Joerg studied political science at the Free University of Berlin and worked as a research associate for the International Risk Policy project at the Free University's Center for Transatlantic Foreign and Security Policy. He has been a Fulbright Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Washington DC and has worked for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Cairo and in Berlin.

Christian RieckChristian E. Rieck joined Atlantic Review in April 2015. He is presently an Analyst at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin, with an emphasis on German foreign and development policy. More generally, his research interests lie in the international relations of Regional Powers, regional power dynamics and their role in regional integration mechanisms. Prior work experience at the Global Governance Institute in Brussels, at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies in Hamburg, and as a Carlo Schmid Fellow at the United Nations’ CEPAL in Mexico City. A Latin Americanist with studies in Bayreuth, Seville, Berlin and Oxford, Christian now also teaches contemporary history and international relations at Humboldt-University Berlin and Free University Brussels.

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The Next Big Transatlantic Project: A Free Trade Area Plus

The rising economies in Asia and South America have been hyped for many years in the US and European media. Now, finally, there is a renewed focus on transatlantic free trade because the United States and the European Union "remain the anchor of the global economy. Together, they produce more than 50 percent of the world's gross domestic product and account for almost 30 percent of global trade. Europe buys three times more U.S. products than China, and European investment in California alone is greater than all U.S. investment in China and Japan put together."

Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former deputy secretary of the Treasury, and Daniel S. Hamilton of Johns Hopkins University, describe how the new Trans-Atlantic Partnership could look like:

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The Unfinished Business After the End of the Iraq War

As an era ends, Iraqis will grapple with their own security while veterans will adjust to the labor market back at home, argues Caitlin Howarth in this guest article:

On Monday, President Obama gave a joint appearance with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to mark the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In announcing the holiday homecoming, the president has made good on his promise to bring the war to an end. For thousands of families welcoming their loved ones home, it is a time for joy; for the country, it is a time for gratitude.

Now is also a time for healing. Both the people of Iraq and U.S. veterans have wounds to heal and relationships to rebuild. The veterans come home to a still-struggling economy, limited jobs, and complex health issues. Iraqis are still picking up the pieces of an infrastructure shattered by war and complicated by sectarian tension; living in the midst of regional upheaval presents no easy road, either. Five years ago, when I studied the smaller pockets of Iraq's sectarian violence, the ugliness of what can happen in a power vacuum appeared overwhelming. The reality of what happens when some people have plenty of weapons and no accountability remains a major concern - and not just among Iraqis.

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Four Questions on Libya and the Middle East

Guest article by Professor Stefan Wolff from the University of Nottingham 

(1) If Gaddafi supporters in/outside the regime did not fight, where are they and what are their plans?

Resistance collapsed relatively quickly on the road to, and in, Tripoli, but that does not mean that the regime as a whole and across the country has been comprehensively defeated. The rebels clearly have the upper hand now and momentum is on their side, but there is a danger of setbacks.

Looking at the most recent, and most traumatic, transitions of a similar kind, in both Iraq and Afghanistan regime loyalists of varying kinds resurfaced. In Iraq, they were partly defeated and partly co-opted after a very violent civil war drawing in significant foreign forces; in Afghanistan this process is still far from resolved. Both cases also demonstrate that al-Qaeda and its upshots are very adept at exploiting the instability that usually follows violent regime collapse, if only to establish (temporary) alliances of convenience to further their own agenda.

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Anxiously Waiting on a Trojan Horse

Guest post by Joe Joe Noory is an Architect, investor, and independent observer of news and opinion:

Somewhere between the emotional populism of wanting to burden the higher performing European states with guilt over resisting to bail out the Greek government, and the risk investors are being offered to take are the hard truths of bailing out of the broke Greek government by investing in their bonds: they might not just default on ?8,5 billion in obligations to bond purchasers due on 19 May, but run the risk of never being paid back for future bond offerings (of perhaps two years or less), much in the way depositors in an uninsured failed bank will never see a red pfennig of their invested savings on a default.

Ifo's Hand-Werner Sinn indicated that very same sentiment on Wednesday morning, according to this wire piece:

The warning came as a new poll showed nearly two-thirds of Germans were opposed to helping Greece, with a majority believing that membership of the EU brought more disadvantages than advantages. Asked on MDR radio if Berlin would ever get its money back, Sinn, who heads the Ifo institute and is one of the top economic advisers to the government, said: "To tell you the truth, no."
Greece "will not be in a position to carry out the necessary budgetary rigour" and will eventually have "to ask for Germany to waive the debt," he said.
He warned that bailing out Greece could set a precedent for other euro area countries labouring under high debt and public deficits. "It would be understandable if the Italians or the Spanish put pressure on us to pay up now because it is an important precedent for them," said Sinn.

Before you react, take the statement for what it is: a warning. It isn't a characterization of the ur-Greek citizen, or a nationalistic reflection, or a cultural issue, but a warning that the discipline to raise revenue and cut budgets in face of the street protests and strikes of civil servants and dependants on entitlements. It isn't a characterization of what they did, but a warning of future events, one which prices them and tells us what something is really worth, just as watching those who short an equity or commodity does.

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