The NATO Foreign Ministers have met in Antalya, Turkey, instead of Brussels. Various public diplomacy activities were organized as well. I think this is great, as Turkey is at a NATO “front-line” and has also been drifting away from the West as the AKP policies and public opinion polls by the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Trends have shown in recent years. Thus, any policy or gesture to reverse the trend is welcome.
What has been going viral from the meeting, however, is something else. A video of senior leaders singing “We are the World,” often with critical comments:
Putin's strategy is to intimidate, confuse and divide the West. He wants us to worry about his next steps. He appears stronger than he is, if Western decision-makers and opinion leaders consider Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
Churchill's famous description from October 1939 has made a comeback in the last fifteen months, but unfortunately not as the full quote:
I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.
Churchill's reference to the "riddle", I believe, was mainly about forecasting Russia's actions, which is similar to the weather forecast. The next few days can be forecasted with quite some authority, but not the next weeks. Yet, we all know the not too distant future: Winter is coming. (Only stupid bureaucrats in charge of our public transport systems get surprised by the first heavy snow fall.) Russia's future looks bleak as current policies are not sustainable.
This article from March 2014 is still relevant and will most likely explain gut reactions to future crises as well. The current German and US governments cannot ignore their pundits and public opinions, but so far Merkel's and Obama's Russia policy has not been too much negatively influenced by the popular, but shallow and wrong reading of past US or German policy successes. The EU and the US have been balancing sanctions and diplomacy quite well. They have successfully maintained transatlantic unity, which is more important than higher sanctions or more diplomacy.
Ahead of her US visit Chancellor Merkel answered questions from Fulbright Alumna Kate Lindemann on TTIP, the US funding cuts to an exchange program with Germany, and racism & xenophobia in the US and Germany. Video is in German:
When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."
Good news? Yes!
But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:
The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.
Schlechter Journalismus: Tagesschau, Focus und Bild schreiben über eine „Befreiung“ eines entführten Entwicklungshelfers, obwohl es sich um eine Übergabe handelte. Purer Zufall? Was könnte dahinter stecken?
Bild: “Deutsche Geisel von Spezialkommando befreit”
Focus: “KSK befreit deutsche Geisel in Afghanistan”
Tagesschau.de: “Deutsche Geisel in Kabul befreit”
In den Artikeln wird jedoch ein ganz anderer Sachverhalt geschildert:
The German media is full of NSA and TTIP criticism, but 56% of Germans still want more cooperation with the United States. That’s a surprisingly positive result of the Körber-Foundation poll “Involvement or Restraint” in support of the German Foreign Office’s “Review 2014”-process. And yet, several journalists manage to draw Anti-American conclusions from this poll.
Twitter is much less popular in Germany than in the United States. There is, however, an increasing number of think tankers, journalists, graduate students, politicians who debate German foreign policy, NATO, and security issues in general on Twitter. Even on a Sunday morning, when a news report suggested that NATO is not fully prepared to defend the Baltic states. Here's part of the exchange:
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