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Clinton gives Atlanticist speech at the Pacific

Hillary Clinton is much more supportive of NATO and Europe than all the other presidential candidates. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave an impressive speech describing NATO as "one of the best investments America has ever made". She stressed the need for US leadership and collaboration with allies in the struggle against ISIS. Bernie Sanders has yet to give a major speech on NATO. Donald Trump's opinion on NATO reflects widely held sentiments in the US.

Hillary Clinton's speech was impressive because she spoke at Stanford on the Pacific coast, and not on the Atlantic. She spoke to students, not the old Cold War generation with a stronger attachment to Europe. Often accused of pandering to the desires and needs of her given audience, Hillary Clinton here did not talk about opportunities in Asia-Pacific region, but about the threats in Europe and the Middle East and the need for strong US engagement in these regions. Moreover, the speech comes shortly after recent statements by Donald Trump and President Obama who criticized Europeans as mainly free-riders on defense in interviews with Washington Post and The Atlantic respectively.

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NATO Achievements and Challenges in 2013

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's latest Annual Report focuses on NATO's achievements in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Turkey and against piracy and the ways to ensure an efficient and capable NATO for 2014 and beyond. Here and on Storify are some of the main points as Tweets. Continue reading "NATO Achievements and Challenges in 2013"

What a Difference 10 Years Can Make

French foreign policy has not changed that much in the last decade, but some prominent US opinions about Paris have.

I am surprised to read the headline "Can the E.U. become the world's policeman?" in the Washington Post. Anne Applebaum's latest op-ed about French policy in Mali concludes that Americans should "stop giggling about cheese-eating surrender monkeys and start offering logistical and moral support. Europe may not be the best superpower. But it's the only one we've got."

Wow. Thanks. But that's too much praise. Of course, the EU will not, cannot and does not even want to become the world's policeman or a superpower in the foreseeble future.

Still it's nice to read this as we approach the 10th anniversary of the transatlantic quarrels over the Iraq war. On January 24, 2003 the NY Post published the “Axis of Weasel” cover story about France and Germany and a play on George W. Bush’s denunciation of the “axis of evil”. And then there were the Subway ads, which SuperFrenchie campaigned against.

Anne Applebaum assumes that Europe has changed so much since the Libya operation and makes a big deal out of the French intervention in Mali and its context. I think she exaggerates, but she also makes important observations, which will change American perceptions of France:

In other words, the French are in Mali fighting an international terrorist organization with the potential to inflict damage across North Africa and perhaps beyond. Not long ago, this sort of international terrorist organization used to inspire emergency planning sessions at the Pentagon. Now the French have had trouble getting Washington to pay attention at all. Some U.S. transport planes recently helped ferry French soldiers to the region but, according to Le Figaro, the Americans at first asked the French to pay for the service - "a demand without precedent" - before wearily agreeing to help.

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NATO Transformation: Q&A with General Abrial

From my day job:

Join Atlantic Community for our next Q&A with General Stéphane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. We invite you to ask questions about NATO's ongoing efforts to implement "Smart Defense" and share your own thoughts on how to handle transformation in the 21st century.

General Abrial is the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO's Allied Command Transformation (ACT), which is responsible for ensuring NATO remains an effective and innovative force in the 21st century despite economic pressures and budget rollbacks.

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We need to appreciate each other!

Russell Berman responded to our criticism with an update below his Daily Beast article that is longer than his original article.

This is my response: Yes, the United States started an impressive surge in Afghanistan last year, while the European NATO members "just" increased their troops. This means that the share of European compared to US troops is today lower than it used to be. The US surge, however, is temporary and Obama is expected to declare soon how many troops he will withdraw. European countries are sovereign and are not obligated to follow every US policy decision.

Moreover, this does not change the fact that Berman was factually wrong in stating that the Obama administration "was completely unable to convince any European ally to increase troop commitments" and "some [European allies], like the Netherlands, have in fact already withdrawn." Professor Berman's claim that it is "hard" "to find Europeans on the front lines," is wrong and insensitive to the families of dead soldiers.

Such statements will not encourage Europeans to increase their support US led wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, which is Prof Berman's goal. Today, nearly ten years after 9/11, European countries have 37,000 troops in Afghanistan. That's an increase of 11,000 troops since Obama became president. Why is not Berman acknowledging this at all? Think about all the European families who have a loved one in Afghanistan!

Only if US think tankers appreciate the European contributions to Afghanistan, is there a chance that Europe continues to follow the US leadership and support the wars that the US political and think tank elite (but not the public) cares about.

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Neocons and Liberal Interventionists vs. the Debt Crisis and the Realists

Secretary Gates apparently said today that European countries should increase their defense spending, because the United States has a debt problem and is not willing anymore to pay for Europe's defense.

Well, one of many reasons the US has such huge debt is the enormous defense budget, which is so much higher than those from other major powers. European nations are not spending more on defense, because we have debt problems as well and can't afford the US debt levels, because we cannot print dollars.

Besides, the US has not spent a fortune in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to protect Europe, but because of its own perceived self-interests. Thus I take issues with these statements by Secretary Gates as reported by the BBC:

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Remembering Holbrooke and Bosnia

Richard Holbrooke, described by President Obama as a "true giant of American foreign policy," has died following heart surgery. He was only 69, but his career covered nearly fifty years. From 1993-1994, he was the US Ambassador to Germany and founded the American Academy in Berlin.

Ambassador Holbrooke died on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which was the biggest of his many accomplishments and ended more than three years of bloody war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

NATO published a three-part mini video documentary "From Peacekeeping To Partnership":

Part I: Building Peace tells of NATO's gradual engagement in support of United Nations' efforts to end the Bosnian War (1992-1995) and the deployment of its first peacekeeping force in December 1995. NATO's mission continued for nine years until responsibility for security was handed over to the European Union in December 2004. 

Part II: Reforming the Military shows how NATO's support for essential defence reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina has helped downsize the armed forces and turn them into a single military force under state-level control. Progress made allowed the country to join NATO's Partnership for Peace in 2006.

Part III: The Road to Integration highlights the country's deepening partnership with NATO and provides an insight into the challenges ahead on the road to the country's possible membership of the Alliance.

Richard Holbrooke's book about Bosnia "To End a War" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) is my favorite foreign policy memoir. It is so well written that it reads like a good thriller. I was very inspired when I read his book during my Political Science studies in the late 90s. Richard Holbrooke was an inspiration to many other German students as well.

Transatlantic Time of the Year

Get ready for two busy days: The NATO summit starts tomorrow, followed by the NATO-Russia summit, followed by the EU-US summit.

President Obama started the charm offensive by naming Chancellor Merkel one of fifteen recipients of the 2010 Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor." Moreover, he published an Op-Ed in the NY Times: Europe and America, Aligned for the Future

And Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argues in Politico: Critics write obits, but NATO focuses on new threats

Do you think NATO will succeed in revitalizing itself?

Is Lisbon going to open a new chapter in NATO-Russian relations?

Are you optimistic regarding improved EU-US cooperation? Or do you expect nothing more than photo-ops?

Let us know.

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