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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"

Britain and the World Love Germany

What a pleasant surprise! Germany is more widely seen as "having a mainly positive influence" in the world than any other country, according to the BBC World Service's Country Ratings Poll. I doubt, however, whether poll participants really meant Germany's foreign policy.

A three-point increase in Germany's average rating returned it to the top of the BBC list, displacing Japan, which saw its positive ratings drop from 58% to 51%, and fell from first to fourth place overall. (...)

In Spain, the recipient of a bailout with tight German strings attached, 68% said they felt Germany had "a mainly positive influence in the world".

In Britain, it was even higher at 78%. In France 81% - the poll indicates that four in every five French people look over the border with approval!

Only Greece maintains its Germanophobia, with 52% giving a negative rating.

Will the poll matter? It might well. It may confirm German ministers in their belief that tough love is true friendship.

Re the last sentence: I doubt that people consider tough love in the euro-crisis as a true friendship.

Continue reading "Britain and the World Love Germany"

Romney Unites the Brits Behind the London Olympics

"Britain is an easy date. So how did Mitt Romney mess up so badly?" asks Jonathan Freedland:

So the big surprise in the opening ceremony is not what I expected. I thought Danny Boyle would set aside three minutes for a lavish video tribute to Willard Mitt Romney, thanking the Republican presidential nominee for doing what, until Thursday, neither David Cameron, Boris Johnson or Sebastian Coe had managed to do: silencing all but the grumpiest sceptics and uniting the British people in enthusiastic determination to enjoy the London Olympics.

Continue reading "Romney Unites the Brits Behind the London Olympics"

Telegraph: "Obama just plain rude to Britain"

Iain Martin writes in his blog for the Telegraph (HT: Marie-Claude):

The morning papers and TV last night featured plenty of comment focused on the White House's very odd and, frankly, exceptionally rude treatment of a British PM. (...) Well, the next time you need something doing, something which impinges on your national security, then try calling the French, or the Japanese, or best of all the Germans.

This post has received 453 comments so far. Will President Obama soon be as unpopular as President Bush? Probably not, but he is heading to Clinton's approval ratings, which were not as good during his presidency as they are now in his retirement and philanthropist activities.

Are Americans concerned that Britain is becoming "Europeanised"?

Even America's most loyal and important ally is not as much appreciated as it used to be in Washington. The UK-US special relationship is being reconsidered in both Britain and the United States.

In an article about the British army's lack of soldiers, lack of money and lack of conviction, The Economist writes:

British commanders have belatedly realised that they have much to learn, or rather relearn, about fighting small wars in distant lands. "We have lost our way," says one general. Underlying this malaise is concern about Britain's relationship with America, its most important ally. Generals worry that the United States is losing confidence in Britain's military worth. Some Americans have indeed been expressing doubts: policymakers ask whether British leaders are losing the will to fight, soldiers whether their British counterparts are losing the ability to do so. There is talk that Britain is becoming "Europeanised", more averse to making war and keener on peacekeeping. Britain remains America's closest and most able ally; its special forces are particularly prized. But one senior official in the former Bush administration says there is "a lot of concern on the US side about whether we are going to have an ally with the capability and willingness to be in the fight with us".

Alex Harrowell with A Fistful of Euros takes issue with the assumptions behind the accusation that Britain is "Europeanised:"

First, the UK cannot do this because, having spent the last 8 years chasing various US-inspired missions, it doesn't have the troops, and more to the point, it doesn't have the air transport fleet to support them in the interior of Asia. Simple. But more importantly, there are two huge unexamined assumptions here. The first is that the Europeans have to come when the US calls them. What is in it for us? After all, NATO declared that the alliance had been invoked back in September 2001, and was told that its assistance was not required, at the same time as hordes of rightwing publicists accused it of not helping. Then, later, the US accepted the need for an international peacekeeping force, which was led by European NATO members for most of its existence.

Continue reading "Are Americans concerned that Britain is becoming "Europeanised"?"

Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan

In an anticipated move, Gordon Brown announced that the remaining 4,100 UK troops will leave Iraq by the end of July.  Mr. Brown is quoted by the BBC:
I feel that the task that we set out to do is being done and that's why we can take a decision to bring most of our forces home.
The Times Online is less cheery, characterizing Britain’s withdrawal as “a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.”

Continue reading "Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan"

Would McCain or Obama be Better for Britain?

Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the United States during 9/11, writes in the Telegraph:
I have no idea - I have never met him - what Obama thinks of Britain, though in one of his attacks against Bush, he dismissively brackets the UK with Togo. McCain, whom I knew well and liked, is to all appearances a declared anglophile. But, none of this is relevant. America will act on an unsentimental calculation of where its national interest lies. The problem with the rhetoric of the Special Relationship is that it implicitly denies this reality, putting a burden of expectation on the ties between our two countries, which they cannot bear.

Whoever wins, Britain must rest its relationship with America on four propositions: is America our single most important ally and partner? Absolutely. Does this mean that our national interests will always coincide? Absolutely not. Should we stand up for our interests when they diverge from the Americans? Absolutely. Will having rows with the US from time to time fatally undermine the closeness of the relationship? Absolutely not.
While Meyer concludes with a subtle endorsement for Obama, overall he leaves the impression that neither Obama nor McCain will necessarily be better for Britain, since "America will act on an unsentimental calculation of where its national interest lies." That is, it does not matter who is president, because the United States will always act the same way, based on what is in its best interests.  As President Lincoln once said: "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."

However, the argument that neither president will be better for Britain (or other allies in Europe, or the transatlantic alliance as a whole) attributes too little influence to the US executive branch.  The fact is, different presidents push different policies and weigh the importance of allie's opinions differently.  If Al Gore had been president in 2003, there is a good chance the US would not be at war in Iraq (or at least would have approached it in a less unilateral way), which would have prevented the transatlantic alliance from reaching a major low following the Iraq invasion. 

McCain and Obama have different approaches to foreign relations, different world views, and different personal styles -- and one of them will be "better" for Britain than the other, regardless of events.

Financial Turmoil: Merkel Blames the United States and Britain

DW World:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has revived Germany's campaign of a year ago for global regulation of financial markets to prevent another crash like the past week's. [She] criticized the US and British governments for obstructing Germany's efforts in the first half of 2007 to bring greater transparency to the markets.

Yep, it is "We told you so"-time again.

• Germany's state-owned KfW lender is called the 'dumbest' bank for transferring 300 million euro to Lehman Brothers on the same day it declared insolvency, reports the IHT.

• SuperFrenchie concludes from the US response to the market turmoil: The United Socialist States of America (USSA)