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.
Continue reading "Not a Riddle: Reading Russia - and Responding Resolutely"
A Must Read article in The American Interest by A. Wess Mitchell, President of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington DC and Jan Havranek, Director of the Defense Policy and Strategy Division at the Czech Ministry of Defense, who writes in his personal capacity.
Although the piece is specifically addressed to US readers and calls for more American leadership, European students of history (of all ages) should read it, including those government officials and politicians in Germany and elsewhere who claim to think beyond the next four years.
Continue reading "Why Central Europe Needs Atlanticism Now"
"In short, it isn't just Atlanticism that is in crisis; it is the entire paradigm of post-Cold War Europe. The fact that Central European countries are less Atlanticist has not necessarily made them more Europeanist. On the new European map, economic power resides in the east-central core of the continent, in the nexus of overlapping geopolitical and economic interests between Germany and the states of the Baltic-to-Black Sea corridor. This configuration resembles the Mitteleuropa of Bismarck, stripped of its Prussian military overtones, more than it does the federative European vision of Monnet and Schuman, or the Atlanticist vision of Asmus and Vondra. (...)
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:
Continue reading "The Next Big Transatlantic Project: A Free Trade Area Plus"
Dear Don Lee and Los Angeles Times,
Thank you very much for writing and publishing a positive article about the German economy that goes beyond the usual focus on our exports and also looks into the general economic model and the frugal lifestyle with plenty of recreation:
Continue reading ""Germany has the economic strengths America once boasted""
Every summer, Volkmar and Vera Kruger spend three weeks vacationing in the south of France or at a cool getaway in Denmark. For the other three weeks of their annual vacation, they garden or travel a few hours away to root for their favorite team in Germany's biggest soccer stadium.
The couple, in their early 50s, aren't retired or well off. They live in a small Tudor-style house in this middle-class town about 30 miles northwest of Frankfurt. He's a foreman at a glass factory; she works part time for a company that tracks inventories for retailers. Their combined income is a modest $40,000.
Yet the Krugers have a higher standard of living than many Americans who have twice that income.
Their secret: little debt, frugal habits and a government that is intensely focused on high production, low inflation and extensive social services.
That has given them job security and good medical care as well as well-maintained roads, trains and bike paths. Both of their adult children are out on their own, thanks in part to Germany's job-training system and heavy subsidies for university education.
Mitt Romney's Anti-European rhetoric is stronger than the Anti-American statements by leading German politicians in the last few election campaigns. Romney seems to assume that Republican voters are so stupid, uninformed and Anti-European that he can get their votes with scaremongering.
His Europe bashing seems to be his response to the criticism of his "socialist" health care policy in Massachusetts and his French language skills. (Newt Gingrich released the attack ad "The French Connection".)
In Iowa Mitt Romney accused Obama of turning the United States into "a European-style welfare state," saying Obama's policies would "poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God," according to the Washington Post.
In his New Hampshire Primary Victory Speech he said Obama "wants to turn America into a European-style social welfare state society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. This President takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America." (See video at 6:30 minutes.)
Well, Norway, Finland, Denmark and even Germany and France deserve the title "land of opportunity" more than the US does because social mobility is higher. The NYT writes about five such studies.
Continue reading ""Europe" is a Dirty Word in the United States"
"Europe bashing has become an important stump-speech cornerstone for the entire Republican field," writes Spiegel:
Europe is socialist, bloated and a threat to the global economy. That appears to be the message from the ongoing presidential campaign in the US. Republicans in particular have discovered Europe as a convenient punching bag -- and have even begun accusing each other of being too "European."
What they conveniently ignore is that American Dream is not what it used to be. (Neither is the European Dream of an ever closer union, but that's another story). The United States is increasingly less the land of opportunity. America is not only less equal, but also less mobile than many European nations.
Continue reading "Republicans Campaign with Anti-European Rhetoric"
Is this going to be a new running theme? Vanity Fair runs a long essay under the headline "It's the Economy, Dummkopf!"
Continue reading "German Dummkoepfe"
With Greece and Ireland in economic shreds, while Portugal, Spain, and perhaps even Italy head south, only one nation can save Europe from financial Armageddon: a highly reluctant Germany. The ironies-like the fact that bankers from Düsseldorf were the ultimate patsies in Wall Street's con game-pile up quickly as Michael Lewis investigates German attitudes toward money, excrement, and the country's Nazi past, all of which help explain its peculiar new status.
Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is the only elder statesmen who constantly smokes cigarettes on TV and sometimes uses the term "shit" as a description. He gets away with it because of his huge popularity. His outspoken manner and lack of concern for political correctness also reinforces his popularity, especially at a time, when Germany is governed by uncharismatic politicians, who lack vision and do not even make much of an effort explaining their policies (link in German).
Schmidt has used the term "shit" repeatedly when talking about the World War II. Last week, however, he used the term (for the first time?) to describe the financial crisis.
Continue reading "Outspoken Helmut Schmidt"