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Why Central Europe Needs Atlanticism Now

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.

"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. (...)

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Five Theses on the State of EU Politics

The EU not only finds itself in a fiscal crisis, it is also faced with a crisis of confidence. We need a broadly based public debate on alternative proposals for the future of Europe. With this in mind, the Heinrich Böll Foundation's international conference "Europe's Common Future" explored different perspectives and policy proposals.

The Greek, French, Polish and German speakers on the panel "Germany's role in the crisis" strongly reinforced five opinions of mine:

1. Poland likes Germany much more than ever before. They count on us.

2. The French inferiority complex in EU matters is getting worse.

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Perception of Germany

Foreign Policy covers Polish FM Sikorski's statements at the Munich Security Conference: Don't even try to become a hegemon

"Germany cannot be said to be said to be similar to the United States [in the post WWII period]," Sikorski said. "The position of benign hegemon for Germany is not attainable, and therefore I would propose your actual position in the EU, which is a very honorable one, is the position of the largest shareholder."

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NATO to Develop Contingency Plans to Defend Baltics

“Thanks to Poland, the alliance will defend the Baltics”, reports the Economist:

IN A crunch, would NATO stand by its weakest members—the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? After five years of dithering, the answer now seems to be yes, with a decision in principle by the alliance to develop formal contingency plans to defend them.

Speaking in Prague in April 2009, President Barack Obama publicly demanded that NATO develop plans for all of its members, which put the Baltic case squarely on the alliance’s agenda. But in the months that followed, inattention and disorganisation in his administration brought no visible follow-up. Instead, snubs and missteps, particularly on the missile defence plans, deepened gloom about how seriously America took the safety concerns of its allies in Europe’s ex-communist east. An open letter by security bigwigs from Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and other countries publicly bemoaned the decline in transatlantic relations.


Now that seems to have changed. Formal approval is still pending and the countries concerned have been urged to keep it under wraps. But sources close to the talks say the deal is done: the Baltic states will get their plans, probably approved by NATO’s military side rather than its political wing. They will be presented as an annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension.

A proposal to create Baltic contingency plans has been shot down before, according to Baltic Reports:

General James Craddock, NATO’s supreme commander at the time, asked the alliance for approval of a contingency plan for the Baltics in October 2008. However Germany and France opposed the measure, fearing it would unnecessarily agitate Russia, and the issue as been debated in secret within the alliance since.

It should be interesting to see how this develops. Formal contingencies established or not, my feeling has always been that if any NATO member is attacked, the Alliance will invoke Article V, the mutual defense clause. Article V is the core foundation of the Alliance -- if NATO failed to defend one of it’s members, that would shatter the Alliance. Perhaps this perspective is too idealistic though?

Obama Does Not Care about Europe?

When he was a senator, Barack Obama was criticized for failing to convene a single policy meeting of the Senate European subcommittee, of which he was chairman. In January 2008 I wrote the post: Barack Obama's Lack of Real Interest in Transatlantic Cooperation

Now, one year after his election, Obama is very popular in Europe, especially in Western Europe, even though he "has done much less for Europe than his predecessor," argues Dr. James Joyner of the Atlantic Council:

Despite George W. Bush's defiant "you're with us or you're against us" public stance, he actively solicited advice and input from his NATO partners. Obama, by contrast, is saying all the right things in public about transatlantic relations and NATO but adopting a high-handed policy and paying little attention to Europe.

And many important working-level posts in both the State Department and the National Security Council (NSC) are unfilled, says James Joyner:

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Obama Losing New Europe?

James Joyner of the Atlantic Council was wondering the other day, if the United States are now Losing New Europe, Too?

Bush lost Old Europe with the Iraq war, the argument seems to be. And now Obama's "Reset" policy with Russia annoys New Europe. James cites the Economist with "After two decades of sometimes fervent Atlanticism in the ex-communist world, disillusionment (some would call it realism) is growing" and points to the recent Transatlantic Trends survey by the German Marshall Fund, which suggests that "the ascent of Barack Obama has boosted America's image in most [European] countries, but only modestly in places like Poland and Romania."

And all that was before Obama decided to scrap the missile defense plans for Poland and the Czech Republic. Let's get ready for some angry responses from all Central and Eastern European countries in the next few days.

US Blogger Greg Lawson asks on whether Obama abandoning Eastern Europe?:

This, ultimately, raises the question of why President Obama would essentially throw two allies (who used to suffer under Soviet puppet regimes) under the bus.  Those who know history understand that both the Czech Republic and Poland have been cast aside by Great Powers on any number of past occasions as part of the old school (and by no means dead) balance of power thinking.

US Relations with Old Europe to Return to "Normal"?

At the end of an article on New Europe, James Joyner adds some optimism on US relations with "Old Europe." He thinks they "will return to what they have been for the postwar period: a mature engagement between peers that will ebb and flow as the situation warrants."

I don't think Western Europe and the United States were peers during the Cold War. And we are still not peers, which is the cause for many current frictions. Europeans, especially Germans, very much want the US to consider them as peers, but government and public opinion are not yet ready to share the burden in foreign and defense policy. And the US might not be prepared to treat Europeans as equals either.

German Prof Gunter Hellmann just published an excellent short essay on the history of the federal republic's desire for "equal status" at AICGS:  "A Status-Conscious Germany between Adolescence and Retirement"

James finishes with "Such a relationship can withstand sharp disagreements, angry words, and hurt feelings.  Resentments and rifts will occasionally arise but they will be temporary.  Our shared values and interests, however, are permanent." What do you think?

Central and Eastern European Leaders Urge Obama Not to Forget Their Region

It's the first open letter of this kind since 1989. A group of former heads of state, heads of government, and cabinet ministers from Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic warn President Obama that their close alliance with United States is undergoing a severe test:

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, however, we see that Central and Eastern European countries are no longer at the heart of American foreign policy. As the new Obama Administration sets its foreign-policy priorities, our region is one part of the world that Americans have largely stopped worrying about. Indeed, at times we have the impression that U.S. policy was so successful that many American officials have now concluded that our region is fixed once and for all and that they could "check the box" and move on to other more pressing strategic issues. Relations have been so close that many on both sides assume that the region's transatlantic orientation, as well as its stability and prosperity, would last forever.

That view is premature. All is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship. Central and Eastern Europe is at a political crossroads and today there is a growing sense of nervousness in the region.

The open letter is published in English in Gazeta Wyborcza via's Top Press Commentary section.