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NATO Solidarity: Atlantic Community is a Vision, not yet a Reality

The Pew Research Center's transatlantic survey indicates a high degree of security complacency and a lack of solidarity across NATO member publics. Evidently, the Atlantic Community is still a distant future, with this vision being marred by an absence of real unity. We must encourage more policy dialogue between citizens throughout Europe and across the Atlantic and thereby create empathy and a shared identity.

Many in the European publics, especially the Germans, take US support for granted, feel comfortable as security free-riders, and don't seem to understand NATO's concept of collective defense. From the Pew Research Center:

Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively). Germans (58%) are the most likely to say their country should not. All NATO member publics are more likely to think the United States will come to an ally's defense (median of 68%) than to be willing to do so themselves. (…) Poles stand out as less certain that the U.S. would come to an ally's aid (49% would, 31% would not).

This is quite troubling and disconcerting as only a friend in need is a friend indeed. But, according to this poll, we are not even „fair weather friends", as we oppose solidarity already, before a NATO ally has even been attacked. Coming to each other's defense is the most basic principle of a friendship or partnership. Failing to do so is obviously infinitely worse than a disagreement about out-of-area missions or specific strategies.

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Majority of Germans in Favor of More Transatlantic Cooperation

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.

I have explained it in German at Deutschlands Agenda, but including some tweets in English.

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Accepting Our Limits Makes for a Stronger Alliance

I was part of a group of 59 politicians, scholars, and other observers invited to take part in the Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy Magazine's survey on the future of NATO. It was an honor to participate in this survey and a good opportunity for reflection as well as to think about some big questions.

In addition to 28 multiple choice questions, we were asked to complete four sentences and I believe there is a common theme in my answers:

NATO today is... the best "insurance policy" we have to remain free and secure, when (not if) we are once again surprised by a new threat.

NATO's biggest mistake in the past 10 years has been... giving up the light footprint policy in Afghanistan in 2003. We have since expended huge investment in the country out of proportion to our achieved objectives or the level of threat that Afghanistan poses.

NATO's mission in Afghanistan is... an important reminder of our limited capabilities for state and nation-building as well as for big expeditionary out-of-area missions.

The biggest problem with NATO today is... the constant pressure from many politicians and pundits to prove its relevance beyond the Article 5 guarantee.

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Bullshit on Europe?

Dan Drezner divides Secretary Clinton's major foreign policy speech into "the good, the bad, and the BS portions." (I am wondering if he follows Harry Frankfurt's definition of bullshit) And Clinton's statements on Europe fall into the BS portion:

The whole section on strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties to Europe almost caused me to lose my cornflakes.  I mean, c'mon.  Is forcing the Europeans to cut down their number of seats in the IMF an example of strengthening alliances?  I see the intrinsic merit in occasionally dissing the Europeans, but don't tell me that anything transatlantic has been "strengthened" over the past 18 months.

Good question! What has been strengthened in transatlantic affairs over the last 18 months?

The German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Trends 2010 survey just made the - cough -- totally surprising - cough -- discovery that Obama's popularity has not lead to converging opinions about how to address several global challenges. Apparently, it takes more than presidential popularity to make the European kids follow the lead of the US godfather? Wow, so perhaps George W. Bush's personality was not the main reason why Europeans opposed the Iraq war. Do you think that maybe - just maybe - Europeans have different national interests and preferences. And the world affairs is not a popularity contest? Oh, I am going on a limp here.

Europeans are full of bullshit as well: According to the same survey 62% of EU respondents ("large majorities") said that "NATO should be prepared to act outside of Europe to defend members from threats to their security," while at the same time 64% of those respondents "thought that their country should either reduce or withdraw troops" from Afghanistan.

I think Europeans (everyone?) expresses more support if a request or question is phrased in broad and very abstract terms and concerns the future (NATO out of area), but when you get more specific and concrete and refer to the presence (Afghanistan), then people withdraw their support. I guess, this holds true to both big politics and personal relations...

What should be on top of the Transatlantic Agenda in 2009

What are the most important areas for transatlantic cooperation this year? What are the main international security and globalization issues that Europe and North America should focus their energies on in 2009? We are running a poll on this question over at and you are invited to vote as well.

The results shall be used to determine our focus topics at and will be taken into consideration at Atlantic Review as well. You can choose up to three policy areas from these options and you can suggest alternatives in the comment section:

Strengthen counter-proliferation efforts.
End Iran's nuclear program.
Modernize the international trade order.
Reduce carbon-emissions.
Turn Russia into a strategic partner.
Define NATO's security role for the 21st century.
Improve "burden-sharing" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Integrate China into the international order.

Five Reasons Obama would not be Elected in Europe

Denis Boyles argues in the National Review that while the vast majority of Europeans are hoping Obama will be elected President of the United States today, he would not have a chance of success were he running to lead any European country. Boyles offers five reasons why:

1. “His tax policies are frightening,” in that they are too far left for Europe.
2. “His views on abortion are way too extreme for Europeans.”
3. “His lack of experience means trouble.”
4. “He’s in love with failed ideas.” Boyles calls Obama a “socialist romantic”, compares his policies to the EU Constitution, and then argues that the dream of Obama and all liberals is to have kids raised by the state – the first argument makes no sense and the second argument is simply not true.
5. “His name, incidentally, is Barack Hussein Obama. Sorry to save this for last, but the sad fact is a politician with Obama’s racial and ethnic background wouldn’t stand a chance in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, or anywhere else in the European Union no matter how charming his speeches were.”

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The Publics Commitment to NATO is Shaky

Wow, our fellow citizens take NATO's article 5 real serious, according to The Harris Poll:

If Russia was to make a similar military move into another Baltic country (Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia) all of who are NATO members, people are divided as to whether troops from their country should defend these states. Half of Germans (50%) and two in five Spaniards (40%) and Italians (39%) would oppose troops from their country defending the Baltic states while two in five French adults (41%) and just over one-third of Americans (37%) and Britons (35%) would support it.

Apparently "the West" is a really great community of common values and solidarity.

I hope the poll has some methodological shortcoming. If not, then I am glad that we are living in representative democracies rather than direct democracy, i.e. our politicians don't have to make policy based on polls or referendums.