In Aesop’s fable the Lion, the Bear and the Fox, the lion and the bear fight over a deer until both are too tired to continue, the fox, having seen their fatigue and lacerations runs off with the deer in its jaws. America, being the Lion, is reengaging in its global power struggle through NATO with Russia, the Bear. The deer in this scenario is a strategic interest or something akin to a superpower status. For the sake of argument, the Fox can be China. America too busy with Russia means it cannot pay attention to a greater threat of China who economically and demographically is far more likely to supersede it than Russia – which is both geopolitically vulnerable and demographically weak. In this sense NATO drags America to engage against Russia over Ukraine and it complicates a possible convergence of interests with Russia in combatting radical Islamic terrorism. In sum there are few direct strategic interests in combatting Russia.Continue reading "Thought Experiment: NATO Distorts American Strategic Interest"
Jeremy Corbyn recently won his re-election to lead Britain’s opposition party, the Labour Party. An ardent socialist and sceptic of interventionism, he has advocated leaving NATO before being leader. Now as leader, he has consistently criticised it for destabilising eastern Europe due to its Eastward expansion in the 1990s, antagonising Russia and being involved outside NATO’s traditional sphere, for example in Afghanistan. Corbyn has publically argued at Labour Party, Stop the War Coalition and Momentum rallies (extra-parliamentary organisations closely allied to Corbyn) that NATO should be ‘closed down’ to bring a halt to potential war in Eastern Europe. With his position secure in Parliament, his argument, and the movements that agree will not disappear.
Corbyn’s foreign policy argument is that NATO is a hegemonic instrument for the West, particularly America and oil companies. Recent history has shown that the United States has declared war on more states, like Iraq and Panama and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda or Somali rebels than Russia has. NATO has been used in interventions, like Libya, that in Corbyn’s eyes bring together NATO’s imperialism and oil security. Further evidence cited by Corbyn is that NATO is by far the strongest military alliance in the world– with a combined budget of $900 billion, with the United States contributing two thirds; it dwarfs Russia’s $50 billion. This hard military power can only ever be malign, military force that size cannot be benign according to Corbyn.
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.Continue reading "NATO Solidarity: Atlantic Community is a Vision, not yet a Reality"
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"
Ahead of Chancellor Merkel's US trip I had the pleasure to be on the TV talkshow "Agenda" at Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster.
I answered questions on Merkel's agenda, the NSA scandal, TTIP, and whether Germany is firmly in the West (at 34:55 min). I also participated in the discussion on Ukraine (3:37, 13:45 min) with Roman Goncharenko, DW Eastern Europe Correspondent, and moderated by Brent Goff. I conceded to panelist Fraya Frehse from Sao Paulo University that Brazil will win the World Cup.
As usual, American pundits and politicians expect too much from demonstrations of power, sanctions against and isolation of Russia, while their German counterparts exaggerate the benefits of talking to Putin by establishing a contact group and attending the G8. Personally, I favor a mix of both approaches, of course. Though, I don't have much hope here and agree with Julia Ioffe's pessimism.
I do, however, would like to make a general comment beyond the current Ukraine crisis:
One reason for these different policies on Russia (and China by the way) is that many influential Germans and Americans drew the wrong lessons from important foreign policy successes in the Cold War: Respectively Ostpolitik and the Cuban Missile Crisis.Continue reading "Misreading Ostpolitik and the Cuban Missile Crisis Screwed up German and US Foreign Policy"
A few good reads on how to respond to Russia regarding Ukraine:
Admiral Stavridis (ret) makes the case for a vigorous NATO response in Foreign Policy: "NATO Needs to Move Now on Crimea. Action may provoke -- but so does doing nothing."
Steve Saideman: Let's Play the NATO Game
Ingo Manteufel for DW: Crimea is Putin's bargaining chip. Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategy for the Ukrainian conflict is clear. As a result, Ukraine's new government and the West are in a dangerous jam.
Peter Baker in NY Times: Russia to Pay? Not So Simple
Not so good was this prediction:
Continue reading "Brainstorming about Russia and Ukraine"