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NATO's Tightrope Walk: Reassuring Frontline Allies without Provoking Russia

The German Council on Foreign Relations hosted the US and German ambassadors at NATO at the event "Old Threats and New Challenges: NATO 2014 Summit and Beyond".  I tweeted about their key arguments on Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, interoperability and deterrence: Continue reading "NATO's Tightrope Walk: Reassuring Frontline Allies without Provoking Russia"

Brainstorming about Russia and Ukraine

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"

Russia as a Real Partner?

Putin and Obama have a fundamental choice to make in their new terms: Continue "their transactional approach to relations" or "put relations in a broader, longer-term strategic framework, which could foster more enduring constructive relations." Thomas E. Graham of Kissinger Associates and Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center, write in the New York Times "Why the Reset Should Be Reset"

While I would not hold my breath that it will happen in 2013, the authors make some good arguments about common long term interests:

Continue reading "Russia as a Real Partner?"

Celebrating Freedom

Today is a great day for Freedom.

Today thousands of Russian protesters have demonstrated in Moscow against Vladimir Putin and demanded fresh elections and a new president. That's a bold demand, but I wish they will succeed.

25 years ago today, President Reagan made a bold demand as well, which became reality two years later. He stood in front of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War's frontline, and said: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" A big moment in transatlantic relations that deserves more appreciation. The plea sounds simple today, but was controversial back then. Former US Diplomat John Kornblum wrote a great background article. I include Reagan in the Top Five: Americans who rocked Berlin

The Russians deserve the same kind of freedom that East Germans got, when the wall fell.

Continue reading "Celebrating Freedom"

NATO has a New Strategic Concept

The Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon today is very concise. Just eleven pages. Let's see how substantial it is. And how it will be implemented.

At the Open Think Tank atlantic-community.org, my day job, we have created some policy recommendations for the New Strategic Concept over the summer and are currently running a Policy Workshop on Russian-Western Relations, another big issue at the Lisbon summit.

NATO features a summary of my survey of Russian experts in a special Lisbon summit edition of NATO Review, which is layouted in Portugal's national colors. Lovely!

Transatlantic Time of the Year

Get ready for two busy days: The NATO summit starts tomorrow, followed by the NATO-Russia summit, followed by the EU-US summit.

President Obama started the charm offensive by naming Chancellor Merkel one of fifteen recipients of the 2010 Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor." Moreover, he published an Op-Ed in the NY Times: Europe and America, Aligned for the Future

And Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argues in Politico: Critics write obits, but NATO focuses on new threats

Do you think NATO will succeed in revitalizing itself?

Is Lisbon going to open a new chapter in NATO-Russian relations?

Are you optimistic regarding improved EU-US cooperation? Or do you expect nothing more than photo-ops?

Let us know.

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The Annual "Will Europe Freeze?" Month

Ah yes, it is that wonderful time of year. Fresh snow, college football bowl games in the US, a new year...and uncertainty surrounding European energy security. Some things never seem to change.

This year adds a few new wrinkles to the annual, "Will Europe Freeze?" month however. For the first time in years, the center of energy disruption does not appear to be the Ukrainian border. Ukraine has paid in full and on time for its use of Russian gas during 2009, and both Russia and Ukraine appear determined to avoid a gas war during an election year. So this year, the energy disputes have shifted north.

First, Belarus and Russia remained locked in heated (excuse the pun) negotiations about oil supply prices between the two countries. Russia has already cut oil supplies to Belarus once this week and many analysts expect further restrictions in the weeks to come. The clash feels all too familiar: Russia, frustrated with its neighbor's overtures to the West decides to throw its weight around in the energy sector to bring it to heel. Of course, the blame also resides with Belarus which has for years subsidized its economy through cheap energy from Russia. If the country truly wants to play on the international arena, it must now be prepared to pay market prices for its resources.

Second, Lithuania has been compelled to shut down its aging nuclear power plant on New Year's Eve, leaving it completely dependent on Russia for its energy supply. The closure was required by the European Union, but leaves Lithuanians feeling very nervous. Russia has already played its energy card in the Baltic, shutting down its oil pipeline to Lithuania in 2007. Energy supply form other EU countries remains extremely weak, and a dramatic increase in energy prices is very likely for this Baltic country already struggling through an extremely difficult recession.

Finally, the UK is approaching capacity limits as it struggles with an extremely cold winter. The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Britain only has gas storage capacity equivalent to 4% of annual consumption, compared with over 100% storage in the US and 19% in Germany. And National Grid warned this week that supply will be tight in coming weeks.

None of the preceding events really come as a surprise. Despite that, Europe has again been caught off guard. The Spanish Presidency is trying to salvage a July Commission proposal regarding gas security and supply but countries continue to insist the Commission is overstepping its authority. And efforts to encourage greater infrastructure developments within Europe remain merely efforts. So what will it take to really see the development of a true European energy policy? In the US, it took two oil embargoes before the country started developing strategic reserves. And the price of oil reached $160 a barrel before consumer's behavior started to change.

Readers Pat and Pamela both suggested that the Atlantic Review analyze Russian and European energy policy in the upcoming year. This will certainly be an important topic, particularly in the first few months. But at first glance, little has changed. The Russian energy policy of 2010 seems identical to that of preceding years: throw its weight around in the natural resource arena to extract concessions in the political realm. And there still is no real European energy policy to discuss. Europe continues to shiver and simply hope the heat stays on.

The Obama Administration's Engagement of Europe

President Obama has made "an unprecedented three trips to Europe during his first six months in office (including heavy lifts in Turkey and Russia)," writes Damon Wilson, Director of the Atlantic Council's International Security Program. Yet, most of his praise goes to Vice-President Biden, who flew four times over the Atlantic to make major policy announcements:

He proclaimed the Russia reset policy in Munich and previewed the administration's AFPAK review at NATO - and tackled the toughest issue on the continent: how to advance a Europe whole and free that includes the Balkans and Europe's East.  He has advanced a vision for Europe that has long enjoyed bipartisan support, but over which many, including some in the administration, have cooled as we've hit more difficult tests with Ukraine and Georgia.

Wilson concludes that Biden's four trips have helped define the Obama Administration's policy toward Europe. Moreover, rather than repudiating George W. Bush's Freedom Agenda, "Biden is rebranding it to ensure that its objectives in Europe sustain bipartisan support." Is it too early to evaluate this "rebranding" or the new administration's policy in general?