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We Saved Fulbright, Now We Need to Save CBYX

When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."

Good news? Yes!

But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:

The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.

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Sicherheitspolitischer Fruehschoppen

Twitter is much less popular in Germany than in the United States. There is, however, an increasing number of think tankers, journalists, graduate students, politicians who debate German foreign policy, NATO, and security issues in general on Twitter. Even on a Sunday morning, when a news report suggested that NATO is not fully prepared to defend the Baltic states. Here's part of the exchange: Continue reading "Sicherheitspolitischer Fruehschoppen"

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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What Americans Should Remember about NATO

Mark Ducasse from the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies, writes in a blog run by the National Defense University of the US:

As a European living in the United States and working in the realm of policy, I have realized that public diplomacy, strategic vision, and concise justifications are scantily held skill-sets among Europeans. Perhaps this stems from the differences in working cultures, political systems, or simple confidence? Who knows? The point is that NATO’s public relations machine has done little in the build-up to Chicago to counter with fact and logic the plethora of thumb-sucking articles from shortsighted political commentators with banal titles such as, “Whither NATO,” or “The End of the Alliance.”

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Germany's Lost Credibility at NATO

The Spiegel article "Germany's Reputation in NATO Has Hit Rock Bottom" by Ulrike Demmer and Christoph Schult is the most convincing criticism of Berlin's role at NATO I have read in a while. And there were soo many articles recently.

When reading the usual attacks on our vote on Libya, the Afghanistan mission and the low defense budget, I am often drawn to defend my country's policies. This article, however, argues convincingly with many examples that our government does not care about NATO's future. Berlin lacks the will to staff senior positions with Germans and is not committed to making Smart Defense work.

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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...

Mutual Disappointment

Chancellor Merkel is traveling across America this week. She loves the United States, but she is still having trouble connecting with Barack Obama, writes Spiegel International (HT: David). The media loves to personalize politics. I think at the end of the day the problem is not the personal relationship between Obama and Merkel, but its structural. After long descriptions of the well-known differences in Obama's and Merkel's style of politics, Spiegel comes to the same conclusion in the end:

At the moment, the partners on both sides of the Atlantic are disappointed with each other. Whenever the Americans want something from the Germans, they are guaranteed to be turned down: on prisoners from Guantanamo, on sending significantly more soldiers to Afghanistan and on new economic stimulus programs.

Merkel, on the other hand, was repeatedly appalled last year at how inconsiderate the Americans were of German or European interests. Whenever she spoke to Obama about climate protection, he was only concerned with the consequences for the United States. When the Americans settled on a new strategy for Afghanistan, they didn't ask their allies first. Merkel also suspects that the United States is not interested in reining in the financial industry.

She is forced to look on as America becomes more and more enmeshed in a duel with China. Nothing is done that could impair Washington's position toward China, which is why the United States doesn't want to take on the burdens of a strict climate policy or a more tightly controlled financial market. German interests are of little importance, because Germany has little left to offer the Americans.

Exhibition: "Gifts From the Americans"

Who says Germans are not grateful to the United States anymore? Currently there is an architectural photo exhibition in Berlin featuring cultural buildings financed by the United States during the Cold War. The exhibition and website is called Geschenke der Amerikaner ("Gifts from the Americans"), which is in German, but includes a few good photos.