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Russia's Elections 2: Russia Should Face Consequences

Helle Dale argues in the Washington Times that the elections in Russia were not legitimate, and Russia should face consequences for this.

Autocrats like Mr. Putin are trying to take back the reins of power carefully and one piece at a time. By international standards, Russia cannot be called a democracy anymore - as German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked to her credit. She knows something about political repression, having grown up in East Germany. There should be consequences.

While most in Europe and the US have spoken out against the Russian elections, other countries (notably those in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO) have argued that western countries have no right to judge Russia's democracy. From the Washington Post:

"There is not just one category of democracy in the world. You cannot import, copy or buy democracy," said Gao Yusheng, a Chinese citizen who headed the [SCO's] observer mission in Moscow. Observer groups from other republics of the former Soviet Union reached similar conclusions.

So, who has the right to decide whether a democracy is legitimate or not? I certainly have trouble believing the SCO, with a membership composed of non-democracies to include Uzbekistan, Iran, and China among others, is a better arbiter of open government than European countries and the United States.

I also agree with Helle Dale that Russia should face consequences. Democracy is more than an abstract concept; as a form of governance it has important tangible implications for the internal and external peace of a country. Researchers have found substantial evidence that democratic governments have better human rights policies, and are significantly less likely to go to war. Knowing the merits of democracy, it is both a moral and practical objective to encourage democratic governance in other states.

The need for democracy is exceptionally relevant when it comes to Russia, because the world already knows how dangerous a nationalistic and centralized Russia can become-especially a Russia that seeks to exert influence over its former client states, as Putin does.

Redefining Transatlantic Relations

Casualties in Iraq have decreased a bit, European leaders speak more softly and Russia is a bit more assertive. Now some on the right feel uplifted and apparently assume that the kids in Europe are running to their daddy America.

At the weekend, I wrote about Charles Krauthammer's claim that "the rise of external threats to our allies has concentrated their minds on the need for the American connection." Victor Davis Hanson made similar claims in the National Review Online:

In the build-up to the invasion, anti-Americanism in Europe reached a near frenzy. It was whipped up by French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and evoked warnings of an eternal split in the Atlantic Alliance. If Iraq had proved a catalyst for this expression of near hatred - fueled by long-standing angers and envies - it soon, however, proved to be a catharsis as well.

Both leaders overplayed their hands when the U.S. had already begun downsizing its NATO deployments in Germany. Elsewhere, Europeans started to have second thoughts about alienating America at a time of rising Russian belligerency, and suffered from increased worry over radical Islamic terrorists, at home and abroad. The result is that their successors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, are staunchly pro-American in ways their previous governments were not, even well before the Iraq War."

I don't think Chirac and Schroeder were the ones who "overplayed their hands," if you know what I mean... Besides, I wonder why Victor Davis Hanson considers Sarkozy and Merkel "staunchly pro-American." I'd thought that military historians would be a bit more skeptical about the rhetoric of politicians. What staunchly pro-American policy have Merkel and Sarkozy implemented?

Or perhaps what we are seeing here is a trend of lowered expectations, which one commenter recently put this way: "Six years ago [America's] message to the world was 'you're with us or you're against us.' Now it's 'well, so long as you're not against us...'"

Yet another way to look at it is: Europeans have not contributed very much to Iraq and "the good war" in Afghanistan. Many Americans don't see Europe as a crucial ally who has the power to help in America's hours of need. Thus nice statements and withholding public criticism is the only thing to expect from Europeans. If we Europeans want to be taken more seriously, we need to offer more.

Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, not Substance

President Sarkozy gets a dozen standing ovations from Congress. And Chancellor Merkel gets to stay at Bush's ranch in Crawford, which is supposed to be some high honor bestowed upon only President Bush's very best allies.

Will this charm offensive result in better transatlantic relations?

I seriously doubt that Merkel feels all warm and fuzzy now, although that seems to have been the purpose of the invite to Crawford. Likewise, I doubt whether ex-Chancellor Schroeder was saddened when President Bush gave him the cold shoulder treatment. I think the White House exaggerates the power of such symbolism. European politicians are not going to be more supportive of the US because of a visit to Crawford or standing ovations. Has the charming worked in the US? Le Figaro (translation at TMV) opines that Sarkozy accomplished his goal of "conquering the hearts of Americans." Apparently, it is not so difficult to impress Americans these days: Continue reading "Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, not Substance"

Germany's Day of Destiny

While 9/11 has shaped US foreign policy and national identity significantly, German identity and foreign policy has been shaped even more by 9.11. — that’s how we write "November 9th."

This is what happened on November 9th in Germany:
1848: Germany's first revolutionary dreams were killed.
1918: Proclamation of the Weimar Republic.
1923: Hitler first attempted to take over the government.
1938: The so-called Reichskristallnacht took the brutal persecution of Jews to the next level and would end in the murder of millions of people.
1989: The Berlin Wall fell.
2007: Chancellor Merkel meets with President Bush on his ranch in Crawford. The Associated Press writes that Iran is likely to dominate the talks. Let's see what secret worldshaking decisions they will make ;-)

Today, a few German papers (example Bild) feature the kids who were born in November 1989 and who now turn into adults. The Tagesspiegel writes how the unified Germany is coming of age. German foreign policy has changed tremendously in the last 18 years. Some commenters here and elsewhere argued that Germany has shown adolescent behaviour. One think tanker wrote that "German Foreign Policy Needs to Grow Up"

Regarding gratitude for President George H.W. Bush's strong support for German unification see: Day of German Unity and German-American Day

More related Atlantic Review posts: Historical Revisionism in Germany? and Two More Americans Accuse Germany of Historical Revisionism What do you think of Germany's "evolution"?

The U.S. Media's Admiration of Chancellor Merkel is Suddenly Over

merkel_newsweek.jpgAfter her election as chancellor of Germany in November 2005, Angela Merkel received a lot of positive press coverage in the US. Her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was blamed for the bitter transatlantic disagreements over the Iraq war.

Merkel was supposed to be a pro-American and a strong reformer, who heals German-American relations and makes Germany more supportive of US policies around the world.

I expected some honeymoon for Chancellor Merkel, but was very surprised how long it lasted and how strong the admiration of Merkel was in the US mainstream media and on blogs. Three examples from December 2006/January 2007:

(1) David Rothkopf praised her in Foreign Policy Passport:

The most powerful female political figure in Europe since Queen Victoria has turned the methodical scientific training from her upbringing in Communist East Germany into a formula for gaining admirers worldwide.

I was pointing out back then on Atlantic Review that Foreign Policy Passport might have forgotten about Margaret Thatcher. I was wondering how long this admiration for Mrs. Merkel would last: "When will they realize that Chancellor Merkel is not all that powerful? Unlike Baroness Thatcher, Merkel is in a coalition government. Besides, power depends on having international partners, but Blair, Chirac, and even Bush look more and more like lame ducks."

(2) The New Republic Online for instance featured the article "Angela Merkel, Superstar" by Clay Risen. Continue reading "The U.S. Media's Admiration of Chancellor Merkel is Suddenly Over"

The Germans: Pacifists or Free-Riders? Or Both?

Have American denazification and reeducation efforts turned Germans into true pacifists? Or are Germans just using their past as an excuse for lack of burden sharing? John Vinocur seems to support the latter thesis. He had thought that Merkel has put an end to it:
A few people, me included, read into this step Merkel's desire to put an end to using Germany's awful World War II history as a false moral refuge from taking sides and putting troops and convictions on the line in the new century.
Vinocur is, however, somewhat disappointed by Merkel and calls her "Ms. Soft Power" in his International Herald Tribune article from September (HT: Don).

Chancellor Merkel's Lack of Leadership on Afghanistan

The US, Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands provide most of the troops to fend off the insurgency in Afghanistan. Germany's engagement is quite limited and yet public support has fallen to new lows.

"It should be Merkel's job to explain why Germany has 3,300 troops based in Afghanistan. But she rarely does," writes Judy Dempsey in the International Herald Tribune (via Anglofritz):
[Merkel] has not given a single speech devoted to Afghanistan to the Bundestag, or Parliament. She missed an ideal chance last Friday during a parliamentary debate over renewing the mandates for the German troops based there. But she left the explanation to her not terribly persuasive defense minister, Franz-Josef Jung. And since taking office nearly two years ago, Merkel has traveled neither to Kabul nor to the comparatively peaceful north where most of the German troops are based. Now, under pressure from the opposition, she has finally announced travel plans. But so far, no date has been set. What is baffling is that her attitude is out of line with the rest of her foreign policy agenda.

Dempsey describes Afghanistan as Merkel's "big blind spot," because she has shown more leadership on other issues like Russia and China.

Ulf Gartzke, a visiting scholar at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, argues in a similar direction in "German Lessons: The Afghan Conundrum" in The Globe and Mail.

Carl Robichaud asks a rhetorical question in Afghanistan Watch: "Last week Germany voted by a 2 to 1 margin to sustain the deployment of its 3,000 strong forces in Afghanistan--for now. But how sustainable is this mission when the public at large opposes the deployment by the same margin?"

Yep, we need "emancipated Atlanticists" who are willing to make and explain tough decisions. This requires more "foreign policy maturity," see Jan Techau's op-ed "Deutschland muss außenpolitisch erwachsen werden" in Deutschlandradio Kultur (in German, translation soon on Atlantic Community.)