The Turkey Fan Club Grows

Regular readers of he blog will know that I’ve had my eye on Turkish foreign policy for a while. For one thing, Turkey’s emergence as a regional mediator demonstrates the power of maintaining good relations across the faultlines of conflicts (its so-called “zero problems” policy). For another, it serves as a model of what I’ve called “Middle Power Mojo,” or the use of regional middle powers to lighten America’s footprint while at the same time advancing its interests. Now a flurry of posts responding to Turkey’s offer to mediate between the U.S. and Iran — from Democracy Arsenal (Patrick Barry […]

The End of the Euro-American Age?

I’m grateful to the Atlanticist for republishing Steven Philip Kramer’s Strategic Forum article, The Absence of Europe, because otherwise I would have missed it, and it’s really a must read for anyone interested in U.S.-EU relations, EU defense and EU common foreign policy. It’s a thorough, balanced and non-dogmatic treatment of the many challenges that the EU must resolve if it really wants to assume a partnership role in international security, with all the responsibility that entails. I’ve flagged recent progress on EU defense, but as Kramer points out, there are fundamental insitutional impasses that need to be opened before […]

LONDON — Until recently, Europe’s politicians held their noses when they spoke of the United States. Now they are falling over each other to associate themselves with the president-elect, to attach themselves to the most attractive, most popular and soon-to-be most powerful man on the planet. Everyone wants a piece of Barack Obama. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has more reason than most to seek Obama’s favor. Under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain was regarded as Washington’s closest ally in the war against Iraq, the war against the Taliban and what was once called the war against terrorism. Brown […]

Europe and the Afghanistan Redirect

I couldn’t agree with Ilan Goldenberg, writing at Democracy Arsenal, more. There’s this gathering meme out there suggesting that the way to deal with Europe’s positive reaction to Barack Obama’s election victory is to quickly get our partners to agree to unpopular American policy proposals to which they’ve been signalling their opposition very strongly. Just Monday, the head of the British Armed Forces, Gen. Jock Stirrup, expressed his opposition to redirecting British troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, citing an overstretched military. British public opinion is resolutely opposed to the Afghanistan War, calling for withdrawal within a year, and even Prime […]

The Obama Effect 2.0

As fascinating as the initial euphoric global reactions to Barack Obama’s election victory is the secondary wave of introspection it has provoked. Here in France, the nation’s first black prefect (the government’s regional representative) was just appointed yesterday. I’ve also seen a number of articles on the failure to keep promises in the troubled “banlieues,” and it seems you can’t open a newspaper (or click through to one) without seeing a story about the chances for a “French Obama.” Overnight, instead of pointing fingers at America for its shortcomings, the gaze has been redirected inward to examine what can be […]

Serbia’s Surprising Turn Westward

Only eight months after losing Kosovo, their cultural and historical heartland, Serbs seem strangely passive these days. At this time last year, as negotiations over Kosovo’s final status reached an impasse, Serbs felt bitter and humiliated by the pariah-status they were dealt by the international community. So their initial reaction to Kosovo’s declaration of independence — and its quick recognition by Western capitals — this past February was predictable: amidst a crowd of 100,000 peaceful protesters (more than 1% of the population), a few hundred “extremists” attacked and ignited several embassies of Kosovo-friendly governments, including that of Kosovo’s strongest ally, […]

EU Defense: Three out of Four Ain’t Bad

Two of the four biggest challenges facing French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s European defense ambitions were opposition from London and Washington. I mentioned in a few recent posts the sea change in British attitudes. Now comes word, via Nicolas Gros-Verheyde at Bruxelles 2, that American personnel will be participating in an EU civil-military advisory mission in Guinea Bissau. That follows similar American participation in the EU’s mission in Kosovo, formalized last month, but yet to be deployed (also via Bruxelles 2). Again, it’s a limited participation in a limited mission. But symbolically, it’s a significant attitude adjustment, especially since, as a […]

EU-Russia Détente

Over the objections of Lithuania, the EU has decided to unfreeze partnership talks with Russia. By a happy coincidence, on the same day, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller announces that natural gas prices for Europe will decline in 2009. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Russia is willing to respond to favorably to engagement. That leaves three questions that the West needs to ask itself. First, is that likely to reverse Russian policy in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Second, is that likely to make future Russian behavior more responsible and predictable? And third, do the areas where Russia is willing […]

WWI in Color

Der Spiegel’s got a fascinating gallery of color photos from WWI. Fascinating in part because of the way the color, which resembles that of early postcards, softens the image of the war compared to the black and white images we’re used to seeing. At the same time, it makes the surrounding destruction even more incongruous, highlighting its absurdity.

Globalized Pugilism

I ran across a title fight while channel surfing this weekend: Arthur”King Arthur” Abraham defending the IBF middleweight belt against RaulMarquez. Talk about globalization. Abraham’s an Armenian-bornnaturalized German citizen and entered the ring to a live band playingbad German heavy metal. Marquez is a Mexican-born naturalized Americancitizen (he represented the U.S. in the 1992 Olympics) and entered thering to a mariachi soundtrack. But to show that globalization doesn’tnecessarily mean homogenization, the German and American nationalanthems were played by a string quartet. (First time I’ve heard thedescending bass line accompanying the last verse of the Star SpangledBanner on a cello.) After […]

America and Europe on Veterans Day

Alexander Watson has a thought-provoking op-ed in the NY Times on how today’s holiday is observed in Europe (Armistice Day) compared to Stateside (Veteran’s Day). It resonated with a moving post I read this morning by Jean-Dominique Merchet at Secret Défense about the last battle of WWI, an ill-fated river-crossing ordered and carried out the morning of Nov. 11 despite the French command knowing that the Armistice would take effect at 11am that day. And while the symbollism of the armistice saving the continent from the brink — the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — […]

Just hours after President-elect Barack Obama’s election victory, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used his first state of the nation address before both houses of the Russian parliament to declare that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad “to neutralize if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe.” Medvedev also said that Russian electronic equipment would jam the U.S. systems and that he had canceled plans to dismantle three missile regiments deployed in western Russia. Kaliningrad, a Baltic Sea port which lies between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, hosts a major Russian military base. The Iskander surface-to-surface missile has […]

With the U.S. presidential election finally decided, attention has now turned to just how President-elect Barack Obama will handle American foreign policy. As a candidate, Obama often displayed the clearsighted vision of a foreign policy realist, while embracing the rhetorical flourishes of an idealist. In WPR’s latest biweekly feature issue, two prominent foreign policy analysts examine the challenges and opportunities that await The Obama Presidency. In Wilsonian Idealist or Progressive Realist? Nikolas Gvosdev, former editor of the National Interest, considers the kinds of “80 percent solutions” the Obama administration might be forced to consider, and whether it will be willing […]

Sarkozy’s Obama Gamble

More proof that France really, really, really wants to be Barack Obama’s privileged EU interlocuter: France, currently chairing the six-month rotating European Unionpresidency, is pushing for the bloc to engage more and “without delay”in Iraq, a working paper seen by Financial Times Deutschland reads. . . . The timing of such a move serves the interests of the new U.S. president,as he is set to shift the U.S. focus in its War on Terror from Iraq toAfghanistan and Pakistan. The easy punchline here is obviously that “serving the interests of the new U.S. president” is not how you’d normally expect […]

EU-Russia Talks

The EU Observer reports that Lithuania is the last holdout against restarting EU-Russia strategic partnership talks. France has proposed restarting the talks while simultaneously condemning Russia’s violations of the Georgia ceasefire agreement: The proposal was good enough for Russia-critical states Sweden, the UK,the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia, which agreed that major EUsecurity and financial interests outweigh the niceties of the Georgiaconflict. . . . “If you look at this issue, legally there is no reason to relaunch thetalks. But political reality dictates that we need to communicate withRussia,” an EU diplomat said. For some more on that political reality, […]

Sarko Skeptic

This, by Art Goldhammer at French Politics, is about the most concise and compelling case for questioning French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign policy prowess as any I’ve read. I especially liked this part on his handling of the Georgia War, which I have defended: The Russia-Georgia War ended because Russia knew that it could not oustSaakashvili without damaging its long-term interest in a cooperativeeconomic relationship with the West. It ended when the Russians weregood and ready to end it, and the limits to their incursion wereself-imposed. Sarkozy merely showed up with a piece of paper on whichhe had hastily scrawled […]

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