How is President-elect Barack Obama planning to shape the foreign policy of his administration? Is he a Wilsonian idealist? A progressive realist? Some mix of the two? How Obama will define his foreign policy still remains somewhat of a mystery. Between now and when he actually begins his term of office, I expect that his rhetoric about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world will become more expansive and lyrical. After all, this is to be expected. American chief executives traditionally use the post-election period, culminating in the Inaugural Address, as a time to appeal to our loftiest […]

FROM SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE TO PRESIDENT-ELECT — Amid the global euphoria — to say nothing of the often grudging admiration for the United States — following Barack Obama’s landslide victory, European ambassadors in Washington were already cautioning their governments that the new president will be no pushover. One ambassador said Friday, “On many major issues, there’s not a lot of difference in substance between an Obama administration and a McCain administration. However, where McCain could have been unpredictable, the Obama leitmotif has been mending international fences, so we can expect him to be tough, but hopefully open to reason.” While it’s […]

Obama and the EU

Since no one else seems to be very forthcoming about offering BarackObama advice on how to conduct his foreign policy, and since I’m surehe’s got some down time to fill catching up on his favorite blogs, Ithought I’d step up and do what’s right.In particular, with regards to Europe. A big part of Obama’s political technique is to go beyond coddling asympathetic constituency by appealing to its individual responsibilityand making hard demands of it to contribute to the solution for its ownproblems. (I’d call it a “S-st-h S–ldj-h” instinct if I hadn’t made avow to never utter that expression or […]

Obama’s Global Policy

Robert Hutchings and Frederick Kempe make the case over at Foreign Policy for what they call a Global Grand Bargain, an across the board approach whereby instead of trying to tackle individual problems one by one, Barack Obama tries to reach a global consensus on broad reform measures designed to clear the decks: Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once advised, “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” Itis a way of bringing more politically relevant clout to bear andcreating opportunities for constructive trade-offs. Most of thechallenges we face are interconnected, and the only way for the newadministration to […]

British SAS Chief Quits Over Poor Afghanistan Equipment

Just last Friday, Douglas Duncan’s WPR piece on poor morale amongBritish armed forces mentioned the problem of troops deployed inAfghanistan and Iraq not being propoerly or adequately equipped. Thispast Monday, the Telegraph (via Defense Industry Daily) reported on anew equipment controversy, this one involving Britain’s lightly armoredSnatch Land Rovers, in which four British soldiers — including itsfirst female casualty of the war — were killed in June. The commanderof British SAS (special forces) troops in Afghanistan has now resignedas a result: In his resignationletter, Major Morley, the commander of D Squadron, 23 SAS, said”chronic underinvestment” in equipment by the Ministry […]

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Kosovo’s regional recognition can be considered almost completed with Macedonia’s and Montenegro’s acceptance of its statehood early last month. In what was obviously coordinated action, the governments in Skopje and Podgorica recognized Kosovo on Oct. 9, following resolutions by the parliaments of the two countries recommending recognition. Belgrade was enraged by the move and promptly expelled both countries’ ambassadors, a measure it had not taken in response to previous recognitions. The coordinated Podgorica-Skopje action means that Kosovo is now recognized by all of its neighbors, with the exception of Serbia. Belgrade considers Kosovo part of its integral […]

Russia Moves, Follow Up

A quick follow up on a couple of Russia posts from Monday, both via Nicolas Gros-Verheyde’s excellent French-language blog on European defense, Bruxelles 2. The EU and Russia signed the formal agreement for the Russian helicopter detachment that will participate in the EUFOR Chad mission. And the Russian navy’s upcoming Indian Ocean war games exercise is part of an increased strategic focus by Moscow on the Indian Ocean, especially off the coast of Africa.

Sarkozy and Obama

Nikolas Gvosdev wonders out loud whether Nicolas Sarkozy is hoping to play trans-Atlantic interlocutor between America and Russia. I’ve argued before that a good deal of Sarkozy’s conciliatory posture towards the U.S. — which has gotten him accused here in France of an Atlanticist alignment with Washington — was in fact a gambit designed to make Paris the fulcrum upon which American-EU relations pivot. Sarkozy has been very careful to balance his gestures towards Washington with demands for concessions (NATO vs. EU defense, for instance), and has also not been reluctant to oppose American positions (on NATO expansion, for instance) […]

The Honeymoon Begins

Blake Hounshell’s closing thoughts at FP Passport on the presidential election (posted before the results came in) are spot on. But in terms of the symbolic impact, Barack Obama’s victory is a much clearer repudiation of the Bush administration in the eyes of the world than a McCain victory, rightly or wrongly, would have been. Of course, the euphoria will soon wear off, as Obama gets back to the business of advancing American dominance and hegemony in more clever and charismatic (read: Clintonian) ways than his predecessor. But America’s global line of credit just received an enormous capital infusion for […]

Europe Has a Telephone Number

I’ve mentioned several times recently that the events of the past three months — and in particular the activist French EU presidency under Nicolas Sarkozy — have restored the credibility of a strong EU capable of being a global actor as the goal of European integration. According to the EU Observer, the 27 EU foreign ministers assembled in Marseille feel the same way: “Europe has a telephone number,” [French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner] explained, alluding to former USsecretary of state Henry Kissinger’s quip that he didn’t know whichnumber to call when he wanted to speak to Europe. “It’s the number […]

Second Wind for the Union for the Mediterranean

It’s very possible that when push comes to shove, the Union for the Mediterranean will stand as Nicolas Sarkozy’s lasting legacy. Le Monde reports that the details that seemed to be blocking progress as recently as Sunday were ironed out at a conference of foreign ministers in Marseille. The headquarters will be in Barcelona, and in what was underlined as the result of a compromise, the Arab League will be a full participant in return for Israel assuming one of the permanent Asst. Secretary General seats. No word yet on what the Union will actually do. But it looks more […]

When Global Capital Attacks

Ever wondered what exactly it means when a country goes bankrupt? This Der Spiegel article about Ukraine, Hungary, Iceland and Venezuela on the brink explains. We’ve gotten used to hearing the phrase “too big to fail” bandied about quite a bit recently. The problem is that at the same time a concerted effort is being made to get cash-rich nations to recapitalize the IMF’s bailout fund (as if that weren’t scary enough), there are hedge funds (and probably sovereign wealth fund managers) that are literally waiting to bottomfeed on entire countries. How exactly, in a globalized capital market, do you […]

The Art of French Cooking the Books

So how do uphold a commitment to raise defense spending (or keep it steady as a percentage of GDP) in the face of the gathering financial meltdown? Easy. You program a five-year budget, freeze spending for the first three years, then toss the increases into the last two. Bon appetit!

Russia’s Diplomatic Moves

I just wanted to flag a couple Russia items that caught my eye. First, from RIA Novosti over the weekend, an anouncement that Russia and the EU will sign the agreement formalizing Russia’s participation in the EUFOR Chad mission. Russia had offered last spring to send a helicopter group, along with the units to man it, but the formal signing had yet to take place before the Georgia War froze up Russia- EU relations. The announcement came from a Russian diplomat, but if it’s accurate it would indicate that the EU has decided to compartmentalize its reaction to the Georgia […]

Sarkozy as Blogger

Art Goldhammer and I recently traded a back and forth and back about Sarkozy’s handling of the financial crisis, and France’s EU presidency in general. I think this takeaway from a NY Times piece on same is a decent synthesis of our differening perspectives: Sarkozyhas worked politically without any real ideology in this crisis,promising safety to the French, appealing to nationalist instincts andtrying to play an important role in Europe, and he has helped himselfin the polls, said Pierre Rousselin, the foreign editor of LeFigaro. “Sarkozyis a bit a magician without clothes, but the important thing is theperception, and he’s […]

Russia Dives into the Indian Ocean

The most interesting aspect to the Russian navy’s latest announced exercises isn’t so much that they’re taking place, but where they’re taking place: the Indian Ocean. The strategic sea lanes that link Asia to Africa are already the object of an Indian and Chinese naval buildup, and the region was identified last summer by France’s defense white paper as a principal strategic concern. As in other aspects of its conventional military capacity, Russia has a lot of ground to make up before it represents a credible naval power. But the fact that in reestablishing its global naval presence, they’ve chosen […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — “What America needs now is a drink,” Franklin Roosevelt famously declared upon repealing Prohibition in 1933, amidst a bleak economic climate. But according to the U.N.’s top anti-drug official, consumers of prohibited substances — particularly cocaine — might not have the same reaction to today’s comparable economic turmoil. “There is no doubt the [economic] crisis will have an impact [on the drug trade],” Antonio María Costa, the director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters last week. “It may turn cocaine into a much less desirable discretionary income expenditure.” Costa was referring to European […]

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