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Just a quick word on some military procurment items that have been in my browser for a couple days: India wants a handful of stealth frigates, and is trying to figure out whether to build the first couple tubs domestically (high risk of technical screwups eating away the cost benefits) or abroad (political landmine, but reverse technology bonanza). Meanwhile, Israel is still interested in the F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. Combined with Japan’s and Australia’s interest, as well as that of certain elements in the Pentagon in keeping the production lines moving, this might get a technology-transfer-proof model in the works. […]

MILAN, Italy — ZAPATERO’S DEJA VU: The Italian general commanding part of a multinational NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo learned from a newspaper story last week that he was losing 620 of his troops. They were the Spanish forces under his command, which Spain’s defense minister announced would be pulling out by the summer. The Italian press reported Madrid’s handling of the withdrawal decision as a breach of good manners, but the general was in good company. Turns out Defense Minsiter Carme Chacon and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero even failed to notify members of the Spanish government. The […]

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The Obama administration’s strategic review of the Afghanistan War is reportedly ready for roll out this afternoon. The NY Times has an advanced look, as does Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic. The plan, like all strategic reviews, seeks to first and foremost strike a balance between military necessities and political realities. As such, it threads the needle between two internal administration constituencies, and four external audiences. Within the administration, it incorporates the diplomatic full-court press of the “good governance is the key to hearts and minds” counterinsurgency advocates (see Seth Rosen’s WPR Briefing) with the more modest security objectives of […]

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PARIS — French President Niocolas Sarkozy made a whistle-stop at the Congolese parliament yesterday, in the midst of his three-nation tour of Central Africa. Last January, he ruffled feathers in Kinshasha by suggesting that Congo needed to share its mineral wealth with Rwanda as a step towards bringing peace to the Kivu region. This time around, he soothed Congolese egos by praising President Kabila’s breakthrough peace initiative with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, which has resulted in a significant decline in violence in the region. He also suggested that Congo, with all its mineral wealth, could play a regional the leadership […]

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I was thinking this morning about how a lot of the Obamaadministration’s initial foreign policy moves have amounted to lettinggo of unrealistic and counterproductive Bush administration demands –whether made of friends, partners or adversaries — that hadessentially trapped us into losing positions. Dialing backdemands on NATO allies in Afghanistan, shelving missiledefense to reset relations with Russia, dropping inflammatory rhetoricwith Iran(and I think ultimately moving the redline back from uranium enrichmentto preventing weaponization of the Iranian nuclear program): all ofthese represent areas where the Bush line could not be held, and whereletting go of them — something the Bush administration was […]

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Now that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has allegedly cleared the way for EU defense by reintegrating NATO’s command structure, what will the EU do with it? The common response to French calls for an autonomous EU defense capacity (ESDP) is that no one else in Europe wants one. But Nicolas Gros-Verheyde reports that the defense ministers of Sweden and Spain — the next two countries to exercise the EU presidency after the hiatus known as the Czech EU presidency mercifully comes to an end in June — have agreed on an ambitious list of priorities. In addition to what Gros-Verheyde […]

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Things I learned from this Nicolas Gros-Verheyde post on the Airbus A400M: – Delivery of the large military transport aircraft could be further delayed by 3-4 years. – The EU already has an institution, the Western European Union (WEU), that could theoretically function as the kind of “super-EU” I’ve mentioned previously, as a way of bypassing the institutional weakness of the enlarged Union. That weakness was further exacerbated by the fall, yesterday, of the government of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in the middle of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency, damaging the Czech EU presidency’s already fragile credibility, and further […]

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Art Goldhammer also flags French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s double dis at the London G-20 summit: Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have nixed sideline meetings. Here’s Goldhammer: With no promise of domestic improvement, Sarkozy may well covet asplashy international occasion to demonstrate his indispensability, butthe dice haven’t been rolling his way since he stepped down from the EUpresidency. In all fairness to Sarkozy, his prime minister, François Fillon (who probably shouldn’t be left out of the 2012 “presidentiable” sweeptakes) just met with Obama’s vice president, Joseph Biden, yesterday in Washington, and the two presidents are scheduled […]

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The more the EU digs into the outbreak of last August’s Russia-Georgia War, the worse things look for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. According to Der Spiegel, the paper trail seems to be leading back to Order No. 2, from Aug. 7, which the Russians claim to have intercepted, and which allegedly spoke of re-establishing “constitutional order” in the region. The formula was repeated word for word by a Georgian general, also on Aug. 7. Georgia, meanwhile, refuses to turn over the document in question, calling it a “state secret.” Meanwhile, a few weeks back I wondered whether the lack of […]

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Art Goldhammer picks up on my post about a potential realignment in France’s domestic political landscape, adding the important insight that disaffection with French President Nicolas Sarkozy is not limited to his populist constituencies, but extends to his elite constituencies as well. Goldhammer suggests, and rightly so, that the scenario I outlined creates an opening for the French center left, as represented by the market-liberal elements of the Socialist Party. The circumstances of the global financial crisis also play better to a social democrat political agenda: a regulated but nonetheless free market combined with an improved, if not necessarily expanded, […]

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This DefenseNews write-up of British Defense Minister John Hutton’s speech at the CSIS last week is revealing for a number of reasons. At first glance, Hutton’s prescription for a expansive NATO mission might seem to be at odds with France’s vision for an expansive EU defense mission, and therefore a preview of the battles to come over the alliance’s strategic vision. But what’s interesting is how the British and French broader strategic visions converge on the importance of forward defense (Afghanistan), rapid reaction capacity, and the need for a stronger European voice in its own security: The United States has […]

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The NY Times takes a look around and doesn’t like what it sees. The reflexive reaction of protectionism is so obvious, and the globalized arguments against it so counterintuitive, that it’s hard to see where the kill switch is on this one. Part of this has to do with a failure to educate domestic opinion regarding globalization’s advantages during the boom times. But part of it has to do with a tendency among elites to minimize globalization’s very real downsides for a broad cross section of consitutencies. That had a lot to do with what I increasingly think of as […]

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In reading the anti-Sarkozy dossier in this week’s l’Express over the weekend, I was struck by how the peculiarities of the French political landscape make it particularly vulnerable to populist fallout from the financial crisis. There’s a depth of support here on both extremes of the political spectrum — whether the extreme-right of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front party (FN), or the far-left embodied by the eloquent Trotskyite mailman, Olivier Besancenot, and his New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) — that is abhorrent in the former case and aberrant in the latter. What that means in practical terms, though, is that the […]

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Today’s selection kind of sneaks in through the backdoor. It’s got no real association with foreign affairs to speak of, but it does mention two European countries, and it’s sung by the King, Elvis Presley. This performance is from the same 1972 tour that was recorded as a classic live album at Madison Square Garden. And it gives you an idea of the entire record: the funky bass walking all over the power-horn arrangements; the background singers filling in like a mini-choir; the all-over-the-place song selection — Also Sprach Zarathustra (the 2001 Space Odyssey theme) as an intro, Proud Mary, […]

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has responded to critics of his decision to return France fully to NATO by downplaying the significance of the plan. But there is probably far more to the move than he is letting on. Sarkozy has argued that France’s full “reintegration” into the military command structure of the 26-member alliance, after an absence of more than 40 years, is little more than a formality, especially considering that France already works closely with NATO on many levels. If in practical terms full French membership in NATO will have only a slight impact on the alliance in the […]

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World PoliticsReview managing editor, Judah Grunstein, appeared on France 24’s French-language paneldiscussion program, Le Débat, to discuss France’s reintegration of the NATO integrated military command, alongside Paul Quilès (former minister of defense under François Mitterand), Guillaume de Rougé and Jean-Louis Dufour. Part one can be seen here. Part two can be seen here.

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