The release last week of a European Commission report highly critical of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s progress in their efforts against corruption serves as a useful reminder that both Brussels and Ankara should exercise patience while negotiating Turkey’s European Union bid. The Bulgarian and Romanian cases demonstrate that both Europe and its potential members are best served by an exhaustive, deliberate accession process. Negotiations between Turkey and the EU have slowed recently due to increasing doubts in both Turkey and Europe about the wisdom of further expansion. Already suffering from “enlargement fatigue,” Europe has seen the economic crisis highlight its internal […]

NATO officially launched the process of revamping its Strategic Concept this month. As of now, the alliance’s next mission statement is “a blank sheet of paper,” in the words of outgoing Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. But NATO’s recent pronouncements and current challenges offer plenty of guidance on how to fill the page. First, NATO nations must invest more in defense, and they must remember that theirs is, above all, a military alliance. As the secretary general observed, military operations are “NATO’s core business.” The U.S. spends about 4 percent of its GDP on defense, but only four other […]

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Vice President Joseph Biden’s sharply worded criticism of Russia in his interview with The Wall Street Journal, Saturday, came two days after a group of prominent East Europeans published an open letter to the Obama administration urging Washington not to improve relations with the Russian leadership at the expense of its ties with Eastern Europe. The letter was signed by former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel, founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement and former President Lech Walesa, and ex-President Emil Constantinescu of Romania, along with other intellectuals and former leaders. It confessed to “a nervousness in our capitals” over the thaw […]

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An infamous name returned to the British headlines last week when a memoir written by Anthony Blunt, a wartime spy for the Soviet Union, was made public by the British Library. Blunt was the fourth figure in a spy ring that included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and H.A.R. (Kim) Philby, formed while they were at England’s Cambridge University. As a member of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence organization, Blunt was well-placed to pass on valuable information to the Russians. Burgess and Maclean were diplomats, and Philby an intelligence officer in MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA. The last three had […]

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Vice President Joe Biden’s comments on Russia represent a clear-eyed take on Russia’s fundamental long-term vulnerabilities. Coming from a think tank Russia analyst, they would be noticed mainly for being accurate, if not very remarkable or original. Coming from the U.S. vice president, and in the midst of the U.S.-Russia reset, the reaction is a bit more prickly, from commentators both Russian and Stateside. I suspect that the online excerpts are a bit more provocative than the remarks taken as a whole are, although I don’t have the print edition to know for sure. Setting aside the questions of protocol […]

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The A400M, the troubled European joint effort to meet demand for heavy strategic airlift capacity, has officially gotten a six-month reprieve. The A400M has been plagued by technological setbacks, production delays and cost overruns. At this point, the contractor, EADS/Airbus, is officially in default of its contract, meaning the partner countries could, if they wished, back out of the program, with at least some of the €6 billion already allocated reimbursed. Over the weekend, defense ministers from the seven countries agreed to maintain a “moratorium” on pursuing any contractual penalties against EADS. Jean-Dominique Merchet compares the eventual cost of the […]

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We tend to think of the war in Afghanistan in terms of its impact on American power, and even for the implications it will have for NATO as an out-of-theater alliance. But here’s a thought: What if the most significant impact of the Afghanistan War is to soothe Germany’s fraught relationship with the use of “hard power”? If so, then a major joint operation launched this week — in which 300 German troops supported 1,200 Afghan soldiers with heavy arms and mortar, light-armored vehicles and air support — marked a turning point. The operation is Germany’s first offensive military campaign […]

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The outskirts of Marseille are burning, more than 2,000 acres so far, and the cause of the blaze was an artillery training exercise in a military camp outside the city. More specifically, according to Jean-Dominique Merchet, the fire was likely set off by the pyrotechnic tracer rounds that accompanied the artillery. Having spent six years in the foothills about an hour or so northeast of Marseille, and having done quite a bit of wandering through the parched forest and brush during the high-risk summer fire season, I can tell you that only a moron would shoot off pyrotechnic tracer rounds […]

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James Joyner’s got a provocative piece at the National Interest arguing that so far, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy reflects continuity with George W. Bush’s so-called “third term” (i.e., 2006-2008): There are strong signals that a real break will come on some secondaryissues. Obama is much less enthusiastic about missile defense, morelikely to show tough love to Israel and less apt to fervently pursueour half-century-old idiocy in Cuba. But on all the major issues, themovement has been cosmetic. Now, I’d argue that some of the secondary issues are not so secondary (Israel, for instance). I’d also argue that some of […]

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Georges Malbrunot writing at Le Figaro flags one of the hidden ironies of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s sudden preoccupation with burqas, as well as France’s approach to veils in general — namely, that Indian Sikhs might be affected by the laws, too, and this at a time when France is busy wooing India in a major way. India was the guest of honor at this year’s Bastille Day military parade, reflecting the importance of the French-Indian defense relationship (France is India’s third-largest arms supplier). And French nuclear giant Areva already has some bids in for civil nuclear reactors. According to […]

SKOPJE, Macedonia — On July 1, in an unexpected move that shocked the entire nation, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader announced his resignation. Sanader blamed his departure “at least in part” on the politics of the European Union, which could not overcome the Slovenian veto on Croatia’s accession. Croatia was set to enter the EU by next year, but was blocked by Slovenia — already an EU member state — over an unresolved territorial dispute. But while the accession crisis has put pressure on Croatia, it may be only part of the story behind Sanader’s resignation. The country is in […]

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In July 1969, President Richard Nixon dealt with Cold War triumph and adversity in quick succession. On July 24, he met the Apollo 11 astronauts on their return from the moon landing, a highly symbolic American victory in the space race. On the next day, at a press conference in Guam, he tried to adapt U.S. foreign policy to the pressures of the Vietnam War, which were stretching the military’s ability to meet America’s global commitments. He resisted calls to withdraw American ground forces from Vietnam immediately, and searched for a way to reinvigorate U.S. alliances around the world, hoping […]

Since taking office in May 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made improving ties among the former Soviet republics that form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) a foreign policy priority. Nonetheless, recent weeks have yielded further signs of Moscow’s flailing leadership within the group. Only five of the 10 heads of state, invited personally by Medvedev, participated in the latest annual informal CIS summit, held on July 18. The centerpiece of the event, as in past years, was attendance at the annual President’s Cup horse race at Moscow’s Central Hippodrome. Humorists blamed the large number of no-shows on Medvedev’s […]

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Pope Benedict XVI’s complex critique of the global economic system in his latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), released a couple of weeks ago, is described in Saturday’s New York Times as “remarkable but poorly written.” This is surprising, comments the Times’s religion writer Peter Steinfels, because the German-born pope has “often shown himself [to be] a graceful writer.” Criticism of the document’s style — called “a tough read,” and “molasses-like” — are based on the English version and beg two questions. First, given the enormous amount of expert input required, how much is in the pope’s hand? […]

The Nabucco project gained some momentum in mid-July with the signing of an inter-governmental agreement between countries involved in the natural gas pipeline proposal. If completed, the pipeline would unlock reserves from the Caspian region and potentially the Middle East, thus providing the European gas market with sources of supply outside of Russia. The purpose of the agreement, signed by representatives of the European Commission, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, was to outline a legal framework for transiting gas through the system, and to address other issues such as tariff levels and access to the pipeline network. The signing was […]

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Gay and human rights groups are calling on Lithuania to reconsider a bill curtailing the dissemination of information about homosexuality over concerns it institutionalizes homophobia and curtails free speech. “Far from protecting children, the law deprives young people of their right to freedom of expression and access to information, and risks isolating children who are already amongst the most at-risk of violence at school or within the family,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s researcher on Discrimination in Europe said in a press release. The controversial legislation, named the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, […]

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