In addition to potential effects on Germany’s economic, energy, and foreign policies, the results of the Sept. 27 national elections raise questions about the future of Germany’s longstanding practice of military conscription. Although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) continues to support compulsory military service more than any other major German party, her preferred new coalition partner, the quasi-libertarian Free Democratic Party (FDP), opposes it. Unlike most other NATO countries, Germany stubbornly adheres to the principle of compulsory military service. At present, all male German citizens are subject to nine months of conscription in the Bundeswehr (the German armed […]

After two days of high-profile meetings and deliberation last week, the G-20 managed to make official something everyone already knew: the United States and Europe can no longer effectively manage the whims of the global economy on their own. To that end, the group reached consensus on two major fronts: 1) the more diverse G-20 should effectively replace the Western-dominated G-8 as the world’s primary economic coordinating body; and, 2) voting power within the IMF should be reformed to give greater voice to emerging powers. Stop the presses, right? Yes and no. This is big news, but not necessarily new […]

BERLIN — After four years of an uncomfortable alliance with the liberal Social Democratic Party marked more by inaction that by any major initiatives, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrat party won a sweeping victory in federal elections here yesterday, putting the legislative pieces in place to make significant policy changes in her second term. The pro-business Free Democrats pulled off a major upset, winning enough votes to form a grand coalition with the CDU. Meanwhile, the election marked a major defeat for the SDP, with party candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling for a reassessment of the party’s […]

BERLIN — Just days ahead of Sunday’s general election that will decide the next German chancellor, there is a noticeable lack of interest among the public, the media, and even the candidates themselves,. The widespread indifference comes at a time when Germany nevertheless faces a number of difficult issues, including an unpopular war in Afghanistan and the country’s tenuous economic recovery. Christian Democrat (CDU) Angela Merkel, the sitting chancellor, has essentially chosen not to campaign. She has made few public statements other than that she would prefer to form a coalition with the more conservative Free Democrats over the liberal […]

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Poland has just announced its policy priorities for its EU presidency in 2011. And topping the list is EU defense, followed by energy security. Jean Quatremer claims it comes in response to the U.S. reversal on the missile defense system, and characterizes it as a “vĂ©ritable rĂ©volution.” The former is certainly possible, even likely. I’m less convinced by the latter. As Laura Chappell pointed out in her excellent WPR Strategic Posture Review for Poland, EU defense has occupied an increasingly prominent position in Poland’s national security calculations. The reason being, Poland prefers being actively involved in any security architecture that […]

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev emerged from a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama with a more open attitude toward tougher sanctions against Iran in the event negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program don’t produce results. That’s a pretty quick dividend from the missile defense decision, but I think Nikolas Gvosdev is spot on here: But the crux of the matter for the U.S. is not when Tehran crosses theline and has a working bomb, it is trusting Iran to have a nuclearinfrastructure like Japan’s. I think that Russia will be far moresupportive of “trusting” Iran with nuclear technology than a U.S. […]

When the heads of state of the G-20 nations meet in Pittsburgh, Pa., later this week, it will mark nearly six months since the group’s previous meeting in London last April, and just over one year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September. At the time of the London Summit, the world was still in the throes of an unfolding crisis, leading the group to adopt a triage strategy. That amounted to essentially stopping the global economy and its credit markets from flat-lining. Accordingly, the major decision to come out of the April meeting was a $1.1 trillion global […]

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President Barack Obama’s rollback of the European-based ballistic missile defense system is a strategic blunder that will incentivize Russian intransigence at the negotiating table, erode relations with loyal U.S. allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and ultimately place the American homeland at greater risk. The about-face stands in a long line of similar American miscalculations on Russia and its leaders. Famously misreading his Soviet counterpart, Joseph Stalin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once mused, “If I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, [he] won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for […]

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The Russian-state-sponsored television channel Russia Today quotes thechief of the Russian armed forces general staff as saying Russia wouldview any U.S. missile defense system negatively unless it were jointlydeveloped with Russia. It remains to be seen whether Russia will dropits plans to deploy missiles to its westernmost Kaliningrad region, thechannel reports. Related from WPR: Global Insights: Tough Road for NATO-Russian BMD Cooperation

In his first major speech as the alliance’s new civilian head, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told an audience in Brussels that the time had come to revitalize security ties between Moscow and the Western alliance. Reflecting the speech’s hopeful title, “NATO and Russia: A New Beginning,” Rasmussen identified several possible areas for deeper collaboration. But the most newsworthy focus of his presentation was on ballistic missile defense (BMD). Rasmussen’s remarks came on the heels of U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement the previous day that his administration would suspend the U.S. missile defense systems planned for Poland and the […]

The decision by the Obama administration to drop the missile defense plan in Eastern Europe was based on a revised perception of Iran’s long-range missile threat. The move is bound to have multiple and contradictory effects on the thorny issue of Iran’s nuclear program, which is slated to be a central subject of multilateral discussions at the opening of the U.N.’s General Assembly this week, as well as at the G-20 gathering in Pittsburgh days later. Diminishing the threat perception of Iran’s missile program from previous assessments under the Bush administration is certainly conducive to the IAEA — that is, […]

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the decision to abandon the Bushadministration’s plans for a land-based missile defense system inEastern Europe came about because of a change in the U.S. perception ofthe threat posed by Iran. The Associated Press reports.

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Two compelling analyses of the missile defense decision, one here by Robert Haddick and another here by Jeffrey Lewis. From everything I’ve read, the consensus across the board, with the exception of religious missile defense supporters and partisan opportunists, is that this was the right decision from a military hardware perspective. And both Haddick and Lewis fall into this camp. Haddick argues, though, that the politics are wrong, mainly because the reconfigured “adaptable and flexible” system does not represent the same kind of commitment to allies that an American presence on the ground does. Meanwhile, Lewis argues that contrary to […]

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Looks like Brazilian President Lula da Silva wasn’t far off when he joked that he’d end up getting the 36 fighter jets for free. Following Dassault and Boeing, Saab has now offered to make all the technology of its Gripen available, and to manufacture 40 percent of the aircraft’s components in Brazil. A Swedish deputy defense minister also announced that Sweden would sell the Gripens for just half the price of the competing aircraft. (You can check out the Rafale and Gripen promotional videos here in WPR’s newly revamped video section.) That means all three contractors have now met the […]

Fourteen years after the massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in Bosnia, the perpetrator of the largest atrocity in Europe since World War II, indicted war criminal Gen. Ratko Mladic, still roams free. Worse still, if the recent anniversary of the massacre — which garnered little notice in European countries and the United States — as well as recent diplomatic signals are any indication, Europe and the U.S. seem ready to effectively turn the page on his arrest. This is surprising, because while the instruments of international accountability are slow and cumbersome, they are beginning to demonstrate the capacity to […]

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It looks like President Barack Obama is getting his Iran ducks lined up in advance of the meeting scheduled between the P5+1 and Iran in October. Duck 1: On Tuesday, Obama spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy by telephone for a half-hour, during which Iran was a central topic of conversation. PressTV later reported that on Tuesday, too, Sarkozy told lawmakers from his governing UMP, “It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear [weapons] program.” I’m still trying to confirm that Sarkozy actually made those remarks, since although AFP picked up […]

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