Turkey Addresses its Soft Power Deficit

Great stuff, as usual, from Yigal Schleifer, on the ways in Turkey’s foreign policy ambitions are driving Ankara to resolve formerly taboo issues. For Turkey, the lingering standoffs with Armenia, the Kurds (both domestically and in Iraq), and in Cyprus significantly diminish Ankara’s credibility on a number of fronts: as an EU aspirant, as a regional power able to mediate crises, and as a regional authority (in political terms). The key here is the “soft power” deficit incurred when a country is perceived as talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Of course, in Turkey’s numerous neighborhoods (the Middle […]

Europe and Obama: The Divorce?

James Joyner suggests the end is nigh for the Obama honeymoon in Europe, and that Europeans might soon be thinking back with nostalgia on the good ole days of Dubya. While I largely agree with the former argument, and foresaw some bumps on the road even before President Barack Obama took office, there are a few nuances I’d make in his characterization of the latter. Specifically, if George W. Bush learned to listen to Europe, and in particular NATO, it was largely after he’d been chastened by the failure of the Iraq war and the 2006 mid-term elections. Up until […]

Former Prime Minister for Hire?

As WPR Contributor Nicolas Nagle discussed, it looks like Tony Blair is the front-runner for the position of President of the European Council, though Blair has not said that he will run for the position. As the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect in the coming months, the Council will be looking for a permanent president and some, including current British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, feel Blair is the man for the job.

EU President Horse-Trading

If you haven’t yet read Nicolas Nagle’s WPR Briefing on the EU president sweepstakes, it’s a good jumping-off point for understanding the debate currently taking place here in Europe in the runup to the Treaty of Lisbon taking effect. Up til now, the leading candidate, Tony Blair, had kept his interest in the job discreetly implied, even if it was universally understood. But now it looks as if Jean-Claude Juncker’s official declaration of interest as well as some recent pointed personal attacks have smoked Blair out, or at least enough to mobilize his proxies to ratchet up the whisper campaign. […]

French Lawfare

Jean-Dominique Merchet notes the latest example of civil law’s intrusion into warfare: The families of two of the French soldiers killed in an August 2008 ambush in Afghanistan are pursuing a civil lawsuit against the operation’s commanders for “deliberately endangering the life of another.” Now, two things worth noting here. The first is that the families are reacting in large part to the lack of any formal sanction of the unit’s officers, who even the army concedes committed “errors of evaluation” in the operation in question. The families also expressed dissatisfaction with the army’s account of the events that led […]

BRUSSELS, Belgium — If all goes as expected and the Lisbon Treaty finally enters into effect in the coming months, the European Union will soon face another major challenge: electing a permanent president for the European Council. The debate has already begun in Brussels over not only who would be the most suitable candidate for the job, but also over the functions the post should include — a subject about which the Treaty itself is particularly vague. Opinions are divided between those who want a strong president that would be the EU’s “face” to the world and those advocating for […]

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Party agreed to form a new government with the upstart conservative Free Democrats on Saturday, setting the stage for major changes in both German domestic and foreign policies. The CDU and the FDP, which is led by Guido Westerwelle, have been locked in tough negotiations over both cabinet appointments and policy platforms for weeks. Westerwelle, who is expected to be named foreign minister, was pushing for tax cuts of $52 billion, while Merkel was advocating much more modest cuts. In the end, it appears as if Merkel was the one […]

The Call for a European Foreign Policy

David Miliband, U.K. Foreign Secretary, delivered a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on the need to shape a strong european foreign policy. “A strong Europe is the best way to preserve and advance our interests in the modern world,” he said. In his speech, Miliband suggests that Britan be at the forefront of this new foreign policy as Europe risks becoming a spectator in a U.S.-China world.

Sakharov Prize Comes Full Circle

The European Parliament has awarded the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Russian human rights group, Memorial. The group, which lost one of its activists in an abduction-murder earlier this year, was awarded the prize in the name of all Russian rights defenders. Russia has seen a wave of kidnap-murders of prominent journalists, activists and lawyers over the last decade. Despite fierce criticism from human rights activists and Western politicians, as well as pressure on Russian authorities to do more to identify and prosecute the crimes, perpetrators continue to act with near impunity. In awarding this year’s […]

When Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin invited Western energy companies to help develop natural gas fields in Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula in late September, many Western observers viewed it as an admission of defeat. After years of increasing state involvement in the upstream of the Russian hydrocarbon sector, a collapse in the price of oil had pushed Moscow to reconsider its adversarial relations with private investors — foreign and domestic alike. While there is some truth to this interpretation, it ignores a more important narrative that emerged from the meeting at the Siberian frontier town of Salekhard about Russia’s shifting attention […]

On Oct. 19, at a multilateral meeting in Vienna focused on nuclear transparency, U.S. and Iranian representatives will meet for the second time in a month in the hopes of working out the modality by which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will inspect Iran’s newly revealed enrichment facility known as Fardo, near the holy city of Qom. This particular issue is relatively straightforward, and the negotiations will likely result in the Fardo facility being placed under the IAEA’s regular regime of inspections, already firmly in place with respect to Iran’s other nuclear facilities. But it is nonetheless tied in […]

Now that Ireland and Poland have ratified the Lisbon Treaty, a document designed to fundamentally re-engineer the 27-member European Union, Czech President Vaclav Klaus is the only remaining holdout. If Klaus gives in and signs the document, as he is largely expected to do, the Treaty will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, ushering in profound changes in the way the EU operates, especially on the global stage. Up until now, the EU has been stymied in its efforts to exert more influence in international affairs, largely because of its inability to “speak with one voice,” especially on matters […]

The EU, NATO and Hard Power

A couple news items today warrant following up on this previous post regarding the EU and its ability to project power. But this time, I’d like to focus on hard power. Of course, when it comes to hard power, the major constraint on the EU’s ability to project force is the unwillingness of its member states to spend the necessary amounts on defense. But another has been the unwillingness of some member states, primarily Great Britain and until recently Poland, to duplicate structures and force commitments already dedicated to NATO. As a result, EU defense is dependent on ad hoc […]

The EU’s Continued Relevance

For a while, I’ve been meaning to write a post about issues on which I’ve either changed my mind or experienced an evolution in thinking. Unfortunately, overarching projects like that tend to become a bit daunting. But this Sydney Morning Herald op-ed by Sam Roggeveen at least gives me an excuse to mention one such area in particular: Europe. I used to strongly support a vision of a more integrated Europe, with foreign and defense policies capable of projecting force and influence at a level comparable to its economic and diplomatic weight. My feeling is still that, given the many […]

Investment Fund Tells Amazing Story of Official Russian Corruption

The story of Hermitage Capital, a Britain-based investment fund that was once one of the largest foreign investors in Russia, and what it encountered at the hands of corrupt Russian officials, “highlightsthe hazards of practicing law in Russia’s corruption-ridden courtsdespite nearly two decades of reforms supported by hundreds of millionsin U.S. and European aid,” Philip Pan wrote in an Aug. 13 piece in the Washington Post. It also highlights the dangers of doing business in Russia for Western firms. Hermitage was apparently the victim of a brazen attempt by corrupt Russian officials to steal its assets, in an all-too-common practice […]

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Yesterday’s signing of protocols by Turkey and Armenia that pave the way for restoring relations between the two countries was, without a doubt, a historic moment. But it’s still too early to break out the champagne. The protocols — signed in Zurich in the presence of the American, French and Russian foreign ministers — spell out in the clearest terms to date what needs to happen in order for diplomatic ties to be restored and for the two countries’ borders to be reopened. But significant hurdles, some of which involve actors outside of Turkey and Armenia themselves, […]

Interview with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic tells Russia Today thatBelgrade will not sacrifice its stance on Kosovo’sindependence in exchange for a speedy accession to the European Union.Jeremic spoke to the Russian state-sponsored television station as heprepared to visit Moscow, and ahead of a planned visit to Belgrade byRussian President Dmitry Medvedev.

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