Just as the turning of the leaves heralds the arrival of winter’s chill, so too are there unmistakable signs whenever a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization draws near. The media is filled with commentary about “NATO’s crisis,” while statements percolate forth from the alliance’s capitals about NATO’s clear purpose for the 21st century. This is a yearly ritual, with the proclamations of alliance unity and cohesion that inevitably accompany any NATO summit having similarly acquired a totemic quality. When the meeting is over, reality catches up with the vision that has been so ardently reaffirmed. The same issues […]

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I haven’t discussed the French pension reforms, and the strikes opposing them, because it’s taken me a while to dial in the broader context that I felt was lacking in a lot of the debate. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has for the most part used demographic arguments to justify the reforms, which essentially involve moving the age of retirement from the age of 60 to 62. The growing pool of retirees coupled with budget shortfalls makes the need for reform obvious. The problem is one of distributing the increased burden fairly. Here, Sarkozy shot himself in the foot by making […]

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a two-part series. Part I focused on the impact of budget cuts on the British navy. Part II focuses on the implications for U.S. national security policy. As part of government-wide cuts meant to rein in decades of deficit spending, in October the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced an initial 8 percent reduction in its roughly $63 billion annual budget. The Royal Navy will suffer the deepest cuts, with around one-quarter of the fleet — as measured by tonnage — to be decommissioned and future purchases of ships and planes delayed and […]

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series. Part I will focus on the impact of budget cuts on the British navy. Part II will focus on the implications for U.S. national security policy. It was an event worthy of the British Royal Navy’s 500-year history. On June 3 at Portsmouth Naval Base, hundreds of dignitaries and citizens gathered to celebrate the commissioning of HMS Dauntless, the second of six high-tech Type 45 destroyers now entering service. A band played, the crew marched in parade and the ship’s captain, Richard Powell, read the traditional “commissioning warrant.” There […]

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Back in February, in a series of posts written in the immediate aftermath of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty coming into effect, I argued that institutional power struggles would have as much, if not more impact on the shape of the post-Lisbon union than the personalities chosen to fill the president and foreign minister positions. In particular, I highlighted the EU Parliament’s enhanced oversight power under the treaty, and identified as a potential flashpoint the privacy vs. security trade-offs raised by many of the U.S.-EU counterterrorism agreements previously negotiated by the EU Commission. We already saw that play out over the […]

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In the aftermath of a trilateral German-French-Russian heads of state meeting, John Vinocur (or a headline writer at the Herald Tribune) wonders whether the U.S. is losing Europe to Russia. There are a few problems with this way of addressing this issue, not least of which is the fact that Russia is in no way capable of providing the same kind of partnership to Europe that the U.S. does. It also confuses an effort to harmonize relations with an alignment, and ignores the point of such a harmonization, which is to mitigate the significant power that Russia already exercises within […]

Now that Russian President Dimity Medvedev has committed to attending next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, allied leaders need to finalize the negotiating package they will present to the Russian government at the event. NATO and Russia agree on many important security issues, such as the need to counter maritime piracy, while they differ on others, including Medvedev’s proposed European Security Treaty and further NATO expansion. Some of their most significant disagreements lie in the realm of nonproliferation and arms control, with the three most divisive issues in this area concerning Iran’s emerging nuclear weapons capability, the alliance’s missile defense […]

NATO has undergone many changes since its inception in 1949, but its commitment to collective defense has remained intact. During the Cold War, the strong wording of the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5, which states that “an armed attack against one . . . shall be considered an attack against them all,” helped deter a confrontation between East and West in Europe. Despite a sea change in NATO’s strategic context, membership, activities and functions, Article 5 has retained an almost mythical quality, enshrining the alliance’s fundamental pledge: e pluribus unum. Thus, despite the intense deliberation on NATO’s future surrounding the […]

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been in trouble for much of its 60-year existence. Indeed, since the earliest days of the alliance, Americans have complained about burden sharing and important policymakers have issued dire predictions about the organization’s imminent demise. More recently, few thought NATO would survive the collapse of the Soviet Union, which it was created to contain. Yet, two decades later, the alliance is bigger than ever and engaged in the most significant military conflict in its history. Still, many continue to believe that NATO is outmoded. Europe is largely without threat, they say, and the […]

NATO is slated to adopt a new Strategic Concept in November, a document that will serve as a guide for the alliance in what might be called the “post-post Cold War” world. NATO does not revisit its basic guidance often — the last Strategic Concept was approved in 1999. So it is important to craft an enduring statement, as it will likely stand for the next decade. With global support for nuclear arms control and disarmament gathering momentum, it might seem like an appropriate moment for NATO to fundamentally rethink its approach to the role that nuclear weapons play in […]

The news that Turkey and China had organized a joint military exercise at the huge Konya airbase in Turkey’s central Anatolian region last month came as a surprise to many. After all, just a year ago, when clashes between Uighur and Han Chinese broke out in China’s Xinjiang province in July 2009, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Chinese authorities of mishandling a situation that he compared to “genocide.” What explains such a dramatic improvement in relations between Turkey and China? And how should this military exercise be understood in the context of the current shifts taking place in […]

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The U.K. defense review is now available (.pdf), and to make a long story short, London — with a great deal of help from Washington — broke its military and is now looking at about a decade of shore leave. There are some parallels with France’s Defense White Paper from two years ago, with the major differences being that the French review took place before the pain of the financial crisis took hold, and without needing to absorb the toll of the Iraq War. But this is clearly a cautionary tale. The U.K. cuts now bring the British military’s force-projection […]

With many U.S. allies bracing for imminent cuts to defense budgets, and with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates engaged in a campaign against profligate spending at the Pentagon, the military reserve components — which frequently suffer disproportionately from reductions in defense spending — might make for a tempting target. But cutting back on these crucial elements of modern Western militaries would be a mistake with significant operational consequences. As in other countries, the U.S. military reserve structure reflects the nation’s distinct historical origins, security requirements, and constitutional principles. But the U.S. Department of Defense is unique in possessing seven major […]

TBILISI, Georgia — Turkey’s ongoing foreign-policy reorientation will not only reshape the contours of the surrounding region, but could also force the West and those hopeful of joining its orbit to consider how to position themselves in the resulting geopolitical landscape. Georgia, in particular, will be especially affected by Ankara’s emergence as a regional center of influence. In addition to proximity, Georgia shares longstanding historical ties and burgeoning trade with Turkey. Georgia’s precarious geopolitical relationship with Russia is also a significant factor driving Tbilisi’s calculations. Turkey’s rising tide has been a safe bet for Georgia so far, but future Turkish […]

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The EU makes for an easy target these days when it comes to being considered a strategic actor in global affairs. Many analysts, myself included, have a tendency to explain that by pointing to the union’s lack of security bona fides. But there’s more to it than just the question of how many divisions Europe has, to paraphrase Stalin, or of who to call when you want to call Europe, to quote Kissinger. EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy himself put it best when he observed, only half-jokingly, that the EU has plenty of strategic partnerships — now all it […]

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Because of budgetary belt-tightening on both sides of the Channel, it’s become increasingly common to hear about the logic and necessity of defense cooperation between France and Britain. The fact that this has moved beyond the realm of wild speculation and is indeed considered imminent by most serious observers is a testament to the sea change that’s occurred, primarily in British defense thinking in a very short time. Consider that just last spring, when a U.K. Defense Ministry green paper even suggested the need for greater bilateral cooperation, it made headlines. Nevertheless, wild speculation has persisted about that cooperation, which […]

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I’m presently putting together an upcoming feature issue on culture and international relations, of which one article will focus on culture as an instrument, and object, of national power — essentially a discussion of certain elements of soft power. So this article in Der Spiegel about how 1980s-era nightclubs catering to U.S. military personnel stationed in West Berlin and elsewhere in West Germany impacted West German culture — in this case, popular music — leaped out at me. It echoes an article I read several years ago about the way in which American GIs made a real cultural impact in […]

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