The Berlin Wall was quite literally the prop on which the entire Soviet security structure for Europe rested. When it fell, Moscow’s continuing illusions that Eastern Europe could somehow be maintained as a belt of neutral states separating the Russian heartland from the West collapsed like a house of cards. And yet the edifice had appeared so solid, so permanent. In the euphoria that followed the fall of the Wall — and which was again on display during the 20th anniversary celebrations — we forget that prior to 1989, the division of Europe into two blocs, East and West, was […]

Obama Will Push For Trade With South Korea

President Barack Obama will wrap up his Asia tour in Seoul, sending amessage to North Korea that he is holding firm on the U.S. relationshipwith the South. Talks are expected to focus on the possibility ofopening up free trade between South Korea and the U.S., a sensitivetopic between the two nations in the past. Voice of America’s KurtAchin reports from Seoul.

President Barack Obama has successfully transformed America’s strategic dialogue with the world for the better in his first year, impressing Europe — or at least eminently sensible Norway — enough to win a Nobel Peace Prize. In relationship after relationship, America now finds itself talking about what really matters, which in most instances means prioritizing economics above terrorism (George W. Bush’s one-note presidency) and climate change (Al Gore’s shrill post-vice-presidency). For those who prefer a diet of constant fear, Obama’s maddeningly calm approach is not nearly as filling as an American foreign policy forever focused on perceived existential threats. The […]

North Korea: Blame the French

No sooner does Jack Lang, the newly appointed French envoy to North Korea, touch down in Pyongyang than all hell breaks loose. I had a feeling this would happen. Good thing President Barack Obama just decided to send his own presidential envoy, Stephen Bosworth, to North Korea to straighten things out. Here’s hoping Bosworth gets a chance to debrief with Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell before he heads off. I’m sure those guys have useful tips on how this whole special envoy thing is done.

BEIJING — One of the issues President Barack Obama will inevitably discuss when he visits China next week is the deadlocked Six-Party Talks seeking to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. Perhaps the most important difference between the 1994 Agreed Framework (.pdf), which settled the 1992-94 nuclear crisis, and the current Six-Party Talks is that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been considerably more involved in supporting the latter process. Chinese policymakers initially promoted the Six-Party Talks primarily as a means of preventing Washington from adopting more coercive measures — whether severe sanctions or military attacks — toward the […]

France’s Envoy to North Korea

I think it’s safe to say that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has yet to find the sweet spot for situating French foreign policy since U.S. President Barack Obama took office. In Sarkozy’s first year in office, he got great mileage out of combining his dynamic energy with President George Bush’s political bankruptcy to create a sort of credibility for French diplomacy. He used his leverage expertly, in both European politics (today’s final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty culminates his initial EU initiative) and in transatlantic affairs (backing up a desperate Bush on Iran and Afghanistan). But being the best (only?) […]