Many organizations give awards to prominent people, who have already received dozens in the past. Sometimes it seems the purpose is not to honor the recipient of the award, but to use his or her fame to shine a light on the organization that is bestowing the award. Many also combine the awards ceremony with a fundraising dinner.
The Pew Research Center's transatlantic survey indicates a high degree of security complacency and a lack of solidarity across NATO member publics. Evidently, the Atlantic Community is still a distant future, with this vision being marred by an absence of real unity. We must encourage more policy dialogue between citizens throughout Europe and across the Atlantic and thereby create empathy and a shared identity.
Many in the European publics, especially the Germans, take US support for granted, feel comfortable as security free-riders, and don't seem to understand NATO's concept of collective defense. From the Pew Research Center:
Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively). Germans (58%) are the most likely to say their country should not. All NATO member publics are more likely to think the United States will come to an ally's defense (median of 68%) than to be willing to do so themselves. (…) Poles stand out as less certain that the U.S. would come to an ally's aid (49% would, 31% would not).
This is quite troubling and disconcerting as only a friend in need is a friend indeed. But, according to this poll, we are not even „fair weather friends", as we oppose solidarity already, before a NATO ally has even been attacked. Coming to each other's defense is the most basic principle of a friendship or partnership. Failing to do so is obviously infinitely worse than a disagreement about out-of-area missions or specific strategies.
The NATO Foreign Ministers have met in Antalya, Turkey, instead of Brussels. Various public diplomacy activities were organized as well. I think this is great, as Turkey is at a NATO “front-line” and has also been drifting away from the West as the AKP policies and public opinion polls by the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Trends have shown in recent years. Thus, any policy or gesture to reverse the trend is welcome.
What has been going viral from the meeting, however, is something else. A video of senior leaders singing “We are the World,” often with critical comments:
Putin's strategy is to intimidate, confuse and divide the West. He wants us to worry about his next steps. He appears stronger than he is, if Western decision-makers and opinion leaders consider Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
Churchill's famous description from October 1939 has made a comeback in the last fifteen months, but unfortunately not as the full quote:
I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.
Churchill's reference to the "riddle", I believe, was mainly about forecasting Russia's actions, which is similar to the weather forecast. The next few days can be forecasted with quite some authority, but not the next weeks. Yet, we all know the not too distant future: Winter is coming. (Only stupid bureaucrats in charge of our public transport systems get surprised by the first heavy snow fall.) Russia's future looks bleak as current policies are not sustainable.
This article from March 2014 is still relevant and will most likely explain gut reactions to future crises as well. The current German and US governments cannot ignore their pundits and public opinions, but so far Merkel's and Obama's Russia policy has not been too much negatively influenced by the popular, but shallow and wrong reading of past US or German policy successes. The EU and the US have been balancing sanctions and diplomacy quite well. They have successfully maintained transatlantic unity, which is more important than higher sanctions or more diplomacy.
Ahead of her US visit Chancellor Merkel answered questions from Fulbright Alumna Kate Lindemann on TTIP, the US funding cuts to an exchange program with Germany, and racism & xenophobia in the US and Germany. Video is in German:
When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."
Good news? Yes!
But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:
The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.
Schlechter Journalismus: Tagesschau, Focus und Bild schreiben über eine „Befreiung“ eines entführten Entwicklungshelfers, obwohl es sich um eine Übergabe handelte. Purer Zufall? Was könnte dahinter stecken?
Bild: “Deutsche Geisel von Spezialkommando befreit”
Focus: “KSK befreit deutsche Geisel in Afghanistan”
Tagesschau.de: “Deutsche Geisel in Kabul befreit”
In den Artikeln wird jedoch ein ganz anderer Sachverhalt geschildert: