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Merkel and Germany Are Not Turning Away from America

Many headline writers are blowing Merkel’s statement about US and UK reliability out of proportion. Putin will be happy about the display of transatlantic division. I think Merkel’s comment could be very good for transatlantic relations in the mid-term.

She was speaking in a beer tent in Bavaria. Federal elections in four months. Merkel was making the case for a stronger EU and a more active German foreign policy. Her party is in favour of increasing defence spending and working towards NATO's goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. The second biggest party is questioning this goal, although they have been part of the coalition government which made this commitment in 2014.

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German TV Series are Finally Taking Off

German TV series are finally taking off. Both historical drama and contemporary drama are red hot right now. Since GERMANY 83, a great Cold War spy drama based on the Able Archer NATO maneuver, all major streaming services have announced their own German productions: THE SAME SKY is an East German spy drama set in the 1970s. BABYLON BERLIN shows us the Roaring Twenties in a bipolar Berlin, torn between lavish parties and gruesome street violence. 4 BLOCKS is a gritty depiction of the present-day Neukölln mob. There is more: YOU ARE WANTED, DARK, CHARITÉ, EIGHT DAYS. Exciting times.

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Remember the Wall, Forget "Bridge of Spies"

BRIDGE OF SPIES simply gets 1950s East Berlin wrong. It was not as desolate and ruined as depicted here. Unter den Linden in the historic city center had been quickly reconstructed, opera houses and state university included. A shiny new city center around Alexanderplatz and the new Stalinallee had also been created by 1957/1961 (the time BRIDGE is set in). For many, East Berlin was indeed a fragile, but hopeful place.

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NATO Solidarity: Atlantic Community is a Vision, not yet a Reality

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.

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"Befreiung" ist was anderes als "Uebergabe"

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?

Aktuelle Schlagzeilen:

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:

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Sicherheitspolitischer Fruehschoppen

Twitter is much less popular in Germany than in the United States. There is, however, an increasing number of think tankers, journalists, graduate students, politicians who debate German foreign policy, NATO, and security issues in general on Twitter. Even on a Sunday morning, when a news report suggested that NATO is not fully prepared to defend the Baltic states. Here's part of the exchange: Continue reading "Sicherheitspolitischer Fruehschoppen"

Misreading Ostpolitik and the Cuban Missile Crisis Screwed up German and US Foreign Policy

As usual, American pundits and politicians expect too much from demonstrations of power, sanctions against and isolation of Russia, while their German counterparts exaggerate the benefits of talking to Putin by establishing a contact group and attending the G8. Personally, I favor a mix of both approaches, of course. Though, I don't have much hope here and agree with Julia Ioffe's pessimism.

I do, however, would like to make a general comment beyond the current Ukraine crisis:

One reason for these different policies on Russia (and China by the way) is that many influential Germans and Americans drew the wrong lessons from important foreign policy successes in the Cold War: Respectively Ostpolitik and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Germany's Defense Spending: Fact-checking the NY Times

Yesterday, the New York Times published a short article by Professor Hendrickson with wrong claims about Germany’s defense spending:

“Germany’s cuts of 25 percent over the next four years are similarly appalling.”

Ryan C. Hendrickson’s only stated reference about such drastic defense cuts is a RAND study, which he describes as „recent“, although it was published in mid-2012 and relies on data mostly from 2011. The professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University took the phrase „the next four years“ from the first paragraph of the RAND summary. It seems that he has not read the next two pages, which state: “The German Ministry of Defense plans to cut $10 billion (or roughly €7.8 billion) from its defense budget by 2013. If these cuts are implemented as planned, the entire German Armed Forces will…” This means that the 25 percent cut was supposed to already have happened. Professor Hendrickson also missed RAND’s qualifier expressed with the big “If” and he has not bothered to check the numbers for 2013. Fact is that Germany’s defense spending has increased by 2 billion Euro between 2009 and 2013.

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