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Not a Riddle: Reading Russia - and Responding Resolutely

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.

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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"

Brainstorming about Russia and Ukraine

A few good reads on how to respond to Russia regarding Ukraine:

Admiral Stavridis (ret) makes the case for a vigorous NATO response in Foreign Policy: "NATO Needs to Move Now on Crimea. Action may provoke -- but so does doing nothing."

Steve Saideman: Let's Play the NATO Game 

Ingo Manteufel for DW: Crimea is Putin's bargaining chip. Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategy for the Ukrainian conflict is clear. As a result, Ukraine's new government and the West are in a dangerous jam.

Peter Baker in NY Times: Russia to Pay? Not So Simple

Not so good was this prediction:

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Why Central Europe Needs Atlanticism Now

A Must Read article in The American Interest by A. Wess Mitchell, President of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington DC and Jan Havranek, Director of the Defense Policy and Strategy Division at the Czech Ministry of Defense, who writes in his personal capacity.

Although the piece is specifically addressed to US readers and calls for more American leadership, European students of history (of all ages) should read it, including those government officials and politicians in Germany and elsewhere who claim to think beyond the next four years.

"In short, it isn't just Atlanticism that is in crisis; it is the entire paradigm of post-Cold War Europe. The fact that Central European countries are less Atlanticist has not necessarily made them more Europeanist. On the new European map, economic power resides in the east-central core of the continent, in the nexus of overlapping geopolitical and economic interests between Germany and the states of the Baltic-to-Black Sea corridor. This configuration resembles the Mitteleuropa of Bismarck, stripped of its Prussian military overtones, more than it does the federative European vision of Monnet and Schuman, or the Atlanticist vision of Asmus and Vondra. (...)

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Syria, Germany and the Europeanization of Great Britain

Great Britain became more European on Thursday, August 29th, when the parliament refused to give its Prime Minister the support he wanted (but did not need) for air strikes against Syria. Now David Cameron has been humiliated and a precedent for future war authorizations has been set.

The British public and the members of parliament are haunted by the Iraq war syndrome, tired of a decade of war, and concerned by a) lack of sufficient evidence that Syria’s military was responsible for the chemical attack, b) lack of legality and c) lack of strategy. The “special relationship” with the United States has been damaged heavily, although it must be said that its importance has been exaggerated in the past.

Britain is now more European. This could turn out to be more of a bad than a good thing, but I am optimistic as there could be more unity when strategic cultures are similar. Most other observers see this negatively, even describe Britain as turning into Switzerland or Germany. Yep, that’s supposed to be an insult.

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Interview with France 24 about Obama Speech in Berlin

The international news channel France 24 interviewed me after the Obama speech in Berlin and gave me an opportunity to talk about nuclear arms reduction, Obama's message to Europe, German defense spending, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and more. After roasting in the sun for hours waiting for Obama and interviewing Berliners about their expectations, I got to stand under equally strong spotlights for an hour of live television.

The other participants of the debate moderated by François Picard were Tyson Barker of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington DC, Professor Anne Deysine of Paris X-Nanterre, Professor Anton Koslov of the American Graduate School of International Diplomacy, and the journalist Martin Untersinger. 

In the first video of the show I commented on Obama's statements on nuclear arms reduction and his goal of Global Zero (at 11:47 minutes). I also pointed out what I believe was Obama's most important message to Germans and Europeans in general (at 13:27 min) and called for solidarity and an increase in German defense spending to meet the NATO criteria (14:00 min). I assessed his speech in general (15:36 min) and spoke on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (16:10):


Below, the second video for the other half of the talk show begins with my comments on the high security measures for the speech, then I spoke on PRISM and data protection (12:13 min), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) again (18:57 and at 23:38):

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Obama Criticizes Complacency in the "City of Hope"

"Hello Börlin. Thank you, Chancellor Mörkel." Obama charmed the crowd and gave an emotional boost to German-American relations, but I think his political message to Germany was too subtle and has not convinced politicians and citizens.

President Obama said that "freedom won here in Berlin", while he stood behind bullet-proof glass in a sort of aquarium... More than anything he said, it is this level of protection that convinced me that we live in a dangerous world and that we cannot take security for granted and that freedom is precious.

My video is shaky, but I think you will see that the crowd was in a great mood. Yes, it was by invitation only, but still pretty diverse:

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US Army Tanks Out, German Navy Ships In

The Times They Are a-Changin: The last 22 Abrams tanks of the US Army have left Germany. From Stars & Stripes:

From World War II on through the Cold War, tanker units were a heavy presence in Germany. At its peak, Germany was home to 20 NATO armored divisions, or about 6,000 tanks, according to the 21st TSC. "There is no [U.S.] tank on German soil. It's a historic moment," said Lt. Col. Wayne Marotto, 21st TSC spokesman.

Meanwhile, the US Navy (h/t Marian) reports:

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