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NATO has a New Strategic Concept

The Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon today is very concise. Just eleven pages. Let's see how substantial it is. And how it will be implemented.

At the Open Think Tank, my day job, we have created some policy recommendations for the New Strategic Concept over the summer and are currently running a Policy Workshop on Russian-Western Relations, another big issue at the Lisbon summit.

NATO features a summary of my survey of Russian experts in a special Lisbon summit edition of NATO Review, which is layouted in Portugal's national colors. Lovely!

"Support Our Troops" - The German Edition

What is common in the United States, is rather rare in Germany: Expressing support of our soldiers in Afghanistan.

While most US critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make extra efforts to distinguish between criticism of the strategy/purpose of the wars and the service of the troops, such differentiation usually is not made in Germany. I have never seen a car with the bumper sticker "Support our Troops."

The Bundeswehr troops do not get much support from citizens, media, celebrities or politicians. Instead many soldiers are concerned about the opinion polls that indicate popular disapproval of the Afghanistan war.

Therefore the Atlantische Initiative (my day job) has teamed up with Germany's biggest daily newspaper and started the campaign "Feldpost für unsere Soldaten!"
We encourage our readers and members to write short personal messages of support for the Bundeswehr troops. We will then forward the best ones to the various bases in Afghanistan. Several hundred messages have already been published by our partners at the tabloid Bild.

Who Are the Major Players in Transatlantic Relations?

TIME Magazine has just published its annual list of the world's most influential people. Some strange results.

I think we should come up with our own list. Therefore I am asking at Who are the biggest movers and shakers in transatlantic relations? Who is setting the transatlantic agenda right now? Who are the most influential leaders and thinkers? I would appreciate your suggestions.

NATO's Future Depends on Europe

On July 7th, NATO officially kicked off the process of drafting a new strategic concept. This process is an opportunity for Europe to recommit to the Alliance and stop the slow but steady process of "decoupling," which Jan Techau describes as the biggest threat to NATO. The director of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin argues on that European governments need to do two things:

First, they need to muster all their creativity to provide policy-relevant input for the upcoming drafting procedure and the ratification process that will follow. Only then will there be the chance that the new strategic concept is going to be a politically meaningful, intellectually strong and strategically far-sighted document. Only then will it be able to unfold the self-binding power that is needed to counter the decoupling tendencies. And only then will the signal be clear enough that Europeans are still serious about what it means to be partners in an alliance.

Secondly, European governments must finally get straight with their populations on what's ahead. Yes, the world is an increasingly insecure place. No, the US won't be prepared to carry the burden alone any longer. Yes, that means more and smarter spending on unpopular stuff, more engagement, and most certainly more casualties. No, this isn't war-mongering, this is the 21st century. Say it publicly. Say it now.

What are the chances that European governments will come up with enough resolve to do those two things?

Before you answer, please take the recent "mixed developments" in account, which Spiegel International writes about:

Behind closed doors, the German government is slowly but surely changing the rules for combat on Afghanistan, allowing its forces to take a more offensive approach. At the same time, German popular support for the "war" that no one wants to call a war continues to decline.

Excited About Obama, Realistic about Transatlantic Cooperation

German and American policy pundits and exchange students look forward to a new phase in transatlantic relations, but also recognize the limits of further US-European cooperation. That's my conclusion from speaking to dozens of America enthusiasts at Telekom representation in Berlin, where one of the many election night parties took place.

Here's my interview with Dr. John C. Hulsman and Dr. Henning Riecke of the German Council of Foreign Relations as well as Johannes Thimm, a Ph.D. candidate at the Free University:



You will find the interview with the German Fulbright alumni and the US exchange students on

The Bin Laden Prism

Spiegel Online has an interview up with US author Steve Coll on his new book: 'The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century'. Steve Coll, who is currently Director of the New America Foundation, states the reasons for his interest in the Bin Laden family in the following way:
I believe that Osama bin Laden and the broad contradictions among religion, tradition and modernity in the Middle East, with enmity toward the West on one side and the attractiveness of our ideas and way of life on the other, is best understood through the prism of this clan.
There are some intriguing 'did you know that...?' facts in the interview. For instance, both Bin Laden's father and Bin Laden's elder brother Salem died in airplane crashes. The general arguments on the contradictions of modernity in the Middle East, and the conceptualisation of fundamentalist Islam as an essentially modern phenomenon itself are perhaps more familiar.

What Coll's angle does enlighten is the extent to which Osama Bin Laden and his family have a personal connection to the various conflicts and contradictions in the recent history of the Middle East, showing that history in an overarching frame.

Spiegel Online: 'Osama bin Laden is Planning Something for the US Election'

Brussels Forum

In just three years, the Brussels Forum has established itself as an elite annual conference for the key players in transatlantic relations. The Brussels Forum is what Davos is for the business elite and the Munich Security Conference for the defense politicians.

Steve Clemons was impressed by this year's Brussels Forum from March 14-16. Dan Drezner has posted some good gossip and written something more serious for Newsweek.

Constanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund, the main organizer of the Brussels Forum, presented an interesting sounding paper: "America and Europe, seven years after 9/11: Hard power humbled, soft power exposed, and a looser, more pragmatic relationship," available for download as a PDF.

NYT: Obama is Supported by the Vast Majority Democratic Foreign Policy Advisors

James Traub had a very interesting article about Barack Obama's foreign policy creditentials in the New York Times. While the media and many Americans -- according to polls -- question his experience, the experts apparently prefer Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton:

In mainstream foreign-policy circles, Barack Obama is seen as the true bearer of this vision. "There are maybe 200 people on the Democratic side who think about foreign policy for a living," as one such figure, himself unaffiliated with a campaign, estimates. "The vast majority have thrown in their lot with Obama."
Hillary Clinton's inner circle consists of the senior-most figures from her husband's second term in office - the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the former national security adviser Sandy Berger and the former United Nations ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
But drill down into one of Washington's foreign-policy hives, whether the Carnegie Endowment or the Brookings Institution or Georgetown University, and you're bound to hit Obama supporters. Most of them served in the Clinton administration, too, and thus might be expected to support Hillary Clinton. But many of these younger and generally more liberal figures have decamped to Obama. And they are ardent. As Ivo Daalder, a former National Security Council official under President Clinton who now heads up a team advising Obama on nonproliferation issues, puts it, "There's a feeling that this is a guy who's going to help us transform the way America deals with the world."

Obama got a bit frustrated at the end of an interview with James Traub, because of the constant criticism of his lack of foreign experience:

He wanted to know what kind of experience Clinton supposedly had that he didn't, and what kind of crisis she was supposedly better suited to than he, and why "toughness" had become a stand-in for experience, and how Clinton could get credit for it when she failed to stand up to Bush on the Iraq vote. We batted all this around. Finally he said, "Ask Nye why Hillary's paint-by-the-numbers foreign policy makes her more qualified to handle a crisis when for most of our history our crises have come from using force when we shouldn't, not by failing to use force."

I find it difficult to form an opinion on the foreign policy positions of many presidential candidates based on their statements so far. While I consider Barack Obama very impressive (incl. the quotes in this article), I found his Foreign Affairs essay rather superficial.