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Thought Experiment: NATO Distorts American Strategic Interest

In Aesop’s fable the Lion, the Bear and the Fox, the lion and the bear fight over a deer until both are too tired to continue, the fox, having seen their fatigue and lacerations runs off with the deer in its jaws. America, being the Lion, is reengaging in its global power struggle through NATO with Russia, the Bear. The deer in this scenario is a strategic interest or something akin to a superpower status. For the sake of argument, the Fox can be China. America too busy with Russia means it cannot pay attention to a greater threat of China who economically and demographically is far more likely to supersede it than Russia – which is both geopolitically vulnerable and demographically weak. In this sense NATO drags America to engage against Russia over Ukraine and it complicates a possible convergence of interests with Russia in combatting radical Islamic terrorism. In sum there are few direct strategic interests in combatting Russia.

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Western Foreign Policy Dissent and NATO's Role in the World

Jeremy Corbyn recently won his re-election to lead Britain’s opposition party, the Labour Party. An ardent socialist and sceptic of interventionism, he has advocated leaving NATO before being leader. Now as leader, he has consistently criticised it for destabilising eastern Europe due to its Eastward expansion in the 1990s, antagonising Russia and being involved outside NATO’s traditional sphere, for example in Afghanistan. Corbyn has publically argued at Labour Party, Stop the War Coalition and Momentum rallies (extra-parliamentary organisations closely allied to Corbyn) that NATO should be ‘closed down’ to bring a halt to potential war in Eastern Europe. With his position secure in Parliament, his argument, and the movements that agree will not disappear.    

Corbyn’s foreign policy argument is that NATO is a hegemonic instrument for the West, particularly America and oil companies. Recent history has shown that the United States has declared war on more states, like Iraq and Panama and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda or Somali rebels than Russia has. NATO has been used in interventions, like Libya, that in Corbyn’s eyes bring together NATO’s imperialism and oil security. Further evidence cited by Corbyn is that NATO is by far the strongest military alliance in the world– with a combined budget of $900 billion, with the United States contributing two thirds; it dwarfs Russia’s $50 billion. This hard military power can only ever be malign, military force that size cannot be benign according to Corbyn.    

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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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Obama Turns to Europe?

"Aspreading financial crisis has accomplished what tradition, habits of alliance management and shared security concerns could not: It has given Europe a central place in President Obama's view of global affairs," writes Jim Hoagland in The Washington Post:

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Europe and China: Weapons for Investment?

Atlantic Community:

EU countries mired in debt are getting help from an unlikely source: China. The ascendant superpower is buying up large amounts of European bonds and investing heavily in euro zone countries. Moreover, there is talk of a reversal of the long standing EU arms embargo on China. Is this all a coincidence?

Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and now managing director at Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University commented: "If all this were to play out - that is, lifting the embargo, subsequent sanctions, etc. - it would be a new low point in U.S.-E.U. relations." (HT: NATO Source)

I agree. I hope the EU does not lift the arms embargo. In my opinion NATO countries should not sell any arms to non-NATO members.

The Increasing Importance of the Transatlantic Alliance

"The transatlantic alliance is likely to become more relevant as new powers rise." That is the conclusion of the report "The Transatlantic Alliance in a Multipolar World" (pdf) by Thomas Wright and Richard Weitz, which was just published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The most interesting argument in the report is IMHO: "The future appears likely to bring multipolarity without multilateralism. It will thus fall to the United States and Europe to act as a convenor of like-minded countries to ensure that the integrity and effectiveness of the international order is preserved."

This is of great relevance because:

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China, EU & the United States: Holy Trinity or Ménage à Trois?

Stanley Crossick, a "European of British nationality," has published an essay which argues that a strong trilateral relationship, reinforced by three strong bilateral relationships is essential. He wrote a short version for Atlantic Review:

In the coming 20 years, the China-US-EU relationship will decide the trend of international relations. (Zbigniew Brzezinski: c 2004)

Since the end of the Cold War, a bi-polar world has become mono-polar but may be in the process of being transformed into a multi-polar world or, preferably, a multilateral one. Globalisation and rapid scientific and technological advancements are drastically transforming international relations. Although political ideology is no longer a driving force, it takes a generation or two to eliminate recent dogma, prejudices and perceptions. Regional cooperation and development have become important factors.

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Revealing Protest Against Beijing Olympics

This is my favorite quote of the year so far: "Would we have allowed Nazi Germany to host the Olympics?"

This awesome statement was found on a protest sign in San Francisco. German Joys and Andrew Sullivan have a picture.

This statement is fascinating on so many levels. Not just because the author has not heard about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. And not just because of his/her comparison between Nazi Germany and China. I find the statement revealing because the author apparently thinks that it is the United States as Master of the Universe that gets to decide who is allowed to host the Olympics.

Apparently it is not just US presidents and senators (and plenty of slightly megalomaniac "experts" without any military experience) who boldly declare stuff like "we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon" or similar phrases along the lines of "We must not allow evil doers doing evil stuff." Apparently even the usually pretty left-leaning protestors in San Francisco consider the United States to be a hyperpower.

Actually, right now President Bush is not making any bold statements regarding China. All of a sudden, he prefers quiet diplomacy. What a change from this second inauguration speech three years ago.

Over at Atlantic Community, we have recommended a few press commentaries regarding China and the Olympics:

Chinese Outcry Against the Western Media: "The Chinese believe that Tibet cannot be the real reason for Western criticism of China and call for boycotts."
The Positive Side of Chinese Nationalism: "The Olympics have inspired Chinese nationalism which will lead to increased civil engagement and awareness of the responsibilities and rights of citizenship."
Will the Chinese Change International Institutions?: "In the past, the World Bank, like the IMF, was traditionally dominated by American, Europeans, and their neoliberal agenda. However as American financial pillars are now underpinned by Chinese money, it has become impossible to ignore Chinese interests."

UPDATE: Megalomania and arrogance is of course not limited to the US, but also widespread in Europe, where declarations about "not allowing" Iran, China and others to do something are even more ridiculous considering our real political influence and military power. I just wanted to clarify that this post is not meant to bash the United States, but to criticize stupid and arrogant people, who overestimate their country's power. These people are a danger to their country.