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Clinton gives Atlanticist speech at the Pacific

Hillary Clinton is much more supportive of NATO and Europe than all the other presidential candidates. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave an impressive speech describing NATO as "one of the best investments America has ever made". She stressed the need for US leadership and collaboration with allies in the struggle against ISIS. Bernie Sanders has yet to give a major speech on NATO. Donald Trump's opinion on NATO reflects widely held sentiments in the US.

Hillary Clinton's speech was impressive because she spoke at Stanford on the Pacific coast, and not on the Atlantic. She spoke to students, not the old Cold War generation with a stronger attachment to Europe. Often accused of pandering to the desires and needs of her given audience, Hillary Clinton here did not talk about opportunities in Asia-Pacific region, but about the threats in Europe and the Middle East and the need for strong US engagement in these regions. Moreover, the speech comes shortly after recent statements by Donald Trump and President Obama who criticized Europeans as mainly free-riders on defense in interviews with Washington Post and The Atlantic respectively.

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If the US Presidential Candidates Would Run for Office in Europe

Wouldn't it be best for the United States if Hillary Clinton would be the Republican nominee and Bernie Sanders the Democratic nominee?
Certainly the US would then be more like Germany and other European countries for better or worse...

Bernie Sanders would make a great Social Democrat in Europe, one with a business friendly attitude towards small and medium seized entreprises.  Hillary Clinton could be center-left Conservative, more business-friendly than Angela Merkel.

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The Return of the 90s

I watched the West Wing again recently. I associate this show with the upbeat 90s, the unipolar moment, and the pre 9/11 area, but it aired in the United States from 1999-2006, i.e. primarily during the Bush rather than the Clinton administration. I think for many Democrats the Clinton era continued on TV for two years, until 9/11 happened, the mood changed, 24 with Jack Bauer became popular and the West Wing ratings dropped.

Today I read on the State Department blog about an Ambassador Lyman traveling to Darfur. What? Did not Josh usually send Donna Moss to the dangerous places?

Secretary Clinton's statement on "our limitless faith in human potential" could very well have been from Bartlett as well. Secretary Clinton said after a meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton on "advancing democratic values and universal rights, efforts to protect civilians and implement the United Nations Security Council resolution in Libya" and other issues:

The United States and the European Union are partners working together on, I think, every global issue and regional challenge that you can imagine. We're doing the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once, and we are united in a transatlantic community that is based on shared democratic values and limitless faith in human potential.

Obama has not just killed Bin Laden. He also killed cynicism and brought humanitarian interventions back. The return of 90s. I can't wait for new West Wing episodes.

We Need to Focus on Russia

While Western Europe welcomed VP Biden and Secretary Clinton's announcement for a new and more open engagement of Russia, Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation thinks that America should not push the reset button yet.

Dr. Cohen is concerned about Russia's Revisionist Foreign Policy. He argues that Obama administration "must raise the profile of Russian, Eurasian, and Caspian affairs on the U.S. foreign policy agenda," because "Russia is and will remain one of the most significant foreign policy challenges."

Russia strives to dominate Europe, particularly Eastern and Central Europe, including Germany, through its quasi-monopolistic gas supply and its significant share of the oil market and of other strategic resources. (...) Russian energy giant Gazprom has been on a shopping spree, acquiring European energy assets. Europe is projected to be dependent on Russia for over 60 percent of its gas consumption by 2030, with some countries already 100 percent dependent on Gazprom. Russia has shown a willingness to use this dependency and its energy influence as a tool of foreign policy, shutting down or threatening to shut down the flow of gas to countries perceived to be acting against Moscow's interest, as in the cases of Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

German policy makers are considerably less concerned about dependence on Russia gas and argue that Russia needs trade with us at least as much. Perhaps they are naive. Or the Heritage expert still has a Cold War mindset. Or it is a mix of both.

I mistrust the Russian government and I am concerned about Russia's foreign policy, but believe that a new engagement (pushing the reset button) will serve us better than Cold War rhetoric. We need to work with Russia on common challenges (nuclear disarmament, sanctions on Iran, proliferation in general, Afghanistan, transport routes to Afghanistan etc) and should avoid for now unnecessary confrontations over missile defense and further NATO enlargement for Georgia and Ukraine, which are not ready yet anyway and who would not contribute to our collective defense.

In my humble opinion, Obama is on the right track. Europeans, however, still have to do their homework: We need to reduce our energy dependence on Russia and we need to a joint EU position on Russia, i.e. need to find consensus among Western and Eastern EU members. Russia will only respect a strong and united EU.

Telegraph: "Obama just plain rude to Britain"

Iain Martin writes in his blog for the Telegraph (HT: Marie-Claude):

The morning papers and TV last night featured plenty of comment focused on the White House's very odd and, frankly, exceptionally rude treatment of a British PM. (...) Well, the next time you need something doing, something which impinges on your national security, then try calling the French, or the Japanese, or best of all the Germans.

This post has received 453 comments so far. Will President Obama soon be as unpopular as President Bush? Probably not, but he is heading to Clinton's approval ratings, which were not as good during his presidency as they are now in his retirement and philanthropist activities.

Trans-Atlantic vs. Trans-Pacific

Barack Obama's first foreign trip as president will take him to Canada tomorrow, not to Europe. He gave his first press interview to an Arab TV station, not a European broadcaster.

Secretary Clinton went on a tour to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, but not yet to Europe. She brought "an invitation from President Obama to Prime Minister Taro Aso to meet him at the White House next Tuesday. He will be the first foreign leader received at the White House," reports the New York Times. Michael Green, the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, describes in the Wall Street Journal how to freshen up "a key trans-Pacific alliance."

Should we get envious or even concerned that the new and cool team in Washington does not want to play "Hope & Change" with us? Is the Pacific region taking priority over Europe in Obama's US foreign policy? Could be, but that is not bad for us. Europe benefits from America's strong security presence in Asia. My friend Shawn Beilfuss, a supply chain manager in Melbourne, agrees and concludes: The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Relationships: Not a Zero-Sum Game.

Besides, we are still winning the Google Fight: Searching for "trans-atlantic alliance" produces twice more results on Google than "trans-pacific alliance." And we are even more popular, if you skip the dash after "trans."

Moreover, Vice-President Biden was already in Germany, as for instance Michael Knigge points out in a commentary for Deutsche Welle: Biden gave a foreign policy keynote speech at the Munich Security Conference. Europeans got all warm and excited, when Biden promised that the new administration would listen more, even though he stressed that America would also ask for more support. Europeans are not quite prepared to deliver, which French President Sarkozy emphasized by rhetorically asking in Munich: "Does Europe want peace, or does Europe want to be left in peace?" I think we learned from Japan how to be a good ally of the United States: just smile!

Endnote: European leaders are hitting the road as well and reorient their foreign policies in search of new economic deals. ABC News reports: Old Europe Reaches out to New Iraq

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the first German foreign minister to come to Iraq in more than 20 years, arrived one week after Nicolas Sarkozy visited Baghdad, the French president calling on other European countries to follow his lead "to support the peace."

Strobe Talbott: Obama 'Gets' it 'Big Time'

SPIEGEL Online has a long, somewhat scrappy interview with Strobe Talbott, the former US deputy Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. Talbott isn't straightforward in answering all of the questions, but it's still a worthwhile read for the glimpses into what a foreign policy under Obama and Secretary of State Clinton would look like. Here's a telling response:
I think Obama gets this big time. There are strong indications that he has an acute understanding of these problems. Just think of his remarkable election night speech at Grant Park in Chicago. He basically said, "We have some tough problems, do not expect them to be handled quickly, not in a year and maybe not in four years." He summed it up in three phrases: two wars, a planet in peril and an international financial crisis. I checked with people familiar with the way his mind works, and the order in which he put those was no accident.
On a question how the Obama administration would approach Europe for support in Afghanistan, Talbott said that Obama would 'practice politics as the art of the possible'. Which seems more conducive to getting greater participation than making unrealistic demands and hammering on the table. But unfortunately we have to try to read between the lines what Talbott thinks is possible. It appears that he thinks a fundamental change in the rules of engagement for German troops is not in the cards.

On Russia policy, Talbott thinks that a thaw in relations is likely, and excludes the possibility of Georgian entry into NATO on the short term. The reason he gives is that Georgia would not further the security of the alliance as it is 'divided against itself'. This rationale would also hold for the Ukraine. On the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Talbott equivocates, so on that topic there is no enlightenment of Obama's possible policies.

Obama the Atlanticist?

Before the details of Barack Obama's foreign policy team started to emerge, I had expected that his administration would take a global approach to foreign policy and security challenges, and would not necessarily engage Europe first. This perception was fleshed out in the Atlantic Review post 'Obama the Catalyst' by Don, and my post on the Berlin speech, 'Obama keeps it Global'.

The foreign policy people Obama is surrounding himself with speak more for an accelerated renaissance of the transatlantic alliance than anything else.

Hillary Clinton, the next Secretary of State, was more interested in Europe than Obama during the primaries for the Democratic nomination, as Christian Andreas Morris wrote at the time on the Atlantic Community. Moreover, her husband's administration had most of its high profile foreign policy engagements in Europe. Insofar as Hillary Clinton received foreign policy experience through 'osmosis', Europe looms large in her frame of reference.

Matthew Yglesias has noted that the main thing about retired general James L. Jones, Obama's National Security Advisor, is that no one really knows what his views are. It is not too hard to find out some of those views, however, as Jones delivered a number of speeches when he was SACEUR from 2003 to 2006, which can be found on the SHAPE website. A few more pieces can be found on the website of the Atlantic Council of the Unites States, of which Jones is currently the chairman.

You just don't get more atlanticist than Jim Jones. He grew up in France, speaks the language, and spent his years as SACEUR in Brussels on a mission to transform NATO. In his farewell address as SACEUR he said:
I love this Alliance. I love what it stands for. I love for the inherent goodness of its people. I love the inherent example that the members of the Alliance set for the world over. And I think it's a wonderful, vibrant organisation that is alive. Alive and prosperous and going to make tremendous contributions, the likes of which perhaps none of us can even imagine in this 21st Century.
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