Skip to content

Europe's New Chairman and Envoy

The New York Times writes about the two new (or upgraded) posts that were filled in for the European Union yesterday:
Leaders of the 27 countries of the European Union on Thursday night chose Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian prime minister, as the European Union’s first president, and Catherine Ashton of Britain, currently the bloc’s trade commissioner, as its high representative for foreign policy. The vote was unanimous.

Both officials are highly respected but little known outside their own countries. After the European Union’s eight-year battle to rewrite its internal rules and to pass the Lisbon Treaty that created these two new jobs, the selection of such low-profile figures seemed to highlight Europe’s problems instead of its readiness to take a more united and forceful place in world affairs.
The eurosceptic British newspaper The Telegraph noted the following press reactions:
Spain's El Pais said the EU will be "led by two dull and low-profile figures."

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau claimed the 27-nation bloc will be represented by "leaders with no sparkle, without a vision and even without experience in the required fields".

France's Liberation newspaper noted that EU leaders had rejected candidates from the bloc's newest members in eastern Europe but had at least chosen a woman to fill one of the posts.
Neither the American nor the British press have much grasp of what these posts entail or how the EU works in general. To be fair, it can be complicated. But the British media have vastly exaggerated the importance of the President of the European Council, and to a lesser extent, also of the High Representative. The way these posts are written down in the Treaties mean they are little more than a chairman and a souped-up envoy for the Member States. So what we have is European Union in choosing competent, low-key people for senior posts shocker.

Obviously, this means that Europe is doomed.

(hat-tip to Joerg for forwarding these articles)

Europe Surging in Afghanistan?

That's what Daniel Korski notes in his latest ECFR policy brief. Factually, a lot of European countries have already sent more troops in Afghanistan, and still more are on the way there. Between November 2006 and March 2009, European troop levels increased by nearly 9,000, and European troops now make up nearly half of the ISAF mission. This has been the result of a set of (mostly) quiet revolutions in national policies on Afghanistan. At the same time, Europe still has not delivered a clear common strategy on Afghanistan, which is lamentable.

Korski makes some considered recommendations for an EU policy, which is very welcome, considering the lack of consideration on the official levels. At the same time, his ideas call for a critical review. Korski offers a list of seven policy recommendations, which are:
  • A twin process of reconciliation with the Taliban and constitutional reform to be launched
  • EU to field a large election observer mission and NATO to deploy the NATO Response Force for an election-focused boost to ISAF
  • NATO allies to improve training of the Afghan army by setting up a Military Advisory Force, a Military Advisory Centre and launching a NATO training mission for non-basic army training
  • EU to grow its police mission by hiring 500 officers on the open market, including from third states, like Ukraine, Moldova, Morocco, Serbia and Turkey, while reconciling the roles of the US CSTC-A and EUPOL
  • EU states to support the establishment of a special UN-backed serious crimes tribunal, located in Kabul or elsewhere in the region, to take on drug kingpins
  • US and EU to call for a new UN “assistance envoy” for Pakistan and to organise a donors’ conference
  • EU to launch a “capital reconstruction team” for Kabul to guarantee a concerted focus on security and reconstruction
The notion of starting a tribunal for drug traffickers as a form of nation building is an innovative idea, and a temporary boost in troop numbers in the weeks leading up to the elections also sounds like a good plan that could bring real results as well as goodwill for an effort that is managable for Europe's militaries and can be sold to the domestic electorate. Continue reading "Europe Surging in Afghanistan?"

Cheese Wars and Strong Coffee

Americans will soon pay more for a precious piece of French Roquefort. The American government has as a last, petty gesture in its trade policy decided to raise tariffs on the product from 100 to 300 percent. This is part of a more general round of retaliatory tariffs in response to the ban the European Union maintains on beef produced with growth hormones. But it is clear that Roquefort has been targeted for political sensitivity, as the Independent writes:
There was a violent reaction in France when import duties were first raised on roquefort cheese 10 years ago. The small farmers' leader José Bové – then a roquefort producer – began his rise to international celebrity by attacking a McDonald's restaurant at Millau, near Roquefort, with mallets and a bulldozer in August 1999.
The main effect this will have is making Roquefort more exclusive. And, perhaps, something of a political statement among Michael Pollan fans and the like. I do hope the French embassy will react appropriately at societal events. If the new administration does not dial this back... Continue reading "Cheese Wars and Strong Coffee"

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.
Continue reading "Obama the Atlanticist?"


In immediate response to the Russia-Georgia war, it has been popular to say that we are witnessing the 'return' of history. This was the title of a post by Stanley Crossick, crossposted on the Atlantic Review. There have been many who have heralded the return of history, some even more or less directly after Francis Fukuyama wrote his seminal essay 'The End of History?'. Most recently, Bob Kagan has written a book called 'The Return of History and the End of Dreams', which stems from the essay 'End of Dreams, Return of History'.

Francis Fukuyama answers some of the critics in his Washington Post column 'They Can Only Go So Far'. One interesting point Fukuyama makes is that we can't paint all forms of autocracy with one brush, that there are important differences between various forms of authoritarianism. He also argues that none of the current forms have an idea:

The facile historical analogies to earlier eras have two problems: They presuppose a cartoonish view of international politics during these previous periods, and they imply that "authoritarian government" constitutes a clearly defined type of regime -- one that's aggressive abroad, abusive at home and inevitably dangerous to world order. In fact, today's authoritarian governments have little in common, save their lack of democratic institutions.

The thing to say about 'The End of History' is that people generally misunderstand it. Fukuyama himself says so, and Blake Hounshell nods in agreement on Foreig Policy's Passport blog. It's unclear to me whether the idea is misunderstood by the many who have debated it in writing. Bob Kagan certainly gets the point.

Continue reading "Authoritarianisms"

Will the West Lose Turkey?

Ms. Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute asks in the Wall Street Journal:
Will Turkey Abandon NATO?

Will Turkey side with the United States, its NATO ally, and let more U.S. military ships into the Black Sea to assist Georgia? Or will it choose Russia? A Turkish refusal would seriously impair American efforts to support the beleaguered Caucasus republic. Ever since Turkey joined NATO in 1952, it has hoped to never have to make a choice between the alliance and its Russian neighbor to the North. Yet that is precisely the decision before Ankara. If Turkey does not allow the ships through, it will essentially be taking Russia's side. (...)

Continue reading "Will the West Lose Turkey?"

Is Russia a Superpower? Cold War II?

Ronald Steel, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, argues that Russia's strong hand against Georgia signals that, “A Superpower Is Reborn” (NYT):
THE psychodrama playing out in the Caucasus is not the first act of World War III, as some hyperventilating politicians and commentators would like to portray it. Rather, it is the delayed final act of the cold war. And while the Soviet Union lost that epic conflict, Russia won this curtain call in a way that ensures Washington will have to take it far more seriously in the future.

This is not just because, as some foreign-policy “realists” have argued, Moscow has enough troops and oil to force us to take into consideration its supposedly irrational fears. Rather, the conflict in Georgia showed how rational Russia’s concerns over American meddling in its traditional sphere of influence are, and that Washington had better start treating it like the great power it still is.
Continue reading "Is Russia a Superpower? Cold War II?"

European Disunion

This is a guest blog post by Pat Patterson:

Kenneth R. Weinstein, the CEO of the Hudson Institute, wrote a recent article in The Weekly Standard which argues that the divisions within the EU are greater and institutionalized than the more publicized division between the EU and the US.

Many of the policies, most recently instigated by France, have been resisted because they are seen as solely in French national interest and in most cases are the antithesis of the interests of the EU bureaucracy and Germany: "But suspicions linger in Berlin and elsewhere that Sarkozy's true goal in forming the [Mediterranean] Union was to expand France's sphere of influence at Germany's expense."

Continue reading "European Disunion"