Tag: European Union (Page 1 of 2)

Dark Days Ahead: Does Trump Have a Point About Europe?

For the first year of the Trump Administration, the Washington D.C.- based denizens of the U.S. foreign policy establishment assured themselves that although Donald Trump had tipped over the geopolitical apple cart, everything broken could be put back into place without undue difficulty. They were wrong.

Taking their cue from the caustic reactions of American allies to Trump’s twin summit debacles, foreign policy elites on both sides of the aisle are now a chastened bunch–only too aware of the immense damage Trump is doing to the fabric holding together America’s alliances, the de jure and de facto clusters of its closest allies.

The allies have become increasingly disabused of this Administration’s year-long recitation of how much it values them, in both trade and security terms. For they now stand on the precipice of deeming the U.S. a pariah nation state, not to be trusted and sufficiently harmful to their interests that they appear on the verge of sidelining the U.S. in their renewed approach to preventing the world from succumbing to the throes of nationalism. It would appear the world is at an unprecedented inflection point, at least in the postwar era.

Donald Trump’s penchant for lauding dictators and potentates, while denigrating allies and friends–in remarkably personal and pugilistic terms–has caused our NATO, G-7, and WTO allies to begin laying the groundwork for isolating the U.S. when it comes to tending to their core national security interests. Already in the early days of the new Administration, public reports surfaced that the UK and Israel had discussed at the highest levels of their governments whether it might be necessary to begin withholding certain tranches of their most sensitive intelligence.

In recent weeks the President of the European Council Donald Tusk remarked “with friends like this, who needs enemies,” while the new German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gave a speech in which he equated recent U.S. foreign policy forays with those of Russia’s actions that have directly harmed Europe. Already his predecessor Sigmar Gabriel had declared on his way out that “the U.S. is permanently changed.” And Emmanuel Macron declared this week that France does not share the same values with the U.S. Only our Asian allies have been more cautious in their recent appraisals of American missteps, for traditionally Japan and South Korea are less public about their discontent.

The cost of the unprecedented calumny on the part of the Trump Administration in their eyes is significant, and growing closer to severe with each passing week. For it is increasingly clear that America’s allies are becoming less secure and less well-off due to direct assaults on them from this President, both verbal and consequential. Ipso facto, the U.S. is becoming less secure and less well off as a result. Continue reading


The Many Faces of Trump Foreign Policy

From NBC. Admit it, you'd rather look at Nick Offerman than Donald Trump. Which is good. Because usage rights.

From NBC. Admit it, you’d rather look at Nick Offerman than Donald Trump. Which is good. Because usage rights.

It won’t be too long before we start to get a better understanding of what foreign policy in a Trump Administration will actually look like. It’s useful to keep in mind that current rhetoric is no guarantee of future grand strategy. Remember when we all worried that the Bush Administration was going to be too isolationist? Good times.

But let’s assume, for a moment, that the past is prologue. Or the prologue is the main part of the book. Or whatever.

This raises an interesting puzzle: what the $@!#* • #!*$$%*(!! is he doing? Seriously. What the !#(&–^&!# stupid #$#(*$!! is going on?

As I noted in another post, on what godforsaken inhospitable bright orange gas giant is it a good idea to attack your most successful alliance at the same exact time that you’re picking fights with your nearest peer-competitor—that is, China? And it isn’t like the incoming administration has been sending unambiguous signals to key Asian allies while it’s been prodding China. Oh yeah, and also North Korea’s in the mix.

As I was thinking about this—duly motivated by a discussion among fellow international-relations specialists on Facebook—I took to the Twitters to work out some alternative theories. Here they are:

The Chess Master.” Trump is a strategic genius. He recognizes that the US cannot afford to defend Europe while threatening war with China. He needs to take Russia out of the picture. So that means a “grand bargain” that will concede to Russia its privileged sphere of influence, as well as forward some of its other strategic priorities in western Eurasia. Not only does this free up the United States to take on Beijing, but it might even entice Russia to remain neutral—or support the US. It’s like the Austrian Diplomatic Revolution. Which turned out terrific for Vienna.

“The Transactionalist.” This is the conventional wisdom on Trump. He thinks in terms of short-term zero-sum bargains, mercantilist economics, and is deeply insecure about being taken advantage of. In his mind, NATO helps trade competitors. It’s basically a trade subsidy for Germany. But he can make big, splashy deals with countries like Russia. Maybe he can squeeze better deals from the NATO allies as well. There is a “T” in NATO, after all. It doesn’t have to stand for “Treaty.”

“Mirror Universe Teddy Roosevelt.” Trump speaks loudly and carries… a small stick… in his freakishly small hands. He’s all bluster. US foreign policy will largely carry on as normal, under the watchful eye of Defense, State, and second-tier national-security staff. In fact, Trump’s barking might just get a few NATO countries to make token increases in their defense spending, or offer more subsidies for American troops.

“The Buffoon.” This is kind of like Mirror Universe Teddy Roosevelt, but he actually means it; cooler heads aren’t going to prevail. It really is that bad. In other words, Trump is an impulsive narcissist and a walking example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Don’t worry too much about strategic logic. There really isn’t any. But some nice commentators—at Fox News, NewsMax, whatever new #MAGA journals appear, or the National Enquirer—will be happy to tell us that it’s genius. In a hundred years, Chinese revisionist historians will argue that there actually was a calculated grand strategy. They will be wrong.

“The Leninist.” The Trump ‘brain trust’—some combination of Bannon and Flynn—just want to burn it all down. This is something Cheryl Rofer (blog, Twitter) emphasizes. As reported at The Daily Beast:

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

In this scenario, it’s all about shredding globalism and liberal order. And that means watching NATO and the EU burn. Or, at least, gumming them up. Here, the eerie overlap with Russian interests is all a matter of convenience. They hate the liberal order, because it benefits the US and its allies. The Trumpistas hate the liberal order too, because reasons.

“The Transnational Rightist.” The Leninist is to revolutionary Marxism as The Transnational Rightist is to parliamentary socialism. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with NATO and the EU that a Europe dominated by a mix of right-wing populist and post-fascist parties won’t cure. The enemy is the broad European center—the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and so on. What Trump wants is the rise of political co-confessionals, such as the AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, and the Freedom Party in Austria. Hurting the establishment is good, but burning everything down would be a bit too much. Maybe just the EU. NATO can stay. Is Russia an ally of convenience or a fellow traveller? For now, it doesn’t really matter.

“The Useful Idiot.” Is Trump compromised by Kompromat? Is his overleveraged financial spider web dependent upon, intertwined with, or simply looking for the best deals in Russia? Does Trump just having a thing for strong, buff autocrats? Who knows? It’s all bad.

“Tales of the Incompetent Transition.” Transitions often make for policy instability and amateur-hour mistakes. I arrived at the Pentagon in 2009. The Obama Administration had just rolled out its new plans for European ballistic missile defenses. They were much better than the old plans. They also involved ending the “Third Site” in Poland. That the Bush Administration had so carefully negotiated. Apparently, no one gave  Warsaw a ‘heads up’. Things were bumpy for a bit.

Point is, even well-run transitions full of experienced people can go bad. And this is not one of those transitions. Eventually, there will be national-security principals, assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries, and the rest of the crew. People will be briefed. Many will have a clue. Things will settle down.

…. Of course, it could be any combination of these. And perhaps I’ve missed some possibilities. Thoughts?

[cross-posted at the Lawyers, Guns and Money]


Brexit Hottake

We will have much, much time to ponder and study what happened yesterday… whether it was the weather that made the difference in London, why Cameron was such an idiot, and on and on.  I have a few quick reactions guided by and due to my faith in confirmation bias!

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The “Right” to Be Forgotten & Digital Leviathans

We hear every day that technology is changing rapidly, and that we are at risk of others violating our rights through digital means.   We hear about cyber attacks that steal data, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, names, incomes, or addresses. We hear about attacks that steal intellectual property, from movies to plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Indeed, we face a continual onslaught from not only the cyber criminals, but from the media as well. One of the lesser-reported issues in the US, however, has been a different discussion about data and rights protection: the right to be forgotten.

Last year, The European Court of Justice ruled in Google vs. Costeja that European citizens have the right, under certain circumstances, to request search engines like Google, to remove links that contain personal information about them. The Court held that in instances where data is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” individuals may request the information to be erased and delinked from the search engines. This “right to be forgotten” is a right that is intended to support and complement an individual’s privacy rights. It is not absolute, but must be balanced “against other fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and of the media” (paragraph 85 of the ruling). In the case of Costeja, he asked that a 1998 article in a Spanish newspaper be delinked from his name, for in that article, information pertaining to an auction of his foreclosed home appeared. Mr. Costeja subsequently paid the debt, and so on these grounds, the Court ruled that the link to his information was no longer relevant. The case did not state that information regarding Mr. Costeja has to be erased, or that the newspaper article eliminated, merely that the search engine result did not need to make this particular information “ubiquitous.” The idea is that in an age of instantaneous and ubiquitous information about private details, individuals have a right to try to balance their personal privacy against other rights, such as freedom of speech. Continue reading


Confronting the Putin Doctrine in Full Force

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Just as the international community appeared at long last to be taking a stronger stand against Russia, President Putin upped the ante. Unlike its annexation of Crimea, Russia is now in open warfare with Ukraine on its eastern border. There is fresh evidence indicating not only that Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by Russian-aided rebels in eastern Ukraine, but also that the Russian military has been firing missiles and artillery from its own territory at targets inside Ukraine proper. Russia has redeployed over 20,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border.

The SA-11 mobile missile battery was supplied by Russia and crossed into Ukraine in a large Russian military convoy a week in advance of the attack, which included additional missile batteries. Radar information, wreckage from the crash, and intercepted phone calls implicate the rebels directly, as well as Russia’s involvement in the cover-up. The crash site was thoroughly tampered with by the rebels, who delayed releasing the bodies of victims and have yet to release the monitoring officials from the OSCE that they have held captive for months.

Russia decided to up the ante of its double game prior to the shooting down of Flight 17, a response to the recent gains the Ukraine military forces have been making against the pro-Russia rebels. In fact many of these rebels are not just pro-Russian, they are full-fledged Russian citizens—including some notorious bad apples that Russia previously used in not so subtle attempts to destabilize former members of the Warsaw Pact.

But just as the EU is about to drop a new sanctions hammer on Russia, the Russians have taken the Putin Doctrine to a new more dangerous level. They have transitioned from weeks of waging irregular warfare against Ukraine to low grade standard warfare, and they appear to be preparing to raise that grade and potentially invade Ukraine Georgia-style. What more crystal clear evidence could there be that western allies have yet to establish conventional deterrence vis-à-vis Russia? Continue reading


Nuland: Comic misunderstanding?

Have Duck readers been following the latest glitch in U.S.-European relations? Josh mentioned it in his recent roundup. Here’s how the Washington Post explained the story:

On Thursday, a video was posted on YouTube in which Victoria Nuland,, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, disparagingly dismissed European Union efforts to mediate the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine by bluntly saying, “F— the E.U.”

On Friday, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, through press attache Christiane Wirtz, described the gaffe as “absolutely unacceptable,” and defended the efforts of Catherine Ashton, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief. Continue reading


An Interventionist Weekend


Quite a weekend, the opening of Zero Dark Thirty in the U.S. reminding everyone of the interventionist elements of the Obama Doctrine (see my next post) and a full-fledged French intervention in Mali, not to mention U.S. assistance with a French hostage liberation operation tucked away on the inside pages.

Washington, D.C. is a funny place these days…all but two of the think tanks here are obsessed with the rise of China and just about the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment is choking on economic austerity and therefore fully inclined to doubt that our government or any other can afford much in the way of armed interventions these days.

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The Academic-Policy Nexus: a few more thoughts

Regarding my previous post and the very useful comments, first the matter of what do we do once we realize that a policy problem in search of a policy solution is the equivalent of a social scientific puzzle in search of an explanation, for both the solution and the explanation are outcomes. In other words, Step One is to identify the policy problem in question.  Step Two is to search the academic literature for a published study (in book or article form) whose puzzle is essentially identical to the policy problem. For example, the problem of how to end a civil war in Country X is equivalent to the puzzle of how to do so in an academic study.

The explanation of the study is the academic hook to hang the policy solution on. In other words, if there is a published study that explains the outcome of bringing civil wars to an end, this means that the study contains the cause of the outcome and has the evidence to back up the argument thereby matching the cause to the outcome.  Once a study is found it is on to the next step.

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EU and the Peace Prize (Round 3): M Tsvangirai should have Won


(Here and here is the previous Duck debate on this.)

The EU? Over a guy regularly facing down death-threats, bullying, and intimidation from one of the worst dictators on earth? Boo to the Nobel Committee for missing this obvious choice.

If they can give the prize to the drone-warrior with a kill-list (Obama) and an institution run by wealthy, comfortable lawyers, bankers, and white collar professionals, then surely they can give it to someone who every day is making a far more direct, personal, bodily commitment to peace and social betterment. In fact, why Tsvangirai hasn’t won yet is beyond me. It seems so obvious. (Yes, his personal life is somewhat chaotic, but I don’t think that is normally a consideration. Kissinger called himself a ‘swinger.’)

Here is a good profile from the BBC. Note how badly he got beaten up by the thugs of President Robert Mugabe in 2007. He’s be charged with treason multiple times, and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has been harassed from the beginning. That is commitment, far more than endless EU meetings about some treaty no one will read.

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EU and the Peace Prize (Round 2)

The initial reaction from Facebook and from my Realist friends reveals a certain amount of scorn for the Nobel Peace Prize announcement this morning.   The EU today is an easy parody and I guess the response is to be expected.

Nonetheless, I appreciate Erik Voeten’s post that Dan linked below and share his bottom line that this is a decent decision.  I would just add a couple of additional points.  First, I agree that if we evaluate or judge the EU from the reference of 2012 or the most recent past, this decision looks a bit bizarre.   But, if we situate it in the broader historical context of the post-war Europe, I think the EU is certainly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The continent from 1914 to 1945 was an absolute mess – in those three decades, somewhere between 75 and 90 million people died as a result of war.   We’re nearly seven decades removed from the end of World War II and with time and distance it is often difficult to fully comprehend the human misery, the hopelessness, and the sheer exhaustion.  To this day, the Holocaust remains something with which we can barely understand and absorb.

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The EU Peace Prize

Erik Voeten is pleased:

The Realist argument about the importance of the U.S. security umbrella is probably correct. Yet, the dire predictions regarding the future of European integration have yet to materialize. Indeed, the EU sped up its integration considerably with the end of the Cold War; creating deeper institutions and adding fifteen new member states. The integration of the Eastern European former socialist states has not gone without difficulties. Yet, given the scale of the problem, I would argue that it has gone a lot better than it plausible would have without the EU. The promise of EU membership markedly improved democracy, human rights and market economy in all states, although it remains imperfect progress in some. The EU certainly has its share of difficulties, major missteps,  and structural deficiencies. Ultimately, however, my best guess is that Europe is a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic continent thanks to the EU. A Peace Prize much deserved.

On Facebook, a PhD student at GU sums up the other side of the debate:

Congratulations, Europe. Apparently you get prizes when Germany goes a few decades without invading someone.

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China’s Counter to the Asian ‘Pivot’ (2): ‘Swarms’ in the Pacific

Part one is here, where I noted China’s growing fear of encirclement (I get Chinese students a lot who talk about this). So, in the role of China, I argued for an Indian charm offensive to prevent encirclement, and how China might buy off Korea from the US camp by abandoning North Korea. Here are some more ‘B-Team’ style ideas for pushing back on US local dominance, including swarming the US navy in the western Pacific with cheap drones and missiles:

3. Build missiles and drones; don’t bother with a navy.

I’m not a big hardware guy, but it should be pretty obvious that trying to ‘out-ship’ the Americans one-to-one in the western Pacific (as the Kaiser tried to do against Britain before WWI) would be a ridiculously costly fool’s errand. Japan’s failed effort to dominate vast Pacific in the 1940s is a good object lesson in how hard that is and how the Americans will fight tooth-and-nail to prevent it. It makes far more sense to pursue an ‘access-denial’ approach in the medium-term, and China, unlike Iran in the Straits of Hormuz, actually has the money and technology to attempt this. China should pursue regional (East Asian) dominance first (as Mearsheimer has argued for a decade), and then tangle with the Americans over the much larger game of the Pacific later.

So access-denial – making it harder and harder for US and allied navies to operate west of Guam (the so-called second island chain strategy) – is a good first step. Throwing swarms of cheap rockets and drones against hugely expensive, slow-moving US carriers is vastly cheaper, fights asymmetrically where the US hegemon is weak, looks less threatening (defensive balancing), and can be marketing as defending Asia against US interventionism. And stick with robots and missiles. They’re getting very cheap and increasingly outclass human platforms. Planes that don’t carry pilots can stay aloft longer and project further, hovering over the battlespace for long hours. I just reviewed an essay for an SSCI journal on whether carriers in the Pacific will be obsolete in two decades (the author’s answer was probably). So let the Americans go on buying fewer and ever more expensive ships and planes costing mountains of money – and then ‘swarm’ them with masses of super-cheap missiles and drones. (On the issue of America’s tendency to buy few and expensive platforms instead of many and cheap, try this.)

4. Buy European debt.

Unless China switches to internal consumption soon, it will continue to rack up currency reserves from OECD states. Buying OECD sovereign debt is a great way to get leverage over those economies. And buying Euros is especially useful.

First, it pressures the US by reminding Americans of China’s leverage over the US budget. It reminds Americans that China can take its money elsewhere, and that a nasty US budget crunch would ensue a real rupture with China. Nothing fuels American hysteria so much as the idea that China ‘owns’ the US or something. Buying Euro-debt drives up US interest rates and keeps America fretting that it needs to be nice to its ‘banker’ and all that. Conversely, if China refuses to put its savings than into anything other than US T-bills, expect the the US to play tougher.

Second, buying Euro-debt helps keep the Europeans out of any tangles between China and the US camp in Asia. Just as European dependence on Russian oil threatens to neutralize the EU in the long struggle over Eastern Europe’s post-Cold War course, so a dependence on Chinese finance is a method to handicap NATO grandstanding about Asia. Besides, what else should China do with the money? Buy even more debt from the US? At some point, getting so vested in US T-Bills threatens China, because so much of its wealth is in one place, its possible strategic competitor.

5. Keep propping up troublemakers like Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Nothing distracts American policy-makers like upstart little countries that have the nerve – the nerve! – to stick their finger in the eye of the US. Don’t they recognize American exceptionalism! Witness Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba… And nothing convinces the US to waste mountains of money on unnecessary defense procurement and pointless conflicts like these guys. So if you’re China, propping up local baddies is great tool. Yes, it makes you look like you’ll support anyone (which is true, of course, because you’re nasty communist oligarchs after all who couldn’t care less about the Darfuris). But the benefits – wasteful military spending plus American hysteria and imperial overreaction, leading to consequent global unease with American power – more than outweighs the costs. Anything to keep the Americans saying crazy, patently ridiculous stuff like ‘Iran is a mortal threat to the US,’ reckless talk that scares the whole planet and alienates the developing world where 4/5 of the world’s population lives. Encourage the US to dissipate its energies in the periphery while the rest of the world worries that otherwise good ideas like the ‘responsibility to protect,’ e.g, is really neocolonialism, because American just can’t help itself. If American comes off as a revisionist hegemon that can’t help but pursue rogue states, China looks restrained by comparison.

Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.


Nein! The EU is not the Fourth Reich!

Why would anyone even suggest such a thing?

THE [Irish] GOVERNMENT has complained to the European Commission over the release in Germany of a document disclosing confidential details about new taxes to be introduced in Ireland over the next two years. In a deeply embarrassing development the document – identifying austerity measures of €3.8 billion in next month’s budget and €3.5 billion in budget 2013 – was made public after being shown to the finance committee of the German Bundestag yesterday. The document, seen by The Irish Times , confirms the Government plans to raise VAT by 2 percentage points to 23 per cent, which would generate €670 million. Next month’s budget would also contain a €100 a year household charge, yielding €160 million, it says.

I find this particularly interesting, given that I spent last Monday at a conference entitled “The Decline of the European Empire.” In my presentation, I argued that it doesn’t make a ton of sense to talk about the EU as an “empire,” except — and this is a pretty important except — when governments in the periphery are reduced to subalterns implementing policies preferred by Europe’s polycentric (albeit German-inflected) core. Via Henry Farrell.


Europe can stay irrational longer than the EU can stay solvent

The horror, the horror

 What the hell happened to Europe?

There’s still a chance that the EU may be pulled back from the [metaphor], whether that metaphor be an “abyss“, a “chasm”, or “the flames”. But it’s beginning to look a lot like the end of Europe-as-we-knew-it.

Much as the fall of the Soviet Union simultaneously showed that most Soviet experts were unable to predict the central event of the twentieth century, so too will the fall of the European Union leave a lot of Europeanists with (as Dan Rather put it) not just egg on their faces but omelettes all over their suits. (Not that this is wholly bad for Europeanists. Sovietologists enjoyed a brief dead-cat bounce in citation counts from justifying their bad predictions; surely Eurologists will have the same good fortune.)

“Europe” is a fascinating construct for students of institutions and international relations alike. It is neither domestic nor foreign; neither a democracy nor an autocracy; neither a dessert topping nor a floor wax. This was by design. But if Europe’s architects thought that obscuring accountability in a maze of councils and commissions would bolster the edifice’s stability, they have been proven decisively wrong. There are still loci of accountability, albeit by default located in the bond markets instead of in parliaments.

The fundamental difficulty, however, is that national governments coexisted with the supernational. More than coexisted: They got the supernational government’s credit ratings. And that has made all the difference.

The crisis of Europe is the gravest political-economic crisis of the past hundred years. The goals of European integration were to move the continent into a bright future and away from a sanguinary past. The logical corollary is that European disintegration will do the opposite. (For IR theorists, this may mean that John Mearsheimer may yet have the last laugh.)

If grand bargains and fervent hopes built Europe, however, gritty realities will undo it. And the most banal point is the most critical one: In political economy, politics comes first. Europe is not dying because the eurozone is not an optimal currency area. The eurozone is dying because it was not designed to be an optimal currency area. Europe is not dying because the European Central Bank is unable to bolster its credibility. The union is dying because the European Central Bank (and the lack of a concomitant fiscal mechanism) was designed to be incredible.

In the language of software engineers, the institutional arrangements whose failings are now becoming woefully apparent were “known issues”–and even more, they weren’t bugs, they were features. The fact that the PIIGS could issue bonds using Germany’s credit rating was the whole point of the arrangement–and the fact that the Germans couldn’t ultimately guarantee that they would bring cheaters to heel was also the whole point of the arrangement. To wonder what could have been done better–what miraculous set of technocratic policy arrangements could have avoided these potholes–is to misunderstand what Europe was all about.

Megan McArdle puts her finger on it:

When I was a young and naive economics writer, I used to write about developing countries a fair amount.  Time and again they would make these bizarre and pointless moves, like suddenly and for no apparent reason defaulting on a bunch of debt.  They would engage in obviously, stupidly unsustainable fiscal practices that caused recurring crises.  They would divert critical investment funds into social spending which was going to become unsustainable when underinvestment reduced government revenue.  And the other journalists and I would cluck our tongues and say “Why can’t they do the right thing when it’s so . . . bleeding . . . obvious?” Then we had our own financial crisis and it became suddenly, vividly clear: democratic governments cannot do even obvious right things if the public will not tolerate it. 

Keynes once wrote that “Markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent.” Criticizing the behavior of Europe’s leaders and publics as “irrational” is more than a little unfair–Silvio Berlusconi is extremely rational, and so are the Greek pensioners and Irish voters–but the essential point is the same. Whenever European bureaucrats have had a choice between making the “right” choice and making the socially justified one, they have chosen the latter, even when it has clearly been the wrong one.


EU Wins One, Right?

With Serbia arresting the last big PIFWC (person indicted for war crime–my favorite NATO acronym)–Ratko Mladic (see my post about the previous arrest, of Karadzic), does this mean that I was wrong about the power of conditionality?  That is, the Steve and Bill book argues that we ought not overestimate the threats organizations like the European Union or NATO make about conditions for membership.  We argue there and elsewhere that the requirements are unenforced (Cyprus gets in despite not settling its ethnic problems, Romania and Bulgaria get in with their shaky rule of law); that the rules do not apply to members so that once you are in, you can go back to violating the rules; and so on.

But Serbia seems to have knuckled under to EU pressure and will be sending Mladic to The Hague stand trial for genocide, ethnic cleansing and all the rest.  But the pressure has been applied since 1995.  Can we say that conditionality worked if it took 16 years?  Oh, and enlargement is probably not a realistic option right now since the EU is focused on its own internal crises (driven by past poor decisions about ignoring conditions–letting Greece and others into the Euro zone).  So, the timing here is interesting–submitting to the PIFWC conditions when the conditions are least relevant, as opposed to earlier when other countries were in the queue to join the EU (despite not meeting other conditions).

I have not been following Serbia’s politics closely, but this is still a very important decision, whether it is to suck up to the EU or not.  After all, a preceding leader of Serbia, Zoran Djindjić, was assassinated after sending Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague.  So, the stakes are quite high domestically.  Mladic was reputedly more popular than Karadzic, especially among Serbia’s military and police.  If there are no nasty consequences from this, then this is an important development for civilian control of the military and Serbia’s democratization. 

Getting Mladic to stand trial for his crimes is a big victory for Bosnia, for Serbia, and for justice.  I just am not sure that the EU had a lot to do with it.


Between Scylla and Charybdis

James Traub reminds the Atlantic Community not to freak out over Turkey’s “Neo-Ottoman foreign policy.”

It’s a caricature to say that Turkey has chosen the Middle East, or Islam, over the West. Turkey’s aspiration for full membership in the club of the West, including the European Union, is still a driving force. But Turkey aspires to many things, and some may contradict each other. The country wants to be a regional power in a region deeply suspicious of the West, of Israel, and of the United States; a Sunni power acting as a broker for Sunnis in Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere; a charter member of the new nexus of emerging powers around the world; and a dependable ally of the West. When Turkey is forced to choose among these roles, the neighborhood tends to win out, and that’s when you get votes against sanctions on Iran. At this week’s NATO summit in Brussels, for instance, Davutoglu has expressed skepticism about missile defense, because any such system would be aimed at countries like Iran and Syria, which Turkey declines to characterize as threats.

True enough, but I still believe that the Europeans will come to the rue their decision to de facto reject Anakara’s bid for European Union membership. The ascession process, and eventual membership, would have done much to consolidate Turkish democracy while bringing a vibrant, emerging power into the EU. In light of ongoing developments in the Balkans, I have particular difficulty understanding why Turkey is a worse candidate than certain states already represented in Brussels.


Baroness Ashton of Upholland?

I know the EU is often dysfunctional, but this really shocked me. Last week, the EU selected Herman van Rompuy, the Belgian prime minister, as the European Union’s first president, and Catherine Ashton of Britain, currently the group’s trade commissioner, as its high representative for foreign policy. (She’s also the Baroness Ashton of Upholland).

Rompuy has been on the job in Belgium for less than a year and Ashton has no foreign policy experience.

So much for the arguments that we might get some form of balancing — hard or soft — from Brussels. Looks like France and Germany were so concerned about Blair becoming the EU’s first President that they pushed for this minimalist team….

The EU has a $13 trillion economy — roughly on par with the United States. I know Javier Solana had a lot of detractors, but he carried some weight and could leverage his skills and experience to move Brussels into a more active role in the world. It’s hard to see how the tandem of these two unknowns will raise the profile of the EU’s common foreign and security policy.

From the NYTimes: “It’s going to be difficult to explain to the public why there was so much fuss about the Lisbon Treaty if all we get is someone no one has heard of,” said one E.U. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

As for Ashton, here’s what one of her former colleagues said: “To think that we wanted Blair and we ended up with Cathy Ashton. It’s such an indictment of Gordon,” said one member of the government hours after the appointment was announced.

Another fine moment from Brussels.


EU Russia-Georgia Report Redux

I have a commentary at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website today on the EU’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia. It expands on my earlier remarks about the gap between the report’s findings and the political spin:

“Those who read the entire report will find it is a masterpiece of legal and evidentiary analysis. The authors have painstakingly synthesized multiple branches of international law with scores of interviews, reams of source material, and numerous reports from NGOs. The report itself is nearly 500 pages ‘applying principles to facts.’ Despite a few inconsistencies, it is generally fair-minded, objective and apolitical. It should have done the job.

But in putting together the detailed legal analysis too little thought appears to have been given to the political impact or how to frame the report so that its key findings are intelligible to a public and press corps not intimately familiar with the details of international law. In failing to deliver the key findings up front with savvy and punch, the EU Mission allowed the report to be hijacked by interested parties for a continuation of the very political argument it should have put to rest.

For example, after reading the whole thing I must qualify my earlier suggestion that the report doesn’t distinguish between the interstate and intrastate dimensions of the conflict. It does at several places. But the title and executive summary do not – which probably explains why journalists and politicians have been able to spin it as they have.

More importantly, the authors’ conclusions about Georgia’s guilt in “starting” the war with S. Ossetia do rely on what I find to be an unconvincing application of the UN Charter regime to an intra-state war, essentially blurring the distinction between the two.

More on this – and the other “few inconsistencies” I wasn’t able to cover in the space limit given me by RFE/RL – are at Current Intelligence, where I’ll be posting periodically on war law issues for the foreseeable future.


Bretton Woods 2.0

If British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have their way, the advanced industrialized nations will come together to negotiate a new economic order. But they will do so in a world in which the US and the European Union enjoy roughly equal GDP (with a slight advantage for the EU right now). When Bretton Woods was negotiated, in contrast, the US controlled about half of global economic production.

In other words, any such bargain would be the product less of US hegemony than US-EU comity, with China, Japan, and India as important players in the mix. This is, whatever one thinks of its merits or chances, a bold call to build a multipolar economic institutional order. It signals how much the world has changed not only since 1945, but also since the “unipolar moment” of the 1990s.

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