Friday, July 31, 2009

Reset 2.0

Over at RFE/RL, Brian Whitmore argues that Joe Biden is engaged in a "reset of the reset" toward Russia. I added my thoughts there that it also could be an effort to lay the groundwork for what might be the inevitable failure of that effort.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The 1000th Post

Some recent headlines which point to the ongoing rebalancing of power in the global system ...

--India launches its first homegrown nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant.

--the "G-2" meets under the style of the U.S. - China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

The G-2 dialogue will be interesting--it is one of the "four dialogues" I identified last year as critical to how the international system of the 21st century takes place. [The others are the Russia-Europe dialogue, the dialogue between the southern democracies and the Euro-Atlantic world, and the dialogue among the rising powers of the south and east, notably India and China.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Future of NATO?

I took part today in a fascinating roundtable discussion about the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance, sponsored by the New Atlanticist blog of the Atlantic Council. (Follow the links for details such as the bios of the speakers).

Our host and moderator, James Joyner, noted that for the last forty years, we've had plenty of discussions about "NATO in crisis"? Is something different now?

A few selected points--and these are my interpretations of what I heard, not a transcript, so apologies in advance if I'm not conveying these points correctly:

James Poulos asked about the utility of the alliance to current U.S. policy goals. Is it more important to expand the alliance if that threatens or jeopardizes solidarity among current members?

Chris Brose asked what would be the implications of success in Afghanistan for NATO--wouldn't it just be perceived as NATO crossed the finish line because the U.S. carried the alliance on its shoulders? Perhaps, he suggested, the vision of NATO 2.0 [transformation of the alliance into a provider of global security "out of area"] is less likely now, but speculated whether the emergence of new threats to Europe (a resurgent Russia, the opening of the Arctic) might lead to a re-emergence of NATO 1.0?

Damon Wilson notes that there has always been deep strategic tensions within the trans-Atlantic alliance. With a new administration in office here that enjoys popularity in Europe, and the new secretary general of NATO initiating a process designed to produce a new strategic concept, there is a possibility to shape what the alliance might look like for the 21st century.

I argued that a possible NATO 3.0 that might emerge would be one in which the alliance serves as a toolbox for forming coalitions, with members picking and choosing what missions they will undertake, rather than being a single defense community. I also wonder whether the price for further expansion of the alliance will be to redefine what Article 5 means--redefining what constitutes an "attack" on a member state and what precisely other members are in fact obligated to do under Article 5--with perhaps a greater stress on joint consultations rather than guarantees of immediate action.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nabucco Back From the Grave? And the Missed Opportunity

After seven years, we finally have the intergovernmental agreement in place that permits construction of the Nabucco line to move forward. But there are many obstacles yet to be overcome--and as I argue here, the commercial compromises necessary to get this pipeline built might not support the project's original geopolitical intentions.

My thanks to those who commented on "Obama's missed opportunity." I agree that while the arguments presented would not persuade a Russian audience, at least there would be more of a chance for an honest dialogue.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama's Missed Opportunity

The speech not given in Moscow that perhaps the president should have delivered.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Lack of Trust ...

One message coming from both the Moscow summit and the G-8 loud and clear to president Obama is that other countries want to see concrete U.S. action first before they make any commitments.

I had opined that because the president did not have the benefit of having passed his climate change legislation before going to the G-8, other states would pass on reaching an agreement.

From today's New York Times:
In the end, people close to the talks said, the emerging powers refused to agree to the limits because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in 2020 and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help in reducing emissions.

“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’ ” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in the United States. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Speechwriting Synchronicity?

In the president's speech today at the New Economic School:
There was a time when Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin could shape the world in one meeting. Those days are over. The world is more complex today.
A comment I made last week (and published over the weekend):
The president doesn't have the freedom that an FDR or a Churchill had in the middle of World War II to be able to do these sweeping kinds of arrangements about geopolitical divisions of influence.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Moscow Summit: First Day

Why I wasn't that big of an optimist going in ...

Impressions of the first day ...

The visuals are good, the rhetoric is good, the outlines being proposed are good--but the follow-through is the question.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Reading list for Fourth of July

TWR will be enjoying the holiday break. But before I depart, a few of the pieces that I've read this week:

Misreading Tehran, by Suzanne Maloney. "While there was intense attention to the June 12 presidential election and its potential impact on Iran’s internal balance of power and foreign policy, no serious analyst or scholar predicted the series of events that has transpired in the wake of that ballot. The primary developments in this crisis would have been dismissed by the array of Iran experts—myself included—as implausible or even inconceivable ..."

Obama's Summit in Russia: Who Blinks First? Interview with Stephen Sestanovich. "The American view has tended to be that the relationship should be reset by reaching arms control agreements, above all renewing the START I treaty. NATO enlargement actually seems to be on a somewhat slower track now. The administration's budget for missile defense is down. On that basis, you could imagine a different and more productive relationship, but not if the Russians are determined to get explicit agreements about every aspect of it. They've been saying recently that they can't rely on political understandings. They need legal commitments."

Weak States and National Strategy, by Derek Reveron. "The emergence of weak states also says something about power. ... The Taliban in Afghanistan, warlords in Somalia, and insurgents in Iraq simply do not care that the United States is a military superpower. Ballistic missile defense, space dominance, and fifth generation fighters are irrelevant in conflicts characterized by insurgent cells and improvised explosive devices."

Rewiring Washington by David Rothkopf. An interesting set of observations, including how the trend of real power/authority being more based on peoples'"personal relationships with the president than their official titles ..."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Deadline for Honduras

The clock is ticking in Honduras. 72 hours to restore the president ... or risk possible suspension from the OAS. Given the U.S. stance on Cuba and its position that the OAS is a league of democracies, it is not surprising that this was the decision.

Of course, I don't see Jose Manuel Zelaya just walking back into power. The interim president, Roberto Micheletti, has said as much--and the arrest warrants (charging Zelaya with a whole host of crimes including drug trafficking) are waiting.

So this isn't going to be a crisis that "just goes away" and allows Washington to go back to focusing on other parts of the world. Given the expectations raised when President Obama spoke at the summit of the Americas in Trinidad, the rest of the hemisphere may use Honduras as a test for how committed Washington is to rebuilding its ties to the Americas.

The Honduran crisis also did not come out of nowhere. It's another reminder why the U.S. needs to pay sustained attention to the hemisphere--and have consistent and sustainable policies in place.

I have no good answers as to what to do if Zelaya is not restored. Working through the OAS is a good plan, though, as is giving other regional actors greater prominence and supporting their decisions.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?