Tagged: russia

Tobias Bunde

Putin, the Atlanticist

Putin wins a prize
Image credit: “Siggiko”

Since 1997, the American Academy in Berlin has awarded the annual Henry A. Kissinger Prize “in recognition of outstanding services to the transatlantic relationship.” Taken literally, this means that the next recipient can only be one person: Vladimir Putin.

Just a few weeks ago, even the most committed Atlanticists would not have predicted a spectacular comeback for NATO in 2014. At this year’s Munich Security Conference, often dubbed the transatlantic partnership’s “family meeting”, the mood was quite pessimistic. [My detailed conference report, in German, will appear in the next issue of the Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik.] The Europeans, and especially the Germans, were upset about the fact that Senator Kerry gave a speech about the “transatlantic renaissance” without mentioning the NSA affair at all. As some observers noted, the Americans “just don’t listen to us anymore, they only listen in.”

On the other hand, the U.S. representatives were frustrated that the Europeans were not eager to discuss other topics they deemed more relevant. Again, the old burden-sharing debate resurfaced – but with more urgency. In contrast to earlier debates, the U.S. administration has actually followed through and significantly reduced their troops in Europe while ramping up their forces in the Asia-Pacific (the “rebalancing” FKA “the pivot to Asia”). Quite symbolically, after 69 years, the last Abrams tanks left European soil in 2013, which many saw as a “historic moment”. [It should be noted, however, that a number of refurbished Abrams tanks have returned to Germany in 2014.]

Under Obama, the United States has made clear that it does not expect to lead every military mission the transatlantic partners undertake. In Libya, the Europeans had to realize that they lacked the capabilities to run an intense air campaign alone. In early 2013, when the Europeans discussed the crisis in Mali, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, Alexander Vershbow, bluntly stated: “The US and NATO cannot be everywhere.”

In earlier years, U.S. politicians would have been furious if the Europeans had planned for an operation without the United States. But the new message was: Europe, it’s your job, get used to it. Yet, given that these debates were about “wars of choice” in a “post-interventionist era”, few Europeans pushed for a major overhaul of Europe’s defense planning – much to the dismay of Washington.

Waiting for the “transatlantic renaissance”

It didn’t help that a conversation between Victoria Nuland and a U.S. ambassador was leaked, in which the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs used the F-word in respect to the EU. Ironically, Nuland is one of the few remaining committed transatlanticists in Washington and had coined the notion of a “transatlantic renaissance”. Now, that whole concept seemed to be a non-starter.

Enter Vladimir Putin. Thanks to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the ongoing threats from Moscow, the transatlantic partnership, and with it NATO, is back again.

With his actions in the past few weeks, Putin has actually provoked what he had successfully avoided for a long time: the rapid rapprochement of NATO members’ policies towards Russia. He might not have provided a “solution” to one of the core challenges in the internal debate about the Atlantic Alliance in the twenty-first century: How do we define our relations with Russia? But at the very least, he has made a new consensus among NATO member states much more likely. Continue reading

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Grad School Pros and Cons; Job Search; Understanding Putin

He studied law, but seems interested in IR. (Source: Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia)
He studied law, but seems interested in IR. (Source: Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia)

In an article from 2011, Karen Kelsky (who works as a consultant to graduate students) criticizes academic supervisors. According to her, professors often fail to advise their grad students on planning publications and their career choices.

Another more recent piece introduces a new approach for university career centers. Basically, the idea is to break up the division between the job markets inside and outside of academia: “If graduate students are to maximize their efforts, then academic departments and career services need to pool theirs and work together”.

But should you even be working towards a PhD? Foreign Policy just published a very interesting discussion with people from American IR departments and foreign policy schools. The subtitle: “Do policymakers listen? Should you get a Ph.D.? And where are all the women?” It also has a fascinating graph on which IR scholars are valued by foreign policy practitioners, which reminded me of last year’s discussion about IR and the public sphere.

Dan Drezner wrote about whether to go to grad school in 2012. His piece focuses on women in academia, but also has a couple of interesting links to the discussion in the American blogosphere.

OK, so (against a lot of good advice) you have decided to pursue an academic career. The bad news is: from now on, your writing style will be terrible. The good news is: nobody will notice, since most papers are hardly read after publication. [Note that the article implies that the number of citations equals the number of readers, which is not fully convincing.]

Now, to something completely different. I enjoyed these two pieces about Vladimir Putin: First, Tyler Cowen offers four different ways to “model” Putin’s behavior, pointing out that “[a]ssumptions about Putin’s rationality will shape prediction”.

Second, Eric Posner analyzes the claims made in the Russian president’s speech to the Duma: “Vladimir Putin, international lawyer”. The crucial bit of analysis: Putin has signaled that “the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it”.


“Ukrainian Games”

It’s hard to keep track of events in Ukraine, and we feel that commenting on them should be left to those with more expertise on the region and international security.

Having said that, we interrupt the usual programming for a cartoon by our guest contributor (or should we say: resident cartoonist?), Siggiko.

Ukraine _text_small(Click to enlarge.)

Mathis Lohaus

Syria, Chemical Weapons & Civil War: Is A Bad Plan Better Than No Plan?


Yesterday, the United Nations published their report on the use of chemical weapons (CW) in Syria on August 21. You can read the conclusions above. Bottom line: Sarin has been used, but the report doesn’t explicitly blame either the Syrian regime or the rebels.

A few days earlier, on September 14, the Syrian government has officially requested to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This is a reaction to the U.S. threat to launch an attack, paired with new diplomatic efforts by Russia (and others?). The UN has received all necessary documents now and the accession will be effective in mid-October.

So instead of witnessing yet another U.S. military campaign to punish a dictator, now we’re all warm and fuzzy about international law? It’s almost as if they are following Richard Price’s guide in Foreign Affairs step-by-step. German critics of an intervention (please note the great series of posts at Sicherheitspolitik-Blog) should be happy, too.

In addition, it looks like the UN Security Council – after months of paralysis and a grand total of one single press release mentioning Syria in 2013 – might actually pass a resolution soon. So Russia and the U.S. seem to have agreed on … something. To me, it is not entirely clear what to expect – but it seems to be focused on taking CW out of the picture.

Continue reading