Europe’s Middle East Mission

Soldiers at the Wailing Wall, courtesy of Mor /flickr

LONDON – America’s gradual withdrawal from the Middle East puts increasing pressure on Europe to help foster peace in the region. With complex and heated wars threatening to bring about the collapse of states like Syria and Iraq, and the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Palestine seemingly as far from resolution as ever, it is almost easier to ask what Europe should avoid than what it should do.

The starting point must be a simple, fundamental principle: Europe should not take sides. Allowing preconceptions or emotional reactions to overshadow facts could make the situation much more dangerous. » More

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Democracy Promotion’s Mixed Track Record

A man in Jakarta shows his inked finger at a polling station to proof he voted in the 2009 presidential election, the second since the fall of the Suharto regime. Photo: Isabel Esterman.

Once widely considered a desirable endpoint for all nations, democracy’s seeming benefits are now openly questioned by many. The poor results of democratization in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the rise of economically successful non-democracies such as China, have caused democracy promotion to lose some of its luster. So, given these recent trends, what are democracy’s prospects for the future?

This question was the primary focus of a recent panel discussion hosted by the Forum Aussenpolitik (foraus) and NCCR Democracy at the University of Zurich. Entitled “Democracy Promotion: Lessons from Different Regions of the World,” the discussion featured three experts who analyzed the ways and means of democracy promotion; its feasibility; how and whether it should be encouraged, and its successes and failures.

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Fatal Thaws

The big thaw is here

The big thaw is here. Photo: rosipaw/flickr.

MOSCOW – During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and, in a milder way, the United States imposed external limits on the activities of states and societies, causing longstanding conflicts among smaller countries to be “frozen.” Following the Soviet Union’s collapse in the 1990’s, those conflicts began to “unfreeze.”

With interethnic tensions already on the rise, Yugoslavia was the first country to dissolve into conflict. Soon after, war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, followed by fighting in Transdniestria and Chechnya. While some conflicts were addressed – the West finally intervened militarily in the former Yugoslavia; and Russia fought in Chechnya for almost a decade, and imposed peace in Transdniestria – others, such as that between Armenia and Azerbaijan, were simply frozen again. » More

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The Coming Atlantic Century

Saharan dust reaches the Americas

Saharan dust reaches the Americas. Photo: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center/flickr.

PRINCETON – The United States is rising; Europe is stabilizing; and both are moving closer together. That was the principal message earlier this month at the annual Munich Security Conference (MSC), a high-powered gathering of defense ministers, foreign ministers, senior military officials, parliamentarians, journalists, and national-security experts of every variety.

The participants come primarily from Europe and the US; indeed, when the conference began in 1963, it was focused entirely on NATO members. This year, however, senior government officials from Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Singapore, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia also joined, an important sign of the times. » More

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Smart Defense: A Eurosubmarine

Trafalgar Class submarine SSN (Ship Submersible Nuclear) HMS Triumph. Photo: Ben Sutton/UK Ministry of Defence

Amidst the financial crisis, European nations have attempted to consolidate resources to tailor their defense capabilities to more efficiently meet the emerging security challenges. Cooperation has become the buzz-word in Europe, with the EU’s Pooling and Sharing Initiative and NATO’s Smart Defense both emphasizing the notion of “doing more with less.” In his opening remarks at the NATO Defense Minister’s meetings in October, Secretary General Rasmussen outlined more multinational teamwork as the solution to spending scarce resources more effectively. On NATO’s Industry Day, he called for industry to propose multinational solutions, instead of individual ones. Yet despite the high level guidance, effective cooperation on long-term capabilities remains elusive.

Albeit long-term capabilities pose significant challenges, cooperation on them is not implausible. The British ballistic nuclear submarine fleet is in need of replacement, and France’s fleet will soon follow course. In today’s resource-scarce and cooperation-prone environment, their futures could converge into a single co-produced platform. This “Eurosubmarine” might initially be designed to fully replace each nations fleet in an economical way, but if the political climate changes, it could emerge as a shared platform, housing two sovereign sets of nuclear missiles, or even as a joint European nuclear deterrent. » More

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