Winter/Spring 2009

A Talk with Michael Chertoff: U.S. and EU Agendas Converge

Michael ChertoffMichael Chertoff – who was the 2008 recipient of The European Institute’s annual Transatlantic Leader Award – was often a controversial figure in Europe during his four-year tenure heading the Department of Homeland Security. Those tensions were widely reported at the time and remain vividly in the public recollection of the period when the two sides of the Atlantic often seemed to be engaged in a tug of war over citizens’ rights, notably privacy and protection from unreasonable search.

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Who? – or What Tectonic Shift? – Created the Special Relationship

The King and the Cowboy
By David Fromkin
The Penguin Press, 256 pages, $25.95

Reviewed by Michael D. Mosettig

From one of America’s foremost diplomatic historians comes this curious contrivance of a small intriguing book. Tracing the origin of the U.S.-British “special relationship” to the origin of the century it shaped, it offers a version of the “great man” theory of history to explain its conception in the connections between Britain’s King Edward VII and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. In making its case, the book revolves just as much around a third man, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II. However, including his name on the cover might have spoiled the theme of an Anglo-American world bestriding the 20th century.

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An Ambassador’s Diary in Post-Communist Hungary

Vera and the Ambassador: Escape and Return
By Vera and Donald Blinken
SUNY Press, 350 pages, $24.95

Reviewed by Thea Backlar

When Donald Blinken arrived in Budapest in early 1994 as U.S. ambassador, he was a political appointee of the Clinton administration with no professional diplomatic experience. But he and his wife, Vera, were to be present and very active in Budapest at a pivotal point in Hungary’s transformation towards democracy after the collapse of the Soviet system. Telling their own stories of their four years together in Budapest, their dual diary – Vera and the Ambassador: Escape and Return – the couple stress how special they felt the situation was and how they threw themselves into making their assignment a success for both countries. Their account has features that many diplomats will recognize, but it will be instructive for non-practitioners who want to know more details about an ambassador’s daily work. And it is a success story that has lessons about imaginative initiatives that even professionals should never forget.

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Prowling the Rubble of the Soviet Empire In a Quest for Insight about Russia’s Future

Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World
By Ralph Peters, Stackpole Books, 339 pages, 2007

Reviewed by William J. Peterson Jr.

As a U.S. Army Intelligence officer summoned to traverse the worst ruins of the Post-Soviet world during the 1990’s, Ralph Peters – in his book Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World – provides on-the-ground insight into the momentum of Russian history that carried Moscow beyond the breakup of its empire into a trouble-making role that has caused so many regional crises in the Caucuses to escalate and threaten the new European periphery. Now confirmed by hindsight, the book has the merit of offering what at the time of writing was prescient foresight.

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Global highlights and local sidelights culled from the media (January – March 2009)

BRUSSELS: Mapping the Wealth Gap between Old and New Europe

The wealthiest regions in the European Union are Luxembourg, Hamburg, inner London and – who knew? – Brussels. A 2009 survey by Eurostat, the statistical arm of the Brussels-based European Commission, ranked Brussels third in per capita income, with its inhabitants pulling in twice the EU-wide average of €23,600 ($30,100).

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