Only A New “Grand Bargain” On Transatlantic Solidarity Can Meet Deepest Challenges

NATO’s new Strategic Concept will set out ambitious goals and means for the alliance, but it seems likely to paper over the cracks which are beginning to separate U.S. interests and attitudes from those of most of its European allies.

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Ugly Language Aggravates Tensions

In the corridors outside President Obama’s nuclear summit, much of the talk was not about nuclear matters but instead about how the Greek economic crisis has metastasized into a quarrel between Germany and France and now jeopardizes the prospects for more effective European unity. So a crisis that began in Greece has mutated to be about Germany and its commitment to Europe, as described in this New York Times article that has attracted attention and discussion in Washington.

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In nuclear-weapons policy, President Barack Obama has redefined the purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Since the birth of the atomic bomb and the onset of the cold war, these weapons have been justified as a deterrent against attack by a rival superpower. That fear no longer exists, and the Obama administration has responded to strategists’ conclusion that the real current danger has changed. Now it has become the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons and the concurrent rising risk that nuclear weapons may fall into terrorists’ hands. As a result, the Obama administration wants to assign the U.S. nuclear arsenal and nuclear doctrine a new main purpose: increasing global political pressure against nuclear proliferation.

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Transatlantic Press Review: Pentagon Slammed for Poor Management

The collapse of the joint tanker bid by Northrop Grumman and EADS triggered extensive and strongly worded media criticism on both sides of the Atlantic of the Obama administration’s handling of the bidding process by the Pentagon. These commentaries are echoed in private by many U.S. and European officials, who say that it further dims hopes for reversing a declining trend in transatlantic defense relations, starting with defense-industrial cooperation.

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On March 9, 2010 The European Institute held a special meeting of its Roundtable on Defense and Security with Gábor Iklódy, State Secretary and Political Director of the Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.  Mr. Iklódy offered his perspective on the changes to EU foreign and defense policy after the Lisbon Treaty.  He addressed the need for coordination in developing EU defense capabilities in order to perform the Petersberg tasks.  And while highlighting the importance of an EU that can speak with one voice on the global stage, he also stressed that member states still need to be consulted as part of the decision making process, otherwise Europe risks becoming fragmented once again.  And although the transition to the new foreign policy architecture, that is defining the role of the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service as well as the future role of the rotating presidency, will be long and difficult, once the dust settles, the wait will have been worth it.

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