Germany’s refusal in 2002 to participate in the Iraq war was a traumatic shock for U.S.-German relations at the time – and perhaps the start of a more permanent new paradigm of “power politics” in Berlin. Historically, it was the deepest-ever division between the White House and any post-cold-war German chancellor – pitting Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder against the conservative George W. Bush. These two men were never reconciled, but once Schroeder was succeeded in office by Angela Merkel, links between Berlin and Washington were repaired, at least formally. But the shock waves from that clash ran far deeper than any of the cold war-era policy disputes between Bonn and Washington.

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The U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, including the 30,000 “plus-up” currently underway, represents one of the most difficult logistical challenges in the annals of war – a challenge even for the United States, which is the world champion of supply solutions.  Afghanistan is harder than the Vietnam “land war in Asia” or the Berlin airlift or Iraq I and II. These previous engagements, although difficult logistically, pale in comparison to the task of supplying 100,000 troops and as many contractors in Afghanistan over nine years and counting. Landlocked, mountainous, beset by civil war, banditry and extreme underdevelopment, Afghanistan is surrounded by a clutch of hostile, suspicious, barely functioning sovereignties.

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On February 24, 2010, The European Institute held a special meeting of its Transatlantic Roundtable on Defense and Security in New York City with His Excellency Sorin Dumitru Ducaru, Permanent Representative of Romania to the North Atlantic Council; His Excellency Linas Linkevicius, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the North Atlantic Council; and His Excellency Frank Majoor, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the North Atlantic Council. The Ambassadors addressed the evolution of NATO’s New Strategic Concept and the great fluidity of challenges that face the Alliance as it seeks to adapt to new threats that are not strictly linked to territorial defense. Ambassador Linkevicius emphasized that the NATO mission in Afghanistan is a priority, but it will take time, patience and cooperation with the Afghan people in order to declare the mission a success.  Ambassador Ducaru pointed out the need for greater global understanding about NATO’s work in order for the alliance to gain greater support for its missions, but stressed that NATO needed to work on its strategic partnerships and do a better job at communicating its wide range of missions around the world in order to achieve this goal.  Ambassador Majoor addressed the NATO-Russia relationship and stated that it is not the only issue for NATO right now, but an important and intensive one that will only move forward if common approaches can be found. Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, Director of Asia and Middle East Operations and the United Nation’s Office of Peacekeeping Operations raised the need for greater UN-NATO cooperation on missions in Afghanistan, and the Ambassadors agreed that more practical and consistent coordination at the actual working-group level could be extremely helpful and productive in furthering common objectives.

On the occasion of the annual Ambassadors’ Dinner, The European Institute launched a new initiative on Russia-EU-U.S. Triangular Relations. The fluidity and complexity of common strategic, economic, energy and environmental challenges can best be met through effective triangular cooperation. His Excellency Sergey Kislyak, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States, His Excellency Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, Ambassador of Spain to the United States and Ambassador Richard Morningstar, the U.S. State Department Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy offered their assessments of the prospects for stronger triangular cooperation.

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Long Dormant Debate Brewing Again

Tensions are slowly building within the Atlantic Alliance about the future role of nuclear weapons in transatlantic security. New questions arise for NATO, the European Union and individual member States. All the pieces of the European strategic “mobile” have been set in motion in the past five years, and a major debate has started. NATO and EU members will have to find ways to maintain a modicum of consensus about this issue if they wish to avoid cracks in Alliance unity on global nuclear issues.

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