Channeling Brussels

  • European Bureaucracy, Not Russia’s Military Exercises, Seen as a Bigger Challenge

    Top US military commander in Europe, Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, calls for a ‘military Schengen zone

    As Zapad 2017 looms, the top US military commander worries more about Europe’s sluggish bureaucracy than Russia’s snap military exercises.

    One word is dominating transatlantic security and defense discussions heading into September: Zapad. The word, which means “west” in Russian, is the name (and the target) of the Russian government’s regular military exercises, held every four years.

    The top US military commander in Europe, Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, shrugged when asked whether Zapad is a threat. “There’s nothing evil about Zapad,” he said, adding "It’s certainly Russia’s right to conduct exercises.”

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  • NATO Enhances its Eastern Front

    The Baltic States and Poland have long wanted an enduring NATO presence on their territories. Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 convinced their allies they need it.  With plans approved at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, now the four countries each have a battle group of approximately 1,000 troops stationed on their territory. “We don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “but we have to be vigilant.”

    Stoltenberg traveled to Latvia and Lithuania in June during the Saber Strike 2017 military exercises, which involved some 11,000 troops from twenty countries, to mark the battle groups becoming fully operational and to remind everyone why they exist.  

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  • Westmacott: ‘Turkey’s European Journey’ Has Taken a Detour

    The title of Sir Peter Westmacott’s new paper, Turkey’s European Journey, does not indicate where he thinks the country stands on that path, whether he believes Ankara is still headed toward Europe or whether it has turned off that road permanently. A conversation with Westmacott, a distinguished ambassadorial fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative who has served as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to France, Turkey, and the United States, sheds more light on how he sees Turkey’s current status under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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  • A Decade After "Web War 1," Former Estonian President Blasts EU Cyber Inertia

    Even as the pervasive and destructive capacity of cyberattacks becomes ever more evident with the alleged Russian meddling in European and American politics, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a former president of Estonia, marvels at the European Union’s under-performance in dealing with the threat—and he’s pointed in his criticism. 

    “I think the [European] Commission, in particular the high representative [Vice President Federica Mogherini] and the agency that she leads [European External Action Service], is being particularly remiss in addressing fundamental threats,” Ilves said. 

    “The external affairs people, they’re dealing with issues that, of course, are important but not of life and death importance to the European Union... we do not see attention paid to the fundamental threats to democracy within the members of the European Union,” he added.

    This week marks the tenth anniversary of the first real act of cyber war—colloquially referred to as...

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  • NATO Fights to Close the Gender Gap

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, had high hopes. Recognizing that women and children are the worst affected by armed conflict, the measure urged member governments and the UN itself to include more women in decision making and operations. It also “called on all parties to armed conflict to protect women and girls from gender-based violence [and]... emphasized the responsibility of all states to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, including those relating to sexual violence against women and girls.”

    But so far, not so good. A February review of how UNSCR 1325 has been implemented worldwide, researched by the nonprofit Security Council Report, shows that rather than embracing the inclusion of women as...

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  • NATO's Man with Many Helmets

    Bearing a title that obligates him to manage evolving security threats, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges Sorin Ducaru has his hands more than full.  With the threat landscape against the alliance changing constantly in unpredictable ways, many of them breaking new terrain in warfare, Ducaru and his staff have to be prescient, agile, and humble about their abilities to predict what's next.

    NATO defense ministers last month approved an "updated cyber defense plan" and moved forward with discussing how to practically incorporate "cyber" as their latest operational domain. That designation was formally made at the 2016 Warsaw Summit, obligating NATO to defend itself in cyberspace "as effectively as it does in the air, on land, and at sea."  Easier said than done, needless to say, but Ducaru's office is on it.

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  • Lonely GOP Outpost in Brussels Sees Supporters Slowly Emerge

    It's not a secret that expatriate Americans, along with Europeans, tend to feel more closely aligned with the Democratic Party in the United States. Even when overseas liberals supposedly “fell out of love” with Barack Obama or didn’t, more recently, adore Hillary Clinton as much as they had her husband, there’s no contest between any Democratic candidate and a Republican when it comes to popularity in Europe.
     
    Democrats Abroad boasts a healthy contingent of active members in major European capitals, staging events and teeing up national elections every four years.  In Brussels, Republicans Overseas, the GOP counterpart, has been represented by one man: Michael Kulbickas.

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  • Ukraine Confident US Support Will Not Waver

    ‘Channeling Brussels’ with Yehor Bozhok, Ukraine’s acting head of mission at NATO

    While the United States’ allies in Europe have been shaken by US President-elect Donald Trump’s description of NATO as “obsolete” and his suggestion that he may consider relaxing US sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, Ukraine’s top diplomat at NATO is confident that US commitment to his country will remain firm.

    Whatever is said on the campaign trail, said Yehor Bozhok, Ukraine’s acting head of mission at NATO, every US administration turns out to be a strong supporter of Ukraine.  Bozhok attributed that to a recognition by US leaders that the conflict is not a “bilateral conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” but an attempt to attack “democracy, the rule of law and respect” between nations. He said there’s no option other than to defend Ukraine, otherwise “we will have to deal with the opened Pandora's box all over the world.”

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  • Latvia Heads Into 2017 Relying On Its Own Mettle—And NATO Metal

    'Channeling Brussels' with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs

    While the entire world carefully watches how 2017 unfolds, especially developments between the White House and the Kremlin, the Baltics are among those with the most finely-tuned binoculars.  Worst-case scenarios may be simply hypotheses for debate in other countries, but in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania they are part of daily geopolitical calculations as the Baltics navigate a very fine line of making sure their allies stay on high alert for Russian interference without portraying themselves as unduly alarmist or vulnerable.

    Having covered the Baltics in 1991 as they struggled against Soviet occupation and regained independence, I went back to Riga almost twenty-five years after the demise of the USSR to see the impact of this speculation that one of them may become the theater for “World War III.” Such a development is, according to the most pessimistic accounts, quite possibly...

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  • 'Channeling Brussels' with Sandy Vershbow

    Former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow on the challenge
    posed by Russia

    When someone with the long-range perspective of Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow says relations with Russia are the worst he's seen in his entire career, everyone should take notice. In this week's "Channeling Brussels," Vershbow calls 2014, with Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region, a "watershed year" for him—and not in a good way.

    Vershbow has been a student of the Soviet Union and Russia for many decades, rising to the highest levels of the US State Department, the Pentagon and NATO.  Before his recently-ended tenure as NATO's deputy secretary general, Vershbow had served as the American ambassador to the Alliance from 1998 to 2001 and to Moscow from 2001 to 2005.  With all that Russia-watching history, Vershbow says he'd have to go back to the Berlin crises of the early 1960s to imagine "as volatile and unpredictable and dangerous a...

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