Channeling Brussels

  • Long History and Long Border with Russia Make Finland the Perfect ‘Hybrid’ Hub

    The new European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (CoE) in Helsinki is, according to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, an “institution fit for our times.”

    With membership from eleven European Union (EU) nations and the United States, the CoE is one of the most tangible examples of the pledge by NATO and the EU to work more closely together, addressing what both organizations recognize is a threat to their very foundations. Mattis visited the center in Finland last week.

    Read More
  • (Too) Much Ado About Germany’s Far-Right?

    European parliamentarian Elmar Brok says post-election Germany is no “problem case”

    Elmar Brok is the longest-serving lawmaker in the European Parliament (EP), a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who’s known her personally for nearly three decades. Brok, who spoke out forcefully against the extreme right during the recent election campaign, has no patience for handwringing over the results of the September 24 election.

    Merkel was re-elected to a fourth term, but it was also the first time that a far-right political party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), won seats in parliament since World War II.

    “Eighty-seven percent of Germans voted ‘not nationalist,’” he pointed out, referring to the other major parties, the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens. “In what [other] country of the world would you get such a result?”

    Read More
  • 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.”

    Read More
  • 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.  

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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...

    Read More
  • 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...

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.

    Read More
  • 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.”

    Read More