Channeling Brussels

  • 'You Don't Point Guns at the Heads of Your Allies'

    Interview with Anthony Gardner, a former US ambassador to the European Union

    US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from both the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement as well as threats to impose tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminum have put transatlantic relations on the worst footing since the split over the Iraq war in 2003.

    “We're mixing up our allies and our enemies,” said Anthony Gardner, who served as the United States’ ambassador to the European Union (EU) from 2014 to January 20, 2017.

    “You don't point guns at the heads of your allies,” he added.

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  • Cast Off By The United States a Decade Ago, Keflavik is Again a Key Lookout

    In its Cold War heyday, the tiny town of Keflavik (population 15,129 today) played an outsized role on the world stage as a strategic outpost for the United States and its NATO allies, keeping an eye on Soviet and Russian activities. The Icelandic airbase was home to thousands of US servicemembers and their families. As Moscow-Washington tensions abated, so did the interest in keeping the base staffed up. By 2006, and over the protestations of the Icelandic government which felt somewhat abandoned, the US government returned control of the base to Reykjavik. It became a sprawling mix of privatized apartment buildings, schools, and other civilian facilities.

    Fast forward to 2014: Russia annexes Crimea in a sudden manifestation of its increasingly aggressive military posture. A month later, Capt. Jon Gudnason, commander of the Keflavik Airbase for the last thirty years, got a phone call from Washington.  In a brief conversation, US Navy officials told him they would...

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  • Ukraine's Foreign Minister Says Salisbury Attack Proves Putin Has ‘No Red Lines’

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin came to Brussels this week to meet European Union (EU) foreign ministers. He had a dual mission.

    Klimkin made his usual appeal to his European counterparts for more help for Ukraine, but also asked them to do more to protect themselves from a Kremlin he says has no limits after Vladimir Putin’s effortless reinstallation as president on March 18.

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  • #MeToo Emboldens Women in Brussels

    While #MeToo was born in the United States, it quickly sparked a sister movement in Europe, #MeTooEU. Brussels was shocked by the outpouring of stories of abuse and aggression against women—predominantly emanating out of the European Parliament—and the apathy with which their complaints had been handled through official channels. On this International Women's Day, there is a lot of talk about changing this unacceptable situation.

    Looking back at what she calls “terrible developments” over the past twelve months, the European Council's Gender Equality Adviser Cristina Gallach is definitely a glass-half-full feminist. She believes women in the European Union (EU) are in a better place today than a year ago.

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  • A Ticking Clock

    Rose Gottemoeller, deputy secretary general of NATO, discusses arms control

    When the Doomsday Clock took its last big leap, moving from five minutes to three minutes to midnight in 2015, Rose Gottemoeller took it personally. She was then US under secretary of state for arms control and had spent her entire career negotiating with first the Soviets and then the Russians to keep the world further from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ “apocalypse.”

    “I was very cross,” she recalled with a self-deprecating laugh, “because of course I was responsible for arms control matters in the government and they still moved the clock back toward midnight. I was like ‘what do I have to do?!’” Gottemoeller said nonproliferation experts felt the Obama administration could have done more.

    When the “clock of doom” ticked forward thirty seconds in January, up to 11:58, Gottemoeller watched from Brussels in her post as NATO's deputy secretary general, no longer...

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  • US Envoy for Ukraine Negotiations: West Must ‘Keep Increasing the Costs’ for Russia

    Even as Russia escalates military action in eastern Ukraine, diplomatic momentum to resolve the nearly four-year-old conflict has diminished, says Kurt Volker, the US special representative for Ukraine negotiations.

    Pointing to a significant increase in December in violations by Russia of what’s often referred to as the “ceasefire-in-name-only” Minsk agreement, Volker said: “There’s been no movement by Russia toward actually ending the conflict.”

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  • Afghanistan’s First All-Female TV Network Presses Society’s Buttons

    Life for women in Afghanistan has seen many advances since the end of Taliban rule, but the country still ranks poorly when it comes to gender equality. Spousal abuse and child marriage are rampant, while the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to handle complaints from women. Societal silence on these issues compounds the cultural cage in which many Afghan women are forced to live.

    But there are many women breaking out of that cage in dramatic fashion and some of them are literally broadcasting their views. Afghanistan’s first female-oriented, female-run station, Zan TV, started operations in May of 2017. It is the brainchild of media entrepreneur Hamid Samar, who provides 100 percent private funding. All reporters, anchors, and, most importantly, news content decision makers, are women. 

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  • 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.

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  • (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?”

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  • 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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