Channeling Brussels

  • Who's Afraid of an EU ‘Magnitsky Act’? Bill Browder Says It's Not Just the Targets

    It should have been a huge personal triumph for Bill Browder.

    All twenty-eight European Union governments met in The Hague on November 20 to negotiate for the first time the adoption of a legal mechanism to sanction human rights violators, prompted by Browder’s very personal nine-year campaign to get justice for his friend, murdered in a Russian prison.

    Instead, Browder is disappointed and it all comes down to one word: “Magnitsky.” It's a word so powerful and divisive the Dutch government very deliberately left it off the title of the proposed legislation.

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  • One of NATO’s Best Communicators Has Some Parting Advice for the Alliance: Speak Up!

    Jamie Shea, one of the most recognizable faces ever associated with NATO, is retiring in September after thirty-eight years, likely the Alliance’s longest-serving official. An irrepressible defender of the twenty-nine-member Alliance, Shea nonetheless reveals that he believes NATO must do more to pair its military transformation with increased assets on the battlefield of ideas and information. “Being optimistic doesn't mean being complacent,” he underscored, adding that NATO needs both perseverance in its core tasks and new initiatives.

    Shea wishes he could stay on and continue to help guide that effort himself, but he turns sixty-five in early September, hitting NATO's mandatory retirement age.

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  • ‘We've Got a Good News Story to Tell’

    Interview with NATO’s James Appathurai

    It's no secret people are nervous at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, and not just with jitters that would be normal ahead of any major event with the eyes of the world upon it. With twenty-nine heads of state and government on their way to the Alliance’s sleek new headquarters, there are many variables, the most unpredictable being US President Donald J. Trump. The US leader continues his tirade against European under-spenders, who are angry over US trade policies. The Alliance is doing everything it can to avoid a category G7 catastrophe.

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  • Giving Peace a Chance in Eastern Ukraine

    OSCE monitor calls for withdrawal of heavy weapons, troops as ceasefire agreed

    All sides in the conflict in eastern Ukraine must withdraw heavy weapons and troops and remove landmines if a new ceasefire, expected to go into effect on July 1, is to have any chance of success, according to Alexander Hug who oversees what has until now been a nonexistent peace process.

    The “new recommitment to the ceasefire” must address the root causes of the conflict in order to have any lasting effect, said Hug, deputy chief monitor for the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). “That is, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, disengagement where the forces and formations stand too close and mine action” to mark or remove land mines and stop laying new ones, he explained.

    “If these three basic military technical measures are not being implemented in full and in all earnest, then the violence is likely to resume after a short...

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  • '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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