Analysis

MUNICH – The United States has traditionally reassured doubtful allies of its security commitment through such measures as troop reinforcements and military exercises.

However, disruptive times call for unconventional measures.

This weekend, the U.S. will forward deploy more than 40 members of Congress – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – to the Munich Security Conference, the biggest such U.S. delegation in the 55-year history of the group, the most significant transatlantic powwow of its kind.

On February 7, France announced its decision to recall its ambassador to Rome for consultations, denouncing a “grave situation” that “has no precedent since the end of the war.” This unprecedented move came a day after Italy’s deputy prime minister, and leader of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio flew to France and met representatives of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Jackets) movement. In a letter to Le Monde, Di Maio justified the meeting saying: “I wanted to meet with representatives of the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ and the citizens' initiative referendum group, because I do not believe that the future of European politics lies in the parties of the right or the left.”

The meeting, and ensuing French reaction, marks a peak in the escalation of rhetoric between French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Italy’s ruling Five Star-League coalition over the past eight months.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Central Europe is “the right call” by the Trump administration, according to Daniel Fried, a distinguished ambassadorial fellow at the Atlantic Council.

After the enlargement of NATO and the European Union to encompass these countries by 2004, “a lot of Americans thought our work in the region was done, and yet it was not so,” Fried explained. With US attention shifting to other regions of the world, the once very close partnerships between the United States and these countries “became eerily normal,” said Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council. “Central Europe began to be taken for granted as Washington’s attention understandably shifted elsewhere.”

The signing by NATO’s twenty-nine members and Skopje of an accession protocol that would make the future Republic of North Macedonia the Alliance’s thirtieth member represents “a victory for stability, security, and reconciliation in the Western Balkans,” according to Michael Carpenter, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

“Today the Western Balkans have turned a page,” said Carpenter. “Common sense and regional reconciliation have prevailed over divisions and discord.”

Macedonia’s entry into NATO can help revitalize the Alliance, the country’s foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on February 5.

“NATO is a family that is about security, stability, predictability, and a better and more peaceful world,” Dimitrov said, adding that “for you on the inside it is probably easy to forget how cold it is on the outside.”

As British Prime Minister Theresa May packs her bags to go to Brussels once again, European leaders could be forgiven for thinking this “looks like Groundhog Day,” Bart Oosterveld, the Atlantic Council’s C. Boyden Gray fellow on global finance and growth and director of the Global Business and Economics Program, said.

May pushed through a provision in the British Parliament on January 29—the Brady Amendment—which formally states Parliament’s opposition to the current draft Withdrawal Agreement laying out the terms of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union over concerns about the “backstop” provision meant to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It is time for the European Union to rethink its approach to the Brexit negotiations.  Unable to reach consensus, Britain is sliding toward a “no deal” scenario, which will be damaging for everyone, including the twenty-seven EU member states (EU27). The EU has every right to drive a hard bargain, and especially to preserve the essence of membership, including the “Four Freedoms” of movement for goods, capital, services, and labor. But unless the exit agreement and the future relationship are finalized together, Britain will not know its path forward, and could easily stay in political crisis until it falls off the cliff.

The new Treaty of Aachen, signed on January 22 by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel bears great symbolic significance—historical as well as political. The question is whether it carries much practical significance.


On Christmas Day in the year 800 AD, Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III in Rome as the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite Voltaire’s quip in 1756 that this construction was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, the Sacrum Imperium Romanum was to last until it was dissolved in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. Even today, the prince of Liechtenstein is a direct inheritor of one of the principalities composing the Holy Roman Empire.

The capital of the empire was Aachen, known in French (and generally in English) as Aix-la-Chapelle. Charlemagne had become King of the Franks in 768 AD, upon the death of his father, Pepin the Short, and, as his father had done before him, he spent Christmas that year in Aachen. Later, and until Charlemagne’s death in 814 AD, Aachen became Charlemagne’s “capital,” the political center of his empire and the location of his imperial court.

First, the good news. Amid the daily drama and questions about US President Donald J. Trump’s actual relationship with Vladimir Putin and his Russia, pieces of a defensible Trump foreign policy have emerged over the past two years. 


The focus on a return of great power rivalry, a theme of the administration’s national security strategy, is a solid judgment. The administration’s challenge of China’s predatory trade and other aggressive practices is a worthy and overdue objective. The Trump administration was right to move beyond the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” toward North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and replace it with a policy of maximum pressure. The president has a point when he challenges the assumptions of US military engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria (Obama did much the same). Whatever the explanation for the president’s obsequious approach toward Putin, the administration’s actual policy toward Putin’s aggressive Russia is, as was said of Wagner’s music, better than it sounds.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on January 16 called for a collective Western response to cyber threats while urging allies to increase spending on cybersecurity.


“I call on you today and encourage your leaders and governments to spend more money on cyber warfare, as we do, on cyber soldiers to protect our Internet frontier,” Morawiecki said on the opening day of a two-day conference jointly hosted by PKO Bank Polski and the Atlantic Council in Warsaw, Poland.


“Our enemies will not wait,” Morawiecki said, adding, “They are arming up as we speak. Only a collective response will keep he threat at bay, and only a decisive one.”


The conference, “A New Initiative for Poland: A Future Global Leader in Securing the 4th Industrial Revolution,” seeks to deepen US-Polish ties by developing cybersecurity as a key pillar in the relationship.



    

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