Tag Archives: innovation

A Diplomat’s New Life

I am back.  On July 22 this year I departed Estonia for the last time as U.S. Ambassador and launched the transition from 35 years in my country’s Diplomatic Service into my new life as a private sector diplomat.  On October 1, I joined the new McCain Institute for International Leadership as Senior Director.  Located in Washington, D.C. and supported initially by a $9 million gift from the McCain Institute Foundation, we are part of Arizona State University (ASU), America’s largest public university.  Our mission is to advance leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom, and human dignity, in the United States and around the world.

I will be directing a unique new global leadership fellows program that will bring emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. to engage in a year-long deepening of their “character-driven” leadership skills, along with professional development in their respective fields.  As an ASU Professor, I will also be passing on 35 years of diplomatic and international leadership experience to the next  generation of U.S. and international foreign affairs leaders.

And of course the issues and subjects that have been important to me in the past continue to excite me in my new capacity:  cyber security, e-governance, U.S. global leadership, the trans-Atlantic relationship, American values, and technology and policy, to name just a few.  Thank you for your patience with my temporary absence from the blogosphere and stay tuned — you will hear from me on these and many other issues again from now on.  Follow me and the McCain Institute also on Twitter and Facebook.

1 Comment

Filed under American Values, Civil Society, diplomacy, good governance, U.S. Foreign Relations, Uncategorized

Fifteen Years AmCham Estonia: A Booming Business

A few days ago, together with my friends, Estonian Foreign Minister Paet and Ambassador Kaljurand, Estonia’s Ambassador to the U.S., I congratulated the American Chamber of Commerce  in Estonia on its 15th birthday.  Almost as old as renewed independence for Estonia itself!

Estonia’s journey from Soviet occupation to a vibrant and innovative economic leader is an example for others to study and follow.  Of  course, for neither Estonia or the Chamber was the path always easy or without its challenges.  But similar to Estonia’s transformation as a nation, the rejuvenation of AmCham I have witnessed over the past several years is tangible and deserves enthusiastic recognition.   AmCham’s mission and desire to grow into an ever stronger and more prominent voice for U.S. business in Estonia is being realized.  I am proud of my Embassy’s strong and creative partnership with AmCham in that role.  Our cooperation runs the gamut of issues and events. From drawing attention to issues such as intellectual property rights, to American community events like our joint Fourth of July celebrations, to creating the Estonian American Innovation Award, we indeed have much to be proud of.

Looking ahead, we see new challenges and opportunities that will require even stronger engagement to help create more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.  Through expanded business ties and putting our respective innovative economies in high gear.

Many pundits have spoken recently about the United States turning its attention away from Europe and towards Asia.  This has stoked fears that U.S.-European economic and security relationships will suffer. They will not.  The U.S. and Europe, politically, economically, socially and emotionally represent two sides of the same coin.  As to our relations with the Asia/Pacific region, Americans, Estonians and other Europeans can and will walk and chew gum at the same time.

Let’s recall the facts:  Transatlantic trade accounts for 40 percent of the global economy.  Americans and Europeans are not only preferred, but also natural partners.  We recognize that concerted action by the United States and our allies in Europe is required if we want to tackle the global challenges and opportunities of our time.  This is true for building a vibrant and free 21st century global economy, mitigating climate change, engaging emerging economies, and recovering from the global financial crisis.  And it is true for combating terrorism or cyber threats, and completing our mission in Afghanistan.

On the business front, the U.S. and EU are working through one of my favorite cross-ocean institutions — the Transatlantic Economic Council.  We seek to avoid unnecessary divergence in regulations and standards that impede trade; develop fully compatible approaches to emerging technologies; and coordinate our activities to level the playing field for our companies in third countries, particularly in emerging economies.  All of this is under the overarching goal of creating a truly open transatlantic marketplace and improving the prosperity of our 800 million people.

Estonia, and AmCham Estonia, have important roles to play in the U.S.-European economic partnership. In this, Estonia’s compact size is both a plus and a minus.  A small and advanced rule-of-law country can quickly take advantage of new entrepreneurial opportunities.  It can offer stability and low risk that many much larger economies can only hope for.  But a small domestic market also means that the 800 million people have to become Estonia’s target  market.  And a small population means having to tackle the limits of in-country human capital – in terms of education and training as well as immigration policy.

Estonia, and more importantly, “E-stonia, is already an established leader in a number of 21st century economic priority areas.  These include processing rare earths; developing alternative as well as new forms of traditional energy; information technology; and of course the myriad of e-services that Estonians already treat as routine and that make the rest of us jealous.  The world has come to learn about innovative Estonia.  Expanding and delivering on that reputation will be the task of Estonian entrepreneurs and this AmCham together with American innovators.  My Embassy will continue to be part of this exciting and promising future. 

With that in mind, once again, Happy 15th Birthday AmCham Estonia!

1 Comment

Filed under American Values, economy, good governance, Intellectual Property, U.S. -Estonian Relations

State of the Art U.S. Travel Security System for Estonia

A senior Estonian official told me recently that when the newly re-independent country set out to modernize in the early 1990’s after years of occupation, Estonian leaders chose to leap toward the 21st century rather than “upgrading” to aging western technology.  Estonian schools received state of the art computers.  Internet networks went wireless, fiber optic and broadband.  Banking became electronic and Estonian e-government today is a model for the rest of Europe and beyond.

Now the Estonian Ministry of the Interior is testing the world’s most advanced travel security management system.  U.S. electronics giant Raytheon is running a year-long pilot program of its Portera Traveler Management System in Tallinn.  Tonight,  Raytheon representatives will introduce the joint program together with Estonia’s Interior Minister to a group of  guests at my home.   Portera is not only the most innovative system available today, its use also provides for strict data privacy protections standard in Europe and the United States.  Not surprisingly, Estonia will be the first country outside the United States to test and, if found acceptable, institute this system. 

Another leap ahead for Estonia and a huge jump in safety for the rapidly expanding number of travellers coming to and passing through this country.

Leave a comment

Filed under good governance, Security

There is an App for That! U.S. iEmbassy Tallinn, Estonia

I know what you’ll say.  “Where have you been?  Smart phones and tablet computers were hardly invented just yesterday! And havn’t you been using an iPhone and an iPad for years?”  You are right and you are right again.  But for my Embassy as a diplomatic platform for America today is a new day:  Our entire staff will receive new iPhones today as a uniform technology platform and a new tool in our diplomatic arsenal.  In addition, we are employing tablet computers — iPads to be exact — to use for Embassy tasks that until now required lots of paper and heavy briefcases.  In Estonia, our diplomats on duty to assist American citizens and Estonians in need of our consular services will now carry all the information they need in a single iPad that connects them directly to the Embassy, to Washington, and to the world.  Also, as part of our outreach to our Estonian hosts, by the end of this year we will roll out the U.S. Embassy Tallinn Mobile American Corner — an iPad-based ultralight mobile mini-Embassy if you wish — that our diplomats will be able to set up in minutes virtually anywhere in the country to bring America to the Estonian people.  And no surprise, it is an Estonian software company that is helping us design the application to run our new system!

But back to our iPhones.  In a few minutes from writing this short blog, I will be meeting with my American and Estonian team to encourage them to let their imaginations run wild (legally that is)  as we come up with new ways to deploy this tool in the service of the American people.  I am determined not to sound like the government official that I am during this meeting, but rather as the closest I can get to a garage brainstormer in the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates tradition.  I won’t be able to hide that I am already 57 years old, but I will also not highlight it.  In my vision and in my mind I feel  like I a twenty-something, terribly excited about the possibilities of new information technology in the service  of diplomacy — a centuries old information profession.

So I am off now to rouse my diplomatic troops, but I am first taking off my tie.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Values, good governance

A U.S./European Secure Energy Future

(Taken from a lecture delivered at Estonian Energy’s Forum:  “Where Will Tomorrow’s Energy Come From?” in Tallinn September 20, 2011.)

President Obama accentuated the state of the U.S. energy situation when in March this year he said “we cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security.”

Unfortunately this has been the case for far too long in America. Our interest in energy security rides a cycle from almost manic activity when gasoline prices are high, to indifference when prices drop back down again. It is clear that continuing this cycle is no longer an option. Global demand for energy is expected to rise 50% over the next 25 years. Driven by growth in China, India and the rest of the developing world, the rising price of oil and other forms of energy is an issue we must confront head-on with resolve and ingenuity.

We in the United States and our European friends and allies owe it to ourselves and our citizens to provide for a more secure energy future by harnessing all of our available resources, embracing a diverse energy portfolio, and investing in the most promising new sources of renewable power.  U.S. – European, U.S. -Estonian, and regional cooperation, along with free markets, are key elements to reaching an abundant, clean, and secure energy future.

When President Obama took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. This past March, the President pledged that by a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. He put forward a plan to secure America’s energy future by producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil by leveraging cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

First, we will develop and secure America’s own abundant energy supplies: We need to deploy American assets, innovation, and technology so that we can safely and responsibly develop more energy at home and be a leader in the global energy economy. Developing our existing energy supplies means improved drilling for oil and natural gas. And it also means exploring exciting opportunities for U.S.-Estonian cooperation by putting together Estonia’s oil shale expertise with America’s vast oil shale resources. I very much look forward to seeing Enefit’s investment in Utah develop swiftly, and will continue to do all I can to ensure this project is a full success.

Second, there is also an important ongoing role to play for nuclear energy. Some countries in Europe decided to write-off nuclear power in the aftermath of the natural disaster in Japan this year. That is not the course the United States will take. Abandoning such an important stream of rather clean energy will only lead to higher electricity bills, increasing dependence on fossil fuels – which are often imported, and further complicate our uphill challenge in reaching climate change goals. Instead of abandoning nuclear energy, we intend to continue to make nuclear power function safely, and we have high hopes for new generation reactors being developed.  The United States will provide consumers with choices to reduce costs and save energy: Volatile gasoline prices reinforce the need for innovation that will make it easier and more affordable for consumers to buy more advanced and fuel-efficient vehicles, use alternative means of transportation, weatherize their homes and workplaces, and in doing so, save money and protect the environment. Increasing energy efficiency is something we can do now, with existing technology, and have a major impact on our energy and climate security.

Third, we will innovate our way to a clean energy future: Leading the world in clean energy is critical to strengthening the American economy. Our Government has invested over $90 billion in clean energy research and development over the past 2 years. This unprecedented investment demonstrates our commitment to one day creating limitless clean energy supplies. This process will take many years and until then we must use all we have responsibly: our oil, gas, oil shale and nuclear power along with nascent renewables.

Along with our domestic energy program, we will also pursue three main, interconnected components of our Eurasian energy strategy. We want to assist Europe in its quest for energy security. I recently wrote a blog re-stating the obvious: having strong European allies is essential for the health of the American economy and for our national security. The EU and the U.S. account for the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world. Europe is also our partner on any number of global issues from Afghanistan to Libya to the Middle East, from human rights to free trade and to peace and security for the citizens of those regions. Promoting energy security in Europe is good for America and good for Europe.

In Europe, energy security is a more pressing issue to some than to others. Some countries in Europe do not have a diverse energy mix and depend largely on a single supplier and transport route. When that route is disrupted, as we witnessed in January 2009 with the Russo-Ukrainian gas dispute, the consequences for countries downstream can be severe in the immediate term and profoundly unsettling for the future. Also, for the European side of the Atlantic, we want to encourage the development of new oil and gas resources and also promote efficiency and conservation in the use of all types of energy.

Because there is a fungible world market for oil, new production contributes to meeting growing demand anywhere in the world, including in the United States. Such a global supply chain does not exist for gas, but security of supply is equally important. We often speak about new natural gas production in the Caspian region, shale gas in Poland, and other potential gas resources in and near Europe. It is unlikely that any of that gas will reach the U.S., but these sources will improve the energy security of our European allies and add to international gas supply. Additional supply in one place naturally frees up supply in another. Also, as the market for liquefied natural gas continues to grow, we can start to plan for gas to move around markets in much the same way that oil does.

Finally, we want to help Caspian and Central Asian countries find new routes to a free market. To turn an old phrase, “happiness is multiple pipelines.” We want to help foster economic growth and prosperity in these countries. By expanding export routes, they can increase competition for their resources, demand a fair price, and create strong links to the global economy. These countries must also be able to make their own independent choices regarding how their energy resources reach the market.

So, how can we achieve our common energy security goals together with and in Europe? We know that energy markets work best when free market forces drive decisions on how oil and gas are produced, transported, and purchased. This is normally the case for private firms and can even be the case for state-owned oil and gas companies. Governments can and should play a facilitating role. They should put in place the right business climate to attract free investment and work with neighboring states to expand market access and increase interconnections. As with all other goods in a global trading system, the value added by the public sector is the creation of the political framework in which businesses and commercial projects can thrive.

At the heart of U.S. policy is our conviction that energy security is best achieved through diversity – diversity of suppliers, diversity of transportation routes and diversity of consumers. This of course applies to existing as well as future technologies, including renewable and other clean energy technologies, and products and methodologies for increased energy efficiency.

We strongly support the establishment of a new pathway, the so-called Southern Corridor, to bring natural gas to Europe, via Turkey, from the Caspian Region and potentially other sources beyond Europe’s south-eastern frontiers. Gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore fields will be the first significant volumes available to supply the Southern Corridor. Development of a major field in Azerbaijan is well underway and three separate pipeline consortia are laying the financial, technical and organizational groundwork to compete for the right to ship this gas to Europe. The best outcome of all these efforts is the one that brings the most gas, soonest and most reliably, to those parts of Europe that need it most. But at the end of the day, any solution for bringing Azeri or other gas to European customers must make commercial sense. In light of the momentum achieved over the past 18 months, we are confident that a commercially viable Southern Corridor will be realized. The investment decisions to make that possible should occur by the end of this year.

Some people have portrayed our energy policy and Russia’s as the next round in the “Great Game” in Central Asia. I could not disagree more. Energy security is no game. And we are not playing. Energy security and energy investment are topics for serious two-way discussions with Russia. The importance of these issues is reflected by the inclusion of a Working Group on Energy, chaired by U.S. Energy Secretary Chu and Russian Energy Minister Shmatko, under our U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Russia is an important supplier of oil and gas, and we welcome market-driven expansion of its production capacity.

In Central and Eastern Europe, we support efforts to more effectively diversify energy sources. We encourage states throughout the region to coordinate work toward a common energy market and to increase gas and electricity connections with each other and with the larger, better-supplied economies of the rest of Europe. To this end, the U.S. is actively cooperating with Estonia and its neighbors in implementing the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), which strives for full integration of the states in the Baltic/Nordic region into the European energy market. We have already seen important successes on this front, for instance with the Estlink project between Estonia and Finland. I applaud Estonia for the hard work, leadership and patience it has demonstrated on regional energy cooperation.

New pipelines alone will not fully assure Europe’s energy security. The U.S. supports the other initiatives that Europe is undertaking to increase its own energy security. This includes building a single market for energy, unbundling the distribution and supply functions of energy firms, building interconnectivity of European gas and electricity networks, environmentally sound development of shale gas reserves, enhancing LNG import capabilities, increasing gas storage, improving energy efficiency, and exploring alternative and renewable sources. All of these are pieces of the puzzle to ensure European energy security.

In November 2009 our governments launched the U.S.-EU Energy Council to formalize our ongoing engagement. Through this body we have developed coordinated approaches to Ukraine, Russia, the Southern Corridor and Iraq. The Energy Council is also making important practical strides toward harmonizing battery and plug-in charging standards for Electric-drive Vehicles (EVs) and software for Smart Grids. We are also working to facilitate an unprecedented level of researcher exchanges in key areas of clean and renewable technologies research.

U.S.-Estonian energy cooperation fits seamlessly into the broader U.S. – European energy framework. Of course the most prominent area of cooperation between our countries is on oil shale. Putting together Estonia’s 90 years of experience utilizing oil shale with America’s immense oil shale resources could unlock 1.8 trillion barrels of shale oil. This year we have seen two significant steps further intensifying our cooperation: Eesti Energia’s/Enefit’s investment in Utah with plans to build a sizeable shale oil production facility, and the oil shale research cooperation agreement Minister Parts and I signed in February. My Embassy has strongly supported Enefit’s investment in the United States and I will firmly continue that support. Estonian oil shale investment is just beginning in the U.S., but the potential benefits to both of our countries are enormous. As to further research cooperation, I am happy to report that experts at the Department of Energy are already in contact with their counterparts in Estonia. Among the many things we can do together are enhancing the efficiency of oil production from oil shale, identifying new and commercially feasible processes to produce high quality oil from shale, and minimizing the environmental impact associated with shale oil production.

Naturally, our mutual interests go beyond oil shale. We have also encouraged development of renewable energy through initiatives such as the Clean and Green Energy Conference in 2009. This conference brought executives from clean energy businesses and leading American clean energy researchers to Estonia to develop contacts and share their knowledge. And again we have encouraged and applauded Estonia’s efforts to unify the Baltic electricity market and link it to NordPool and the rest of the EU. Estonia has routinely demonstrated leadership on this issue, through projects such as Estlink 1 & 2, by beginning the process of opening the electricity market last year, and by encouraging your neighbors to create a single Baltic electricity market. A very good step in the right direction is also Estonia’s commitment to the Visaginas nuclear plant project in Lithuania. I was happy to see that the American-Japanese consortium of General Electric and Hitachi was chosen to move the project forward and my embassy stands ready to assist in next steps and to further progress in any way we can. Nuclear energy will offer Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania a stable, reliable energy supply that will not contribute to climate change or be subject to political pressures.

Transatlantic energy security discussions are fraught with emotion born from frustration and burdened by repeated inaction as we go from shock to trance. Our governments and our publics don’t always agree on the precise path or the pace toward a secure energy future, but there is zero argument about the ultimate goal. In the end nothing succeeds like success. Whatever works in getting us there, and does so in the fastest and most economically sound way, we will be able to agree on. Our assets are not only fossil fuels and modern renewable energy resources, but also a joint commitment to free markets that literally keep energy flowing.  Together we will keep the lights burning.

1 Comment

Filed under economy, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

It’s Internet Freedom, Stupid!

Read a piece in the New York Times of June 12, 2011, entitled: U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors.   Great story.  Great reading.  The ultimate point of the article is freedom of information, freedom of expression, freedom to participate in the 21st century communications revolution – the internet and all other forms of wireless communications technology.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made the vigorous defense of internet freedom a central element of U.S. foreign policy.  This policy has nothing to do with a fascination with modern communications technology (although it is cool!)  The policy is based on the simple realization that values first embraced by the young United States more than 200 years ago have found a new medium of electronic transmission.  It bridges distances, borders, cultural differences, political repression and violence, and virtually all other obstacles, to lend a voice to freedom, a voice to people in many parts of the world who have been silenced for too long.  “Let freedom ring!” has become “Let freedom byte!”  That is of course why repressive regimes everywhere do what they can to control or even shut down internet access to anyone who opposes them.  And that is why those of us who live in freedom must do the opposite by insisting on preserving unfettered internet access to all.  The June 12 NYT article notes that is exactly what a group of smart geeks is up to. 

So here is another great way for smart Americans and smart Estonians to work together in support of shared values!  Soon after arriving in Estonia more than a year and a half ago, I invited this country’s IT community to work on internet freedom hard and software.  Let me reissue this invitation.  Please read the NYT article Estonia and lend your considerable IT prowess to liberation technology.

1 Comment

Filed under American Values, Civil Society, freedom of information, good governance, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

Serious About Cyber Defense

I understand there is a bit of concern among some in Estonia regarding the country’s past, current and future performance in cyber defense.  There has also been some implication that Estonia may not have been nearly as prepared as it should have been when the 2007 large scale denial of service attack ocurred.  Some may even argue that Estonia talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk of cyber protection.  I disagree.  This country has done exceedingly well in dealing with a rather new threat that is now on many countries’ strategic planning agenda — after Estonia.  In 2007  Estonians not only overcame a unique challenge on their own, but they also learned a great deal and went about planning for future cyber security.  And with the establishment of the NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and the creation of Estonia’s Cyber Defense League, our allies in Tallinn have done much more than just help themselves.  The U.S. will join the NATO Center this year to share even more in the common effort of  a growing number of Alliance countries to build the NATO cyber defense strategy agreed at the Lisbon NATO Foreign Minister’s meeting last November.  In addition, the strong relationship between Estonia’s National Guard and our Maryland National Guard is yielding solid bilateral results, among them the appreciation of the public-private sector community of purpose in protecting civilian as well as governmental infrastructure from cyber attack.  Now, do we all have more to learn and more actions to take?  Of course.  As information technology and its applications in our daily lives advance and change at lightening speed, so does the capacity of criminal actors to disrupt our societies using these tools.  But when it comes to hands-on cyber defense, both Estonia and the United States remain committed and capable of maintaining leadership roles.

3 Comments

Filed under good governance, Peace and Security, U.S. -Estonian Relations, Uncategorized