Tag Archives: military

Keeping Transatlantic Relations Real

U.S.- EUImagine the headline:  “Breaking news:  The sun came up this morning!  Some European leaders suspect U.S. involvement and demand an explanation; others decry the lack of U.S. leadership in letting the sun set every evening.  In other news, it has been alleged that government intelligence agencies actually collect information.  The weather today: cloudy.”

It is not my intent to make light of the recent outcry among our European friends over alleged U.S. intelligence information gathering.  The accusation in all this outrage is not only  a privacy violation, but also government overreach reminiscent of authoritarian regimes, both past and current.  Frankly, the privacy argument falls a bit flat in the share-all facebook and twitter age.  And when did U.S. information gathering last injure one of our friends and allies?  And who can throw the first stone when it comes to collection of intelligence?

Even if only meant for public consumption, all this outrage is unnecessary.  The sun comes up every day.  Intelligence agencies collect information.  We want to know about our enemies’ communication patterns.  At times those communication paths cross your territory.  So give us a break and help us out.  The same groups that mean to harm us have the same in mind for you, after all.   What little we may have come to  know about you incidental to our anti-terror efforts (and no doubt discarded) is still far less than what many of you share readily with a wide audience on facebook or twitter.

As a U.S. diplomat in Europe, I routinely experienced the sense of ownership of our leaders among many of our European friends.  An American presidential election was also a European political event.  Somehow, even if unstated,  you expected your views of our presidents to be given the weight of those of our own citizens.  Following the irrational European dislike of our last president followed  first adulation and then European disappointment in our current one.  To a degree such attitudes were understandable and had in the past even been precipitated by us.  We Americans, for a long time, lived the role of leader and protector of the free world, its territory and its values.  But enough is really enough.

There was a time in the aftermath of a devastating hot and then a cold war when your focus on our leaders was logical, since to a great degree we influenced your fate even more fundamentally than did your own leaders.  But in the 21st century your dream and ours has been realized.  Nearly all of Europe is whole, free, and at peace….. and you own it!  Our friendship and alliance have never been stronger, more important, or  more equal.  Because and not despite of this, we both try to figure out what the other side thinks.  We both gather information on each other and our common enemies.  Other than the rough and tumble of free market competition and occasional policy differences, America and Europe have a critical stake in each others success and well-being.  As the co-architects of today’s Europe, we are proud of the powerful union you have become.  You in turn have every reason to trust in our paramount commitment to our relationship.  The U.S. does not act to the detriment of its European  or other allies.

So, my dear European friends, let it rest.   A man I used to work for and respect most highly, General Colin Powell, once made the definitive statement about American military engagement that applies equally to our ventures into cyberspace:  “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years … and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to live our own lives in peace.”

Leave a comment

Filed under American Values, diplomacy, good governance, Peace and Security, U.S. Foreign Relations

Smart Defense For The 21st Century

At the beginning of this year, the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense Panetta outlined our nation’s Defense Guidance and Priorities for the 21st Century.  This new policy direction by our leadership sets new parameters for the U.S. military posture around the world while at the same time confirming long-standing principles of America’s security.  When the world’s strongest military power, also a member of the world’s most successful military alliance, announces a new strategic focus, both our allies and our potential adversaries listen closely.  Our allies, of course, not only listen, but are active partners in working with us on a strategy that protects the United States, our friends and allies, and world peace.  Sounds good, so no problem, right?

Not so fast.  With the Cold War long over, we approach 21st century security at the beginning of 2012 just as we  emerge successfully from two deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with a strict budgetary mandate to reduce U.S. Government expenditures.  So things are going to change and change is hard.  Part of our new military security paradigm involves adjustments to a defensive posture that has served us exceedingly well since the end of WW II.  Here in Europe, some analysts are concerned that a U.S. military focus on Asia and the Middle East leaves Europe vulnerable to security threats that still exist on this continent. Some also argue that along with military re-focussing, our diplomatic, economic, and even emotional attention will shift away from the transatlantic relationship.  The final verdict by several observers seems to be that America’s Atlantic Century is over and Pacific America has begun.  Part of Europe would bemoan this if it were true, but some would gladly wave us good-bye.  “The U.S. is broke,” they say.  “It has to scale back its military might and we should think about other potential partners.”  

In the end, other than providing interesting academic fodder for discussion and publication, this is a lot of Sturm und Drang over very little Sturm.  Our national and military leadership have taken a close look at the security threats to America and its allies and we have decided to adjust ourselves to those challenges; not to the exclusion of any one geographic region, but to the inclusion of all in relevant proportion.  As a diplomat, I have always held my military colleagues in highest regard, both for their bravery in defense of our country, and also for their unequalled competence and success rate.  I have also been a bit envious of their sense of purpose and strategic clarity.  Their mission was always so clear.  Their objective so obvious.

And so it is for 21st century U.S. Defense Priorities and Choices.  Where should our military be?  Where there is trouble or where trouble is most likely to strike.  And how should we respond to trouble and with what kind of force?  Again, modern experience and current budgetary reality teaches us that efficient, agile, technologically superior, and infinitely adaptable is the recipe for military success.  That is what we are planning for, developing and maintaining, and deploying around the world.  “Around the world” is most relevant for our European allies.  We are of course not leaving Europe.  We will maintain sizeable and most capable ground, air, and naval forces here.  We are adding new capabilities such as missile defense.  And we are sustaining our full nuclear triad of weapons as the ultimate deterrent to potential aggressors against us or our allies.

The U.S. has always been both an Atlantic and a Pacific power.  We have always maintained deep interests in both east and west.  We come, as Americans, from Europe and Asia and from the Middle East and from Africa and, and….Our best days as a nation are still ahead of us —  as a most powerful ally in Europe and to our friends in any other part of the world, and as a champion of universal values of freedom and human progress.

1 Comment

Filed under diplomacy, Peace and Security, Security, U.S. Foreign Relations

Regarding U.S. Resolve and Capability

I was delighted to see a rather active set of responses to my recent piece on our Secretary of State’s return visit to Tallinn and to my on-line interview to the Delphi News Service.  There were both appreciative and sceptical comments about the U.S. military strength and our willingness to commit our power to our NATO allies, specifically Estonia.  To those who welcomed the return of Secretary Clinton to Estonia as a close friend and trusted ally, we appreciate your warm welcome in this country.  To those who expressed doubts about U.S. capacity or resolve in defending our interests and those of our allies, I would simply recall that throughout the more than 300-year history of my country, those who have underestimated our strength or our resolve, have consistently found themselves to be on the wrong side of history.

1 Comment

Filed under American Values, U.S. -Estonian Relations

Estonia Hosts Its Allies, Secretary Clinton Returns To Tallinn

On April 22 -23, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join her Estonian and other NATO colleagues for a meeting of Alliance Foreign Ministers in Tallinn.  The location of this meeting is no doubt both a pleasure and a burden for our Estonian hosts.  I particularly want to thank the people of Tallinn in advance  for their patience with the inevitable disruption we will cause for a couple of days. 

But Secretary Clinton is not only attending an important NATO event, she is coming back a third time to Estonia to visit with true friends.  A lot has happened since her last visit in 2004.  During that year, Estonia joined NATO and the EU.  Estonia reassumed its rightful place in a free Europe it never left in its soul and became a fierce defender of freedom in the Transatlantic Alliance. 

In 2007, Estonia not only overcame a cyberattack  on its territory,but responded by establishing a NATO Cyberdefense Center.  Estonian soldiers have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and kept the peace in the Balkans.  During the past three years, Estonia weathered the most severe global economic crisis since the Great Depression and is emerging in such sound shape that you are on track to introduce the Euro as your currency in a little more than eight months from now. 

Talk about success!  In 2004, Senator Clinton visited a resolute and proud Estonia clearly on the move. Next week she will see the amazing results of Estonia’s journey to date.  She will be immensely pleased, but somehow I suspect she will not be surprised.  Estonians live up to their own high expectations of themselves.  The rest of us know that you consistently punch above your weight. 

Welcome back Madam Secretary!


Filed under economy, U.S. -Estonian Relations

Service To Freedom

A few days ago I had the opportunity to congratulate two U.S. Marines assigned to our Embassy’s Marine Security Guard Detachment on their advancement in their military careers.  One was a promotion and the other a re-enlistment for another tour in the Marine Corps.  A large number of my Embassy colleagues — American and Estonian — joined us in the military ceremony.  I have attended many such powerful events in the past, but they never fail to move me.   I am proud and humbled by the willingness of our young men and women to sacrifice and to face danger for all Americans and for peace and security around the world.  U.S. policy may be subject to debate and argumentation at times, but the valor of our military professionals must not be.  Estonia and its soldiers have made similar choices to defend freedom inside and outside their borders, and also accepted the accompanying risks.  They deserve the same respect and thanks from a grateful nation and a grateful world community.

Leave a comment

Filed under Peace and Security