Tag Archives: NATO

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.”

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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.

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Building Excellent Cyber Security

Tomorrow,  November 17, the flags of the United States and Poland will be raised  during a formal ceremony at the NATO Cyber Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia.  Our Estonian allies established the Center in 2004.  It’s mission is to “enhance the capability, cooperation, and information sharing  among NATO, NATO nations, and partners in cyber defense.”  The U.S. has had staff at the Center since 2007  and we are very active at home, in the Alliance, and internationally on cyber security.  Now we are finally saying count us in officially as full members!  

President Obama’s International Strategy for Cyberspace declares that we will seek to ensure as many stakeholders as possible are included in our vision of cyberspace.  That vision calls for an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable information and communications infrastructure that supports international trade and commerce, strengthens international security, and fosters free expression and innovation.  That is why we are joining the NATO Cyber Center in Tallinn.

I was introduced to Estonia’s NATO Cyber Center shortly after my arrival in Tallinn as U.S. Ambassador in 2009 and I have ever since admired the Center’s work, including it’s impressive annual conferences on cyber conflict.  Estonia’s standing as a cyber-savvy nation is firmly established internationally and the NATO Cyber Center contributes to that reputation.  The cyber world is a rapidly evolving environment and threats to our cyber -based infrastructure, both public and private, as multiplying with equal of not greater speed.  With our new membership in the Tallinn Center we look forward to working with all the current and also future members, in fact with all NATO member countries, to increase cyber awareness and to create the secure cyber environment outlined in the U.S. cyberspace strategy.  We expect to join our Estonian allies in leading the Center and to enhancing the public profile of the Center’s work and the collaboration between private sector and Alliance efforts.

When the Polish and U.S. flags are raised on November 17,  look also for the curtain to rise on the next chapter of an important collective asset of the NATO Alliance.

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Seizing the Future in the Balkans

This week the people of Kosovo and Serbia have sadly faced another set of violent incidents where those dedicated to peace have been harmed as a result of Serb mob action, and backward-looking political agendas.  NATO peacekeepers were injured, as were Kosovars and Serbs dedicated to putting an end to hatred and violence.  Estonia, its EU partners, and the U.S. and NATO have all called for the obvious from the Serbian and Kosovar governments:  fully engage in the EU-facilitated dialog process and refrain from precipitous actions, inflamatory rhetoric, and impediments  to freedom of movement.  And obviously, don’t attack KFOR peacekeepers or aid workers.  Pretty clear.

Amazing then that exactly the opposite occurred on September 27 and 28.  A violent Serb mob attacked a NATO-led KFOR unit.  A multi-ethnic group of USAID -supported community workers was similarly attacked.  What is it that the attackers don’t understand?  The U.S.  and Estonia — the EU and NATO — stand united in not allowing a better future for Kosovars and Serbs to be denied.  Their rights to a successful, Europe-integrated tomorrow are paramount.  The narrow and retrograde interests of some will not be satisfied.

As current U.S. Ambassador to Estonia and former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, for me the contrast between a people seizing the future and others being allowed to descend into a dark past is particularly poignant.  Estonians suffered  50 years of occupation — much harsher than anything experienced in the former Yugoslavia prior to the wars of the 1990’s.  Since regaining its independence only 20 years ago, Estonia has remade itself into one of the most successful and progressive countries in Europe, in the EU, in NATO, in the world today.  The long-suffering people of Serbia and Kosovo deserve a chance at similar success.  We cannot let mobs and mob mentality deny them their rightful place in the 21st century among their fellow European and American friends.

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A Europe that Matters

Last week a gave a talk to students, faculty and visitors at Estonia’s Tallinn Technical University expanding on my earlier blog on this subject.  The engagement with a full house of very bright and knowledgeable individuals was invigorating and challenging.  So much so that I decided to come back in the future and explore the issue of “An America that Matters.”  Meanwhile, I want to share my presentation of last week on this forum.  The provocative question I posed and sought to answer was:  In today’s global political, economic, strategic and moral environment, does Europe still matter?  And more specifically, does it still matter to the United States?

In the interest of full disclosure, let me be clear that I come at this issue with a certain bias.  As a U.S. diplomat, I have dedicated a large portion of my career to acting as a contributor to, and a steward of, the trans-Atlantic relationship.   As a result of my professional experiences, as well as my own personal story-I was born in Europe – I have always closely followed the relationship between our continents. It was with great interest that I read an op-ed by the president of the highly prestigious American Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, entitled “Why Europe No Longer Matters” in the June 18th edition of one of our country’s most important newspapers, the Washington Post.  Richard is a former colleague and a friend and I am grateful that his think piece gives me the opportunity to talk to you about his thesis and my own today.

Richard Haass is a brilliant international affairs expert, who, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has joined other political scientists in seeking to define and characterize the emerging new world order – or disorder as some might call it.  An early consensus of sorts was formed among many who believed that as the U.S.S.R and the United States were the two major world powers before 1991, by virtue of winning the Cold War, the United States became the world’s sole superpower.  Some went further and characterized the United States as the only hyper-power of the world and a historically unique nation that could singularly exert is might across the entire globe.

However short-lived that last assessment, since 9/11, the wars in the Middle East and South Asia, and the U.S. and world economic and debt crisis, an equally large number of experts today conclude that the uni-polar world of U.S. dominance has rather rapidly transitioned into a multi-polar world of various powers exerting their influence — not unlike 18th Century Europe. It is against this backdrop that I would like to examine with you Richard’s arguments and conclusions and my response on Europe’s status today. For brevity’s sake, let’s call his conclusion “Europe No” and mine “Europe Yes.”

First, let’s put my own perspective of Europe on the table:  Europe does matter.  That is not to say I fully disagree with Mr. Haass’ arguments.  In fact, I actually concur with many of his views about Europe and the way it exercises its role in the world today.  That said, however, I arrive at a different conclusion about Europe’s ultimate standing and importance as an international player and as a partner to the United States.    

So now to the debate and first the strategic security dimension.  “Europe No” posits that if NATO didn’t exist today, no one would feel compelled to create it.  The “Europe No” argument cites inadequate European financial and physical commitment to Alliance action as a case in point.  It points to the Libya operation, despite the success of NATO support to the Libyan people, as only the most recent example of lack of organization, lack of participation, and lack of capacity.  So for “Europe No”, if NATO stands for U.S.-European strategic power, then only the U.S. and a very few number of Europeans actually matter.  I believe “Europe No” would concede that Estonia counts among the allies that do matter.  In that we would certainly agree, but also concur as I would that not all allies are pulling their weight equally.

“Europe No” looks at divergent attitudes between Americans and Europeans and cites the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan as demonstrating this parting of ways, along with the emerging European cultural norm of not accepting any casualties in the prosecution of a war.  Europe No” looks at NATO as a relic of the past, and along with an Asia-centric shift in world power, economic might, and U.S. orientation, sees this as a clear indicator that old alliances and relationships are dead or on their death-bed:  “Europe and the United States have changed. The World has changed.”  No argument with that last comment:  We have all changed.  Asia is incredibly important to the United States and the world and our relations with this emerging international economic juggernaut will inform much of the next century.  Other players are also increasingly demanding attention and input in a global structure where their economic power and strategic influence are required to make the world go round.

Where “Europe Yes” parts from “Europe No” is in the conclusion that with the entry of other power players into the new international order, existing participants are by definition marginalized or worse, sidelined completely.  NATO, if it can muster the political will, still wields an extremely powerful punch, matched by no one.  As to trade, 40% of all world economic activity still takes place between Europe and the United States.  Hardly an insignificant amount that does matter!

“Europe No” also describes the decline of a common U.S. and European set of interests, in the past, based on historical patterns of American elites that traced their ancestry to Europe.  Today’s broader elite in the U.S., Europe No, would argue relates to African, Asian, and Latin American roots and does not share the emotional or intellectual ties to Europe that defined transatlantic relations in the 20th century.  The “Europe Yes” response:  agreed that American elites are much more diverse today than in the mid 1900’s.  But I contend, for instance, that a Chinese-American raised in San Francisco has far more in common with an individual from the town of Rakvere, Estonia or Manchester, England, than he does with a Chinese individual raised in Beijing.  The American and European belief in democracy individual freedom and open markets transcends ethnic heritage and will continue to bind American motivations and goals throughout the world with Europe.

Admittedly, Europe is not the singular center of America’s universe.  It never really was.  America, since its inception with powerful European roots, has steadily continued to develop its global vocation.  But our ties to Europe form a critically important partnership – and, by the way – one that has never been one characterized by full harmony or equality of strength on each side of the Atlantic.  France kicked out NATO headquarters in 1966 and did not return to the unified NATO military command until 2009.  In 1983 Germans threw Molotov cocktails at the U.S. Embassy in protest over introduction of U.S. medium range nuclear missiles in Europe – for the defense of Europe!  And yet NATO stands today, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and is fighting – and winning – in Afghanistan, and just helped successfully to turn the tide in Libya.  Pretty good for an irrelevant Alliance.

Does this mean that we Americans are always happy with the security posture of each one of our allies?  Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as recently as June of this year, stated that he had long harbored concerns about NATO becoming, “a two-tiered alliance that is split between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”   Doesn’t sound very happy to me.  And he was right.  Does that mean Europe is now or about to become irrelevant?  It does not.  Our very disagreements, sometimes loud and in public, bear testimony to the continuing strength of an Alliance not simply based on realpolitik or pure self-interest.  Ours is a value partnership, freely entered into by free peoples – a transatlantic bulwark that remains essential not despite an increasingly multi-polar world, but because of it.  And by the way, let’s not fall into the trap of characterizing certain opinions in Europe as “the European opinion.”  For instance, I would point to our broad agreement with our Estonian allies on the vast majority of issues.  Estonian opinion is no less the “European opinion” than is the opinion of any other ally or partner on this continent.

Implicit in “Europe No” is also the thought that Europe is somehow “solved.”  There are no more European problems, so why focus on a place that has no issues?  Fair enough, not even the most pessimistic among us believe that fighting may erupt anew in the Alsace.  But what about the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and the continuing tensions in parts of the Balkans?  What about the regime in Belarus?   What about energy security concerns?   What about the euro crisis and its effect on U.S. debt issues?  What about a drop in the NYSE in response to trouble on the DAX?  Just like the U.S., Europe will also never be “done.”  The challenge, the dynamism, and the capacity of seeking solutions on both sides of the Atlantic continue.  

And finally, beyond the security and economic dimensions, Europe plays a determined role alongside the United States on a vast range of global issues from human rights to the environment.  Despite occasional disagreements on tactics, the United States and Europe form a critically important policy community.  Our combined influence in world events weighs heavily on other countries and actors.  That is a powerful tool and a major responsibility we share.  Authoritarian regimes risk vital foreign investment and sanctions from Europe and the U.S.  Without our combined condemnation of Sudan over the genocide in Darfur and without our further engagement to encourage a referendum in South Sudan, would Khartoum have ever come to an agreement with the South?  Without sustained U.S. and European pressure, would the dissident Aung San Suu Kyi ever have been released from her house arrest imposed by the military junta of Burma?And together, Europe and the U.S. are central to cleaning up our environment, developing new forms of energy, and eliminating world hunger.  Wherever there is a need for action, we are present.

In contrast to vocal U.S. foreign policy and moral leadership, Europe does not always make the same headlines or dominate diplomatic discussions, but Europe’s voice counts, especially in unison with ours.  The example that the peaceful, democratic nations of Europe set for the rest of the world on the issues of democratization, human rights, the environment, conflict mediation, and civil action is unquestionably a major force for good in the world.  A force unmatched by emerging power centers in other parts of the globe.

So, the issue for me and for “Europe Yes” then is not whether Europe still matters, but how Europeans choose to exercise the significant power and influence they possess.  The American challenge as close allies and partners is to continue to insist that Europe must matter.  And that is one of the key lessons of the post-Cold War 21st century:  Abdication of global responsibility is no more an option for Europe today than it has ever been for the United States.

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Why Europe Still Matters

Having worked on the transatlantic relationship for many years of my diplomatic career, I am tempted to agree with Richard Hass’ provocative op-ed in the June 18 edition of the Washington Post “Why Europe No Longer Matters.”  And yet, I will resist that temptation.  Focussing mainly on Europe’s relevance to transatlantic security policy,  Haass made a powerful case, recalling Defense Secretary Gates’ recent  policy speech on the status of NATO.  Richard’s facts and analysis were, as one would expect, on the mark — as far as they went.  Europe clearly falls into a different corner of America’s security policy field of vision today than it did during most of the 20th century.   But NATO remains the most successful alliance in history and a bulwark of U.S. security, even if we sometimes look to coalitions of the willing, both inside and outside Alliance structures.  What Richard’s article did not fully address was the direct relevance of Europe’s security and its political and economic cohension to the United States, regardless of the security policy positions of some of our European friends.   America wants and needs a strong Europe, even if we invest much more in our common security than some.  

I agree that browbeating and cajoling are not the answer to different attitudes from ours among some Europeans.  Neither is ignoring these differences.  President Obama, in announcing our impending troop reductions in Afghanistan, has called for nation building at home in America.  Polls suggest that a majority of Americans agree with renewed focus and investment in our domestic well being.  The fact that our jobs and our prosperity are linked to our trading partners — not only in Asia, but also to our largest trading  partner, Europe, — can hardly be ignored.  Good jobs and fair trade are always welcome and always wanted by us, wherever they come from, and 40% of all world trade is between the U.S. and Europe.

U.S. and some European opinions and interests are likely to continue to diverge, although thinking back to past arguments over Cold War security issues, I would hardly call this a new phenomenon.  For us in the U.S., some of these differing views surprise and even irritate and we will say so.  That said, I would not characterize certain opinions in Europe as Europe’s opinion, especially as I see the broad agreement with our Estonian allies on the vast majority of issues here in this small northeastern corner of the continent.

So I arrive at some, but not all of Richard Hass’ conclusions.  Clearly there is no thought  of doing away with NATO.  And yes, Europe and transatlantic relations no longer uniquely dominate U.S. foreign policy.  That said, the U.S. must not “accept and adjust to” the absence of a strong and important Europe from our common set of regional and global responsibilities.  Europe matters not because of fading historical ties to us, but because it has significant human and material resources to bring to bear to meet the challenges of a shrinking globe.  For European prosperity and safety, stability in Europe alone is not enough.  If other parts if the world go to pot or meet success without European participation, Europe suffers.  In the end most of our friends on this side of the Atlantic will come to appreciate such consequences – and opportunities – without American browbeating.

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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.

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