Author Topic: Russia/US-- Europe  (Read 77429 times)


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Walter Russell MeadL Euros try to have it both ways
« Reply #200 on: February 18, 2020, 02:53:22 PM »
Europeans Try to Have It Both Ways
They expect American protection but aren’t prepared to defend their own countries.

By Walter Russell Mead
Feb. 17, 2020 4:20 pm ET

How solid is the West? At last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering of security policy makers and officials, the theme was “Westlessness,” referring to the sense of disorientation that many Europeans feel in this age of America First.

Since the 1940s, U.S. leadership in the service of a united and secure Europe has been the one unchanging feature in the Continental landscape. For generations, the U.S. committed to protect Europe from Russia, maintain bases in Germany to prevent it from threatening its neighbors, and promote European integration. Now Europeans don’t know where they stand, and a mixture of bafflement, anger, disappointment and fear fills the atmosphere at conferences like the one in Munich.

There’s little doubt that Trump administration policies, ranging from trade wars to toughness on Iran, have tested trans-Atlantic relations to the breaking point. But to understand the growing weakness of the Western alliance, Europeans need to spend less time deploring Donald Trump and more time looking in the mirror. A good place to begin is with a Pew poll released earlier this month on the state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Superficially, the poll looks like good news. In 14 European countries plus Canada and the U.S., a median 53% of respondents said they had a favorable view of NATO, while only 27% saw the alliance unfavorably. Despite double-digit declines in NATO’s favorability among the French and the Germans, these numbers aren’t bad. Mr. Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are all less popular in their home countries than NATO is.

So far, so good—but that support is thin. When asked if their country should go to war with Russia if it attacked a NATO ally, 50% of respondents said no, and only 38% supported honoring their commitment to NATO allies.

Let those numbers sink in. Only 34% of Germans, 25% of Greeks and Italians, 36% of Czechs, 33% of Hungarians and 41% of the French believe their country should fulfill its treaty obligation if another European country is attacked. Only the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and Lithuania had a majority in favor of honoring the NATO commitment to mutual defense.

Europeans often contrast the “nationalism” of backward political cultures like Russia, China and the U.S. with their own supposedly enlightened attitude of cosmopolitan solidarity. Yet if these numbers are accurate, Europeans haven’t replaced nationalism with European solidarity. They have replaced nationalism with fantasy: the belief that one can have security and prosperity without a strong defense.

That vision leaves Europe vulnerable, and it is threatening to let the West unravel. European leaders believe they are trading parochial loyalties for higher and broader commitments, when in truth their countries lack the solidarity that makes international order possible. Those who dream that they can have security without the willingness to fight for it are slowly turning NATO into the paper tiger that its enemies hope it will become.

Meanwhile, Europeans still, mostly, trust America. Seventy-five percent of Italians believe the U.S. would rally to NATO’s defense if Russia attacks, as do 63% of Germans and 57% of French. Despite European ambivalence about fulfilling NATO obligations, the alliance is held together by their confidence that America—Mr. Trump’s America—will fulfill its obligations.

Europe’s problem isn’t Mr. Trump. It isn’t nationalism. It isn’t that others aren’t wise or enlightened enough to share Europe’s ideals. It is that too few Europeans stand ready to defend the ideals they claim to embrace. That young Germans no longer dream of fighting and dying to conquer Poland is an excellent thing, but it is a bad and even a dangerous thing that so few young Germans think Europe is important enough to defend and, if necessary, to risk their lives for.

This problem won’t be easy to solve. For many Europeans, the essential purpose of European integration was to end war. For centuries, the restless nationalisms of European peoples plunged the Continent into one wretched war after another. The European Union was meant to bury those national antagonisms and end the cycle of war. To love Europe was to enter a posthistorical age of perpetual peace. For voters who grew up in the European cocoon, the military defense of European ideas sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can you build peace by making war?

In contrast, Americans continue to believe that Europe is worth defending. We must hope that over the next few years more Europeans will come around to that position; otherwise, the prospects for “Westlessness” will only grow.


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WSJ disagrees
« Reply #203 on: July 30, 2020, 09:05:06 AM »
Trump’s Spite-Germany Plan
He’ll weaken America’s military posture and get nothing in return.
By The Editorial Board
Updated July 29, 2020 9:02 pm ET

Soldiers of the U.S. Army disembark from an airplane upon their arrival at Poznan Airport in Poznan, Poland, July 16.
Beneath the din of media condemnation, it can be hard to sort the good from the bad in President Trump’s unorthodox foreign policy. Some initiatives scorned by foreign-policy elites have been wise, like pulling out of failing arms accords. Yet the Pentagon’s plan to withdraw almost 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany is far from a stroke of populist genius. It’s a blow to U.S. interests that won’t fulfill the cost-saving objective Mr. Trump claims to be concerned with.

Amid souring relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Trump in June ordered thousands of U.S. troops withdrawn from the country. On Wednesday Secretary of Defense Mark Esper sketched out the plan. He said the U.S. will cut its troop presence in Germany to 24,000 from 36,000, with some 5,600 moved elsewhere in Europe, including Belgium and Italy, and 6,400 stationed back in the U.S.

Who Will Win the Biden Veepstakes?

The Pentagon is presenting the move as improving its flexibility. Yet the U.S. presence in Germany—along with infrastructure and knowledge built over decades—is strategically located in the geopolitical and economic heart of Europe. Moving forces south or west in the Continent is a retreat that reduces U.S. ability to surge into the theater if Russia makes a military move. Indebted countries like Italy or Spain are unlikely to pay more than wealthy Germany for the U.S. presence.

The Obama Administration in 2012 and 2013 withdrew U.S. combat brigades from Germany, and Vladimir Putin responded by invading Ukraine in 2014. Expect the Kremlin to get similar signals from President Trump’s move. Mr. Esper said some forces will move to Poland, but there is no agreement yet to do so. One reasonable suggestion is moving the U.S. Africa Command, now based in Germany, to southern Europe so it is closer to the Mediterranean.

As for the troops coming home, Mr. Esper says many will return on rotations “in the Black Sea region.” This will be costly. The Journal reports that the retreat from Germany may cost $6 billion to $8 billion.

Mr. Trump is legitimately impatient about Germany’s failure to meet its Nato defense commitments, its support for Russia’s gas pipeline, and its naivete about China. He might have emphasized the last point by announcing that the Indo-Pacific is now a more important theater than Europe and moving a few thousand U.S. troops to Asia to pressure Berlin.

Instead he appears to be undermining America’s military position out of pique—moving U.S. forces to punish Germany, though many will go to countries that also aren’t pulling their weight. Oh, and in the middle of an election campaign he’s undermining the case, which he supported with action over three years, that he is tougher than Democrats on Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump’s erratic foreign-policy impulses remain the greatest risk of a second term.


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Stratfor: Belarus and the fight for Russia's borderlands
« Reply #204 on: August 04, 2020, 11:16:01 AM »
In Belarus, an Election Fuels the Fight for Russia's Borderlands
Sim Tack
Sim Tack
Senior Global Analyst , Stratfor
Aug 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Plainclothed Belarus' security forces and riot police officers detain a protester at an opposition demonstration in Minsk, Belarus, on July 14, 2020.
Plainclothed Belarus' security forces and riot police officers detain a protester at an opposition demonstration in Minsk, Belarus, on July 14, 2020.

(SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)

The likely tumultuous aftermath of Belarus's upcoming presidential election could significantly shake up the balance of power in the strategic borderland region between Russia and Western Europe. Amid the growing popularity of opposition movements in Belarus, the outcome of the country's Aug. 9 presidential election is widely expected to be heavily contested. The likely emergence of post-election protests will cast doubt over President Alexander Lukashenko's grasp on power and could open the door to a potential regime change. Belarus's importance to Russia's external security strategy will make Moscow extremely invested in the outcome of any power struggle in the country, which could prompt Russia to intervene directly.

A Heated Political Battle

Lukashenko's heavy-handed crackdowns against political activism have consolidated support for increasingly popular opposition candidates. The Belarusian government's repression of opposition activities, in particular — including detainments and refusal to register candidates — has concentrated opposition backing behind Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko's primary challenger in the upcoming election. His government's perceived poor handling of the country's COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic crisis, as well as ongoing concerns over Lukashenko's moves to limit political freedoms, has also helped propel her bid for the presidency. In response to EU demands and sanctions, Lukashenko scaled back pressure on opposition activities during the 2010 and 2015 presidential elections. But the current rise of opposition support and anti-government sentiment has resulted in a renewed culture of repression and crackdowns ahead of this year's election.

The opposition is unlikely to win the election given Belarus's history of electoral interference, which will almost certainly fuel intense protests rejecting the outcome. Lukashenko's regime depends on the active repression of political opposition and has been suspected of rigging elections to secure its grasp on power. There is no reason to believe this year's vote will be any different, especially given the particularly heated opposition campaign. Opposition candidates are calling for a high turnout to make any falsification of votes obvious. They are also already priming the Belarusian population to defend their vote after the election, though opposition leaders have yet to outright call for post-election protest action for fear of prosecution. The outcome of the 2006 election in Belarus resulted in protests that were eventually quelched by security forces. A repeat of those 2006 events, later dubbed the "Denim Revolution," is likely following the Aug. 9 presidential ballot. This time, however, post-election protests have the potential to escalate into larger or more violent persistent demonstrations given the current levels of opposition activity and large turnout at rallies.

President Lukashenko's ability to weather the coming round of post-election unrest is uncertain and may largely depend on his ability to maintain the loyalty of security forces. In many cases where governments have fallen to similar protests in the past, such as Ukraine's Euromaidan protests in 2013-2014, the alignment of security forces was decisive in shaping the outcome. Lukashenko maintains an active policy of frequently reassigning government officials and leaders of security branches to keep any individual position from amassing too much power. But while this practice avoids the rise of internal competitors, it also leads to weaker patronage structures that Lukashenko may come to depend upon to remain in control throughout intense protests. The position of security forces, and their behavior in response to post-election protests, will thus be critical in establishing the strength of Lukashenko's continued ability to repress dissent.

Gauging the Russian Response

A regime change in Belarus would intensify the geopolitical competition between Russia and the West by upending the current balance of power in Moscow's borderlands. The Belarusian opposition led by Tikhanovskaya has demonstrated a clear pro-Western orientation, meaning her rise to power could reorient the country toward the European Union and the United States. Such a geopolitical shift would present a clear existential threat to Russia, which depends on Belarus as it's last real buffer between it and NATO. Losing influence with Belarus would deny Russia of the strategic depth the country provides, and would leave Russia's core dangerously exposed to potential expansions of Western influence to its borders, which are located less than 400 kilometers (or roughly 250 miles) away from Moscow.

Russia's Slipping Grasp On Its Borderlands

Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing conflict against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have decisively pivoted Kyiv toward the West in recent years. This shift, which itself followed over 20 years of gradual NATO expansion into Eastern Europe toward Russia's borders, has drastically remapped the balance of power between Russia and the West in the borderlands that lie between them. In trying to balance between its powerful neighbors, Belarus has also flirted frequently with the West, as evidenced by Lukashenko's government agreeing to host NATO forces for military exercises earlier this year. But a complete pivot to a clearly pro-Western administration would solidify Russia's losing battle against the eastward encroachment of NATO's influence.

The potential for a significant upheaval of Belarus governance will force Russia to choose between either throwing its weight behind Lukashenko, or finding other means to guarantee its influence over the country. Russia will take whatever actions necessary to try and guarantee an election outcome that doesn't shift Belarus even closer to the West. But while Russia actively supported Lukashenko in the past, his government's oil diversification efforts over the past year, as well as Minsk's resistance to Moscow's push for deeper political and economic integration, has recently driven a wedge between the two countries. Russia would still prefer Lukashenko over the pro-Western opposition. Though if his position becomes untenable, Moscow may go to great lengths — including the deployment of covert military actions — to try and gain control over the political transition process in Belarus. Indeed, the recent arrest of 30 suspected Russian mercenaries in Belarus could indicate that Moscow is already preparing such plans. This approach, however, would be prone to strategic risk or miscalculations, as was the case in Ukraine. But Moscow is unlikely to stand idly by if there is a real risk of losing Belarus entirely to the West.

A complete pivot to a pro-Western administration in Minsk would solidify Moscow’s losing battle against the encroachment of NATO’s influence.

If Lukashenko manages to hold on to power, he will find himself strengthened in countering both Russian integration efforts and Western demands for political liberalization. Lukashenko's ability to survive heavily contested elections, whether through Russian support or by his own means, would grant him a greater degree of maneuverability. Lukashenko would be in an even better position to negotiate beneficial energy trade terms with Moscow, as well as resist Russian demands for greater economic and political integration. His firm grasp on power would also enable him to ward off European demands for political liberalization, though the oppression of opposition activity during the presidential election and possible violent crackdowns against protests thereafter could raise the risk of EU sanctions. Such sanctions would most likely target individuals engaged in violence against civilians as opposed to having a broader economic impact, thus representing only a temporary rollback in the warming of Minsk-EU relations.


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WSJ: Trump-Merkel clash thirty years in the making.
« Reply #205 on: August 04, 2020, 11:27:18 AM »

The German press is running heavy with last Wednesday’s Pentagon press conference, in which Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed the U.S. will withdraw 11,900 troops from Germany. Markus Söder, minister president of the state of Bavaria, called the decision “inexplicable,” while Angela Merkel’s trans-Atlantic coordinator, Peter Beyer, said it “makes no sense geopolitically for the United States.” For its part, Germany’s anti-American Left Party welcomed the decision. Its Bundestag leader proclaimed on prime-time television: “I can’t get enough of this punishment,” referring to Donald Trump’s seeming insistence that the move is more retaliatory than strategic.

Strains on the U.S.-German alliance have been attributed to everything from Mr. Trump’s bullying and ignorance and Ms. Merkel’s excessive circumspection to Vladimir Putin’s talent for sowing chaos abroad. But even if all these assumptions are accurate, none are root causes. The trans-Atlantic fissures predate Mr. Trump and Ms. Merkel and will outlast them, with potentially tectonic consequences for Germany’s role in Europe.

The core problem with trans-Atlantic relations is that they never evolved after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the original bargain struck after 1945, the U.S. provided security to its European allies and supported their struggling economies. In return, those allies backed the U.S. on most major issues related to the Soviet Union in Europe. This model of trans-Atlantic relations was founded on the reality of a near-hegemonic America, and a Europe that was economically poor, politically fragile, and militarily vulnerable to the Soviet threat.

Challenges to this model date to at least the Nixon administration, and no U.S. president has been entirely satisfied with Europe’s contribution to the Western alliance. But once the Soviet Union collapsed, and the European Union emerged as one of the world’s largest economies, many Americans began to think it unwise to keep bearing more than 70% of defense expenditures for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Even President Obama, whose personal relations with Ms. Merkel were famously warm, left office frustrated about the trans-Atlantic imbalance. In March 2016 he affirmed an “anti-free-rider campaign,” meant to dissuade the Europeans “from holding our coats while we did all the fighting.” “We expect others to carry their weight,” he explained.

While Mr. Trump hasn’t cultivated the personal touch exhibited by his predecessor, he has sustained Mr. Obama’s parting challenge to the trans-Atlantic model. If Joe Biden succeeds in November, he too will struggle to justify the viability of pre-1989 security and trade imbalances in a world in which Europe is no longer poor and the U.S. is no longer hegemonic.

It remains too early to judge the efficacy of U.S. sanctions on German gas pipelines, demands on German telecommunications infrastructure, pressure on German military spending, and general shaming of Germany’s international diplomacy. But critics aghast at the Trump administration’s continued preoccupation with alleged German delinquency would do well to consider how far a Biden administration would get in the opposite direction.

Would a President Biden find it easy to uphold unconditional security guarantees to Germany and its neighbors, even if Berlin buys more gas from Moscow, expands trade links with Beijing, and declines to help address U.S. trade concerns in Brussels?

These are not mere questions of “fairness,” but of the foundations of contemporary Germany. Consider the precarious circumstances which underwrite Germany’s position as both the wealthiest country in Europe and one of the most pacifist members of NATO.

While the Russian threat looms over Poland, Sweden, Finland and the Baltics, the Kremlin is hardly considered a menace in Italy, Spain or Portugal. France is attempting to revive a full-fledged Franco-Russian partnership, while Britain is no longer shackled to the consensus demands of Brussels. Given the wild asymmetry of European threat perceptions, a lopsided U.S. presence truly is the glue that keeps the continent’s security architecture together, and Germany’s postwar identity intact.

But if the U.S. ever withdraws from Europe in a significant way—as Mr. Trump’s troop plan suggests it could, and as events in the South China Sea seem almost designed to achieve—Germany will find itself in a kind of straitjacket.

As the seat of political and economic power in Europe, Berlin would become the main target of Nordic, Baltic and Visegrád pleas to do and spend more on defense, of French appeals to de-Americanize European security, and of Russian fears of German remilitarization. German leaders would also face a whirlwind of competing domestic passions, from advocacy for a renewed era of German military confidence to sheer terror at the notion of reopening the darkest box in Germany’s psychological attic.

Ms. Merkel has spent 15 years betting that steady growth, full employment and high wages can keep that box shut, and that U.S. forces can keep Germany’s nightmare scenario forever at bay. It is the tragic irony of her final year in office that these two strategies have collided, and that trans-Atlantic ties have frayed so much under her watch.

Mr. Stern was chief of staff and a senior adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, 2019-20.


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Merks is pissed
« Reply #206 on: August 19, 2020, 05:46:59 PM »

that us should are ask them to pay up to their promises:

and of course the left will stamp and stomp there feet and say this is an example of we are mean to our enemies

(and of course add the obligatory "Trump cozies up to despots like Putin - another phony Russiagate angle)