Hardly A New Drang Nach Osten

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

This ain’t 1941. This is actually good news!

zolnierz
“German soldiers go into Ukraine.” But not to stay: they’ll be in the western part for around 11 days starting July 20, near the major city of Lviv, participating in NATO maneuvers called Rapid Trident, associated with the separate Sea Breeze exercise coming in off the Black Sea.

This is good news as the token it is of German support for Ukraine in its struggle over the eastern provinces which, although now seemingly at a low burn, has hardly yet been resolved. US troops (and ships) will be involved as well in these exercises as well, of course; the Obama administration has so far shown itself willing to go even further in its support for Ukraine than the Europeans, to include training and even selling equipment (although, so far, the latter has remained “non-lethal”).

This German participation has also attracted public Russian attention, as Vice-Premier Dimitri Rogozin inquired on social media whether the Germans were there to tour the sites of their past “military successes.” There we are taken back to 1941, and clearly the Russians aren’t happy about this development. But just let Rogozin vent, or any of his colleagues: they surely still have credit on account from the 20 million+ dead of 70 years ago.

UPDATE: And speaking of 20 million . . . Here’s a new report that the German government is increasing its budget for Bundeswehr maneuvers outside the country by that amount.

Bundeswehr
Note that this is a budgetary supplement applying only for the remainder of this year. In fact, in terms of numbers of troops, slightly fewer German soldiers are going on maneuvers outside their country this year compared to last; further, the really big exercise – named “Trident Juncture” – actually is to take place on the Iberian peninsula from 28 September to 16 October.

Nonetheless, this monetary move is seen to be an explicit sign of resolve towards Russia.

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US Army’s Wild Dragoon Ride

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Throughout this past month NATO has been busy with its “Atlantic Resolve” set of military exercises in Poland and the Baltic states. These are something new, not occurring previously to the first such training deployments there starting last Spring, and, as is evident by the very name, are designed to bolster local morale in those lands against the increasing military misbehavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, military exercises under the same name, also involving American troops (that’s sort of the point), are now getting started in Romania and Bulgaria, and supposedly will include Georgia in May, with US troops set to cross the Black Sea by ferry!

But there is also something else rather new about that Baltic “Atlantic Resolve” as well, now that it’s time for the US troops who trained there to head back to base.

konvoj
“American convoy stopped in Krakow and Warsaw.” This is truly remarkable, for American troops stationed in Europe generally return to their bases by train – and then usually in the middle of the night, since such transports have lowest priority on any local rail network. Still, and especially for the heavy equipment, that remains the best way to transport these units over long distances.

All that is thrown out the window for “Operation Dragoon Ride,” however, whereby 120 military vehicles and the US soldiers that serve them – from their unit markings it seems they are of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment – are currently making their 1,800 km way back from the Baltics to their base at Vilseck (Bavaria), Germany along the local highways and byways. This article in České noviny discusses how they are currently traversing Poland with, as mentioned, planned stops in Krakow and in Warsaw. In fact, in the latter city (Poland’s capital, of course) they visited the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. And that’s not all their itinerary in Poland: these troops also met up with the inhabitants of the town Drawsko Pomorskie, which only has 11,878 residents in the first place and is way up in northwest Poland, near the Baltic coast – but, you see, the town also is host to a major firing-range and NATO maneuver area just to its South. (more…)

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Lithuanian Survival By-The-Book

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Vladimir Putin’s apparent willingness to invade bits of land adjoining Mother Russia where he feels native Russian-speakers are feeling oppressed has understandably made many in the immediate neighborhood rather nervous. And while Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are all members of NATO, that still doesn’t necessarily allow them to sleep easily at night. The famed Article V of the NATO treaty does make an attack on any one member an attack on them all, which theoretically means that the Alliance’s nuclear powers – the US, foremost – would be willing to escalate all the way to Mutually Assured Destruction should Putin merely have his forces invade the Baltics and then refuse to back down. But how credible is that? For that matter, how effective were France and England in carrying out the guarantees of Poland’s territorial integrity that they issued just prior to the Second World War?

(By the way, the lesser-known Article IV provides for invoking consultation among Alliance members in the event of disquieting security developments. Lithuania and Latvia invoked that in March of last year in response to the Russian annexation of the Crimea.)

You can’t blame these nations for doing a little contingency planning based on a assumption of Putin’s worst behavior paired with maximum fecklessness on the part of their supposed allies. (Indeed, I hear there exists an NGO whose sole purpose is to steer the world’s surplus feck to NATO’s Brussels HQ.) Here’s what’s happening in Lithuania:

LitManual
Yes, that Baltic nation is shortly to publish a “survival manual” for all its citizens about what to do in case of a Russian invasion!

Now, I found out about this via the round-about path that you can see contained in that tweet. But it turns out that, within that Le HuffPost article, there was an additional link to a Reuters article, in English and datelined from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, that lays everything out pretty well.

So you don’t need me to explain further. Just allow me, as a sort of enticing sweetener, to reproduce here a couple of the most-juicy paragraphs:

“The manual, which the Defence Ministry will send to libraries next week and also distribute at army events, says Lithuanians should resist foreign occupation with demonstrations and strikes, “or at least doing your job worse than usual”.

“[W]orse than usual” – love that!

In the event of invasion, the manual says Lithuanians should organise themselves through Twitter and Facebook and attempt cyber attacks against the enemy.

Mark Zuckerberg as future insurgent hero – who knew?

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Revealed: Ukraine’s Weapons-Sellers!

Monday, September 8th, 2014

This might be considered as the most important “secret” result of that NATO summit at the end of last week that was held at some golf resort in Wales, and the EU Beobachter (“EU Observer”) has picked it up.
5staaten

Yes, in the wake of that summit five states intend to start selling weapons to the Ukraine, and they are: the USA, Poland, France, Italy and Norway. The notable absence on this list is Germany, whose weapons, notably its small arms, are particularly good in comparison to most others, but whose Chancellor, Mrs. Merkel, made it clear at that summit that it was not ready to take that step. Understandable: the German government only in the past few weeks decided that it would break precedent and send arms to the Kurds fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, and that decision caused quite a bit of consternation on the German political scene. Merkel was not ready for the same again – not that that was the only reason for German reticence.

What’s really notable about these arms-sellers is just how hush-hush the whole subject is. None of these countries has been willing to announce these upcoming weapons-sales; indeed, all have officially denied they are ready to do so. So who knows? Against that we have – for what it is worth – an announcement yesterday by a close advisor to Ukraine President Poroshenko that these five countries would indeed be supplying his country militarily. That announcement notably appeared on the advisor’s Facebook page.

If we examine that roster, the sales from the US and from Poland are understandable: American weapons manufacturers are seemingly ready to sell anywhere, anytime, while Poland is the state leading the alarm over Ukraine developments. For France and Italy it is a bit harder to understand why they would want to be involved (indeed, the Italians have continually been suspect as too Russia-friendly) – until you realize, as this article states explicitly, that they mainly see this as an opportunity for their native arms industries to make some money. It’s only Norway whose involvement is totally mysterious: its economy doesn’t need the money, and to this point it has not seemed particularly alarmed about what is happening off to the East. Indeed, as a good Scandinavian land, it is supposed to have certain ethical pretensions of not selling war material into an active war-zone. (more…)

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Does Turkey Need Air Defence Help?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Here, let me ask you this (answers and/or commentary as usual welcome at the €S e-mail address): Does Turkey currently face a military threat across the Syrian border? At least through the air?

Those are the important questions now before the German parliament, or Bundestag:

Luftabwehr für Türkei: Patriots-Debatte zwischen Skepsis und Fremdscham http://t.co/RSZflivE

@BMOnline

Berliner Morgenpost


Or rather: they are supposed to be before the Bundestag, as we learn in the Berliner Morgenpost article. Rather incredibly, though, it actually seems that the German government was ready to deploy Patriot anti-aircraft missile units to Turkey just on its own authority.

But Homey don’t play that, as opposition politicians are now reminding the German public. Indeed, as a spokesman for the opposition Socialist Party (SPD), Rainer Arnold, maintained in a separate newspaper interview, the German “Supreme Court” (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has made it clear in its decisions that such a deployment outside the country must be approved by the Bundestag.

If you ask Arnold’s boss, the SPD’s faction-leader in the Bundestag, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, it’s not clear-cut that Turkey lies under any threat. And his Green Party counterpart, Jürgen Trittin, will be glad to tell you – you don’t need to ask – that in fact a UN mandate (presumably from the Security Council) is also necessary for such a deployment. (That’s his own opinion, though, not that of the Bundesverfassungsgericht.)

On the other hand, the article also says that Turkey had asked for – or was very close to asking for – NATO assistance of that kind, so that this can easily be viewed as a case of providing solidarity to another NATO ally. That’s certainly the line that the governing coalition has taken up; some leading spokespersons profess to be ashamed that there is even any doubt that Germany is willing to come help.

Then again – is there really a threat? German deployments outside Germany for decades (after the mega-deployment known as WWII) never happened at all, but in any event are very sensitive matters domestically – and the latest one that is just winding down, to Afghanistan, did little to inspire confidence. Anyway, the nature of the Turkish situation is not decided in Berlin, yet, and so neither is the whole issue of Patriot deployment.

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Germany’s Libya Mistake

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Back for a moment to Libya. (From Letterman, Top Ten Thoughts That Went Through Herman Cain’s Mind During The ‘Libya’ Moment: 10. “Libya? I remember Lydia, but I don’t remember a Libya!”)

As in any revolution, people were called upon to make a serious choice one way or another: revolt or support Qaddafi? If your side did not emerge victorious, you were sure to be in serious trouble. That was most gravely true for Libyan residents, but other parties had a similar dilemma, especially once the tide started to turn against the rebels starting around March and the prospect of civilian massacres started to arise. Much of NATO – including, crucially, the Obama administration, although the lead was taken by France and the UK – then chose to intervene, and managed to get passed UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to justify (somewhat) that intervention. Others held back – and the most prominent of these was Germany, which made no contribution to that NATO military effort and in fact abstained in the Security Council vote on Resolution 1973.

Well, now Qaddafi is dead and gone, and the winners and losers are clear. Germany is a loser (although not as badly as the regime supporters). In that light, @swissbusiness has come up with a fascinating interview in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:


(more…)

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Libya’s Prickly Neighbor

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

As I write this, former Libyan dictator Qaddafi is still at large somewhere, although hopefully we’ve agreed that it is not likely to be in Tunisia. Ah, but what of that other direct neighbor to the west, Algeria? His wife and younger sons, and their families, have apparently fled there – can Muammar be far behind?

In fact, things have gone even further than that. Algeria has closed (or at least declared closed – with the obvious exceptions) its 1,000km-long desert border with Libya, has cut diplomatic relations, and of course shows no inclination to formally recognize the new regime there. It is hardly the only country to have bet the wrong way on the ultimate outcome of Qaddafi’s struggle with domestic rebels, but it might be the only one further doubling-down on that failed wager. Why? Several answers are offered in an excellent – though anonymous – analysis in Die Zeit (Algeria’s problem with the new Libya). (more…)

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Ardeur for Libya Now Cool

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

What’s up now with the French and Libya? Nicolas Sarkozy’s government was the first to recognize the rebels’ National Transitional Council as the country’s valid government, and also led the way both in urging NATO military intervention last March and in actually conducting the very first bombing raids. But now Prime Minister François Fillon is saying “[a] political solution in Libya is more indispensable than ever” while Foreign Minister Alain Juppé claims to have word that Qaddafi is ready to head into exile.

Le Monde provides a perspective, in an unsigned article (Libya, a political objective now uncertain for L’Elysée). Put simply, it’s something akin to buyer’s remorse. France was looking forward to a glorious “big brother” role with the assistance it provided the rebels, one that would go far towards erasing – so officials hoped – her rather ugly colonial history in the area. Most of all, though, this was supposed to be short and sweet, something – in the words of Juppé back in March – that was to “be calculated in days or weeks – certainly not in months.”

Well, now it is months later, and the fighting is still going on. The rebels do seem to be making some sort of progress, yet it still seems doubtful that they can take full control before the onset of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on 1 August complicates their efforts considerably.

According to the article, Sarkozy had a somewhat earlier date in mind for a rebel victory: 14 July, or Bastille Day, just two days away, when the usual parade of military hardware down the Champs Elysées could be spiffed up considerably on the wave of a cut-and-dried successful military campaign. But that certainly will not happen, and meanwhile Le Monde reports how the French president recently changed his mind from a trip across the Mediterranean to go visit the rebels’ self-styled Libyan Republic and opted to visit actual French troops in Afghanistan instead.

At least Sarkozy has just confronted the issue of submitting his military operations to approval of the legislature rather better than Barack Obama has done, and indeed has gained renewed votes of support for Libya actions from the Assemblée and the Senate, when there were fears that this was not certain. But the fighting goes on, and perhaps it should not be so surprising that the French should start lowering their standards for how they think it should end, as long as it does so quickly.

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Central Europe Pines For More Obama-Love

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

The biggest news reverberating around Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) these days is that of an open letter recently made public, addressed to President Obama and issued in the name of 22 notable political figures from countries of that region, including many ex-presidents and even one Nobel Prize winner (Lech Wałęsa). Nobody who signed this missive currently occupies any actual governmental position, however, but that is perfectly logical in view of its polite but urgent message that any current official would have to be too diplomatic to deliver: America is neglecting NATO in general and the CEE lands in particular.

As vacation season here on the European continent starts to shift into high gear, it’s difficult for any mere man-made initiative like this (as opposed to, say, a natural catastrophe) to create much of a sensation, but the leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza at least considered this news so important that it issued two slightly-different articles about it (here and here) from its Washington correspondent, Marcin Bosacki, who notes that there’s never been any sort of letter like this sent since 1989. Also, that newspaper also published on-line the complete letter in its English translation, including a table at the bottom explaining who all those 22 signatories are. (more…)

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Denmark’s Rasmussen To Head NATO

Monday, April 6th, 2009

You likely missed it in the thick series of happenings and photo-ops that have flooded the world’s front pages since Barack Obama first took flight last Tuesday for London, but there was a bit of a mini-crisis brewing at the NATO summit (his next stop after the G20 meeting in London) even as he addressed all those German and French students in Strasbourg at that “town hall” meeting on Friday. It wasn’t very complicated: the current Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was lined up to succeed Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as NATO Secretary-General at the summit, but there was a serious monkey-wrench in the works: the top Turkish leaders did not want Rasmussen in that post, and they were ready to insist that he not get it and so exercise the effective veto they and every other one of NATO’s 28 members have on such a top position. (The Turkish complaints against him related to the late 2005/early 2006 Danish cartoons affair, plus a Kurdish-language TV station – “Roj TV” – that broadcasts in Denmark.) Things even reached the point that – horrors! – the news conference scheduled for 1:00 PM on Saturday afternoon did not happen until a good two-and-a-half hours later, which is when De Hoop Scheffer could finally appear on the stage shaking hands with his Danish successor.

As befitting its status as one of Denmark’s best-regarded daily newspapers, Berlingske Tidende has some good coverage of this affair (NATO’s declaration-of-confidence in Denmark), written by Ole Bang Nielsen. First off, Nielsen makes it clear just what this appointment means to the Danes themselves, namely a recognition that Denmark is no longer just a “footnote-nation and hesitant member of NATO,” as well as a personal vote of support to Rasmussen himself. To get there past the Turkish opposition, though, truly took a tremendous diplomatic full-court press – “the large European NATO lands finally threw in all their political ballast against Turkey,” as Nielsen writes. Breaking up that NATO meeting without having Rasmussen in place as the Secretary-General would have been a humiliation – especially for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who basically had announced the day before that Rasmussen would be named – so those European countries did indeed throw in everything, including Turkey’s prospective EU membership. Yes, EU matters generally do not belong being linked to NATO issues (the memberships of the two organizations don’t match very exactly, anyway), but Nielsen writes that certain threats were made nonetheless against Turkey’s EU membership process should it continue to hold out against the Dane. It seems even that the EU enlargement commissioner (Olli Rehn, a Finn) was on-hand personally to utter authoritative remarks toward the Turks such as “This does not look good from a European perspective, if Turkey does not give way.” There you have it: ordinarily Rehn did not even belong there at the NATO meeting at all, since he is an EU official, and because Finland is not a member of NATO anyway. (more…)

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Trembling in Moldova

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Much ink has been spilled lately – or, if you like, billions of computer-screen pixels have been illuminated – in the wake of the Russian military incursion into Georgia over the new aggressiveness this signals in Russia’s outlook towards the outside world, particularly in situations enabling that country’s leaders to manufacture a pretext to invade based around “protecting” Russian nationals residing in some neighboring country. Which one of those neighbors is likely as the next candidate for Moscow’s attentions? You can bet that any remaining summer leave has been revoked as officials in both the ministries of foreign affairs and defense scramble to update their position statements and contingency plans in Kiev, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Baku, Yerevan – and in Chisinau.

Chisinau? You might recall that as the capital of the Republic of Moldova. It may not share any border with Russia, but in fact it is one country that has more to worry about in the face of the new Russian assertiveness than most, as André Tibold of the Nederlands Dagblad reminds us today (Moldova is also worried about provocations). (more…)

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Good-Bye Putin

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The hostilities in Georgia seem to be dying down now. Russian forces are withdrawing – or at least they are supposed to withdraw, under the terms of the cease-fire they signed, but there is considerable doubt as to whether they are actually fulfilling that obligation.

In the meantime, the countries of the NATO alliance struggle to come to terms with the new ruthless military face Russia has shown in this crisis. Germany now stands central in that military alliance, in the same way it has stood central for some time now within the European Union, again because of its sheer weight of population and economic power (and, who knows, maybe also its reputation for military ability in the past), which makes German commentary on these recent developments particularly interesting.

A very good contribution comes from Jochen Bittner, who writes a weblog, called Planet in Progress, that is carried off the Die Zeit webserver. (more…)

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Georgia = Czechoslovakia?

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday, speaking of the recent Russian actions in Georgia, that “This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.” Examining her words carefully, one could conclude that her point is essentially that Russia is attempting a repeat of what it accomplished with its Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia – exactly forty years ago this month, as it happens – but should not be able or allowed to succeed this time.

But are the two military undertakings, separated by four decades, really comparable? You could ask the Czechs themselves about that. (more…)

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Obama in Berlin: A Serious German Press Review

Friday, July 25th, 2008

It’s all a bit bizarre: Here at EuroSavant we consider the Economist’s on-site blog Certain Ideas of Europe to be something of a watered-down competitor, in that its (anonymous) writers evidently command a few European languages themselves and take advantage of that often to remark upon noteworthy articles in the European press (really only the French and the German). Yet in its own day-after Obama-Berlin coverage, what else does Certain Ideas of Europe choose to highlight out of reaction to Obama’s Berlin speech from the German Fourth Estate than a breathless piece from the Bild Zeitung (Britons: think The Sun; Americans: maybe The New York Post but – as we’ll see – with a bit greater tolerance for female nudity.) The blog entry is entitled Obama and the ‘BILD girl’. Wow – 27-year-old Bild reporter Judith Bonesky (stifle the puns!) finds herself together in the gym of the Ritz Carlton hotel with HIM! Oh, he’s much taller than she had expected! They exchange some “How are you?”s! Then he goes and starts hefting some impressively-big weights, in such a manly fashion, without breaking a sweat! Naturally, when it’s time for him to go (he’s got a speech to deliver), she grabs her chance for a smugshot with the candidate. (more…)

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Cracks in the German Afghanistan Refusal Front?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

NATO these days is undergoing somewhat of a crisis, having to do with the Alliance’s efforts in Afghanistan. Officials from the various NATO lands will deny it, but recent developments in Afghanistan itself have been further shaped and amplified through a serious of previously-planned security conferences to produce some serious tensions.

It seems some NATO alliance partners are rather unimpressed with the level of contribution offered by certain others, and are ratcheting up the pressure on these laggards to get more with the program. This argument dominated the NATO conference of defense ministers held last week in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. As you can expect, the US is the leading country among that first group, but Canada has been complaining as well. That country currently has 2,500 troops stationed in dangerous southern Afghanistan, by Kandahar, and has even threatened to send those troops home once its current commitment comes to an end if there are no new troop commitments to southern Afghanistan from other NATO allies. (more…)

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No NATO for Ukraine

Saturday, December 11th, 2004

One of the key international figures involved in brokering the deal between the Ukrainian government and the opposition that finally led to the agreement for the election repeat on December 26 was Spain’s Javier Solana. But it’s vital here to stay up-to-date on Solana’s career path: he was NATO Secretary-General, but that was in the period 1995-1999. In 2004 in Kiev he has rather represented the European Union, as its High Representative for the Common Foreign & Security Policy (together with the presidents of Poland and Lithuania, who were also actively present there). Thus, it was the EU that was there on the scene, wielding influence from being not only Ukraine’s neighbor but also the club most Ukrainians wants to join. NATO, on the other hand, was not there; and, as Ole Bang Nielsen of Denmark’s Berlingske Tidende reminds us (NATO Puts Ukraine on Ice), the Ukraine cannot expect to find itself on NATO’s short-list of new-member candidates anytime soon. (more…)

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High Tastelessness

Monday, October 4th, 2004

Heard of the latest new Russian pop music phenomenon? No one knows her real name; she’s known only as “n.A.T.o.” and is a self-professed “suicide bomber” musician, who performs in a full-length burqa (i.e. the all-covering Muslim female dress) and veil, singing in Arabic.

Yep, it’s apparently for real. I first got word of “n.A.T.o.” from Belgium’s De Standaard, whose De Kleine Parade feature always has short but noteworthy, even believe-it-or-not pieces of which I have made mention in this space before. But in this case there is thankfully even more extensive coverage available from an English-language source, namely Elizabeth Day’s article in Britain’s Telegraph. (more…)

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Italian Legislators Ask Nader to Withdraw

Monday, July 26th, 2004

A devastating debate with Howard Dean live on TV hasn’t been enough; neither have been appeals from countless Americans, from the prominent to the obscure. But maybe a collective entreaty from some guys (mostly guys; actually, they’re uomini) with that notable “continental style” will do the trick and convince Ralph Nader to withdraw from the American presidential race. The French on-line newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur is reporting (Anti-Bush Action From Italian Deputies) that 116 members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, “in a rare gesture,” sent a collective letter last Saturday (24 July) to presidential candidate Ralph Nader urging him to bow out. (more…)

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Turkey and Other Bones of Franco-American Contention

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

At the NATO summit in Istanbul, wrapping up its second and final day today, relations between the United States and France have certainly not gotten any better. Bush did not help prepare things very well with an interview he had with RTE (Irish Radio and Television – official transcript here) as he made his way to Istanbul by way of Ireland (and a summit there with top EU officials over the weekend). In the interview he strongly suggested that it was really only France that opposed the Coalition attack on Iraq – “And, really, what you’re talking about is France, isn’t it?” – an assertion which seems to be in contradiction with widely-held facts. Then, once in Istanbul, Bush seemed to think he had the authority to advise the EU to admit Turkey as a member-state, which prompted French President Jacques Chirac to declare that Bush “not only [went] too far, but he went into territory that isn’t his. . . . It is not his purpose and his goal to give any advice to the EU, and in this area it was a bit as if I were to tell Americans how they should handle their relationship with Mexico.” Undaunted, Bush has since repeated this line today at a speech at an Istanbul university: “America believes that as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union.” (This CNN report has all the details of the spat in English.) (more…)

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Ayatollah Bush

Monday, June 7th, 2004

The cajoling (over Iraq, of course) and the 60-year-old commemorative ceremonies are now over, and President Bush and entourage have caught Air Force One back to the States. He leaves behind, among many other things, an excellent article in the current issue of the authoritative German commentary-newspaper, Die Zeit, which his staff, at least, would have been well-advised to have studied in preparation for this visit (the article is dated June 3). Now, I know that the President doesn’t care much for foreign languages, and maybe that attitude also percolates down to those who work for him, so that that probably did not happen. But that’s OK anyway, because Jan Ross’ piece Bush and Us can also serve just as well as a post-visit dissection of the true attitudes towards George W. Bush and America in general among Europeans, beneath all the World War II-gratitude veneer. (more…)

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Six of One, Half-A-Dozen of the Other

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

Let’s continue today our “When Good Central European Electorates Go Bad” series in which, while defending to the death the right of voters there to choose the governments they want, we take out our spectacles, lean in for a closer look, and then blurt out “You want to choose that lot?!”

Today’s subject is one I mentioned in passing in this weblog’s last post, namely the seemingly unstoppable ascent of Vladimir Meciar to the presidency of the Slovak Republic. I took a closer look myself, and while the crisp, succinct, bottom-line summary of what’s going on that I’ve just given you is bad enough, in fact the situation viewed more broadly is even worse – not that there aren’t plenty of comic elements that can’t be extracted to put a little sugar on the bitter pill. Or at least that’s for those of you who are not Slovak and so will not have to live through the next few years with the results of what is about to happen. We’ll do our best to do this in the following, so get yourself in tune for some bittersweet humor. (more…)

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The Danes Wax Rhetorical Over Naples

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Let’s now go to the reporting of the run-up to that EU IGC in Naples (and its early going) in the Danish press. If you want championship coverage of just what was contained in that omnibus compromise proposal distributed last Tuesday by the foreign ministry of the current-EU president, Italy, the piece to turn to is Politiken’s article Denmark Concerned over Italian Proposal for Constitution. (more…)

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The New NATO Secretary-General (For Next Year)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

Open the envelope, and the winner is . . . Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for next Secretary-General of NATO! And so the Netherlands contributes its third Secretary-General in the history of the Atlantic Alliance, the first two (as only NATO trivia-buffs will know) having been Dirk Stikker and Joseph Luns. Me, I’m slightly disappointed since I was looking forward to seeing the Norwegian Defense Minister, Kristin Krohn Devold, named instead as NATO’s first female Secretary-General. The New York Times Magazine, in a hagiographical article about her that it published back on August 24, virtually promised that this would happen. (That article has by now retreated behind the NYT’s paid archives-access gate; if you think you might like to pay to see it, the link is here.)

No, its Jaap de Hoop Scheffer instead – and surely it’s time here for a survey of the Dutch press to find out how the thinking-class in Holland is reacting to one of its own being picked out for such a crucial international position. What sort of a politician is he? What qualities will he bring to NATO? What is Holland losing by having him (temporarily) plucked away from its political scene? After all, he is currently the Dutch Foreign Affairs minister; and he used to be head of the CDA, the right-wing, somewhat Christian-oriented (“Christian lite,” anybody? – as opposed to the more “hard-core” Christian parties EuroSavant has briefly discussed before) political party which is now the Netherlands’ largest and whose current leader, Jan-Peter Balkenende (the man who replaced De Hoop Scheffer), is prime minister. (more…)

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Michael Moore and Wesley Clark

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

Just a brief mention here of something I ran across while trawling the Germany Sunday press: Under the headling Bush muß weg! (or “Bush must go!”), the authoritative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is publishing today in its “Feuilleton” section (roughly equivalent to, say, a “Style” section) Michael Moore’s open letter to (ret.) General Wesley Clark of Friday, 12 Sept. In it, he thanks Clark for the support he expressed for Moore at the time of his controversial remarks at the Oscar ceremonies last spring, and urges him to run for president against Bush, whom Moore lambasts with some pretty bitter invective.

Obviously, the letter was originally written in English, not in German, so that link above is only for those more comfortable reading in German, or who want to practice it. The original English version is available at a number of places on-line, but probably the best source is Michael Moore’s own website, here. And, in case you’re in the mood for a rebuttal to that (but not from any Bush partisan, but rather from the leftist lunatic fringe), you could go here, to “An Open Letter to Michael Moore,” of 17 Sept., which warns Moore that he is endorsing a war-criminal, from General Clark’s role in the 1999 Kosovo War. I certainly don’t agree with this; if you’re interested in why, simply click on “More…” (more…)

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September 11 Special – “We Are Not All Americans”

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

As an apt accompaniment to its coverage of all of today’s “September 11” ceremonies, remembrances, etc., the New York Times is also publishing a lengthy article by Berlin correspondent Richard Bernstein entitled Foreign Views of U.S. Darken Since Sept. 11 – basically about how the Bush administration within a mere two years has managed to squander all the sympathy and good-will that was being mind-beamed by foreigners in the direction of the US in the wake of the catastrophic attacks in New York and Washington. “Gone are the days,” Bernstein writes (towards the end of the article), “when 200,000 Germans marched in Berlin to show solidarity with their American allies, or when Le Monde, the most prestigious French newspaper, could publish a large headline, ‘We Are All Americans.'”

Things have reached a point, Bernstein notes, where “more recently” the French weekly Nouvel Observateur published an editorial entitled “We Are Not All Americans.”

That sort of mention always makes my antennae pop up and go “zing!”, and my fingers scramble to my keyboard to summon my faithful search engine. (Trusty “Geegor,” if you know what I’m trying to say.) Of course Geegor found this Nouvel Observateur article on-line, and a mighty interesting piece it is, too. Problem is (and, darn it, material in the Nouvel Observateur seems to suffer from this chronically), it’s written in French.

Hey! Hooya gonna call? Why, your friendly neighborhood EuroSavant, of course! Just look under the “Savant” heading in your local Yellow Pages!

Or, if you’re interested in what the French have to say, and you’re blessed with a connection to the Internet, you could instead click on “More…” (more…)

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Dutch “Gut Check” on Iraq

Monday, August 25th, 2003

I’m back now from Prague – and what a mess has arisen since I left last Tuesday, the 19th! That was the day that UN headquarters in Baghdad was attacked by a suicide truck-bomber, who caused the deaths of twenty-three personnel including UN Iraq envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

This is obviously a “gut check” moment. Things have not been going well there, and now there is this atrocity; do we stay or do we flee? Among other things, this warrants a check of the Dutch press to see what is being said there. (more…)

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Belgian General Speaks His Mind

Saturday, August 16th, 2003

Belgian Lt. General Francis Briquemont: Ever heard of him? Quite probably not, for although he did emerge onto the international stage in the early 1990s, his appearance there was brief – in fact, briefer than anyone could have expected. He was placed in command in July, 1993, of 12,000 multinational troops constituting UN forces in the former Yugoslavia – in the middle of the period of inter-ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina – for a tour of duty of one year. Yet he resigned this command after only six months, in early January of 1994, claiming that his job was impossible in view of the “fantastic” gap between UN rhetoric about Bosnia and what it was actually prepared to commit manpower and resources to accomplish.

So General Briquemont speaks his mind, and backs it up with action. Now retired, he is back again, “thinking outside the box” – to put things mildly – in a pair of thoughtful articles in Belgium’s La Libre Belgique that step back and examine the implications – and the fall-out – from the Anglo-American drive last spring to go to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the divisions exposed by the EU’s (failed) attempt to formulate a unified response. (more…)

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Whither Germany in Afghanistan?

Thursday, August 14th, 2003

Reviewing recent EuroSavant coverage, one subject clearly stands out: Iraq. “Democracy in Iraq,” “It’s Hot in Iraq,” “Iraq Through Spanish Eyes,” etc. Maybe I should just change the name of this weblog to something like “IraqSavant” – is the .com domain name still available? (If it was, it isn’t by now!) I do try to avoid excessive concentration on one subject, or on one particular national press. But to a great extent what continues to happen in Iraq remains of great concern and interest, especially in August (the “silly season” or “cucumber time,” etc., when little else that’s truly attention-worthy ever happens, except maybe for travel accidents: crashing airliners, the Russian submarine Kursk, etc.), and especially now that more nations are being drawn into involvement, having generously agreed to assist the Americans and the British in occupation duties.

So here’s a change: How about a fairly in-depth treatment from the recent German press about what’s been going on in . . . um, Afghanistan? No wait, this is truly interesting, especially from the German point of view. You see, the Germans and Dutch last Monday finally came to the end of their six months of joint responsibility for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), charged with helping Hamid Karzai and his Afghan Transitional Administration with establishing security in the country. So were there sighs of relief all around last Monday from the Deutsch and the Dutch? Not exactly: next to take up the ISAF baton is NATO, and of course both Germany and the Netherlands are long-standing members of NATO. In fact, at last Monday’s handover ceremony German lieutenant general Norbert van Heyst formally handed over ISAF’s green banner . . . to German lieutenant general Goetz Gliemeroth, acting for NATO! (more…)

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German Organized Labor Meets Afghani Working Conditions

Saturday, June 28th, 2003

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan . . . yes, you remember that we also fought a war there, in late 2001 against the Taliban, mainly because they were sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his Al-Qaida organization and refused to give him up. To keep order in that war-torn and fragmented country, and to give its central adminstration headed by “Transitional Chairman” Hamid Karzai a chance to get started with rebuilding, since December, 2001, there has been a so-called International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there, mainly in the capital city Kabul and surroundings. (more…)

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Belgium Backs Off

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

There goes another one of my favorite weblog-entry subjects! The Belgian government is now in the process of modifying its infamous “genocide law” (formally known as “law of universal competence” – the law that used to allow criminal complaints from anyone, from anywhere, against anyone, from anywhere, whom they could charge with crimes against humanity) so that it more-or-less conforms to the sort of legislation most other countries have for the prosecution against those sorts of serious crimes. Crucially, with the changes that are now being added either the accuser or the accused must be of Belgian nationality or must have at least lived in Belgium for three years. (EuroSavant recently had the occasion to discuss this law, and the displeasure it was prompting among American officials, here.) (more…)

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