"Field Manual to Europe" Discussion with Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber
Date:Thu, Jan 17, 2013 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Attendance restrictions:open to the public
Over the past year, the Bertelsmann Foundation has worked on a comprehensive strategy document on trans-Atlantic relations for the next Obama administration. This "Field Manual to Europe" addresses a wide range of issues confronting Washington and European capitals, both in their relationship with each other and the rest of the world. We have put together a highly interdisciplinary document with ten memos, each examining a major policy issue. Each memo also provides recommendations for operational first steps that President Obama's second administration should take in 2013 to recast the US relationship with Europe. The diverse set of topics includes cyber security, cooperation with Russia, the role of post-Afghanistan NATO, Turkey, and coordination on energy and climate-change policy. Each memo can stand alone, but taken together they serve as the building blocks for a new approach to Europe in the age of the rebalance.
A reception will follow the discussion. RSVP to email@example.com.
With a discussion featuring former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Congressman Vin Weber (R-MN), the Bertelsmann Foundation unveiled its trans-Atlantic strategy document for the second Obama administration on January 17 to an overflow crowd at Washington, DC’s Hay-Adams Hotel. Bertelsmann Foundation Executive Director Annette Heuser moderated the event.
Field Manual to Europe addresses a wide range of issues confronting Washington and European capitals, both in their relationship with each other and the rest of the world. The document is highly interdisciplinary, comprising ten memos, each of which examines a major policy issue and provides recommendations for operational first steps that the new administration should take in 2013 to recast the US relationship with Europe. The diverse set of topics includes cyber security, cooperation with Russia, the role of post-Afghanistan NATO, Turkey, and coordination on energy and climate-change policy. Each memo can stand alone, but taken together they serve as the building blocks for a new approach to Europe in the age of the rebalance. Bertelsmann Foundation Transatlantic Relations Director Tyson Barker oversaw the Field Manual’s writing and production.
Secretary Albright began the discussion by expressing disappointment that the EU “has been so busy examining itself”. It has consequently not been the partner the US would like and the trans-Atlantic partnership “has fallen apart” on economic, political and military issues. She called on Europeans to “step up to a partnership”.
Congressman Weber said that the US sees Europe’s current problems as an economic issue. It has difficulty recognizing the political dimensions, and this causes more division between the partners.
He went on to discuss the current British position on the EU, noting that the US-UK “special relationship” depends on London’s relationship with Europe. “[The British] are less valuable to us as a special ally” if they are out of Europe, he said.
Secretary Albright echoed that remark by repeating Washington’s desire for a strong Europe and expressed concern about disintegration within the EU and a “resurgence of nationalism” that she described as “troubling”.
On a more positive note, Congressman Weber spoke of a stronger pro-trade element in Congress that could advance work on a new trans-Atlantic economic compact that embraces TAFTA, a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement. The Field Manual to Europe recommends the second Obama administration work towards such goals in its first year. The Congressman warned, however, that it has “never been easy to pass a trade agreement”.
On NATO, the Secretary lamented that most European members do not commit sufficient financial resources to their militaries. She asked rhetorically if the alliance could support “à la carte activities”, what happens if some NATO members abstain from a deployment, and if NATO is already a mutli-tiered alliance.
Congressman Weber praised the Field Manual for its thorough description of the challenges facing the alliance and the recommendations for dealing with them. He agreed with the conclusions that NATO may have to accept some of the alliance’s current shortcomings and simply deal with them as best as it can.
The Secretary noted an additional problem in a general lack of faith among people in any national or international institution. She described herself as “an optimist who worries a lot”, but expressed hope that Americans and Europeans will recognize the need for institutions such as NATO. “We would invent a military alliance if we didn’t have one,” she said.
On Mali, the Secretary believes that the US will provide the appropriate assistance to the European operations to rid the northern part of the country of Islamic extremists. But Congressman Weber countered that most Americans are unclear about the proper role for the US in this issue. He noted that the Algerian hostage situation further complicates matters.
Staying in foreign policy, Secretary Albright called the Arab uprisings the “biggest tectonic change since the end of the Cold War” whose complexity no one has appreciated. She cited governance as the crux of the problem in the Middle East and North Africa. Elections are needed, she said, but people also have to govern. On Russia, she asked if Moscow would continue its “oil-penetration diplomacy” towards Europe and if there is a way for the country and the US to cooperate. The latter issue is complicated by President Vladimir Putin’s tendency to exploit nationalism.
The Congressman picked up on that by laying the blame for deteriorating US-Russian relations on Mr Putin, whom he described as “backsliding on democracy”. This has eliminated any interest among Republicans to pursue stronger economic relations.
Both speakers noted that Syria would be a test for US-Russian relations in 2013. Congressman Weber labeled the Kremlin’s continued support for the Assad regime a “core problem”.
Turning to cyber security, Secretary Albright repeatedly spoke about the topic’s complexity, the problems behind determining who – or what – is behind a cyber attack, and whether such an event constitutes an armed attack as understood by NATO’s Article V. She sees the need for in-depth discussions among the trans-Atlantic partners and others to settle such issues.
Congressman Weber reminded the audience of the small number of experts in this field and the public’s limited understanding of it, both of which complicate policy making.
The hour-long wide-ranging discussion took place in front of more than 200 guests, with significant representation from government, diplomacy, the business sector and the think-tank community.