Thomas Miller is the previous Ambassador to Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Special Coordinator for Cyprus. He is also the current President/CEO of International Executive Service Corps, a non-profit that furnishes expertise to the developing world to train in best business practices. You can read more about his impressive career here.
The Greek Elections and the Future of Greece
Author: Ambassador Thomas Miller
As of now it looks virtually certain that Greeks will return to the polls on either June 10 or 17—just a few weeks after the last inconclusive election. On May 6, Greeks resoundingly turned out the two parties that had alternated power for nearly the last four decades when 70% of them voted for parties that rejected the austerity plan these two mainstream parties had signed with the European Union, IMF, and the European Central Bank (ECB).
by Laurie Dundon
Senior Fellow, Partnership for Secure America
Policy-makers have been looking for some good leverage to affect the situation in Syria for months. Americans, and those around the world, are watching in horror at the violence. The moral imperative to do something is clear: each day the atrocities continue; each day the disproportionate use of force affects innocent civilians; and the situation is going from bad to worse. However, decisions about what course of action to take are complex. Experts point to the complications of a campaign against Syria’s sophisticated air defenses, the practical challenges of training and equipping the Free Syria Army (FSA), the limitations of implementing safe-zones without significant ground force protection, and the risk of getting drawn into a messy proxy-war with very real effects throughout the region and direct effects for Americans. On top of that, the majority of Americans are weighted with “intervention exhaustion” and extremely hesitant to get involved in another military conflict in the Middle East.
Today the European Union announced an escalation of their sanctions against Iran. According to the new guidelines, the 27 member nations will end any oil contracts with Iran by July 1st and any assets held by the Iranian central bank within the EU will be frozen, with a limited exemption to continue legitimate trade. While this new oil embargo will go a long way in satisfying European public opinion, it is unlikely that it will have the desired effect on the Iranian regime and, most importantly, has huge potential to backfire.
Gary Hart is a member of the PSA Advisory Board, president of Hart International, Ltd. and chairman of the American Security Project. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1975 until 1987. This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 18th, 2012 and can be found here.
As an American with more than average interest and experience in Russia, it is a mystery to me why, unlike virtually every other country on earth, U.S. policy has tended to be so dependent on the personal relationship between the respective leaders.
This was especially true of Presidents Clinton, with the late Boris Yeltsin, and George W. Bush, with then-President Vladimir Putin (“I looked the man in the eye.”). This mystery of Russian relations is not totally confined to U.S. leaders: Remember Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous report to President George H.W. Bush on Mikhail Gorbachev as “a man we can do business with.” A humorist might call it the vodka syndrome, except Clinton was never known as a drinker and, of course, the second President Bush had sworn off alcohol.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously noted that “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities,” and the recent debt debate was no different. Proving true to form, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 at the zero-hour. The bill raises the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, cuts spending by more than $900 billion over 10 years, and establishes a 12-member bipartisan House-Senate “supercommittee” to recommend up to an additional $1.5 trillion in long-term savings before the end of the year.
The rest of the world, though, didn’t like the soap opera we just went through. Foreign reaction was less than congratulatory after the last-minute agreement and focused on the intractable American political process. Following the passage of the bill, the Economist criticized all sides, calling the debt debate “kabuki-like.” Chinese credit ratings agency Dagong Global “blamed a shaky and untrustworthy political system” as it downgraded US debt. And the Russian press noted that “the obvious inability to reach an agreement that was demonstrated by political forces in the US has had an equally damaging effect on the country… The image of the country as a responsible borrower has suffered most.”
Now that the US has been on the brink of default, an unthinkable proposition until recently, it has changed the way that the rest of the world views us. There is, of course, griping that to some extent has allowed others to take a break from dealing with their own problems to criticize ours. Yet, dismissing foreign viewpoints entirely ignores the importance of taking these viewpoints into account as we burnish our global image, especially if how we go about finding solutions to our long-term challenges is starting to affect the American brand nearly as much as what solutions we find. (more…)
In 1848 popular revolution broke out in one European land after another, from the Netherlands to Serbia, Poland to Prussia. Monarchies tottered and the old social order appeared destined to the dustbin of history with the advent of new movements for an old continent; democracy and socialism.
Yet the “Spring of the Peoples” that dawned in Europe in 1848 was slowly reversed through a rolling counterrevolution that capitalized on the inability of revolutionary forces to quickly coalesce into governing majorities. The passing of months and years without stability and clear direction allowed the former interests aligned with the status quo to counter attack against the revolutionaries of 1848. The masses that had supported democratic change in the revolution of 1848 became generally disillusioned fairly quickly and were not there to resist the counter attack of the old order. (more…)
As Hungary prepared to take the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on New Year’s Day, the country faced a slew of criticism over its new censorship laws. The laws put Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party in control of overseeing the public media and create a party-run media council to regulate both public and private broadcasters. Hungary’s Nepszabadsag newspaper declared that “the freedom of the press in Hungary has come to an end.” A Washington Post editorial decried the law as “more suited to an authoritarian regime than to a Western democracy.”
Troubling as the media censorship is in itself, it is even more troubling when considered in tandem with the approach Orban is taking to deal with the ailing Hungarian economy. Since his party’s victory in the parliamentary elections in April of last year, Orban has focused on short-term measures to the chagrin of the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which both want Hungary to focus on long-term spending cuts. One measure is a controversial reversal of a 1997 pension reform, a move that may in the long-run slow efforts to deal with Hungary’s debt, which is 80 percent of its GDP. Orban has also sought to increase the party’s influence on monetary policy, allowing a Fidesz-controlled parliamentary committee to fill vacant posts on the Central Bank’s Monetary council. But rather than ease these concerns, the measures have done little to assure others. International unease continued as Fitch rating agency downgraded Hungary’s foreign currency credit rating to just above junk status last month. (more…)
The only element of uncertainty in Belarus’s 2010 presidential election was supposed to be the percentage of votes resulting in Lukashenka’s victory. However, the unexpected happened: tens of thousands of people came into the streets in protest of the election results. The unusually high turnout at the protest is a sign that political changes are near. This may be the time when the US and the EU support could make a real difference in reshaping the domestic balance of power in Belarus. The protesters were brutally beaten by the riot police, but their display of courage should not be allowed to fail.
Given the weakness of civil society, the consequences of challenging Lukashenka’s power, and the sizes of protests at the previous presidential elections, the number of people who came out on the cold winter streets in Minsk is truly remarkable. The Belarusian people stood up in the largest act of protest since 1996 at the time when the West began to praise Lukashenka as a guarantor of stability and seemed ready to give up on reforming the authoritarian country. Stability indeed is what they are getting with Lukashenka in power as there is no doubt of who wins elections and what happens to the regime’s opponents. But in a country like Belarus it is not stability, but change – and a big one — that the West should be hoping for.
Lukashenka won 79.7 percent of the votes, according to the election results released by the government Monday. One can only speculate to what extent the election was rigged. Prevailing over nine opponents who have no media access seems easy enough even without cheating. However, it is notable that the people known for falsifying the election results in 2001 and 2006 have remained in charge of counting the votes in 2010, and the playing field is far from level. (more…)
Nowhere have the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity clashed more persistently and tragically than in the Balkans, which remain unsettled after the genocidal Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Kosovo is one of the major loose ends left to tie up in the region. Eleven years after the 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, Kosovo has yet to win recognition as an independent state. In 2008 Kosovo declared independence and passed a new constitution, issued passports, established 19 embassies, formed a military, and chose a national anthem. However, its international status remains ambiguous to this day. Bloody conflicts still erupt between Albanians, who comprise nearly 95 per cent of the population, and Serbs despite the presence of 9,900-member international peacekeeping force. Ironically, its presence may be all the more needed since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that Kosovo’s declaration of independence “did not violate general international law.” Although publicized as a victory for Kosovo, the ICJ July 22 ruling has only increased ambiguity over Kosovo’s sovereignty.
The international community cannot continue to sit on the fence about the Balkan problem as it had for disturbingly long while Slobodan Milosevic’s forces rampaged from Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia and Kosovo. It is time the world recognizes Kosovo, which has suffered from Serbian genocide and accepted compromise after compromise while its international status was being debated, and establishes clear rules for negotiating ethno-national conflicts in the future to ensure Kosovo’s recognition does not set a dangerous precedent. Until then, the lack of clarity on evaluating the antithetical principles of self-determination and territorial integrity will continue to be politically exploited in the Balkans and elsewhere. (more…)
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Floated on both sides of the Atlantic by high officials for at least a decade, the idea of joint Russia-NATO ballistic missile defenses remains controversial and far-fetched. Experts say going beyond a limited exchange of early warning data to genuine cooperation would require resolving numerous military, diplomatic and technical issues and take another decade, during which the NATO-Russian rapport could wither. Just last week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the “daring” proposal to establish a joint NATO-Russia short-range missile defense system would become “mainstream” – when “Russia starts to feel the effects of proliferation.” How big are the obstacles to a genuine Russia-NATO missile defense cooperation and is overcoming them worth the trouble?
The most obvious issue with bringing the idea into reality is of technical nature: the incompatibility of NATO and Russian radar and interceptor components complicates intelligence sharing and requires a considerable number of technical adjustments on both sides. However, the main obstacle to building a joint missile defense shield and, more broadly, to moving the NATO-Russia relationship to a new level is their mutual mistrust. Even when the nuts and bolts of integrating the NATO and Russian systems are resolved, collaboration is impossible while the NATO and Russian lists of threats include each other.
Hastings Ismay, the first secretary-general of NATO, famously said, “NATO is created to keep Russia out, Germany down and Americans in.” While the situation has changed considerably with the end of the Cold War, Russia still feels left out. Even though it does not aspire to become a member of the alliance — as it did for a brief period under Boris Yeltsin — Moscow wants NATO to take heed of its interests. The alliance, on the other hand, is wary of giving Russia a veto over its decisions. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.