Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade

American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992
American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992 (Institut François Mitterand)

Reflections on George H.W. Bush’s legacy have generally emphasized his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and its benign consequences for Europe’s post-Cold War transition. Lost in the narrative is the former president’s ambivalence toward the restive movements on the outer edges the Soviet empire.

The result was a full-blown civil conflict in Yugoslavia that undermined America’s confidence in its European allies and fueled a unilateralist streak that would animate a decade of American-led interventions. Read more

Why Greek-Russian Relations Haven’t Improved

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8, 2015
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8, 2015 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

When the far-left Syriza party took power in Greece in 2015, there were fears (including here) that it might trade the country’s Western alliance for an entente with Moscow.

The party had called for a “refoundation of Europe” away from Cold War divisions and its leader and the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, suggested Greece could serve as a “bridge” between East and West.

Three years later, nothing has come of it. Read more

Three Seas Initiative Breathes New Life into Central Europe

Central and Eastern European leaders meet in Bucharest, Romania for the Three Seas Initiative summit, September 18
Central and Eastern European leaders meet in Bucharest, Romania for the Three Seas Initiative summit, September 18 (Three Seas Initiative)

The Financial Times reports that Central and Eastern European countries are putting flesh on the bones of the Three Seas Initiative, a forum dreamed up by Croatia and Poland to promote regional integration. Read more

With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely

A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013
A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013 (Bundeswehr/Alexander Linden)

It looks like a European army might really happen.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, endorsed the call of French president Emmanuel Macron for an EU fighting force.

She praised the 25 member states — Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom are not participating — that committed last year to enhance interoperability, pool their defense procurement and improve military logistics under the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

But a proper army, she said, would make war in Europe impossible and “complement” the NATO alliance. Read more

Trump Believes Summit with Putin Has Reset Relations. He’s Wrong

Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Two years on the job, Donald Trump still doesn’t understand foreign policy.

After meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, the American said relations between their two countries had “never been worse.”

“However,” he added, “that changed as of about four hours ago.”

As if a single meeting of two leaders could change the fate of nations. Read more

Removing American Troops from Germany Would Be a Mistake

A C-130 Hercules transport aircraft lands at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 7, 2011
A C-130 Hercules transport aircraft lands at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 7, 2011 (Timm Ziegenthaler)

President Donald Trump, apparently surprised to learn (two years on the job) that the United States have around 35,000 troops in Germany, is considering pulling his soldiers out. He has ordered the Defense Department to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of their presence.

Such a study would no doubt find the benefits outweigh the costs. Those 35,000 troops — down from a Cold War peak of 400,000 — serve American, not German, interests. Read more

Italy Has Become Two Countries

An Italian flag in Sardinia, April 22, 2007
An Italian flag in Sardinia, April 22, 2007 (Stefano Sassu)

In my latest story for the Diplomatic Courier, I argue that Italy’s economic north-south divide has become political.

The far-right League, which Matteo Salvini has transformed into Italy’s version of the National Front, is the biggest party in the north, where incomes are 10-14 percent above the European average. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement is the biggest party in the south, including on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, where incomes are barely above the level in Greece.

These two parties now rule Italy in a coalition government. Read more