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The Central European Realignment

by DoDo Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:25:02 AM EST

When you think of Coalitions of the Willing, missile defense bases, visa agreements, fear of Russia, and veto threats in the EU, Central-Eastern Europe seems hopelessly Atlanticist.

However, I have long argued that things aren't that simple and things are changing. South of Poland, there are pipeline deals (and again), criticism of Georgia for the war with Russia, even in Poland, where there is a new pragmatic and Europe-focused approach to Russia, too, and a Euro drive.

It seems the new reality has dawned on some members of the USAmerican foreign policy elite, too. In the aptly named American Interest magazine, eminent political scientist Charles Gati writes of a Faded Romance.

Update [2008-11-1 6:25:2 by DoDo]: I asked in jest, but a fellow ETer had $19 to spare -- so with many thanks, I bumped & updated the diary with a review of the whole article. Read more details on a romance faded on both sides, and the proposal of a leaner foreign policy for the region (one without pushing missile defense and Nabucco) obviously aimed at a future Obama administration, below the fold.


Charles Gati, who emigrated from Hungary after the 1956 Revolution, is currently director of the Russian and Eurasian Studies Center at John Hopkins University. However, he is not just another academic without influence: he was chief adviser on Russian and European issues for both the GHW Bush and first Clinton administrations, and seems to be "in the loop" to this day.

The first paragraph of Gati's new article is worth quoting in full:

Since the Bush Administration took office in 2001, the United States has lost most of its once immense influence in the Central and East European countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. Each of these new democracies, having joined NATO and the European Union in the past decade, continues to maintain at least cordial relations with Washington. Many have done more than that, contributing to military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo led by the United States and NATO (or the European Union). Even so, their politicians and diplomats now tilt toward the European Union, and their citizens' daily lives are absorbed and transformed far more by European associations than by American ones. Geography, money and shared European values have made a difference. Far more surprising is the improvement in relations between Russia and several of the countries of Mitteleuropa [DoDo: don't quite understand why he uses the German word for Central Europe] --- notably Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Latvia --- primarily because of their need for Russian energy. Unless the Georgia crisis turns into a game changer, the region's romance with the United States will come to an end.

Actually I am not that, er, optimistic, but I agree that US ties are weakening. And I can't suppress a smug smile when reading of a "surprise".

In comparison with the situation in the nineties, Gati notes:

When American diplomats made a request to any of the region's governments, they did not have to ask twice. It would have been unthinkable then for Poland to demand major U.S. concessions in exchange for allowing American defensive missiles on Polish soil.

This contains a bit of nostalgia seen through rose-tinted glasses. One thing American diplomats had to ask not twice, not thrice, but a hundred times was raising defense spending once in NATO. And American requests weren't always respected out of love: some (especially ex-communist) governments complied for recognition (getting red carpets rolled out and White House photo-ops), and quite often the US used blackmail and threats in the background.


Sadly, the rest of the article is under a subscription wall, so for a few more bits, I can only rely on the summary at Index.hu.

Apparently, Gati goes on to note CEE popular discontent with US leadership, quoting a poll that found a "surprisingly large majority" of Poles don't think the US is fit for the role of global leader. [Where I again suppress a smug smile at the surprise.]

He underlines the EU reorientation with the financial aspect: the USA can't compete with the €85 billion Poland can request in EU structural funds between 2007-2013.


Update [2008-11-1 6:25:2 by DoDo]: After reading the whole article, I rewrote the original last pragraph and added the new stuff below it.


The disillusioned vassals

Gati also notes the disagreement with the Bush administration's prioritising of Iraq, and writes that lack of consultation before making decisions was interpreted as the US viewing CEE states as mere vassals.

To demonstrate this, Gati quotes Polish foreign minister Radosław (Radek) Sikorski, who should be the ultimate Atlanticist: emigrant returned home, alumni of the neocon think-tank AEI, married to Anne Applebaum. The quote is from Sikorski's 2007 Washington Post article Don't Take Poland for Granted, which I quote too in extended version:

The U.S. proposal to place radar and interceptor sites for a new missile defense system in Central Europe -- respectively, in the Czech Republic and Poland -- may generate a new security partnership with the countries of the region. Or it could provoke a spiral of misunderstanding, weaken NATO, deepen Russian paranoia and cost the United States some of its last friends on the continent.

Early omens are worrisome. Some genius at the State Department or the Pentagon sent the first official note describing possible placement of the facility with a draft reply attached -- a reply that contained a long list of host countries' obligations and few corresponding U.S. commitments. Natives here tend to think they are capable of writing their own diplomatic correspondence.


Draw-down of US soft power in Central Europe

Gati moves on to the nitty-gritty of exerting US influence.

  • Without discussing the blackmail for data access aspect, he mentions lack of visas [this was written in August] -- this influences not the entire population but the have-mores, but I guess getting the political, economic and media elite is just right.
  • He also mentions cuts in 'educational and cultural programmes' -- well indeed, already in the middle of the Clinton era, the Embassy library in Budapest was reduced to a rump, 'losing' me as regular visitor.
  • Finally, he mentions the problem of "non-career ambassadors" -- speak, political appointees and rewarded campaign contributors -- who have no clue about the country they are sent to.

At last count (in the summer of 2008), eight of the ten U.S. ambassadors in the region were non-career political appointees, only one of whom (in Slovakia) spoke the local language.

In general, Gati echoes Sikorski in saying that support from CEE was taken for granted, which produced negative reactions.


The ungrateful bastards!

Next, Gati considers domestic developments across the region. What's interesting is that he puts his presentation in the frame of the notion that the region imported the Italian model of politics. A model characterised by an unstable political landscape, rampant corrupion, popular cynism, and yet a lurching-along without collapse.

You'll never guess what Gati pinpoints as the first problem for US policymakers to be concerned about: popular resistance to "necessary" economic reforms...

it’s hard to sympathize with the widespread reluctance to assume individual responsibility

A long section of the article, while pretending to be analysis, is an elegy to the faded romance on the author's (the US's) part, lamenting how the Central European population falls for nationalists and social populists instead of following the Great Reformist Leaders™ into the one and only [US-style] capitalist future. But exposing reformist/US establishment hypocrisy and their anti-democratic Leadership worship is not the focus of this diary. However, the closing of this section is worth to quote -- an ominous support for EU integration:

Faster and deeper integration into the European Union is the best way to align people’s attitudes with the institutions of their own governments, but the people’s attitudes as they exist preclude faster and deeper integration. If American policymakers understand nothing else about Mitteleuropa, this basic catch-22 will serve them well as the beginning of wisdom.


Small is beautiful (in imperial policy)

Back on the point, talking quite openly about the USA shaping Central Europe's "foreign and especially domestic policy agenda", and the region's importance in the context of the "the councils of the European Union" and Russia, he lays out what the next US admin should do with its limited means -- a make the best out of lost power exercise:

  1. mount a charm offensive: he seems to recommend it more for US diplomats to get a grip than the other way, he also suggests to stop bleating about Russian energy independence:
    "they were not born yesterday and besides, Washington could no more fill new pipelines with non-Russian gas than it could finance their construction"
  2. invest in soft power: compete with the EU's ERASMUS (foreign students will be the future leaders), re-open libraries;
  3. delay missile defense installations(!) but cultivate Poland: he doesn't say but implies that it may be better to bring missile defense through NATO;
  4. set low goals: he sugarcoats it, but is saying in essence that the US should stop bother itself about things it no longer has the power to influence -- "not every problem is ours to solve" (LOL!).

Even if well packaged, the last point is a quite frank statement of a loss of relevance, which is then even spelled out in detail:


EU and Russian influence: nothing can be done about it

EU vs. USA:

A few years ago there was still some competition between the European Union and the United States in Mitteleuropa —- for example, about which Western military fighter jet these countries would buy [DoDo: Eurofighter, Gripen beat F-16]. The competition for influence is no more: The European Union won.

Take that. So Gati suggests influence via the EU-NATO cooperation. Then, he is equally frank about Russia vs. the USA:

As for Russia, it is by now a waste of time to worry about Russian energy, not because it is not a major problem (it is) but because there is simply no alternative source available to Europe.

He goes on to dismiss Nabucco as a pipe dream(!) and again recommend an end to US diplomats calling for vigilance toward the Russian bear, but what I find more worthy of quoting is an account of strengthening ties to Russia that most people outside the region may be unaware of:

Local newspaper accounts in Latvia, for example, indicate that the government in power there since late 2006 includes several politicians with close ties to Russian business interests. Similar reports fill newspaper pages in Bulgaria, Hungary, and elsewhere. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has increasingly turned to Moscow, so much so that Bratislava newspapers speak of a “re-orientation” in Slovakia’s foreign policy toward the East [DoDo: actually, he Fico is taking up a tradition estabvlished by first post-independence PM Mečiar]. Hungary has quadrupled its trade with Russia over the past three years, and its leaders make frequent high-level visits to Moscow that opposition parties find suspicious. Even deeply anti-Russian Poles have found it useful to travel to Moscow soon after winning last year’s elections. In the aftermath of the Georgia crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s first stop in a European Union capital was Warsaw. The times they are a-changin’.

...If Russia initiates a charm offensive (a former prime minister from the region bragged that Putin had unexpectedly escorted him to the airport at the end of one of his visits to Moscow), will American leaders undertake one of their own?

...and in conclusion:

For Mitteleuropa to remain both free and friendly to the United States, Washington cannot assume that Moscow’s thuggish behavior alone will do our work for us.


If the article is an indication of potential policy objectives of the upcoming Obama Administration, interesting times ahead.

Display:
Anyone with a subsacription to The American Intrerest, or with $19 to spare?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 02:12:20 PM EST
I would also be curious about this:

Perhapsburg - by A. Wess Mitchell

Today's European Union is yesterday's Austro-Hungarian Empire on the gameboard of world politics.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 02:14:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't see behind the fire wall, but this reads like the usual 'policy' think tank blather.

As usual it seems to be impossible for the US to see other countries as anything other than vassal states, small and disposable enemies, or competing empires.

The EU seems to be upgrading itself from patchwork of vassals to competing empire.

The notion that the EU may not want to be any of the above seems to be something that Washington literally can't understand yet.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:49:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still, in a kind of "what does the enemy think" way, I would be curious what parallels are drawn with the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:01:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the basin of the Danube. What the EU has done in stages starting in 1995 is fully incorporate it.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:12:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... the US aspired to be a free-standing, independent Republic. But, on the one hand, that is so 19th century, and on the other hand, that was while pursuing "Manifest Destiny" on the American continent.

The notion that a power could pursue that goal without indigenes to conquer is just too confusing.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:02:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two remarks:

  1. that is a strange notion of "yesterday", as the Empire did not survive The Great War (having foolishly started it).

  2. they that like it's a bad thing. My very modest reading of history makes me think that the collapse of the Empire led to nothing but trouble. But then, I take after my grandfather, who was an office in it's army.
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:03:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will diary that article, too, next week.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:07:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll look forward to reading it!
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PIGL:
(having foolishly started it)

You must have missed the re-education seminar. If a terrorist organisation based in a small foreign country conducts a homicidal operation inside an empire that is now considered the start of the war, giving the empire just cause to occupy said foreign country.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 07:27:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Darn! I missed it.

So is the USA more like a latter-day Austro-Hungarian Empire, or more like the Roman Empire. Or is there a difference, given that the AHs derived some ancient legitimacy from the Holy Roman Empire which claimed descent from the western part of the Roman Empire (never mind that the Eastern Roman Empire was alive and well for most of the centuries in question).

What the US lacks in schlamperie , courtly waltzes and over-stuffed pastries, it makes up for in Romanesque ruthlessness and a fondness for walls and fences?

The US and fin de ciecle Austro-Hungary were perhaps alike in conniving incompetence.

Anyway, I am still looking forward to DoDo's next diary.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 08:41:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon reading the whole article, Gati's frame of reference seems to put him in the Democratic camp. Say, when he names the responsible administration in criticism of US policy in the past, it's always the Bush admin. Hence my impression that his recommendations are aimed at Obama, though he never says anything partisan explicitely.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:29:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are probably right.

The American Interest is the journal that Francis Fukuyama and others started after they became disillusioned with the neo-cons at the National Interest.

It's less out there in the Empire building camp than the neo-cons, but it's still basically an organ for the argument that there US needs to act as a global hegemon to impose order on a chaotic world.

I'm sympathetic to the argument there there needs to be a world order that keeps things from descending into a repeat of the collapse of British order in the last century.  But I'd think that this has to be part of a broader community of the West that integrates more closely on the basis of shared ideals, rather than the US going it alone.

The real irony is that the greatest enemies of the idea of the "West" aren't in Beijing or Mumbai, they are the bastards resident on Wall Street and in the City of London that have used globalization is a cover for an all out assault on the social democratic state.

This process needs to occur as the result of attraction an integration, not forced annexation into the system like Iraq and Afghanistan. And it needs to occur on the basis of common market rules, not the melee that you have in China where anything goes, even if it ends up killing kids.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:51:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sympathetic to the argument there there needs to be a world order that keeps things from descending into a repeat of the collapse of British order in the last century.  But I'd think that this has to be part of a broader community of the West that integrates more closely on the basis of shared ideals, rather than the US going it alone.

I'm all for ideas- rather than unilateral hegemon/follow the leader coordinated action of the West on the global stage, but I don't think a world order can be entrusted with the West alone. That's just a different form of unilateralism (one that would soon develop into something to overjoy Samuel Huntington).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:58:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I see the West, it also includes a South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and most of Latin America.

To be honest, what I'm talking about is the rise of China.  Which I'm saying has to be managed, lest the horrible labor and environmental standards common in that country become the global default.

Think of how the European Union has developed.  There's a core to the community in the acquis communitaire, something similar is needed at the global level.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:34:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China?  If that is a true statement, what exactly does it mean?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:42:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Require that imported goods from China be subject to mandatory safety testing, but not requiring the same from governments that have shown they have both similar standards and enforcement.

Second, require that Chinese companies keep transparent production records so that the origin of goods and the labor conditions under which they were made can be regulated.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:57:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So if the Chinese don't do these things, we stop importing into, say, the United States, and all of the idiots who shop at WalMart for the CHEAP PRICES go boogats.

Or am I wrong?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:10:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China is far from the only source of cheap goods.

There are many other options.  

Heck, many factories in the Pearl river Delta are being shuttered, because production is moving out of China into Vietnam.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:55:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I see the West, it also includes a South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and most of Latin America.

That's still not enough. Either way, even the most altruistically set-up global directorium will lead to arrogance and feelings of superiority on its part and resentments on the part of the rest.

I'm 100% with you that current Chinese labor and environmental standards should not become global default. But (1) this is not all global governance should be about (in fact I see primacy on the field of war and otrher serious conflicts, not economic policy), (2) the good ideals in the West on this could IMO be pushed even without a leadership position.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:23:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm what International Relations theorists call a realist.

I think that individuals are motivated by the desire to create social systems that are to their liking, and the these systems are first imposed by force, and then gain legitimacy with the passage of time.

The long the king is the king, the less people ask why.  It's just a given.  More seriously, you have the diffusion of social orders in this way.  It's amazing the extent to which people are subconsciously bound by what they perceive to be a given. It's the same with states.

The point being that right now the current global social order based on American hegemony is falling apart, and that opens a vacuum that must be filled.  

Just like periods of social unrest in national societies are marked by the inability of authority to lay down the law, its the same way in the society of nations.

I've written academically on this. If things work out,it may be something I can get published. It's a topic that I'm interested in.  The idea that economic power is an extension of political power.  And that economic power isn't just about the money, it's about the creation of an economic order.

And states aren't black boxes.  You have fights to formulate the ideology of the state between different social groups in the state.  Conflict is natural.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:52:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could also relate this to the flux and flow of food chains aka population dynamics. The collapse of American hegemony doesn't so much create a vacuum, as to take down an ecosystem. ie everything else which feeds off it and on which it feeds. And of course this allows for different species to enter the 'vacuum', just as a forest fire creates an opprtunity for a different kind of regeneration.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 10:09:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I totally understand it, but I've become fascinated with the concept of entropy recently.  

The idea that systems collapse if inputs aren't forthcoming.

International systems built on naked force are high entropy, while those that are more subtle and create these social orders that embed players are much less so.

I honestly think that the present system is fairly low entropy, because there's a superstructure that exists and binds players together. But the current economic crisis threatens to tear than apart.

In that case,  you have one of these vacuums.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 10:28:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where there are disequilibria there are flows. When flows are weak nothing much happens. As flows get stronger, flow patterns become unstable. The period-doubling cascade ensues, and this leads to structure formation. Structures live in open systems and feed off the flows. Structures collapse if flows slow down or stop.
The idea that systems collapse if inputs aren't forthcoming.
This out-of-equilibrium setting is totally different, even mathematically, from the equilibrium thermodynamics of dead systems that neoclassical economics is modelled after.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 10:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To PN a wee bit ...

Some systems have a point attractor to which they approach and ultimately reach once perturbation "caused" by (Disequilibria  -> Flow) becomes less affective: a pendulum.  (Being the canonical example.)

The Structure of such systems is inclusive of No Flow (Stable) AND (Disequilibria  -> Flow.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:28:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And while the pendulum is swinging the flow is able to sustain structure formation if it is coupled to a complex system.

Seen from far enough away, all there is is dissipation to equilibrium, like a pendulum eventually settling to its stable state.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 12:50:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A better reply to this

Some systems have a point attractor to which they approach and ultimately reach once perturbation "caused" by (Disequilibria  -> Flow) becomes less affective: a pendulum.

is that disequilibria are persistent and flows constant only in as an approximation where the sources of the disequilibria are immense (heat baths). It's a matter of time scales.

Example: the basic flow that the biosphere feeds on is that between the Sun and the cosmic brackground radiation. Light from the sun is captured and reemitted as heat, with the difference in entropy used to sustain the organisation of the biosphere (and troposphere).

Eventually the Sun will leave the main sequence (pendulum coming to rest), but on time scales shorter than that it still looks like heat bath (pendulum without friction).

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 05:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From another point of view, isn't the core issue in managing China actually winning the battle at home (in the US and elsewhere) for a humane economics?

Chinese labour is treated badly by several degrees than in the US, but by concept, the notion of humans as worthless, easily replaced cogs is the core of US (and UK and others) economics policy.

e.g. Prisoner labour is a major source of unease about Chinese abuses, but it's something that keeps coming back on the agenda in both the US and the UK.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:44:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... exercising some influence "against" what would be seen as inhumane treatment of labor while at the same time relying on cutthroat competition among low-income nations to cut production costs to allow workers in high-income countries to continue consuming as median incomes stagnate ...

... is a bit of a stretch.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 01:07:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.

That's the irony.  The China lobby in the US is basically the business people who see a neo-liberal wet dream.

Getting them out of positions of power is essential.

Prison labor in China is an order worse than you imagine.  Harry Wu at the Laogai Research Institute has shown that products made in camps holding political prisoners are being sold in the United States.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 01:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Far more surprising is the improvement in relations between Russia and several of the countries of Mitteleuropa [DoDo: don't quite understand why he uses the German word for Central Europe]

It was quite the fashion around the time of the fall of the Iron Curtain to refer to the re-emergence of Central Europe as Mitteleuropa ... the term alluding to the expectation that the fall of the Iron Curtain would see Germany shift from its status as a "front line state" to something more akin to a pre-WWI role as economic engine room of a larger continental economic sphere.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 06:50:33 PM EST
So, an emphasis of the German influence? Economically, it is certainly the case.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:03:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the EU has a capital, it's Berlin.
by Quentin on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:31:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(thanks, J"urgen).
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:04:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the Wikipedia:
The German term Mitteleuropa (or alternatively its literal translation into English, Middle Europe) is sometimes used in English to refer to an area somewhat larger than most conceptions of 'Central Europe'; it refers to territories under German(ic) cultural hegemony until World War I (encompassing Austria-Hungary and Germany in their antebellum formations.
... that seems about the sense I was seeing the term used in the the US in the later 1990's.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 01:49:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon reading the whole article, his usage seems to be less logical. In one or two arguments, he does include Germany and Austria in the region, but in all the rest, he means the former Eastern Bloc countries that joined the EU in 2005 and 2007. That's the concept of East Central Europe, not Mitteleuropa.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:33:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Mitteleurope term makes even more sense given the information that the American Interest broke off from the National Interest. He is entering into the existing conversation about the possibility of Mitteleuropa forming the core of a Great Power, but given that his interest seems to be in the US contesting that process, his focus is on the part of Mitteleuropa where the US is more likely to be able to exercise influence ... especially given the reduction in US capabilities to project soft power due to Bush's imperial overstretch.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:15:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the US shouldn't see this as a diplomatic setback. Not on the basis of shared values, anyway. But many will regardless; "realists" who believe in American supremacy.

As for shared values, it was the US who moved away from her stated beliefs in democracy, good governance and human rights. This can change.

I see this expressed in so many ways, just this morning on Squawk Box, I saw unanimous agreement that oil prices need to rise again. Their reasoning was that too much wealth is being transferred outside the US, which is pure mercantilism, and an expression of a nation that doesn't want to play well with others.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 10:31:19 AM EST
"interesting times ahead. "
Given that Obama is a definite leftist compared to an average East-European/East-Central European politician (be it a "social democrat" or conservative), yeah interesting times ahead. Functionally a new Mikhail Gorbachev is emerging - assuming that Obama wins the election.
by Dr Minorka on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:37:51 AM EST
definite leftist compared to an average East-European/East-Central European politician

Is he, really? On one hand, he does say some nice general things. On the other hand, to undo some of (only) Bush's tax cuts is not much, and Obama's economic team includes Jason "Walmart" Furman, Austan Golsbee, and both Robert Rubin and Larry Summers are tipped to get jobs in his administration -- the two guys behind Bill Clinton's neoliberal makeover.

So, I don't know, it's possible that Obama has a secret New Deal II plan for after the elections, it is also possible that what Rubin and Summers learnt in the past 10 years is significant enough for a major policy change. But it may also be that Obama's leftism won't amount to more than Hungarian PM Gyurcsány's request to public company managers to cut their opwn pay by 10%, and that his international fans will get to be disillusioned in similar fashion as they sure will be regarding his policies on war.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:38:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I said that he is leftist compared to ...
Could you tell me one instance (just one!) when a Hungarian politician talked about worker's rights? I could only name two instances when a Hungarian politician uttered the world: worker (in the period of 1989-2008).
 "some nice general things"? Make no mistake, this guy is deadly serious! He has a definite view which has nothing to do with the ultraliberal fancies. How can he implement it? Could he? Do not know, but the presidency of Obama will be helpful for forces opposing the ultraliberal cretins, all over the world.
by Dr Minorka on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 10:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gyurcsány, again, Péter Kiss, Christian Democrats; and in the broader Central Europe, let's not forget about Vladimír Špidla, Czech Social Democrat PM turned EU Commissioner. Of course, the problem is that these are empty words. Which is also my fear regarding Obama, given his neoliberal team of economic experts.

I also note that apart from the flat tax madness, our neolibs still did not manage to make things as bad as in the post-Reagan, post-Clinton (not to mention Bush-era) USA -- so if Obama is to the left of Bush, that can still be economically to the right of even Gyurcsány and Orbán (though not the SzDSz or Poland's Donald Tusk).

He has a definite view which has nothing to do with the ultraliberal fancies.

How would you characterise it? And he may not be an ultra, but a definite free-marketer, at least in the Persson-Bliar-Schröder-Gyurcsány tradition:

Sen. OBAMA: Look. I am a pro-growth, free market guy. I love the market. I think it is the best invention to allocate resources and produce enormous prosperity for America or the world that's ever been designed.

Considering the non-specific things he goes on to say, he may have said this only to not get in trouble with the establishment. But this was the Rubinite creed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 12:35:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, the problem is that these are empty words.

I should note one exemption that surprised me: the stance of the Hungarian government (alongside Belgium and four Mediterranean countries only) for stronger temp workers' rights in the EU Council.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 01:49:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to European Tribune!!
by Nomad on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome back :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:54:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's hard to find time to participate in a meaningful way, if you live in a country hardly hit by incompetent politicians... Though I do find time to read ET regularly.
by Dr Minorka on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 12:42:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if you live in a country hardly hit by incompetent politicians

What utopia do you speak of?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 12:51:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Utopia?
by Dr Minorka on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 01:06:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... one presumes that your fingers modified "hard hit by incompetent politicians".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 01:09:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alas not my fingers, but my incompetence...
by Dr Minorka on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 02:03:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it were only incompetence... I couldn't yet decide if and how it would be worth to report the Zuschlag trial on ET...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 02:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I long argued (for example here) that one reason the US had such success in using countries in the region as pawns in its encirclement strategy was Russian diplomacy's inability to consider and treat these states as other than pawns in the games of Great Powers. Courting people and leaders, making them feel important, nurtures willingness to act just like you wish when push comes to shove.

As parts of the reviewed article demonstrate, the US is squandering its soft power advantage -- while Russian diplomacy began to change. You can't underestimate the importance of the escort episode, which I shall highlight by quoting again:

If Russia initiates a charm offensive (a former prime minister from the region bragged that Putin had unexpectedly escorted him to the airport at the end of one of his visits to Moscow), will American leaders undertake one of their own?


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:17:52 AM EST
... at getting their treatment of the former Warsaw Pact states and the former SSR states into two distinct tracks.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 01:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Possibly the distinction is not between ex-Warsaw pact states and ex-SSRs, but between states that are firmly within the European sphere of influence and states that are not. I don't, for instance, see Russia trying to strong-arm - say - Lithuania the same way it could still try to strong-arm a country like Turkmenistan.

The distinction between states where Russia is one power among others and states where Russia is the only power that matters seems to make more sense to me than a distinction based purely on the historical accident of whether any given country came under Russian dominance before or after WWII.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 03:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... ex-SSR camp ... kind of last in, first out.

That was just a short-hand ... I was referring to the Russians getting more comfortable, more skilled, in treating the countries in the different camps in quite different ways.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 11:16:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Baltics were last in the Soviet Union, but they were part of Tsarist Russia. (In fact, so was Finland from 1808.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 03:28:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1809, and Finland was not - in contrast to the baltic provinces - part of Russia, it was a Grand Duchy in personal union with Russia.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 10:32:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't the war on (present-day) Swedish soil only by 1809, with all of Finland taken?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 03:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, but it is the peace date that is traditionally counted. It might be noted that a retreat was part of the swedish strategy, the other part was to hang on to the strategic fortresses of Sveaborg and Svartholm and then mount counteroffensives in the rear of the russian army, supported by the swedish navy and brittish naval support. As both these fortresses surrendered during the unusally cold spring of 1808 this strategy failed.

(To further PN: after a succesfull counteroffensive the strategic Åland islands (today a demilitarised and autonomous region in Finland) was held by Sweden, though demilitarised after 21 of march 1809 through a local seize-fire agreement.)

Maybe it is because in that era (and this area) armies were to small to really occupy what they went through (other then strategic fortresses) while fighting the enemy. So only after the peace agreement the winning side could really rule the conquered territories. Not completely unlike the modern american warfare, where armies are big enough to win the war, but not big enough to occupy.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 4th, 2008 at 11:12:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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