UARU
The U.S. Presidential Elections Are Coming. Here’s How It Could Help or Harm European Security
30 October, 2016
339

What You Need To Know:

✅  The future level of transAtlantic US-European military cooperation has been fiercely debated by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the run-up to presidential elections on November 8.

✅  Washington contributed some $650 billion to NATO defense spending in 2015, some 72% of the $900 billion total defense spending by all 28 NATO members combined - Source: Politifact
 

✅  Hromadske was granted a special interview with Craig Kennedy, the former president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The organization is a leading global think-tank focusing on ‘bridging U.S.–European differences on foreign policy, economics, immigration, and the environment.’

 

✅  Craig Kennedy’s take on the views of U.S. decision makers regarding NATO: “They have very different ways of phrasing it but Donald Trump, Barack Obama and, to some extent, Bernie Sanders, were all saying the same thing. Why should we be providing defense and security services to a continent that is so wealthy and so capable of doing it on their own?”

 
✅  Craig Kennedy: “The Kremlin uses paranoia among the Russian public to mask over economic problems and other difficulties.”
 

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
REPORTER:

My first question is, what's the biggest challenge facing the transatlantic relation between US and Europe today?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

'Well, I think it's finding the common mission between the two. Right now Europe and most European policymakers believe that they face multiple challenges; Russia on the east, chaotic Mediterranean refugees (and) terrorism, where in the United States, there is maybe a sense of calm for the first time in a long time.  President Obama has really stressed that we don't face any real imminent threats so it has created a sort of asymmetrical relationship between the United States and Europe where the Europeans want a lot of help, a lot of reassurance and the United States really doesn't have any compelling mission or reason to provide it; so, to me, it's a relationship that has started to, in a way, wither and become much less vibrant than it was, say 20 years ago or even 10 years ago."

REPORTER:

- And to what extent do you think the Oval Office is directly responsible for that. I mean Obama or his presidency's much-vaunted pivot to Asia. To what extent did that constitute a real conscience turn away from Europe?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

- I think it was less a turn away from Europe and more a message to Europe that we expect you to do more to take care of yourselves. The real drama of the last five years has been the return of history to Europe. Europeans who 10 years ago would lecture Americans on a kind of heightened sense of threat and almost accuse us of being paranoid about the world are suddenly facing many more real imminent threats than most Americans are. So I think the pivot was really a signal 'you've got to take care of yourselves'. Unfortunately, they didn't really hear that. It was only in 2014 with the events in Ukraine and Crimea that Europeans woke up any decided that they had to start building up their defenses again but also creating, kind of a strategic culture in Europe which had been allowed to fade away. So yes, does it start at The White House? Yes, of course. The real secret in TransAtlantic relations is not all of the meetings like this or the ones that the State Department or the foreign ministries do. It's really the tone set by the highest leaders and Barack Obama has been pretty clear that he doesn't view Ukraine as a strategic priority for the United States and, quite frankly, I think he's quite willing to let Europeans take care of themselves.

 

REPORTER:

- This 'Europe taking care of themselves'. It's interesting because it's also come up in the presidential campaign with Trump saying that some of our allies have to play their part to receive the fulfillment of treaty obligations. To what extent do you think that has a real constituency in the United States and do you see that representing a threat to the unity of NATO.

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

Well, the first thing I'd like to say is that even though they have very different ways of phrasing it, Donald Trump, Barack Obama and, to some extent, Bernie Sanders, were all saying the same thing. Why should we be providing defense and security services to a continent that is so wealthy and so capable of doing it on their own? Now I don't agree with that assessment but I think all three of them touched on something that resonates with a good many Americans. The United States and the American public really lost their confidence in 2008 with the financial crisis, the combination of two unsuccessful wars and then, a kind of almost frightening economic decline haven't made them feel very good about being assertive in the world. Americans get engaged in the world when either they feel a very very real imminent threat like in 9/11 or when they are feeling very very confident and wealthy like they were in the late 90s when the United States did so much to help European integration.

 

REPORTER:

-And do you see support for Ukraine falling within the U.S's core strategic interests?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

-You know, I think making sure the boundaries with Europe are secure and that no country whether it's Russia or any other, feels like they can intervene in the sovereignty of others, is in the interest of the United States. Is it a high strategic priority? Yes, I think it is but that wouldn't be the opinion of many Americans.

 

REPORTER:

- And in terms of the U.S. government's support for Ukraine, to what extent is Ukraine's success in reforming itself influence that?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

- Well, I think one of the things that have happened in the United States over the past 20 years is a good deal of cynicism about reform in Ukraine; as a matter of fact, some people would say that's an oxymoron. So I think even though has been concrete reform in Ukraine, many many people in Washington and elsewhere are skeptical it will persist or that it's real. So I think it's going to take much more on the part of Ukraine before the United States is really willing to wholeheartedly support the next phase.

 

REPORTER:

- And with this assertive Russia, we've seen a lot of case in which their jets are buzzing U.S ships in the Black Sea, near misses with flights over the Baltic. To what extent is there a risk of an accident or a confrontation turning into something larger?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

- I think that there is some risk but I wouldn't want to overstate it. One of the things I think both the Russians and Americans are pretty good at is containing those kinds of emergency situations so they don't get out of control. I think what would be a more interesting question in some ways is the fact that, over the last eight years, the United States has never done anything that would keep Russia off balance; so there are the flyovers, there are the near misses (and) the threatening actions. I think in a previous time, an American president would have come back with a very sharp and loud response that would have made the Russians pause for a second. We haven't been doing that and I think that Russia, in some ways - all of the situations you've cited - are kind of almost endless testing to see when they get to that point where the United States and its allies will finally really react in a very concerted and strong way.

REPORTER:

- It all seems that from the Kremlin, part of this is motivated by a certain paranoia about western tensions. Do you think that's a valid analysis of how they think and secondly, to what extent does the West have to balance between that sense of paranoia and pushing back?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

- I think that there're two factors that operate in the Kremlin. One is a legitimate paranoia that they feel, that their interests are threatened on their borders but the other is the way they use paranoia among the Russian public to mask over economic problems and other difficulties. Certainly, they are convinced that the United States and Europe, to some extent, are being aggressive. I don't believe that but there are people in Russia who believe that. But they also use that sensibility to fire up a certain nationalist fever in Russia that works very well for Putin's politics.

 

REPORTER:

- And do you yourself the NATO expansion including the Baltic was a good idea?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

- Absolutely

 

REPORTER:

- And now would you make the same decision?

 

CRAIG KENNEDY:

- Yes, I mean, listen, these three countries of the Baltic, after what they went through, needed the reassurance that there is actually going to be a powerful response if Russia ever tried to return in force here. I think it was imminently correct when it was done and I would absolutely still support it now.

 

REPORTER:

 

- Thank you for your time Craig

Hromadske’s Josh Kovensky interviewed Craig Kennedy, the former president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States on the sidelines of The Riga Conference 2016.