Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why the US Should Not Join the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Why the United States Should Not Join the Inter-Parliamentary Union. By Ted R. Bromund
Heritage WebMemo #2348
March 18, 2009

[Full article w/notes at the link above]

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), founded in 1888 by Frédéric Passy of France and William Randal Cremer of Great Britain, originally sought to promote peace by encouraging regular contacts between parliamentarians from established democracies. The IPU also supported free trade and arbitration, on the basis of respect for national sovereignty, between nation states. In short, the IPU was a manifestation of late 19th-century liberal internationalism.

The IPU of today bears no resemblance to the organization founded by Passy and Cremer. It is an unhappy reminder of how institutions that were devised by liberal internationalists have been captured and perverted by autocracies and anti-sovereignty activists. The IPU now:
  • has no standards for membership and is therefore dominated by repressive and illiberal regimes;
  • serves no serious purpose but by providing these regimes with a recognized forum enhances the perception that they are legitimate and responsible;
  • is an active proponent of measures that would limit the sovereignty of democracies and restrict their freedom of speech.
The United States is not now, and should not become, a member of the IPU.

The IPU as It Was Founded

The IPU originally sought to increase cooperation between sovereign democracies—nations that would not wish to fight their fellow democracies and would therefore desire to settle disputes through diplomacy and arbitration. There was no place in this vision for dictatorships: At the second meeting of the IPU, in 1889, the only states represented were Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, the U.S., and Liberia.[1] The founders of the IPU sought a world in which inter-state relations would look like they do today between Britain and the U.S., a world in which war would be unthinkable and disagreements would be settled peaceably.

The Modern IPU

Sadly, the IPU of today bears no relation to the organization founded in 1888: It has no standards for membership and, as such, provides token legitimacy to many of the world's worst dictatorships. The widely respected Freedom House annually ranks the political and economic freedom of all the world's nations. Of its "Worst of the Worst," four—Libya, North Korea, Somalia, and Sudan—are members of the IPU.[2] So are dictatorships or autocracies such as Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Laos, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Other deeply illiberal IPU members include Angola, Burundi, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Togo, Ukraine, and Venezuela.[3]

The mere fact that North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe are members in good standing of an organization supposedly dedicated to "the firm establishment of representative democracy" is enough to condemn the IPU.[4] But the broader membership of the IPU is also suspect. The organization does contain states—such as all 26 of America's allies in NATO—that are democratic and respectable. But these are the old members, the ones present at the IPU's creation. The original members are now completely outnumbered by the newer members, such as the 88 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, and by the 49 members of the Organization of Islamic Countries. Between these two organizations, states with weak or no commitment to liberal and democratic values control 94 of the 154 seats in the IPU.[5]

Illiberal Policies

The policies the IPU endorses reflect the illiberalism of its members. The IPU no longer mentions free trade, as it once did. Instead, the organization is in favor of "fair" trade—by which it means systematic discrimination in trade that favors the developing world—and the creation of global institutions that would reduce the sovereignty of democratic states. It no longer argues that free trade reduces the power of autocratic states. Instead, the IPU urges states to regulate and structure every aspect of economic life, a call that gives unlimited license to its dictatorial members to justify their intrusive tyranny.[6]

Instead of recognizing that arbitration requires two willing partners, the IPU makes token representations against Palestinian terrorism while condemning Israel at great length for exercising its right of self-defense.[7] Instead of defending the international state system on which it was founded by decisively condemning terrorism, the organization emphasizes "the need to distinguish between terrorism and the struggles of peoples to liberate their land and regain their legitimate rights."[8] And instead of defending the great liberal principle of free speech, IPU delegates refer to the need to control "defamation of religions," a code word for censorship of speech that is critical of Islamic radicalism.[9]

IPU Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of many of the IPU's delegates, and of the IPU itself, is breathtaking. In October 2008, during a discussion of "freedom of expression and the right to information," the Chinese delegate claimed that "all Chinese citizens had the right to express themselves freely and could communicate their criticisms to State authorities and public officials." In reality, and in the words of the executive director of Freedom House, Jennifer Windsor, China operates "an intricate system of restrictions on the free circulation of ideas."[10]

In December 2008, the IPU held a "Conference of Women Parliamentarians and Women in Political Decision-making Positions of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States." The GCC states include Saudi Arabia, where, as the IPU admits, women are allowed neither to vote nor to hold public office.[11] In the eyes of the IPU, that did not disqualify Saudi Arabia from participating in the conference.

The hypocrisy of the IPU does not simply make nonsense of its idealistic words; it tarnishes the honor and impugns the seriousness of the democratic states participating in this farce. Seeking to achieve a consensus through multilateral negotiation about women's rights with Saudi Arabia, the freedom of the press with China, or the definition of democracy with North Korea is both foolish and dangerous. By pursuing such a consensus, the good states grant legitimacy to the bad ones and imply that they are worthy of being listened to when human liberty is at stake. The autocracies use the process only to confuse and sow self-doubt among the democracies, and they pervert a forum supposedly dedicated to liberty to gain international recognition of their tyrannical regimes. The way to promote the values of freedom is not to negotiate them on the basis of multilateral consensus with their enemies; it is to demonstrate that the free states esteem these values so highly that they feel no need to lend the dignity of negotiation to dictators.

A Friend of Dictatorships

The fate of the IPU, like the fate of other international organizations that grew out of the liberal internationalism of the late 19th century, is genuinely tragic. From expressing a sincere hope for a better world founded in free trade, democracy, and cooperation on the basis of the sovereign will of the people, they have been led into backing precisely the opposite values.

By admitting states that did not share their founding values as full and equal members, these organizations gave away their birthright. They are now so dominated by these enemies within that they cannot be reformed, because the autocracies can simply vote down any measure that threatens their stranglehold. This is precisely the problem that led the Obama Administration to withdraw from the Durban Review Conference: The IPU is now simply a continuous Durban.[12]

This reality is regrettable, but it must be recognized for what it is. Therefore, the United States should not join the IPU. To do so would imply the IPU is a respectable international organization, not the friend of dictatorships and the enemy of liberal values and democratic sovereignty it has sadly become.

Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

US and Rotary Clubs Join to Provide Clean Water and Improved Sanitation Worldwide

USAID and Rotary Clubs Join to Provide Clean Water and Improved Sanitation Worldwide
Collaboration merges Rotary's grassroots strength with agency's technical expertise
USAID, March 18, 2009

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MARCH 18, 2009 - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Rotary International (RI) are teaming-up to save lives by bringing clean drinking water and basic sanitation to communities in the developing world. The partnership was announced today at the World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, in celebration of the March 22nd observance of World Water Day.

The public-private alliance will leverage the resources of both organizations to implement sustainable, long-term water supply, sanitation, and hygiene projects in three countries: Dominican Republic, Ghana, and the Philippines. Other countries will follow based on the success of these pilot experiences. Alliance activities in each country will be funded jointly by USAID and Rotary International, with an expected minimum of $2 million per country in the initial phase.

USAID Acting Administrator Alonzo Fulgham noted, "The service ethic and commitment of Rotary clubs in these countries will be complemented by USAID's development expertise and technical leadership. This partnership will yield a significant, sustainable increase in water supply and sanitation coverage for the planet's poorest and most vulnerable populations."

Former Rotary International President William B. Boyd, chair of the collaboration's steering committee, added "We intend this joint effort to be a model for future alliances with other strategic partners and in this way to enhance our contribution to world understanding, goodwill, and peace."

Worldwide, more than one billion people lack access to reliable sources of safe water, and twice that many lack access to sanitary human waste disposal systems, creating an environment that allows the disease-poverty cycle to thrive. Each year, more than 1.8 million people --most of them children -- die of diarrhea alone. Economic development also suffers as women and girls forgo education and occupations to spend hours a day fetching water for their families.

Rotary, a global humanitarian service organization and USAID see the collaboration as an effective, resource-efficient way to contribute to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which call for a 50 percent reduction in the proportion of the world's population without access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015.

For more information about Rotary International, please visit
For more information about USAID and other water projects, please visit:

Partnership to Prevent HIV among Vulnerable Russian Youth

Partnership to Prevent HIV among Vulnerable Russian Youth
USAID, HealthRight International and Johnson & Johnson formalize a partnership to prevent the spread of HIV among street children and at-risk youth in St. Petersburg, Russia.
USAID, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A public-private partnership to prevent the spread of HIV and increase access to HIV treatment and care among street children and other vulnerable youth in St. Petersburg, Russia was announced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), HealthRight International and Johnson & Johnson at the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation today.

Estimates indicate that there are up to 10,000 street children and youth in St. Petersburg, many of whom struggle with substance abuse and other risky behaviors. Studies demonstrate extremely high rates of HIV transmission (37.4%) among this group, who have limited access to clinical treatment and care.

With support from USAID's Russia program and Johnson & Johnson, HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA) together with its local partner, Doctors to Children, will reach 500 vulnerable youth with effective HIV prevention messages and a broad continuum of services, including mobile voluntary testing for HIV and referrals to treatment and care. The project will also develop a cadre of social workers trained in HIV prevention among street youth and disseminate a package of HIV prevention best practices to government institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across St. Petersburg.

"We are very pleased to join Johnson & Johnson and HealthRight International in a partnership to reach the most vulnerable youth with critically needed HIV prevention messages and services," said Leon Waskin, USAID's Director in Russia. "This initiative builds on a previous collaboration that has demonstrated the impact we can achieve when we combine our resources and capabilities. I also want to thank the government in St. Petersburg for their support for this effort, both in the past and going forward, which is so important for the project's success."

"Johnson & Johnson and HealthRight International are long-time partners on HIV/AIDS prevention and support for abandoned, neglected and at-risk children and youth in St. Petersburg," said Naira Adamian, managing director for Janssen-Cilag Russia, the pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson in Russia. "Investing in children infected or affected by the disease is a key strategy within our HIV/AIDS philanthropy portfolio. We are excited to work together with USAID to advance HealthRight's mission."

"Partnerships such as this-engaging the local community, NGOs, private support, and public support from both the Russian and U.S. governments-is exactly the formula we need to ensure that children and youth in crisis not only get assistance today, but have a real chance at a future," said HealthRight executive director Tom Dougherty. "These projects take time and investment, but the pay off is well worth it."Building on the Success of Past Collaboration

Since 2004, USAID has supported HealthRight International and its Russian partner, Doctors to Children, to develop a model community reintegration program for street youth. Johnson & Johnson began supporting the initiative in 2005, along with the St. Petersburg City Administration and other partners. In 2005 and 2006, the project established the first municipal drop-in center for street children and youth and an overnight shelter for HIV-positive clients in the Fruzensky District of St. Petersburg. The shelter provides medical and psychological assistance, referrals to social and health care, and access to anti-retroviral treatment at the St. Petersburg AIDS Center. About USAID

USAID is the lead agency of the U.S. government providing development and humanitarian assistance in over 100 countries worldwide. USAID has been operating in Russia since 1992, supporting Russian and international organizations in the areas of health, child welfare, civil society, rule of law, economic growth and local governance. USAID works in partnership with Russia to help improve the quality of life of the Russian people and to cooperatively address global issues that impact both our countries.

About HealthRight International
HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA) is a private, not-for-profit, global health and human rights organization working to build lasting access to health for excluded communities. The organization conducts projects and partnerships in the Russian Federation addressing the needs of street children and at-risk youth. For more information, go to

About Johnson & Johnson
Caring for the world, one person at a time…inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science - bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Our 119,000 employees at more than 250 Johnson & Johnson companies work with partners in health care to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world. Johnson & Johnson supports more than 100 HIV/AIDS philanthropy programs in 50 countries.

Challenging Ultra-skeptic Climate Claims on CO2 Emissions

Part I in an Occasional Series Challenging Ultra-skeptic Climate Claims. By Chip Knappenberger
Master Resource, March 18, 2009

In the realm of climate science, as in most topics, there exists a range of ideas as to what is going on, and what it means for the future. At the risk of generalizing, the gamut looks something like this: Ultra-alarmists think that human greenhouse-gas-producing activities will vastly change the face of the planet and make the earth inhospitable for humans; they therefore demand large and immediate action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Alarmists understand that human activities are changing the earth’s climate and think that the potential changes are sufficient to warrant some pre-emptive action to try to mitigate them. Skeptics think that humans activities are changing the earth’s climate but, by and large, they think that the changes, in net, are not likely to be terribly disruptive and that drastic action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions is unnecessary, difficult, and ineffective. Ultra-skeptics think that human greenhouse gas-producing activities are impacting the earth’s climate in no way whatsoever.

Most of my energy tends to be directed at countering alarmist claims about impending climate catastrophe, but the scientist in me gets just as bent out of shape about some of the contentions made by the ultra-skeptics, which are simply unsupported by virtually any scientific evidence. Primary among these claims is that human activities are not responsible for the observed build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is just plain wrong.

We have good measurement of how much carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere each year, and we have good estimates of how much carbon dioxide is being emitted from human activities each year. It turns out that there are more than enough anthropogenic emissions to account for how much the atmosphere is accumulating. In fact, the great mystery concerns the “missing carbon,” that is, where exactly is the extra carbon dioxide going that is emitted by humans but that doesn’t end up staying in the atmosphere. (Only about half of the human CO2 emissions end up accumulating in the atmosphere; the rest end up somewhere else—in the oceans, in the terrestrial biosphere, etc.) In my opinion, it would be much more useful for folks interested in the carbon cycle to try to better understand the behavior of the CO2 sinks and how that behavior may change in the future (if at all) rather than in trying for come up with sources of CO2 other than human activities to explain the atmospheric concentration growth—as it is, we already have too much, not too little.

What this means is: The argument that the increase in atmospheric CO2 results from a natural temperature recovery from the depths of the Little Ice Age in the mid-to-late 1800s just doesn’t work.

In fact, all lines of evidence are against it.

This argument has its foundation in the carbon-dioxide and temperature trends of the past 400 to 600 thousand years, which we know from air bubbles trapped in ice that has been extracted from ice cores taken in Antarctica and Greenland. Basically, the data from the ice cores show that periods when the earth’s climate has been warm are also periods when there have been relatively higher CO2 concentrations (Figure 1). Al Gore uses this to say that the higher CO2 caused the higher temperatures; ultra-skeptics counter by pointing out that, if you look closely enough, you’ll see that the temperature rises before the CO2 rises, so rising temperatures cause rising CO2, not vice versa. The fact is that both interpretations are correct—rising temperatures led to rising CO2, which led to more rising temperatures. But the only relevance that this has to the current situation is that this natural positive feedback between temperature variations and CO2 variations didn’t run away in the past, and so we shouldn’t expect it to run away now. It carries no relevance as to what is causing the ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

[Figure 1. Variability in atmospheric CO2 (red, left-hand axis) and temperatures (blue, right-hand axis) derived from ice core air samples extending back more than 400,000 years.]

But anyone who looks at the data (shown in Figure 1) will see that no matter which caused the other, the changes in temperature from ice-age cold to interglacial warmth are about 10ºC while the change in CO2 is about 100ppm. Since the late 1800s, the temperature has warmed a bit less than 1ºC , while the CO2 concentration has increased by a bit less than 100ppm. In other words, the natural, historical relationship between CO2 and temperature is about 10 times weaker than that observed over the past 100 or so years. Thus, there is no way that the temperature rise from the Little Ice Age to the present can be the cause of an atmospheric CO2 increase of nearly 100ppm—the reasonable expectation would be about 10ppm. This line of reasoning is off by an order of magnitude.

And where do ultra-skeptics think the CO2 building up in the atmosphere is coming from, if not from humans? Their answer is typically “the oceans”—as the oceans warm, they outgas carbon dioxide. While this is certainly true, an opposite effect is also ongoing—a greater concentration of CO2 in the air drives more CO2 into the oceans. One way of determining how much CO2 is dissolved in the oceans is to observe the pH of the ocean waters. Long-term trends show a gradual decline in ocean pH (the source of the ocean “acidification” scare—the subject of a future MasterResource article). This means that the ocean is gaining more CO2 than it is losing. So, it can’t be the source of the large CO2 increase observed in the atmosphere.

Another way to figure out where the extra CO2 that is now part of the annual flux is coming from is through an isotopic analysis. CO2 that is released from fossil fuels carries a different (lighter) molecular weight than that which is usually part of the annual CO2 flux from land and oceans and atmosphere. CO2 released by fossil fuel has a lower 13C/12C ratio than does most other CO2 and long-term records show that the overall 13C/12C ratio in the atmosphere has been declining—an indication that an increasing proportion of atmospheric CO2 is coming from fossil fuel sources.

So there are (at least) three independent methods of determining the source of the extra CO2 that is building-up in the atmosphere, and all three of them finger fossil-fuel combustion as the primary culprit.

Yet, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, the ultra-skeptics persist on forwarding the concept that the observed atmospheric CO2 growth is not caused by human actions. And sadly, since this notion is extremely pleasing to those folks (politicians et al.) who are actively fighting legislation aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions, it is widely incorporated into their stump speeches. Some even go so far as to suggest that the respiration of 6.5 (and growing) billion humans plays a role in the CO2 increases—again, pure nonsense. We humans breathe out only what we take in, and since we eat plants, which extract atmospheric CO2 for their carbon source in producing carbohydrates, it is a completely closed loop. (Now if we ate coal, or drank oil, perhaps things would be different.)

Fighting bad science with bad science is just a bad idea. There are numerous reasons to oppose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, but the notion that they aren’t contributing to increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide isn’t one of them.

In future articles, if I have time between combating alarmist outbreaks, I may point out some other ultra-skeptic fallacies—such as, “The build-up of atmospheric greenhouse gases isn’t responsible for elevating global average surface temperatures” or “Natural variations can fully explain the observed ‘global warming’.”

Federal President secretly ends program that let pilots carry guns

Guns on a plane. Washington Times Editorial
Obama secretly ends program that let pilots carry guns
The Washington Times, Tuesday, March 17, 2009

After the September 11 attacks, commercial airline pilots were allowed to carry guns if they completed a federal-safety program. No longer would unarmed pilots be defenseless as remorseless hijackers seized control of aircraft and rammed them into buildings.

Now President Obama is quietly ending the federal firearms program, risking public safety on airlines in the name of an anti-gun ideology.

The Obama administration this past week diverted some $2 million from the pilot training program to hire more supervisory staff, who will engage in field inspections of pilots.

This looks like completely unnecessary harassment of the pilots. The 12,000 Federal Flight Deck Officers, the pilots who have been approved to carry guns, are reported to have the best behavior of any federal law enforcement agency. There are no cases where any of them has improperly brandished or used a gun. There are just a few cases where officers have improperly used their IDs.

Fewer than one percent of the officers have any administrative actions brought against them and, we are told, virtually all of those cases “are trumped up.”

Take a case against one flight officer who had visited the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles within the last few weeks. While there, the pilot noticed that federal law enforcement officers can, with the approval of a superior, obtain a license plate that cannot be traced, a key safety feature for law enforcement personnel. So the pilot asked if, as a member of the federal program, he was eligible. The DMV staffer checked and said “no.” The next day administrative actions were brought against the pilot for “misrepresenting himself.” These are the kinds of cases that President Obama wants to investigate.

Since Mr. Obama's election, pilots have told us that the approval process for letting pilots carry guns on planes slowed significantly. Last week the problem went from bad to worse. Federal Flight Deck Officers - the pilots who have been approved to carry guns - indicate that the approval process has stalled out.

Pilots cannot openly speak about the changing policies for fear of retaliation from the Transportation Security Administration. Pilots who act in any way that causes a “loss of confidence” in the armed pilot program risk criminal prosecution as well as their removal from the program. Despite these threats, pilots in the Federal Flight Deck Officers program have raised real concerns in multiple interviews.

Arming pilots after Sept. 11 was nothing new. Until the early 1960s, American commercial passenger pilots on any flight carrying U.S. mail were required to carry handguns. Indeed, U.S. pilots were still allowed to carry guns until as recently as 1987. There are no records that any of these pilots (either military or commercial) ever causing any significant problems.

Screening of airplane passengers is hardly perfect. While armed marshals are helpful, the program covers less than 3 percent of the flights out of Washington D.C.'s three airports and even fewer across the country. Sky marshals are costly and quit more often than other law-enforcement officers.

Armed pilots are a cost-effective backup layer of security. Terrorists can only enter the cockpit through one narrow entrance, and armed pilots have some time to prepare themselves as hijackers penetrate the strengthened cockpit doors. With pilots, we have people who are willing to take on the burden of protecting the planes for free. About 70 percent of the pilots at major American carriers have military backgrounds.

Frankly, as a matter of pure politics, we cannot understand what the administration is thinking. Nearly 40 House Democrats are in districts were the NRA is more popular than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We can't find any independent poll in which the public is demanding that pilots disarm. Why does this move make sense?

Only anti-gun extremists and terrorist recruits are worried about armed pilots. So why is the Obama administration catering to this tiny lobby at the expense of public safety?

Conservative views on the American Bar Association

ABA Subservience to Obama Administration, by Ed Whelan
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It’s no surprise that the Obama administration has restored the ABA judicial-evaluation committee’s pre-Bush 43 privileged role in reviewing prospective nominees before the president formally nominates them. But the timing of yesterday’s announcement by the ABA is curious and would seem to provide more evidence that the ABA is eager to play handmaiden to the Obama administration’s political agenda.

Consider that the ABA’s announcement came on the very day that President Obama made his first judicial nomination, David Hamilton (to the Sixth Circuit)—and on the very day that the ABA committee issued its rating (“well qualified”) of Hamilton. The fact that the ABA committee issued its rating yesterday indicates that the White House restored the ABA’s pre-nomination role some weeks ago. (This ABA document—especially pages 5 to 9—describes the lengthy evaluation procedures that the ABA committee undertakes. Although that document has not been revised to reflect the ABA’s restored pre-nomination role, the exercise of that role would begin with the White House’s informing the committee who the intended nominee is.)

In other words, at the very time the media were speculating whether the Obama White House would restore the ABA’s old role, the ABA had almost certainly already had its role restored. Why did the ABA not say so at the time? And why did its announcement yesterday obscure when its role was restored? I’d guess that the White House asked the ABA to keep mum—in order to avoid giving conservative opposition a heads-up that nominations might be imminent—and that the ABA happily complied with this purely political request.

By the way, yesterday’s statement by the ABA’s president repeats the canard that the ABA committee “does not consider a potential nominee’s ideological or political philosophy.” I’ve exposed the falsehood of that assertion in this post. The National Law Journal also reports today that “a soon-to-be-released study by political scientists concludes” that the ABA’s ratings “are biased against potential conservative nominees.” Given how the members of the ABA committee are selected (a matter that I discuss at length in this essay), that’s hardly a surprise.

WaPo:Politicians of both parties pile on AIG

The Big Bash, WaPo Editorial
Politicians of both parties pile on AIG.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page A12

YESTERDAY, we were more skeptical than most about the "populist" backlash against the $165 million in bonuses that went to some employees of government-owned AIG. The events of the past 24 hours have only confirmed our view. We don't love the fact that the men and women of this disgraced company are insisting upon the compensation they signed up for before the company collapsed into the arms of the taxpayers. But whether they are being greedy, or simply human, is hardly relevant to what is in the public interest now. AIG's demagogic critics in both parties should keep that in mind.

For better or worse, the U.S. government -- i.e., all of us -- now owns AIG. The firm is hemorrhaging knowledgeable employees at precisely the time when it -- and therefore we -- need them most. No matter how morally satisfying, taking back bonuses now, as proposed yesterday in belated outrage by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), would probably accelerate the exodus, with the likely effect that the country would lose much more money on AIG than it would otherwise. Yes, $165 million is a lot of money. But it is 0.09 percent of the total AIG bailout cost, $173 billion. The relevant policy question here is not whether we feel like spending $165 million on bonuses; it is whether doing so will help wrap up the AIG rescue as cheaply and quickly as possible.

The company's chief executive, Edward M. Liddy, who was brought in from outside at $1 per year to unwind AIG on behalf of the government, seems to think that it will. Others who are not in his position of responsibility are fully exploiting their freedom to disagree. Thus, the attorney general of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, among other Democrats, floated the argument that the AIG employees should get stiffed because "it is only by the grace of American taxpayers that members of Financial Products even have jobs, let alone a pool of retention bonus money." True. But the bonuses were set in motion well before the U.S. takeover of AIG, which was done to avoid a Lehman Brothers-like meltdown that would have cost taxpayers a lot more than $165 million, and the compensation plan has been public information for a year. And then there is Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who first suggested that the folks at AIG should consider committing suicide, samurai-style -- before saying he would settle for some "contrition."

Under the circumstances, we can understand why President Obama feels that he must join this opportunistic chorus rather than resist it. Still, this has not been a stellar moment for the man who came into office arguing that "the time has come to set aside childish things." With hundreds of billions of dollars in necessary repairs to the financial system still to come, Mr. Obama must find a way to explain those costs in terms that neither inflame the public nor insult its intelligence. The best we've heard so far came from a non-politician, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. AIG's irresponsible behavior angers Mr. Bernanke, too, but he's not losing his cool. On CBS's "60 Minutes" last Sunday, he likened the firm to a neighbor who sets his house on fire by smoking in bed; the town has a choice between letting the place burn down to teach him a lesson, or dousing the flames to prevent them from consuming the homes of non-smoking neighbors. "That's where we are now," he said. "We have a fire going on." This is no time to be throwing more fuel on it.

US Completes Oil Spill Cleanup in Lebanon

USAID Completes Oil Spill Cleanup
March 17, 2009

BEIRUT, LEBANON -- The United States Agency for International Development has completed the cleanup of forty-three locations along a sixty kilometer stretch of the northern seashore from Tabarja to Enfeh. The devastation and subsequent clean-up followed the July 2006 conflict with Israel. Clean-up sites were selected in close coordination with the Lebanese Ministry of Environment. This program was part of a $230 million package provided to Lebanon from the U.S. to support humanitarian, reconstruction and security assistance following the conflict.

The $5.8 million cleanup project employed more than 220 local laborers, many of whom were fisherman who lost their livelihoods and boats, to support the cleanup using local machinery, equipment, caterers, and transporters. More than 100 fishermen’s boats were rapidly cleaned at the Byblos Port Jetty, allowing the fishermen to resume fishing quickly so they could generate income for their families. Following the cleanup, several tourist areas, marinas, hotels and beach resorts were able to resume their normal activities.

USAID’s program implementers collected approximately 1,300 cubic meters of oil-contaminated waste and more than 2,000 cubic meters of oil-contaminated sand from all locations. The Lebanese Ministry of Environment coordinated the removal of the contaminated sand from an interim storage location in Byblos to a designated area in Beirut.

USAID has worked in Lebanon since 1951 and implemented development projects to benefit Lebanese citizens. With funds from the American people, USAID creates jobs, invests in youth and protects the environment. USAID’s work reflects the strong friendship between the Lebanese and American people.

The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy: How It Threatens Transatlantic Security

The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy: How It Threatens Transatlantic Security, by Sally McNamara
Heritage Backgrounder #2250
March 17, 2009

[Full article w/notes at the link above]

A series of international events over the past year have pushed the European Union to the front of the international stage. When Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008, it was the EU that took the reins of leadership. When Russia turned off the gas taps to Ukraine in December, the EU again assumed the position of negotiator in chief.

Since the Maastricht Treaty of 1991, the European Union has sought to forge a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) precisely to take the lead in times of global crises. When Europe's collective weaknesses were cruelly exposed by Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, EU leaders tried to expedite the EU's foreign policy inte­gration. Institutionally and politically, the EU has centralized elements of foreign-policy making in Brussels so that all EU members may "speak with one voice" on international issues.[1] Under proposals in the Lisbon Treaty (successor to the European Consti­tution) this centralization process would receive its most significant boost to date—removing foreign policy from the intergovernmental sphere and mak­ing it a supranational EU competence.

The EU sent a six-page letter to President Obama in early February, seeking to play a greater role on the international stage.[2] When Vice President Joe Biden outlined the Obama Administration's foreign policy vision at the Munich Security Conference that same month, he presented enthusiastic agreement.

But the United States should be wary of relin­quishing its transatlantic leadership role to the Euro­pean Union. Rather than realizing America's need for Europe to take on more of its own security burden, a common EU foreign policy is more likely to drain the already limited military capabilities of the member countries and potentially serve as a tool for those in Europe who believe that American global power must be "counterbalanced." The United States should not seek a single phone line to Europe: It will undermine America's fruitful bilateral relationships, such as the Anglo–American Special Relationship, which have served American interests well since the end of World War II.

The Creation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy

This is the hour of Europe. It is not the hour of the Americans.[3]
—Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jacques Poos on the EU's mediation efforts in Yugoslavia, June 1991

When the Yugoslav state started to disintegrate in 1991 and the prospect of widespread regional con­flict loomed, the EU claimed leadership of the crisis, epitomized by Jacques Poos's infamous proclama­tion that the hour of Europe had arrived.[4] Taking place at the same time as the negotiations for the Treaty of Maastricht, which proposed huge central­izing initiatives, such as the Single Currency, the EU immediately sought a unified line on Yugoslavia as a vehicle for proving its foreign policy credentials.

The United States was relieved to see Europe step up to the plate and happily deferred leader­ship. Achieving a successful resolution of the Yugoslavia crisis presented the EU with an oppor­tunity to both prove itself on the international stage, and to disentangle America from European security arrangements.

At the very outset, however, the EU failed to comprehend the sheer complexity of the problem, its own institutional and military limitations, and the very different historical perspectives and poli­cies of its 12 constituent members. The tragedies that followed laid rest to the claim that Europe's time had come or that the EU was even unified. Having failed to secure peace through diplomacy and unable to agree on the deployment of a Euro­pean peacekeeping "interposition force" in Septem­ber 1991, Germany pushed the EU to reverse its previous policy and recognize the independence of Croatia and Slovenia.[5] The EU's initial strategy of maintaining the territorial unity of the Yugoslav Federation at all costs was left in tatters.[6]

Breaking with the EU position and disregarding strong British and French objections, Germany forced Europe's hand by unilaterally recognizing Croatia and Slovenia as sovereign states on Decem­ber 23, 1991.[7] The other members of the European Community followed suit on January 15, 1992, in an attempt to reconcile Europe's growing divisions, and thereafter proceeded to steadily hand off lead­ership of the growing Balkan crisis to NATO and the United States. As European analyst Mario Zucconi notes, "The Western Europeans used Yugoslavia to gratify their vanity."[8] "In the end," he concludes, "the Yugoslav conflict dealt a serious blow to the image and credibility of the organization, to its per­ceived weight as a major unitary actor, and to its aspiration to anchor the emerging political order on the European continent."[9]

EU Treaties: The Juggernaut of Integration

In the midst of its early failures over Yugoslavia, the EU signed the Treaty of Maastricht which included institutional and political mechanisms to advance a Common Foreign and Security Policy.[10] The EU quickly drew the conclusion that if Europe had had better decision-making procedures and centralized institutions, its performance in Yugosla­via would have been better. The driving ethos behind the CFSP's creation was the idea that the nations of Europe could be stronger collectively than they are separately. Despite the gaping holes in European unity over Yugoslavia, it was assumed that new institutional arrangements would create unity by themselves.

Since its formulation in the Treaty of Maastricht, the backbone of a common EU foreign policy has been that Europe should seek a common position that no EU member state should break, regardless of evolving circumstances. The Maastricht treaty states:

The Member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity. They shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations. The Council shall ensure that these principles are complied with."[11]

As stated in Maastricht, the goal of a common defense policy is to reinforce, "the European iden­tity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world."[12] The treaty also called on member states to coordinate positions at international institutions and to "uphold the common positions in such fora."[13] Maastricht specifically called on the perma­nent members of the United Nations Security Council (France and Britain) to defend EU positions at the U.N.[14]

The EU argued that the CFSP was an attempt to address its foreign policy shortcomings and to improve its military capabilities, which were nakedly displayed over Yugoslavia. The EU's credi­bility gap, however, was once again exposed when America was forced to supply the vast majority of equipment used during NATO's air campaign against Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999.[15] In addition to revealing a massive chasm between Europe and America in terms of military capability, Kosovo also demonstrated the vital role of American leadership in the Balkans. After years of failed EU negotiations with Milosevic, using lucra­tive carrots but less credible sticks, only America was able to legitimately threaten action, which was ultimately taken through NATO without an explicit authorizing resolution from the U.N. Security Council (in part due to French opposition to a fur­ther resolution authorizing military action).[16]

Resentment festered in many European quarters that NATO, and more specifically the United States, had once again been called in to resolve a European conflict.[17] Having failed to play the lead role, or even a meaningful part in resolving the Kosovo con­flict, the EU decided once more that further central­ization of power was the answer. It is significant that after every foreign policy failure the EU's analysis led to the conclusion that ever more concentration of power and more institution-building in Brussels could remedy the problem. The EU's failures in Kos­ovo, combined with the impetus for European mil­itary integration after the St. Malo summit between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French Presi­dent Jacques Chirac in 1998, gave EU planners a green light to propose ever bolder initiatives to supra-nationalize European foreign policy.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, signed in 1997 and implemented in 1999, created the post of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy—effectively an EU Foreign Minister. Amsterdam also reformed decision making for the CFSP, introducing the concept of "constructive abstention," and extended qualified majority voting to some areas of foreign policy.[18]

The ensuing Treaty of Nice, signed in 2001 and implemented in 2003, provided for the development of autonomous EU military arrangements, including the creation of permanent political and military structures and commitment to an EU-level rapid reaction force. Nice established defense policy as a formal EU competence for the first time and spearheaded the development of the EU's military policy.[19] Through the treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam, and Nice, foreign policy was centralized in Brussels step by step.

Components of Failure

The creation of new institutional mechanisms and the centralization of foreign-policy making in Brussels have not created a stronger Europe capable of handling global, or even European, security. Instead, the CFSP has resulted in inaction, or been subject to domination by France and Germany. It has also frequently been used as a platform from which to confront America and frustrate U.S. policy, particularly the war on terrorism. In fact, three char­acteristics can be drawn from looking at the perfor­mance of the CFSP to date.

1. Inaction. Many Europeans have argued that the members of the European Union can exert greater influence in the world if they act together rather than separately; and that following the decline of Europe's major powers, individual states' power can collectively create a more powerful and credible European voice on the world stage. Ele­ments of this philosophy are also to be found in the Obama Administration's theory that when acting within a multilateral alliance, the legitimacy and effectiveness of a specific action is enhanced. Dur­ing the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama called for America and Europe to embrace new forms of multilateralism for the 21st century, to jointly confront "dangerous currents," such as climate change, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.[20]

Sovereignty, however, cannot be traded for influence. The ability to project power, whether regionally or globally, depends on several factors, including leadership, credibility, military capability, popular support, and dependable allies. The EU lacks all of these qualities and in assembling its con­stituent parts, it, therefore, tends to adopt the posi­tion of its slowest actors. Or, as The Times opined in 1996 as the EU stood impotent before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, "It looks impressive but the increase in size has been bought by losing punch."[21]

In order for 27 member states to agree on a united foreign policy, almost all the meat will have to be taken off the bones of that policy in order to build a consensus. However, that consensus, no matter how weak, may then restrict member states from taking stronger actions outside its parameters. As EU academic analyst Professor Simon Hix explains:

The reforms contained in the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties may have reduced the institutional constraints on the capacity for common action, but the rival historical and political interests of the member states prevent the definition of a common Euro­pean security identity, and undermine any possibility of acting upon this identity in a united front.[22]

The EU's policy on Zimbabwe illustrates the fal­lacy of this approach. In 2003, the EU failed to renew travel sanctions against brutal dictator Robert Mugabe after French President Jacques Chirac invited him to attend a Franco–African summit in Paris.[23] Despite indisputable proof of Mugabe's sys­tematic violation of human rights and political free­doms, he was once again given the red-carpet treatment in 2007 when Portugal officially broke with an EU travel ban (with Brussels' political bless­ing) to allow Mugabe and his senior aides to travel to Lisbon for an EU–Africa Summit.[24] Despite Brit­ish protestations and a boycott by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mugabe attended the Summit, and Britain sent a low-level government representative in order to conform to the EU's consensus decision that Mugabe should be welcomed by the EU.[25]

Considering Mugabe's tyrannical and oppressive leadership, with routine politically motivated vio­lence and economic collapse, a united policy sanc­tioning the dictator's travel would seem an obvious one. Yet the EU was incapable of forming any sub­stantial policy, while simultaneously preventing other members from meaningful dissention.

2. Franco–German Dominance. While the EU rarely manages to speak with one voice in any meaningful way, there have been certain instances where the EU has taken the lead role on an interna­tional issue. Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008 is one such instance where French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as the EU's biggest political figure and then-president of the European Council, assumed the role of world spokesman.

Unfortunately, Sarkozy's handling of the crisis was a disaster and represented a barely concealed Franco–German agenda to restore EU–Russian rela­tions as quickly as possible. From the very outset of the crisis, Sarkozy focused exclusively on achieving a six-point ceasefire—a ceasefire that was thrust upon Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and which Moscow had no intention of observing. With no enforcement mechanisms, Sarkozy failed to compel Russia to fulfill the conditions of the cease­fire and also failed to prevent Russia's subsequent de facto annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Further, despite German Chancellor Angela Mer­kel's trip to Tbilisi during the height of the conflict where she publicly affirmed Germany's support for Georgia's membership in NATO, she soon reversed position to veto it during NATO's Foreign Ministe­rial summit in Brussels in December 2008.[26]

Despite the failure of his ceasefire and Russia's redrawing of Europe's borders by force, Sarkozy went on to engineer a return to "business as usual" between Russia and the EU. This was done without any formal negotiation with the Secretary General of NATO, who had suspended all high-level diplo­matic contact with Russia in support of the EU-led ceasefire negotiations. In a bid to protect Europe's relationship with Moscow, especially Russian–Ger­man energy projects and a deal for Russian helicop­ters for the EU's mission to Chad, Sarkozy sidelined NATO and used the European Union as a cosmetic cover for Franco–German interests.[27]

3. Limiting American Power. Successive Amer­ican Administrations have argued that a stronger Europe means greater help for realizing American goals of international peace and stability. President George W. Bush spent much of his second term try­ing to repair ties in Europe, hoping to engage Europe in supporting a transatlantic agenda on issues such as free trade, energy security, and stabilizing Afghan­istan. But the EU chose to obstruct American poli­cies instead of engaging on areas of mutual concern. In areas such as the rendition of terrorists, visa waiver policy, and data sharing, the European Union purposefully obstructed American policy.[28]

Some European leaders also describe the EU as a check on American global power. Former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin described America as an "unchecked hyper-power."[29] Belgian Prime Min­ister Guy Verhofstadt talked about EU integration in terms of its "emancipation" from the United States.[30] Current Spanish Prime Minister José Zap­atero openly talked about deconstructing American global influence within two decades.[31]

A report published by the U.K. House of Lords in July 2003 found that the EU tended to oppose U.S. policy "simply to make its voice heard."[32] This explains why, standing next to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in November 2008, EU president Sarkozy called for a temporary moratorium on the planned U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.[33] Speaking to the European Parliament immediately before the NATO Summit in December, French defense minister Hervé Morin also questioned the need for the "third site."[34] The French position was especially important since Paris was holding the EU presi­dency at that time, speaking with the added authority of that office.

This position contrasts sharply with two NATO endorsements of the planned deployment, includ­ing the alliance's foreign ministerial endorsement that came immediately after Mr. Morin's comments before the European Parliament.[35] Although France officially backed both NATO communiqués, its position within the EU was the polar opposite, demonstrating a frustrating inconsistency. It should give the U.S. Administration pause in supporting further EU foreign policy integration when it cannot expect to hear the same message from NATO as it does from the European Union.

France and Missile Defense: Taking One Position for NATO, a Different Position Elsewhere

Ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allies' forces, territory and populations. Missile defence forms part of a broader response to counter this threat. We therefore recognise the substantial contribution to the protection of Allies from long-range ballistic missiles to be provided by the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defence assets.
—NATO Heads of State Final Declaration, April 3, 2008

…[P]lease let's not have any more talk of deployment of missiles or deployment of antimissile systems. Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security in Europe.
—President Sarkozy at EU–Russia Summit in France, November 15, 2008

Who would hold the key to their [European-based United States missile defense assets] use? What threat would they tackle? There are risks, yes, but to say that there is a threat today would need to be checked.
—French Defense Minister, Hervé Morin, December 1, 2008

Ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allies' forces, territory, and populations. Missile defence forms part of a broader response to counter this threat. We therefore recognise the substantial contribution to the protection of Allies from long-range ballistic missiles to be provided by the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defence assets. As tasked at the Bucharest Summit, we are exploring ways to link this capability with current NATO missile defence efforts… As all options include the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defence assets, we note as a relevant development the signature of agreements by the Czech Republic and the Republic of Poland with the United States regarding those assets.
—NATO Foreign Ministers' Final Communiqué, December 3, 2008

War and Peace
The divisions among the powers of Europe over the war in Iraq in 2003 revealed the problem of imposing a single foreign policy on all EU member states. Faced with its members and acceding coun­tries supporting one of two diametrically opposed positions, the EU descended into chaos trying to fashion a single policy out of pure contradiction.[36] Europe's countries were broadly split down the middle. France heightened tensions in Europe by telling largely pro-war accession countries that they had "missed a good opportunity to keep quiet."[37] France also sought to deny Turkey planning assis­tance within the NATO alliance, owing to Paris's vehement opposition to the American-led invasion of Iraq.[38]

The Atlanticists responded with a letter of sup­port to the U.S. Administration, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote to all EU capitals urging them to consider military action as a viable last resort.[39] Less than a week before the invasion, the leaders of the United States, the U.K., and Spain met in the Azores to build international momentum for action on Iraq in a summit that was quickly inter­preted as a confrontation with the Franco–German led anti-war axis.

The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, commented that "Whatever the out­come of the war, there can be no denying that this is a bad time for the common foreign and security pol­icy for the European Union as a whole."[40] EU divi­sions over Operation Iraqi Freedom illustrate the fallacy of assuming the nations of Europe have a sin­gle foreign policy voice. Washington diplomatically engaged its European allies on a systematic bilateral basis, and, where necessary, on an ad hoc multilat­eral basis. The juggernaut of European integration, however, seeks to remove that option, making Brus­sels the only port of call for American foreign policy planners. It is inevitable that this will be to the det­riment of American foreign policy. As Henry Kiss­inger has noted:

When the United States deals with the nations of Europe individually, it has the possibility of consulting at many levels and to have its view heard well before a decision is taken. In dealing with the European Union, by contrast, the United States is excluded from the decision-making process and interacts only after the event, with spokesmen for decisions taken by ministers at meetings in which the United States has not participated at any level.... Growing estrangement between America and Europe is thus being institutionally fostered.[41]

The Lisbon Treaty

Following the deep European divisions over whether to support or oppose the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the EU more determinedly wrestled with the question of how to fashion a supranational foreign policy, determined that such division should not happen again. Former Member of the European Parliament and current leader of Britain's Liberal Democratic Party, Nick Clegg, stated in 2003 at the height of EU tensions over Iraq:

The relish with which the anti-European British press has rushed to proclaim the last rites over the EU's fledgling common foreign and security policy is premature. The EU has a habit of rebounding strongly from internal crisis and strife.[42]

In 2004, EU leaders signed the European Con­stitution, which would have codified the supreme legal basis of the 25 member states at the time, marking a monumental departure from the previous, treaty-based approach to European integration.[43] The constitution was an audacious document, which proposed to significantly extend the EU's competency in foreign-policy making and intro­duce permanent high-ranking political positions, such as an EU president and a single EU foreign minister. It was subsequently rejected in referenda by the voters of France and Holland. The EU pressed on regardless of this stark popular opposi­tion and "renegotiated" a virtually identical docu­ment, the Lisbon Treaty.[44]

The Lisbon Treaty is currently pending ratifica­tion by all EU member states, having already been rejected once by voters in Ireland. The Irish govern­ment has committed to holding a second referen­dum on the treaty later this year, since Lisbon cannot proceed without the ratification of all mem­ber states. Just like the European Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty contains the building blocks of a United States of Europe and will shift power from the member states of the EU to Brussels in several areas of policymaking, including defense, national security, and foreign policy.[45] The treaty is a blue­print for restricting the sovereign right of EU mem­ber states to determine their own foreign policies; above all, the treaty underscores the EU's long-held ambitions to become a global power.

As with the EU Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty will create a permanent EU president, and extend the roles of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and of the EU's powerful diplomatic corps. With a single legal per­sonality, Brussels would sign international agree­ments on behalf of all member states. Critically, unanimous voting has been removed in several key areas and majority voting introduced for 12 differ­ent areas of foreign policy, including the election of the EU foreign minister and proposals emanating from the foreign minister.[46]

The treaty will restrict the ability of member states to operate on the international stage on an independent basis. Should the EU decide on a common foreign policy position, the EU will auto­matically speak for the U.K. and France in the United Nations Security Council.[47] This should be particularly worrisome to the United States since the U.K. and U.S. have proved to be valuable part­ners in this body in the past. The treaty further asserts the value and importance of the European Union over members' sovereign rights and national interests. It states:

Before undertaking any action on the inter­national scene or entering into any commit­ment which could affect the Union's interests, each Member State shall consult the others within the European Council or the Council. Member States shall ensure, through the convergence of their actions, that the Union is able to assert its interests and values on the international scene. Mem­ber States shall show mutual solidarity.[48]

A Threat to the Anglo–American-Led Operation in Afghanistan

The Lisbon Treaty represents a major threat to the NATO alliance. Rather than creating addi­tional military resources, Lisbon will lead to the replication of NATO and duplicate many of its functions. The long-term goal of creating a Euro­pean army and duplicating NATO's Article V com­mitment—that an attack against one member constitutes an attack against all members—illus­trates these dangers.

In 2000, the EU announced proposals for an army of 100,000 (60,000 of whom could be deployed at 60 days' notice for up to a year at a time). Britain's Conservative Party commented at the time that this would effectively destroy NATO.[49] The British government rejected this criticism, claiming that the EU was not taking on collective defense, which was purely NATO's responsibility.[50] The Treaty of Lisbon however, proposes an EU mutual defense clause:

If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not preju­dice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.[51]

In addition to duplicating NATO's Article V, the EU remains intent on creating its own military. In the absence of additional defense spending, these resources will have to come at NATO's expense. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU would have "Per­manent Structured Cooperation"—an inner group of EU nations (currently proposed to consist of France, the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy, and Poland) pooling military resources and manpower to form an army of 60,000 to undertake EU missions.[52] The reality is that frontline British troops would have to be mandated for EU availability at NATO's expense, probably from Afghanistan. As Open Europe, a Brit­ish policy institute, warns:

In simple terms, the UK would have to ear­mark 10,000 frontline troops for service on EU missions. For the EU force to be viable UK troops would need to be constantly available for EU operations. The fact that the UK is one of the few EU countries to have modern combat forces is likely to mean that the UK would have to keep its 10,000 in the UK/EU. Given the UK's current military overstretch, the plans would almost certainly divert vital resources away from the British mission in Afghanistan.[53]

A cross-party group of former senior British min­isters commented in 2000 that the creation of an EU army was "an openly political project,"[54] a point confirmed by then-German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer: "This is part of the European inte­gration process."[55] Now, as then, no additional troops are available for this paper army. Either troops already committed to NATO will be counted twice, or, in the worst case scenario, troops will be withdrawn from existing NATO missions.

In 2000, Lady Thatcher described the creation of an EU army as "a piece of monumental folly that puts our security at risk in order to satisfy political vanity."[56] Rather than representing a genuine attempt to increase Europe's military contribution to vital missions, such as Afghanistan, the EU is merely seeking to advance its own political ambitions.

This is of particular importance to the United Kingdom, whose relationship with the United States has been underpinned by shared military commit­ments over the years. President Barack Obama has already stated that the war in Afghanistan is Amer­ica's top foreign policy priority; a deterioration of Britain's commitment to Afghanistan at this time would be unacceptable to the United States. [57]

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton argues that the Lisbon Treaty poses a threat to both the Anglo–American Special Rela­tionship and to NATO.[58] By reducing the ability of member states to set their own foreign policies and work with America outside of the EU's purview, the Treaty of Lisbon represents a profound threat to the Obama Administration's pledge to renew positive relations with European countries.[59]

What the Administration and Congress Should Do

The transatlantic relationship is vital to European and international security. European countries and the United States must nurture their relationships in order to achieve and maintain global peace and security. Specifically:
  • The Obama Administration must make clear that building enduring bilateral alliances is a top U.S. foreign policy priority. The Adminis­tration should engage with the European Union on issues such as trade and international com­merce. On issues of high foreign policy impor­tance, especially defense and counterterrorism, the Administration must invest its diplomatic efforts in European capitals.
  • Congress should hold hearings to analyze the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for the transatlantic alliance. The full range of policies advanced in the Lisbon Treaty must be analyzed, particularly the implications for foreign-policy making and alliance-building. The results of these hearings must be considered by the Administration before any tacit or public endorsement of the treaty.
  • The Administration must challenge NATO's European members to support reform and revitalization within the alliance. The Admin­istration should reaffirm NATO as the corner­stone of the transatlantic alliance, and invite European members to strongly back key reform measures, including the formulation of a new threat assessment and a pro-enlargement agenda.
  • The Administration should take the lead in promoting missile defense in Europe. The Administration should support deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Central and Eastern Europe and dispatch high-level members to Warsaw and Prague to reaffirm the Administra­tion's support for the "third site" installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. It should call on the NATO alliance to build on the U.S. system with complementary missile defenses.
  • The Administration and Congress should withdraw support for a European army and a separate EU defense identity. French-led plans to develop the Common Foreign and Security Pol­icy through the European Security and Defense Policy and the development of European military arrangements, separate from NATO, were signifi­cantly advanced under the French EU presidency. The United States must stress the primacy of NATO in Europe's security architecture—and the unacceptability of duplicating NATO or placing additional stress on its considerably over­stretched resources.


Foreign policy is an attribute of statehood that must remain at the nation-state level if it is to be meaningful or effective. If the United States wishes to continue enjoying the benefits of its long-stand­ing relationships with the countries of Europe, it must oppose the creation of a supranational EU foreign policy and the duplication of NATO resources by the European Union. U.S. support for a single European foreign and military policy has been misplaced. While successive U.S. Administra­tions have believed their desire for Europe to under­take a greater share of the global security burden to be achievable through further European integration, evidence suggests the exact opposite to be the case.

The U.S. government should instead pursue a policy under which its bilateral engagements with European nations are prioritized, and engagement with the EU is based purely on where Brussels can add value to a specific policy area. The United States and Europe should engage on critical foreign policy issues, such as military planning and counterterror­ism, both bilaterally and through NATO. The usur­pation of power by Brussels jeopardizes these types of engagements—and ultimately threatens the secu­rity of the United States.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in Euro­pean Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Free­dom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author is grateful to Morgan L. Roach, Research Assistant in the Thatcher Center, and Parker Broaddus, Thatcher Center intern, for their assistance in preparing this paper.

Russia's Dependence on Food Imports and the Economic Crisis

"Oil-for-Food" When Oil Is Down (and the Ruble Is Weak). By Leon Aron
Russia's Dependence on Food Imports and the Economic Crisis
AEI, Mar 17, 2009

[Full article w/notes in the link above]

Although it contains millions of acres of some of the world's most fertile soil and has implemented the world's largest land privatization reform, Russia imports food in amounts that are inordinately high for a country of its size and per-capita GDP. The reliance on imported meat and poultry is especially large. Already under strain from rampant inflation, a very significant proportion of Russia's population will find its access to food further diminished by deep depreciation of the ruble as well as such inevitable consequences of the crisis as unemployment and still higher inflation. While widespread hunger is not likely, the constraints on food consumption could add yet another perilous dimension to a political crisis that is bound to unfold alongside the economic one.

Russia inherited from the Soviet Union a failed state-owned agriculture: backward, wasteful, and utterly unable to motivate the workers. Every fourth kolkhoz (collective farm) or sovkhoz (state farm)[1]--6,500 out of 26,000--lost money, often for decades.[2] Their overall debt approached 140 billion rubles, or over 15 percent of the Soviet Union's GDP.[3] Despite "free" (that is, state-owned) land, low salaries, and billions of rubles in state assistance, kolkhozes and sovkhozes were so inefficient that their output, especially meat, required enormous price subsidies and ration coupons to make them accessible to the majority of Russians. Half of the money the Soviet state raised through its single largest source of internal revenue--the so-called turnover tax, levied against the total monetary value of the goods produced--was spent on food subsidies, up to 50 billion rubles a year.[4]

Every fall, tens of thousands of city dwellers--workers and engineers, surgeons and lawyers, college students and art critics--were dispatched, sometimes for several weeks, to local collective farms to dig potatoes. Still, an estimated 60-70 percent of the potatoes were left in the ground to be snowed over and plowed under the next spring.[5] In just three months in 1988, nearly eight hundred thousand tons of potatoes, fruits, and vegetables "rotted away."[6] Around 20 percent of the annual grain yield was also lost every year: left unharvested in the fields, spilled by trucks on the way to the elevators, and allowed to rot in uncovered heaps under rain and snow. Beginning in the early 1960s, the Soviet Union bought increasingly large amounts of wheat abroad, reaching 30 million tons in 1987.[7]

By President Boris Yeltsin's decrees in the 1990s, most collective farms were turned, at least nominally, into joint-stock companies, and 12 million of their workers became shareholders and, thus, landowners. Although fierce resistance by the leftist parliament between 1995 and 1999 prevented Yeltsin from privatizing agricultural land, the last free parliamentary election in December 1999 resulted in a proreform legislature, which, on June 15, 2001, passed the Land Code, allowing for the first time the sale of land.[8] Although the code did not mention agricultural land specifically, soon collective farm workers' shares in land could be sold, rented, used as mortgage collateral, and passed on to heirs.

Enforcement, Values, and Demography

The reform's enforcement was not effective. In most cases, collective farms' "red directors" were left in control of the land and equipment (tractors, seed, and harvesters) necessary for the peasants' livelihoods.[9] The plots of land to which their shares entitled farm workers were badly demarcated, and it was up to former kolkhoz-sovkhoz authorities to decide who owned what. Needless to say, those seeking to strike out on their own were given far from the finest land, equipment, and livestock. In some regions, authorities openly violated the laws, allowing only the leasing of land but not its purchase.[10]

As with other areas of the economy, the Putin presidency (2000-2008) brought about more red tape and "bureaucratization of the land privatization process."[11] For those outside the nexus of power and property--another hallmark of Putinism at every administrative level--navigating the complexities of acquiring or selling land without paying thousands of rubles in bribes became virtually impossible. Always starved for capital, the new private farmers found most banks unwilling to accept land and equipment as collateral for loans. Farmers also complained of being pressured to pay otkaty (kickbacks) to the banks of as much as 10 percent of the loan amounts--and "even that [was] sometimes not enough," as one of them recently told a Russian sociologist.[12] With no perceptible improvement in infrastructure, rural roads continued to turn into impassable mud rivers at the worst times--spring sowing and fall harvesting and storage--further driving up the costs and the risks of independent farming.

Yet, as usual, the decisive factors in the slow and uneven progress of Russia's post-Soviet agriculture were people's values and aspirations. Unlike in Eastern Europe or China, no living memory of private farming remains in the Russian village. It has been almost eight decades since the murderous "collectivization" of 1929-33, when millions of the most hardworking, enterprising, and successful peasants and their entire families were arrested and sent into exile, and many were starved and worked to death. Millions more died in the man-made famine of 1932-33. The human capital was further depleted by the almost half-century exodus to the cities by the young and, more often than not, most ambitious and intelligent men and women since the end of the kolkhoz serfdom in the 1960s. (The peasants were issued domestic passports that enabled them to travel around the country and were no longer required to obtain written permission by the local authorities to leave the village.)

An overwhelming majority of those still on the farm today appear content to be salaried employees while, as in the Soviet days, cultivating in their spare time tiny plots (listed as "household farms" by the Federal Service for State Statistics) and "leasing" their shares of land to their "agricultural organization"--often for a nominal fee in rubles, a few sacks of grain, hay for a cow, or a few hours of a tractor driver's time to plow the plot for potatoes. Only 5 percent of former collective farm workers have chosen to claim their shares in land and become private farmers. By 2006, they and former city dwellers who had bought or leased land for private farming owned less than 10 percent of the 120 million hectares (almost 300 million acres) that were eligible for privatization.[13]

"Organizations," "Household Farms," and "Capitalists"

With the barely refurbished kolkhozes and sovkhozes controlling four-fifths of the arable land,[14] the structure of agricultural production looks very much like it did in Soviet times: these "agricultural organizations" produce over three-quarters of the country's grain, nearly half of its beef and poultry, and half of its milk and eggs. Millions of "household farms," described by a Russian expert as "less than half a hectare of land [about an acre and a quarter] and one or two cows," turn out the other half of its meat, poultry, and milk, as well as almost all of its potatoes (Russia's "second bread") and over 75 percent of its vegetables.[15]

The only significant contribution made by those whom Russian sociologists call "capitalists" or "Western-style" farmers--designated as the owners of "private (peasant) farms" in the official statistics, they are the closest Russia has come to modern commercial agriculture--is in grain (20 percent), sunflower seeds used for Russia's most popular vegetable oil (29 percent), and sugar beets (11 percent).[16] It seems hardly a coincidence that these products are among the few in which the output in 2007 exceeded that of 1992.[17] It is also largely because of these farmers--whose land could run into hundreds or even thousands of hectares, who use "highly productive" modern technology, and who employ up to several dozen workers[18]--that Russia went from the world's largest importer of grain in the 1970s and 1980s to one of the top ten exporters, selling abroad, on average, around 12 million tons of grain a year.[19] As to overall agricultural output, the "capitalist" share thus far has not exceeded 6 percent.[20]

Another source of modernization, spurred by the spike in grain prices over the past few years, has been urban investors who bought up individual shares from the peasants and in that way took over entire "agricultural organizations," mostly in the extrafertile chernozyom ("black earth") regions of Belgorod, Oryol, Rostov, Stavropol, and Krasnodar. Often, these "agribusinesses" are "vertically integrated"[21] into the banking and industrial empires of the national or regional oligarchs, whose coffers, in the absence of modern banking and financial structures, are still by far the main source of venture capital in Russia. Helped by very propitious weather, the steady progress of the "capitalists" and the "agribusinesses" combined to make Russia's 2008 grain harvest of 113 million tons the largest in post-Soviet history and the first one to exceed the 1992 yield of 107 million tons.

Outside of grain, however, Russian agriculture cannot compete with the ultra-efficient, mechanized, computerized, and heavily state-subsidized European and U.S. private farms in either quality or quantity. The gap is especially dramatic in animal husbandry, in which Russia is still behind its 1992 production levels of meat and poultry (by 33 percent), milk (32 percent), and eggs (12 percent).[22] Under the state National Priority Project on agriculture, launched in 2006 and extended to run from 2008 to 2012, tens of billions of rubles are to be spent to speed up the emergence of modern commercial farming by facilitating farmers' access to long-term credit, modern equipment, and fertilizers; attracting young professionals to the rural areas by helping them obtain loans for home-building; and providing state support for breeding high-quality livestock and fish, among other goals.[23]

Yet, even if they were not mired in corruption and incompetence like most of the grandiose state endeavors of the Putin era, these objectives of the National Priority Project do not include--critics say for political reasons--many other urgent tasks like affordable gasification of the countryside (in early 2008, Gazprom charged 100,000-120,000 rubles, or approximately $4,000-$5,000, to hook up a farm or private home); efforts to spur competition in the purchasing, processing, and sale of agricultural products, which are increasingly monopolized; and greater foreign investment.[24]

Inordinately Large Imports

These structural deficiencies help explain Russia's inordinate dependence on imported food. In early 2007, 45 percent of all food consumed in Russia was imported (compared to 20 percent in 2004), including 30 percent of meat (beef and pork) and nearly 40 percent of poultry.[25] In larger cities, according to Putin, 70-85 percent of food for sale came from abroad.[26]

Such reliance on foreign food is most unusual for a country of Russia's per-capita GDP and, even more so, its land area, which encompasses 9 percent of the world's arable acreage, 40 percent of which is exceptionally fertile "black earth."[27] With a per-capita GDP of $14,000 (in purchasing power parity), Russia imported twenty-two kilos (forty-eight pounds) of meat and poultry per capita, worth $35 in 2007 (the most recent year for which data are available).[28] By comparison, geographically and historically proximate Poland, with a per-capita GDP of $15,330[29] and about the same level of agricultural development (although far behind Russia in size of arable land and fertility), imported nine kilos (twenty pounds) and $21 worth of meat and poultry per capita, or 40 and 60 percent, respectively, of Russia's amounts. Russia's per-capita consumption of imported butter and its cost exceeded Poland's by factors of 3 and 1.6, respectively.[30] (Compared to the other three members of the emergent group of industrial giants, known as BRIC, among which Russia is proud to count itself, Russia's general dependence on foreign-manufactured consumer goods, including food, is staggering: whereas China and India import only "tiny" amounts and Brazil 9 percent, 28 percent of Russia's consumer goods are from abroad.[31]) Since these data were collected in 2007, food imports have continued to soar: in January-June 2008, those of meat and poultry grew year-on-year by 44 percent and of milk by 21 percent; sugar and vegetable oil were 2.8 times and 1.9 times higher, respectively.[32]

Even at the height of the oil boom in the first half of 2008--when record oil prices steadily pushed the ruble upward, despite the Central Bank's efforts to depress the national currency in order to increase profits from commodity exports--the growth of food prices far outstripped the already high overall inflation; while the latter reached 13 percent in 2008, the cost of the "basket" of "essential" food items increased by 18 percent.[33]

The basket's composite, however, does not tell the whole story. Throughout 2008, the prices for many individual items grew astonishingly quickly. For instance, the price of vegetable oil went up almost 5 percent in March and almost 9 percent in April.[34] Also in April, the price of bread skyrocketed, with St. Petersburg's price increasing the sharpest--almost 24 percent.[35]

One cause of the high food prices--expensive oil--Russia shared with the rest of the world as the commodity pushed up the cost of main agricultural inputs: fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fuel for tractors and combines.[36] Yet it cannot account for the prices of staples having grown more quickly in Russia than in Europe--as much as four times the European rate in the first five months of 2008.[37] Government policies and the business environment provide much of the rest of the explanation.

The effects of the centralization and interpenetration of political power and private property, so characteristic of Putin's presidency, have been no less conspicuous in agricultural production than they have been, for instance, in oil production, car-making, or aeronautics. The outcomes have been similar as well: the already mentioned, and growing, monopolization of wholesale trade, food processing, farm services, and equipment leasing; the erosion or elimination of competition; unfairly low purchasing prices for the farmers; and price fixing and collusion between buyers and distributors of food.[38] The monopolization has been blamed for the spiraling prices by commentators across the political spectrum, including Putin himself.[39] One of the many examples cited was the continuing growth in the retail price of milk when its wholesale price decreased by half in the spring of 2008.[40]

Another boost to inflation was a freeze on the prices of staples imposed by the government in the run-up to the December 2007 parliamentary elections. The results were predictable: a drop in the production of such staples as bread, sugar, and vegetable oil; a continuing increase in the prices despite the freeze; and an inflationary spike after the freeze was formally lifted on May 1, 2008.[41]

To curry favor with domestic producers and to punish the United States for criticizing Russia's August 2008 incursion into Georgia, the Russian government announced that it would be reviewing the agreed-upon import quotas on chicken parts, three-quarters of which--almost 900,000 tons--came from the United States.[42] (Russia is the largest foreign market for U.S. poultry.) Three months later, the minister of agriculture, Alexey Gordeev, announced that the import would be cut in 2009 by 300,000 tons, or almost a quarter of the amount that was to be delivered that year in accordance with the existing contracts, which stipulated the annual increase of 40,000 tons. In the end, the quota for poultry imports from the United States was decreased by 180,000 tons and duty on imports above the quota increased up to 95 percent.[43] The reaction of the experts was unanimous: because these imports offer Russian consumers something for which there is huge demand and that the national producers cannot supply at the same prices in the foreseeable future, the reduction in the imports can lead only to shortages and price increases.[44]

Straining Food Accessibility to a Breaking Point?

Last June, the average share of food in the overall cost of the basket of basic consumer goods was 36 percent--or between 1.5 and 2.4 times higher than in Europe, where it ranged between 15 and 25 percent. At the same time, half of the respondents in a national survey supported the issuance of "food cards" (similar to food stamps in the United States) to help the poor cope with the inflation, and 28 percent said that they themselves would use such cards.[45] In November, a poll found that 37 percent of Russian families had money enough to cover only food.[46]

In the meantime, inflation has shown no sign of abating in the new year. In the first three weeks of January 2009, consumer goods prices grew by 1.2 percent, while in only a week (between January 13 and 16), staples such as beef, chicken, milk, rye bread, and tea went up by between 0.4 and 0.7 percent and sugar by 3.9 percent.[47] From the end of January to the beginning of February, 75 percent of the respondents in a national poll named inflation among the most troubling issues facing the country.[48] (The second most frequently mentioned problem was the increase in unemployment, cited by 57 percent.) The rise in prices also has led among the difficulties for which the respondents "faulted" the government (41 percent of those surveyed), while the government's other biggest setback, the inability to "overcome the economic problems," was mentioned by 28 percent.[49]

In addition to such inevitable consequences as unemployment and the general diminution of household purchasing power, access to food will be severely hampered in 2009 by the sharply declining value of the ruble, which could place food imports outside the reach of tens of millions of Russians. At its peak in July 2008, the ruble traded at 23.9 to a U.S. dollar; a dollar was worth 35.65 rubles at the beginning of March 2009--a 49 percent decrease.

If the financial crash of 1998 is to serve as an example, widespread hunger is not likely. Import substitution quickly made up for the substantial dependence on foreign food,[50] which became too expensive after the ruble was sharply devalued. Together with similar developments in other consumer goods and industrial sectors, import substitution laid the foundation for Russia's economic expansion from 1999 to 2007.

Yet, some leading independent Russian experts are uncertain about the applicability of the 1998-99 experience after "years of the enormously heavy administrative pressure" have largely put an end to the growth of small businesses, whose situation, as Putin himself admitted, was "awful."[51] Would-be businessmen ("former engineers, designers, and bureaucrats"[52]), who created businesses and jobs (and fed the nation) after the 1998 crisis, today might be less capable (or willing) to take the risk.

Gloomier scenarios have sprung up to account for this potential structural handicap. In one such hypothetical development, in a small to medium-sized Russian city of the kind in which most Russians live, supermarkets are closed and only the "most elemental" products--bread, groats, cheap sausage, and milk--are available at kiosk-like "trading points" or sold by old women on the streets.[53] As the situation continues to deteriorate and people grow desperate, the local administration, which used to rely on the Kremlin's "vertical of power" for any decision, waits for orders from Moscow. No directives are forthcoming, and spontaneous demonstrations break out.[54]

One hopes that such versions of events will not come to pass. Still, superimposed on the already substantial inflation in food prices, Russia's inordinate dependence on imported food may yet become an explosive issue when the economic crisis and the falling oil prices increase unemployment and further weaken the ruble. Alongside other key economic and political certainties of Putinism, the "oil-for-food" structure is very likely to deteriorate rapidly and even collapse.

Leon Aron is a resident scholar and the director of Russian studies at AEI.

The author is grateful to AEI research assistant Kara Flook and associate editor Laura Drinkwine for their help in editing and producing this essay.