Report on European Activities, December 2014 – May 2015

My activities are in two locations:  Brussels, the capital of the European Institutions – EU Commission, Parliament and European Council – and Berlin, which exercises the preponderant political will within those Institutions.

The activities themselves are of two kinds:

  1. Fact-finding, through face to face meetings with representatives of all political parties, right, left and center, in order to determine on the ground the voting calculus in the European Parliament/German Bundestag on Russia and Ukraine related issues
  2. Seeking co-sponsors and jointly organizing panels and debates before mixed audiences of parliamentarians, journalists, think tank officers, academics and the general public devoted to the Ukraine crisis and East-West relations.

Initially the most accessible interlocutors were from parties on the Left (the EP bloc of United Left/Nordic Green Left with 8% of seats in the house) which have voted systematically against indiscriminate anti-Russian resolutions. Within that bloc, the single largest party is Germany’s Die Linke.

On 2 December 2014, the European affiliate of the ACEWA jointly held a Round Table within the European Parliament building entitled “The Fragile Triangle: The West, Ukraine and Russia.” The event attracted Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from centrist (Socialists and Democrats) and rightist (National Front) parties, as well as from the co-hosting United Left. It was video recorded and the proceedings were posted on ACEWA’s youtube channel, attracting several hundred unique viewers.

On 2 March 2015, the ACEWA European affiliate was the sole organizers of another Round Table, this time in the Brussels International Press Club, featuring as panelists Professors Stephen Cohen and John Mearsheimer, and Katrina vanden Heuvel. The title was ‘Defining a New Security Architecture for Europe that Brings Russia in from the Cold.”  In addition to the general public, the event attracted 25 VIP guests, including 5 MEPs, mostly from parties first present in December. Among the think tank officers in this contingent was the director of the Brussels Office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), the main advisory body to Germany’s Social Democratic Party, members of Angela Merkel’s coalition government;  a follow-on meeting with him the next day established my participation in their high level conferences that I outline below. Many of the VIP guests took the floor to make substantive comments. The proceedings were video recorded and posted on youtube in two parts. Part One, with the presentation of Cohen/Mearsheimer/vanden Heuvel has received 4,000 unique visitors from 85 countries, half of them in the USA. Part Two, showing the statements of our VIP guests has had 2100 unique visitors. The event was also reported in a local online publication, Brussels Diplomatic.   On March 4th, I joined John Mearsheimer in Berlin for a further day of meetings with Bundestag deputies and a public panel discussion in the evening organized by Die Linke.

At the end of April, I was the guest of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation at its annual Schlangenbad Dialogue conference near Frankfurt together with 65 high level German experts on Russia from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, think tanks and NGOs and 15 Russian counterparts. This provided an excellent opportunity to engage the present and past German ambassadors to Moscow, among others, in side meetings on the question of Russia and the Ukraine crisis.  I subsequently published what I learned at this conference about the prevailing political correctness in the German mainstream, which closely resembles American Neoconservative thinking.  In the week of June 1st, my hosts are publishing a shortened, German language version on “The Tyranny of Values: How Political Correctness is Poisoning Relations with Russia” their magazine Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft (International Affairs and Society) which is distributed to Social Democratic Party members.

On the weekend of May 29-31, I am participating as co-moderator of a panel in a conference  devoted to the Russia-NATO confrontation in the Balkans, including the issues of energy security and pipeline diplomacy. This gathering of 25 experts and statesmen is being held in Varna, Bulgaria under the aegis of the Sofia office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

I am planning the next ACEWA Round Table as a back-to-back presentation in Brussels and Berlin during the second half of September. This will be a multi-disciplinary panel consisting of an economist, a military strategist, an historian and a political scientist discussing the question of “Germany’s New Ostpolitik and its Implications for Russia and the EU.”  Our co-sponsor is the Institut Egmont, a prestigious think tank under the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Professor Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School, Harvard University has indicated his interest in appearing as a panelist.

 

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