Fabrice Pothier, Director of Carnegie Europe, opened the conference by welcoming participants and speakers. Pothier explained that over the next 24 hours the conference hopes to conduct a broad and sophisticated review of the big foreign policy choices and challenges ahead for the next U.S. administration and what the the world's expectations are toward questions like Iran, Russia, and the rise of India and China. To achieve such ambitious review, Carnegie has assembled top analysts from its centres in Washington D.C., Moscow, Beirut and Beijing together with leading commentators from Europe. Before turning to Michael Cox, Pothier concluded that this conference illustrates Carnegie's effort to bring the different perspectives - in fact the 'other' perspectives - to the debate on U.S. foreign policy.
Michael Cox,Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, followed with a discussion of the history behind the ebb and flow of the “gap” in transatlantic relations. Ten years ago the transatlantic relationship was going well and thriving in a post cold war environment. In 2002-2003, Robert Kagan’s description of the U.S. and the EU as Mars and Venus embodied a European wide sentiment that the transatlantic relationship was dying, possibly even dead. It was certainly near collapse.
By 2006-2007, the transatlantic relationship had moved beyond the Iraq crisis, beyond 2003, but had still not mended completely. The reason for the recovery was partly due to the altered rhetoric of the second Bush Presidency. The election of new European leaders like Sarkozy and Merkell also helped to define a new relationship with the U.S. There was a growth in both economic and security interdependence.
Now the U.S. and EU are treading water. There are a number of mine fields or potential crises in the transatlantic relationship. Different rhetoric and actions towards Russia reveal potentially significant problems—Europeans would not say ‘we’re all Georgians.’ The NATO commitment in Afghanistan is also a potential problem, with the U.S. seeking to escalate the war and the Europeans hesitating to commit any more troops on an informal basis.
The most troubling problem is the world recession. Cox harked back to the 2003 political situation, stating that transatlantic political and security turmoil took place against a backdrop of economic stability. The world recession could indicate a major blow to the transatlantic relationship.
Jessica T. Mathews, President of the Endowment, opened by stating that the New Vision Conference is an important event in the ninety-nine year history of the Carnegie Endowment. The strength of Carnegie is that it was given the widest possible mandate when it was founded in 1910. The trustees were given a blank sheet with which to reinvent the Endowment time and time again according to changing needs.
In reacting to globalization, the New Vision Conference demonstrates the ability of Carnegie to evolve according to the international climate. Globalization has taken hold of almost every field, resulting in global problems that can only be tackled with global solutions. Carnegie realizes that it can only formulate effective global foreign policy solutions if it has a multinational outlook at its core. There is no substitute for research on the ground, but this local presence must be connected with a broader, global perspective. The Moscow office has been open for 17 years, and three other offices have been established recently - Beijing, Beirut and Brussels. Each of those offices is self-sufficient and staffed by experts from the region in which they are based. The Carnegie Endowment is the only U.S.-based think tank with a commitment to fluency in the languagesof the regions they work in, including Russian, Mandarin, Arabic and many other languages.
Mathews explained that the launch of Carnegie Europe is the climax of a year of successful operations in Europe under the inspired leadership of Fabrice Pothier, Director of Carnegie Europe. The last year has seen Carnegie Europe bring the best researchers from around the world to Brussels, London, Berlin and Paris and many other European cities. The primary goal of Carnegie Europe is to build a partnership with the EU institutions and EU member state governments, as well as with policy institutions and scholars.
What the Endowment is doing in Europe, she explained, is part of a very ambitious long term attempt to fundamentally change the way U.S. foreign policy is made by redefining the way a think tank operates. The Carnegie Endowment aims to do everything it can to help U.S. foreign policy makers understand how other countries and regions think. She compared U.S. foreign policy to a two-way radio stuck on send – the Endowment is trying to get the U.S. to receive, to create a dialogue. U.S. foreign policy should be made to serve U.S. interests, but it can be made better by listening to the security concerns of others.
Mathews then went on to address the topic of the conference. She took a sobering stance towards the possibilities for change under a new president, explaining that expectations are very high, maybe, if not probably, unrealistically so – especially in Europe. The next U.S. administration will face the double challenge of digging out of the financial crisis as well as digging its way out of Iraq. Europeans also need to understand that domestic policy has become a far greater priority for Americans than foreign policy. Interest in foreign policy has dropped significantly. On the other hand, U.S. voters recognize that the U.S. is less respected than it has been and that there is a need for the next president to rebuild credibility. In order to rebuild the transatlantic relationship and to address dwindling credibility, the next U.S. foreign policy will need to be one that listens to a changing world.