Dear readers, bloggers, tweeters, and respondents:
We want to take the opportunity to thank you all very, very much for the support you have given us since the Strategic Europe blog was launched last April. It has been a terrific challenge that has given us lots of ideas about how to take it further in 2013.
Looking back at how much has been written during those nine months, it is hard to highlight the most memorable blogs or articles or tweets. We will mention just two.
First, Greece: whenever we wrote about Greece’s handling of its financial crisis, especially how its armed forces continued to escape deep cuts, it generated lots of (defensive) feedback on Twitter and in comments.
The replies were fascinating: most ignored the issue of Greece’s large defense budget in contrast to the ever declining living standards for ordinary Greeks (not the oligarchs). Instead, they saw Turkey as their biggest threat. Yet talk to any NATO officials about Greece and they will say that Greece’s armed forces are overstaffed, highly inefficient, and play a minimal role in the Alliance’s international peacekeeping missions.
Second, commemorating the First World War: in this year’s Remembrance Day Lecture, we were reminded that peace does not come cheaply. Nor can it be taken for granted. Just because there are the outward appearances of peace and stability in some countries, it does not mean these are based on human rights and freedom, as the Arab Spring demonstrated.
It is hard to know what 2013 will bring. The global security agenda is just so packed. We wonder whether Obama will finally become involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Washington can no longer remain on the sidelines, assuming it wants to reestablish its credibility in the Middle East. Closer to home, the Europeans have some hard thinking, strategically, about how to deal with Russia under Putin. For that to happen, Europeans will have to stop using the euro crisis as a pretext for inaction, as they have been doing over the past few years, all the while ignoring the bloc’s security and strategic interests.
No doubt we’ll be returning to these issues. In the meantime, our indefatigable colleagues at Carnegie Europe are taking a break starting today. We shall be back on January 7, curious about what the coming months will bring. In the meantime, we wish you all, wherever you are, happy and safe holidays and a good start to the New Year.
Jan Techau and Judy Dempsey