Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Obama's Poland Jaunt: Low Marks Overall

See the latest op-ed published by yours truly at on US President Barack Obama's recent trip to Europe and specifically his jaunt in Poland. 

Obama started strong just by virtue of being in Europe, and stopping in Poland helped provide a badly needed shot in the arm for US public diplomacy and strategic relations in the former Communist bloc. 

But he flailed on Israel -- a poignant subject for Poland, the home of Auschwitz, in which masses of Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis -- offering a dubious "I will always be there for Israel" in response to a question from a concerned Polish Jew. Obama's statement would have been more convincing if he hadn't just been snubbed big-time during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, who called Obama's plan to return to Israel's 1967 borders "indefensible."

Nor did Obama do much better on the military dossier. He highlighted plans to house a squadron of US fighter jets in Poland in 2013, which did generate some positive echo in the national and regional press. Yet the US squadron's presence in the country would have been more significant had these same arrangements not been already scheduled, well in advance of the President's trip.

For these reasons and more, Obama's European tour was more style than substance. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

After Mladic, the Serbian March to EU Accession

In a telling gesture following the recent arrest of Bosnian Serb and former general Ratko Mladic on allegations of war crimes, the EEAS' chief Lady Catherine Ashton announced June 1 that Danish diplomat Peter Sørensen will assume the long-empty post of EU ambassador to Bosnia. 

The nomination came amid a flurry of EU musical chairs, and early indicators suggest the choice is largely disappointing to a broad range of European diplomats and dignitaries.

European Voice reported that Ashton claimed, “I can think of no one better qualified to take over this enhanced role of head of delegation,” which was met with "the sound of spluttering in London and Berlin." 

In more positive news, EV echos the recent press rumoring that Mladic's arrest will now open -- some would say pry -- the doors open toward EU accession.

Yet some insist that Mladic's arrest and subsequent extradition to the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands is "is not enough to achieve reconciliation in the Western Balkans," according to EUobserver.

Ivan Vejvoda of the German Marshall Fund calls on the court to tend to "unfinished business" left from the Bosnian conflict, in which ethnic and religious conflict erupted into violent conflict in the middle and late 1990s.