The British vote to leave the European Union may come to be seen as a tipping point in global politics, perhaps more consequential than anything since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It may mark the moment when Europe comes face to face with its own constitutional dysfunction, when the idea of the “West” finally ceases to be plausible and when the United States is confirmed in its sense that its interests lie more in Asia than in its traditional Atlantic sphere of influence.
In May 2013, when I became commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, I found U.S. and NATO forces well suited for their requirements at the time but ill prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.
Over the past two decades, Germany’s global role has undergone a remarkable transformation. Following its peaceful reunification in 1990, Germany was on track to become an economic giant that had little in the way of foreign policy.
I do not believe that foreigners contribute usefully by issuing strong opinions about how a country’s citizens, or those of a larger unit like the European Union, should decide when faced with an important political choice. Our insights, based on international experience, may sometimes be helpful; but there should never be any confusion about the asymmetry of roles.
The world is transfixed by Britain’s referendum Thursday over whether to stay in the European Union. Some of the most interested and anxious spectators of the “Brexit” debate are in the Baltic republics, where I recently spent a week meeting with political and military leaders as part of a delegation from the Jamestown Foundation.
Ancient Rome was a village that grew into a world empire. At the peak of its territorial reach, AD 117, it stretched from the British Isles to Mesopotamia and from the Rhine to the Sahara. Its history spans more than a millennium. Before the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century, Romans enjoyed a standard of living not seen again in the West until the mid-nineteenth century.
Last October, the European Court of Justice struck down the Safe Harbor agreement, a 15-year-old transatlantic arrangement that permitted U.S. companies to transfer data, such as people’s Google-search histories, outside the EU. In invalidating the agreement, the ECJ found that the blurry relationship between private-sector data collection and national security in the United States violates the privacy rights of EU citizens whose data travel overseas.
For the first time since the start of Britain’s referendum fight over Europe, the polls predict “Brexit.” The four most recent national surveys put the “Leave” side ahead with margins of between one and 10 percentage points. Most people, including many disaffected Britons who want to shake up the system by backing a Brexit, understand that this would mean a political and economic shock. But they underestimate its severity.
“British citizens will be voting on June 23 on a question that will affect not just the future of Europe, but also the future of the United States, argues CFR President Richard N. Haass in the American Interest.”
An isolationist bent to British politics, what Sebastian Mallaby refers to as “little Englandism,” is not new to the British political tradition. While this perspective has long been counter-balanced by a Gladstonian internationalism, debates around Brexit have been conspicuously devoid of such idealism, speaking in a language that appeals only to pocketbooks rather than to common decency.
The flow of data across international borders creates jurisdictional challenges and causes international tensions. Increasingly, countries have responded by imposing new requirements to store data locally, threatening cross-border data flows, which generate approximately $2.8 trillion of global gross domestic product each year. CFR Senior Fellow for Digital Policy Karen Kornbluh argues that the United States should take the lead in addressing these tensions.
Turkey was selected to host the World Humanitarian Summit in recognition of its generous foreign assistance and refugee policies, but it comes as the country pursues increasingly illiberal policies, says expert Kemal Kirişci.
What are the ways in which the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) could advance the noneconomic foreign policy interests of the United States, the European Union (EU), and EU member states? The Council on Foreign Relations gathered experts—including current and former policymakers, economists, political scientists, investors, and business representatives—to explore whether and how the still-evolving TTIP could be designed to meet foreign policy objectives.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2015 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »