Panelists discuss the multiple challenges facing Europe today, including the public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit, continued threats of nationalism, Russian influence, and relations with the United States.
MANDELBAUM: Welcome with I'm sorry a brief delay to a virtual general meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on the subject of the future of Europe. I am Michael Mandelbaum and I will moderate the discussion. I will ask our panelists questions for about half an hour and then we will turn the virtual floor over to Council members and through Carrie you will be able to ask questions of the panelists. When you do ask questions, let me ask you to identify yourselves and direct your question to one or more of the panelists.
Our three panelists are first Professor Anna Grzymala-Busse of Stanford University, author of several books on European affairs, including Redeeming the Communist Past and Rebuilding Leviathan. Second Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, former German envoy in Washington, among other important positions that he has held, and Ambassador Ischinger has just published this month, a new book entitled World in Danger: Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time. I'm tempted to say that this book is available in all fine bookstores. But I have the feeling that most of us are not spending much time in any retail outlet these days. And anyway, bookstores have almost all disappeared. But I can testify from personal experience that this book is available online from Amazon.
Our third panelist is Professor Mary Sarotte of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, author of several major books on Europe, including The Collapse in 1989. Currently at work on what will be the definitive account of NATO expansion, which will be published next year by Yale University Press.
Let us begin with a compound version of an obvious question. On January 20, a new administration in Washington will begin. My question for the three of you, perhaps responding in the order in which I introduced you, is what does Europe expect? And what can Europe expect from the new administration? And what can the new administration expect and what should the new administration expect from Europe? Professor Grzymala-Busse the floor is yours.
GRZYMALA-BUSSE: Thank you. Thank you very much. You know, I think at this stage, what Europe will probably wants and what it can expect is greater predictability and consistency. I think that's the number one item on the agenda to have a more predictable foreign policy, one that's more consistent, one that allows greater predictability. I think what Europe would like is sort of a resumption of things as they were before. I don't think that's possible. I think the Biden administration will now be paying more attention to Europe, than the current administration has been, but that's not entirely a uniform gaze, right? And I think for you in Western Europe, there'll be more of a resumption of things as they were before. For some of the countries that have made a more authoritarian turn, like Poland and Hungary, that attention will be highly unwelcome. And in fact, they're already noises there about how they are not looking forward to the Biden administration and they've been very reluctant to congratulate President Biden on his election as president-elect. So I think it's a mixed bag. I don't think things will go back to where they were before. I think in an ideal scenario, Europe would like institutional guarantees of future consistency and predictability. And those are pretty much impossible to achieve for any presidential administration in the United States.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Ambassador Ischinger, as you answer this question, let me invite you to begin with a very brief summary for the benefit of our audience of your new book.
ISCHINGER: Well, first of all, let me say how privileged I feel participating in this discussion with the other panelists and with you as a moderator.
This is an important moment, I think, in the evolution of the transatlantic relationship. And my book is really not a book for professors of political science or of history. My book, originally published in the German language, was intended to be a book for the normal citizen interested in foreign policy. And one of the problems in making German citizens understand how foreign policy, especially when you're talking about questions of war and peace, of the application of force, et cetera, Germans tend to be, I hate to say, almost like Americans, often quite moralistic. And they want to know which one is the morally sound decision. They want to be on the moral high ground. And part of my book, part of my intention in writing the book, was to explain to our citizens that very often, in practical decision making in foreign policy, whether you're sitting in the White House, or in the German Chancellery, or in the EU Commission in Brussels, it's not about a simple black and white decision where one option is great and beautiful and moral, and on the moral high ground, and the other one evil. Often, it's about shades of gray. It's about choosing the least bad decision among a variety of decisions.
So the book was intended to explain where we're coming from, after the unification of our country in Germany, and where we're going. And the intention of the book was to explain to the Germans that our future, our destination, our mission, has got to be building a more capable and a more resilient European Union, especially as we are looking at a period going forward. That will not be a period of total global peace and quiet. We're looking in my view, and I hope somebody is going to disagree with me, I think we're looking at a period where there will be great power rivalries. There will be continued conflict. Hopefully not in my own neighborhood in Western Europe. But we've just seen a few weeks ago, the outbreak of one of these frozen conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan. And of course all the conflicts in the Middle East. So I think we need to build a stronger Europe. And that was the intention of the book to explain where we have to be going. That there is no way to go back into a policy of relying on the nation state alone, especially if you're from a nation state that has five or ten, or twenty, or forty million inhabitants–just too small to matter in the world that we're moving into.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Professor Sarotte, what can and should Europe expect and what can and should the new administration expect?
SAROTTE: Well, first of all, again, thank you, to everyone. I'm honored to be here with such a great panel. And thank you, Michael, for those kind words at the start.
Imagine if Trump had won. Imagine if we were having this event after Trump election, it would obviously feel very different. I used to get asked what would a Trump reelection mean for transatlantic relations? And my answer was, well, I think Europeans are giving Americans four years, but they won't give us four years in a day. If Americans reelect Trump, there will be fundamental transitions in the relationship between the U.S. and Europe.
So fortunately, from my point of view, President Biden has won. And in some ways Biden is even more of a traditional trans-Atlanticist than Obama was. It's an exaggeration, but if you wanted to be provocative, you could make the case that Trump was the second president in a row in the United States who is relatively uninterested in European preferences. I think Biden will be more focused on Europe, perhaps even than Obama.
But despite all of those reasons for optimism, I'm skeptical that there will be a snapback. And I'm skeptical for three reasons. The first, and this is known to everyone in the room, or in the Zoom room, the U.S. is not what it was in 2016. We've now had four years of Trump and America first and seventy million Americans and counting said yes, I'd like four more years of that. So any foreign policy is going to have to take that into account. Also, Europe is not what it was in 2016. There's been all the Brexit battles. There's been democratization in Hungary and Poland. I see on the front page of the FT, there's worries about Bulgaria. So there's just not going to be a snap back to 2016. And if Europeans are expecting that then they are expecting too much.
There's three reasons as I said I don't think there'll be a snap back. The first is that neither U.S. or Europe is what it was in 2016. The second is that President Biden will have a lot of damage to repair before he even gets on his first transoceanic flight as president. How many presidents in the modern era have come in facing the challenge of getting back on speaking terms with Canada? I think that relations with Canada and Mexico are hugely important. I was speaking to fellow Council member Bob Zoellick recently and he was saying that Biden's first visits to foreign countries should be Canada and Mexico. And I agree. I realize we're talking about Europe here today. But I think we need to keep that in mind, just the sheer number of issues that are going to face Biden.
And third and finally, of course, the U.S. election is not over. The January 5 run off in Georgia is hugely important because it will shape leadership of the Senate. So U.S. foreign policy may depend on the outcome of the vote in places that don't usually get mentioned at the Council, like Baldwin and Washington counties in Georgia, which Biden won by less than two percentage points. So we need to know what the shape, the outlook will be in the Senate that actually will determine a lot of the room to maneuver. So for those three reasons, I don't think Europeans should expect an immediate snapback. And I think the Biden administration will also need to manage expectations as well.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Let me follow on to that question. The senior foreign policy positions in the new administration will be filled, as far as we know so far, by people who are basically being promoted one rung up the bureaucratic ladder from their positions at the end of the Obama administration. So they will be very familiar with the jobs that they have. But it's been four years. And my question for all of you is what is or are the most important changes in Europe with which they will have to contend, which they will have to take account when they assume office in January next? Why don't we go in the same alphabetical order?
GRZYMALA-BUSSE: So to me, I think there are two obvious and very different aspects to the situation after 2016. The first of this is, of course, Brexit. You know, you have the biggest partner in Europe, basically, no longer in the EU, still struggling to exit. You know, the negotiations are ongoing and it's looking like a real mess. And secondly, there's also sort of, you know, the one of the degradation of democracy within the European Union. There are now two countries that are no longer fully liberal democracies, Poland and Hungary. And they are basically acting to sort of undermine the democratic unity of the European Union from within. And the ongoing budget negotiations, for example, they have basically decided to stand fast, and argue that any kind of tying the budget to rule of law specifications will basically lead them to veto the EU budget. So I think the EU, and Europe in general, looks very different than it did for those two main reasons, since 2016. And that's something that obviously will have to be taken to account.
MANDELBAUM: Ambassador Ischinger.
ISCHINGER: Well, if I may, allow me to add a comment. On your first question, namely, what is the level of expectation in Europe as we look at the future Biden administration? And let me say, let me start with the good news. The good news is that there is, I think, a well-founded expectation in Europe that we will see a return to classic multilateral diplomacy. That's good. That means that we will not be called, we Europeans, by the White House a fool, but we will be called a partner. So that's, that's on the positive side.
However, I agree really, with what Mary said earlier. I would say curb, I would say to my, to my fellow Europeans, curb your enthusiasm. Don't expect President Biden and his future administration to bring you all the goodies that you may remember from years past. And let me, I don't want to go through the long list of issues and grievances, but let me focus on one rather important point, which is a tough one.
You see, for the last fifty years or more, you can say almost seventy years, we on the European side thought of the United States as our reinsurer, reliable, and there for eternity. Always present, always reliable, tight to Europe, through NATO, the Washington treaty, et cetera, et cetera. Totally reliable, even with U.S. nuclear weapons on European territory to make the relationship, you know, materially close and impossible to unravel. Now, what has happened through the four years of Trump is that a level of doubt has now started to creep into the minds of Europeans. And I will, if you bear with me for one more minute, let me describe the doubt. The doubt is this. So going forward, are we supposed to rely again on the dominant Western power of the United States, when it comes to, let's say, the climate, the Paris Climate accord; when it comes to such issues as the JCPOA, the Iran deal; when it comes to the reliability of the United States as the nuclear power that offers a nuclear umbrella guarantee over Western Europe? Can we actually believe that that will be permanent? What if, in four years, the next American presidential election might bring about a little change? Because we have noted, we on the European side, that there are more than seventy million Americans who did not vote for Joe Biden, but for a continuation of the rather unfriendly policies as far as Europe is concerned, of the Trump administration? So the doubt is, how sustainable, how reliable is this? Can we really tie our fate to America in the same way that was the case for the last seventy years? And that is it in a way. I don't want to overdrive dramatize it. But that is a game changer.
Now. Last point. If there is one team where I would have full confidence that they are the best equipped to deal with this kind of doubt, it is the people, it is first of all, Joe Biden himself, who knows everybody in
Europe. He told me last year—I wasn't even there at the time, I was just a young diplomat—he participated in the Munich Security Conference when it was still called Ria Conde in 1980. Believe it or not, that is exactly forty years ago. He has met all these leaders over the years and the decades, and his team, including Tony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, they're all well known. Throughout Europe there is a huge level of trust. So they are the best equipped to deal with this doubt. But it's going to be a lot of work, rebuilding trust.
SAROTTE: Yep, building on that I actually would be interested in hearing more from you, Wolfgang, about the reasons why you're having to tell people "curb your enthusiasm." I'd be interested to hear what people are saying to you since you're about the best connected person on the planet.
I do have one comment following up on what you said. I agree very much, you've put your finger on the core issue, there is this element of doubt that has come into the transatlantic relationship in a more serious, significant way, I think than previously. Now, obviously, transatlantic squabbles are nothing new. As a historian, I always have to add that caveat. But this level of distrust is, I believe, new.
Also, the level of concern about Trump was of course new. It was a very, it was in excess, I think of previous levels of worry about transatlantic commitment. And Thomas Wright has written a wonderful piece in the Atlantic, I'm sure many people have read it. And he says, and I think this is absolutely right, that one of the biggest challenges facing Biden and dealing with Europe is a need to shockproof the relationship. Shockproof the relationship. So in other words, try to ease the doubts of Europeans that somehow in four years you could have, you know, somehow a second President Trump, either himself or someone in his mould, who could create that similar sense of doubt, once again. This yo-yo effect of going backwards and forwards is very dangerous. And I think that will be an important element in transatlantic relations. And I think particularly key to that will be the relationship between your country, of Wolfgang in mind, the United States and Germany.
Germany, of course, the country, I know best. I lived there for four years. I've got the Berlin Reichstag behind me. And Germany is, of course, the fourth largest economy in the world. I don't need to tell this audience that. Major NATO ally, major EU ally. I think it's really crucial that that relationship has highest priority on Biden's Europe team. And I think that's actually one of the themes of your wonderful book, where you talk about the importance, particularly of security cooperation. For example, you talk quite a bit in the book about how a German Army has taken command of one of the four multinational NATO battalions sent to defend Poland in the Baltics. Those kinds of practical cooperations, building those out, I think, will be hugely important. But if we have two seconds, Mike, I'd be interested in hearing from Wolfgang. What, why Wolfgang needs to say curb your enthusiasm. People are wondering what they're saying to him, if you permit.
MANDELBAUM: Oh by all means. Professor Ischinger, would you like to respond? And then we will turn the floor over to the Council participants.
ISCHINGER: Of course. Well, I can agree with every word that Mary just presented. Well, one, I think one important point, it may sound to all of you, as a psychological point, but it is not an unimportant point. You know, for Europeans, it was very easy to resent policies by, developed presented by President Trump. It was very easy to resent President Trump. And therefore it was very easy to say no to President Trump. It was very easy for example, for Germans to say no when President Trump said you should pay your 2 percent of GDP for defense, et cetera.
It will be much harder for all of us, whether it's Berlin, or Paris, or other capitals in Europe, will be much harder to say no to Joe Biden. So when the Biden administration will show up in Europe, and I'm sure that's what's going to happen, and they'll say here is our expectations: we need you to come up with a fairer kind of burden sharing arrangement, you can't expect us, the United States, to carry the ball forever, fully do more, it will be much harder for us to say no. So I expect, what I expect, and what I'm telling my countrymen and my friends in Europe is let's not make the biggest mistake we could now make, which would be to sit back and wait for the Biden administration to come with a number of requests and expectations. Let us instead come up with a comprehensive European offer of transatlantic cooperation.
And I'm delighted to see that just over the last day or day and a half, we have seen at least the first outline of plans of this nature, developed by the European Union commission. I was on the phone just yesterday with President Michel, the president of the European Council. And I know that he and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the Commission, and certainly a significant growing number of leaders are trying to put a package together that would look attractive from an American point of view. Not only welcoming the return of America to the Paris Climate accord, and hopefully also to some arrangement regarding the Iran deal, but trying to demonstrate to the United States that we are actually now trying to behave like adults and no longer like a bunch of children that needs to be taken care of. That's the challenge.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Let us now open the floor for, open the virtual floor, for questions. Carrie, I turn responsibility for this over to you.
STAFF: We will take our first question from Peter Galbraith.
Q:Hi, my question is for Ambassador Ischinger. Twenty-five years ago we were at Dayton. And that, of course, was a time of American leadership. I wonder how you see the Dayton agreement twenty-five years on. What the prospects are for the Western Balkans. And what role you might see for the United States, if any, in that part of the world, under a Biden administration, remembering, of course, that Joe Biden was from 1991 through '95, very deeply engaged in Bosnia as a very senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
ISCHINGER: Am I supposed to respond right away?
MANDELBAUM: Please respond.
ISCHINGER: Yes, thank you very much, Peter. Thank you for the question. Of course we are celebrating this fall, you know, twenty-five years of the Dayton Accord. And what I would say is this: you and I were both present. They are those who were present there understand very well, that what was hammered out in '95
was what was possible to arrange between warring parties, parties that had been shooting at each other until quite recently. So that was a success because we ended a war. And that was an important success story.
What we did not do, however, in my view, was we should have actually, collectively, the United States and her European allies, we should have gone back and confronted with the parties, with the Serbs and the Croats, and the Bosniaks, three to five years later, and invite them to review the Dayton agreements and try to come up with a Dayton II, with a new and improved version. That turned out not to be possible, which is why to this day, Bosnia is not a happy country. This is why to this day, other problems in the region have not yet been overcome, including the recognition question of Kosovo, including the remaining task of opening the, you know, the European access road for the, for all the countries in the region.
We've now been working with North Macedonia and Albania. But as everybody knows, there are obstacles on the road. So there's work ahead. And Peter, I believe that the European Union, of course, needs to be in the driver's seat going forward. But we will probably not be able to do this job alone if we're not fully and strongly supported by the United States, because the fact remains that the United States is the one country that enjoys—and this is, of course, due to the activities during the Clinton administration, et cetera— the United States enjoys a vastly superior reputation in Kosovo, among the Bosniaks in other parts of the Balkans. And that is why without full support and active participation by the United States, I think we will not clinch the final deal of creating in the Western Balkans a zone of stability and cooperation with a view of integrating these countries over time, over time, in the European architecture and into the EU.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Let's go to the next question.
STAFF:We'll take our next question from Jane Harman. Please accept the unmute now button.
Q: Got it. Good morning, or good afternoon and greetings to my special friend Wolfgang. The list of participants on this call is a huge tribute to you and the other participants, no question. But it's a gigantic list of everybody who matters. And certainly you do. Here's my question. We're devoting enormous time to Europe and the U.S. and the transatlantic relationship. And I agree with you, Wolfgang that Europe needs to reform itself and grow up in addition to working on the relationship which will improve under President Biden. But should we be focused on Europe in the U.S. looking outward? Anticipating that this will probably be remembered as the Asian century, not the transatlantic or the European or the American century, and that with this increasingly multipolar world, China may be moving ahead of us and other countries in Asia may be moving toward China, and to remain relevant, we really have to look outward.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Let me invite both Ambassador Ischinger and Professor Grzymala-Busse, and Professor Sarotte to comment on European attitudes toward China and the possibilities of cooperation with the United States in Asia and toward China.
ISCHINGER: I can be very brief. Jane, I think you're right on the mark. I believe that China will turn out to be the single most important long term challenge to the transatlantic community. I believe we can handle the
Balkans more or less well. I think we know how to deal, I hope we know how to deal with Russia. But we have not yet found a sustainable manner and method to deal with Russia. We need a serious consultative framework across the Atlantic to discuss not only questions pertaining to the tasks of NATO, et cetera. But we need to focus on China. And that is something that worries not only me and many of my friends, because what we need to bring to the table, as we start a transatlantic dialogue in China is a European Union position on China. You, the Americans, you will not be happy if you have to deal on the issue of China, with twenty-seven different little countries with twenty-seven different views on China. That would be enormously frustrating. Therefore, our job is to get our act together and come to you with at least some agreed strategic ideas and then consult with you and hopefully agree on a lot of overlap and a lot of common interest.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you, Professor Grzymala-Busse.
GRZYMALA-BUSSE: I would agree with of all that. I would also add, though, that I think there are three areas in which building that common alliance might prove especially difficult, given what China's doing, right? And I think, you know, the first issue, of course, is China's economic dominance, and the fact that, you know, even imposing the kind of trade sanctions that President, or the trade limitations, that President Trump did proved very difficult and painful. Secondly, there's China's use of sharp power, as Larry Diamond calls it. Also, this deliberate use of basically going after Chinese academics, going after unfavorable press coverage, you know, what's happening in Australia, for example, trying to buy off MPs. That kind of use of sharp power is very difficult to deal with even with a united front. And I think third, there's something that sort of has happened while we're all busy looking at other things, and that is the fact that China has built very strong networks of both economic and political dependence and trade in both Latin America and in Africa. And it's not clear just how much reach either the EU whether it sits together or alone can do to counteract that.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Professor Sarotte, same question.
SAROTTE: Thank you for your question. Yes, seconding everything the previous speakers have said. Obviously, relations with China is an area where the U.S.-European relationship will be very important. Hopefully that will enable and foster cooperation because that will concentrate minds on the importance of working together. I mentioned earlier that Thomas Wright article in the Atlantic. Tom wrote that the inescapable political reality of Washington is that competition with China is the only way to persuade a Trumpian Republican Party of the benefits of international cooperation. So that will have, as you well know, having with your political background, that will have domestic political instrument use, domestic political use, as well as use in transatlantic relations, and hopefully, concentrating minds and fostering cooperation.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Next question.
STAFF: We'll take our next question from Joanna Shelton. Please accept the unmute now button.
Q: Thank you very much for this very interesting session. My question perhaps is best addressed to Dr. Grzymala-Busse, but perhaps the others as well. I'd like you please to talk a little bit more about the
stresses caused by the turn away from democracy and the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, and the risk of this trend to expand. You mentioned Bulgaria, but also we see in, in former East Germany, there are certainly strains of (inaudible), et cetera. So please talk a little bit more about that stress within Europe.
GRZYMALA-BUSSE: Sure. You know, I think after 1989, there's sort of a widespread liberal democratic consensus across most of the region. And the idea basically was the new elite would stand shoulder to shoulder around these joint projects of a shift to the market, of eventual accession to NATO, and eventual accession to the European Union. And what that led to is basically any kind of a lack of internal critique, or internal sort of criticism that was politically expressed. And in that situation, I think what we've seen is basically a wave of populace, they capitalized on this kind of lack of debate and lack of criticism. And this sort of wave of an illiberal populace has pushed it over in Hungary in 2010, then in Poland 2015. We see them in Czechia. We see them in Bulgaria, we see them Romania. They're widespread over the region. In fact, the average vote for these kinds of populist parties is over 30 percent across the former communist countries. And the problem here is that because they're members of the European Union, as they make their shift towards increasingly illiberal domestic politics, they introduce stress within the European Union as well. Their objections to any kind of rule of law, if they repeatedly object to rule of law, to any kind of international treaties, for example, on the rights of women and domestic abuse, and so on.
And currently what's happening, excuse me, is this also certainly plays a role in European politics itself. One of the reasons why Fidesz, the ruling Hungarian party, has been able to get away with so much is because it's one of the leading members of the European People's Party in the Euro parliament. And basically, you know, the leaders of the People's Party in the European Parliament have refused to castigated, have refused to basically allow any sanctioning of Hungary. And so because for fear of losing their plurality in the European Parliament. And as a result of that kind of putting party over the EU, what do we see basically, is Hungary especially, growing increasingly more illiberal and at the same time more powerful within the European Union. It has gone unsanctioned and you basically have sort of, you know, a fox within the henhouse. You have two highly liberal governments, who have no commitment to the rule of law, and in fact, are currently holding the budget, the European Union budget, hostage over those kinds of issues.
MANDELBAUM: Let me invite either or both of our other panelists to comment, either on illiberalism in Eastern Europe and or on populism in general in Euro. Ambassador Ischinger?
ISCHINGER: Okay. Well, let me put it this way. Let me talk about the general populism problem. Yes, it has grown, not only in Hungary and Poland, it has grown throughout. Even we in Germany have what is called the AFD, which is a right-wing populist party, which enjoyed you know, worrisome to most, considerable support up to in local elections up to almost 20 percent.
But here's the good news. I think in the majority of European countries, of EU member countries, the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, which we're still living through, will give a boost to those who are trying to explain to the European voter that there is no solution to these challenges if we try to solve it on a national basis. As Dr. Ted Rose from the WHO has said, we will all only be safe if once everybody is safe. And that will lead, I believe, to a growing support again for the very idea of integration, for the idea of Europe.
And let me remind those of you who have followed events in Europe, that it took the COVID-19 crisis to finally reach a point, which we reached the beginning of this last summer, where against, you know, years of opposition, finally, member states agreed that the European Union could actually enter into a debt arrangement. For many years, my own government was opposed to that and others were opposed to it. We have some have called it a Hamiltonian moment, a qualitative jump by the European Union forward into a new phase of integration. So simply what I'm trying to say is, as worrisome as these waves of populism are, there's also a little bit of good news out there and I think we will overcome.
MANDELBAUM: Professor Sarotte, would you like to comment?
SAROTTE: Just briefly, because I know many other people have questions coming. Thank you. Michael, you mentioned my forthcoming book. It's on, focuses on the fight between the U.S. and Russia over NATO expansion in the 90s. And as part of the research for that book, I read a very interesting recent article by Paul Poast and Alexandra Chinchilla. It came out in International Politics this summer and it looked at the connection between and of the one of the arguments for NATO expansion. And Poast and Chinchilla had a very interesting finding, which is that what promoted democratization was the hope of getting into NATO, not NATO membership itself. So while that carrot was being dangled out there, there was motivation to make the kind of hard changes you need to make. But that willingness decreased once countries were actually in NATO. And so that's an interesting finding that suggests that it's really the process of trying to join international organizations rather than being inside them that makes a difference. And I think we're seeing that playing out. And that's reflected in Joanna Shelton's question, why is being in these international organizations not yielding the lasting democratization we hoped for, and this Poast and Chinchilla finding, I think, might provide part of the answer.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. Let me note that we have a bit less than fifteen minutes of our session remaining. And so let me remind both questioners and panelists to make their remarks with the succinctness that they have done so far, and for which Council meetings are well known. Next question.
STAFF: We'll take our next question from James Gilmore. Please accept the unmute now button.
Q: Great, thank you very much. I had a computer problem a few minutes ago, so I'm grateful to have the chance to get back into the queue. I am the United States ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, located in Vienna. This organization meets every week with fifty-seven ambassadors of fifty-seven countries and state our positions and to negotiate. I meet regularly with, for example, our Western European friends in the quad. In fact, now I'm meeting sometimes two or three times a week with the British, the French, the Germans, and the Americans in the quad. This is an organization that allows us to negotiate with the Russians and to carry out American policy. I mean, this very day, I have already met with the Russians, the Turks, the Germans, the French, the English, and the Belarus ambassador. So—
MANDELBAUM: Ambassador, could I ask you to get to your question, please.
Q: I will. My question is, are the three people here aware of the OSCE and what it does? And the question is, what role do you believe that it plays in the security of Europe and the North Atlantic region, since we are very active in that organization?
MANDELBAUM: Ambassador Ischinger?
ISCHINGER: Well, Ambassador Gilmore, thank you very much for the question. I am certainly not the only one in Berlin who is constantly aware of the important role, and I would add of the potentially even more important role that the OSCE has played, should play, and hopefully will play.
I chaired four years ago, five years ago, I chaired on behalf of the OSCE, a so-called panel of eminent persons trying to describe ways to strengthen the European security architecture. And of course, you and I know, the weakness of the OSCE decision making process which because it is based on the consensus requirement. But I have seen with my own eyes in 2014, when I served in Ukraine as a special envoy of the chairman in office of OSCE, I've seen with my own eyes, I experienced how the chairman in office can use this particular function, if he has a little bit of luck and a little bit of enterprise, to the benefit of solutions in crisis situations. And that is exactly what happened in 2014 when the Swiss then-foreign minister, traveled to Moscow and convinced President Putin to allow the creation of this monitoring mission, which still operates in eastern Ukraine.
So I think the OSCE needs all the support we have, as I'm sure the participants in this call here are aware, my government recognizing the importance of the OSCE has offered a candidate for the important Office of Secretary General of OSCE and to my immense pleasure, Helga Schmid, who has been working with the European Union for the last ten or fifteen years, was just recently nominated and elected to this office. So we attach great importance to the OSCE and I just hope that the consensus requirement will not stand too much in the way as we're trying to go forward. People depend, I would imagine, on how you are going to manage your relationship with your Russian colleague in Vienna.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you, because our other two panelists are renowned specialists on Europe, I think I can say with confidence that they are both well aware of the OSCE and the good work it does. So let's move to the next question.
STAFF: We will take our next question from Laura Kupe. Please accept the unmute now button.
Q: Hi, good morning, everyone. Good afternoon, everybody. So my question is related to a region that I noticed is not talked about a lot in European circles, which is Africa. And sorry, and I work at on the Committee on Homeland Security. I'm in Washington, DC. And so my question for any of you since people tend to talk more about China is how could the U.S. and Europe cooperate on issues related to Africa? One big thing again is that we saw a lot of migration and continuing migration from the African continent in 2015 and onward, coming from the Mediterranean. And then also in 2050, one in four people in the world will be African. And so I wanted to see if you have any thoughts on how the U.S. and Europe could cooperate on issues related to the continent? Thank you.
MANDELBAUM: Let me offer our panelists the opportunity to answer that question in alphabetical order. And let me emphasize that each of you is free to pass. Professor Grzymala-Busse?
GRZYMALA-BUSSE: Thank you. Thank you for the wonderful question. You're absolutely right. Africa has, you know, and the developments in Africa, have largely been neglected, not just on this panel, but it's more broadly, in when we talk about European and U.S. cooperation. I would add briefly that these issues are not going to go away. I think, you know, the questions of regional stability, ensuring peace, and immigration are going to get all the more critical with climate change, and the fact that that's going to force millions of people to move from regions that will no longer be inhabitable. And that's going to hit Africa first and foremost. So I think the urgency for cooperation is higher than ever. The stakes are higher than ever. I'm not sure exactly what the best set of policies would be.
SAROTTE: Yeah, thank you for the question. As I as I said at the outset, the focus here today is on Europe. But the list of challenges facing the Biden administration is long, and includes many issues we haven't even really touched on today. We've actually barely talked about the pandemic, which will obviously be a huge issue in relations around the globe, that no country will be unaffected. And so dealing with the distribution of vaccines, how the developed world coordinates with the developing world will be hugely important. We haven't had time today to touch on things like digital regulation. We haven't talked that much about climate change. There's Biden's call for a summit of colleges facing the incoming Biden administration. There times where I'm just deeply grateful to the man, Joe Biden, for being willing to take the job. I think he's probably going to shorten his lifespan by becoming president. And obviously the issues that you guys are important to it. Just you know, there's just more issues that we can deal with in the short time we have here today.
MANDELBAUM: I think we have time. Excuse me. Yes, go ahead, Ambassador.
ISCHINGER: But just very briefly, I just wanted to add one thought to this. Africa, especially Africa south of the Sahara, will need all the help America and Europe can come up with together. The secondary effects of the pandemic are going to be devastating. Half of the countries south of the Sahara are at risk of becoming failing states if we do not come up with better ideas about how to bail them out. And for those among you who are interested in these secondary geostrategic effects of the pandemic, check the Munich Security Conference website. We just released a long and detailed report under the title Polypandemic, because we believe it's not just one medical pandemic. It is a multifaceted, major crisis, which will keep us busy for many, many years to come. Thank you.
MANDELBAUM: Thank you. We're near the witching hour. I think we have time for one more very brief question and one brief response.
STAFF: We'll take our next question from Andrew Moravcsik.
Q: Hi, glad to see so many great colleagues here. I'm wondering if we shouldn't be a little bit more optimistic. There's an incredible transatlantic convergence on priorities, and most of these are global and not European issues. Just speak to Jane Harman's question. I mean, look at what's in that commission document that Wolfgang talked about. Climate in green technology, digital revolution, global taxation,
closer cooperation among democracies globally, diffusing global trade disputes, Ukraine, Russia, renegotiating Iran, more cautious policy on China. Both sides know you can't reach total agreement on these issues but it seems like the most promising forward looking global agenda for transatlantic relations early in an administration in my lifetime.
MANDELBAUM: Does any panelist have a comment other than Amen?
ISCHINGER: Amen. Andy, as always, is right.
SAROTTE: I hope Andy is right. I hope Andy is right. As I said, I'm trying to be cautiously, hoping for the best and planning for the worst, but hopefully you're right, Andy.
MANDELBAUM: Okay, well, I think we've come to the end of our time. It's been a fascinating discussion. One might infer from something that Ambassador Ischinger said that COVID will kill populism in Europe, although I don't think that's a reason to be grateful for it even if it happens. And from something Professor Sarotte said, the way to promote democracy in Eastern Europe is to kick offending countries out of international organizations or—
SAROTTE: (laughs) Not sure I said exactly that.
MANDELBAUM: In any event, let me thank the Council, and particularly the Council staff involved in this Zoom meeting who have organized it. Let me thank the panelists for their acute comments. Let me thank all the Council members for zooming in. And let me close with the hope that we will all meet next year in person, either in the Harold Pratt house in New York, or on F Street in Washington, or both. Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.
ISCHINGER: Thank you very much.