The Green Deal Will Make or Break Europe

The European Union’s new leadership has decided to invest much of its political capital in a plan to position Europe as the global leader in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. But if too many constituencies feel as though they are being sacrificed on a green alter, the plan will never even get off the ground.

BERLIN – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s  to lead a “geopolitical commission” is about to face its first big test. European heads of state are meeting to discuss her proposed European Green Deal, a sweeping project that could either unite the European Union and strengthen its position on the world stage, or generate a new intra-European political cleavage that leaves the bloc fractured and vulnerable.

The need for concerted action is clear. The Green Deal is a response to accelerating climate change, which poses an existential threat not just to Europe but to the entire planet. The problem does not observe national borders, and thus requires collective global action. But the transition to a carbon-neutral economy also offers far-reaching opportunities. With the right strategy in place, Europe can boost its own technological innovation and deploy carbon pricing and other fiscal policies to protect European labor markets from being undercut by lower-cost production in China and elsewhere.

Moreover, through the European Investment Bank, the EU already has a tool for  massive stores of capital for investments in infrastructure, research and development, and other essential areas. And, as Adam Tooze has argued, by issuing green bonds and other “safe assets,” Europe can secure greater economic independence from other powers and start to establish the euro as a global currency.

But alongside this positive vision are more dystopian scenarios in which the climate-policy debate creates geographic and socioeconomic divisions and fuels a populist backlash. Although climate change touches everyone, its effects are asymmetric, as are the costs of undertaking a transition to a carbon-neutral economy. The danger for Europeans is that the unequal distribution of the costs and opportunities will fuel a culture war between

  • east and west,
  • urban and rural, and so forth.

This European debate is an echo of a broader global challenge. Many Eastern European countries still depend heavily on coal for energy generation, and thus fear that the push for carbon neutrality is an underhanded form of protectionism by advanced economies like Germany. Poland’s energy minister, Krzysztof Tchórzewski, has dismissed as “a fantasy” the notion that Poland – which relies on coal for 80% of its electricity – could achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and estimates that the costs of such a transition would approach €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion).

But, in addition to the east-west divide, the Green Deal could also create political rifts within every EU member state. French President Emmanuel Macron has tried to position France as a global climate leader. But his government’s attempt to raise taxes on fuel last year backfired when millions of gilets jaunes (“yellow vests”) took to the streets in protest in late 2018.

The European Council on Foreign Relations has conducted in-depth polling to understand policy preferences across Europe, and we have found climate policy to be a particularly divisive issue. On the surface, around two-thirds of Europeans in most countries polled think that tackling climate change should be a priority, even if it means curtailing economic growth. But up to one in four people do not think that climate change is a real threat, and are far more worried about Islamic radicalism and the rise of nationalism.

The gilets jaunes are not an isolated phenomenon. Recent elections have shown how a program like the Green Deal could become a useful punching bag for populists and parties like the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany and Rassemblement National (National Rally, formerly the National Front) in France.

Critically, once you move from asking people whether climate change is a problem to how it should be addressed, concerns about socioeconomic fairness and the distribution of costs prove hugely divisive. Even in the European Parliament, where 62% of MEPs were elected on green-inspired platforms, only 56% agree that the EU should be pursuing a rapid transition to a low-emissions economy. Moreover, only one-third of MEPs are prepared to take tough action against companies with large carbon footprints.

Generally speaking, then, there are two possible futures for European climate policy. The Green Deal could become Europe’s chief new cause, lending momentum to European integration and strengthening the EU’s global position vis-à-vis China and the United States. Or, it could become the next “refugee crisis,” a singularly potent issue that divides Europe between east and west, and that mobilizes populist forces within countries across the bloc.

To make the first scenario more likely, EU leaders need to listen less to moralists like the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, and more to  who understand that paying off reactionary forces has long been part of the price of progress. The only way to shepherd the Green Deal to successful implementation will be to offer large fiscal transfers to the laggards, so that they, too, will have a stake in the clean-energy transition. Without European unity, there can be no effective European response to climate change.

Eric Shinseki: How Many Troops Needed in Iraq Occupation

Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the United States would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, Shinseki testified to the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services on February 25, 2003 that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of DefensePaul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.[16] From then on, Shinseki’s influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned.[17] Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of Staff because of his comments on troop levels; however, his retirement was announced nearly a year before those comments.[18]

When the insurgency took hold in postwar Iraq, Shinseki’s comments and their public rejection by the civilian leadership were often cited by those who felt the Bush administration deployed too few troops to Iraq.[19] On November 15, 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid said that Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.[19]

The Powerlessness of the Most Powerful by Javier Solana

Certain leaders’ short-term interests, often presented as “national interests,” are one of the factors roiling international relations more than any time since the end of the Cold War. But the rise of nationalist populism is less the cause than the result of rifts that have been forming for some time.

.. The center of the Western political spectrum has tended to underestimate the impact of rising inequality within countries, focusing instead on the benefits of market opening and integration, such as the unprecedentedly rapid reduction in global poverty. Understandably, however, not everyone is consoled by such outcomes.

.. It is not only goods, services, and capital that circulate through the global economy. Ideas circulate, too. So globalization, like democracy, is vulnerable to itself, because it puts at its opponents’ disposal a set of tools that they can use to sabotage it. Aware of this, the “nationalist international” driven by US President Donald Trump and his ideological fellow travelers has mobilized anxiety and alienation to launch a (somewhat paradoxical) crusade to globalize their particular anti-globalization discourse.

.. Yet globalism and patriotism are not incompatible concepts. Trump’s invocation of patriotism has no aim other than to whitewash his nationalist and nativist tendencies. Rhetorical traps of this type can catch us with our guard down, above all when the person who resorts to them is a leader who is known for serving his ideas raw. But it is evident that the Trump administration, too, worries about keeping up appearances.

.. At the UN, Trump sought to give his foreign policy a patina of coherence by calling it “principled realism.” In international relations, realism is a theory that regards states as the central actors and units of analysis, relegating international institutions and law to an ancillary status. Principles such as human rights are usually set aside, though countries may deploy them selectively to advance their interests.
.. This is precisely what Trump does when he criticizes the repression of the Iranian regime, while failing to denounce similar practices in other countries. But no self-respecting realist would exaggerate the threat posed by Iran, or allow a flurry of compliments from Kim Jong-un to cloud their vision regarding North Korea.
.. “America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination,” Trump told the UN. In theory, cooperation is not incompatible with the realist paradigm. For example, realists could conceive of the US trying to offset China’s geopolitical rise by bolstering its alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, especially with Japan and South Korea.
.. This disconcerting behavior has extended to other traditional US allies, such as the European Union, revealing that Trump is extraordinarily reluctant to cooperate. When he does, he seldom favors the alliances that most fit his country’s strategic interests.
..  It is clear that China does not always adhere to international norms, but the right response is to uphold these norms, not to bulldoze them. Unfortunately, the US is opting for the latter course in many areas, such as commercial relations.
.. In his General Assembly speech, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, did not stress the realpolitik that his country often promotes; instead, he mentioned the concept of “win-win” no less than five times. If Trump – together with the rest of the nationalist international – continues to reject this notion of mutual benefits, he will likely manage to slow down not only China’s growth, but also that of the US.

Kissinger, a longtime Putin confidant, sidles up to Trump

Back in the 1990s, Henry Kissinger, the legendary former U.S. secretary of state-turned-global consultant, encountered an intriguing young Russian and proceeded to ask him a litany of questions about his background.

“I worked in intelligence,” Vladimir Putin finally told him, according to “First Person,” a 2000 autobiography cobbled together from hours of interviews with the then-unfamiliar Russian leader. To which Kissinger replied: “All decent people got their start in intelligence. I did, too.”

 .. As Putin climbed the ranks in the Kremlin, eventually becoming the autocratic president he is today, he and Kissinger kept up a warm rapport even as the United States and Russia grew further apart. Kissinger is one of the few Americans to meet frequently with Putin, one former U.S. ambassador recently recalled — along with movie star Steven Seagal and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, the likely next secretary of state.
.. Some have expressed surprise that the urbane, cerebral former top diplomat would have any affinity for the brash, shoot-from-the-lip Trump. But seasoned Kissinger watchers say it’s vintage behavior for a foreign policy realist who has cozied up to all sorts of kings and presidents for decades. And in fact, Trump may wind up an ideal vessel for Kissinger — the architect of detente with the Soviets in the 1970s — to realize his longstanding goal of warmer ties between the two Cold War adversaries.
.. “He’s a realist. The most important thing for him is international equilibrium, and there’s no talk of human rights or democracy.”
.. the Manhattan real estate mogul is fascinated by Kissinger as well as other Republican elder statesmen, such as Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice, to whom he has turned for advice on policy and staffing.
.. The president-elect, the person said, “admires the reputation and the gravitas but isn’t necessarily persuaded by the Kissingerian worldview.”
.. “The long-term interests of both countries call for a world that transforms the contemporary turbulence and flux into a new equilibrium which is increasingly multi-polar and globalized,” he said. “Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium, not primarily as a threat to the United States.”
.. The president-elect’s pick for defense secretary is James Mattis, a retired Marine general who views Moscow as a major threat.
.. “If we’re prepared to accept what they’re doing in Syria, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine, we can have a better relationship, but we’ve sacrificed other interests and it’s not clear what we get for that.”
.. “He is a man with a great sense of connection, an inward connection, to Russian history as he sees it,”

Obama Is Not a Realist

He’s an isolationist with drones and special-operations forces.

.. “You could call me a realist in believing we can’t relieve all the world’s misery,” Obama muses to Goldberg.

.. For Obama, as Goldberg paraphrases No. 44, “the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests”; even if it were, “an American president could do little to make it a better place.”

.. A realist knows that distant threats, if ignored, can turn into direct ones. Hence, the “precautionary principle”—better to act than wait in the face of risks not fully known—that is so dear to climate warriors like Obama serves as another pillar of the realist faith.

.. Obama pulled back and invited the Russians in, never mind that Henry Kissinger had essentially kicked them out of the Middle East in the 1970s—pushing them out of Egypt, Russia’s main stronghold in the region, by bringing then-President Anwar al-Sadat into the American camp. Mr. Putin was delighted to oblige Mr. Obama, and there went 40 years of American primacy in the world’s most critical arena.

.. This is what happens when U.S.-made vacuums beckon. Now, realists don’t haveto fight every battle. The Brits did nicely as the “offshore balancer” who engineered the coalitions that laid low the hegemonist du jour, from Habsburg to Hitler.

..“Free riders aggravate me,” he tells Goldberg, betraying a grievous misunderstanding of what it means to be the world’s No. 1. A measure of free-riding is a given whenever a very strong power consorts with a bunch of weaker ones.

.. Even Israel has struck a separate deal with Mr. Putin: We’ll let you prosecute your air war against America’s anti-Assad allies, if you don’t interfere with our attacks against Hezbollah’s arms pipeline from Iran to Lebanon.

 .. Nor do you have to grow up in gangland to know that street cred in the global arena depends on a reputation for violence that will render force unnecessary.

.. “Obama believes that history has sides”—this is how Goldberg sums up the president’s faith. “America’s adversaries—and some of its putative allies—have situated themselves on the wrong one, a place where tribalism, fundamentalism, sectarianism, and militarism still flourish. What they don’t understand is that history is bending in his direction.”

.. This is not grand strategy. It is religion. Yet the central myths of Judeo-Christianity are the Pharaonic Slavery and the Crucifixion. They warn that tragedy comes before redemption.