Session Descriptions 2018
- A Conversation: Reboot Transatlantic Trust on Tech
- Rebuild Transatlantic Trust
- The State Strikes Back: Revisiting Sovereignty?
- Revisiting Identity: What is Home in a Globalized World?
- Brussels Forum Breakfast: Bursting the Information Bubbles? Fairness, Fact-Checking, and Fortifying Public Trust in Press
- Rebuild Trust in Trade
- Fight for Economic Equality
- Synchronize Technological Revolutions
- Securing Democracies Presentation
- A Conversation: Refugee (in)Crisis
- Oxford-Style Debate: “Humanitarian Intervention Does More Harm Than Good”
- Prioritize Transatlantic Defense
- Transatlantic Strategies Toward Russia
- The New Wealth of Nations: How AI Shakes the Balance of Power
- Dealing with Iran
- Brussels Forum Breakfast: Understanding America
- Revive the Euro-Atlantic Integration Process
- Neutralize the North Korea Threat
- Out of Order: Revisit Global Power Constellations
Despite the divisions between the United States and Europe on issues like privacy and the degree of regulation appropriate for the technology industry, transatlantic leadership and cooperation is essential if democracy, global cooperation, and open markets are to survive through this new technological age. Nonetheless, a gap between the United States and Europe on how our societies should relate to technological progress remains. The European Union and several major member states pursue what some have described as a “society first, innovation second” strategy, relying on varying degrees of government regulation to address concerns around privacy and citizen rights, the inequality caused by rapid change, and shifting societal power structures, sometimes even intentionally slowing down technological progress in an effort to preserve societal goods. The United States, meanwhile, has prioritized creating the conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship, limiting regulation and federal interventions in its technology industry. This divergence presents a challenge in a world in which national borders are eroding and a lack of transatlantic trust could undermine attempts of both sides to shape global policy, leaving an absence of important joint leadership.
Action: Develop a shared transatlantic vision for global leadership on technology policy.
Transatlantic relations have always turned on the question of trust. Bonds of geopolitical and economic interest, values, and affinity have been essential to the partnership between North America and Europe. But these bonds are not immutable. Algeria, Suez, the Vietnam War, Ostpolitik, the Euro-missile crisis, and the Iraq War all strained transatlantic trust, as have economic frictions and anxiety about the evolution of social models. Relations across the Atlantic have never operated in an atmosphere of unqualified trust, but we have understood and managed our differences.
Transatlantic trust is once again in the balance. European leaders and publics are troubled by the style and substance of U.S. policy. Populists on both sides of the Atlantic express deep distrust of elites and their projects, from international institutions to trade agreements, from alliances to multilateral diplomacy. Within societies there is widespread distrust of politicians, policymakers, experts, and the media. Today, the question of transatlantic trust is complicated by even more fundamental worries about governance, security, prosperity, and sovereignty.
Action: Find a credible path to build trust between states, businesses, civil society, and individuals on both sides of the Atlantic.
With the breakdown of international communism in the 1990s, it was widely assumed that the West had finally triumphed. Many thought liberal ideas and principles, such as free trade, open borders, multilateralism, and shared sovereignty would take a natural course and spread around the globe. Some even believed that the forces of globalization would render the nation-state obsolete, and that we would need to find new forms of government to cope with this post-national future. It was these ideas that transformed the European community into the European Union in 1992.
Today, we are witnessing a nationalist backlash against these ideas. These “sovereignist” forces are returning to question the benefits of globalization, free trade and of “ever closer” integration. They seek to reverse the trends of globalization, and a return to a world of powerful nation states, focused on national identity and intergovernmental cooperation. In Britain they have succeeded in severing EU membership and in the United States they have helped carry Donald Trump to the presidency. Have voters around the world grown more nationalistic, or have they never espoused the same liberal ideals as their elites and governments? If the “ever closer union” has been relegated to the past, are nationalist state-centric alternative models viable? Could they be the Europe of the future? What are the consequences for global governance and the future of international organizations?
The forces of globalization, driven by the dizzying speed of technological development, increased mobility of people, and growing economic inequality, are leading to the breakdown of traditional senses of community and identity. Just as marginalized and multi-ethnic identities are growing in volume and becoming increasingly visible, so too are the number of people feeling uneasy with the rapid change of their communities, feeling a sense of estrangement and losing their home. For some, this means finding comfort in increasingly exclusionary, anti-pluralist and nativist narratives.
The lost sense of belonging is leading to real divisions in society, making it even harder to find common solutions to our most pressing challenges. Populist leaders are responding by offering seemingly simple solutions and fictions of a once homogeneous past, often by railing against migration, curbing civil liberties while promising to restore a sense of home and order.
The daily news does not stop when we put down the newspaper or a primetime anchor signs off. Thanks to an explosion in technology, news comes at us from every angle. Though it is now easier than ever to access a seemingly unlimited number of information sources, algorithms polarize information intake and social media has, unintentionally, emboldened clickbait, fake news, and filter bubbles to shape an information reality that aligns and informs an individual’s preexisting views.
Though some point the finger to the individual consumer, they are not the only culprits creating this echo chamber. News outlets are spinning content to cater specifically to their audience, which disregards the canons of journalism and leads to users sharing skewed information with their online community. Through the actions of both the individual and news outlets, the cycle of disinformation and distrust continues, causing doubt between society, the government, and the media during times of substantial polarization.
Many citizens in the United States and Europe no longer accept that trade builds prosperity while bringing nations closer together. Too many people, especially in the manufacturing sector, have lost their jobs to imports as developing economies in Asia and Latin America have gained in competitiveness, and too much of this dislocation has been permanent despite the economists’ argument that trade would create new jobs to replace those lost. The ensuing economic and social disruptions have had domestic and geo-strategic political consequences both in and between the United States and Europe.
Some argue that citizens do not adequately understand the dynamics of trade and that supporters need to do a better job of explaining its benefits. Others argue that we need to make free trade fairer by more aggressively enforcing existing rules or adopting a “values-based” approach that uses trade agreements to encourage developing countries to undertake more labor and environmental protections. Yet others argue that we may need a whole new approach, one that accepts that trade has downsides, and that we need to protect our markets more to mitigate the harms of globalization.
Action: Help our citizens and societies adapt as trade and globalization affect them.
On the surface, the U.S. and European economies seem to be thriving, finally on the road to recovery after the 2008 financial crisis. In the United States, the economy continues to expand, wages for the middle class are slowly regaining ground lost during the recession, and unemployment continues to fall. The European picture varies more, but the European economy has entered its fifth year of recovery, which is now reaching all EU member states. While unemployment remains high in many countries, there are signs of a slow downward trend.
With apparent growth in the EU and the United States, why then so much social unrest and discontent? Scratch the surface: a different picture emerges. Parallel to growth, wages at the bottom end of the income distribution have stagnated, job vulnerability in Europe has risen dramatically, and the benefits of economic growth have gone to a privileged core. This acute inequality is causing deep distrust in governing institutions transatlantically and societal rifts. So how do we revise, rebuild and reboot an economic framework that promotes growth and tackles inequality? How can diversity within communities be considered an economic asset rather than a liability? How can the government, private sector and civil society work better together?
Action: Create the policies that will ensure inclusive and equitable economies
Revolutions in digitalization and electrification are forcing industries into new roles. As renewable energy sources have ballooned, households can now produce their own energy and share it with neighbors and communities. Energy companies no longer simply produce and sell power; instead, they are becoming more like tech companies in their efforts that help their customers manage their energy flows. Equally, tech companies are entering the energy sector by building smart meters, innovating in energy efficiency, and launching energy apps of their own. The third element in these inter-linked transformations is electric vehicles. Homeowners can plug their cars into their homes, charge them using their solar panels, and use the cars as batteries when the sun is not shining.
These technological revolutions are accelerating innovation, but they can be jarring to customers and to industries alike. In addition, these innovations bring up crucial policy questions, such as how to balance potential emissions reduction gains with other priorities such as data privacy and cybersecurity. Citizens, policymakers, and industry need greater understanding of each other and these emerging trends to address the challenges and harness the benefits of innovation.
Action: Illustrate how innovation entails trade-offs and draw red lines on what protections must remain in place for consumers.
Europeans have long been on the frontlines of Russia’s assault on Western democratic institutions, and Russia’s actions during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign served as a wakeup call that the United States is not immune to this activity. The Russian government is continuing to learn lessons from its interference efforts, which have continued into the French and German elections in 2017 and are ongoing as Mexico and Columbia prepare for elections this spring. Given Russia’s high-profile meddling in these elections, much of the conversation is focused there. Russia’s efforts to undermine democracy are far broader than just influencing electoral outcomes. Russia employs an integrated toolkit of cyber, disinformation, support for political and social groups, malign finance, and economic influence in order to exacerbate social divisions and sow chaos to weaken the very foundations of our democracies.
Policymakers and stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic need a better understanding of Russia’s continued actions to undermine our democratic institutions, in particular looking across the full toolkit it employs. During this interactive session, the Alliance for Securing Democracy will showcase analytic products that use open source information and technology to further expose Russia’s methods, which will help policymakers, civil society, and the media to defend our democracies against this malign activity.
A Conversation: Refugee (in)Crisis
A record number of over 65 million people are currently forcibly displaced worldwide, of which over 22 million are officially recognized refugees outside of their home country. Growing conflicts and political crisis, along with new drivers of displacements such as climate change, means this number is likely to grow. And yet, as the refugee crises of 2015 showed, the current international system is ill equipped to deal with the challenge.
People seeking protection beyond their own borders, are increasingly stuck in protracted or situations while seeking increasingly dangerous routes. Developing regions in the world still host 84 percent of all refugees, while states have not agreed on a common response or distribution mechanism. Anti-migrant and refugee sentiments in many societies have made this goal even harder to reach.
Action: Find the policies that respect the rights and needs of refugees while maintaining the stability of societies that host them.
The international community currently faces a global refugee crisis and mass atrocities in Iraq, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, and beyond. How should the West respond?
Proponents of humanitarian intervention — the use of force to halt human rights abuses — argue that the world’s most powerful militaries have a responsibility to protect innocent civilians around the world. Beyond saving lives, they argue, intervention deters would-be abusers and ensures global stability, thereby strengthening the liberal world order. But opponents argue that military intervention is thinly veiled Western imperialism, and subsequently, an assault on state sovereignty. And, it is ineffective: the West, with its military might, increases the death toll and worsens the conflicts it sets out to solve. Further, given recent waves of populism in the United States, France, and U.K., they suggest that Western nations should spend their time looking inward rather than policing activity around the world. This debate is presented in partnership with Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates (IQ2US), broadcast live from Brussels, Belgium.
Over recent years, partners and allies have doubled down on transatlantic security, particularly on European defense. A renewal in political will has led to increased spending and capabilities development, as well as new deployments. Yet, while ambitions have increased, the longevity of the present moment is uncertain. Moreover, specifics on the overall strategic direction and subsequent priorities can differ, and can potentially work at cross-purposes. While NATO has been bolstering its core competency of collective defense, the EU has been simultaneously revisiting conversations regarding European defense. These combined efforts could significantly boost transatlantic security. However, to create maximum impact, allies and partners must think holistically and act intentionally. Moreover, transatlantic actors must be creative in both conventional and unconventional spaces. If the current political will is sustained, what are the next steps to forwarding transatlantic security? How will new capabilities be developed? How do partners and allies further create internal resilience and project deterrence? What are the key anticipated threats facing the transatlantic space during the next five, ten, and fifteen years and how do allies and partners confront these challenges? By beginning to answer these questions, partners and allies can begin to effectively confront the full-spectrum of 21st century security challenges.
Action: Cement a common vision among transatlantic allies and partners regarding priorities and defense investment efforts, and overcome potential obstacles to cohesion in the future.
Russia’s aggressions in Ukraine were swiftly met with transatlantic resolve, as allies and partners on both sides of the Atlantic quickly implemented a sanctions policy to punish Moscow. Over the course of two successive summits, NATO retooled its approach to the East, increasing its readiness and deterrence posture. More recently, the EU relaunched conversations and initiatives aimed at a more concerted European approach to defense. These developments have all been part of a broader change in the transatlantic approach toward and perception of Moscow. For Russia, the rhetoric has remained constant, decrying “the West” – particularly the United States — as aggressor on the global stage, while pushing half-truths about its actions in Syria and Ukraine and engaging in cross-domain meddling in the politics of various European and American countries.
While some anticipated a change in the approach toward Russia with the election of Donald Trump, the United States has doubled down — increasing defense funding for European partners and providing lethal military assistance to Ukraine. With Vladimir Putin expected to keep hold of the presidency of the Russian Federation, no changes in Russia’s policy are anticipated. These realities leave little reason to believe that transatlantic dynamic with Russia will alter in the near future. Rather, it seems that confrontation and dysfunction will largely define Russia’s relations with Europe and the United States for some time.
Artificial intelligence is entering the arena of grand geopolitics, with countries worried about who will achieve the big breakthroughs first, and technology influencing job markets, companies’ productivity, international trade, and military doctrine. Last year, Vladimir Putin said that the nation that leads on artificial intelligence “will be the ruler of the world.” China is investing in AI at the highest levels, saying that it wants to become the world’s “primary AI innovation center” by 2030. Meanwhile, the United States and Europe have mostly left AI to the private sector, although some political focus has been placed on its effects on the job market. Whether state-sponsored or private sector-driven, advancements in AI help countries make their companies more competitive, attract a skilled labor force, improve global market access, and eventually, to increase their power in foreign policy.
China is at a major advantage when it comes to artificial intelligence. It boasts leading AI firms, which benefit from unparalleled public investment, a singular political focus and vision, and a laissez-faire approach to the use of data. While Russia is certainly behind China and the United States when it comes to AI research, its disinformation efforts in the United States and Europe are a demonstration that technological superiority is not strictly necessary in the achievement of geopolitical goals. The U.S. has tended to conduct AI research with an eye to either commercial or military applications rather than a political, economic, or geopolitical vision. The EU, meanwhile, has focused on societal goods, with strict regulations around the use of data in particular limiting the extent to which Europe can advance AI research. In this interconnected world, AI has turned cyberspace into the new battleground, where countries and companies struggle to defend their economic and geopolitical advantages against cyber-attacks, theft and espionage.
Little more than two years after the agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear program, mounting uncertainty and distrust increase the likelihood that the historic deal will collapse. Despite European efforts to ensure that all parties involved respect its terms, shifting power dynamics within both the Islamic Republic and the United States test the solidity of the deal. The day may not be far when one or the other will pull out. When that day comes, what happens next?
The challenge extends beyond the nuclear issue. Given Iran’s role in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, its contribution to the continued chaos in Syria, the stark reaction its ambitions in its neighborhood have triggered from historical rival Saudi Arabia, and concerns over its ballistic program, policy toward Iran has an outsize regional influence. The existence of the deal may be the best tool to ensure dialogue around these challenges continues. Iran finds itself once again at the crossroads of major-power dynamics in global affairs.
The election of Donald Trump shocked many around the world. One year into his presidency, the uncertainty continues. While many Republicans continue to support the president, his presidency is the most polarizing in decades. More than ever, America is focused on internal debates at the expense of international challenges.
Some may look to the coming midterms or 2020 for potential change, but there are signs that the political forces that led to Trump are not solely the domain of the political right. What are the trends in American society that made Trumpism a successful political force? Will these forces outlast President Trump and potentially reshape the Democratic Party? What are the long-term implications for U.S. foreign policy and the transatlantic relationship?
Doubt is growing that the United States and the European Union will open the doors to Ukraine and Georgia for full Euro-Atlantic integration. The EU integration process has stalled, NATO membership is essentially off the table for Georgia and Ukraine for the present. Although Brussels reinvigorated the pre-Accession process for Western Balkans countries in February 2018, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova do not have a realistic path towards EU membership for the foreseeable future. Stalled Euro-Atlantic integration for Ukraine and Georgia, despite overwhelming support by Ukrainians and Georgians, is eerily reminiscent of the unsatisfying EU process experienced by most Western Balkans countries over the past 15 years. After waiting for a green light, Western Balkans countries experienced their own membership-track fatigue with no clear path forward. As a result, lapses in rule of law, media independence, anti-corruption, and democracy building efforts became more prevalent across the region. Could we experience déjà vu in Ukraine and Georgia?
While the commitment of the EU, United States, and NATO is essential to joining the Euro-Atlantic club, membership is a two-way street. Many argue that Ukraine and Georgia are not fulfilling their obligations. Although significant progress on reform has been made in Ukraine and Georgia, critics argue that Kyiv in particular has not done enough to combat corruption, and old interests that have held back Ukraine are re-emerging in the governing and business elite. Other factors have the potential to weaken Ukraine and Georgia’s case for membership, including political, economic, and security challenges from Brexit, democratic backsliding, Russian meddling, and the rise of populist and nationalist voices. Some also question whether a distracted United States, which has played a critical role in Euro-Atlantic integration, lacks a coherent security, diplomatic, and development strategy to support further integration and address Russian interference. Ultimately, some of the same conditions that blocked NATO membership action plans for Georgia and Ukraine ten years ago remain — so what can be done to bring Kyiv and Tbilisi closer to the United States and Europe?
Action: Generate momentum for Euro-Atlantic integration amongst all stakeholders.
North Korea has made significant progress with its nuclear and missile programs. The United States and virtually all of its European allies are within striking range. The regime of Kim Jong-Un seems relentless in its efforts to deter potential foreign aggressors.
President Trump has declared that he will solve a problem that previous U.S. presidents have kicked to their successors. U.S. policy discussions about a potential pre-emptive military strike have never been so serious. The international community continues to increase sanctions, but compliance remains incomplete. Can the crisis be resolved short of all-out war?
Action: Find the policies that will bring security to the Korean peninsula.
In a globalized world defined by uncertainty, alliances and power constellations are shifting. With the rise of new global forces over the past two decades, the relative power of the transatlantic partners has declined. President Trump’s “America First” policy is the most visible manifestation of increased American skepticism toward global trade and international commitments such as the Paris climate agreement. China seeks to seize the opening to take a dominant role on the world stage, shaping the world according to its preferences, and regional powers are increasingly seeking greater spheres of influence.
Alliances and partnerships are not solely formed between nation-states anymore. Non-state actors, subnational entities, international organizations, and corporations play an increasingly influential role. Global companies provide crucial services and resources to transatlantic partners and the wider world alike. The energy industry is one example in which connections across regions are growing stronger, often in spite of geopolitical struggles. These shifts are leading to the emergence of different global alliances where previously unlike allies find common ground.
Action: Find potential in new alliances and power shifts to advance the transatlantic values of democracy, rule of law, and human rights.