Jon Huntsman President 2012


Europe today is experiencing its most significant and existential challenge since the Second World War.


Europe, NATO, Russia and Central Asia

Europe today is experiencing its most significant and existential challenge since the Second World War:  the European sovereign debt crisis.  This crisis is profoundly changing vital European and transatlantic institutions, such as the European Union and NATO, and perhaps more disturbingly, European politics, as we witness the rise of populist, nationalist, xenophobic and extremist parties across Europe.

Europe’s chronic debt crisis has caused paralysis in its financial system. For many years, financial institutions were encouraged by European regulators to hold huge amounts of European government debt as if they poised zero to little risk.  Based on these flawed assumptions, the prolonging of the sovereign debt and banking crises in Europe has fueled a slow-motion economic collapse with important implications for the American and global economy and banking system.  This is THE story for the transatlantic relationship’s future … and the Obama Administration has been largely absent from the discussion despite rhetoric that Europe forms the cornerstone of American global engagement.

With little resolution of the crisis in sight and in anticipation of years of anemic economic and debt hangover, America’s closest ally, friend and partner will be unable to support U.S. foreign and security policies in Afghanistan, or the Middle East or Africa.  U.S. policy must anticipate this eventuality.  

Jon Huntsman Priorities:

Strengthening the Transatlantic Partnership:  The United States must remain committed to its traditional alliances, most notable among them the transatlantic partnership with Western Europe. In the rapidly changing security environment, the mutual security and prosperity of both sides depends on the strength and resolve of the relationship.

Spur Economic Growth: Global leadership depends on improving the economic trajectories of both sides. As each other’s largest trade and investment partners, the economies are inextricably linked to one another’s economic and fiscal policies. Together both sides should look to ignite courageous economic growth agendas (e.g. reduce non-tariff barriers, increase regulatory convergence etc…). Another credit tightening would squeeze small businesses in Europe and America.

Sovereign Debt Crisis: European economies will not improve until credibility and confidence is restored in the financial sector. Encourage Europe to develop a plausible solution to preserve the Euro. The half-measures enacted over the last 18 months are insufficient to stave off the crisis. It is no longer a question of whether but when Greece will default on its government debt.

Global Security: Continue joint efforts to confront Islamic terrorism and destroy al-Qaeda; seek more effective ways to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Never has there been a time when NATO has been so globally active and engaged:  Afghanistan (ISAF), Libya (Operation Unified Protector), anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia (Operation Atlanta), Kosovo (KFOR), and the Iraq training mission.  Our ability to deploy and fight with our European Allies is a vital national interest. 

Yet never has there been a time when the Alliance has been so out-of-balance with the U.S. providing approximately 75% of the defense resources and capabilities, while the remaining 28 allies provide the remaining 25% (of which 3 allies: the UK, France and Germany represent the majority of that 25% and all three countries are reducing their defense spending). 

President Obama is also squandering decades of strong American leadership in this important Alliance.  He alienated nearly every Central European ally by bungling his realignment of longstanding U.S. efforts to build a transatlantic missile defense system. And in Libya, in an unprecedented act, the President imposed caveats on the use of U.S. forces.  It complicates the mission, and the U.S. has consistently condemned this practice until President Obama’s action. Now this practice has been given harmful legitimacy.

NATO operations in Libya showed both the promise of NATO – an Alliance that could swiftly take action in the wake of a UN Security Council resolution with positive affect – and its political and military hollowing over the past decade. The Alliance quickly ran out of precision-guided munitions (PGMs), aircraft and was unable to sustain military operations without the U.S.  Many European allies did not support the operation.

Jon Huntsman Priorities:

Rebalance NATO: The May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago (the first time a NATO Summit will be held outside of Washington in the U.S.) will be a critical moment to return balance to the NATO military relationship.  NATO’s global agenda should be reduced with a return to core collective defense competencies and NATO’s role as the most important transatlantic consultative forum should be renewed and deepened.  Let’s put the political back into the political-military alliance.

Afghanistan Drawdown: NATO and the U.S. must ensure a responsible drawdown from Afghanistan and show unity of effort.

Never Choose Leading from Behind:The President’s decision to commit U.S. forces in NATO’s operation against Qaddafi was a mistake – but equally troublesome was how he committed those forces. His decision “to lead from behind” contradicts every principle associated with leadership.  Leading from behind is an arrogant dismissal of our Allies’ efforts.  This unfortunate phrase not only communicated ambivalent commitment to Libya’s rebels, it reinforced European fears that America no longer sees Europe as central to our vital interests. 

The Obama Administration’s Russia Reset policy is a bad approach because it rests on a foundation of falsehoods.  It’s a Potemkin policy. Working with Russia to develop a more cooperative relationship is needed, but we should not make that relationship one that mirrors a Potemkin village in which we pretend the Kremlin is more of a partner than it is, more of a democracy than it is, more respectful of human rights than it is, and less threatening to its neighbors than it is.  When we do that, as President Obama has done, we are undercutting those in Russia who see a democratic future for their country. We communicate tolerance for its hegemonic policies including toward Georgia (which it still occupies) and Ukraine.  We undercut our criticism of despots elsewhere in the world.

We can nonetheless find productive ways to work with Russia if we view the relationship with more objective eyes.  A global agenda for the U.S.-Russian relationship can be successful because we can focus on issues that leverage Russian power: arms control, Iran (UNSC) and America’s need in Afghanistan. 

The December 2011 Russian parliamentarian elections and the March 2012 presidential elections will be a pivotal moment.  Russia stands at an economic and political crossroads: stagnation (and potential fragmentation) or modernization.  In some ways the choice of Putin or Medvedev matters less; the choice of Russia’s future orientation is the most critical.

Jon Huntsman Priorities:

Rule of law and democracy – a values-based agenda: The progress with Russia on the post-Soviet space (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus) and rule of law and democracy have been non-existent. Our Allies in Central Europe remain concerned about Russia’s future and what impact it will have on their security.   It’s time to rebalance the agenda and repurpose the relationship toward a values-based agenda.

Missile defense: The European missile defense architecture (the Phased Adaptive Approach) will remain the thorn in the side of the U.S.-Russian relationship and the NATO-Russian relationship leading into both the Russian elections and the upcoming NATO Summit.  This could potentially be used as an electoral issue with the potential that Russia may signal its intent to either suspend the new START Treaty or place Iskander ballistic missiles in strategic locations (e.g., Kaliningrad).  The U.S. must be prepared for this worst-case scenario and back our Central European partners (Romania, Poland) who continue to support U.S. missile defense policy. 

Reset the reset policy:  Do not skirt the realities of this complex and important relationship through a Potemkin Reset, but rather through a policy that directly addresses the hard realities of the Kremlin’s policies toward its own peoples, its neighbors and our interests.

Central Asia
The five Central Asian states are seeking policy alternatives to heavy-handed Russian energy and political tactics and preparing for the influx of both Islamic militants and opium in the Fergana Valley when U.S. forces depart Afghanistan.  Turkmenistan has found an energy alternative in China; Kazakhstan has benefitted from the Caspian Pipeline Consortium and western investment.  However, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have found few alternatives to Russian political and military influence as these countries are rocked by political instability (to lesser extent in Uzbekistan which is a dictatorship).

Many neighboring countries are behaving as though there is a return of the “great game” between competing outside powers such as China, Russia and the United States.  But if there is a competition underway, we are not fully engaged.  Our policy has become myopic and only concerns Afghanistan.  We have much more to bring to the table, and we in return can benefit from more robust relations with this region given smart investment.  

Jon Huntsman Priorities:

Rebalance the emphasis on security: U.S. engagement in Central Asia must be rebalanced from a complete focus on maintaining access to resupply American and NATO forces in Afghanistan (Manas AFB, Northern Distribution Network) to a more broad-based engagement that encourages policy alternatives politically and economically, while increasing counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and energy-security support in post-2014 Afghanistan.
Human rights: The U.S. needs to be consistent with its human rights policy and not have double standards like in Kyrgyzstan.  To secure access to Manas AFB, the Obama administration has been very light on the Bakiyev regime’s human rights record.


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