Defense One Radio, Ep. 84: Biden, Europe and the future of transatlantic security

Three experts unpack the opportunities and challenges ahead for Europe and the U.S. in 2021.

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This episode we’re going to take a look at some of the most important issues shaping the future of U.S.-European security, including NATO, the EU, fringe politics, lessons from the Cold War, and evolving perceptions of both China and the U.S.

Guests include:

  • Dr. Alina Polyakova, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis;
  • Elisabeth Braw, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
  • And former NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

A transcript of this episode is below.

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This week I called up a former Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder. He’s now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and we’ll be hearing from him throughout the episode.

We spoke to him about this time last year in an episode all about “How Americans view the U.S. role in the world.” Today it’s a little bit flipped.

Watson: And so Ambassador Daalder, welcome back to Defense One Radio.

 Daalder: I'm really glad to be back.

Watson: So there was a little bit of new polling out today, I was looking over before we started talking, and we're speaking on June 10. And this polling was from the Pew Research Center. And it said the U.S. favorability is up significantly under President Biden, compared, of course, to his predecessor, Donald Trump. So what's kind of interesting to me is that improvements of about 25 percentage points were found in France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, you know, in this context, for this episode, we're sort of looking into, you know, Biden's declaration in February to the Munich Security Conference said, "America is back." Right? The White House has announced today that it's buying and giving away 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to nations in need. How hard do you think it will be for Biden to keep up the America is back messaging through the rest of the year?

Daalder: Well, he has to do what he's starting to do. Today in Europe, he has to not only say that the United States is back, meaning re engaging with the world. But he also has to say what that means. And he has to do things. Leadership is not something that you can claim. Leadership involves people following you. I've often said that when you think about leadership, it isn't about who's in the driver's seat. It's who's in the backseat. And we often forget that in order to get stuff done, it isn't enough for the United States to do it, or to tell people how to do it. It's for others to do it with us. And so the opportunity about being back is to be that hour that is able to generate agreement among other countries to get stuff done to use a technical term. And here, I think the question, for example, on the vaccines is great. And I think it's an extremely important move for the United States to announce that it's buying Pfizer and Biotech vaccines, 500 million of them, we need 11 billion up. So the question is, who else is going to provide some? So that's what “America is back” means to me. It's very important to say, [and] to signal that there is a change; but that change, that needs to lead to real action. And that action is not only what the U.S. does, but how others are going to be part of solving common problems.

For this episode, I also called up Dr. Alina Polyakova. 

Polyakova: Hello?

She’s president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. 

Polyakova: Can you hear me? 

I first spoke to her for our episode about influence operations, which was before the pandemic, and feels almost like a lifetime ago. 

This time I asked Alina — beyond this first trip abroad for President Biden, what sort of changes for Europe is she most curious about over the next several months. 

Polyakova: Look, I think the big change on the U.S.-Europe relationship has been the laser focus on rebuilding the U.S.-German relationship, this administration has invested a huge amount into what has become a very fractured relationship — or the last administration, you know. Germany has really become a bit of a punching bag for former President Trump. And on more than one occasion. And this administration has made it very clear that they are putting a lot of their eggs into [the] ‘Germany’ basket, if you will; they're really looking to Germany, to take more of a leadership role in Europe, to really be a country that is a key U.S. ally once again. I mean, it was never not a U.S. ally. But in terms of our diplomatic relations, our issues around trade, trying to resolve all of those issues much more assertively and hand-in-glove with the current German government and the future German government — and because Germany has elections coming up in September. I think, to me, that's been the biggest change. Of course, the cost of that has been less of a focus where the last administration focused in Europe, which was [on] a lot of relationships with central Eastern European countries. You know, we remember the visit by the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban a very controversial figure in in Europe and around the world to say the least, the visit by the Polish president President Duda; and then following that, of course, more and more economic and defense relationships there, including the famous announcement of Fort Trump — so that those relationships have seem to kind of fallen a little bit, I won’t say to almost to the complete bottom of the agenda; but certainly they don’t seem to be the top priority from what we’ve seen so far.

Watson: Okay, so it is a new administration here in the United States... 

I also called up Elisabeth Braw this week. She’s a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. And she was a guest on our sixth episode almost exactly three years ago.

Watson: ...There's a different attitude towards America's European allies with this new president. So I'm wondering, um, we're talking on Wednesday, June 9, President Joe Biden just flew out of D.C. today headed for Europe. I'm wondering, What are you watching for out of this trip?

Braw: I'm watching for no disasters, because as we know, where Trump's trip trips to Europe, and he visited the UK, in official capacity, it's three times so two official visits to the UK, and one NATO Summit, and it all ended in acrimony. So as long as Biden manages to avoid that, then then we'll be fine. And I think he will manage to avoid that because the bar is pretty low.

Polyakova: I think one thing is clear. 

That’s Alina again, of course. 

Polyakova: We're not going to get the kinds of surprises that we got out of the Trump administration from these NATO Summits. So you know, we're probably going to get a return to the U.S. president reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Article Five, and it’s going to be very diplomatic and quite cordial, which is good. That's a good thing. That's how meetings between allies should take place. I do think there's a lot to be said, and perhaps not at the summit necessarily, but going forward — thinking about where NATO finds itself today. And I think the interesting part about the reflection process, and NATO undertook ahead of its, you know, 2030 vision, has identified some really new areas for NATO to invest, and also gonna find some serious gaps. You know, I think one of the critical areas but also a gap for NATO is the so-called emerging disruptive technology piece. How does NATO help coordinate allied member states, so that we have greater interoperability. We're already seeing a lot of gaps and interoperability when it comes to defense technologies. The U.S. tends to get ahead of the other allies — we have a lot more money. We have more research and development. And we're already getting into a zone where in some key areas, we're going to find ourselves out of sync with our allies. And so thinking through how, what role does NATO serve in being this coordinating unit coordinating function? And I think that's critically important because, of course, NATO has also started to think and has to think about China. And that's new for NATO. You know that China really hasn't been an issue for NATO for obvious reasons. It wasn't founded to be a defense alliance, postured vis-à-vis China. But I think there's still a lot of questions as to what NATO's role can and should be vis-à-vis China's growing might both military and especially in the tech sector, when it comes to defense capabilities, and how we can better prepare as an alliance for the competition that's already here. You know, we don't wait till 2030 to realize that the two great superpowers in technology, including defense, are the United States and China. And Europe, which of course makes up by number anyways, most of the NATO allies, finds itself in a bit of a digital backwater, if you will. You know, Europe is now leading on research and development when it comes to new technologies. And I think it’s a big question to put in front of NATO allied member states as to what and where can each member state actually contribute to ensure the alliance, you know, doesn't become obsolete. As President Trump once quipped, it's not obsolete yet, but certainly in the tech sector, that is something that the alliance has realized and needs to really focus in on it and do it very, very quickly.

Speaking of the alliance, NATO, which I’m so used to saying is a 28-member alliance, but it’s grown to 30 now, NATO officials have an interesting reason to be concerned. Back to my conversation with Elisabeth Braw. 

Watson: This was something that I didn't know but I learned just today: that Turkey is the only country more Europeans see as an “adversary” than a “necessary partner” — more than even Russia and China. That's according to new polling out this week from the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Braw: Yeah, so Turkey has always been almost the odd man out within the it was always a country that didn't really fit quite as well as the other countries. But then, obviously, there is a way of expelling members, member states from NATO. And it was, at any rate, there was always a consensus among the other member states [that] it's better to have to talk as a member of the alliance and then teaming up with countries we don't want to team up with. But this is concerning when people see Turkey as a bigger threat than Russia or China. Of course, that may be a result not of accurate analysis of of the threats, but more of what happened the day before the polls or so. We should take such polls with a grain of salt. But it is concerning...But we should also remember that Turkey has been a valuable ally and hosts U.S. nuclear weapons, for example. Then there is the other thing, which I think might be what Europeans are concerned about, is whether Turkey will stick to the deal that the Europeans struck with it during the refugee crisis, where Turkey hosts a lot of refugees in exchange for European money. And well Erdogan every now and then hints that if Europeans are mean to him, he may— 

Watson:Weaponizing’ refugees.

Braw: Exactly he may not honor that deal anymore. And then Europe would have a huge problem. And the problem that concerns every single one of us simply because this very large number of refugees would have to find a home within the European Union. So that may be also a little bit why the Europeans polled in this survey, we're concerned with everyone.

Daalder: Yeah, Turkey is standing in its own way, in many ways.

Ivo Daalder.

Daalder: It's trying to still find its way [under] Erdogan, who came to power [what] was it 16-17 years ago now. It's full of promise of a democratic revival; revive the economy, set out to have strong positive relationships with not only the United States, but with the European Union; open up the possibility of joining the European Union as a member, and in the last few years; and maybe even the last decade, really has turned the other way: become much less democratic, much more — let me put it this way, assertive in its own foreign policy, particularly within its own region. It has aligned itself with Islamist forces in Egypt and Libya, alongside Qatar, to some extent; even in Syria, and other places, and is and is pursuing a foreign policy that it isn't clear as even serving Turkish interests, but it clearly isn't serving in interests of the United States and its European allies. And so this, this confrontation on policy, is added to a, a strong differences on the question of democracy, where everyone has taken a number of steps back from what one would hope for a liberal democracy. And so this confronts NATO, it confronts the European Union and it confronts the United States with a conundrum: Turkey isn't going to go away. It is where it is, it is a major, major player both in the eastern Med, throughout the Middle East, in the Caucasus, even in North Africa. And so finding a way to balance the various values that we have, our various interests that we have, in having a relationship with Turkey, is tricky, and it's only becoming more tricky. It's why it is so important, in fact, for Biden to have this meeting with everyone. Because dialogue and diplomatic engagement, and paying attention are important, not just with people who with whom you agree, but particularly with those with whom you disagree. As I said, Turkey isn't going to go away; finding a way to manage the relationship as best one can — it is both necessary, and probably the best we can hope for.

A lot of attention is turning to Germany this year, as Alina suggested earlier.

And Germany is, of course, as always, an interesting place in many ways; but to me what makes it notable is how its Chancellor Angela Merkel led an effort to take in one million refugees — mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — inside Germany back in 2015. And she led this seemingly benevolent effort, famously saying to her countrymen, “We can do this!

Well six years later, there is a “noisy fringe” of German politics that’s ascended not unlike far-right factions in Britain, France and of course, the United States. 

And like Americans last year, Germans are going to head to the polls this year — a year when the far-right Alternative for Germany (or, AfD party) had up until the last few weeks risen to a neck-and-neck position with the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. More recently, however, their support seems to have plateaued. 

Daalder: Well, of course, Germany is the single most important country in Europe.

Ivo Daalder again. 

Daalder: And where Germany goes, most in most cases, Europe goes as well. And then when Germany doesn't act, most of Europe doesn't act either. So the future of where Germany goes is important. After 16 years, Angela Merkel will be leaving office. Merkel has been a dominant and domineering figure in Europe; her style has been extraordinary and capacity to bring not only your country together, but many times the Europeans and her departure will leave a void, will leave a vacuum. And the question is, how's it going to be filled? We have elections in September in Germany. There is a clear standoff now between the continuation of the center-right, leading the government to the CDU and CSU versus the emergence of a new, important political force in German politics. And that's not the far-right, it's the greens. The Greens are a party that at times is polling beyond the center-right, is led by a charismatic, young female leader who is in many ways more internationalist than even Merkel has been — certainly stronger on the question of how to stand up against Russia and China on issues like human rights, democracy and freedom. And so where Germany is heading, is it heading back to the same old coalition government we've seen many times before, whether it's between the center-right and the center-left? Or are the Greens going to come to power for only the second time in history. And the first time, of course, back in the early 1990s was as a junior partner. They might in fact be the senior partner in the future. And so we have to look at that.

Braw: ...So in a sense, it's the opposite from what people expect, again, expected. 

Elisabeth Braw again. 

Braw: And that's good news, because it means the center holds under duress. We all worry about these more populist elements. But then, as is the case of this state of Saxony Anhalt, the Prime Minister from the Christian Democrats, he had made it one of his focus points to say, ‘No, we are not going to go with the AfD. We are the center.’ And lo and behold, the center held. So I think that's something that is worth bearing in mind, not just for the German parliamentary elections, national parliamentary elections later this year, but for the rest of the world...

Daalder: The other issue that I think one needs to look at is where is the future of democracy in Europe going and not only in Europe, it's also true in our own country, where there are increasing questions among our own publics about the viability and the success of democracy. Where as Biden said, too many people are questioning whether democracy can still deliver in the 21st century as they did in the 20th century. That is, I think the overarching theme of Biden's foreign policy. It’s the overarching theme that will unite the democratic partners as they confront the autocratic partners; not in a Cold War setting, but in a setting about how one delivers the best results, economically, sick insecurity forums, politically, socially, even culturally, for the people [unintelligible].

There was another thing I found interesting inside of that data from the European Council on Foreign Relations: When asked what people think the European Union should be, a third of respondents said it should be a beacon of democracy and human rights. That was number one on the list. 

Number two: Becoming “one of the world’s great powers, capable of defending itself.” 

Braw: Yeah, the U.S. role in the world, it has, there has always been the ambition for the European Union. And its predecessors, including the European community to play a significant role in the world of we should remember. And I think it's it's a fallacy to speak of Europe as an entity, and people do it all the time. There's a huge of Europe should do this. Europe should do that. Well, Europe is a continent, and even the European Union with 27 member states, that's 27 capitals that have to agree within their governments on what that position would be. And then that has to be agreed. Among those 27 governments. It's amazing every time the EU reaches any sort of decision on anything. Whereas it's so easy to sit on the sidelines and say, ‘Well, Europe! Why isn't Europe stepping up?’ And I think, for anybody who has served in government, it's — again — it is an achievement when the European Union (which represents some European countries, not all) manages to even find a common language on anything.

And as for the EU becoming “one of the world’s great powers, capable of defending itself”...  

Braw: So the question of a European army or a European Armed Forces has come up ever since the 50s. And there has been this fervent wish for that to be a European military, and has never come to fruition. And I remember speaking to a group of German students about months ago, and I said, ‘It's not going to happen, because who will join this European army with this unclear mandate?’ It was interesting because these German students say, ‘Well, I will join because I feel strongly about the European Union. And I think that that's much better to have a European army than to have a German Army...French army, and so forth.’ But it dawned on me that Germans might want to join because they feel so strongly about the European Union; but nobody else would join if a European army were to be led by Germany, because Germany is still such a major threat internationally — or I should say militarily. And so I think that's, that's where it always ends, who is going to serve in this European army? Who is going to decide when it deploys? And we've seen it with the battle groups, which is a European Union initiative. There are battle groups; they are multinational, but they've never been deployed, because the congress can never agree on where to deploy them. So if that doesn't work, how are we going to have a standing army? It's just such a fervent and, and wonderful wish. And yes, so, so impractical.

So what about the more contemporary security threat to a fair percentage of Europeans? Russia, which takes up the latter portion of Biden’s trip to Europe. 

Here’s Alina again. 

Polyakova: What's most interesting is that, you know, in terms of what's changed under this administration so far, on Russia policy, you know, not that much. The rhetoric has changed. Certainly, you know, we don't have a president at any point now that we expect him to say very nice things about Putin, then he buddies with him. And President Biden is very clear eyed about a lot of improvement. But the reality is that Russia, as a form of strategic posture, seeks to be strategically unreliable and strategically disruptive and destabilizing. And so the question is, how do you seek to repair their relationship with a country that has been doing all kinds of things to put us off on the agenda in incredibly unproductive ways ahead of the summit? And those seem to have an interest in staying low, that may be the thing that they want, [or that] you may want to do, because they might want to get something out of the summit between the President Biden [and] President Putin. But so far, since President Biden has been elected, we've actually seen more and more aggressive posturing and behavior from Russia when it comes to how the Kremlin is managing the repression of its own domestic opposition at home, to what it's doing in the military build-up [and] intimidation of Ukraine. And, of course, the many cyber attacks that have happened against the United States that critical infrastructure by criminals that are Russian [and that] the Russian state has been harboring.

Braw: So I think one of the most useful lessons from Cold War history—

Elisabeth Braw once more.

Braw: —is the doubletrack strategy that needs to be decided on in the late 70s, when the Soviets had put nuclear weapons in East Germany and NATO said to its to itself, what are we going to do about that, and so they put nuclear weapons in West Germany, just across the border from from the Soviet nuclear weapons, but they also as part of this doubletrack strategy engaged in dialogue with the Soviet Union. And it seems so, so eminently reasonable that you should signal spraying and willing to negotiate at the same time, but I think often that's forgotten, and especially more recently, it has been forgotten. The the public debate has been focused only on how can we punish Russia? How can we punish Russia? But there has to be some sort of incentive for Russia to engage with the West. Otherwise dealing with the Russians, the circles around Putin will engage in even more paranoia than is the case today. So I think that that doubletrack strategy is a useful lesson and something we can do again. And I think that in fact, this is what Biden is pursuing. He has made it clear without any doubt that he will take a firm stance on Russia, including a cyber attack emanating from Russia that may not be sponsored by the Russian government but is clearly tolerated by the Russian government. But he has also made it clear as we see with this summit now that he is willing to discuss [it] with Putin. And that is an important step in itself. Because many people had argued that he shouldn't even meet with Putin. Well, how can you? How can you reach any sort of level of cooperation if you don't have discussions face to face? So I think, a very useful strategy and I think one that was done in America in better stead that the rather improvised fashion in which Trump dealt with Russia.

Watson: Sure, yeah; and just showing up in the room will kind of change the whole dynamic — a kind of belief in your own personality.

Braw: If I can interrupt you, but it's, I think, really important to remember the power of personalities — the power that the role that personalities have played in politics, international relations since time immemorial. We will have to go back to the chemistry between Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik; or the really unhappy relations between De Gaulle and Churchill during World War Two. It's just a matter of life that some people get along, some don't get along. And if you can get the chemistry right, you can solve lots of problems.

There’s one country that’s been working pretty darn hard over the last several years to improve its chemistry with the rest of the world.

McKenzie: “...President Xi telling Communist Party leaders he wants China to make friends extensively and to expand its circle of friends…”

That country, of course, is China. 

McKenzie: “...why are they doing it now? Because ‘Wolf Warrior diplomacy’ arguably is not working very well. You’ve had the likes of the European Union, the Philippines as well, who up until 12 months ago looked like they wanted to pursue closer ties with Beijing. That now doesn’t seem to be on the agenda either...”

That was the voice of Bloomberg’s Tom McKenzie reporting last week. And according to the latest polling, only 12 percent of Europeans see China as an adversary. Meanwhile in America, 45 percent of those recently surveyed say China is the greatest threat to the U.S., according to researchers at Gallup; that was double the year prior. Pew reported similar findings in March of this year as well.

Braw: Yeah, so I think what's happening or not just I think what's happening is that there is an enormous shift in attitudes among people all over the world, in democratic countries all over the world, regarding China, and they saw it in the Pew Research Center poll, in towards the end of last year, there was a phenomenal shift, just between last year and the summer of 2019. So just one year, and the distrust of China had skyrocketed during that time, in countries all over the world, from Sweden to Australia. And during this year, or during the past 12 months, what we have seen is China, as you mentioned, engaging in really hostile communication with the rest of the world. And what that has resulted in, I think, is people saying, ‘Well, hang on a second. First: You're you're not transparent with us about COVID, which is why we developed this trust regarding your actions last year; and now you're insulting us, you're bullying us. Why would we support our country's being in any way conciliatory towards your country? It makes no sense.’ And so I think that the result would be that Western governments will feel more at ease in taking a tough stance on China because they know they have the voters behind them. And in China, the voters may not matter that much. But as we all know, in the West, that voters matter a great deal. So I think there will be this increasing courage among Western governments to stand up for themselves and for the liberal world order.

Polyakova: And we don't have to go back very far to remember that Europe, for the most part — certainly, the EU institutions — really saw China as an economic partner, as a country whose economic investments were benign, or were only driven by economic interests. And I think now, that perspective has really shifted across most of Europe. I mean, it's still not, I would say, in full convergence. But certainly you will not find as many European leaders today saying some of the similar things than say, let's say, you know, five years ago. Chinese investment in critical infrastructure — in particular, you know, ports, 5G infrastructure — are now scrutinized much more closely. On several occasions, Chinese investments have been blocked on things like nuclear power plants, for example, something we don't talk about a lot. But it's absolutely critical as we're thinking about energy sustainability. And of course, green issues are top of the agenda for the United States and for Europe and the bilateral summit that's coming up.

As I read over different surveys and reports for this episode, one theme rose to the top more than any other: how people around the world today feel about the future of democracy. You’ve already heard some sort of related concerns above. After all, a representative and accountable government is something fairly special that the U.S. has for several years now shared with most other governments “across the pond.” 

But according to researchers at Pew, who polled thousands of people who are not from the U.S., just 17% of people around the world think the U.S. is a good example of democracy. 

And at least half of those polled in France, Portugal, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden — they all think the American political system is broken. 

But looking beyond, or maybe it’s before the politics — what’s the stuff that really matters to people?

Daalder: I think the core issue— 

Here’s Ivo Daalder again. 

Daalder: —is the question of whether the countries that make up the transatlantic alliance still have the democratic legitimacy to govern and to deliver economically for their people. I think the core issue for the United States is whether our democracy will not only hold but rather, it will be strengthened. And we are having a big debate about voting. We're having a big debate about what elections mean. We have a large part of a single party believing that the last election was not just illegitimate, but that it was stolen from what they believe was the rightful winner. You have similar kinds of doubts about whether democracy is still able to do and provide for the people in the best possible way. And I think this is an issue that is going to be with us. I think the pandemic exposed deep inequities deep problems in our own societies in the U.S. on the issues of race, in other countries on race and religion, that will test the capacity of governments who for the past 75-80 years, have worked together and demonstrated that they were able to provide better for their people through a combination of liberal, democratic and open, capitalist system — whether they will continue to do so in the future. And I think that question is with us inevitably, this year, and we can't get away from it. It's what the competition with China is about. It's what Russia is trying to accomplish, which is to undermine people's faith in democracy. And they're succeeding to a significant extent. And unless and until the major Democratic Party's countries in North America, Europe and Asia find a viable way to demonstrate to their own people that democracy and an open, capitalist system can still provide for them in a way that is fair, equitable, just and successful — until they can do that, the challenge will be: Is the system still going to be able to to survive in the longer term? That's what I worry about most.

Polyakova: I mean, certainly, we've seen many polls showing that in general, democracy, belief in democracy by the general public as a good thing as a good form of governance, has been on the decline, especially in some younger generations, across some of the most democratic societies in the world—

That’s Alina one last time.

Polyakova: And I think there have been some pretty profound reasons for that. I mean, one: just the decline in trust and government's ability to take care of their citizens. We see this across the board in Europe and the United States, certainly in the United States. And, of course, the kind of polarization you mentioned, having to do with the rise of parties on the extremes. And, you know, we talk a lot now about the rise of extremist far right politics in the United States and Europe as well. But there's also such a thing as extreme as far-left politics. And I think what we've seen over the last years, and I say this as someone who actually wrote my doctoral work back in the day, European far-right politics, at a time when very few people cared and just said, you know, ‘These are just little parties and little movements that all societies have, and they're going to go away and disappear, because they only care about immigration issues.’ Well, obviously, we've seen these political parties and movements in Europe, quite resilient, and now have a quite consistent appetite among voters. And we're seeing something very similar in the United States. So I think the U.S. is very much was done in the U.S. And on the far right, has been a reflection of what's been happening in Europe. We just saw it in Europe much more clearly, because of the kind of party systems, multi-party systems we have there. So I think that what this says to me about the future of democracy is that, you know, younger people, especially who are often the ones among whom we surprisingly, see kind of less of a commitment. I don't know about the whole of humanity. And I haven't seen it, but that's something we've seen other polls, throughout the years, don't know what their ancestors and their forefathers and mothers died for. You know, it's not that long ago that we had a second world war in the fight against fascism. In Europe, it's not that long ago that authoritarianism rule, all of you know, Eastern Europe and, and beyond. And we still have in China, an increasingly oppressive, authoritarian state and in Russia now as well under Vladimir Putin. So I think most Westerners and against speaking as someone who was born in the former Soviet Union and experienced some of that, at a young age, you know, most Westerners don't know what the alternative looks like. So it's very easy to say, you know, I think military rule could be just as good as democratic rule because at least we get things done faster. Well, most people I would think, having lived in an authoritarian state, and trust me when I say that they don't want to, but I think we're losing now is this connection to what 1989 was all about. The fight for democracy in Europe; why that was such a pivotal moment. And those people who were there on the front lines who were either on the streets in Poland, or who were in government, working to ensure the democracy was the system of governments that prevailed in these countries, you know, that generation is on its way out. That's really the baby boomer generation. And you know, young people today are losing that connection. So I really think a lot of this has to do with not really knowing what you're taking for granted. I know it's a bit of a long-winded answer [that] doesn't really get to your deep question. I do think we're in a really pivotal moment, where we're seeing our own populations and, you know, Western democratic societies find democracy less appealing. And I think it's that, to me, is more dangerous than the rise of China, or the continued problems we have with Russia? Because if we don't have commitment, and to values and principles in our societies, you know, how can we expect to be able to at least influence other countries in that direction? We can't.