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In this issue

 

The long road to peace

Transatlantic coordination: Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington D.C. on Feb. 9 to discuss the Ukraine conflict.

In today’s networked multipolar world the West still seeks the right strategy

By Jean-Marie Guéhenno

February 9, 2015

Three long-term trends are redefining conflict and security: the redistribution of power, the world’s increasing physical and informational connectivity, and the resulting decline of the state as the centerpiece of the international system. The first moves us away from the post-Cold War world. The last two have more radical implications: they challenge the role of states and intergovernmental organizations as the building blocks of global order.

All three will shape the conflicts of 2015, and all three present immediate challenges to Western powers. International co-operation has never been as important, but today’s conflicts demand an engagement that is both more modest and more imaginative than in the past. This is not an easy combination.

The redistribution of power has been abundantly documented, but its implications are not yet clear. The United States is less overwhelmingly dominant, except in its military capacity, but it is also less willing to use the force it has. In most crises, in any event, the utility of its force is doubtful. Europe moves frustratingly slowly and has failed to become a strategic actor (though one should not discount its raw potential to become one).

Read more: The long road to peace

 

Cold War? Cold peace? War?

US Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on. The US and Berlin differ on whether to provide military aid to Kiev.

The Munich Security Conference exposed the differences between Russia and the West – and between Berlin and Washington

By Theo Sommer

February 9, 2015

This is one of the moments when history is uneasily balancing between a conflict still localized, although murderous, and a larger, much more ominous clash,” was Le Monde’s comment on the current state of affairs in Ukraine. Things could move in two different directions, the lead writer of France’s most respected paper penned: toward some kind of arrangement, however unsatisfactory, that would at least put paid to the spiral of violence – or to a war in the heart of the European continent, between Russia and the West, with the Ukrainians wedged in between.

It was in this historic moment that the 51st Munich Security Conference convened in the Bavarian capital. As it happened, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande were negotiating with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, trying to deescalate the crisis, when the MSC chairman, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, opened the meeting – by now the world’s most important conference on foreign and security policy, attended by dozens of heads of state, chiefs of government, ministers, media leaders and experts from around the globe.

Ischinger reminded the participants that 2014 had been a catastrophic year. War returned to Europe after Russia, breaking a slew of international treaties, annexed Crimea and started supporting the separatists in Eastern Ukraine with arms, tanks and soldiers.

Read more: Cold War? Cold peace? War?

   

A world out of joint

The world begins the year 2015 in a terrible state. The euro crisis is causing hardship, above all for poorer Europeans. Many fear the conflict in Eastern Ukraine could escalate into World War III. Religious fanatics live and kill even in the heart of Europe. It is not enough for them to be able to practice their faith in a liberal, democratic society – they want to force their inhuman, totalitarian ideology on that society. And the fact that populist parties across Europe and in Germany are using the crimes of a small number of extremists to boost their own cause is both shameful and alarming.

Yet we must also look beyond Europe: Ruthless extremists are wreaking havoc all over the globe. In a great arc east and south of the Mediterranean, from Syria to Libya and on to Nigeria, jihadists are seeking to extinguish the light of freedom. Taliban terrorists are poised to expand into other central Asian countries following the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. The news from nuclear-obsessed North Korea are not good. Are Washington and Teheran truly seeking a compromise in the talks over Iran’s nuclear program? Is there any hope at all for a peaceful resolution of the 60-year conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors? And what new offensive weapons are being developed in cyberspace?

War and other violence have forced more than 50 million people from their homes; 17 million of them have had to leave their home countries. That means millions of ruined lives – to say nothing of the millions of lives cut short.

The world has become a less secure, more dangerous place. Solutions are needed, and quickly. Speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab called 2015 a “year of destiny for mankind.” Two weeks later, Munich Security Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger called together heads of state, chiefs of government, ministers and the finest minds from the political think tanks to seek ways to counter the global upheaval.

Confronted with a world that is out of joint, in which war and violence threaten us all, this issue of The Atlantic Times has decided to concentrate on the international conflicts convulsing the globe. For this reason, the Business and Life sections have been omitted. They will be back in our next issue.