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Javier Solana

Javier Solana

President of @ESADEgeo - Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. Distinguished Fellow at @BrookingsInst.

Articles by Javier Solana

Three Lessons from a Two-Decade Failure

15 days ago

The debacle in Afghanistan this summer confirmed what many have long suspected: that much of the West’s foreign policy since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has been a failure. The task now is to reflect on past mistakes and forge a new strategy for wielding power and influence in a multipolar world.

MADRID – Twenty years ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks shocked the world. “We are all American” became a global slogan of solidarity. Suddenly, the West’s post-Cold War invulnerability had been exposed as an illusion. Globalization, which had become the reigning paradigm and established Western economic dominance in the 1990s, turned out to have a dark side.
Learning the Right

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A Dose of Eurorealism

29 days ago

Europe must not reject complacency by embracing declinism. Rather than resigning themselves to inevitable decline, Europeans should recognize and celebrate Europe’s strengths, recognizing that its greatness consists in its being greater than the sum of its parts.

MADRID – The narrative is becoming a trope: the United States and China are locked in a battle for global supremacy in myriad fields such as technology, commerce, defense, cyberspace, and even outer space. Few pundits question the general consensus that Sino-American relations will shape the history of the twenty-first century. But analyzing today’s geopolitical scene as a byproduct of a two-horse race is utterly simplistic and antiquated.

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Latin America’s Perfect Storm

July 20, 2021

The mass protests that have recently erupted in countries as different as Colombia and Cuba attest to the severity of the crises facing Latin America. Although the region’s problems must be addressed above all by its leaders, increased international cooperation will be vital to reviving economic growth and political stability.

MADRID/MONTEVIDEO – Latin America is experiencing an especially grave set of crises. The region’s economies are stagnating. Its politics are broken. And, above all, the health of its people is in jeopardy. The mass protests that have recently erupted in multiple countries attest to the severity of the problems that the region’s leaders and the international community must now tackle.

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America’s Comeback Tour

June 21, 2021

Overall, Joe Biden’s recent European tour – his first foreign trip as US president – deserves high marks for both planning and execution. But disagreements among democratic countries will not vanish overnight, nor will the West recover its former global standing any time soon.

MADRID – US President Joe Biden’s first international tour felt like a breath of fresh air. From the G7 summit in Cornwall to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Biden carried out his duties with statesmanship and composure – a stark contrast from the mayhem and mendacity that characterized Donald Trump’s foreign visits. Biden’s trip sent a clear message: the United States is once again in good hands, which will be held

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Multilateralism or Bust

May 19, 2021

Crises such as climate change and COVID-19 require multilateral responses, and a critical mass of countries can alter the course of events, for better or worse. Despite current geopolitical tensions, leaders must not lose sight of major global threats – and of the need to find common ground.

MADRID – In early 1981, a few days before Jimmy Carter handed over the US presidency to Ronald Reagan, a short story on page 13 of The New YorkTimes mentioned a report from the Council on Environmental Quality. This body, tasked with advising the US president, sounded the alarm about the link between the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and global warming. “Efforts should be begun immediately to develop and examine

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Reviving Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran

April 19, 2021

With Iran’s radical factions increasingly emboldened and a presidential election looming in June, the window of opportunity for supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal to revive the pact appears to be closing fast. US President Joe Biden’s measured approach offers the best hope of de-escalating current tensions.

MADRID – Diplomacy has always been the only sensible way to address US-Iranian tensions. But when foreign policy rides on emotional currents and succumbs to gimmicky temptations, wise and subtle statecraft is relegated to the background.

Build Back the State


Is Stagflation Coming?


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Antifragile Europe

March 23, 2021

The European Union survived a decade of convulsions before the pandemic in the best way possible: by deepening its integration. By responding to the COVID-19 crisis in the same way, the bloc can emerge stronger, rather than merely demonstrating resilience.

MADRID – The word “resilience” has been used a dizzying number of times since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a year ago. Most interpret resilience to mean the opposite of fragility – the most that many families and businesses can hope for in these unfortunate times. But as a collective aim, resilience lacks ambition. The true antonym of fragility is something bolder, and Europe in particular can and should go further in pursuing it.

The Shape of

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Build a Coalition of Democracies from the Ground Up

February 22, 2021

If anything has become clear of late, it is that democracy is eroded little by little, almost unnoticed day to day. While grand global gestures like the one proposed by US President Joe Biden can be useful, democracy must be rebuilt little by little as well, starting locally, not internationally.

MADRID – All over the world, democracy is in retreat. In 2020, the Democracy Index, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) since 2006, fell to its lowest-ever global level. This development cannot be attributed exclusively to restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, because the ratings have been in free fall since 2015. So it is not surprising that in his first foreign policy speech as US president, Joe Biden

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Biden Can Pass His China Test

January 21, 2021

The US-China relationship is “too big to fail.” Peaceful coexistence, based on a combination of cooperation and competition, will not always be easy; but with the United States in capable hands again, both sides have what it takes to make it work.

MADRID – When the time comes to evaluate US President Joe Biden’s international legacy, one variable will be enormously significant: the relationship that his administration forges with China. Sino-American competition has become the main global geostrategic issue, but its terms are far from being irrevocably defined. Despite their obvious rivalry, the United States and China must try to understand each other, and Biden will certainly act with greater skill, responsibility,

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Putting the Twenty-First Century Back on Track

December 23, 2020

The sense of optimism with which the West rang in the new century 20 years ago has long since been replaced by the shock of terrorist attacks, financial crashes, pandemics, and other crises. But if we broaden our perspective, we will see that none of the challenges facing us is insurmountable.

MADRID – Most readers will remember the widespread enthusiasm with which we met the arrival of the twenty-first century. It was a time of high hopes, grandiloquent editorials, and unfeigned daring on the part of the West. Yet in the blink of an eye (historically speaking), the spirit of the times shifted radically – even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. For much of the world, this century has been a period of frustration and

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The Biden Formula

November 20, 2020

Just as US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to “build back better” to promote economic recovery, America also urgently needs to reinvent its international role. Doing this successfully will require an empathetic leader like Biden, who has always taken pride in his ability to navigate sensitive issues.

MADRID – There is an eternal debate about how much leadership and personality matter in international relations. But after the turbulence of the last four years, there can no longer be any doubt that a lot depends on who is at the helm, particularly in the United States. Moreover, as Harvard’s Joseph S. Nye convincingly argues – and contrary to what skeptics believe – foreign policy is not devoid of moral

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America’s Multilateralism Election

October 21, 2020

Much is at stake for both America and the world in the US presidential election on November 3. Although a Joe Biden victory would not be a panacea, it would allow the United States to renew abandoned commitments, approach its Western allies as true partners and friends, and rediscover a more rational foreign policy.

MADRID – When Donald Trump became the US Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2016, many predicted that he would tone down his inflammatory rhetoric during the election campaign against Hillary Clinton in order to attract moderate voters. After Trump was elected without having shown an iota of the hoped-for restraint, many said that the presidency and congressional Republicans would make him adopt a

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Reopening the Peace Factory

September 21, 2020

Some regard the United Nations as one of the greatest achievements of the so-called liberal international order that was conceived at the end of World War II, while others argue that the organization has never been very liberal, international, or ordered. Both positions have become clichés, but the second is closer to the truth.

MADRID – The Sperry Corporation was an American manufacturer of electronic components, information-technology equipment, and defense systems that obtained lucrative government armaments contracts after the United States entered World War II. When the firm reduced its output after the war, a large part of its production site in Lake Success, New York, fell into disuse and became available to

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An Interview with Javier Solana

August 11, 2020

This week, PS talks with Javier Solana, a former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, NATO Secretary-General, and Spanish Foreign Minister, who is now President of the EsadeGeo – Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Project Syndicate: You and Óscar Fernández recently warned against making a Sino-American cold war into a self-fulfilling prophecy, arguing that while China “will seek to shape the global landscape according to its interests,” it will “not attempt to reshape other countries in its own image,” and has few allies. Yet, as you acknowledge, China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and Hong Kong does not

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A Better Globalization

July 21, 2020

Globalization has given rise to legitimate frustrations and concerns, which can’t be assuaged simply by recalling the enormous benefits it has brought. But, rather than trying to roll back globalization, we have no choice but to try to make it work better.

MADRID – The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted much reflection on the state of globalization, its drawbacks at a time of worldwide disruption, and the supposed benefits of retreating to the national sphere. In this sense, as in many others, the current crisis has accelerated pre-existing tendencies. The global trade-to-GDP ratio – one of the main indicators of globalization – has followed a downward trend since 2012, and anti-globalist political movements have been

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Averting a Cold War of Choice

June 18, 2020

Although the COVID-19 crisis has further fueled talk of a looming Sino-American confrontation, it is not too late to salvage the situation. De-escalation is undoubtedly in every country’s long-term interest, not least that of the United States and China.

MADRID – Western societies are currently gripped by the ominous idea that we are entering a new cold war, this time between the United States and China. This narrative started coming to the fore as a result of the Sino-American trade dispute, and now the COVID-19 crisis has given it the final nudge to center stage. Better to brace ourselves, the argument goes, than naively to ignore the hegemonic clash that will define the “new normal.”

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Learning the Lessons of the Pandemic

May 21, 2020

Many fear that the pandemic invites national withdrawal, but the world’s scientists are showing us a better way forward. They are not only putting their research at everyone’s disposal, but also modeling a cooperative way of working that enables them to produce more and better output.

MADRID – Among its many other effects, the COVID-19 crisis has intensified the pre-existing geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States. This tension has led many to warn of the “Thucydides trap,” a term coined by Harvard’s Graham T. Allison to refer to the heightened risk of conflict when an emerging power threatens to displace an established one. Allison’s theory takes its name from the ancient Greek historian Thucydides’

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Our Finest Hour

March 28, 2020

Over the coming weeks, much will be at stake collectively, and for some of us also individually. Today, uncertainty about what the post-pandemic world will look like is rife, but we do know it will be built upon the words and deeds we choose now.

MADRID – As many readers may know, I am currently hospitalized in Madrid after having tested positive for COVID-19. My recovery has been slow, but the prospects are encouraging. Although remaining isolated from my loved ones has been unpleasant, it is a relief that these hardships are befalling us in the twenty-first century, with so many tools at our disposal to remain socially connected. More traditional pastimes – listening to music, reading, and, indeed, writing – have

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Relieving Libya’s Agony

February 21, 2020

The credibility of all external actors in the Libyan conflict is now at stake. The main domestic players will lower their maximalist pretensions only when their foreign supporters do the same, ending hypocrisy once and for all and making a sincere effort to find room for consensus.

MADRID – Over the last decade, Libya has become a failed state, descending from its own Arab Spring into the coldest of winters. The fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s authoritarian regime in 2011 did not lead to the social improvements that many had hoped for, but rather to misgovernment and misery. Now, the civil war that has been ravaging the country for years is in danger of becoming chronic. And the world, for the most part, has been looking away.

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Trump’s Iranian Precipice

January 13, 2020

Under President Donald Trump, the United States has no clear objectives regarding Iran, and hence no clearly defined strategy. In the Middle East, the US should have learned by now, that is a recipe for disaster.

MADRID – The new year began with yet another senseless foreign-policy decision by US President Donald Trump. The assassination of General Qassem Suleimani, who led the extraterritorial operations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, was a reckless, provocative, and shortsighted move. Suleimani no doubt had an extremely pernicious influence in the Middle East. But he also was the leader of an armed branch of the Iranian state and enjoyed obvious personal popularity in his country, no matter how much Trump pretends otherwise.

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Iraq Cries Out for Unity

December 20, 2019

Although the ongoing Shia-led protests in Iraq have not spread to regions with a Sunni majority (including Kurdish areas), many members of these communities have supported the protest clamor. Paradoxically, the power-sharing system that has fueled so much division may now be uniting Iraq’s citizens, if only in their opposition to it.

MADRID – With popular discontent erupting in numerous countries around the world, the mass demonstrations in Iraq that have triggered the fall of the country’s government have gone relatively unnoticed in the West. Although the violence perpetrated by the Iraqi security forces is estimated to have caused the deaths of around 500 people, the country’s upheavals over the last few decades have been so

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An Energy Transition with a European Touch

November 22, 2019

Whereas the United States under President Donald Trump clearly will be unable to lead the fight against climate change, Europe aims to become the first carbon-neutral continent. And at the heart of the European climate agenda is the imperative of undertaking a “fair transition” to green economic growth.

MADRID – Tackling climate change is a monumental challenge, but the leader of the foremost global power continues to wash his hands of the matter. At the beginning of November, US President Donald Trump gave official notice of America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, thus confirming a decision he had announced in 2017. The notification came as soon as the agreement allowed, and the withdrawal will become

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The Partial Triumph of 1989

October 22, 2019

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked the end not of a historical chapter, but of a paragraph. Although capitalism currently has no rival, it has proven its compatibility with illiberal forces.

MADRID – November 9, 1989, is a date my generation will never forget, and one that will forever be inscribed in human history. On that day nearly 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. The break-up of the Soviet bloc showed that communism was to become the second great ideological failure of the twentieth century, following the demise of fascism a few decades earlier. Liberal capitalism and its main exponent, the United States, reigned supreme, seemingly destined to enjoy a long, unchallenged hegemony.

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Trump’s Faltering Middle East Coalition

September 23, 2019

It is not surprising that Saudi Arabia’s international image has suffered in the 12 months since the brutal murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But nor is it surprising that, once the storm caused by Khashoggi’s murder had blown over, some familiar regional dynamics reasserted themselves.

MADRID – On October 2, it will be a year since the brutal murder in Istanbul of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In June this year, a United Nations report concluded that Saudi Arabia was responsible for his death, and that there was “credible evidence” implicating the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (widely known as MBS), in his killing at the Saudi consulate.

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Turkish Democracy Is Down, But Not Out

August 22, 2019

Relations between Turkey and the West are damaged, but not irreparably, and the same is true of Turkish democracy. Although President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to believe that his country’s geostrategic importance gives him carte blanche, the fact is that Turkey needs the West, and the West needs Turkey.

MADRID – Relations between Turkey and the West are clearly going through an extremely delicate phase. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish government is pursuing an increasingly volatile foreign policy and presiding over the continued erosion of democratic norms at home. The widening schism between Turkey and its nominal Western allies is further proof of the decay of global cooperation. And

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A New Direction for the Planet’s Sake

July 24, 2019

With humanity consuming the planet’s natural resources at an increasing rate, governments must demonstrate a much stronger collective commitment to tackling climate change. And with the significant exception of the United States, they generally seem to be getting the message.

MADRID – By July 29, according to the sustainability organization Global Footprint Network, humanity will have used up the Earth’s resource budget for the entire year. This “Earth Overshoot Day” has moved forward by an astonishing two months in the past 20 years and in 2019 it will arrive earlier than ever. Although humanity’s increasing environmental impact manifests itself in many ways, climate change has the broadest and

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The Lost Spirit of the G20

June 19, 2019

As Japan prepares to host its first G20 leaders’ summit later this month, little remains of the open and cooperative spirit that marked the first such gathering in 2008. But although the United States will most likely continue its protectionist drift, other G20 countries should use the occasion to make a clear case for free trade.

MADRID – On June 28-29, Japan will host its first G20 summit. The initial gathering of G20 leaders, back in November 2008, took place amid the turmoil that wracked global financial markets following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It produced a clear statement: “We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism and not turning inward in times of

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The Europe of Tomorrow

May 22, 2019

It is still essential to stress the EU’s role as a guarantor of peace and prosperity following World War II. But today’s EU must foster additional sources of legitimacy if it is to appeal to today’s post-postwar generation.

MADRID – Every five years, the European Union engages in an exercise of self-awareness. The European Parliament elections allow us to look at ourselves in the mirror and take stock of the passage of time. The upcoming elections, however, are special: they will be the first since the refugee crisis, the Brexit referendum, and the election of US President Donald Trump. In these tumultuous years, our gaze has been perennially focused on the mirror. After this vote, our

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No Democracy Without Peace in Israel

April 18, 2019

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Faustian pact with the far right may have clinched him a narrow victory in the latest election, but it has come at the expense of Israel’s democracy as well as its security. Those who still yearn for peace have no choice but to keep hope alive and await a generation of more enlightened leadership.

MADRID – Having secured a fifth term (and his fourth in a row) as Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu is on his way to surpassing David Ben-Gurion, the state’s founding father, as his country’s longest-serving leader. Yet Netanyahu’s Israel would hardly be recognizable to Ben-Gurion, who strived to combine the country’s Jewish character with democracy. As L.P. Hartley wrote in the

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Back to the Nuclear Precipice

March 20, 2019

Long a global leader in efforts to reduce nuclear-weapons stockpiles and limit nuclear proliferation, the United States is now fostering the conditions for a new global arms race. With hawks calling the shots in US President Donald Trump’s administration, a nuclear conflagration in one of the world’s hot spots is becoming more likely.

MADRID – Ten years ago, during his first trip to Europe as US president, Barack Obama delivered an historic speech in Prague. Much to the delight of the crowd, Obama described a world free of nuclear arms as being both desirable and within reach. That declaration was unprecedented for an American president, and would contribute to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

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