The Coming Atlantic Century

PRINCETON – The United States is rising; Europe is stabilizing; and both are moving closer together. That was the principal message earlier this month at the annual Munich Security Conference (MSC), a high-powered gathering of defense ministers, foreign ministers, senior military officials, parliamentarians, journalists, and national-security experts of every variety.

The participants come primarily from Europe and the US; indeed, when the conference began in 1963, it was focused entirely on NATO members. This year, however, senior government officials from Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Singapore, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia also joined, an important sign of the times.

John McCain, the US senator and 2008 presidential candidate, always leads a large congressional delegation to Munich. The US administration also typically sends the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State to deliver a ritual speech reassuring the Europeans of the strength of the transatlantic alliance. This year, Vice President Joe Biden did the honors, bumping the US representation up a notch.

The conference also featured a panel on an unusual subject – “The American Oil and Gas Bonanza: The Changing Geopolitics of Energy.” US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual described “the US internal energy revolution”: a 25% increase in natural-gas production, which should push down US gas prices, and enough oil output to reduce oil imports from 60% to 40% of consumption, with an additional 10% increase projected.