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Students honored for ‘Transatlantic’ thinking

With so much of the nation’s foreign policy focused on its relationships with China and the Middle East, it can be easy to overlook some of the United States’ strongest and most enduring allies in Europe.

“With fresh questions on U.S.-Europe relations, the environment, the economy, and so much more, now is as good a time as any to focus on our important intellectual relationship,” said Natalie Bormann, an associate academic specialist in Northeastern’s political science department. Bormann oversaw Northeastern’s participation in the Think Transatlantic initiative, a 3-year-old program led by the German government and doctoral candidate Hans Eljmberts.

The program, in which Northeastern participated for the first time this year, offers a series of academic events aimed at fostering new thinking about the role of American-European relationships in foreign and military policy. Several Northeastern political science students presented papers at the German consulate in Boston earlier this month; two students—doctoral candidate Ian McManus and senior Michael Trudeau—were awarded cash prizes and invited to present their work at the German embassy in Washington D.C., next year.

Trudeau—a Navy veteran and president of the Student Veterans Organization who is pursuing his undergraduate degree through the federal government’s Yellow Ribbon Program—wrote a paper titled “NATO’s role in the world today” in which he examined how the organization must evolve to respond to today’s pressing global problems.

In the paper, Trudeau supported the notion of “smart defense,” in which each nation contributes to global military and diplomatic operations based on its strengths.  “Because it still has the mindset of being a deterrent to Soviet aggression, the organization needs to retool itself,” he explained.

He gave an example of the strategy he would use to revamp NATO, noting that France produces quality jets and Germany manufactures state-of-the-art tanks. “NATO can use each nation’s military advantage to conduct operations, meaning countries no longer need to suffer debts and deficits to have the strongest military possible,” he said. “If everybody is spending money on everything, it’s a huge waste of money and resources.”

“Smart defense” supports the notion that this era’s military conflicts will not be great wars between nations, but interventions by the global community to resolve humanitarian wrongs or intervene against aggressive nations, Trudeau said.

In a paper titled “The development of a coordinated transatlantic strategy for global defense,” McManus explained how the U.S. and the European Union can work together to support new democracies, which have been steadily increasing in number for the last three decades and spiked during the recent Arab Spring.

“The EU and the U.S. can formulate a new foreign policy based on mutual goals and new enforcement methods using economic and political incentives to promote reform,” McManus said.

Many nations are already using a carrot-and-stick approach when it comes to advancing their development agendas, but McManus argued that a concerted effort on the part of the international community to work together would be a far more effective approach. “These efforts are a lot stronger if they are backed by coherent and comprehensive policies,” he said.

Northeastern and Brandeis University were the two Boston-area schools that participated in the Think Transatlantic program, which engages about 35 colleges and universities across the U.S. Including Trudeau and McManus, three undergraduate and two graduate students submitted papers for the program, all of which have been published online through University Library’s IRis archive.