McCain Institute forum looks at the future of NATO

June 14, 2022

In the three months since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian forces have profoundly altered the European security order and ushered in what is effectively a 21st century Iron Curtain over the continent. Defense officials from Estonia and Bulgaria joined the McCain Institute this month to discuss how today’s pressing economic, social and security challenges elevate the importance of the NATO alliance and the need for its member states to collectively respond to the common threat of a more aggressive Russia.

“The conversation couldn't come at a more relevant time,” said Pedro Pizano, McCain Institute program manager and moderator, in opening the recent forum for the Democracy and Human Rights Programs. “NATO must now reconsider both its strategic confrontation with the Kremlin, and how it would oppose the alliance's promise of collective security.” Portrait of McCain Institute Program Manager Pedro Pizano. Pedro Pizano Download Full Image

Panelists Tiina Uudeberg, the Undersecretary for Defense Planning for the Estonian Ministry of Defense, and Yordan Bozhilov, the Deputy Minister of Defense for the Republic of Bulgaria, explained the renewed urgency around the question of how NATO member states can maintain a unified transatlantic response to Russian aggression.

For Estonia, Uudeberg said the recent invasion has reinforced the persistent fear among Estonians, and that Sen. John McCain had warned about for years of the threat of Russian aggression. After Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the two main priorities for the country were security and economic progress, which ultimately led to Estonia joining the alliance in 2004. However, the country’s threat assessment has remained the same ever since, as they are well aware of Russia’s military capabilities.

The Baltic states remain directly exposed to potential military threat from Russia, Uudeberg said. She also warned of the current window of opportunity for Russia to launch a preemptive attack given proximity of its troops to Estonia and other Eastern European nations.

“As the threat is so existential, our history and the ongoing war in Ukraine have proven that once again that the existence of a solid and national defense capability is extremely important,” she said. “So, this is clearly a part of collective defense model. Everyone must play their part in making collective defense work. And so, NATO will continue to be the strongest, most successful defense alliance in the world.”

The war in Ukraine has transformed the political climate in Bulgaria as well, accelerating a shift in perceptions of Bulgarians toward Russia and NATO, Bozhilov said. Historically, he said, Bulgarians have had a pretty positive perception of Russia, primarily due to successful propaganda and misinformation campaigns.

“The majority of Bulgarian’s population was against NATO membership,” he said in explaining Bulgaria’s yearslong effort to ultimately join NATO in 2004. “In many ways, the decision to join NATO was a result of, I would say, brave political decisions.”

Today, “Russian aggression in Ukraine is a kind of an awakening symbol, not just in Bulgaria, of what the regime of Putin’s is in reality.”

Both Bozhilov and Uudeberg discussed the increasingly positive perception of NATO among young people in their countries. Pizano shared McCain Institute survey findings of young people across 15 NATO countries before and after the invasion of Ukraine that confirm that changing view.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, “some of them felt that NATO was aggressive or that it was partisan,” Pizano said. “There was all this misinformation about NATO, and it took the war in Ukraine for people to understand.”

With the war in Ukraine raging, those same youths have greater appreciation for NATO’s role in protecting their countries from attack. In his previous work as president of a think tank, Bozhilov worked with Bulgarian youth to explain the importance of NATO.

“It was rather inspiring because Bulgarian youth … perceive themselves as European and they have this European identity,” he said.

Russia’s sophisticated misinformation campaigns continue to sway public opinion, however, and require ongoing intervention to ensure people in Eastern Europe understand Putin’s ambitions in the region, the panelists said.

“Russia will use all methods, all measures, to wage a hybrid war against us,” Bozhilov said. “This will include propaganda … this will include cyber attacks. So the main issue is how to resist and how to strengthen our resilience.”

Helping people understand NATO’s role in the region’s security and preservation of values are key to continuing public support, Uudeberg said.

“Once you understand NATO’s … ultimate goal is not to make war but to make peace possible,” she said. “NATO is the bearer of the values that hopefully matter to us all: freedom, democracy, human rights. It’s not so much about tanks, fighter aircrafts or military vessels. It’s about the world we want to live in.”

The McCain Institute at Arizona State University hosted the fourth open discussion on the future of NATO, funded in part by the U.S. NATO mission. Through programs that address security, economic opportunity, freedom and human dignity, the institute convenes thought leaders to discuss solutions, build capacity among local leaders and create advocacy to propel our values forward.

Reining in the tech industry: Antitrust, regulation or both?

DC panel discusses issues in 'Big Tech'

June 14, 2022

What happens when Big Tech becomes too big? And how do regulators ensure that competition is fair and that consumers are protected in an industry that remakes the world overnight?

The world’s largest technology companies have become too big, with too much power and influence in the economy, according to critics, without much scrutiny or oversight. Now, leaders in the U.S. are playing catch up — with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice set to decide which of the tech major players are practicing balanced business competition. View looking up at high-rise buildings. Photo courtesy Pixabay

In a recent panel discussion hosted by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at the ASU Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki and ASU Law alumnus and antitrust pioneer Joe Sims joined ASU Law Professor of Practice David Gelfand to discuss regulation and antitrust issues in the tech industry.

Former Attorney General Barr focused a chapter of his recent book, “One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General,” on antitrust. He described Big Tech as posing three interrelated problems. The first issue is about the sheer economic power that many large companies have in a particular market, which is a typical antitrust concern of market power economics. The second problem is the exploitation of personal data. The third problem is arguably the most complicated, as it is related to the structure of the tech industry.

“The third problem is the nature of the marketplace itself, which is not just for good, or bad. This is the marketplace of ideas,” Barr said. “This is the village green where we exchange information. But I was struck, by my time in government, by the consensus that has emerged in our government over the fact that this is a serious problem.”

But Barr believes that regulators ought to tread lightly in dealing with tech.

“I think antitrust is a general tool that can be deployed in any and all industries,” he said. “But I think if we start tinkering with it to address some of the unique problems we face in the tech industry, we could end up doing more mischief than any good.”

One of the many challenges facing regulators is making sure that correcting for past inaction does not strangle future innovation.

“The question seems to be, how do we make sure that as we think about enforcement, or regulation, or some combination of the two, that we don't interfere with the next generation of innovations that are going to bring all those next great things to consumers?” Gelfand said.

Mekki, who leads DOJ’s antitrust division, said that laws must be flexible enough to account for changing market conditions.

“It is true that the law is sometimes slow to catch up to business. What is interesting about the antitrust laws is that they are remarkably flexible. After liability existences, if any of the current cases actually get to the liability binding, there'll be a remedy days after that, which I think has the potential to be tremendously forward, especially on the subject of structural fixes,” Mekki said.

Sims, a nationally renowned antitrust lawyer and former partner at Jones Day, a leading law firm, agreed, though cautioned that the speed of change in tech is faster than for any industry in the past.

“I think that the real issue is the speed of change. And the speed of change in the internet world is much faster than it was in the industrial market,” Sims said. “We need to have a serious, detailed discussion based on the facts of analysis. Before we can come up with what hopefully could be reasonable, legal or regulatory solutions to some of the problems that people see.”

The discussion was part of ASU Law’s newly established Antitrust Law Program, created in February and led by Gelfand. The Antitrust Law Program will increase thoughtful debate and create opportunities for the antitrust bar to learn about and debate legislative and regulatory proposals, and will provide students educational opportunities in an area that is in high demand from potential government and private employers.