The European Union views its three biggest threats as Russia, terrorism and perceived hostility from the Trump Administration, according to former Ambassador Tom Niles, who served in several posts during a 36-year foreign service career representing the U.S. in Canada, the European Union and Greece.
Appearing recently at the Speaker Series sponsored by the New Canaan Democratic Town Committee, Niles also said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is not obsolete, but he agreed the European members need to increase their support to meet the 2% of GDP for their share of the defense efforts. Russia’s strategy, he said, is to weaken NATO, but Defense Secretary James Mattis has emphasized the U.S. will meet this challenge.
The talk, open to all New Canaan residents, drew about 50 attendees who later judged the ambassador’s remarks thoughtful and enlightening. Niles was able to speak from his deep experience, having served in high-level diplomatic missions mainly in Europe, including Russia. In his current position, he is Vice President of the United States Council for International Business, an organization advancing the global interests of U.S. businesses, promoting an open system of world trade, finance and investment.
On trade issues, Niles judged the North American Free Trade Agreement as a success, benefitting trade for all three countries, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. The loss of manufacturing jobs is not, he said, due to NAFTA or trade, but rather automation and technology. Nor did he believe imposing tariffs, as has been recently proposed, is a solution to redress lost manufacturing jobs. He also believes that Trump’s withdrawing from the TPP Trade Agreement was a terrible decision, the major beneficiary of which was China.
Turning to the Middle East, he believed the Iran Nuclear Agreement was a good deal for the U.S. He pointed to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran has been in full compliance with the agreement’s terms.
The next speaker in the series, Donald P. Gregg, a former CIA officer and U.S. ambassador to Korea, will speak about his experiences and the current situation with North Korea. His talk will take place at the New Canaan Public Library on March 15.
The series serves as a forum for a thoughtful, non-partisan discussion with leading experts in their fields on matters relating to foreign and domestic issues.