The Honorable Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger of Germany returned to his alma mater for a discussion entitled, “European Security and Defense—What’s Next?” at The Fletcher School on April 28, 2014. Ambassador Ischinger graduated from Fletcher in 1973 and went on to a distinguished career in the German Foreign Service, where he served as the German ambassador to the United Kingdom and the United States. He also represented the European Union in the Troika negotiations that charted the future of Kosovo.
Since 2008, Ambassador Ischinger has served as chairman of Munich Security Conference, which Dean Stavridis referred to as the premiere security event in the world in his opening remarks. “Ambassador Ischinger embodies Old Europe,” said the admiral, “which to me is the Enlightenment, the ideas that form our own democracy—it is the wonderful culture of so many different nations, it is the sense of diplomacy, in the truest sense of that world. But [he also embodies] New Europe. It’s the European Union. It’s NATO. It is a continent working hard to come together and create a new diplomatic service. I know many Europeans, but I cannot think of another one who is more embodying of the qualities of both Old and New Europe.”
In his remarks, Ambassador Ischinger spoke to this and defined two general kinds of leaders: “There is one kind of leader that tries to recreate the past and there is the other kind of leader who tries to move beyond the past and start from the present and create a new future.” He praised former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore as an example of the latter and offered President Vladimir Putin as an example of the former. “He appears to try to recreate what used to be a Soviet or Russian empire,” he said. The Ambassador said that if Europe still held on to such ideas, they would not have their unity and would still be fighting. “We have learned that recreating the past is actually a very bad idea—rarely a good idea.”
Ambassador Ischinger’s remarks were part of the Charles Francis Adams Lecture series. Following his remarks, the ambassador answered questions from students and faculty. Watch his remarks below:
--Dallin Van Leuven (F15)