How to Counter Russia's Anti-Democratic Strategy

Nicolas Bouchet - May 27, 2015

BERLIN - At a summit last week in Latvia, the European Union and the countries of the Eastern Partnership reiterated that democracy is essential for a closer political and economic association. The joint declaration issued by the EU members and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine avoided any specific mention of Russia. But events since Ukraine's Euromaidan protests in 2013-14 have made it clear that any democracy promotion efforts toward the region have to consider direct ideological competition from Russia.

Russia's actions vis-à-vis Western democracy promotion over the past 15 years form a three-stage process of containment and rollback. The first relates to Russia itself, the second to the post-Soviet states, and the third and most recent to Central Europe and the Balkans. Moscow's objective has been to protect its increasingly autocratic regime with layers of insulation from outside efforts that might make democratic political change in Russia possible. A fuller understanding of Russia's role in creating regime competition would improve the ability of the EU and the United States to promote democracy in the region.

The debate over whether the West is embroiled in a new Cold War with Russia is simultaneously misleading and relevant as far as democracy promotion is concerned. It is misleading if we get bogged down in whether or not Russia has an ideology that it wants to spread, and a strategy and policy tools to export it, in the same way as the Soviet Union did. The debate is relevant, however, because countering Russia's anti-democratic agenda requires a better understanding of why and how it has been successful in containing and rolling back Western democracy promotion efforts.

(AP photo)

A Net Assessment of Europe

George Friedman - May 27, 2015

Last week I began this series with a Net Assessment of the World, in which I focused on the growing destabilization of the Eurasian land mass. This week I continue the series, which will ultimately analyze each region in detail, with an analysis of Europe. I start here, rather than in the Middle East, because while the increasing successes of the Islamic State are significant, the region itself is secondary to Europe in the broader perspective. The Middle East matters, but Europe is as economically productive as the United States and, for the past 500 years, has been the force that has reshaped the world. The Middle East matters a great deal; European crises can destabilize the world. What happens between Greece and Germany, for example, can have consequences in multiple directions. Therefore, since we have to start somewhere, let me start with Europe.

Europe is undergoing two interconnected crises. The first is the crisis of the European Union. The bloc began as a system of economic integration, but it was also intended to be more than that: It was to be an institution that would create Europeans. The national distinctions between European nations is real and has proved destabilizing, since Europe has been filled with nations with diverging interests and historical grudges. The EU project did not intend to abolish these nations; the distinctions and tensions were too deep. Rather it was intended to overlay national identities with a European identity. There would be nations and they would retain ultimate sovereignty, but the citizens of these nations would increasingly come to see themselves as Europeans. That European identity would both create a common culture and diminish the particularity of states. The inducement to all of Europe was prosperity and peace. The European Union would create ongoing prosperity, which would eliminate the danger of conflict. The challenge to Europe in this sense was that prosperity is at best cyclical, and it is regional. Europe is struggling with integration because without general prosperity, the seduction of Europeans away from the parochial allure of nations will fail. Therefore, the crisis of the European Union, focused on the European Peninsula, is one of the destabilizing forces.

I use the term European Peninsula to denote the region that lies to the west of a line drawn from St. Petersburg to Rostov-on-Don, becoming increasingly narrow until it reaches Iberia and the Atlantic Ocean. France, Germany and Italy are on the peninsula, with its river systems of the Danube and Rhine. To the line's east is Russia. Whereas the peninsula is intimately connected with the oceans and is therefore engaged in global trade, Russia is landlocked. It is very much land constrained, with its distant ports on the Pacific, the Turkish straits its only outlet to the Mediterranean, and its Baltic and Arctic access hampered by ice and weather. On the peninsula, particularly as you move west, no one is more than a few hundred miles from the sea. Russia, reliant upon land transportation, which is more difficult and expensive than maritime trade, tends to be substantially poorer than the peninsula.

The second crisis rests in the strategic structure of Europe and is less tractable than the first. Leaving aside the outlying islands and other peninsulas that make up Europe, the Continent's primordial issue is the relationship between the largely unified but poorer mainland, dominated by Russia, and the wealthier but much more fragmented peninsula. Between Russia and the peninsula lies a borderland that at times as has been under the control of Russia or a peninsular power or, more often, divided. This borderland is occasionally independent and sovereign, but this is rare. More often, even in sovereignty, it is embedded in the spheres of influence of other countries. The borderland has two tiers: the first and furthest east is Belarus, Ukraine and portions of the Balkans, while the second consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. After World War II, Russia's power extended to the second tier and beyond. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries became sovereign, and the influence of the peninsula moved eastward as two peninsular institutions, the European Union and NATO, absorbed the second tier. As this happened, and the Baltics were included with the second tier, Belarus and particularly Ukraine became the dividing line and buffer.

Why Obama Shrugs at the Middle East

Rodger Shanahan - May 27, 2015

Spare a thought for Barack Obama.

In dealing with the Middle East, few if any modern US presidents have been able to find a balance between upholding US ideals and meeting America's practical foreign policy goals. Obama has been dealt a poor hand in the Middle East but has tried harder than most to narrow the gap between ideals and practicalities. He is trying to introduce the concept of government legitimacy as a greater determinant in US relations with regional governments.

He also believes that US military interventions treat symptoms rather than causes, and that they have given Middle Eastern states absolutely zero incentive to reform the political and social malaise that has given rise to the insurgencies the region faces.

Hence his moves to limit the military support he gives to the Iraqi Government. It's a way of forcing the Iraqi Government to take military responsibility for the fighting and political responsibility for establishing a functioning, unitary state not caught in sectarian, tribal and ethnic identity politics. It is also why he has limited his support to the Syrian opposition until it too establishes a military force that is not religiously inspired and presents a viable political alternative (one that is not simply reflective of the policy desires of regional sponsors).

The U.S.-Israeli Relationship Is Fraying, but Won't Fail

Aaron David Miller - May 26, 2015

Do not be fooled by the recent lull in the long-running soap opera between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.S. administration has taken a break from the Bibi Wars in order to sell the deal on Iran's nuclear program. It would not be smart policy right now to open up a second front on the peace process, nor to respond critically to every move the new Israeli government makes. Notice the collective yawns of the U.S. administration in response to the appointment of hardliner Silvan Shalom as Netanyahu's new point person on the peace process.   But trust me on this one: Unless the new Israeli government moderates by morphing into a National Unity coalition (an unlikely prospect for now), this is but a break between rounds. Bibi and Barack, that lovable pair, will be back in the ring before you know it. I have been bullish on the U.S.-Israeli relationship in large part because I have participated in and watched it for so many years. When it works - when adults are in charge - it can be functional and productive for both sides. It can be, indeed, special. And it has proven remarkably resilient. Unlike Lehman Brothers, the U.S.-Israeli relationship really is too big to fail. 

But that doesn't mean some serious fraying is impossible. The relationship is now in a place it has never visited before. The Arab world is melting down; there is pressure to address two of the most critical national security challenges Israel faces - Iran and the Palestinians - at the same time; and you have a narrow, right-wing Israeli government that views reality in a  fundamentally different way than does the Obama administration. Indeed, in the next 20 months, things will remain unsettled and potentially stormy between Washington and its closest ally in the Middle East. Here is why.   Dysfunction at the Top Won't End Rarely have I seen a pair of leaders who, for reasons of personal and policy differences, seem so unable to work out a consistent and functional way of cooperating. This duo has bickered longer and more publicly than any previous pair of Israeli and American leaders. Part of the dysfunction is generational. President Obama was six years old in 1967, when most of the pro-Israeli tropes and narratives surrounding the 1967 War solidified American support for Israel among American Jews and non-Jews alike. Instead, Obama's view of Israel was shaped in the 1980s, when the occupation and Palestinian grievances began to turn the image of Israel as David into the perception of the Jewish State as Goliath. Whether or not the president's perception is also shaped by a civil-rights narrative wherein Israel is perceived as the stronger party, and the Palestinians as the oppressed and disenfranchised underdog, there is a strong sense that the Israelis must be the magnanimous party. Indeed, if you take his words at face value, the president expects more from Israel because he believes it has well-entrenched moral and ethical values. Still, unlike his two predecessors - Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - Obama is much less inclined to give Israel the benefit of the doubt, and he rarely sends any valentines. The administration wants to make nice for now, particularly with the Jewish community. In the last week, Obama visited one of Washington's oldest synagogues. But the Barack-Bibi imbroglio is not likely to end. Too many public rows between the two have eroded confidence and entrenched negative images. In the president's mind, the prime minister is a con man. Regardless of what he says, Obama believes Netanyahu is neither serious about respecting U.S. interests on Iran and the peace process, nor is he interested in real give-and-take. In the prime minister's view, the president has a bloodless view of Israel's security predicament and is eager to see Netanyahu replaced by someone more flexible. Iran/Iran/Iran The Iranian nuclear issue has come to illustrate the great divide between the two. Indeed, it is a source of tension that will continue to ensure personal and policy upsets. For Netanyahu, a deal with Iran will sow more disorder into an already chaotic region, and it will threaten Israel. For Obama, a deal brings order, not disorder - it creates a framework to avoid war and press Tehran to cooperate on a variety of other regional crises such as those in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. What drives Netanyahu to distraction is not just what he regards as the president's naïveté. It is that his own success as prime minister is bound up with leading Israel out of the dark shadow of the Iranian bomb, yet a U.S.-Iranian agreement leaves him powerless to do much in that direction.

Interceding in U.S. politics through House Speaker John Boehner may have boosted Netanyahu's image as a leader who stands up for Israel, but it was also costly. The act frayed the bipartisan character of the U.S.-Israeli bond, and Netanyahu has proved unable (as of yet) to stop the deal. And unless the final deal is a fire sale of bargain-basement giveaways to the mullahs, Congress will likely not want the responsibility of blocking it. 

Diverging Interests Relations between allies do not rest on individuals alone, but on interests as well. And while Iran represents a major divide, so does the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Set aside the fact that the positions of Netanyahu do not align with those of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on issues such as borders, refugees, or Jerusalem. Part of what is driving this dysfunctional duo is that Washington and Jerusalem themselves are not on the same page. In past peace processes, the driving dynamic saw the United States and Israel coordinate somewhat - with Washington pushing Israel to offer more - around positions that might then be sold to the Arabs. That is not possible now. Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have apparently discussed some moves on borders and other issues - moves that had real potential. But these conversations remain fruitless. And it is hard to imagine, with this new Israeli government, that the prime minister has the interest and/or the capacity to push the peace issue - not when the U.S. administration is going its own way on Iran, and the Palestinians are going their own way in seeking recognition for statehood in the international community.

Will Obama Be a Churchill or a Chamberlain?

Bob Feferman - May 26, 2015

Following the signing of the Munich Agreement between Adolf Hitler and the leaders of France and Great Britain, Sir Winston Churchill warned in a speech to the House of Commons on October 5, 1938, "All these calamities fell upon us because of evil counsel...When they had done the most evil, then was peace made with them."

Sadly, the same could be said of the comprehensive nuclear deal now being negotiated between the P5+1 nations and Iran.

Presumably, the goal of the current negotiations is to make our world a safer place.

This deal, however, is more likely to make our world a much more dangerous place.

Reflections on Ramadi

Paul Floyd - May 26, 2015

Editor's Note: This analysis was written by Stratfor's lead military analyst, Paul Floyd, who served in the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, a core component of the United States Army Special Operations Command. He deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan in a combat role.

The Iraqi city of Ramadi has fallen again into the hands of the Islamic State, a group born of al Qaeda in Iraq. That this terrorist organization, whose brutality needs no description, has retaken a city once fought for by American soldiers troubles me. I served two deployments in Ramadi, fighting al Qaeda. Comrades died in that fight. I was shot in Ramadi. My initial reaction, like that of many veterans, is to ask what the hell it was all for, when nothing seems to change. The whole endeavor was a costly bloodletting and it seems the price we paid yielded no actual benefit. Yet, Memorial Day is as much a day for reflection as it is for remembrance and commemoration. And in reflecting, I have had to sit back and define exactly what we are memorializing on this day.

Memorial Day is about honoring those who died fighting for our country. Often those memories - and the honor we attribute - are anchored to a specific place. It makes sense: soldiers fight and die in a physical, tangible environment. Invariably somewhere that is far from home. Human nature makes us hold onto that tangibility for memory. Okinawa, Antietam, the Chosin Reservoir, Ia Drang and Belleau Wood are just a handful of names that evoke the weight of battles long since past. I have a reverence for those names, those places. We all do to a point: We bestow these places with an unconscious solemnity based on how many died there. As imperfect as it is, this is the way we measure any particular fight. Certain places become emblematic, normally where the fighting was at its most ferocious. I am often asked where I was wounded. I always respond Ramadi, though technically it was in the middle of farmland between Ramadi and Fallujah. Giving the technical answer, however, loses something in translation. Saying Ramadi instills a sense of significance in people's minds. Our mission that day was a function of what started in the city, but had spilled out into the periphery.

Memorializing a place because of the weight associated with it is problematic on two fronts - it sets up a partial fallacy while ignoring what I believe to be another critical component that is often overlooked: Time.

Spain's 'Year of Change' Underway

Ciaran Giles - May 25, 2015

MADRID (AP) -- Spain's prime minister acknowledged Monday he was disappointed with his party's showing in local elections, which he attributed largely to austerity measures his government was compelled to take during Europe's recent debt crisis and a recent string of political scandals.

The elections Sunday in many Spanish cities and regions dealt a serious blow to Mariano Rajoy's governing Popular Party. Two new parties carved out kingmaker roles by capitalizing on voter disaffection with established parties for their handling of the economy among other reasons.

Though the conservative Popular Party won the most votes overall, capturing 27 percent of votes cast, it lost the absolute control it had in eight of the 13 regions, including in its traditional power bases of Madrid and Valencia. The party lost 2.5 million voters since the last local elections four years ago.

Rajoy, who is also the Popular Party's leader, said economic recovery and job creation are priorities before Spain's general election this fall. A nearly eight-year economic crisis has left the country with a 24 percent unemployment rate.

Signs of a 'Mexican Spring?'

Mark Stevenson - May 25, 2015

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexicans' disgust with corrupt, aloof, high-living politicians has a name, and it's El Bronco. The horseback-riding, boot-clad, tough-talking Jaime Rodriguez lives up to his nickname.

As mayor of a suburb of the northern industrial city of Monterrey, he survived two assassination attempts that left his car bullet-ridden, defying, he says, the fierce Zetas cartel. Now Rodriguez is trying to beat the odds in another way, running as an independent for governor of Nuevo Leon, a wealthy and strategic state bordering Texas.

The June 7 midterm election is the first time the country has allowed unaffiliated candidates, thanks to an electoral reform last year. But the law allows him only a fraction of the campaign financing the government gives political parties.

Although it is a state race, Rodriguez has captured the national imagination with his unorthodox manner and unrefined speech. He explains the challenges of his uphill race this way: "Sometimes God slaps you upside the head to make you get with program."

Will the Venezuelan State Fail?

Carl Meacham - May 22, 2015

On May 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. prosecutors are in the process of investigating a number of high-up Venezuelan officials for their alleged involvement in turning Venezuela into a cocaine-trafficking and money-laundering hub.

Among those being investigated is Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela's congress and arguably the second most powerful person in Venezuela-long suspected for involvement in clientelistic relationships with transnational criminal organizations operating in Venezuela's borders.

The investigation is being carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami - notably, this is not under the White House's direction or coordination. And the case they're building has foundations in the testimony of former cocaine traffickers, defectors from the Venezuelan military, and informants who were once close to top Venezuelan officials, including the former head of Cabello's security detail.

All of this comes to light just months after the White House named Venezuela a threat to the national security of the United States, imposing sanctions on seven mid-level government officials on human rights grounds. And though in the lead-up to the Summit of the Americas in April, Tom Shannon, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and current Senior Counselor to Secretary of State John Kerry, visited Venezuela to start bilateral dialogues, the new investigations could put a damper on subsequent efforts to address the U.S.-Venezuela relationship.

The Debate on U.S.-China Relations: Make Room, Make Way, or Make Hay

Elizabeth C. Economy - May 22, 2015

The Asia security field is a crowded one these days, and that is a good thing. The region is confronting a number of destabilizing threats: disputes over islands in the South and East China Seas, weak governance in several Southeast Asian nations, and continuing uncertainty over North Korea's intentions and capabilities, among others. All are long-term, ongoing challenges, and the more ideas that get out there about how to manage these issues, the better.

No issue gets as much attention, however, as the U.S.-China relationship and what it means for regional security. For most, it boils down to whether the era of U.S. primacy is over. If it is, what should the next stage look like and how does China fit in? If not, how does the United States preserve its role as the fundamental security guarantor in the region and how does China fit in?

Three recent, thoughtful reports/papers attempt to address this question: the first, "Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China" by my CFR colleague Robert Blackwill and Carnegie Endowment scholar Ashley Tellis; the second, "The Future of U.S.-China Relations Under Xi Jinping: Toward a New Framework of Constructive Realism for a Common Purpose" (pdf) by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; and the third, "Beyond American Predominance in the Western Pacific: The Need for a Stable U.S.-China Balance of Power" by Carnegie Endowment scholar Michael Swaine. Each adopts a different approach and arrives at different conclusions, although the Rudd and Swaine analyses are largely compatible. Blackwill and Tellis explicitly seek to develop a roadmap for continued U.S. primacy in the Asia Pacific. Rudd and Swaine, in contrast, argue that such an effort is unrealistic, even harmful, given the realities of U.S. commitments and domestic politics, as well as China's intentions and growing capabilities. Both Rudd and Swaine seek to have the United States and China sacrifice near-term interests for a longer-term greater good. However, Rudd places a much greater burden of compromise on the United States, while Swaine is more even-handed in his call for accommodation by both sides.

I was most eager to read the Rudd report. I have heard the former prime minister speak on a number of occasions and have always been impressed by his insights. In his report, Rudd assumes the role of peacemaker - trying to bridge the gap between the "private or semi-private narratives each side [the United States and China] may have about the other." Although ostensibly designed to speak equally to Chinese and U.S. policymakers, the report is, for the most part, designed for a U.S. audience - explaining China and the Chinese perspective to Americans and offering recommendations for Washington.

ISIS Aims for Abu Ghraib

Birgit Svensson - May 22, 2015

This article was first published in Die Welt

ABU GHRAIB - This city's streets are deserted. It would seem certain that the residents of Abu Ghraib fear the Daish, the Arabic word for ISIS, as fear has been the dominant emotion since the terrorists began conquering territory in Iraq.

And now, the terror organization is defending their gains with brute force. A uniformed officer at a checkpoint assures us that "it is not because of Daish" that no one is out and about. Instead, by way of explanation, he points towards the sky where the sun is at its zenith. It's nearly 40°C (104°F) in the shade, and he seems to be saying people aren't out because they are trying to keep cool.

Abu Ghraib is the first city reached when driving west from Baghdad into the province of Anbar. ISIS has attacked the town several times, its notorious prison always the goal.

Haunting Memories on the Roads of Central Europe

Matthew Stevenson - May 21, 2015

Although I read The Economist and listen to the podcasts of the Financial Times, I never can make up my mind about the state of the European Union until I hit the road - in the most recent case that which links Dresden, in Eastern Germany, across the Czech Republic to Vienna, on the meandering bike paths (numbers 7, 4, and 9) that are part of the EuroVelo network. 

In my mind this is as close as Europe gets to what Rudyard Kipling in Kim describes as that "great highway of all humanity." But rather than take to the road in the company of Kim's faith healers, shamans, sahibs, lamas, missionaries, and factotums, my son and I traversed the heart of Europe on our bikes, coming to the conclusion that the economics of the Union have progressed little from those that the Treaty of Versailles, a century before, imposed on a similarly fragile international network.

The European Union - like Versailles - believes in small national states, debt economics, contentious frontiers, and Germany über alles. It also asks its people to suspend their historical imagination and live only in present time, drawing a curtain over the pre-1989 world.

Unfortunately, the great roads of Central Europe are littered with memories.

Russia Strikes Back at Europe's Energy Games

Kristine Berzina - May 21, 2015

BRUSSELS - Europe is starting to play hardball with Russia on energy - and the Kremlin is fighting back. For years, the European Union was highly dependent on Russia's natural gas and was unable to exert any influence on its supplier since it is the world's largest energy importer. This spring, the European Commission launched an EU Energy Union to finally bind the 28 countries into a single energy market.

The three Baltic States - previously linked only to each other and to Russia - have been instrumental to this new era of EU energy policy. Last December, Lithuania leased a floating liquefied natural gas terminal, and now buys Norwegian natural gas from Statoil that it can share with Latvia and Estonia. Electricity is Lithuania's other major vulnerability, but with the EU's support, it will soon complete grid connections to Poland and Sweden. Lithuania also initiated a European Commission investigation of Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom in 2011, arguing that it should not have to pay significantly more for natural gas than EU member states further away. Not only did the Commission agree, but last month, it charged Gazprom with hindering competition in eight Central and Eastern European member states. Gazprom could now face up to $10 billion in fines.

Russia may be losing its commercial levers over Lithuania's energy sector, but it is beginning to intervene militarily in the region's energy sector. In the past few weeks, Russian naval vessels in the Baltic Sea have chased and disrupted ships in Lithuania's exclusive economic zone that are laying the NordBalt electricity cable, intended to create an integrated Baltic electricity market. These Russian naval actions present a new military threat to energy in Europe. The EU needs to be aware that actions against Russia's commercial practices may risk escalating conflicts across Europe.

Other forms of Russian political interference could also increase. The prospect of greater political maneuvering against vulnerable EU member states - such as Greece - is especially worrisome. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a new pipeline, Turkish Stream, which may deliver gas to Greece as well. The pipeline bypasses Ukraine and is a political tool for the Kremlin. Putin has directly courted Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, describing the economic benefits of the pipeline just as Greece struggles to repay its debts. Conveniently for Moscow, Turkish Stream could also interfere with the EU's long-supported Trans-Anatolian pipeline, which is slated to bring gas from Azerbaijan to European markets.

A Net Assessment of the World

George Friedman - May 20, 2015

A pretentious title requires a modest beginning. The world has increasingly destabilized and it is necessary to try to state, as clearly as possible, what has happened and why. This is not because the world is uniquely disorderly; it is that disorder takes a different form each time, though it is always complex.

To put it simply, a vast swath of the Eurasian landmass (understood to be Europe and Asia together) is in political, military and economic disarray. Europe and China are struggling with the consequences of the 2008 crisis, which left not only economic but institutional challenges. Russia is undergoing a geopolitical crisis in Ukraine and an economic problem at home. The Arab world, from the Levant to Iran, from the Turkish border through the Arabian Peninsula, is embroiled in politically destabilizing warfare. The Western Hemisphere is relatively stable, as is the Asian Archipelago. But Eurasia is destabilizing in multiple dimensions.

We can do an infinite regression to try to understand the cause, but let's begin with the last systemic shift the world experienced: the end of the Cold War.

The Repercussions of the Soviet Collapse

How U.S. Presidential Candidates Can Avoid a British Fate

Joe Lieberman - May 20, 2015

It had all the makings of a Hollywood classic - drama, suspense, surprise, despair, defeat, and victory. This was not, however, a film. It was the United Kingdom's recent election, one of the most surprising in recent years.   The May 7 election had a seemingly predictable plot - one that the pundits and the polls followed in a predictable way. But the anticipated ho-hum election was upended when exit poll results rolled in on election night, and many supposedly safe seats in the House of Commons were lost. In true dramatic form, party leaders stood before teleprompters, supporters, and a stunned nation to humbly accept defeat.

While the shock value of the UK election provided fodder for the media, the unexpected plot twist also sends a message to presidential candidates here in the United States as the 2016 election approaches. The Labour Party's leading man, Ed Miliband, will shoulder most of the blame for his party's decisive loss. What was once a respected moderate political party in good standing under the leadership of Tony Blair veered left during Miliband's campaign, using partisan tactics to drive the Labour Party off course. In a mere six-week campaign, the country seemingly tired of the divisive path Miliband chose, and voters went another route. The Liberal Democrats were all but obliterated during the election. Their politics, which stand far left of center, failed to resonate with voters, and their leader, Nick Clegg, stepped down after failing to win sufficient votes.   David Cameron maintains his role of prime minister. But some argue that rather than voting for Cameron, constituents voted against his opposition. Lacking a clear message, and having failed to establish clear goals, Labour and the Lib Dems could not convince the voting public to put them in charge. The impact of running a campaign without creating a clear set of goals is perhaps most clearly illustrated in a quote by a Londoner, Peter Hamlin, who told The New York Times this:  "I think the general feeling is that maybe they had a hard job to do, and they kind of did it OK, and maybe it is time to give them a shot and maybe a shot on their own without liberals getting in the way of their policies."   In other words, he felt there was no better option. The parties in Britain will scrutinize the electoral plot twist and draw their own conclusions about what happened. From where we stand, it seems pretty clear: The British were tired of watching legislation languish and watching politicians "getting in the way" before the election. During the campaign, the British public couldn't identify with any one particular party, due to all of the parties' muddled or absent goals. They felt alienated by the partisan politics at play during the campaign. Our 2016 presidential candidates can avoid a similar exciting but unnecessary conclusion by taking note of what drove voters to "give up" or vote "against" particular parties. Integrating a bipartisan approach to leadership into the campaign will give any candidate an edge. Indeed, 63 percent of Americans want their elected leaders to work across the aisle, and to create credibility among candidates. We watched a British candidate project a partisan message for only six weeks, yet go on to lose significantly and take many of his partisan colleagues down with him. How would our candidates fare after 18 months of consistent partisan messaging? Instead, our candidates could avoid a repeat of the UK experience by focusing their campaigns on goals and objectives. They should provide a clear pathway to their intentions, so that voters will know who and what they are voting for, not against. No Labels, a Washington-based, bipartisan organization, is developing a National Strategic Agenda supported by more than 40 members of Congress to address the nation's most urgent problems - issues the next president must tackle. The agenda's four goals, based on national polling data are: creating 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years; securing Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years; balancing the federal budget by 2030; and making America energy-secure by 2024. We hope U.S. candidates who have learned the lesson of the skewed 2015 UK elections will embrace these goals to clarify the issues Americans should consider before voting. We are just settling in to watch our presidential campaign play out - there's no need for a UK sequel.