APPLETON, WIS. — Robert (Todd) Becker, a former U.S. foreign service officer and deputy head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Croatia, delivers the address “U.S. and European Relations” Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence University’s Wriston Art Center auditorium.
The presentation, which is free and open to the public, is the second installment of Lawrence’s 2009 Povolny Lecture Series in International Studies: “What Should Obama Do?”
For more than 300 years, Europe and what is now the United States have been inexorably linked. For the first 200 years of that relationship, the United States was the “junior partner.” From World War I until World War II, the United States reached a certain level of parity and since the end of the second world war until the end of the 20th century, the United States has been the dominant power.
In his address, Becker will review the evolving nature of this relationship, discuss whether the balance of power is tilting back toward Europe and examine some of the common challenges facing both the United States and Europe in the coming century.
“Can the United States continue to lead as in the past 60 years?,” said Becker, who is spending the Spring Term as Lawrence’s Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor in the government department. “Is Europe regaining a position of superiority? While it is large, wealthy and influential, it is very diverse politically, economically and far from unified, despite the growth of the European Union. In the face of common financial, terrorist, ecological, social-migration and international criminal threats, these two continental societies must find an effective manner to work together. The question is how?”
During a 34-year career with the U.S. State Department, Becker served two assignments in Greece spanning five years during crises in the Aegean and southern Balkans, as well positions in Germany and Brussels.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Becker established the U.S. Consulate General — the first in a former Warsaw Pact country — in Leipzig in the former German Democratic Republic. From 1997-2000, Becker directed the political affairs unit in the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, where he was responsible for developing closer political and security relations with the EU.
In 2000, Becker joined the OSCE, a 56-member inter-governmental organization that traces its roots to the 1975 Helsinki Accord and was established under the charter of the United Nations.
He served as OCSE’s Deputy Head and Ambassador to the Mission in Croatia for seven years. During his tenure, he saw Croatia transition from a post-Communist and authoritarian regime into a struggling democracy seeking NATO and EU membership. At the end of his assignment in Croatia, Becker was recognized with the Croatian Helsinki Committee Human Rights Award, the first foreigner to receive the honor.
Prior to coming to Lawrence, Becker spent a year in Kiev, Ukraine, as an OSCE senior project manager.
Remaining talks on this year’s series schedule include:
• April 29 — “Russian-American Relations and the Obama Administration,” Peter Blitstein, associate professor of history at Lawrence. Blitstein will review the different approaches Western nations, including the United States, have used in their relations with Russia, make the case only one of these approaches is effective and examine the issues facing the current U.S.-Russia relationship from that standpoint.
• May 12 — “Mexico and the U.S.,” Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, director general of Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology and former governor of Guanajuato, Mexico.
The “What Should Obama Do” lecture series is sponsored by the Mojmir Povolny Lectureship in International Studies. Named in honor of long-time Lawrence government professor Mojmir Povolny, the lectureship promotes interest and discussion on issues of moral significance and ethical dimensions.