TIGRE: The Missing Link? Operationalizing the Democratic Community Narrative

May 26, 2020

Kurt Volker, U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, in Eastern Ukraine, May 15, 2018.
CREDIT: U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine (CC).

This article first appeared on the Ethics & International Affairs blog.

The "democratic community" narrative sounds appealing on paper: decoupling from autocracies and reorienting both security and economic ties to allies who share similar values. Yet while these themes often find their way into speeches and addresses, they have proven difficult to translate into practical policies. Does the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as renewed concerns about overdependence on China, create an opening in the United States and other Western states for moving forward on decoupling and reorienting? Ambassador Kurt Volker has proposed an agenda that would operationalize the democratic community concept, in particular his proposal for TIGRE: The Transatlantic Investment, Growth and Resilience (TIGRE) Pact. As he describes it, TIGRE would be,

"Designed to spur growth, eliminate all tariffs and establish the single largest free market in the world, based on democracies that respect the rule of law. This should include Canada and Mexico from the outset, and later be open to all democracies that adopt the same rules."

A key part of this process would be,

"Identifying core infrastructure—energy, cyber, health systems, etc.—that needs to be secure within such a democratic community, without dependence on authoritarian regimes. Given the vulnerabilities demonstrated in supply chains, businesses need to give higher priority to security, rather than simply being driven only by lowest cost. This should touch everything from 5G technology to protective health equipment."

This is an agenda which touches both on national security concerns but which could also appeal to a variety of domestic political constituencies. It is also a way of reconnecting the defense and foreign policy agenda with the "main street" concerns about jobs and sustainable prosperity, and also connects to concerns about supporting democracy and human rights.

Will we see proposals like TIGRE gain traction in the 2020 campaign? Will it also have legs in other European countries? Could this serve to underpin a new narrative for American foreign policy?

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