With so much of the nation’s for­eign policy focused on its rela­tion­ships with China and the Middle East, it can be easy to over­look some of the United States’ strongest and most enduring allies in Europe.

With fresh ques­tions on U.S.-Europe rela­tions, the envi­ron­ment, the economy, and so much more, now is as good a time as any to focus on our impor­tant intel­lec­tual rela­tion­ship,” said Natalie Bor­mann, an asso­ciate aca­d­emic spe­cialist in Northeastern’s polit­ical sci­ence depart­ment. Bor­mann oversaw Northeastern’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Think Transat­lantic ini­tia­tive, a 3-​​year-​​old pro­gram led by the German gov­ern­ment and doc­toral can­di­date Hans Eljm­berts.

The pro­gram, in which North­eastern par­tic­i­pated for the first time this year, offers a series of aca­d­emic events aimed at fos­tering new thinking about the role of American-​​European rela­tion­ships in for­eign and mil­i­tary policy. Sev­eral North­eastern polit­ical sci­ence stu­dents pre­sented papers at the German con­sulate in Boston ear­lier this month; two students—doctoral can­di­date Ian McManus and senior Michael Trudeau—were awarded cash prizes and invited to present their work at the German embassy in Wash­ington D.C., next year.

Trudeau—a Navy vet­eran and pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion who is pur­suing his under­grad­uate degree through the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram—wrote a paper titled NATO’s role in the world today” in which he exam­ined how the orga­ni­za­tion must evolve to respond to today’s pressing global problems.

In the paper, Trudeau sup­ported the notion of “smart defense,” in which each nation con­tributes to global mil­i­tary and diplo­matic oper­a­tions based on its strengths.  “Because it still has the mindset of being a deter­rent to Soviet aggres­sion, the orga­ni­za­tion needs to retool itself,” he explained.

He gave an example of the strategy he would use to revamp NATO, noting that France pro­duces quality jets and Ger­many man­u­fac­tures state-​​of-​​the-​​art tanks. “NATO can use each nation’s mil­i­tary advan­tage to con­duct oper­a­tions, meaning coun­tries no longer need to suffer debts and deficits to have the strongest mil­i­tary pos­sible,” he said. “If every­body is spending money on every­thing, it’s a huge waste of money and resources.”

Smart defense” sup­ports the notion that this era’s mil­i­tary con­flicts will not be great wars between nations, but inter­ven­tions by the global com­mu­nity to resolve human­i­tarian wrongs or inter­vene against aggres­sive nations, Trudeau said.

In a paper titled “The devel­op­ment of a coor­di­nated transat­lantic strategy for global defense,” McManus explained how the U.S. and the Euro­pean Union can work together to sup­port new democ­ra­cies, which have been steadily increasing in number for the last three decades and spiked during the recent Arab Spring.

The EU and the U.S. can for­mu­late a new for­eign policy based on mutual goals and new enforce­ment methods using eco­nomic and polit­ical incen­tives to pro­mote reform,” McManus said.

Many nations are already using a carrot-​​and-​​stick approach when it comes to advancing their devel­op­ment agendas, but McManus argued that a con­certed effort on the part of the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity to work together would be a far more effec­tive approach. “These efforts are a lot stronger if they are backed by coherent and com­pre­hen­sive poli­cies,” he said.

North­eastern and Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity were the two Boston-​​area schools that par­tic­i­pated in the Think Transat­lantic pro­gram, which engages about 35 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties across the U.S. Including Trudeau and McManus, three under­grad­uate and two grad­uate stu­dents sub­mitted papers for the pro­gram, all of which have been pub­lished online through Uni­ver­sity Library’s IRis archive.