In order to put current discussions of American identity and becoming American in context, we take a look at the changing scope of American “national character.” How have “We” defined ourselves over time? In this session Dr. Camarillo will consider how American national character (how Americans have defined themselves and their nation) has shifted over time. We’ll examine the many factors that contribute to that historical and ongoing evolution including expansion of the national boundaries, immigration, domestic and world wars, slavery, race/ethnicity, and industrialization. Gain a deeper sense of the important elements that explain how Americans across the centuries viewed themselves and the nation as a whole.

How have foreign immigration and immigration policies shaped the demography and politics of American nation over time? Delve into an exploration of how the long and changing nature of immigration to American shores has shaped and reshaped the nature of American society since the early days of the republic. Learn about the turning points, counterforces, and low-key facts on the ground contributing to the composition and political environment of America today.

Explore the concept and substance of diversity in America — past and present. We’ll unfold the assumptions underlying our concept of “diversity”, setting the scene for a consideration of how issues of religion, culture, region, race, and class have played a role in defining American diversity across generations. Get an historian’s perspective of how the United States has grappled with the changing demography of its people over time.

How did the 1960s change our lives? We will discuss how Americans who lived through the decade of the 1960s were influenced by the social/cultural and political currents of the era and by tensions and violence, both domestic and international. We’ll reflect on how the impact of the 1960s manifests itself in America today. Participants will be invited to share their memories of the decade in a broad ranging Q&A session.


INTRODUCTION: The Non-Obvious Strategic Threats to the USA

The threats that face the U.S. are increasingly global in nature. In fact, the viewpoint held by many of threats as either domestic or international does not reflect the realities that threats like climate change and infectious disease have direct domestic consequence, and what we do in the U.S. has international ramifications that also threaten the lives of those outside the United States. As an international actor, U.S. actions are part of an international fabric of foreign policies, treaties and other agreements and initiatives. However, the U.S. is not party to all treaties that work to promote global security, and some may argue that U.S. policies are not in line with the global trend to address global threats. In addition, one must take note of U.S. national security strategies that set forth priorities of the U.S. in areas of global threats, and those strategies may not be in line with those current trends, yet those strategies also have direct ramifications on funding of U.S. policies of global concern.

Climate change is a global challenge. It also has a disproportionate effect on poor countries that have weak governance structures to combat the effects of this phenomenon. Climate change increases vulnerability in infrastructure, agriculture, and other sectors of society, and as a result, many countries will have to face increased regional tensions from their inability to cope with shocks and long-term problems. Climate change will interact and compound challenges like water and food availability, governance and corruption. Resilience, mitigation and preparation is important. Like food security, water security, and other global threats, climate change requires a non-traditional response. Despite these challenges, the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. What does the future hold for international efforts to address this important global security issue?

The weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonproliferation regime has been success overall in limiting the number of countries that have acquired biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. The vast number of countries around the world are parties to relevant international treaties on the nonproliferation of these weapons and a norm against the possession and use of these weapons exists. However, there have been individual cases of possession and use by a handful of countries in the past few years that continue to challenge the WMD nonproliferation regime. We will discuss some of the recent challenges to the WMD nonproliferation regime and where do we go from here.

Human trafficking is today’s modern-day slavery. It is a violation of a person’s freedom and human rights. It involved men, women, and children as its victims. The actions include not just sex trafficking but also forced labor and debt bondage, and according to some estimates, affects an estimated 24.9 million people today. Much of the attention on this issue has focused on transnational trafficking, however, 75% of trafficking victims are exploited in their country of residence. What is even more difficult is that most of those victims do not receive the necessary medical and legal assistance and protection services. The United States should make this issue one of increased importance and understand the security implications as well, and as such, work closely with states to build strategies that directly target major sources of human trafficking.

Infectious disease, like Ebola and SARS, pose not only a health but a security risk to the global community. We have seen the effects of Ebola in 2014 and now the dire situation with Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that pose unique threats to those trying to combat the disease. With global travel so easy today, diseases can travel within regions and across regions to other parts of the world. Many countries that do not have the infrastructure to deal with diseases are most vulnerable. However, it is important that no country is a weak link in the chain. Compounding this problem is the fact that over 60% of diseases humans suffer from are acquired from animals, at a time when humans are living closer to animal, causing an increase in the zoonotic diseases. To address this problem, the global community, led by the United States, established the Global Health Security Agenda in 2014 dedicated to prevention, detection, and response to infectious disease. In 2019, how is the global community dealing with infectious disease, and are we more prepared?


The European Union is an economic power and global leader on issues from climate change to human rights and data privacy, but thus far, the EU has not been a big strategic player. If new EU leaders get their way, this is about to change. At the end of 2019, the new President of the European Commission Ursula von Leyen promised that the EU would become a more geopolitical actor. This session will look at how Brussels might flex its muscles in the coming years, and what that means for big global challenges. How will the EU positions itself as compared to the U.S. and China? Is the EU developing serious security and defense capabilities? Is a strong strategic EU compatible with NATO? Or will EU power continue to come through its economic strength — including through regulation of big tech or climate?

Europe’s energy security depends on dynamics in the Baltic Sea. This seminar will examine the links between energy and foreign policy in the region, explain the role of the EU and the U.S., and discuss how alternative energy sources can defuse geopolitical tensions. We will focus on the controversial Nord Stream pipeline, which runs under the sea to bring Russia’s natural gas directly to Germany. This project is to expand to a second pipeline — so unpopular, that Congress recently imposed sanctions on the companies laying the pipes. Why do many European states and the U.S. oppose the pipelines? How are countries like Denmark and Germany adopting renewable energy sources, and how does this affect security in the region? Are new energy security challenges coming?

Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall came down and with it crumbled the biggest manifestation of Moscow’s power in Central and Eastern Europe. Yet Russia never stopped interfering in the Baltic Sea region, and instead, Moscow targeted the region with new hybrid tactics from cyber attacks to disinformation operations. Today, the Baltic region is a global leader for countering these threats. How did Estonia, a country Russia hit with crippling cyber attacks and information campaigns in 2007, become a global cybersecurity and e-governance leader? What can the U.S. and Europe can learn from Sweden’s society-wide efforts to protect its citizens against information manipulation and online bots? And what can Finland, which screens real estate investments for national security risks, teach its friends about where new threats may be hiding?

The three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are EU and NATO member states, fully integrated in Western institutions. But the history of the three states has been defined by centuries of rule by Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Russia. What is the identity of the three Baltic States, and how have they become their own micro-region on the Baltic Sea? This seminar will introduce the history of the region and then focus on the Baltic States’ journey from independence before World War II, through Soviet occupation and the “singing revolutions” that brought back independence in 1990, to their role in Europe today.


The world according to Trump, and does it matter? I met Donald Trump in 1988, when he and Ivana showed me around his new yacht, “The Trump Princess,” later lost in a bankruptcy. Even then he was obsessed with trade, with the unfairness of American alliances, and with Germany and Japan and their cars on American streets. Trump is still the same man, with the same fixed ideas. How has that translated into foreign policy, and what will outlast him?

I’ve lived in Britain for nearly nine years in two tranches: once under Margaret Thatcher, when London was grotty but Britain mattered, and again under David Cameron and Theresa May, when London was a global capital and Britain mattered little. Then, I covered two elections and two referendums — on Scottish independence and Brexit. Later I moved to Brussels and covered the mess of the Brexit negotiations from the other end, or both ends, really. What has happened to the Britain we thought we knew? How important has Brexit been to the new populism? And what has been the impact on Europe?

I’ve met every NATO secretary-general since Lord Carrington in the 1980’s. How has NATO evolved, especially with the end of the Cold War and then the resurgence of a revanchist Russia and the annexation of Crimea and war in Ukraine? Donald Trump has called out allies on defense spending, but he has also called into question Article Five, the commitment to collective defense, the principle of “all for all, and all for one.” I was just in the Baltics to look at new NATO deployments there. How fragile is European security? And how does NATO and Europe deal with the rise of China, both militarily and technologically? A very different challenge from Russia or the former Soviet Union.

Brexit and Trump have made populism a real topic, speaking to a lot of voter anger at globalization, the European Union, metropolitan elites and even those who want strong action to fight climate change. But is all populism the same? What differentiates it? How is it manifest in different parts of Europe? What is its nature in the countries formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, as opposed to France, Britain and Sweden? What is its future, and what impact will it have on the European Union?