David P. CALLEO
Dean Acheson Professor and Director of European Studies of the Paul H.
Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University,
"Europe and the Geopolitical Balance After September 11"
Paris, 14 December 2001
Lecture in the International Seminar for Experts "Europe:
Atlantic Partner or Regional Player? Europe's Security and Defence Policy
after September 11", organised by the Cicero Foundation in the series
Great Debates in Paris on 13 and 14 December 2001.
There has been a great deal of discussion in America about how
the world has changed since September 11. Not surprisingly, people's views
of the "new paradigm" generally reflect their longstanding preferences.
Old positions redecorate themselves in fashionable new imagery. Underneath,
however, old differences persist. This seems particularly the case between
the U.S. and Europe. September 11 has if anything only served to heighten
the differences in transatlantic perspectives. This widening gap in geopolitical
imagination threatens to cause considerable trouble within the Western alliance.
Americans took great comfort in Europe's massive outburst of
sympathy for the United States that followed the events of September. The
powerful and spontaneous European reaction seemed to show that the old transatlantic
loyalties and affections nurtured in the Cold War had survived. For many American
Atlanticists, it seemed also to suggest that a rejuvenation of the old postwar
alliance, and in its traditional form. The "war on terrorism," led
by the United States, was to become a substitute for the Cold War. As the
Pentagon kept saying, it was to be a long war and indeterminate in its extent.
It certainly was not to be limited to Afghanistan. That NATO's Article 5 was
involved, at the insistence of the Europeans, seemed particularly significant.
It seemed to ensure a new lease on life for the traditional American-led transatlantic
alliance. Americans who believe September 11 has reaffirmed the traditional
alliance with Europe are mistaken. They are wrong, first of all, because the
U.S. itself does not want to conduct its military operations around the world
through NATO. Initially, the Pentagon actually opposed NATO's invoking of
Article 5. It was feared that this would force the United States to conduct
the war in Afghanistan through NATO'S multilateral structures, a course the
new Pentagon was determined to avoid. This points to a fundamental difference
between NATO today and during the Cold War.
In Cold War NATO, the U.S. was trying to give reality to a strategy
of flexible response - one that required very large conventional forces -
in static deployment in Europe. To succeed with such a strategy, the U.S.
needed European manpower on a large scale. In the new global war on terrorism,
the U.S. does not feel that it needs the active military participation of
European armed forces. Today's warfare, as envisioned by the Pentagon, requires
small elite forces with high technology weapons, capable of lightening strikes
and deployments. Europe is not thought to be well-equipped with such forces.
In any event, the U.S. does not need them. Preserving old NATO's multinational
focus and multilateral decision-making threatens to trammel American military
decision-making to an unacceptable degree.
The US Needs Political Support
The U.S. does, however, need the political support of its allies
and, on occasion, the use of their facilities. And once the military operations
are over, the U.S. seems to prefer that its allies take over the policing
and reconstruction efforts that presumably must follow. By this new definition
of burden-sharing, Europe will support the military actions determined by
the Americans and then will pay to clean up the various messes left behind.
This was the pattern that evolved first in the Balkans. Now, apparently, it
is to be extended to Afghanistan.
Not only does the Pentagon itself not want the old NATO, neither
do the Europeans. The great wave of sympathy among America's allies did not
generate a blank check for American policies against terrorism, let alone
any new affirmation of traditional American Cold War hegemony in the West.
This misapprehension merely continues the widespread American misreading of
basic geopolitical trends going on in the world since the early 1990's. Many
Americans saw the 1990's as the sunrise of the new American century. The period
began with the successful conduct of the Gulf War and the collapse of the
Soviet Union. The U.S. was left as the only global superpower in an age of
economic and cultural globalism. In this view, popular among America's political
elites, the world is growing more integrated but is also, more than ever,
America's extraordinary economic success of the 1990's reinforced
its sense of global predominance. The end of the Cold War brought the U.S.
a huge peace dividend. With the failure of Clinton's health care initiatives,
the peace dividend was invested, faute de mieux, in achieving a balanced fiscal
policy for the first time since the 1970s. Moving swiftly toward fiscal balance
had the classical good effects that conservative economists had always claimed
would follow. It lowered the cost of capital and thereby helped to spark a
major American investment boom. That boom was animated by the new information
technologies coming into their own over the course of the decade. Heavy investment
in new technology appeared to produce a great surge in productivity. In short,
economic success further encouraged the view that the United States would
remain the world's dominant power indefinitely, not least because it was so
well adapted to flourish in the new world economy.
This vision of the future, so popular in America, was not universally
shared. Other parts of the world had quite different perspectives. The end
of the Cold War dealt every one of the world's great powers a new geopolitical
hand. No where was this more true than in Europe. The Soviet collapse lifted
the weight of the threat that had made Europe so dependent on the U.S. and
restored Europe to its old space. The Treaty of Maastricht indicated forcefully
that Europe's major states were determined to be the masters of their new
world, and had decided to pool their sovereignties in order to do so. Hence
the Maastricht projects - EMU, CFSP, Common Defense, NATO reform and so on.
Russia was also dealt a new geopolitical hand. And although
still weak from the shocks of the collapse of its empire and domestic system,
the new Russia was, in fundamental respects, much stronger potentially than
before the end of the Cold War. Liberated from the hopeless Soviet system,
Russia gained the chance to recreate its nation and economy in a more liberal
and efficient form. Shedding the Soviet regime also ended Russia's diplomatic
isolation, a condition that greatly limited Russia's geopolitical power throughout
the twentieth century.
China, too, has seen the post-Cold War world as a great opportunity
to reverse its unhappy history of the past few centuries. China's prodigious
economic growth since 1978 is rapidly transforming its economy. Respectable
economic projections see its GDP actually overtaking the American economy
as early as 2015.
Towards a Plural World System
These various Eurasian perspectives point to a different kind
of world from that imagined by the Americans. Instead of a unipolar system
for the indefinite future, they point to a plural world system gradually emerging
from the rise of Europe, Russia, China and perhaps others, like India and
Japan. Thus, there is a clash between the expectations of the United States
and those of most other major countries in the world, a clash between a unipolar
paradigm and an incipient plural paradigm. For the others, achieving a plural
world system is merely a byproduct of the domestic projects they have set
for themselves. Europe, Russia and China are all preoccupied with fulfilling
their hopes within their own regions. Insofar as those hopes are fulfilled,
a plural system will emerge.
The United States is the only one of the major powers with the
geopolitical leisure to meddle intensively outside its own national neighborhood,
That tendency was visible but only desultory. The Clinton Administration practiced
a sort of low-grade imperialism, nourished by the ideologies of "peace
theory" and economic globalization. America's unease at the rise of the
other major powers in the world grew increasingly apparent as the decade unfolded.
Despite familiar rhetoric that a strong Europe was in America's interest,
the U.S. grew increasingly wary at Europe's projects for more united and strengthened
economic, diplomatic and defense policies.
Similarly, while the Clinton Administration continually protested its friendship
for Russia, NATO enlargement suggested a different relationship. The U.S.
was simply collecting the gains of the Cold War and pressing its influence
as far as possible into Russia's traditional space. Relations with China also
grew more tense, despite protestations of friendship. The U.S. managed to
resurrect the Taiwan issue. America's concern with human rights in Tibet similarly
made the Chinese feel increasingly threatened by America's outsized military
In short, during the 1990's, the rising expectations of Europe,
Russia and China began to collide with the American view of a unipolar world.
The situation had in it the possibilities of a major historical tragedy, with
the United States setting itself against the rise of others in a global confrontation
unlikely to have a good end for anyone involved.
Despite the growing friction of the 1990s, relations could have been much
worse. The imperial tendencies of the Clinton Administration were never very
fully developed, despite America's huge military preponderance. Arguably,
the Administration never gave geopolitics a high priority. The President was
more interested in "geoeconomics" - a view of the world where competition
and cooperation are more balanced than in the military sphere. Multilateralism
is an integral part of the ideology of globalist free trade, and therefore
not easily dispensed with. In any event, Clinton's relations with the military
were notoriously poor and the Administration was strongly averse to getting
involved in any serious military campaign that would lead to heavy casualties
among American forces. In effect, American imperialism was kept in check by
the Administration's pusillanimous approach to the use of force.
Nevertheless, even during the 1990s, a certain balancing of
American power began to take place in Eurasia. European leaders grew increasingly
critical of the American "hyperpower." China and Russia began to
bury their differences. Slowly, Russia and Europe moved more closely together.
Chinese interest in Europe grew increasingly ardent. It was not impossible
to visualize a Eurasian entente to contain the American superpower.
Since the advent of the Bush Administration, the differences
in geopolitical perspective are greatly sharpened and the potential for more
severe clashes enhanced accordingly. From the start, the new Administration
has been much more inclined than its predecessor to assert America's military
power. The new Administration is also self-consciously unilateral in its diplomatic
preferences, as was indicated even before September 11 by its enthusiasm for
missile defense, its contempt for traditional arms control approaches and
its willingness to flaunt the "international community" over a range
of other issues, such as environmental regulation. In other words, Bush's
U.S., unlike that of his predecessor, began to manifest with fervor and ambition
the behavior that follows logically from the unipolar vision. And, of course,
the atrocities of September 11 legitimized in America a radical shift toward
geopolitical and military assertiveness - toward the "new paradigm"
that reaffirms American global preponderance and overrides the pluralist visions
springing up in Europe, Russia and China. Indeed, the Bush Administration
makes this predominance much starker - for, unlike during the Cold War, it
is not to be exercised through multilateral institutions. Is it likely that
the Eurasian powers will simply accept this new dispensation from America?
The huge European wave of sympathy, for example, suggested to some that they
might. Similarly, muted Russian and Chinese reactions to American plans for
missile defense, or the denunciation of the ABM Treaty, suggest to many in
the Bush Administration that America's old rivals are in no position to oppose
America's newly aggressive geopolitics. In any event, the interest they all
share in the war on terrorism will override their other differences.
But Europeans, Russians and Chinese, despite their common interest
in controlling terrorism, have no intention of abandoning their earlier expectations
and aspirations that point to a more plural world system. The nature of counter-terrorism,
moreover, makes it an unlikely vehicle for an American hegemony durably accepted
by others. The control of terrorism is too intimate a task for any government
to make over to another. And Europeans, Russians or Chinese have no reason
to assume that Americans are more gifted in managing terrorism than they are
A New Geopolitical Hostility Between the
US and the Rising Powers of Eurasia?
Does this mean, therefore, that September 11, opening the way
for America's long nurtured unipolar temptation, greatly increases the likelihood
of a new geopolitical hostility between America and the newly rising powers
There is, perhaps, a more optimistic prospect. Terrorism is a real enough
enemy for all the great powers. Controlling it worldwide is beyond any single
power's resources. Even more difficult will be remedying the unsettled and
festering political issues, or the huge demographic and economic disparities
that feed terrorism. Making enough progress to hold the world together calls
for an enormous collective effort. Under such circumstances, fighting terrorism
could prove a catalyst for creating a cooperative concert of powers.
But this will require a new mentality in the United States -
one less triumphalist about America and more sympathetic to the virtues and
charms of a plural world. This means a greater respect for other powers and
their interests, and a willingness to "appease" their ambitions.
At the same time, the Eurasian powers cannot simply be more assertive. They
will have to share responsibility for governing the world in a very difficult
time. With luck, the practical requirements of coalition building against
terrorism will speed these changes of perspective. Meanwhile, however, there
may well be a great deal of friction.