International Herald Tribune
On the Transatlantic Relationship under Bush II
Cicero Foundation Seminar for Experts
NATO, ESDP AND THE FUTURE OF THE TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONSHIP
Paris, 17 december 2004
Paris - The refrain in European foreign policy circles since
George W. Bush's victory in the American presidential election has been that
of reconciliation and new starts.
Tony Blair stated it with the greatest emphasis when he said that the Europeans
had to work with "a new reality" -- American popular confirmation
of George W. Bush's policies, and accusing some Europeans of living in a state
of denial, which certainly was true of those Europeans who had thought that
the first Bush administration constituted a highway accident on the freeway
There were many Europeans before November 3rd who thought that: least of all
the French, by the way, and most of all the faithful Atlanticist Dutch and
A Netherlands university professor remarked to me in 2002 that the political
class in his country had convinced itself that Donald Rumsfeld had locked
up in a dark room all the Washington Atlanticists with whom they had been
dealing for years, but that those Americans were still there waiting to be
let out by a new election, to come blinking forth, ready to pick up where
they had left off in intimate Euro-American relations.
French foreign minister Michel Barnier last week offered The Wall Street Journal
a florid tribute to the great American nation's devotion to peace and freedom,
its help to France as ally and liberator, the two nations' "destinies
intertwined," before getting down to serious matters.
Those were that "French-bashing" has to stop in Washington, the
EU respected and consulted as a major partner, and American policy change
on Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Iran, etc. Others in Europe have made the predictable
call for a return to multilateral consultation in international crises (known
in today's Washington as submitting American security needs to UN decision).
All this is highly improbable, to say the least.
American Atlanticists have declared that the transatlantic strains of recent
years have to be stopped, since the economic interdependency of Europe and
the United States continues to increase, and that neither side can afford
a transatlantic divorce.
The economic dependence is true but could also merely embitter the divorce.
During the campaign, the Bush administration relaunched the conflict over
subsidies to Airbus and Boeing. Its only trade concession to Europe was made
to please American manufacturers about to be damaged by European sanctions
following a European victory at the World Trade Organization in a complaint
over tax concessions to U.S. exporters.
While miracles happen, there has been no sign that American foreign policy
is likely to be modified in any basic respect by a second Bush administration
in order to please European sensibilities or acknowledge European priorities.
An interesting case in point has already been proposed by Tony Blair, who
says that his priority for a revivified transatlantic alliance is action by
Washington to dust off the abandoned Middle Eastern "roadmap," with
new action by the "Quartet" (the UN, EU, Russia and the United States)
to sponsor creation of an independent Palestine and Israeli withdrawal from
most of the Palestinian territories. This is still another profound improbability.
A new secretary of state, assuming there will be one, will probably be even
more courteous to the Europeans and other allies than Colin Powell has been,
and it seems that Donald Rumsfeld might be moved to a new post in which he
would have less to say in public about the allies.
However the same thing has to be said about Bush II as some of us argued would
be the case with a Kerry I administration. Either one of them would continue
the essentials of Bush I foreign policy, which is interventionism in the Middle
East in the belief that this can pacify and democratize the region; efforts,
military if ultimately necessary (and militarily feasible), to prevent further
nuclear proliferation, and further development of the existing global network
of American military bases and security alliances to wage the "war on
terror," still conceived of as a threat susceptible to military solution.
This is the consensus belief of the American foreign policy community. Allies
are expected to assist the United States in these undertakings, accepting
This will divide Europe. Most of the European governments will accept Washington's
leadership and act accordingly. Some - as is the case today - will not, and
will attempt to develop a European counter-power.
This will not be a military counter-power. The conflict between this part
of Europe and the United States is not military in nature, and it scarcely
is imaginable that it could become military. It will not be global, in that
Western Europe's global interests are commercial and economic. The European
Union's major members today add up to greater financial and economic power
than the indebted United States now possesses.
It will be political in those cases - such as Iraq and Palestine-Israel today
- where the Europeans believe that Europe's economic power, political leverage
and influence, and "soft" or cultural and persuasive power can make
a difference. Its thrust will be to affirm European interests where they conflict
with or diverge from American interests. Its purpose will not be to "defeat"
the United States, merely to create an international system with more than
one center of power and influence. China and possibly Japan, as well as emerging
alignments of power elsewhere in Asia and in Latin America, are likely to
find encouragement and advantage in this.
9 December 2004
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED