A Fraying Alliance
Allies diverge on vision for world
U.S. unilateralism helps weaken ties
First of four parts
By R.C. Longworth
Tribune senior correspondent
BERLIN - 28 July 2002 - The Atlantic alliance between the United States and Europe, the most successful international bonding of all time, is breaking down amid starkly differing visions of a changing world and both sides' proper place in it.
The alliance, a mesh of military, economic, cultural and historic ties, was born in the ashes of World War II, the coupling of a young superpower and old nation-states devastated by conflict. The alliance produced the Marshall Plan and NATO, fought and won the Cold War and created the most prosperous and peaceful assembly of democracies in history. Its dramatic erosion, which is not a priority in a Washington fixated on terrorism, has become an obsession in Europe.
No total rupture is likely, nor are former friends about to become foes. Economic ties, both trade and investment, will stay strong. NATO, the institutional cornerstone of the alliance, probably will survive, but in a reduced and less military role.
The alliance's trend is not toward hostility but toward irrelevance, with the United States, by far its dominant member, dealing with threats beyond Europe and less interested in what the Europeans think and do. The Europeans, for their part, are preoccupied with their own continent and offended by what they see as American unilateralism.
For both sides, the Atlantic alliance has been the anchor of foreign policy since World War II. So for both, its fraying means a basic shift in the way they deal with the world.
"I know Germans and Americans share values and experiences," Robert Zoellick, the chief U.S. trade negotiator and one of the more multilateral members of the administration, told a German Marshall Fund meeting in Berlin. "Yet the question we must address now is whether we have shared interests as well.
"Many recent Euro-Atlantic squabbles . . . reflect America's reassessment of its national interests in a changed world and Europe's conservatism in adjusting," Zoellick told the Germans. "Will there be a basis for a trans-Atlantic unity absent the intense cohesion of shared dangers?"
The 50-year history of the alliance is filled with spats and hard words--over trade, missiles, Cold War strategy, American saber rattling, European appeasement, Disney movies and Big Macs. But these were fights within the family, between allies who always seemed to kiss and make up.
In a Tribune examination of the state of the alliance, leading European foreign policy and defense officials, and political analysts from Berlin to Paris to London and Brussels agree that what's happening now is different.
"It's normal to criticize each other, and normal for Americans to be very tough in defending their interests," said Gilles Andreani, a French foreign policy scholar. "But this is a new attitude, a contempt toward Europeans that we never saw before.
"Americans can have their way on this planet without Europe," Andreani said. "For the first time, you hear Americans saying that we don't want to be in a position where we need Europeans."
The next big flash point, and the most crucial one, is expected to involve any U.S. decision to invade Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. European leaders, all of whom backed the U.S. policy in Afghanistan, say they will support an attack on Iraq only if Bush makes a solid case that it is aiding terrorism and if the United States first wins UN Security Council support. Otherwise, Europeans may well oppose any attack, which could help hasten the collapse of the alliance.
European officials see the new relationship as the result of three separate but interlocking trends:
The end of the Cold War. In the Soviet-American struggle, Europe was the front line and the focal point of U.S. policy. That ended 11 years ago, with the collapse of communism. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 only dramatized this shift of American attention from Europe to more global threats.
The unprecedented power of the United States, coupled with the unilateralism of the Bush administration. American officials are making it clear that European consultation and cooperation is more hindrance than help. A Europe devoted to international law and institutions faces a Washington that rejects any international restraint on its power. A half-century habit of trans-Atlantic conversation has been replaced by an unconcealed scorn in Washington for the Europeans.
The success of the European Union in creating a zone of peace in which war is virtually unthinkable. This success has led to sharp cuts in European military spending over the last decade and a relative military weakness. As a result, the United States has stopped counting on European help in battle.
U.S. contempt alleged
Some of this, like the fallout from the end of the Cold War, is inevitable. Some, like the replacement of a war-torn Europe by a continent at peace, is positive and has active U.S. support.
But some seems almost deliberate. Many European officials admit that Europe, in its single-minded construction of the EU, has turned inward, away from global issues, and has not kept up its end of the military balance. But the same Europeans say that the Bush administration's open contempt for Europeans' positions is widening the gap and is squandering the political sympathy that the United States enjoyed across Europe after Sept. 11.
NATO, the military alliance that won the Cold War, is not strong enough to bridge this gap.
"Europe is not willing to be bullied, but the United States is not willing to be restrained," said Mark Leonard, director of the Foreign Policy Centre, a London think tank with ties to the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"The continents are without doubt drifting apart," agreed Hugo Young, a leading British political columnist, in the Guardian. "They have interests in common, but also interests around which America, as now led, has the power and the hardness to insist on non-negotiable policies that we can take or leave."
American officials fanned out across Europe this summer to spread the word that U.S. priorities and interests have changed, post Sept. 11. The Europeans are being told that, if they want to change their worldviews, too, then they are welcome to stay in the alliance. If not, America will go on without them.
The European reaction to this varies from country to country. European officials seem baffled and confused by the U.S. policy and are wary of alienating Washington, loath to criticize the Bush administration for fear of making matters worse.
Germany, grateful for U.S. support through the Cold War and anxious to keep the alliance, has been reluctant to criticize Washington. Blair prides himself on working quietly with Bush to influence U.S. policies: Political sources in London say part of this is "damage control," to limit the extremes of U.S. unilateralism.
The French, as usual, are more ready to say what the rest of the continent is thinking.
"Very few European countries are used to saying no to the United States," a French diplomat said. "France has a long history of debate with America, but other countries aren't so used to this."
Split more apparent
European officials agree that the U.S.-European split has become more visible and bitter under Bush. The Clinton administration riled Europeans with its post-Cold War triumphalism, rubbed in its military superiority in Kosovo, and refused to ask Congress to sign the Kyoto treaty on global warming.
But the real shocks to the system have come thick and fast under Bush, including the total rejection of Kyoto, the breaching of the anti-missile treaty and the pursuit of a missile defense system, the "axis of evil" speech that named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as global villains, among others. But several recent events have hardened Europeans' concerns into a real fear of where the United States is going.
The first was the American reaction when its NATO allies, immediately after Sept. 11, invoked NATO's Article 5 for the first time in its history. That article says, in effect, that an attack on one NATO nation is an attack on all of them, and the allies' action was intended as an act of solidarity with Americans and offer of all-out help in the fight against terrorism. The United States never accepted the offer and has made relatively little use of European military help since then.
The second shock was the war on terrorism itself, or rather the overwhelming U.S. focus on the war on terrorism and its tendency to see other world problems in the anti-terrorism context.
Then came differences of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, with the Europeans condemning one-sided U.S. support for Israel and the Americans seeing anti-Semitism in Europe's more balanced approach.
More recently has come the administration's attempt to undermine the new International Criminal Court, which all European nations see as a first step toward a global rule of law.
Part of the trans-Atlantic problem is a failure on each side to understand the deep emotions that drive the other.
Chris Patten, the EU commissioner, has been a leading critic of American unilateralism. But he admits that Europeans just don't grasp "the consequences of 9/11 for American policymaking and the American psyche. I think that we in Europe have to make a greater effort to comprehend the impact of that atrocity.
"We in Europe have had to live with instability for most of the last century," from two world wars to the postwar wave of domestic terrorism in most European nations, Patten said. For that reason, he said, it is too easy for Europeans to see terrorism as part of the landscape, a problem like many others, rather than as an unprecedented assault on a nation that always considered itself invulnerable.
But the Europeans feel that Americans don't understand their devotion to non-military solutions or their pride over the consensual if bureaucratic way they have built their continent. Nor, they feel, do Americans understand that Europe's support for the ICC, Kyoto and other international treaties is not a spasm of political correctness but a reflection of deep values.
"There's one fundamental difference, and it's not just Kyoto or the ICC," said Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. "It's whether truly international issues should be met with a truly international approach. This is a deeply held view in Europe. On this point, we need to quarrel."
The European press is full of criticism of Bush as a gun-happy cowboy--cartoons in The Guardian of London regularly portray him as a monkey wrapped in an American flag--and Europeans laugh at him. But European officials shun these caricatures, aware that some of America's most effective leaders also lacked the kind of polish and sophistication that impresses continentals.
"This atmosphere doesn't depend on Bush as a person," said Hubert Vedrine, until recently the French foreign minister. "[Ronald] Reagan and [Harry] Truman weren't sophisticated either, but they were very effective."
But Europeans also see the triumph of a provincial, conservative, overtly Christian part of America that is alien from the United States they once knew.
Europe today is basically a secular society, Andreani said, and has a hard time dealing "with a government that may be pragmatic but has its values--religion, a certain order of society--so upfront. For our secular society, the idea that a presidential candidate would explain how he feels about Jesus is bizarre."
A Fraying Alliance
Allies are worlds apart in war on terrorism
Second of four parts
By R.C. Longworth
Tribune senior correspondent
July 29, 2002
LONDON -- On the day terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon, the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, published a now-famous headline: "Nous sommes tous Americains." We are all Americans. And it meant it.
Eight months later, a poll published in the German magazine Der Spiegel asked Europeans whether the attacks were against the entire Western world, as Le Monde's headline implied, or just against the United States. By a 3-1 margin, the Europeans said it was an attack on Americans. Nothing to do with Europe.
Nothing sums up better the deep divide between Europe and America and how they see the world.
The United States is fighting a war against terrorism. Europe says there is no war on terrorism.
The U.S. government says terrorism is an evil to be eradicated. European governments believe it is one problem among many--a serious problem, to be sure, but not an obsession and probably one that can be controlled but not solved.
"Americans do feel they are at war," said Gilles Andreani, a French foreign policy analyst. "Europeans feel there's a problem at hand, part of which requires a military action."
From this flow the different views, even goals, of the Atlantic alliance over how the world should be run. An alliance that once cooperated in the defense of Western values against the threat of communism cannot even agree today on what the threat is and frequently is at odds over values.
On Sept. 11, an outpouring of sympathy and grief across Europe united Americans and Europeans. The emotion was genuine. In Brussels, the 19 NATO nations met and, for the first time in the bloc's 53-year history, invoked their treaty's Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all. If America wanted to strike back at the terrorists, Europe was ready to help.
The trauma of that day remains vivid in America. But, perhaps inevitably, it has faded in Europe, 5,000 miles away. Much of the sympathy remains, but European governments, unlike the U.S. government, are unwilling to subordinate all aspects of policy to the fight against terrorism.
There are many reasons for this.
First, the Bush administration publicly welcomed but privately put little stock in the NATO offer of help. The American response, according to one diplomat, was "don't call us, and we probably won't call you." In the end, some NATO nations contributed peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan, but the alliance itself was sidelined.
"When the Pentagon turned down our offers of help, that was the turning point," said Hubert Vedrine, who was French foreign minister at the time. "Many Europeans were demoralized. The military alliance doesn't make much sense any more."
Second is the passage of time. Most Europeans seem to believe that the Americans must put the attacks, like any catastrophe, into the perspective of other events, and then get on with their lives. Europe doesn't understand that Americans have found this emotionally impossible.
Allied to this is the European refusal to elevate the struggle against terrorism to the status of "war," demanding the total resources of government. In addition, the Europeans reject the Bush administration's reliance on military action as the best way to fight terrorism. Virtually all European officials argue that military action must be coupled with "soft" solutions to fight poverty and disease, to ease the conditions that they believe breed terrorism.
Different views of war
Moreover, Europeans and Americans take a starkly different historical view of war.
For Europe, war over the past century has produced only losers, devastation and horror. As a result, Europeans feel a deep revulsion for civilian casualties of armed conflict that the U.S. minimizes as "collateral damage."
For the United States, war has long helped advance national interests. In the 19th Century, wars made America a continental power. The Spanish-American War enabled the U.S. to project its military strength. World War II led directly to superpower status, without nearly the death and devastation and suffering at home that afflicted Europe. Much of America's predominance in the world today rests on its military power, which the Europeans cannot match.
Europeans concede their relative military weakness, but they say it has helped them focus more on non-military means, making them better and more patient when it comes to programs aimed at aid and development.
"The United States can stop the Taliban," said Karl Kaiser, director of the Research Institute of the German Society for Foreign Affairs, "but it can't create the conditions so the Taliban won't come back. We can do this."
Terrorism in Europe
Another reason is rooted in Europe's own history with terrorism--the Irish Republican Army in Britain, the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, Basque terrorists in Spain, Arab terrorists in France and Austria.
None launched a single attack as destructive as the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. But over the years, they assassinated Cabinet ministers in Britain, leading bankers in Germany, the prime minister of Italy, generals, police officers and hundreds of citizens.
The Basque terrorists are still active in Spain. But in other European countries, years of patient police work, plus dogged diplomacy in places like Northern Ireland, have largely ended the threats, without the need to put any of the countries on a war footing.
Repeatedly, European officials argue that it is not anti-American to suggest that the Bush administration is fighting terrorism the wrong way.
"I had two of my friends blown up by [IRA] terrorists and spent part of my life, when I had a young family, wondering whenever I turned the ignition on, if it would blow all of us to smithereens," said Chris Patten, the European Union's commissioner for external affairs and a former British Cabinet minister. "So I know the difference between right and wrong.
"Terrorism is never under any circumstances justified," Patten said. "But I also know there's a political context in which terrorist acts take place, and unless you address that context seriously and adroitly, terrorism is likely to continue.
"You don't have to curb your moral principles to make that point."
In addition, Patten said, "I don't believe that the world is a more dangerous place this summer than last, nor that nation-states have suddenly become more vulnerable. I do think that there's a dark side to globalization that we've ignored at our peril."
Feeling removed from threat
The irony is that, at this moment when Americans feel more vulnerable than ever, many Europeans feel safer.
"You sense that the United States is at war," said Klaus Scharioth, political director of the German foreign minister. "Nobody here feels at war.
"Why? Germany spent all those years on the front line of the Cold War. We lived with this threat. We knew Germany would be the battlefield. Before Sept. 11, we never had this feeling of security, so it couldn't be taken away from us.
"But since the [Berlin] Wall came down," Scharioth said, "we don't live under the threat of missiles. Our situation has improved. Even with the terrorist threat, our situation has improved."
Across Europe, this feeling of being removed from the Soviet threat exists.
"Brezhnev had thousands of warheads facing us," Patrice de Beer, a commentator for Le Monde, said of the late Soviet leader. "That's a lot different from some guy in a cave."
Many Europeans see a post-Sept. 11 America lashing out "like a wounded bear," in the words of David Held, a professor at the London School of Economics, "which risks making itself more vulnerable. This reaction is a weakness, not a strength."
The test of these conflicting trans-Atlantic attitudes will come if the Bush administration decides to attack Iraq and tries to unseat Saddam Hussein.
Conversations across Europe reveal two conflicting attitudes. Almost no European leader thinks Hussein has ties to Al Qaeda or any direct relationship to the war on terrorism. All believe that any attack on Iraq is likely to destabilize the Middle East and cause more harm than good. But all are alarmed by Hussein's development of weapons of mass destruction. And most believe that if any U.S. attack has a chance to succeed, it is going to need the military and diplomatic support of a broad coalition.
"Iraq will be hard to do without international support," a NATO official in Brussels said. "It's a state and an Arab state, not a black hole of anarchy.
"When the U.S. has done this unilaterally--Vietnam springs to mind--it hasn't been so successful," the official said. "The United States could single-handedly get rid of Saddam Hussein, but in the long term, you're going to want to have your allies there."
Looking to avoid precedent
In addition, there is a feeling in Europe that a unilateral U.S. attack would give Washington the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world, a precedent that Europeans desperately want to avoid.
And the Europeans know that, if they actively oppose U.S. action toward Iraq, it could destroy what's left of the alliance.
For these reasons, most European analysts believe that European governments will give either active or passive support to a U.S. attack on Iraq, if Washington makes a case that the Europeans can sell to their voters and parliaments.
"The attitude in France and in Europe toward intervention in Iraq is changing," said Jacques Beltran, an analyst with the French Institute on International Relations in Paris. "Before, there was opposition, a fear that it would destabilize the whole region. Now [President Jacques] Chirac says that all options are on the table.
"There's a feeling that if the Americans are going to go anyway, it's better to be with them than not," Beltran said.
"But the United States has to make an effort to build the alliance," said Germany's Kaiser. "It's very much a matter of style. To do this unilaterally--that's wrong."
The key to support on Iraq
There must be an all-out effort through the United Nations to persuade or force the Iraqi leader to readmit UN weapons inspectors, all analysts say. If he does this, any European support for an attack will evaporate. If he refuses, the European governments can argue that he is a threat and should be eliminated.
"If Bush tackles Iraq the Rumsfeld way, if it just does it, Europeans will be very angry," said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform in London. "Blair might send troops, but the others won't.
"But if Bush goes the UN inspectors route, a multilateral solution, then the other Europeans will support it," Grant said.
"The United States is the leader in this," Kaiser said. "You have to persuade the allies to go along and contribute according to their means.
"We're just not in the same mood as the U.S.," he said. "We've had no attack here. Bush has to help democratically elected politicians here to go along." American saber-rattling by leaders like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld makes "life difficult for politicians here like [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder."
Even so, Europeans hope that any attack will be a unique event, not the basis for a "doctrine of pre-emption" that gives the U.S. the right to attack any nation it suspects of harboring evil intent.
"This doctrine of pre-emption is dangerous because it's a symbol of the different ways we look at the world," said Philip Stephens, columnist for the Financial Times of London. "Attacking Iraq--that's one thing. But a doctrine of pre-emption, with you deciding who to attack--that's setting off alarm bells here."
A Fraying Alliance
U.S. sidestepping NATO in post-Cold War world
Third of four parts.
By R.C. Longworth
Tribune senior correspondent
July 30, 2002
BRUSSELS -- Lord Ismay, the first secretary general of NATO, used to say that the alliance's purpose was "to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down."
Fifty years after Ismay's quip, a post-communist Russia is a partner of NATO's, if not yet a member. A post-reunification Germany is the most powerful nation in Europe. And a post-Sept. 11 America is wondering whether it wants or needs its Europeans allies anymore.
As a result, NATO is in a first-class crisis, uncertain of its role or its future.
Is NATO's purpose mainly military, as the Western spearpoint in an unruly world? Or mainly political, a place where like-minded nations can talk together, even if the real decisions are made in Washington?
Should the alliance expand its membership to take in more former communist countries of Eastern Europe? Or would that expansion burden it with weak and ill-armed ex-satellites that will only dilute its fighting capacity?
What kind of military alliance can it be when one member, the United States, spends more than twice as much on defense as the other 18 allies combined and sees all its current military threats outside the North Atlantic area, which NATO was formed to defend?
How much defensive unity can there be when that same lead partner, America, is changing its whole concept of defense, and its partners disagree?
What happens to an alliance when its members offer to help fight the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. spurns their help?
"We're redefining what it is to have national security," said Philip Zelikow, a former National Security Council official and a member of President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, at a meeting in Berlin. "We are redefining it in range, beyond the homeland; and in time, making it pre-emptive; and in its basis, which are moral values."
Europeans have different goals, Zelikow said, but that doesn't bother Washington much.
"There's a difference of perspectives in World Cup matches between spectators and the goalie," he told German members of parliament, who were left in no doubt that they are the spectators and Washington the goalie.
With differences such as this, it's no wonder that NATO "is no longer the place where trans-Atlantic relations are thrashed out," said Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.
"The United States is less interested in NATO, so the United States is less interested in providing leadership at the very time when it is taking in new members," Bertram said.
As a result, he said, "the one institution we have isn't doing its job toward a trans-Atlantic dialogue."
When Bertram called NATO "the one institution we have," he was speaking literally. Since its founding in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been the sole institutional link among the United States, Canada and Western Europeans. A dense mesh of other ties--economic, educational, political--link these nations, through contracts or bilateral treaties or informal agreements. But the Treaty of Washington that created NATO is the only trans-Atlantic agreement committing the nations to work, talk and fight together to defend democracy and promote economic cooperation.
Evolved into political alliance
NATO was set up basically as a defense alliance to protect Western Europe against the Soviet Union, which had established its military control over Eastern Europe. But over the years, the alliance has become as much political as military, an expression of common democratic values as much as military might.
NATO had 12 members when it was founded and has 19 now, including three former communist countries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. At a Prague summit meeting this autumn, NATO is expected to agree to take in at least five more ex-communist countries. Russia will not be among them, but the post-communist government in Moscow already has struck a deal with the alliance that gives it a seat at NATO's table and a voice, if not a veto, in the organization's planning.
All NATO nations have embassies inside the alliance's sprawling headquarters on the airport road outside this Belgian capital. The ambassadors form the NATO Council, which is the one place where the Americans and the Europeans meet regularly to discuss mutual problems. When presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers get together, NATO often is where they do it.
Any weakening of NATO, then, means a weakening of the only institutional bridge across the Atlantic Ocean.
Many European analysts believe that the Bush administration, and particularly the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, see no serious military role for NATO or the NATO allies in America's war on terrorism. Instead, they believe the administration sees NATO more as an obstacle to effective action, a talk shop where the United States can only get bogged down in a search for consensus and compromise.
These analysts say the U.S. believes now in a unilateral approach to defense, signing up allies on the spot--such as Afghanistan and its Central Asian nations--in temporary "coalitions of the willing," while letting a permanent alliance like NATO wither.
NATO, in the meantime, is moving toward a more political role, a way to bring Russia and the other former communist countries into a united and peaceful Europe. The analysts say this is a useful task, so far as it goes, but it risks eroding NATO's role as a defensive alliance to the point that it loses its military bite and becomes just another organization of European nations, with the United States largely on the sidelines.
President Bush has actively supported NATO membership for Slovenia, Slovakia and the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, despite fears from military experts that those countries would add little to European defense and might make a 24-nation alliance too unwieldy to be effective. Some in Europe fear that Bush's support for expansion means he doesn't care whether NATO is effective.
The U.S. view of NATO as bureaucratic and slow-moving baffles the Europeans. It also reveals much about the differing priorities on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The U.S. wants temporary coalitions to get specific jobs done; the Europeans want permanent alliances embodying basic principles.
Europeans see NATO as an American-dominated alliance, the "hardest, sleekest, least deliberative institution imaginable," said Mark Leonard, director of the Foreign Policy Centre in London. "So you'd think the Americans would like it. But for the Americans, it's seen as terminally bureaucratic."
For Europeans, Rumsfeld is the problem more than Bush. European officials castigate Rumsfeld, himself a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, as the apostle of unilateralism who goes out of his way to scorn America's allies in Europe.
"The bad mood music comes out of the style of the people in the Pentagon," said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform in London.
Grant said European officials are finding that Rumsfeld's Defense Department goes out of its way to be rude to Europeans. Pentagon officials with old friends in European defense ministries will exchange pleasantries, he said, while refusing to talk business with them.
As a result, when the Europeans want to talk to Washington, they deal almost exclusively with Secretary of State Colin Powell and the State Department, which is seen in Europe as fighting the multilateralist battle in the struggle for policy supremacy within the Bush administration.
"We all know that the U.S. administration is not united on many things," said Jacques Beltran of the French Institute for International Relations. "We know that Powell especially is open to our views."
But the same Europeans who support Powell know it would be a political kiss of death in Washington for the secretary of state to be seen as a mailman for European views.
`One player ... that counts'
A key to NATO's troubles is the huge gap in military spending and power between the United States and everybody else. The U.S. is spending $343 billion on defense this year, more than twice as much as all 17 European members put together. Congress has just added another $48billion--an increase greater than the total defense spending of any NATO ally.
Yale University professor Paul Kennedy, in a much-cited article in the Financial Times of London, said that "in military terms, there is only one player on the field that counts."
The United States, Kennedy noted, has 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, all with their own battle groups. By contrast, the French government wanted to send its only carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to help in the Indian Ocean after Sept. 11, but it was tied up for repairs in the port of Toulon.
Even before the current conflict in Central Asia, the battle for Kosovo had dramatized U.S. military superiority and embarrassed the Europeans into accelerating plans for joint military efforts that might rival the Americans in efficiency. Three years later, those plans remain mostly plans, not achievements.
The European Union nations hope to field a Rapid Reaction Force within a year. That force would enable the Europeans to deploy 60,000 troops within 60 days and keep them deployed for up to a year--enough to deal with crises in the Balkans or the Mediterranean region without U.S. help.
At the moment, however, that force consists of a Finnish general in Brussels with a staff of about 150 aides. Even if the force becomes a reality, the Europeans still lack the transport and other logistics to support it.
The force is part of a more ambitious dream of a European Security and Defense Policy, which would give the EU a defense capability to match its common foreign policy--also mostly still on the drawing board--and would bring the EU closer to a true single government.
Whether the Europeans can achieve this is open to question. Officials in France and Britain, the two leading military powers in Europe, said both governments want to keep control of their militaries and are unlikely to cede authority to deploy them to other countries. Any European defense force will be "not a European army but a coalition of European armies," said Beltran of the French Institute for International Relations.
But as many Europeans concede, their governments, intent on building a Europe without war or power politics, have not pulled their weight on defense spending since the Cold War ended.
The European NATO members spend an average of 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, down from 3.2 percent in 1989. Many individual European nations spend even less--1.5 percent in Germany, 1.9 percent in Italy, 1.2 percent in Spain. France spends the most, 2.6 percent. Turkey and Greece each devote about 5 percent of their GDP to the military, but that is mostly for defense against each other.
(U.S. defense spending has gone down since 1989 as a percentage of GDP, to 3 percent from 6, but has stayed steady in dollar terms and is about to rise to 3.3 percent.)
Even this sparse spending in Europe is largely wasted through duplication and lack of coordination--"too many countries trying to do too many things badly," a NATO source said.
Despite that, Europeans hotly deny that they are as weak or feckless as the Pentagon and American unilateralists paint them.
Europe supplies fully 85 percent of NATO troops in the Balkans and half the allied troops in Afghanistan. British special forces get high marks from military experts, as do Italy's Alpine forces and the Czech Republic's biological and chemical response unit. European planes patrol the Horn of Africa and do other useful chores, freeing U.S. resources for crisis spots.
Chris Patten, the European Union's commissioner for external affairs, concedes that "the technical military imbalance between the United States and Europe is sufficiently large to risk being destabilizing. That's a worry. Europe has do more to secure its own future.
"But," Patten said, "if increasing defense spending as much as the U.S. has done is the price of joining this club, this is not a price that European voters will pay."
A division of labor
In this atmosphere, support is growing in Europe for a division of labor, with the U.S. doing the fighting and the Europeans mopping up later with aid and economic programs and peacekeeping missions.
Many analysts oppose this because it would make the Americans a sort of global mercenary force and turn the Europeans into international social workers. Or, as many Europeans put it in a phrase heard around the continent, "the Americans get to cook the meal and we get to do the dishes."
"But this is reality," Britain's Grant said. "The United States likes to spend money on high-tech weapons. Not even the most hawkish Europeans think you have to spend that much money.
"But you [Americans] do hate peacekeeping," he said, "and you're not very good at it. We're good at peacekeeping. And doing the dishes does give us some sway over your decision-making.
"I think that some division of labor like this is becoming a fact of life."
A Fraying Alliance
Europe asks why U.S. can't see its 'miracle'
Final of four parts.
By R.C. Longworth
Tribune senior correspondent
July 31, 2002
PARIS -- The issue before the court was dear to the heart, or stomach, of every European--food. In this case, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan, the hard sharp cheese from the area around the Italian city of Parma.
The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the European Union's highest court, which ruled in June that only cheese made in Parma to a high, fixed standard could be sold-- not just in Italy but anywhere in Europe--under the Parmesan trademark. Inferior competitors had to give their cheese some other name.
Score one for the cheesemakers of Parma. And score one more for the European Union and the process that, over the years, has built--case by case, decision by decision, negotiation by negotiation--a continental structure that may be the great international success story of the post-World War II years.
Through small steps, like the cheese verdict, and big ones, like the creation of a single currency, Europe today is less than a United States of Europe but much more than a loose group of nations doing business with each other.
The European Union is unique in history, and its success has emerged only gradually through a system so complex that it is barely understood by many Europeans and almost not at all by Americans.
This success and this American incomprehension are causing real trans-Atlantic problems. The EU has emerged at age 45 as a partner and rival to the United States, potent in some areas such as trade and incomplete in other areas such as defense. The way it operates, through tortuous negotiations and compromise, baffles and frustrates the hard-driving unilateralists of Washington, who are increasingly intolerant of the slow-motion decision-making of their closest allies.
European officials say they want to keep Washington happy. But they aren't willing to abandon a union and a process that has turned their continent from a war-flattened wasteland to a landscape of peace and prosperity unprecedented in European history, just to please the Americans.
"Europeans have done something that no one has ever done before: create a zone of peace where war is ruled out, absolutely out," said Karl Kaiser, director of the Research Institute of the German Society for Foreign Affairs in Berlin. "Europeans are convinced that this model is valid for other parts of the world."
"Europe has evolved into a system of collaborative governance that is unique and invaluable," agreed David Held, a political scientist at the London School of Economics. "Who would have imagined that in 50 years we would have created this?"
The United States backed this process diplomatically and politically every step of the way, seeing it as the best means to end the ruinous European wars that twice involved U.S. troops in the 20th Century. Most Europeans acknowledge that without the U.S. military guarantee and nuclear umbrella, they never could have used the Cold War years to build their union.
But like many elders, the Americans are not always happy with their trans-Atlantic handiwork.
Decade of difference
"Since 1989," Held said, "the U.S. and Europe have woken up to real differences. Europe doesn't pull its weight [on defense]. Europe is obsessed with itself. And Europe is becoming competitive.
"So the U.S. sees it now as less necessary and more of a thorn in the flesh," Held said.
"I know that Europe is very frustrating," added Anthony Cary, chief aide to the EU's external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten. The EU has achieved unity in many economic areas--trade, antitrust, currency--that compete with the United States, but it is only beginning to work on common foreign and defense policies at a time when the United States is demanding knee-jerk loyalty from its allies in these areas.
Despite this, "Europe is the most developed experiment so far in trying to manage a region through the pooling of the sovereignty of nations," Cary said. "The United States has always been a champion of a united Europe but, before now, it had the luxury of not having to deal with a united Europe."
Part of the trans-Atlantic tensions stem from the competition that a united Europe with its own currency offers to the powerful U.S. economy and its once all-powerful dollar. Part of it is the EU's ability to set global standards, for genetically modified foods for instance, that American exporters must honor its power to block mergers, such as the proposed linkup of General Electric and Honeywell, involving even the mightiest U.S. corporations.
But in this era of foreign policy rivalry between unilateralists and multilateralists, the greatest tension arises from the key to Europe's success--its way of governing itself.
The European Union began in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community, which blossomed six years later into the European Common Market, with six members: Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. It now calls itself the European Union and has 15 members, which could grow to 25 in two or three years with the admission of 10 ex-communist countries, plus Greek Cyprus.
The purpose of the EU's founders was to prevent another war in Europe by uniting the economics of the member nations into such a web of interdependence that they could never again do battle with each other. The technique was a brick-by-brick approach, an amassing of one agreement after another in a multitude of areas--farming, trade, transport, energy, taxation, product standards and the like--in the hope that all these bricks would build "a common European house."
It has taken a half-century, but that is pretty much what happened, at least in the economic area, where the EU often behaves like a single government. This has required constant pooling of sovereignty, as decisions normally made by national governments have been transferred to EU headquarters in Brussels. The most dramatic was the decision by 11 of the EU nations to abandon their national currencies, one of the symbols of nationhood, and adopt a single currency, the euro.
This hasn't been easy. Over the years, EU members have learned to advance a step at a time, often through endless meetings involving tedious negotiation and careful compromise. It has involved the building of multilateral institutions, laws, regulations and cooperation. The process is bureaucratic often boring--but it works.
"This miracle of Europe is under-perceived in America," said Klaus Scharioth, political director of the German Foreign Ministry. "Once, we were a continent of borders and of wars. Now you can go from Denmark to Portugal without being stopped once or having to change your money. I think it's a miracle. Why is it that this European miracle is under-perceived?"
Style of doing business
One reason is that the European way of doing business--through talk, patience, compromise and pooled sovereignty--is exactly opposite to the new American unilateralist thirst for action, quick results, no compromise with enemies, a suspicion of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and a refusal to give any sovereignty to new institutions like an International Criminal Court.
Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia historian and former National Security Council official, listed these differences between the United States and Europe:
· Europeans want permanent institutions to embody general principles, while Americans want temporary institutions to solve particular problems.
· Europeans favor neutrality and consensus, while American make judgments about right and wrong.
· Europeans want to limit sovereignty while Americans rely on it.
The result, Zelikow told a Berlin audience this summer, is that Americans feel like Gulliver among the Lilliputians, a giant tied down by strings of treaties and rules.
"We feel very strongly about political accountability of decision-making," Zelikow said. "That's why we like the nation-state."
But Europe, having seen nationalism twice devastate the continent, has gone far toward eroding the nation-state, making accountability sometimes hard to find. There are EU commissioners for trade and anti-trust regulation with real power, and the U.S. government knows who they are.
But decision-making in foreign policy and defense is just beginning to move from the European nations to Brussels, and Americans never know whether to go to Brussels or to Paris or London or Berlin to get a decision in these crucial areas.
The EU's Cary urges patience. The original 13 American colonies, he said, "started with a foreign policy, to face a common enemy. Besides that, they shared cultural and language, and saw themselves as sub-national states. The EU started as an economic entity, with long-established nations. So foreign policy, which goes to the heart of what it means to be a nation, is our most difficult part."
"All polls say that Europeans want a common foreign and defense policy, but we aren't there yet,' said Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. "We want to be respected as though we are there, and we're not. We want to be taken seriously, but we aren't serious yet.
"Unfortunately," Bertram went on, "the United States moves without much regard for these sensitivities, so we see it as pushy and unilateralist and Texan."
With this uneven development, the European Union is only half-finished. Finishing the other half "is a massive undertaking, and there's only so much time in the world," said British commentator John Lloyd. "The movers and shakers in Europe are consumed by this."
Keeping progress going
The result is an inward-looking Europe, obsessed with its own development and enlargement. At the moment, the EU has just launched a constitutional convention, a huge chore that will determine the union's future structure and power balance.
All this leaves European leaders with relatively little time and energy to devote to the rest of the world, a fact that both frustrates Washington and gives it a free hand in this wider world.
This is the stage where the debate between European multilateralism and U.S. unilateralism is played out.
Hubert Vedrine, the former French foreign minister, said that "in Europe, people believe in multilateral negotiations, conflict prevention--what's enshrined in the UN Charter. Americans are less inclined to this, and this is a result of the power that the United States has. When you reach that much power, you don't want to waste your time negotiating with others.
"Europeans have developed a new Utopia, a world not ruled by power," Vedrine said. "Americans are applying the usual power politics."
"But Europeans played power politics for centuries and all we got was war," added Philip Stephens, a columnist for the Financial Times of London. "Europeans see talk and compromise as a reason for the absence of war. All our differences are worked out through negotiations, so the European commitment to institutions is a deep cultural one."
The EU decided 10 years ago to have a common foreign and defense policy, but is finding unity in these areas much harder than building a single currency or economy. Most foreign policy still lies with national capitals. Brussels has two foreign policy supremos--Patten, a commissioner with power over foreign economy policy, and Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for the largely non-existent common foreign policy.
In the meantime, the Bush administration, seeing itself at war and impatient with delays, is barely bothering to tell its European allies what it is going to do, much less waiting for their approval.
"They don't give a damn about these internal European problems," Vedrine said. When Europe gets its foreign and defense policy in place, "then we can turn to the U.S. and say that we have our own ideas that we want to discuss with you."
But until then, he said, "relations are going to be choppy."
Beyond Europe, most Europeans are strong supporters of global multilateral institutions like the International Criminal Court or the Kyoto Convention on global warming. Because of their commitment to multilateralism, Europeans say that U.S. opposition to these projects translates into hostility for the entire consensus-based European project.
Because of American power, "the new world order depends on the United States," explained Mark Leonard, director of the Foreign Policy Centre in London. "So every time that the U.S. does something unilateral or arrogant, it undermines the legitimacy of these projects, and this threatens the legitimacy of our project, of the European dream."