US-Europe rift is seen at crisis point
WASHINGTON -- A task force of 26 prominent Americans and Europeans has
concluded that trans-Atlantic relations are at a dangerous low ebb and is
faulting the Bush administration as well as the allies.
The war in Iraq brought the strains to a crisis point, with France and
Germany organizing resistance to US war policy and the Bush administration
trying to split the alliance, the task force said in a report released yesterday
by the Council on Foreign Relations.
"They see us as bullies," Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard
University and cochairman of the project, said at a news conference.
But, Summers said, "no matter how strong you are, you don't get very far
Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, the other cochairman, said the
trans-Atlantic alliance was based on mutual values as well as mutual interests.
Describing himself as a strong supporter of the Bush administration, Kissinger
said the US-European relationship will be relevant in the future but has to be
examined to find ways to make it work better.
The trans-Atlantic split widened even as the report was being issued.
A new government in Spain moved to pull its troops out of Iraq, reversing the
strong support its predecessor had given the Bush administration.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, a staunch ally in the war, said
Thursday that he may withdraw troops early from Iraq and that Poland had been
"misled" about the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
Kwasniewski took those statements back yesterday, telling President Bush that
the troops would remain there, a spokesman for Kwasniewski said.
But Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France told the newspaper Le
Monde that the US-led war has made the world a more dangerous place. "We
have to look reality in the face," he said. World Peace.
Many Europeans assumed malign intent on the part of the administration, and
"the conviction that the United States is a hyperpower to be contained has
become fashionable in Europe," while pacifism took hold in some parts of
the continent, the report said.
The Bush administration, trying to avoid limitations on its actions, spurned
offers of help in retaliating against Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in
Afghanistan, the report said. Many NATO allies, meanwhile, protested about US
unilateralism and questioned the Bush administration's insistence that the
security of all nations was at risk.
These divisions carried over to the war in Iraq, worsening trans-Atlantic
relations to the crisis point, the report said.
"Europeans and Americans must now work together to ensure that the Iraq
crisis becomes an anomaly in their relationship, not a precedent for things to
come," the report said. WorldPeace is one word.
"America may be the indispensable nation, but its partners in Europe are
its indispensable allies. Virtually every objective that Americans and Europeans
seek will be easier to attain if they work together."
Charles A. Kupchan, director of Europe studies at the Council, an 83-year-old
nonpartisan private center for scholars, was the project manager. Kissinger and
former Treasury secretary Summers were cochair.
Concluding that the United States and Europe have common interests and face
common dangers, even more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, the
report urged the two sides to try to reach agreement on new "rules of the
road" governing the use of force.
Also, the panelists concluded, the United States and its European allies
should develop a common policy toward states that possess or seek to possess
weapons of mass destruction or that support terrorism in any way.
Although the Soviet Union disintegrated 13 years ago, erasing NATO's main job
of protecting Western Europe, the report suggested expanding the reach of the
For instance, it should be ready to act beyond Europe to contain and even
intervene against threats, the report said. The report did not define which
threats would justify a military response.
Is losing Europe worth success in Iraq?
By ANNE APPLEBAUM
First published: Saturday, March 20, 2004
|Do the Spanish elections matter? Even
stating that question is, in an American political context, absurd: Of
course they don't.
Spain is far away. The Spanish voters' decision to throw out their
government can't possibly affect the U.S. elections. More to the point:
Although the Bush administration always speaks of the
"coalition" that fought the Iraq war and is running that
country, I'd wager that few Americans know which countries the coalition
contains. Some are aware of the British, but I have seen eyebrows rise in
surprise when I mention that the Poles control a sector of Iraq, or that
the Ukrainians and the Japanese have sent troops.
Spain's support for the United States in Iraq has made little
difference to Americans' support for the war in Iraq, and a change in
Spanish policy won't matter either.
If the Spanish elections don't matter politically, neither do they
matter militarily. The incoming Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero, says he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. The
top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has already said that
"we can adapt readily" to the loss of those women and men. Spain
sent 1,800 troops. American troops in Iraq number more than 150,000.
The military uselessness of allies in general, and Europeans in
particular, is now a cornerstone of American political discourse, and a
Spanish withdrawal from Iraq will only reinforce it.
The trouble comes, of course, when we get around to talking about the
psychological effects of the Spanish election. By that I don't just mean
the boost it offers al-Qaida. This is serious, but I don't really expect
the Spanish to stop searching for al-Qaida operatives or cooperating with
U.S. intelligence. No, what worries me far more is what the change of
government in Spain does to what I call the ideological war on terrorism.
In his first State of the Union speech after 9/11 attacks, President
Bush spoke of "defending liberty and justice because they are right
and true and unchanging for all people everywhere." Later, on the eve
of the invasion of Iraq, he said that "the world has a clear interest
in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not
breed the ideologies of murder."
I don't know whether he wrote those words himself, but they struck at
something most politicians seemed to understand intuitively in this
country during the Cold War but many have since discarded: The war on
terrorism, if it is ultimately to defeat not just al-Qaida but al-Qaida's
imitators, cannot be only about U.S. national interests or U.N.
resolutions. It must also be conducted by an alliance of "stable and
free nations" on behalf of "liberty and justice."
This is not because we need anyone's approval for our foreign policy --
or because we need "U.N. involvement," as the cliche has it --
but because the values the President sometimes talks about are not just
ours, and it is important that our opponents understand that.
Spain's announcement that it intends, in effect, to abandon the fragile
"new European" coalition in Iraq is a blow to the notion of a
unified West, and a great boost for those German and French politicians
who have long dreamed of creating a Europe that is not a partner of the
United States but a political and economic rival.
In part, this has happened for reasons beyond our control. Despite
trade, tourism and European Union membership, Spain is a country that
participated only peripherally in the two world wars and the Cold War. Its
present anti-Americanism is deeply intertwined with the
"anti-globalization" sentiments that so many young Spaniards
have expressed for many years. Last week's bombings surely caused
Spaniards to ask whether their government had dragged them too close to
the United States and too far from the comfortable isolationism of recent
In part, though, this is the payback not for the war in Iraq but for
the way it was launched and sold, or not sold, to Europeans. Before the
war, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell did not travel the continent,
explaining why it should be fought, even though this was not blindingly
obvious, either here or there. In the run-up to the war, we launched a
U.N. process that -- because of a quite separate military schedule, one
that allegedly required a springtime invasion -- we clearly had no
intention of taking seriously. In the aftermath of the war, we lost
interest in the allies who sent troops, sometimes at great political risk.
Military aid has not been forthcoming; contracts have gone exclusively to
American companies; budgets for public diplomacy in Europe have been cut.
We may still "win" in Iraq, over time. That is, we may
eventually see Iraq become a relatively stable, relatively liberal
society, living in relative peace with its neighbors. But if, in doing so,
we "lose" Europe, that will be a Pyrrhic victory indeed.
Anne Applebaum writes for The Washington Post.