March 18, 2009
By Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Barack Obama heads to Britain and Europe in two weeks' time as
the leader of the first U.S. Administration to wholeheartedly back
the creation of a federal Europe. In contrast to earlier U.S.
administrations, including those of George W. Bush and Bill
Clinton, the Obama administration is avowedly Euro-federalist in
outlook, and is keen to help build a European Union defense
identity as well as support the foundations of a European
superstate in Brussels.
This dangerous shift in U.S. policy is a betrayal of both U.S.
and British interests that will threaten the long-term future of
the Anglo-American Special Relationship, weaken the NATO alliance,
and undermine the defence of British sovereignty in Europe. It will
also undercut opposition across the EU to the Treaty of Lisbon,
including in countries such as Ireland, Poland and the Czech
Republic, and may set the scene for a major confrontation between
the Obama White House and a future Conservative administration in
A Eurosceptic Conservative government led by David Cameron,
committed to halting further European integration, will find itself
increasingly at odds with a left-of-centre U.S. administration that
is actively working against the principle of national sovereignty
in Europe. In light of this, the current enthusiasm of many British
conservatives for the changing of the guard at the White House is
The Bush Administration was sharply divided over Europe, with
then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backing the European
Constitution, but her pro-Brussels instincts were strongly opposed
by key figures in the White House and the Pentagon. Bush himself
was no supporter of a Franco-German dominated Europe, and worked
hard to build up a counterweight of pro-American nations among the
new EU members from eastern and central Europe.
In contrast, President Obama's government will strongly back the
European Security and Defence Policy, the Lisbon Treaty and the
Common Foreign and Security Policy, and will seek to strengthen
French and German leadership at the heart of a united European
Union. It has appointed several prominent supporters of European
federalism to key positions in the Pentagon and State Department,
including the new Undersecretary of defense for Policy,
Michèle Flournoy, and Philip H. Gordon, the next Assistant
Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Flournoy, who holds one of the most powerful positions in the
Pentagon, is a leading supporter of U.S. backing for an EU defence
policy, and co-authored a major 2005 study strongly advocating
American support for a unified European defence structure. Gordon,
who will be the most senior administration official on Europe, has
written that America must "support the European project", and that
"the challenge for U.S. policy is to encourage Europe to develop
the cohesion and capability to become a true transatlantic
partner." He is also a prominent backer of the defeated EU
Constitution, and has pushed in the past for British membership of
the Euro, warning the UK that "fully in Europe, Britain has every
chance to remain America's preferred and privileged partner.
Marginalized from the EU, Britain could find itself less
influential in Washington as well."
The Obama Administration has already made major concessions to
Paris over President Sarkozy's decision for France to rejoin the
NATO integrated command structure. The French have been given two
major positions at the helm of the Alliance, a move that will
significantly enhance the drive towards a European defence
component within NATO. Vice President Joe Biden has clearly
indicated that the United States will support "the further
strengthening of European defense" and an "increased role for the
European Union in preserving peace and security." When he travels
to Europe, President Obama is expected to deliver the same
Significantly, while wooing both continental Europe and Russia,
the new U.S. administration has been largely indifferent to the
Anglo-American alliance, with an appallingly handled reception for
the British Prime Minister when he visited the White House earlier
this month, and the recalibration of the special relationship as a
"special partnership". Even a bust of Sir Winston Churchill has
been unceremoniously thrown out of the Oval Office. A distinctly
undiplomatic State Department official involved in the planning of
the Obama-Brown meeting was quoted by The Sunday Telegraph as
saying that "there's nothing special about Britain. You're just the
same as the other 190 countries in the world."
There is a chance the Obama Administration will eventually wake
up to the reality that American support for a federal Europe will
backfire. Such a naive approach will not result in European
countries spending more on defence, or in a more effective Europe.
It would also undermine Washington's ability to mobilize
international coalitions. Under a unified EU foreign policy, U.S.
allies would lose the freedom to decide where and when they can
fight alongside America.
As they approach the transatlantic alliance, President Obama and
his aides should heed the advice of a former prime minister and
great friend of the United States who fought to defend the Special
Relationship and maintain British sovereignty in Europe. As
Margaret Thatcher put it, "that such an unnecessary and irrational
project as building a European superstate was ever embarked upon
will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest folly of the
Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for
Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.
First Appeared in The Telegraph(UK)
Barack Obama heads to Britain and Europe in two weeks' time as the leader of the first U.S. Administration to wholeheartedly back the creation of a federal Europe. In contrast to earlier U.S. administrations, including those of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Obama administration is avowedly Euro-federalist in outlook, and is keen to help build a European Union defense identity as well as support the foundations of a European superstate in Brussels.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
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