The media coverage of Barack Obama's visit to Moscow this week has overwhelmingly focused on the arms control deal struck with Dmitry Medvedev and his much-hyped pledge to reset relations with Moscow. Little attention has been paid however to the president's striking defence of the principle of national sovereignty at a speech he gave at the New Economic School in Moscow. President Obama spoke in eloquent terms of
"America's interest in an international system that advances cooperation while respecting the sovereignty of all nations. State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order. Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies. That is true for Russia, just as it is true for the United States. Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy."
These were extraordinary remarks by a president who is known as a strong supporter of supranational institutions and who has nominated a hugely controversial advocate of transnationalism - Harold Koh - as Legal Adviser to the State Department. Not only did they contradict his own administration's zealous willingness to cede sovereignty by treaty in key areas to international organizations such as the United Nations, but they directly went against the Obama team's rabid support for the idea of a federal Europe.
Obama heads the most pro-European U.S. administration in modern times, backing every single aspect of EU integration, including the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Security and Defence Policy, and the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Previous American governments have been strongly divided over whether the United States should embrace or oppose the European project, including both the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations. Under Bush, hawks such as Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought against the pro-Brussels instincts of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. During the Bill Clinton era, Rice's predecessor Madeleine Albright warned against the threat to NATO posed by a separate European defence identity.
There are however no such qualms within the current administration, which includes two of the strongest American supporters of a federal Europe in its ranks: Philip Gordon (Assistant Secretary of State for Europe), and Michelle Flournoy (Undersecretary of Defence for Policy). Flournoy, who holds one of the most powerful positions in the Pentagon, is a leading advocate of a unified European defence structure, while Gordon has pushed in the past for Britain to sign up to both the EU Constitution and the Euro or face losing influence with the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden have also emerged as strong backers of European federalism. In Clinton's words, "I believe [political integration is] in Europe's interest and I believe that is in the United States' interest because we want a strong Europe." Meanwhile, Biden has called on the United States to support "the further strengthening of European defence" and an "increased role for the European Union in preserving peace and security."
If President Obama seriously believes the words he is uttering in lofty tones about the freedom of nation states to choose their own leaders and decide their own foreign policies, he should end his administration's support for Euro federalism, and instead back the principle of national sovereignty in Europe. The creation of a federal Europe is fundamentally undemocratic as well as a massive threat to the future of the Anglo-American Special Relationship and the broader transatlantic alliance.
This is a message that should be hammered home by a future Conservative administration in its dealings with the White House, Pentagon and State Department. For several years, Labour ministers have actively undermined British interests by pushing U.S. support for the European Constitution and subsequently the Treaty of Lisbon, as well as European defence integration.
Even now as they prepare for power, the Conservatives must become more engaged in shaping American thinking on the future of the political and military direction of Europe, instead of ceding ground to the left. With the exception of Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox, the Tories have largely been invisible on the ground in Washington, rarely counseling Congress and the Executive Branch on the perils presented by European integration.
President Obama should be encouraged to join the ranks of the Eurosceptics. There is no American national interest in backing the creation of a European superstate that will almost certainly oppose the United States on the world stage rather than work with it. Nor are U.S. interests served by a weakened alliance with her closest ally - stripped of key aspects of national sovereignty within a federal Europe. The sooner the Obama White House wakes up to this reality, and actually practices what it preaches, the better for both Britain and America.
Nile Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.
First Appeared in the Telegraph(UK)