July 23, 2009
By Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
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
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
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
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.
Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for
Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.
First Appeared in the Telegraph(UK)
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.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
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