February 18, 2005 | Backgrounder on Europe
President George W. Bush will shortly embark upon what could well be the most important European trip of his presidency. Between February 20 and 24, the President will hold summit talks with leaders of NATO and the European Union (EU) and will meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush's European tour comes amid continuing divisions within Europe regarding U.S. policy in Iraq and transatlantic tensions over a host of issues, including the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the lifting of the EU arms embargo on China, and the Arab- Israeli conflict.
The second Bush Administration has rightly made strengthening the transatlantic alliance a key foreign policy priority, recognizing that coalition building in Europe is absolutely critical to advancing long-term American interests on the world stage. The United States must continue to engage all of the major players in Europe, including those with which it disagrees.
While pursuing a policy of engagement with the European Union, however, President Bush should avoid making statements that could be perceived as a U.S. endorsement of the EU Constitution and Franco-German plans for a unified foreign policy. Such statements would only strengthen the hand of America's opponents in Europe and weaken the position of those who are fighting to maintain the sovereignty of the nation-state, clearly threatened by the constitution's blueprint for a federal Europe. Supporters of the constitution in Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, who include many of President Bush's fiercest international critics, would be delighted if the world's only superpower began to sing their tune.
The Bush Administration should adopt a purely interest-based position regarding the future direction of Europe, emphasizing that U.S. goals in Europe include preserving the NATO alliance, maintaining the Anglo-U.S. special relationship, and supporting a multi-speed Europe based on the principle of each individual state having greater choice about its level of integration with Brussels.
The President's European trip will also serve as a valuable opportunity to lay down the gauntlet and challenge those European nations that opposed regime change in Baghdad, including France and Germany, to play a constructive role in building a democratic Iraq. President Bush should call on Europe's big three-Paris, Berlin, and London-to adopt a more aggressive stance in negotiations with Tehran while acknowledging that U.S. interests in the Middle East are best served by working closely with the European capitals. The President should also reiterate Washington's willingness to play a major role in advancing the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Goals of President Bush's
The goals of President Bush's visit to Europe should be to:
Importance of Europe to U.S. Interests
Whatever the global issue-whether tracking down al-Qaeda, the Doha free trade round, Iran's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, the Arab-Israeli conflict, or Iraq-the United States simply cannot act effectively without the support of at least some European powers. However, neither is the world one in which a concert of powers dominates. Whatever the issue, the U.S. remains the first among equals. The structural reality makes America's courting of allies vital, for the world is neither genuinely unipolar nor multipolar.
Europe is the only part of the world where political, diplomatic, military, and economic power can be generated in sufficient strength to support American policies effectively. The cluster of international powers in Europe-led by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland-has no parallel.
The U.S. must make a massive public diplomacy effort in Europe if it is to retain the ability to engage European countries consistently as allies. The President's upcoming trip, as well as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's recent meetings in Europe, certainly represent an outstretched American hand to the continent, serving as a genuine effort to end the transatlantic tension brought on by the war in Iraq.
However, in order to remedy a problem, its true dimensions must be clearly examined. There is little doubt that the U.S.-European diplomatic controversy over Iraq and its aftermath have been a public diplomacy disaster of the first magnitude. While governmental support for U.S. policy in Iraq is still strong in many European countries, public hostility toward American foreign policy remains extremely high. The recently published Transatlantic Trends 2004poll of public opinion in nine major European Union member states should make disturbing reading for the State Department: 76 percent of those surveyed disapproved of President Bush's international policies, and 75 percent were opposed to the war in Iraq. Most worrying of all, 58 percent of European respondents held the view that strong U.S. leadership in the world is "undesirable."
If Europe is the most likely place for America to find allies well into the new century, the U.S. must launch a significant public diplomacy campaign on the continent to make such a long-term strategy possible. Indeed, it must become the main focus of global efforts at public diplomacy, as nowhere else in the world will safeguarding American goodwill make such a practical difference. The U.S. must recognize that much of Europe is alienated from the American worldview, whether the subject is trade, Iraq, or the wider war on terrorism. It may take a generation to fully rejuvenate the transatlantic alliance, and the U.S. must not underestimate the scale of the problem if this new strategy is to work. Unless the public diplomacy tool is used in Europe, the U.S. may have precious few allies with which to work in the future.
Europe Remains Divided
While America has much work to do to sell its message in Europe, U.S. policymakers should remain wary of the temptation to deal with the Brussels bureaucracy as opposed to national capitals. The notion that Europe has one voice or is united in outlook is a myth.
Despite rhetoric from the European Commission, the great European powers rarely agree on the majority of the great global issues of the day. Europe is a union of nation-states, deeply divided by history, language, and culture, and it maintains a healthy division of outlook regarding major foreign policy issues. There are serious disagreements over American global power, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Kyoto protocol, how to wage the war on terrorism successfully, and NATO's role in the new era. Any attempt to force consensus in Europe, which the EU Constitution will undoubtedly do, will be inherently undemocratic, counterproductive, and artificial.
The EU's one-size-fits-all approach does not fit the modern political realities on the continent. European countries have politically diverse opinions on all aspects of international life. For example, Ireland strongly supports free trade, has extensive ties to the U.S. through its history of immigration to the New World and its presence as a destination for U.S. foreign direct investment, and is an advocate of economic liberalization.
By contrast, France is often protectionist, unapologetically statist in organizing its economy, and frequently adversarial toward America. Germany falls between the two on issues of free trade and relations with the United States and is more pro-NATO than France, but values U.N. involvement in crises above that of the alliance and is for some liberalization of its economy in order to retain its corporatist model. This real European diversity will continue to be reflected politically in each state's control over its foreign and security policy, because a more centralized Europe simply does not reflect the political reality on the ground.
When examining the question of Iraq, the fundamental issue of the past few years, one sees a complete lack of coordination at the European level. Currently, there are 12 EU member states with troops in Iraq, compared with 13 EU members that have refused to support the U.S.-led coalition. The U.K. strongly supported the U.S.; the Schroeder government in Germany was against any use of force whether sanctioned by the U.N. or not; and France initially held a wary middle position, favoring intervention only if the U.N. (i.e., Paris) retained a veto over American actions. It is hard to imagine the three major European powers staking out starker foreign policy positions.
The basic reason for this is obvious: National interests still dominate the making of foreign policy at the most critical moments, even for states ostensibly committed to some vague form of supranationalism. For the European powers, Iraq has never been primarily about Iraq. The geopolitical ramifications of what happens in Baghdad have always been peripheral to European concerns about the war. Iraq has been fundamentally about two things for European states: their specific attitude toward post-Cold War American power and jockeying for power within common European institutions.
Europe remains torn asunder by conflicting points of view on these two critical points. One camp, championed by France, distrusts American power and strives to dominate a centralized EU in such a way as to become a rival to America as a pole of power. The other camp, led by Britain and the Central and Eastern states ("New Europe"), sees American power as something to be engaged and traditionally views a more decentralized Brussels as best for the constituent members of the union.
The EU Constitution and the End of Momentum for Ever-Closer Union
Even on the critical question of the future course of the EU-with Germany for deepening integration and widening membership, the U.K. for widening membership but not much deepening, and the French stressing the deepening of EU institutions- one finds a cacophony of voices rather than everyone singing from the same hymnal.
This very disparate political, economic, and military picture of Europe explains why the EU Constitution-the most recent attempt to impose greater control over the European process-is unlikely to be ratified. According to the Laeken Declaration, which launched the process of writing a new constitution to replace existing treaties, the document would (1) clarify the division of competencies among the EU, the states, and the people, making the EU more efficient and open; (2) be transparent in order to be more explicable as citizens are brought closer to European institutions in an effort to lessen the democratic deficit; and (3) be a two-way process, with some powers returned to the states and the people while other new competencies would be bestowed upon Brussels. It is now clear that these high hopes bear little resemblance to the finished document.
At over 300 pages, written so only a lawyer can understand it and with absolutely no powers being returned to the states or the people, the constitution has failed by the Laeken Declaration's own description. It has become just another opaque attempt at further EU centralization, including the first formal charter of the primacy of EU law over national law and the creation of common rules on asylum and immigration by majority vote.
While national vetoes remain over direct taxation, foreign and defense policy, and financing of the EU budget, the constitution commits the EU members to the progressive framing of a common defense policy. In fact, the document is rife with such contradictions. Many of these discrepancies are to be worked out over time by the European Court of Justice, which is mandated to interpret the law with the goal of "ever-closer union." This can readily be seen as an effort at centralization by the back door, a process wholly out of line with the notion of a diverse Europe. Tellingly, the constitution does nothing to provide citizens with any sense of control over the process of European government or the evolution of the EU.
These egregious flaws explain why the constitution is unlikely to be ratified. Theoretically, any state can nullify the constitution by voting "no" in a referendum, and this is highly likely. In Britain, traditionally very skeptical of EU centralization, a large majority of voters are opposed to ratification. Neutralist Ireland has fears about closer EU defense cooperation and voted "no" in a recent referendum on the Nice Treaty. Voters in the Netherlands, furious at German and French flouting of the economic Stability and Growth Pact, might also vote against the constitution. In Poland, an extremely unpopular pro-EU government could well lose such a vote. The skeptical Danes, who voted against the original version of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, could again vote "no" for both defense and economic reasons.
Even the French, traditional champions of all efforts at further integration, might vote against the constitution. The Maastricht Treaty, which established the process that led to the European common currency, was undoubtedly a move toward greater centralization of the European project, yet the French passed the referendum by a margin of less than 1 percent because many saw it as being skewed toward Germany's advantage. Frustrated by the constitution's very lack of ambition, the French might also vote against the constitution.
One or several of these political outcomes is almost certain. If so, American policymakers need to recognize that the EU drive toward ever-closer union has at last decisively sputtered and that engaging the Europeans at the national level will generally be far more effective than engaging the EU.
If a major European country rejects the constitution, the EU will be forced to adopt a multi-speed Europe, in which some countries opt for ever-closer union, while traditional U.S. allies such as Britain form an outer core of EU members with looser political ties to Brussels.
Europe As It Would Be:
The Euro-Federalist Fantasy
However, for the sake of argument, what if a more centralized Europe becomes a reality? How would a politically unified Europe affect the United States?
It is frightening to imagine what would happen to American interests if the supranational imperative extended further into the foreign and security policy realm. For example, if a Common European Foreign and Security Policy had genuinely functioned in 2003, however badly, then Belgium, France, or Greece (all states with strongly anti-American publics) could have vetoed efforts by the U.K., Poland, and Italy to aid America in Iraq. Taken to its extreme, such an outcome could require consensus among all EU states to support a foreign policy objective.
Those who wish to preserve America's ability to pursue coalition building must therefore strenuously oppose efforts to increase the level of EU foreign policy integration. Such an institution in a divided EU would perpetually prevent many European states from working closely with the U.S. to solve global problems.
Indeed, the most prominent casualty of a united European foreign policy would be the Anglo-U.S. special relationship, forcibly consigned to the scrap heap of history. America's closest ally would be unable to operate an independent foreign policy and stand alongside the United States where and when it chose to do so. The consequences for American foreign policy would be hugely damaging. Yet, with efforts at ever-closer integration increasingly running into difficulty, there is another diplomatic path for the United States to take.
It is important that the President be aware of this reality, which will be very different from the one doubtlessly presented by the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. A Europe in which states react flexibly according to their unique interests, rather than collectively according to some utopian ideal, best suits American interests.
As a result, the U.S. must engage European states on an issue-by-issue, case-by-case basis to maximize its diplomatic effectiveness, gaining the greatest number of allies for the largest number of missions. The U.S. should use the widest possible range of diplomatic, political, and military tools to advance its general interests in Europe, remembering that the continent is vital but generally fragmented on matters relating to foreign and security policy.
Key Areas of Transatlantic Tension
The Iranian Nuclear Issue. The brewing Iranian nuclear crisis is a practical consequence of the poisoned transatlantic relationship and is a primary instance of an almost complete lack of coordination between the United States and Europe. The EU-3 (U.K., France, Germany), currently negotiating with the mullahs, are doing a pretty good impersonation of Neville Chamberlain, having wholly divorced diplomacy from any idea of the power that must back it up if it is to prove successful. For example, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was unwise to publicly take the threat of force off the table when dealing with Tehran. If sticks are not to be used, what appears to be a negotiation is actually little more than a form of diplomatic surrender.
On the other hand, the Bush Administration has completely ceded the diplomatic role to its European counterparts. Without direct American involvement in negotiations, the European negotiations simply have no chance of stopping Iran from acquiring a full nuclear fuel cycle. This failure will leave the U.S. with only grave choices. To do nothing would likely mean the end of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and could spur a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is about to acquire nuclear weapons. President Mohammad Khatami has clearly stated that Iran will never give up enrichment. The West has engaged in dueling competitive efforts at futility. This is too important an issue for Europeans to continue living in a post-historical sandbox while America ignores the fact that Rome is burning.
There are no easy answers where Iran is concerned. Even if theUnited States could somehow foment regime change in Tehran, the fact remains that Iranians, whether fundamentalist mullahs or student democrats, all want the bomb. This is not an issue of democracy, but of Persian nationalism. Israel will not be reassured if a democratic Iran, still pledged by majority vote to drive the Israelis into the sea, acquires weapons of mass destruction.
Whatever does happen, it is vital that the EU-3 and the United States reach a common diplomatic position regarding the Iranian nuclear crisis. The Bush Administration must become more actively engaged in the European-led negotiations with Tehran in an effort to force compliance while maintaining the option to use military force as a last resort. The EU must be prepared to support the use of U.N. Security Council and European sanctions against Tehran if it fails to:
Additionally, the U.S. and Europe should press the Iranians to renounce support for international terrorism and give firm guarantees that they will dramatically improve their country's human rights situation. In return, the United States and the EU should develop a range of incentive measures holding out the possibility of Iran's returning to the international fold instead of remaining a pariah on the world stage.
The Doha Free Trade Round. The EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which consumes roughly half of its entire budget, is easily the biggest obstacle to bringing the Doha trade round to a successful conclusion. This 50 billion-euro protection racket dwarfs America's egregious efforts to protect its own agricultural market. After several decades, the world will simply not allow any more excuses for French farmers' not competing in the global marketplace and instead being cosseted by economically sclerotic, social democratic nanny states.
Neither the EU nor the U.S. can implement further agricultural liberalization without the other trading region agreeing to synchronized cuts. Without an agricultural deal, there is no overall deal for the Doha Round, initially packaged as "the development round" of global trade talks. According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has calculated a global welfare gain of up to $620 billion if all barriers to commodity trade are removed. Forty percent of this would benefit developing countries. Without such a deal, the train wreck ahead could be the end of the WTO as an effective international institution.
Even worse, the general multilateral trading system that has brought such prosperity to the world since 1945 could be coming to an end. In the rest of the world, regional and bilateral deals and trading coalitions of the willing may become the norm, excluding an increasingly isolated EU. It is time for France to prove that it cares more about advancing the economic prospects of the developing world than French farmers playing boule. Only the EU and the U.S. can make Doha succeed. It is time to get to work on this most underrated of transatlantic issues.
NATO Reform. The startling suggestion made this week by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder regarding the need to supplant NATO with a new transatlantic security institution should cause major concern in Washington. Schroeder stated, without any details, that NATO had ceased to be "the primary venue where transatlantic partners discuss and coordinate the most important strategic issues of the day," only to be flatly contradicted by both U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Dutch NATO Secretary-General.
This is not the first time Schroeder has got it wrong. He was wrong on Iraq and is wrong on NATO too. The problem lies primarily among NATO countries, not in the institution. Such reforms as are necessary have already begun. The U.S. should continue to press for NATO reform, centered around the concept of increasing the alliance's flexibility through the increased use of the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) mechanism.
In April 1999, the NATO governments ratified the CJTF mechanism, which adds a needed dimension of flexibility to the alliance. Until recently, alliance members had only two decision-making options: either agree en masse to take on a mission or have one or more members block the consensus required for a mission to proceed. Through the CJTF mechanism, NATO member states do not have to participate actively in a specific mission if they feel that their vital interests are not involved, but their opting out of a mission would not stop other NATO members from intervening.
Beyond the sacrosanct Article V commitment, which holds that an attack on one alliance member is an assault on all members, the future of NATO consists of coalitions of the willing acting out of area. Such operations are likely to become the norm in an era of a politically fragmented Europe. The CJTF strategy is critical to developing a modus operandi for engaging allies in the new era.
A CJTF, in which a subset of the alliance forms a coalition of the willing to carry out a specific mission using common NATO resources, should be the second preference. If this also proved impossible due to general opposition, a coalition of the willing outside of NATO, composed of states around the globe committed to a specific initiative based on shared immediate interests, would be the third best option. Only after exhausting these three options, if fundamental national interests were at stake, should America act alone.
By championing initiatives such as the CJTF, the U.S. can fashion NATO as a toolbox that can further American interests around the globe by constructing ad hoc coalitions of the willing, both within and without NATO, that can bolster U.S. diplomatic, political, and military efforts in specific cases.
The EU Chinese Arms Embargo. The European Union's likely lifting of the Chinese arms embargo will probably cause considerable tension in the transatlantic relationship. For the possible reward of a couple of hundred million dollars in arms sales, the EU is prepared to increase arms sales to China, put enhanced cooperation over issues of military technology with the U.S. at risk, and bite the outstretched hand that the Bush Administration is extending to the continent. It is a breathtakingly shortsighted policy. The President must privately make America's grave concerns about lifting the embargo abundantly clear to his European interlocutors.
The EU-particularly its major arms exporters France, Italy, and the U.K.-has clearly been increasingly wooing China for commercial as well as geopolitical reasons. The EU is now China's largest trading partner: In 2004, trade between the two amounted to almost $210 billion-an increase of 35 percent over 2003. Nor is there any doubt that lifting the embargo is a major goal of Chinese foreign policy. China is particularly interested in obtaining increased high technology (information technology adapted for military command and control, sensing, and precision strike) from Europe that could help improve Chinese battlefield management.
Even the remotest possibility that new arms sales could fundamentally alter the strategic balance in the Taiwan Strait will be met in Washington with real alarm. In the medium term, the U.S. quite possibly could find itself fighting against a better-armed Beijing in the Taiwan Strait. China's arms buildup vis-à-vis Taiwan has only increased, with hundreds of ballistic missiles now pointing at Taipei.
Nor do EU protestations that it has the matter well in hand ring true. A toughened "code of conduct" designed to stop any EU country from selling weapons that might upset the regional balance of power would be interpreted by individual EU countries in a non-binding, voluntary manner.
There is a whiff of geopolitics beneath French commercial concerns. On a visit to Beijing in October 2004, President Chirac declared that France and China shared "a common vision of the world-a multipolar world." Indeed, for France ever to fulfill the Gaullist fantasy of balancing the United States on the global stage, much closer relations with China are an obvious prerequisite. Such a coalition is no longer unthinkable.
While in Europe, President Bush should push for an unambiguous transatlantic agreement on forgoing sales that could tilt the strategic balance in the Taiwan Strait, down to listing high-tech weapons systems that would be precluded by such an agreement. Further, EU states, Japan, and the United States should agree to consult before approving any transfer of military technology to China.
Failing this, the U.S. Congress (which was right to pass overwhelmingly a resolution declaring that lifting the embargo would be inconsistent with transatlantic defense cooperation) should curtail technology cooperation with European allies by denying export licensing exceptions because it would be impossible to guarantee that such technologies would not leak to the Chinese. In addition, European companies determined to have flouted the code of conduct should be subject to U.S. sanctions.
Defense cooperation projects between the U.S. and its European allies could be worth billions of dollars, but Europe needs to understand the depth of America's concern. This issue has the potential to unravel much of the current momentum toward resurrecting transatlantic relations. The President must make the Europeans see that their irresponsible actions could have grave commercial and geopolitical consequences.
Key Recommendations for U.S. Policy Toward Europe
To address the foregoing concerns effectively, several actions need to be taken. Specifically:
A Europe in which national sovereignty remains paramount regarding foreign and security policy, in which states act flexibly rather than collectively wherever possible, will enable America to engage the continent most successfully. This flexibility, whether in international institutions or in ad hoc coalitions of the willing, is the future of the transatlantic relationship because it fits the objective realities of the continent. Such a Europe is well worth engaging.
The President should take to Europe the same central message that he delivered in his powerful State of the Union address:
Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures.
John C. Hulsman, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in European Affairs and Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
The poll, commissioned by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and Campagnia di San Paolo of Italy, surveyed public opinion in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain. Transatlantic Trends 2004, "Transatlantic Trends Overview," at www.transatlantictrends.org (September 27, 2004).
Significantly, this view is supported in the Transatlantic Trends 2004 poll of American public opinion, which reported that 54 percent of Americans see Europe as most important to "American vital interests today." Just 29 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Asia was more important to the United States than Europe.
European Union, "The Laeken Declaration," EUROPA, December 15, 2001, at europa.eu.int/futurum/documents/offtext/ doc151201_en.htm (September 17, 2004).
"The Right Verdict on the Constitution," The Economist, June 26, 2004, p. 14.
See John C. Hulsman, Ph.D., and Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., "A Conservative Vision for U.S. Policy Toward Europe," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1803, October 4, 2004, at www.heritage.org/Research/Europe/bg1803.cfm.
Straw, "Foreign Secretary Press Conference with UN
Secretary-General," February 10, 2005, at
1007029391629&a=KArticle&aid=1107294375116 (February 17, 2005).
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, "International Trade Policy," May 26, 2004, at www.um.dk/en/menu/ForeignPolicy/ InternationalTradePolicy (February 17, 2005).
Daniel Dombey and Peter Spiegel, "Schroeder's Suggestion for Review of NATO Shocks Defense Ministers," Financial Times, February 14, 2005.
See John C. Hulsman, Ph.D., "Getting Real: An Unromantic Look at the NATO Alliance," National Interest, No. 75 (Spring 2004).
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "The North Atlantic Treaty," April 4, 1949, at www.nato.int/docu/basictxt/treaty.htm (September 17, 2004).
Charlemagne, "The Reds in the West," The Economist, January 13, 2005, p. 50.
Daniel Dombey and Peter Spiegel, "The EU's Bar on Selling Military Equipment to Beijing Lacks Credibility But Washington Believes Any Change Would Be Irresponsible," Financial Times, February 10, 2005.
This is effectively argued in Hans Binnendijk, "A Trans-Atlantic Storm over Arms for China," International Herald Tribune, February 9, 2005.
George W. Bush, "State of the Union Address," February 2, 2005, at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/print/ 20050202-11.html (February 17, 2005).