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Clinton Asks Europe to Take the Lead, but Are Its Leaders Ready?

By Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 13, 1994 | Go to article overview

Clinton Asks Europe to Take the Lead, but Are Its Leaders Ready?


Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


PRESIDENT Clinton's three-day visit to the Belgian capital allowed the US president to convince European leaders that America is not about to forget their continent.

But European observers and analysts say the president came with another equally important message - that Western Europe must begin taking responsibility for a broader Europe's economic well-being, political development, and security. The biggest question mark many of them see hanging over this new direction in United States policy is whether Europe is up to the leadership challenge.

"Certainly Clinton wanted to reassure Europeans about America's role, but he also came with the intent of putting considerable pressure on Western Europeans, and particularly the European Union, to take their fair share of responsibilities," says Peter Ludlow, director of the Center for European Policy Studies here.

On the integration of Eastern Europe into the West's market economy and democratic system, Mr. Ludlow says, "The center of Clinton's argument was this: `While we {the US and the EU} are doing this as partners, you'll have to lead - and you'll have to do more." The problem, he adds, is that "at this stage we {in Western Europe} are not up and ready to go."

Tired European leadership, which in several countries is at the end of a long reign, and distracting electoral campaigns, are primary reasons cited for the widespread doubts about Western Europe's medium-term leadership capabilities. In addition, Western Europe's lingering recession discourages bolder economic engagements with the East, while heavy defense cutbacks in numerous European countries cast doubts on the will to build a "European defense identity."

"To be convincing, the Western Europeans are going to have to be seen to do more in terms of manpower, whether it's for a specific case like an eventual Bosnia peacekeeping force, or in the more general context of a European security effort," says Michael Dewar, deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

French officials and analysts especially, although among the strongest supporters of a Europe more responsible for its own affairs, express doubts about the readiness and enthusiasm of France's European partners for a "European defense identity."

That is one reason Clinton's commitment to keep about 100,000 US troops in Europe was well-received even by the French. French officials say they were also buoyed by Clinton's emphasis on Europe's economic and political integration, while the president's specific reference to "France's constructive role" in bringing about an international trade liberalization agreement in December was especially appreciated.

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Clinton Asks Europe to Take the Lead, but Are Its Leaders Ready?
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