Magazine article The National Interest

Does the United States Have a European Policy?

Magazine article The National Interest

Does the United States Have a European Policy?

Article excerpt

SINCE THE earliest days of the European Union, at the outset of the Cold War, it has been an axiom of U.S. foreign policy that an integrated Europe is in America's global strategic interest. The central theater of world war twice in a generation and the expected theater of a third conflict, fractious Europe cost the United States more in blood and treasure than any region on earth in the republic's history. What could better fit U.S. national security goals than the prospect of an ever closer union of a growing number of European states in which ancient enmities, national rivalries and ideological conflicts were submerged in a pan-European identity based on the same principles of democracy and free markets that have animated America's own success? There is too, in the American geopolitical psyche, something gloriously redolent about the spectacle of Europeans coming together to forge a common entity, just as Americans themselves coalesced from fissiparous states nearly two centuries earlier.

It was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the liberator of Europe, who articulated this spirit most emphatically more than half a century ago. In a July 1951 speech in London--five years before the founding of the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the European Union--the general told an audience of diplomats and politicians of his dream of a unified Europe. In a letter a few days later to his friend and adviser Averell Harriman, Eisenhower observed, "I most fervently urged the formation of the United States of Western Continental Europe." Eisenhower's presidential successors never went quite so far in their enthusiasm, and the U.S. commitment to the European project has seemed more rhetorical than practical at times.

But Washington repeatedly stated its belief in a united Europe--a Europe "whole and free", as President George H.W. Bush put it in 1991. It publicly applauded each move toward deeper European integration, as western Europe moved from coal and steel community to common market to single market to single-currency area. As the union acquired increasing political saliency and began to find a voice in foreign and security policy, the United States continued to welcome its role in world affairs. There were disagreements aplenty--over Vietnam in the 1960s, intermediate nuclear forces in the 1980s and the Balkans in the 1990s, to name just a few. But Washington never actively sought to foment disagreements within Europe.

All that changed this year with the explosion of transatlantic tensions over Iraq. As European nations themselves split apart on whether to support the U.S.-led military action, the Bush Administration happily highlighted the differences and pointed up the distinctions between "Old" and "New" Europe. As the French government enunciated a Gaullist vision of Europe acting as an alternative pole to the American superpower, the United States urged other European nations to reject France's agenda for Europe. When the initial hostilities were over, U.S. officials lavished praise and new responsibilities on loyal allies such as Britain and Poland and talked of a new strategy of "punishing France and ignoring Germany."

In Europe, powerful bureaucratic and political forces are pressing hard for a much tighter alignment of the member-states' foreign and security policies. As Europe debates its first ever draft constitution that aims, among other things, to institutionalize more effectively a common European foreign policy, it does so in an atmosphere tinged indelibly by the Iraq debacle. A number of European political leaders are increasingly convinced that the Bush Administration is actively seeking to divide Europe, to undermine the institutions and relationships that underpin European unity. U.S. officials from the president down insist that the United States remains a friend to the European project, but not on any specific terms.

Many questions thus arise about the present state of U. …

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