Magazine article The Spectator

US to UK: Don't Let Brussels Ruin It

Magazine article The Spectator

US to UK: Don't Let Brussels Ruin It

Article excerpt

Washington, DC

MAYBE it was the pamphlet cover, a doctored photograph of Iowa Jima depicting that immortalised group of GIs raising a European Union flag instead of the Stars and Stripes. Or perhaps it was the sweltering spring afternoon in Washington that had left the American Enterprise Institute's air-conditioning system struggling to cope.

Whatever it was, the result was not pretty. It could have been an Englishman, a Frenchman and a German all passionately committed to the idea of a European Union defence capability coming together in friendship with two veteran American politicians anxious that Nato should not be compromised. But it turned out to be a bloody battle rather than a meeting of minds.

The forces presenting `The European Case for European Defence' under the auspices of the AEI's New Atlantic Initiative were marshalled by Charles Grant, a former Economist hack in Brussels who now heads Tony Blair's favourite Centre for European Reform in London.

His wing-men - and co-authors of the offending pamphlet - were Giles Andreani, former head of the planning staff at the French foreign ministry, and Christoph Bertram, head of the Stiftung Wissenschaft and Politik research centre in Germany.

Leading the American troops was Richard Perle, a former Pentagon man under Ronald Reagan who is now very close to senior members of the new Team Bush. When not struggling to accommodate the term `Prince of Darkness', a sentence containing the name Perle will normally be accompanied by the word 'hawkish'.

Beside Perle was the American secret weapon. James Woolsey, Bill Clinton's head of the CIA, was not known to hold strong views on European defence, but it soon became clear that the merest suggestion of Euro-hegemony would have him reaching for the figurative nuclear button.

The proceedings began innocuously enough, with Martin Walker, master of ceremonies, showing that Bushisms really are catching by describing the Grant trio as `sensible and rationable'.

Grant then explained that those behind the European Security and Defence Policy or ESDP (the acronym formerly known as ESDI, when the policy was just an initiative, a glint in a Eurocrat's misty eye) were indeed eminently reasonable people.

Some were idealists and some were pragmatists but most were a mixture of the two. There were also, he conceded, some who wanted a new Euro army, the initial component of which is known as ERRF (European Rapid Reaction Force - nothing to do with being told to `eff enf), who were horror of horrors - `anti-American'. But, he reassured us, these heretics amounted to just `one or two people in France' and `some Lefties in countries like my own'.

Blair, we were told, was a pragmatist. He had signed up to Euro Defence at St Malo in 1998 not simply because he couldn't join the euro and wanted to show he was a good European nevertheless. Our Prime Minister was not just thinking about mere politics heaven forfend! - he was also acting out of principle. That principle, Grant said, was that Europeans had to `do more to share the burden of looking after their own security'.

Woolsey was having none of it. `He wasn't sceptical,' said one American admirer afterwards. `He was hostile.' The ex-CIA chief was keen - there is no other way to put this - to cut the crap and look at the evidence of the Europeans' own words and documents. …

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