Could Europe become the geopolitical equivalent of James
Jeffords, the Vermont senator whose differences with Republicans
led him to turn independent?
As President Bush pays his first official visit to Europe this
week, he is having to tread carefully to keep trusted allies on
board as he pursues his political goals.
His task is made harder by signs that Europe and the US are not
merely at odds over missile defense, global warming, and a host of
other topical issues. The foundations of a 50-year-old relationship
may be shifting.
"The United States and Europe need each other less than they used
to," says Ivo Daalder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution
in Washington. "US presidential transitions are often nightmares
for Europeans, but I think we are seeing something more fundamental
"The United States may be more powerful than ever before, but
Europeans are more confident and conscious of their European-
ness," adds Dominique Moisi, an analyst at the Paris-based French
Institute for International Relations. "A European model is
Highlighting the differences is the current ideological gulf
between the conservative Mr. Bush and the Social Democratic
governments that rule most of Western Europe. That has spawned an
atmosphere of suspicion and hostility in European capitals, fed by
one controversial American initiative after another revealing what
some observers are calling a "values gap" between the Western
Nowhere is the divergence of world-views sharper than over
missile defense, the keystone of Bush's security policy.
Fundamental differences on security
At a NATO summit in Brussels yesterday, Bush tried again to sell
his plan for an anti-missile shield, but European leaders remain
deeply skeptical of the project, which they fear will unravel the
1972 antiballistic missile treaty and lead to a new arms race.
With few exceptions, the Europeans are not convinced by
Washington's argument that the world is threatened by rogue states,
such as North Korea.
"We do not refute the dangers of ballistic proliferation, while
our analysis differs over the extent of the threat," French
President Jacques Chirac said in a major speech last week.
Sidelining the ABM treaty, he warned, would "clear the way for
new and ill-controlled competition."
At the heart of the transatlantic argument, says William Wallace,
professor of international relations at the London School of
Economics, "are fundamental differences over the characteristics of
While Washington is primarily concerned about its military
vulnerability to rogue states and international terrorists, European
policymakers are worried more by the problems posed by "failed
states," such as mass immigration or trafficking in people and
Europe also attaches more weight to new issues on the
international agenda, such as global warming, and Bush is sure to
come under fierce fire for his rejection of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol
to limit greenhouse gases when he meets European Union leaders in
Gothenburg, Sweden, today.
The US president's new plan to spend more money on research into
global warming has not mollified European leaders, since he is
still resisting the obligatory ceilings on greenhouse-gas emissions
that the Kyoto treaty sets.
Behind this dispute lies a difference of approach to
international affairs, says Mr. …