In a recent conversation on the impact of improved transatlantic
relations, a European diplomat singled out the role of Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice.
He then made a prediction: "If we can get a deal on the
International Criminal Court (ICC) and Sudan, it would be thanks to
her," the diplomat said. Dr. Rice's predecessor, Colin Powell - a
favorite of Europe's - had favored such an accord, he added, "but he
could not deliver."
Last week the United Nations Security Council voted 11 to 0 -
with four abstentions including the United States - to authorize the
ICC to prosecute atrocities committed in the conflict-torn Darfur
region of Sudan.
That the United States withheld its veto (after settling for a
measure that exempts nationals of non-ICC ratifying countries from
prosecution) was the latest herald of markedly improved US-Europe
relations. Behind the thaw in what just a year ago looked like a new
ice age are factors ranging from Europe coming to terms with
President Bush's reelection to the president naming a secretary of
State who the world knows is his close confidante and thus can get
Moreover, as the Security Council's Darfur vote suggests, the
improvements are more than just atmospherics: Recently the European
Union signaled it would not be lifting an embargo on arms exports to
China anytime soon, as had been widely anticipated though strongly
opposed by the US. For its part, the US agreed to support European
efforts to use diplomacy in dealing with Iran's suspected nuclear-
And if Paul Wolfowitz won unexpectedly easy (and unanimous)
approval of the World Bank's board last Thursday to become president
of the international institution, it is largely due to a European
decision not to oppose Mr. Bush's nomination - even one the
Europeans do not necessarily relish.
'Prolong this new tone'
"Each side has come to the conclusion that we can do things
together that it couldn't do alone, and each side is taking steps to
prolong this new tone," says Simon Serfaty, director of the Europe
Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in
The improvement carries the clear imprint of the postwar
difficulties in Iraq. The insufficiencies of the "coalition of the
willing" that the US cobbled together for the war - and without most
of its traditional allies - brought home the reality that "the
Europeans were not as weak as we thought they were, and not as
irrelevant as we thought they were," Mr. Serfaty says.
At the same time, he adds, the growing optimism for positive
changes provided by elections among Palestinians and in Iraq had its
impact on the Europeans: "They realized they can't do without
American power, primarily because they don't have it themselves."
Yet even though these realizations were taking place on each
side, the situation still needed a catalyst - and that was provided
by Bush's trip to Europe in February. …