Debates about the solidity of the transatlantic relationship have waxed and waned since the end of World War II. The fall of the Berlin Wall, developments after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, and the 2003 Iraqi war have led to much speculation about the future of transatlantic relations. Two main schools of thought can be distinguished—the establishment school and the estrangement school.
The establishment school of thought argues that there are no fundamental problems in U.S.-European relations. 1 Advocates of this view contend that the main pillars of that relationship are strong. They base this optimistic view on four main propositions. First, they maintain that the U.S. and Europe, despite the end of the Cold War, continue to face common threats. Second, they believe that governing elites on both sides of the Atlantic have a mutual appreciation of the transatlantic power relationship. Third, they argue that the U.S. and European governments have many common interests. Fourth, they insist that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is—and will continue to be—the centerpiece of U.S.-European relations.
The estrangement school of thought argues that the United States and Europe are drifting apart and are headed for divorce. 2 Proponents of this school of thought, the "estrangers, " also have four main propositions. First, they contend that the strategic landscape has changed. With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and Europe no longer face a shared threat to their survival. They therefore no longer need to be united on every issue. Second, they predict that America's unipolar moment will not last, and that it will lead to counterbalancing efforts by others—including the European Union (E.U.). Third, they argue that the U.S. and Europe have increasingly divergent interests and different ways of looking at the world, especially increasingly conflicting economic interests. Fourth, they believe that, with the disappearance of the Soviet threat, NATO has become irrelevant and will therefore disappear.
I argue that both schools of thought are off-target in important respects. First, the fundamentals of the transatlantic relationship are strong; in this regard, the establishment is right and the estrangers are wrong. Although the end of the Cold War brought about many structural changes in the international system, it did not change the fundamentals of the transatlantic relationship. The United