The Baltic States and Their Region: New Europe or Old?

By David J. Smith | Go to book overview

The challenges of “new” and “old”: the case of Europe's
north

Pertti Joenniemi

The primary aim of this chapter is to unpack the “old”-“new” Europe theme outlined by the US secretary of defence in January 2003 during a period of intense rhetorical battles and contests regarding boundary-drawing. Donald Rumsfeld's enunciation, indicative of a division over the issue of war in Iraq, is used as an inroad into exploring the recent breach in the sphere of transatlantic relations. I will first discuss how the US administration has conceptualised Europe – and US-European relations – in a security-related, post–9/11 context. I will then probe European responses to the challenge posed by Rumsfeld and examine how his delineation has impacted upon European politics. What kind of responses has US “altercasting” – to use a term coined by Alexander Wendt – generated?1 What are the consequences of the US being seen to claim the position of a core “Europe-maker” once the effort is one of constructing a different European configuration premised on responding to the challenges posed by the “dark side” of globalization? As well as reviewing the more general responses of those ascribed the status of “old” and “new” European, I will endeavour to trace the impact in Europe's North, a region where some countries fall into the former and others very much into the latter category.


1. A new framing

At its inception, the distinction between “new” and “old” Europe did not seem to have much of an air of permanence about it. That the juxtaposition has lingered testifies to the depth of European divisions over the Iraq issue and the emergence of the new, more assertive US policies. Rumsfeld's rhetoric has become a frequently-used point of departure when discussing the essence of Europe. For instance, when the current Spanish government revised its attitude towards the Iraq war, this move was framed in terms of Spain having abandoned the camp of the “new” Europeans in order to position itself within that of the “old.”

The “old” versus “new” statement was initially voiced at the end of January 2003 at a high point of the Iraq crisis. More particularly, it surfaced in a dialogue with the media prior to Rumsfeld's visit to Prague. When asked to explain why “Europe” was against American military action in Iraq, he stated flatly that he did not think that “Europe” was against removing Saddam Hussein from power. When a Dutch reporter then responded that in any case Germany and France were against using force to remove Saddam, Rumsfeld retorted that:

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