A Theoretical Framework
For many years international relations practitioners and policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic have tended to dismiss potentially poisonous crises in transatlantic relations (e.g., the Suez crisis, the Gaullist challenge, criticism of the Vietnam War, the clashes caused by Reagan’s policies of the early 1980s) that could lead to a significant change in transatlantic relations. These disagreements were considered “little family spats”,1 rather than indicating a major or long-term problem. For, as the Latin locution goes, ubi maior minor cessat.2
Indeed, during the Cold War, the Euro-Atlantic partnership seemed almost unbreakable; as long as the US and Europe had a common enemy in the USSR, it was generally assumed that their alliance would endure. The East-West rivalry did not seem to offer any other alternative for America and Europe but that of collaboration to counter the Soviet Union. As it was initially conceived, this relationship was predominantly focused on the military dimension, but it soon broadened to include economic and political elements where differences were resolved and discrepancies settled.
However, with the disappearance of the Soviet threat, this once-strong partnership had its foundations shaken. The consequences of the removal of the Soviet threat for the future of transatlantic relations have been much debated amongst practitioners and scholars in the light of changing priorities and the loss of the Cold War “glue”.3 The nature and dynamic of this evolving