Engaging with Europe on Global Issues

By Gordon, Philip H. | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, April 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Engaging with Europe on Global Issues


Gordon, Philip H., Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


Watching the wave of democracy protests in the Arab world reminds us inevitably of the last time dictatorships across an entire region suddenly shook and collapsed under the weight of the people's desire for freedom. In 1989, Europe changed suddenly and immeasurably. Because of those events and because of the wise bipartisan policies in the years that followed, Europe, and our relationship with Europe, has changed vastly in the last twenty years. In those days, the major preoccupation in the transatlantic relationship was the defense of Europe against the Soviet threat. Today, Europe is almost fully democratic, largely unified, and is America's most important global partner. The U.S. and Europe work together on an extraordinarily wide range of issues, from Afghanistan to Iran to the tumultuous events in North Africa and the Middle East. On both sides of the Atlantic we are working hard to recover from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Because our economics are intertwined, and we are working together so closely on problems around the globe, policy decisions taken in Europe to address the Eurozone crisis will have an impact here in the United States. But, there is a common thread that runs through all our engagement with Europe: U.S.-European cooperation is and remains essential to achieving our strategic objectives.

Our engagement with Europe begins with the idea that the United States faces a daunting international agenda and that our ability to deal with it is immeasurably increased by working with strong allies and partners. In meeting these challenges, we have no better partner than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily- capable allies who share our values and share our interests. In the words of President Obama, Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world.? To help you understand the breadth and depth of that engagement, I'll describe the strategic objectives which drive our approach toward Europe. Then, I'd like to offer you an assessment of our record over the past two years on these objectives.

When I think about this administration's priorities in Europe, there are three basic objectives that stand out in our engagement with the continent:

1. First, we work with Europe as a partner in meeting global challenges. On every issue of global importance, Europe's contributions are crucial to solving major international challenges. No matter what the issue is from the war in Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear challenge, to the situation in Libya Europe is indispensable. We are vastly stronger in terms of legitimacy, resources, and ideas when we join forces with Europe on the global agenda.

2. Second, we are still working with Europe on Europe, that is to say working to complete the historic project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity and democracy to the entire continent. The extraordinary success that the United States and Europe have had together in promoting European integration, in consolidating and supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and integrating them into Euro-Atlantic institutions demonstrates the promise of this enterprise. But our work is not done. And so the effort continues in the Balkans, in Europe's east, and in the Caucasus.

3. Finally, we have sought to set relations with Russia on a more constructive course. President Obama recognized that he had inherited a relationship that was in a difficult place and that this situation did not serve the interests of the United States. Therefore, our goal has been to cooperate with Russia, where we have common interests, but not at the expense of our principles or our friends.

Looking back on the past two years, we can point to significant progress in each area:

Global security cooperation with Europe

First, on working with Europe on global challenges, we have worked together as never before with our European partners on Afghanistan, on Iran, on missile defense, and on the momentous and fast breaking developments in North Africa and the Middle East. …

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