Widening US-Europe 'Values Gap' ; President Bush Attends an EU Summit in Sweden Today. Europe and the US May Be Farther Apart Than in 50 Years

By Peter Ford writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2001 | Go to article overview

Widening US-Europe 'Values Gap' ; President Bush Attends an EU Summit in Sweden Today. Europe and the US May Be Farther Apart Than in 50 Years


Peter Ford writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Could Europe become the geopolitical equivalent of James Jeffords, the Vermont senator whose differences with Republicans led him to turn independent?

As President Bush pays his first official visit to Europe this week, he is having to tread carefully to keep trusted allies on board as he pursues his political goals.

His task is made harder by signs that Europe and the US are not merely at odds over missile defense, global warming, and a host of other topical issues. The foundations of a 50-year-old relationship may be shifting.

"The United States and Europe need each other less than they used to," says Ivo Daalder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "US presidential transitions are often nightmares for Europeans, but I think we are seeing something more fundamental here."

"The United States may be more powerful than ever before, but Europeans are more confident and conscious of their European- ness," adds Dominique Moisi, an analyst at the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations. "A European model is emerging."

Highlighting the differences is the current ideological gulf between the conservative Mr. Bush and the Social Democratic governments that rule most of Western Europe. That has spawned an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility in European capitals, fed by one controversial American initiative after another revealing what some observers are calling a "values gap" between the Western allies.

Nowhere is the divergence of world-views sharper than over missile defense, the keystone of Bush's security policy.

Fundamental differences on security

At a NATO summit in Brussels yesterday, Bush tried again to sell his plan for an anti-missile shield, but European leaders remain deeply skeptical of the project, which they fear will unravel the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty and lead to a new arms race.

With few exceptions, the Europeans are not convinced by Washington's argument that the world is threatened by rogue states, such as North Korea.

"We do not refute the dangers of ballistic proliferation, while our analysis differs over the extent of the threat," French President Jacques Chirac said in a major speech last week.

Sidelining the ABM treaty, he warned, would "clear the way for new and ill-controlled competition."

At the heart of the transatlantic argument, says William Wallace, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, "are fundamental differences over the characteristics of international security."

While Washington is primarily concerned about its military vulnerability to rogue states and international terrorists, European policymakers are worried more by the problems posed by "failed states," such as mass immigration or trafficking in people and drugs.

Europe also attaches more weight to new issues on the international agenda, such as global warming, and Bush is sure to come under fierce fire for his rejection of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases when he meets European Union leaders in Gothenburg, Sweden, today.

The US president's new plan to spend more money on research into global warming has not mollified European leaders, since he is still resisting the obligatory ceilings on greenhouse-gas emissions that the Kyoto treaty sets.

Unilateral US

Behind this dispute lies a difference of approach to international affairs, says Mr. …

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