www.diploweb.com/english/1.htm Geopolitics

The Transatlantic Partnership:

from a troubled love story to a pragmatic grown-up relation  

by François Géré, President Défense & Diplomatie 21


Enthousiasm has faded, it is replaced by pragmatism. Europeans should and can recognize that the protection of Fortress Europe is not enough. Americans should recognize that vague goals and blank cheks are not acceptable. As partners, we must work harder, more efficiently on that.

Key words: françois géré, défense & diplomatie 21, oies conference vienna july 20th 2004, the transatlantic partnership, debates, new geopolitical framework, us, europeans countries, iraq, public opinions, president bush, european paradox, esdp, artemis, terrorism, wmd, organized crimes, nato, otan, istambul summit, greater middle east, france, ambivalence, headquarters, secretary powell, cooperation, visions of the world, leadership, supremacy, eu, european union, balance of power, diplomacy, pragmatism.




1. Old debates and a new geopolitical framework

Since the beginning of the Iraqi crisis (summer 2002) there has been a lot of talkings and writings about the rift between the sides of the Atlantic, about the split among Europeans, about old and new Europe…Everything has been said and the contrary as well.

One has to remind that disputes between the US and Europeans countries are not new at all. The Nixon round and the building of GATT have been highly controversial at the beginning of the 70s. The oil shock of 1973 has demonstrated how different were the positions towards the Middle East and Israël. In 1982, the Reagan administration harshly opposed the decision of several European countries to buy gas from the Soviet Union.

But there was a deep sense of a community of values against communism and the socialist "model" of economy and society. Freedom appeared a precious good which had to be protected in a legacy of common struggle against totalitarian states.

Today, the diversity of interests and the competition takes place in a different framework made of four major components  :

-The Soviet Union has collapsed opening a large part of the world to the influence of all those which are able to exert power (economic, cultural, military);

-The EU exists since 1992;

-China is rising at an amazing pace;

-A new threat has emerged : radical, sectarian, violent Islam which strikes all over the world.


2. Lessons from Iraq

Three main lessons ought to be considered.

First, the US administration and the UK have gone to war because of wrong reasons, flawed intelligence, if not deliberate deception.

Second, European public opinions were clearly opposed to war (with the exception of the UK…but…)

Third, the governments which have followed the US pay a high political price : Spain, Italy and, ultimately, the UK. 

Today, President Bush himself is uncertain about his reelection because of Iraq.


3. The European paradox

Foreign affairs turmoils do not affect the ESDP.

Yes Europeans governments can split over Iraq, Iran, Palestine….But at the same time the proceed with the building of a European capability to adress the requirements for security, stability and peace enforcement on the European continent : Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and ultimately they can work together event in Africa as demonstrated by operation ARTEMIS, one year ago.

Since september 2002 the Bush administration  and later in 2003 the EU have issued strategic or national security papers. They present an evaluation of the nature of the threat which very similar : terrorism, proliferation of WMD, organized crimes.

But differ significantly about the way to deal with them. Both recognize that under specific circumstances the use of force can be necessary. But Europeans want to get the legitimacy of the UN Security Council while Washington consider the unilateral preemptive use of military means. Such a major difference impacts on the role of NATO and its European component.

Nato: see a map

4. NATO : a multimission alliance

At the Istambul summit which ressembles very much a wasted occasion, it has been clear that there were two visions of the future of NATO

The American vision is to create an organization able to deal with conflicts all around the world, notably the Greater Middle East.

All Europeans want NATO to provide the assets for security and peace on the continent.

In the midst, several Europeans countries are ready to follow the US in Afghanistan or Iraq. But it becomes optional. France opposes NATO forces in Iraq but takes the lead of NATO in Afghanistan.

That situation is the result of a permanent ambivalence of American administration which have asked for more European commitment but have rebuffed the European attempts to fully achieve an autonomy. The dispute about Headquarters is a perfect example of this unability to make a clear choice.

During the iraki crisis Secretary Powell has declared " from now on we will define our cooperation according to our respective interests". It means that the notion of automaticity of the solidarity has vanished. It seems sensible since the soviet threat has gone and with it the powerful cement of the risks of a nuclear war. Cooperation will be "à la carte" in the coming years. 

The transtlantic relationship has entered a different area based upon calculations and negociations between partners which consider their interest with a greater freedom of choice.

The visions of the world have become significantly different

Cooperation against terrorism will remain a powerful element for cooperation but, at present, the visions of the world have become significantly different. They are based upon the very different status of the two actors :

- The United States is a unique power which wants to retain leadership and supremacy. It a status-quo power which agressively acts to reassure its power and refuse to transform itself in a besieged Empire waiting for the attack of the Barbarians.

- The EU is also in essence a status-quo power the populations and governments of which want stability in order to conduct a peaceful search for prosperity. But because the EU is an evolving entity which, step by step, emerge as a major player in the world, it becomes an element of transformation of the balance of power. This ambivalent and paradoxical nature of the EU is at the roots of its empathy but also its disputes with the United States.

EU: see a map

Flexibility of the minds

This situation will continue in the coming decades. It will require skilfull diplomacy, flexibility of the minds and good understanding of the interests at stake.

Enthousiasm has faded, it is replaced by pragmatism but we can enjoy the benefits of a sensible cooperation because of the magnitude of the commerce and the importance of investments. While our economies compete, they recognized that they are intertwined.

Same for NATO : Europeans should and can recognize that the protection of Fortress Europe is not enough. Americans should recognize that vague goals and blank cheks are not acceptable. As partners, we must work harder, more efficiently on that.

Ten years ago senator Lugar has said "out of area or out of business", it becomes increasingly important to make sure that the Alliance will not be out of area and out of business.

François Géré, Président Défense & Diplomatie 21

Copyright 2004, july-Géré/ www.diploweb.com

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