European Affairs

In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians continue to be entangled in an increasingly vicious struggle, while the Bush administration ponders how to put an end to Saddam Hussein's bloodthirsty and dangerous rule in Iraq. American military advisors are in the field in the Philippines, the Caucasus and the jungles of Colombia.

In this new kaleidoscope of worldwide American military involvement, Europe suddenly seems to have become something of a sideshow. Except for periodic presidential visits and NATO summits, the Old World hardly shows up on the nightly news anymore.

There is persistent talk from the Pentagon about ending the NATO-led SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and severely scaling back the KFOR mission in Kosovo. In some circles, there is even more ominous questioning of the utility and value of NATO itself.

Obviously, the attacks of September 11 have radically changed U.S. military priorities. But let us not forget that all this new global American military activism depends upon the existence of a stable, peaceful, democratic and economically growing Europe.

The democratic Transatlantic community remains the single largest concentration of human wealth, talent and innovation in the world, in the history of the world. The unequaled trade and investment §ows between North America and Europe are the bedrock of the international economic system.

According to UN statistics, in 2000 the United States and the advanced European countries together accounted for 40 percent of the world's economic output, 33 percent of the world's exports and 41.7 percent of its imports. They generate 78 percent of total foreign direct investment and absorb 59 percent of it.

It should be self-evident that if Europe were to be destabilized, the financial effects would quickly overwhelm most other places around the world, including the current trouble spots. It is to ensure the stability of Europe that I enthusiastically support the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and of the European Union.

If both processes continue on track, by the end of this decade we shall finally see what our grandparents only dreamed of: a Europe whole and free, for the first time in the continent's history.

In that context, I would submit that it is wishful thinking to believe that Western Europe can somehow retain its peace or its prosperity if Southeastern Europe remains poor, embittered and excluded, frequently riven by violent ethnic and religious con§icts.

The United States must stay the course in the Balkans, which means accommodating the current modest numbers of ground forces into our global force posture. We dare not terminate either SFOR or KFOR until their missions are successfully accomplished.

The European Union must also stay the course in the Balkans and should not only continue its generous economic assistance but also make clear that it considers the peoples of the Balkans every bit as European as the citizens of Paris, London, Copenhagen and Berlin.

The goal of the Balkan peoples is membership in the European Union, and however it is restructured by the convention chaired by former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the European Union must have a place for qualified Balkan countries.

As for Transatlantic security, the NATO summit in Prague this November must craft a new Alliance to confront the menace of terrorism. We must invigorate the military core of the Alliance by committing members to realistic, specialized capabilities, and, building on the newly created NATO-Russian Council, the Alliance must develop a close and productive working relationship with Moscow.

Helping President Vladimir Putin integrate his huge country into the West will, if successful, herald a geopolitical shift of epic proportions.

Encouraging Russia to deal with excess weapons of mass destruction by securing and storing them is an immediate imperative, not only for the United States but for Europe as well.

Many people in both the United States and Europe forget that the entire official 2002 Russian military budget is only $9.5 billion. The total budget for the Russian Republic is $40 billion. A number of American states have budgets considerably bigger than that.

The Russians need help in the one area that is in all of our interests, and that is the destruction of several hundred tons of highly enriched uranium, plutonium, chemical weapons and other items that cost billions of dollars to secure. They are incapable of doing it without our collective assistance.

Together, we must also confront the problem of outlaw states gaining weapons of mass destruction. This issue has been the source of some Transatlantic tension.

To Europeans, Americans are trigger-happy when it comes to Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Americans see Europeans as too complacent, especially over Iraq.

I am convinced we can and must agree on a new approach that would require Europeans, Russians and Chinese to get serious about stopping the §ow of weapons technology to and from Iran and North Korea, and support tough weapons inspections in Iraq, with real teeth.

In turn, the United States should build a consensus for taking down Saddam Hussein, rather than unilaterally announcing its intentions to the world and trying to dictate the outcome.

We might very well be able to build that consensus. It would require us to put more energy into engaging Iran and North Korea politically and economically, not just rhetorically, as I believe we have been doing lately.

Finally, Europe and the United States must continue to stand together as the leading practitioners and advocates of democracy and free markets, of human rights and human development. We shall move ahead much faster in these areas if we work together, especially now that Europe is growing stronger.

Nobody today is talking about "eurosclerosis" - a diagnosis of Europe's ills that was fashionable not so long ago. Europe is becoming whole, united, strong and economically powerful, in many ways competing as a unit.

There is, however, one nagging problem that if left untended could undermine this whole ambitious agenda. It is the widespread perception that the Transatlantic community of values is unraveling. I stress values because they are the very reason for our alliance.

The Transatlantic alliance exists because it represents a community of democracies, the citizens of which share a tolerant, humane world view that guides their lives.

Increasingly, however, that commonality of values is being called into question. Put another way, we are questioning one another's motives - not just judgment, motives - in a way we have never done before.

The hallmark of NATO and of U.S.-European relations for the past 50 years has been the notion that while healthy competition between us is a good thing, we have never had to worry about whether any of us had a secret agenda that might be contrary to another party's interests.

I have attended probably twenty conferences on "Whither NATO?" since 1974, at which people have worried about whether the Alliance was going under. That is normal. What is different this time is that we are discussing whether our goals and objectives are different, not just our actions.

I support Europe's efforts to build a stronger common defense through the European Security and Defense Policy. But a great number of Americans think Europe has a hidden agenda. Some ask, for instance: Is this France's way to get the United States out of Europe?

The more we erect barriers and eliminate transparency, the more difficult we make the Transatlantic relationship. And Europe's growing strength is in itself inevitably causing strains.

The litany of mutual complaints is only too familiar. Many Europeans see the United States as a unilateralist Lone Ranger. I, for one, have been critical of some of this administration's unilateralist activities. But the picture is not as clear as the one painted by many Europeans.

Many Europeans see the United States as dismissive of international treaties and conventions, as a trigger-happy country planning a preemptive strike against Iraq that could drag Europe into an unnecessary and dangerous war.

American capitalism is seen as heartlessly Darwinian, and the United States is seen as the unopposed global hegemon intent on expanding its already predominant military, economic and cultural power.

On the other hand, many Americans charge Europe with being unilateralist in its own way, by rejecting American compromise proposals on issues such as climate change, landmines or the International Criminal Court.

Many Americans view Europe as a freeloader on security, and economically hobbled by marketplace restrictions that make it uncompetitive. They believe it is increasingly prone to xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.

As with any stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in each of these perceptions. But like all caricatures, every single criticism can be picked apart by sober, objective analysis.

Just as there is no one single path to truth, there is no one single set of political programs to build a just, equitable society and a peaceful world. Let us remember that we are on the same team and at least give each other the benefit of the doubt.

The danger of negative stereotypes that are incessantly repeated by governments and the media is that they have a terribly corrosive effect on relationships. Europe and America cannot allow such negative stereotypes to jeopardize the ties that bind us.

It has been my experience that first, instinctive reactions are usually correct. On September 11, the overwhelming majority of Europeans immediately came to the support of the United States in its hour of need. Obviously, in a general sense, they did so out of a basic sense of decency, and because they opposed evil in its purest form.

But I also believe that Europeans rallied to America's side because they instinctively knew that whatever our differences, Europe and the United States have much more in common with each other than they do with any other part of the world.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the mid-1990s. There is a stanza in one of his poems that reads: "History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave. Then once in a lifetime, that longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up and hope and history rhyme."

I believe the changes that have taken place in the last ten years are so profound, and that the events of September 11 are so significant, that they present us with an opportunity to make hope and history rhyme.

Europeans and Americans may question each other's judgment. But we have to stop, absolutely and utterly stop, questioning each other's motives. That is the single most corrosive thing that has begun to happen in the nearly 30 years I have been a United States Senator.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number III, Issue number III in the Summer of 2002.