European Affairs

Whether we like it or not, a new international configuration is emerging. A "multipolar world" is already in front of us, as the United States recognizes that it needs allies and international legitimacy to fulfill the missions that it deems necessary. China is becoming the indispensable interlocutor in Asia. Countries such as India, Brazil, and South Africa have already demonstrated the roles they play in the international trading system by blocking the negotiation of the Doha Development Round in Cancun. While Europe will need time to perfect its integration, its weight cannot be disregarded for long. In recent months, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has spent more time with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese leaders than with President George W. Bush.

The European Union now has 25 members. The European Constitution is adopted. As confusing as the ratification process may be, it cannot hide the fact that Europe is coming together, and changing. The U.S. elections in November, a new European Commission, several national elections, and the establishment of new European institutions including an EU Foreign Minister and the recently appointed Anti-terrorism Coordinator for Homeland Security, will soon transform the composition of our leadership.

Meanwhile, the Muslim world is also coming together, although not in the best conditions; and a "Fourth World" of the poor and excluded is emerging in its shadow. The deprived segment of the international community constitutes a demographic time bomb that threatens to explode unless a global development race against the clock is undertaken by the rich and powerful to help fill the gap. The limits of hard power have been clearly established in Iraq, as in Vietnam. In the face of terrorist threats, it remains to be seen how much soft power can be mobilized, and what it can achieve.

Against this background, will the United States, wounded by the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, remain engaged internationally, or will the richest country on earth retreat behind the curtain of a modernized navy, and under the umbrella of its new upcoming air and space powers?

The German government already knows that a large number of American forces will leave its territory. The United States is also to withdraw a third of the 37,000 American troops now stationed in South Korea by the end of 2005. A debate has started on how to provide the thousands of U.S. military personnel needed to rotate and supplement the troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of Americans know "little or nothing" about the European Union, according to a recent survey, AP Reports to Brussels, published June 7, 2004. And 80 percent of Americans do not know that the newly enlarged European Union has 450 million inhabitants, compared to the U.S. population of 290 million. The least that can be said is that much work remains to be done to maintain and, in some cases, to restore the ties between the United States and Europe.We should also establish a single real link between the U.S. government and the American people, on the one hand, and the European Union and its citizens, on the other. While such a new relationship may not be a sufficient condition for our future security, it certainly is a necessary one. Our new leaders should approach it seriously.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number V, Issue number II in the Spring of 2004.