Friday, February 04, 2005

Bush to Europe

Foreign policy circles on both sides of the Atlantic are busy buzzing about the state of the relationship across the pond. Can it be restored to what it once was?

It can't. The old relationship was one essentially shaped by a common threat in the form of the Soviet Union. The true father of the Atlantic Alliance was Joseph Stalin.

As the common threat disappeared, there was a failure to develop a common vision. And while Europe after 1989 become preoccupied with the building of peace by the sharing of sovereignity across the old continent, the United States after 9/11 become preoccupied with protecting its security also by a robust projection of its power on a global basis.

In Europe, it's the building of peace that's the agenda. In the United States, it's the conduct of war that's the agenda. We need to recognize that the relationship now has to be built on domestic political agendas that are more diverging than in the days of the old common threat.

If that's done, there is no reason why the relationship should not be a solid one. It's only together that Europe and America can have a truly transforming effect on the rest of the world.

When Bush comes to Brussels on February 22, it looks like being remarkable in two different ways.

It will be a day for the US President with more of the European Union than of NATO. In my opinion, that will be the first time this happens. Georg Bus will go to the Berlaymont Building tio see the President of the European Commission, and he will have dinner with the new Troika of the Union.

It will also be a day when the agenda is dominated by non-European rather than European issues, and this as well will be somthing of a novelty. It will be the Middle East peace prospects, developments in Iraq, the handling of Iran and the emerging issues of China that will be on the agenda. The only slightly more European issue will be how to react to the ongoing de-democratization of Russia, and possibly a brief mention of the Balkans.

In both these two respects, the vist might be a sign of the new partnership across the Atlantic. The European Union is a more important partner, and it is common action in the areas outside of Europe thar defines the changed relationship.

It's worth watching the continuation.