With ‘Old Europe’ Allies Like These…


Europeans have been hyperventilating over their self-perceived “victories” vis-à-vis the United States at the recent NATO Summit in Romania from April 2-4. “France and Germany Thwart Bush’s Plans,” ran a triumphant headline in the Hamburg-based Der Spiegel. “Europe Waits Out the Bush Administration,” read another. “Only One Lame Duck Here” said the London-based Guardian in commentary that waxes giddy about Russia’s growing stranglehold over Europe. “NATO Should Disappear” said the Madrid-based El Pais.

But behind the spin, the 26-member NATO Summit (arguably the most important such gathering since the end of the Cold War) exposed a security-dependent Europe that is divided, weak and fickle above all else.

Consider Spain, for example, where newly re-elected Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was far less concerned about Spanish (or European) security than about getting some one-on-one face-time with US President George W Bush. Zapatero, a self-proclaimed feminist pacifist who is arguably the most anti-American leader in Europe today, is (unsurprisingly) one of the only such Europeans never to have been invited to the White House.

But in the Byzantine logic of Spanish politics, that elusive visit to the Oval Office (to see an American president who is broadly despised by most Spaniards) also happens to be the main litmus test by which Spaniards will judge whether Zapatero gets promoted from provincial politician to international “statesman” during his second term.

Thus Zapatero’s permanent non-relationship with the most powerful leader in the free world has become something of a media obsession in Spain, with the issue generating many miles of ink in national newspapers.

Imagine, then, the internecine recriminations when Zapatero’s much-vaunted “mini-summit” with Bush lasted all of about three seconds… just enough for Bush to shout three words (which brings to a grand total of 18 words the two leaders have exchanged during the last four years) that appeared in newspaper headlines all across Spain: “Hola, Hola, Felicidades.” (“Hello, Hello, Congratulations”, referring to Zapatero’s re-election.)

Zapatero then took to the podium and tried to persuade bemused members of the Alliance to merge NATO with the United Nations! And, just for good measure, the prime minister also announced that Spain would not be sending more troops to Afghanistan, with or without the UN.

Not surprising, then, that Zapatero was captured in a politically devastating Summit photograph sitting in isolation… while the rest of the leaders present were huddled around Bush at the other end of the conference hall. The picture, which made the front page of every newspaper in Spain, opened up yet another pained debate about Spain’s declining influence in the world since Zapatero took office.

Then take Greece. It refused to allow Macedonia to join NATO because Greece wants its northern neighbor to change its name, which Greeks say jeopardizes their claim as the only the rightful descendants of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) and Aristotle (384–322 BC).

The controversy erupted in 1991, when the former Yugoslav republic declared its independence from Belgrade and took the name Republic of Macedonia. Although more than 120 countries have now recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its current name, Greece says the name proves that Macedonia harbors implicit territorial claims on the northern Greek region also known as Macedonia. Never mind that by joining NATO, Macedonia would provide Greece with much-needed stability on its northern border.

Then consider Germany and France, arguably the greatest free-riding beneficiaries of American security since World War II. At the Bucharest Summit, they (together with Spain) refused to extend NATO Membership Action Plans to Georgia and Ukraine because they were afraid of provoking Russia, thanks to Europe’s growing dependence on Russian energy.

Germany, for example, already imports 35 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, more than any country in Western Europe. The problem of energy dependency is being exacerbated by leftwing energy policies that are phasing out the country’s production of nuclear energy in favor of increased reliance on fossil fuels. Indeed, Germany’s (and Europe’s) dependence on Russian energy imports may reach 70 percent by 2020, which (if current German behavior is any gauge) will give Russia a de facto veto over decisions on German (and European) security.

Europeans, in any case, know that keeping Georgia and Ukraine out of NATO will not appease Russia for very long. Indeed, the Germans appear to be looking for a face-saving way out of Europe’s long-term geo-strategic dilemma. On March 4, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave a speech titled “Towards a European Ostpolitik” in which he suggests that Europe’s future lies in staking out a position mid-way between the United States and Russia. Say what?

Well, if Germany insists on turning Europe into a province of Russia… then debates over the future of NATO will be moot anyhow.

In France, meanwhile, the government on April 8 faced down a vote of no confidence, as leftists accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of a dangerous “Atlanticist drift” that risked turning France into Bush’s poodle. Socialist leader François Hollande said Sarkozy decided to send 700 French troops to Afghanistan “under pressure from the Americans” and that France risked losing its independence on the world stage.

With allies like these, expect trouble ahead for transatlantic relations, regardless of who occupies the White House next January.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. This piece was published by Pajama’s Media on April 14, 2008 .

Partial support

I tend to agree with the Kapitein's first two points, but think that he is wrong on his third point.  American "stature" in the world no longer depends on Europe.   Indeed, Europe generally is acting more as an obstacle than an assist to American stature. A new democratic 'alliance' of India+USA+Japan+Australia is slowly forming, as does a future China+Eurabia axis seem to be in the offing. 

For the moment, 'Europe' seems to be still very divided in terms of geopolitical outlook.  One of its worst 'divisions' at the moment, is the one between the broader European public (with its media-induced pacifism and anti-Americanism) and 'cooler heads' among part of its foreign policy elite.  NATO-in-Afghanistan is exhibit number 1 of that 'gulf'. 



Arty: The US knows the Europeans are faithless allies but being the leader of the trans Atlantic alliance allows the US to maintain a strategic presence on the old continent...

The American presence in Europe has little to do with exercising leadership of NATO. On the contrary, it has everything to do with maintaining bases to project power globally. Indeed, without bases in Germany and the British Isles, and without access to their airspaces, American power in West and Central Asia would be dealt a grievous blow.

In any case, Russia is as much a threat to Europe as it is to the United States, therefore reluctance on the part of European NATO members is immaterial for the purposes of defending European territory.

Arty: ...and as the only viable military force there they have virtual control of European defence.

Firstly, American conventional forces have been reduced to a mere token since 1989. While American-controlled tactical nuclear weapons augment NATO's European forces, the United States' only "viable" assistance to European defense is in terms of logistics (e.g. in-flight refueling) and its strategic nuclear forces, aimed primarily at Russia and China. Secondly, the United States does not have virtual control of European defense.

Arty: ...and European stature in the world would be greatly diminished.

And the same fate would befall the United States if Europe "disappeared".

Non Sequitor

Arty: ...and European stature in the world would be greatly diminished.

KA: And the same fate would befall the United States if Europe "disappeared".

Huh? How so? That makes absolutely no sense.

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” – Thomas Paine

Non Sequitir

Atheling: " European stature in the world"

Let's forget about that. If we can keep Europe from turning into the third-world, it will be great.

" Huh? How so? That makes absolutely no sense."

No sense to whom? Women simply don't get geopolitics.

Tom: "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression ""

For maximum security, the best is to kill all your enemies, and then all their descendants.

Kapitein: " The American presence in Europe "

I think the American presence in Europe is useless.
John Derbyshire agrees with me.


Moi: Huh? How so? That makes absolutely no sense.

Armor: No sense to whom? Women simply don't get geopolitics.

That's rich, coming from a person who engaged in a previous discussion as follows:

Armor: The declining birth rate is a result of immigration.

Me: You have no evidence to support such an absurd statement. Tell me why is Japan's birth rate so low (negative growth) and they don't have immigration?

Armor: You have no proof that Japan's birth rate won't increase in the future.

And you mock MY understanding of geopolitics? And others might wonder WHY I question your "native intelligence"? Arguing with you is about as fruitful as arguing with a 4 year old! You are illogical, obtuse, and immature. You ask me to prove a negative, and you can't even substantiate your stupid and silly assertions with a single shred of evidence!

Let me tell you something, you may not like immigration, (and for the record, I don't like ILLEGAL immigration, UNFETTERED immigration, and UNCONDITIONAL immigration), but by God, your intellectual capacity is PROOF that immigration might be a good thing for your country, if you're any example of French "thinking". I always thought that Rousseau, Foucault, Derrida, et al were a bunch of pretentious fools, but at least they can string some sentences together that made a bit of sense.

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” – Thomas Paine

Mighty Europe

I do believe the socialists when they say they'd like to leave NATO but what they say and what they do is two different things. Why do you suppose that is?

Are the Europeans the driving force behind the NATO expansion? Are they pushing to implement SDI? Nyet to both, they don't want to rile the Russians or the Chinese, or even the American for that matter, so they sullenly play along. Why's that?

Why did Tony Blair invoke the NATO Treaty (which got the Americans involved) to put down the "Yugoslavian" civil war/genocide?

I don't follow European military matters closely so if you're saying that the EU is militarily independent and able to defend it's borders, I'll have to believe you. But to the outside world it looks like Europe is relying on the US, through NATO, for it's defense.

Lastly, if Europe "disappears" (in your words), it's diminishing would be complete. America would lose a feckless friend but it can make new friends.

NATO is going to be around

NATO is going to be around for the forseeable future. The US knows the Europeans are faithless allies but being the leader of the trans Atlantic alliance allows the US to maintain a strategic presence on the old continent, and as the only viable military force there they have virtual control of European defence. While European leftists may loath Americans and NATO , they know without it their only pretense to power (that of opposing the American hegemon) would be gone and European stature in the world would be greatly diminished.

I can't wait

To pop a bottle of Sonoma Valley's finest the day NATO is finally relegated to the dustbin of history.

Been watching John Adams on HBO

What comes clear is one the foremost, if not the foremost concerns of the founding fathers was to keep us out of European military engagements and alliances (for those who don't recall, Adams kept the US out of a potentially disastrous war with France after the French Revolution). We've lost our way. Despite my agitating my fellow ugly Americans to get us out of NATO (which, after all, even if we want to keep it, we won't be able to afford in the not too distant future), there seems little will to change the status quo, as none of the presidential candidates except Ron Paul even brought up the issue.